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Werewolves by Kara Vernor


She sleeps with her BB gun next to her bed. On hot nights, she touches the cool metal to her legs. When she can’t sleep, she flips it end to end like a rain stick and listens. Roger said when he gave it to her: “Don’t point it at anyone ever, whether it’s loaded or not.” Her mom said: “One mistake and that gun is gone.”
     This is Saturday. Roger sits across the table forking wet eggs. There is a dribble of yellow on his white shirt and a spot of shine on his chest hair, that V of forest canopy. It’s lusher and darker than the patch beneath her panties. She can’t help but stare.
     “What are you looking at,” he says, and she turns her eyes to the salt. Her mother eats standing at the counter, refilling orange juice before being asked.
     In the empty house next door, she and her brother shoot soda cans off the fireplace mantle. “We’re practicing our aim,” she says. She loads the gun for him and he points and clicks, his face pure glee when the first can topples off. “Again,” he calls, and she sets up a new configuration, one that will crumble and clatter more fantastically when hit. It is an accident when her brother shoots himself in the neck, the BB ricocheting off the bricks.
     “It’s okay,” she tells him. “It’s alright.” She holds him on the blue carpet, her hand lodged over his cries. Her mother is nearby, out back with the chickens. When his breathing stops backfiring, she settles on what she has to do. She moves over him and pins him with her hands and knees, her hair falling into his face. She says, “Don’t tell mom. Not a word.” She says, “If you tell mom, I’ll let the werewolves know how to find you. Next full moon and sssssttt.” She runs a finger across her throat.
     After dinner Roger pulls her to him as he watches TV, as her mom folds laundry in the bedroom. He pushes her head against his chest and his hands wander. They haven’t made it to the soft spot at the base of her V, not yet. At the base of his, right below her chin, is his heart. She can hear it regurgitating, persisting, and she thinks on one thing: stilling it with the tip of her gun. (Hold it there, hands up!) Pushing into that soft spot before he can push into hers.
     The next day her brother won’t talk to her, so she drags him to the corner store and buys him an ice cream sandwich. “I’m sorry,” she says. “Please take it.” She sits with him on the curb. Halfway through he stops shrugging off her arm, and as he finishes the last bite, he leans into her. She says,      “Cross my heart, I will never let anyone hurt you.”
     “Next weekend?” he asks.
     “Yes, we’ll shoot again. As much as you want.”
     That night she flips her gun back and forth and grows tired, the BBs pattering out a whisper, the whisper turning into a lullaby.
     
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Kara Vernor lives in Napa. Her stories have appeared in Necessary Fiction, Wigleaf, Hobart (online), The Los Angeles Review, Monkeybicycle, and elsewhere. She has been a fiction fellow at the Mendocino Coast Writer’s Conference and has a story forthcoming in Smokelong Quarterly.