The river here is narrow where the big rocks come in on both sides. Lee strides the rocks like he’s closing the gap between two mountains. He’s wide and ginger and fat with old football muscle. I’m small and dark as a dog, so I run.
The snake climbs to my thigh but sloughs off when I get too hot. It bites first, though. The sting of it spreads pink like thawing meat. It’s not venom. No black snake in this country has venom. I can still run.
I get to the tall grass where I don’t know what’s inside. My mother sent me into our dark basement once after a flood, and I found loose rattlesnakes with my feet. Now I only have a few of my toes. Lee likes to bite the air where my toes are missing so I feel it. It’s called a phantom sensation, like when you suffer in a dream. Lee’s had trouble with never tasting all of me.
I try to climb the grass to get out. It’s a dry winter. There’s no snow and no ice. It’s cold, though, and Lee is loud behind me. He says the grass goes on forever, but it doesn’t. There’s gravel and a truck and a man reaching over to open a door orange and rusted as danger.
He says, “Get in if you’re getting in.”
He could be Lee like every man in a shadow could be Lee.
I get in, even though.


Consider: for every person there is a most attractive person in the world to them. John was a man who had seen his most attractive person one summer day. He was 12, on a trip with his parents to New York City. They had stopped to buy a hot dog from a street vendor. The smell of the overcooked hot dogs hung thick in the air and made John’s face scrunch up (as a child, John had been to a fourth of July party and was handed a lit sparkler, which he held onto as it burned down to its base, severely scolding his index finger, and scarring into his nose the stench of burnt skin). Repulsed, he wandered around the block instead. And there he saw her.
John’s 12 year old brain had no capacity to process such a gargantuan stimuli, so he did what any young boy would do in the situation: he froze. He simply stared, unable to move his lips or draw breath, until she wasn’t in his vision anymore. When his mother came