Jesse Jarnow

the animals i saw, no. 9

(Short fiction in shorter increments.)

The Animals I Saw: no. 1, no. 2, no. 3, no. 4, no. 5, no. 6, no. 7, no. 8, no. 9, no. 10

By the second morning, I was no longer an interloper, and I got dead worm all over the kitchen. The rain was over, and — though autumn hung obviously in the air — it was going to be a warm day. I stepped outside barefoot, in my boxers, onto the narrow brick path that led to the lake. I stretched my arms behind me as I walked. The worm squished between my toes.

On the way back from retrieving my bags at the Becketts’, I had the thought that just because I could get dead worm all over my kitchen floor didn’t mean I should. Assuming the Lewises hadn’t done any major renovations in the interceding years, they were tiles my grandfather had laid himself. My memories didn’t extend to the tiles. He’d driven the truck from Portland alone to claim the empty land. There was no one else for miles. There wouldn’t be for a decade.

They were all over the sidewalk, the worms were, as I went to meet Melch. Neither of us had shaved. We hummed as we painted, though I was unsure if we were humming the same song. “It’s plenty peaceful now, sure,” Melch told me. He was doing detail around a window above and to the side of where I was working. I could see the mosquito bites above his ankle. “I like the spring is all,” he said, and started down the ladder, coughing. “You should come back in the spring, man.” I would, and I would build myself there by the lake, as my grandfather had.