Here is the slow thaw and the fox that creeps through the sweet new green, wet teeth, wet fur, sharp ears and snout, so pretty in its stealth, its silence. Here is the lullaby, cicada hum and truck horn, water dripping on cracked tile and the buzz of walkway lights, the fade and crackling swell at the bottom of the radio dial: voice and static and the tin roar of applause from the stands of a dusty arena inside that metal box on the stained and listing dresser.
We are on a date, but Dafne’s heart isn’t in it. Both she and her date keep darting their eyes to me where I sit on one side of the table, a frozen explosion of orange fur against the pressed quiet of the white tablecloth. I imagine the gentleman thought he was more open-minded than he has turned out to be once in my presence. Dafne has unthinkingly placed me so that I face him. As always, I’m snarling and my limbs are splayed out midleap. I must look like I’m going for his throat.
He thought of himself as the New Graham now. Not New and Improved, because it wasn’t an improvement. He would have liked to go on being the Old Graham, but that wasn’t an option. The Old Graham had thought he’d stay married to Audra forever; the New Graham wasn’t so sure. The New Graham’s future was unknown.
Sam and Kat, Kat and Sam, as unassuming as their three-letter names but, to their minds, violent with potential. In the spring of 1998, they met in St. Louis, when they both had to board a bigger bus. Two kids in zipped pullovers smoking and picking at their fingers as they watched the driver fling their bags into the belly of the coach as if they weren’t their only belongings in the world.
The zombie community is astir with controversy. One faction insists that zombies are mindless creatures who cannot make the traditional moan for “brains.” And that in any case, they don’t crave brains specifically, but the flesh, blood, and organs of any living human. This is what I’ve learned from scrolling through chat boards.
The first day, I pace the red-light district, looking for a hotel, my suitcase banging my leg. At noon, sick of carrying it, I open it. My maid-of-honor dress, midnight-blue silk, spills onto the sidewalk. A dress I spent four hundred and fifty dollars on, a dress I will never wear. I stuff it into a garbage can, where it billows out, a bloated flower.
A still-stumbling calf lives a happy life in the high plateaus of La Mancha. After three weeks he is taken from his mother and slaughtered, then skinned by his owner, a grizzled herder who pushes three hundred head around the plains. The herder brings the meat to the butcher, carries the wet hide to a long, low barn at the edge of town, and then washes himself in the river.