What Doesn't Kill You
She thrusts her head under the showerhead to catch the last trickle of water, but it’s not enough to rinse the shampoo from her hair. Goddammit. She pushes the plastic shower curtain aside and reaches for the towel she forgot to set out on the sink. Goddammit. She tramps dripping out of the bathroom, the singlewide shuddering a little with every step, out the back door, down the splintered wooden steps, and toward the off-kilter shed she and her ex-husband rigged up from construction scrap to house the water pump.
There’s no moon and, to the west, the mountains blot out even the starlight. She shuffles along in the darkness, trying to avoid rocks and that cactus with the fucking hypodermic needle leaves. When she gets to the shed she thinks about spiders and wishes she’d put on clothes and boots. She ducks down and feels around for the reset switch, wishing for the hundredth time for city water lines. But water lines mean water bills. And neighbors. There it is. She flips the switch, then straightens up and turns around to head back.
She stops. There’s something by the back steps that wasn’t there before. She opens her eyes
painfully wide, trying to make it out. She surprises herself by sniffing the air, like a dog. She
thinks she doesn’t smell anything, but she does. She stands still, staring at the mountain lion
staring back at her.
Lightning flashes along her nerves. She’s aware of each separate drop of water dripping down
her back. She hears a rock tumbling from somewhere up that mountain that looks like a heart--
not a Valentine heart, but a real one, bloody and pumping. She sees better in the dark than she
ever has before. She sees the trailer with the sagging blue curtains, the tinfoil-covered bedroom
window, the tires on the roof to hold it down in the desert wind. She sees the lowered head, the
twitching tail, the eyes gathering starlight into two luminous points.
“Fuck yeah,” she whispers, dropping to her knees, pushing her sticky hair to one side, waiting for
the long teeth to sink into her neck, crush her skull, find her soft parts, pull her inside out.
When she looks up, nothing is crouching by her back steps. She rises to her feet and stumbles up into the kitchen. She takes her .38 down from on top of the refrigerator, checks the chamber, then stands holding it for a long time, looking out the window.
She turns, opens the refrigerator door, and pulls out a package wrapped in white paper. She tears it open and lifts out the heavy chunk of meat. She carries it, dripping, outside and drops it onto the sand where the mountain lion had stood. She runs her red hands slowly down her neck, breasts, stomach, and thighs, then lowers herself to the ground. She lies back, rests the pistol on her bare stomach, and waits.
About the Author: Rachel Crawford’s poems and short stories have appeared in Red Rock Review, Mudlark, Lucid Rhythms, The Lyric, Figures of Speech, Apeiron Review, Red River Review, The Yellow Chair Review, Illya's Honey, Freshwater Poetry Journal, Adanna Literary Journal, Third Wednesday, r.cv.r.y., Literary Juice, The Wayfarer: A Journal of Contemplative Literature, Anima Poetry Journal, Crack the Spine, Rock & Sling: A Journal of Witness, Shot Glass Journal, and RiverSedge. Her poems "The Limitations of Theory" and "Mater Primigenia" each received a Poetry in the Arts Award through Baylor University, and her short story "First Names" received the 2016 short story award from the National Federation of Press Women. She's a contributing co-editor of the anthology Her Texas (Wings Press, 2015), and she is at work as co-editor of the anthology A Fire to Light Our Tongues. She is currently a doctoral student in Arts and Humanities at The University of Texas at Dallas.