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Three Stories by Eric Westerlind


     Above

     I walked into my yard from a month away and found a pigeon dead in the grass, which was also dead. Little concern for the bird obviously – it’s dead. Maybe for the two cats who are sniffing at the door – concern that they don’t eat the pigeon.
     Do giant cats eat birds too? Some animal show has probably got footage of a lynx bringing down a heron, slowed way down. Viewers can see fangs, the yawn of the cat’s mouth, its awkward short arms reaching and pulling at the bird’s straw legs.
     A foreign voice-over artist.
     “The lynx lives in harmony with its body – at once an adept hunter in all seasons and a caring parent after the birth of its young.”
     That’s been clipped from its source, wherein the footage pans to an untroubled mother lynx with two kittens toying around their vine-littered den, falling over one another, awaiting the arriving male lynx, mauled heron in jaw. The whole clutter yowls unDisneylike and tears at the heron, stringy feathery body so difficult to ingest!
     All that’s been cropped, the new frame only forty-five seconds, headed: “Lynx versus heron”, heron not capitalized.
     Pigeon versus cats.
     I know little about dating death. This bird isn’t decomposing yet. The culprit (window, squirrel, bird of prey—who wouldn’t want to see “Hawk versus pigeon” or “Albatross versus pigeon”? Albatross may not be predatorial, but that “versus”—the two nouns on either side of it don’t have to care about eating each other, they’re just “versus”) may still be nearby.
     I look around for a perp.
     The sky is grey, a dipstick off white, empty except for four short clouds. The hiss of a garden hose slips between the slats of my own yard and elsewhere a jeep of old times gone goes humping by, leaking car sounds into this necropsy.
     Chester and Arthur stalk within a few feet of my feet. Chester purrs against my leg and Arthur dubiously paws the pigeon, batting its head. The brothers circumslink the corpse, taking turns as boys do, drunk off dad’s liquor. I imagine this situation straying towards the same end – vomit and straining– the cats’ faces, smeared with organs and pigeon-stuffing, trying to tell me they didn’t do it even while I pluck evidence from their faces and hold it in front of them, their necks in my hands, fur pinched so as not to damage but to hold and chastise, them trying to tack and tell me there’s more left to share, holding out a spare wing or some worse part of the creature so I can have a taste of my own hooch.
     Who was Man’s Prometheus, that taught him to take the best and leave the drippings and entrails for the gods?
     Cats leave offerings for their feeders, corpses of small creatures on the stoop or doorway. We leave nothing but smoke, bones, fat and offal.
     A cat cripples its prey and marches it back and forth across whatever ground they’ve lowed it too, replaying that moment when they destroyed its hope.
     We let the cattle graze freely; the fence is our bat and paw.
     Chester and Arthur grow impatient, bored.
     I turn the pigeon over with the toe of my foot and note the jelly-splurge of insides touching the ground, the pigeon’s innards beginning the cycle again.
     I consider leaving it there to see if a beanstalk sprouts, but it will likely only draw a raccoon into my yard, to peel away the good parts with her burglar paws and leave the scraps, a sorry excuse for a sacrifice.
     
     

///

     

     Alex
     
     Big enough to make the football team but only because of his size; a hundred and fifty pounds freshman year, thirty more each subsequent, until he gets out.
     Nonstandard things about Alex: the hundred violent squeeze-urges he takes out on babies sat or babysitters. His collection of sharp rocks and the uses he put them to. His candle-thick fingers.
     When it gets leaked, “what he did“, his father holds him over the spot behind the bleachers, walled in by parallel slats of aluminum, meaty hands reddening his skin. Bad dog bad dog. All tone, no words.
     One year later, pops out of high school like a premature squirt inside the pants of society. Dries up and dies at thirty-three like Alexander the Great.
     
     

///

     

Twenty-One
for anderson heagy
     
     “Set your parts afire.”

     “But I –”

     “I said do it. Well, that’s not what I said, but do it, set your parts af–”

     “Yeah, that’s weird how you say that, like I’ve even got parts.”

     The robot glances down at his chest.

     “Oh.”

     He looks up at the talking rat.

     “I guess I do have parts.”

     He jiggles an oilcan lightly, rubs at a spot on his left arm. The rat squeaks.

     “So.”

     “Oh, fine.”

     The robot throws the oil into his chest, a dragon swoops down from the workshop overhead, off a shelf, blows a gout of flame at the two creatures, and the robot explodes in a clatter of combust and smoke, sending the grinning rat into a freefall off the workbench, down towards the splatter of ex-rats (twenty), that had played the same trick on the robot who thought he had no parts. Or really, had played the trick on themselves and in turn their mother, the creator rat. But it was deliberate, every time, even when she’d done the same thing, so this rat grinned until he hit.
     
     
––––––––
Eric Westerlind just finished the remains of a giant poppyseed graduation cake, his brother, Mark, having been granted an Anthropology degree a month ago. Excited to get back to eating eggs, greens, and things that don’t leave him bent, he designed and co-edits The Bacon Review, and further writings are stashed here.