2 December 2002 | Vol. 2, No. 4


Their legs are trees. He jaguars into the room. He stalks in pajamouflage. A tree root guts him with an upkick, flips him, stunned. He looks up like he's down in the lesson tub looking up at Father. A man's smile wavers in a whiskey glass. Against the man, he bares his baboon teeth, stomps a hoof to the shin-trunk. The smile stretches into a liquid spill, a rainburst of pain. Kick-man rages. He scrambles back to his bedroom, chair-blocks under the doorknob. The man booms on the other side.

Morning cave-sheets drape over chairbacks. The window suns a carpet-river. He grizzly-swipes at a fish-pillow. Father drunk-dead in last night's shirt sprawled on a chair-mountain. His mother clinks kitchen pebbles, chases loose birds dusting the counters. He jaguars his shoulders. The last-second wrist-flick in his sensual strut, the carnivorous lope. The weight of his body swings from one shoulder then the other, muscle-swift inside a mean quiet.

A chair he knocks over topples table drinks. Magazines flutter-fall. Remote controls copter off toward the fireplace.

The blow from chair-mountain ribs him against the sliding doors. He sucks to mouth air in a half-sun heap. Dust drifts in birds. Glass doors are web-spoke cracked. The air howls with ape roar and ear-cuts with seizing fingers. Father fists his headskull and kidney.

He bloodpaws in a crouching tear through the kitchen, the hallway, the front porch, the driveway, the sidewalk, the street. He shirt-wipes and trots a nowhere-walk to the alley, the back door, the bakery inside with the donut smell and plastic tubs of red jellies. He slides past the mop trees and bleach buckets, down the floury steps, to the basement storage with the boxes, wax paper, old mixer, cracked chairs, wobbly table. Drops to the dog mattress, corner-flopped, where his friend will come to veterinary him Danish and orange juice, a dangerous animal wounded, not for long.

Night-creep home in the field lots and backyards, out of streetlights, face-wash in the neighbor's grassy kid-pool. Slip over the hose coil, foot on the faucet dial, thumbnail-turn the screw heads on the screen. Knee over the brick sill. Toeing the book and robot to make dresser-room for his stepping-on and jumping-down. Pillow-body tricked in the bedcovers. Closet-sleep in a blanket mound, a clothes-burrow and stillness in the nowhere dark, pocket donuts tongued and swallowed, sugar-thirst held tight.

Summer Monday. Ankle-drug from the closet hole, chair-bound, arm-lashed, rope-tied, window locked and blinded. Father duct-taping his bare ankles to chair legs, chair legs to bed frame for no tipping or funny business. Mother with bread triangles finger-fed, pretzel sticks in a blue bowl plucked singly to salt lips. Milk strawed from a party cup. Hair tucked and pressed, not right. Mother returning to spritz and comb. Wolf moon-howls when poachers cage-lock and noise up the TV. Door-bangs wet himself in napping surprise, Father's knuckle-knocks out of nowhere to fright-clap his brain off the hinge. Neck snaps out of jungle sleep, gnash the dry biting, eyes blurring lost tigers on the poster hunt.

Twenty-four hours learn-your-lesson-mister, cut loose for rag work. Kitchen knees and bathroom focus. Father an ape-man on the stay-right-the-fuck-there-til-I'm-done toilet stone. Then a no-flush come-on-and-get-to-it upstand dick-wag and re-belt and head-slap to get on with the shitsplash and scrub-bowl lesson. Dead-as-dead ghost work, not even there for the quick-finish glad. Already gone to the killing pounce and the you'll-be-sorry. Already panthering out to the laundry closet.

Wallet money hawk-beaked from the drawer. Key-ring monkey-swiped without a giveaway jangle. He jaguars to the side hallway off the kitchen and voodoos out the creaking suction sound from the opening and closing of the door to the garage. Apple-knife jabs to the tire meat, hissing hissing hissing hissing, four fangs to Father's sickly car-beast fallen back from the herd.

Out the side door bike-flying on the suncurrents of no-more goodbye. Stop at the bell-ring bakery door, the fresh-oven prune paczki and cheese Danish. Fat grandma with the for-you beef sandwich and the kissy bless-you-boy and the alone-I-cross-the-seas-your-age. Hug for the dog-mattress friend, gotta-go shove, alley-wave from the dumpster, remembers to toss in Father's key-ring, bye-bye.

Thigh-clench on the bike-bones, the only-only thing to get anywhere now, chain-muscling in the cat legs to chase out the new streets. Hawk-eyeing for good field holes, the park caves to lick thirst out of, the ground-bed to self-sleep in a predator dark. Eyes closed for the jaguar sun.

About the author:

David Barringer's latest fiction collection is The Human Case. He's written fiction for Epoch, Nerve, Wisconsin Review, In Posse Review, Xconnect, Taint Magazine, Tatlin's Tower, and others. He lives in Michigan. He can be reached online through email, , or at his website, davidbarringer.com.

For further reading:

See the complete list of work by David Barringer at 42opus. Browse the contents of 42opus Vol. 2, No. 4, where "Humanimal" ran on December 2, 2002. List other work with these same labels: fiction, flash fiction, experimental.

42opus is an online magazine of the literary arts.

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