“Fessing Up (Maybe)” ? a prequel to “Irgendwo, Nirgendwo”

If You Need Me I'll Be Over ThereEvery Wednesday, I?m posting a short, 1000-word prequel to one of the eleven stories in If You Need Me I?ll Be Over There, which comes out June 1. This one?s a prequel to the ninth story in the collection, ?Irgendwo, Nirgendwo?, originally published in New Ohio Review.

A cat carcass under the examination table?s bright bulb. Hers is snow white and glows brightest. In this cold windowless room. A campus basement. Men younger than her and taller stand in ranks and files at tables of their own with cats of their own in tabby and orange and calico. Nobody is about to cut into a dead black cat. She belches fishbreath. Her morning?s pill.

?It is important,? says the professor, ?that we begin class by thanking the families who donated their deceased for our benefit.? The professor is a splintery ex-Soviet with a silver ponytail, and as he drones a list of Midwestern surnames Ally strokes the cat that?s now hers to cut into chunks. The non-latex gloves make it smoother but less pleasant, like sucking on wrapped hard candy. The young men in the room fidget, finger blades. From few conversations Ally knows they?re here for horses, for pigs. They are boys in Deere-green ballcaps for whom running a sheathed arm deep into the bowels of a bull is just another job to do. Their pets all lived outside.

Once, one of them stood outside Bachelder Hall with a cigarette and called her girlie. His buddies had cigarettes of their own. Later, she found out then forgot his name. It was more syllable than name. Bo. Tre. Hi.

Her cat lies on its back, limbs splayed, as though just tossed into a marriage bed and ready. The professor instructs. This will be her cat for the entirety of the term. Today she is to skin it. ?There is, in fact, only one way.? The professor waits for the boys to laugh. The boys laugh like banjos, and he tells them all to grab their scalpels. She slices her cat open at the throat. ?Press hard,? says Professor. Ally puts one hand on the other and pushes in, digging, she feels, a little trench. Planting sunflowers. She makes it past the ileocecal valve when the room goes hot and dark and she?s falling.

[?I didn?t take care of myself in those days,? she whispered, scratching again at the PIC line. Her daughter?s face lay close on the bed. ?Or later, with you.?]

She wakes sweating on the cold floor. The professor?s face is in her face. ?You?re awake now? Are you with us?? The men in the room crowd over her like the bars of a crib. He helps her stand. ?Many females,? he announces on his way back to the front of the room, ?feel queasy during dissection.? Snickerings. ?Feel free to go outside if you feel you need to.?

The scalpel lies on the half-open cat like a toy it?s pawing, and the young men sneak peeks at Ally as she grips the edge of the table and takes a few deep breaths. She knows what they are thinking and she hates it. Queasy. She could lick this dead cat cunt to tongue for all she cares. What she is is fearful. She?s passed out three times since Christmas, but this is the first one in public. It?s her blood pressure, her gynecologist noted on her last visit. Or it?s her intake. Her body so much smaller than her classmates?. In a day she?ll have less than what those idiots eat for breakfast. She takes the scalpel back in hand and gets back at her cutting.

She is the first to remove the hide. She holds it over her head like a fresh kill. On the examination table, the carcass lies inside-out, its four paws covered in a little sleeve of skin she?s left intact, protecting her, the rest of the term, from her white cat?s claws. She gets an A, fucks the syllable who called her girlie, graduates. Moves in to her own place. Starts eating again. Assists a man her father?s age with the practice he, childless, hands to her on retirement.

[?I was made to believe everything would work out well for me,? she told her. ?Until it didn?t.?]

One day, she stands in the middle of her living room, looking from surface to surface. She wants an object to trigger her toward desire. She?s in pyjamas. It?s 3pm, and the phone rings. There?s an ache running down her right leg she can?t stop or finger the cause of. On the phone, it?s her spinster aunt, asking her to dinner at the home of a man she?s met. ?I?m not busy,? Ally says. Might as well tell the truth.


You can order If You Need Me I’ll Be Over There here.

Come see me read from one or two stories on IYNMIBOT’s Midwest Summer Tour.

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