As is My Custom

AS IS MY CUSTOM

Susan Snyder

Last night, as I lay in bed,

tucked in much too tightly

as is my mother’s custom,

I heard the trap snap shut,

the unoiled hinge of the door,

it waits for me.

Heating the thermometer

on the bulb in my little lamp,

and I am allowed to stay in bed.

She’s leaving for work.

Now I’ll have some time.

I listen as the front door snaps shut,

the unoiled hinge of the door,

and I bounce up.

It was waiting for me,

wide-eyed, as anxious as I.

I wear mother’s thick old gardening gloves.

They smell of acrid and sweet manure,

like decaying leaves.

They scratch my hands,

sucking the moisture from my skin,

left to suffer in their thirst since the last time.

It froze when I opened the trap door.

It will always freeze.

It will always let me take it into my gloved hands.

My hands smell like the leaves around it,

and the lingering, wild smell of the others,

deep within the tightly woven knit of the gloves,

gives it false comfort.

The fur bristles less,

the small ribs slow their expansion and contraction,

the wide, wet eyes allow themselves to blink.

The 40-ounce bottle is heavy.

It feels good in my hand, good like my favorite rock or hammer.

The bottle was a gift from the woods,

just like this creature.

It releases its bladder,

mixing with the manure.

It reminds me of my uncle’s outhouse,

his rancid, sticky, old urine coating the wood,

organic musk stinging my eyes,

the deep, dark hole collecting his waste.

The smell of him, the thought of him,

reminds me of things

that make me keenly aware

of the blood moving inside my veins.

It has blood moving inside of its veins too.

Here, let me show you.

It is trembling.

I tremble too

in anticipation, in guilt,

my muscles discharging any semblance of control

over what is to come.

One hand finds itself wrapped around the bottle’s neck.

I lay the creature down on the leaf litter,

the flat bottom of the bottle meets its skull,

as is my custom.

I told you there was blood.

Blood at first,

followed by other fluids,

yellows and browns,

mixing with the deep red,

like the crayons do in my pictures,

the ones mother hides away.

When I tire of the repetitive smashing,

when all the brain matter has seeped and dissolved,

I’ll tuck it into the leaf litter,

much too tightly,

as is my mother’s custom.

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