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American Gothic – Nancy Freund and Kinneson Lalor


Man keeps a pretty wife looks young enough to be his daughter, there’s things that man’s got to do to keep her in line. For instance, never let her guess his wants right every time. Pot roast, boiled ham, three-bean salad. Keep her trying, like them mice in them experiments with irregular rewards to keep ’em eager. Also, he’s got to keep his face set on the cusp, about to break into expression: kind or stern. Could go either way. Honey, check his knuckles. How he grips his pitchfork. Think: when did she last serve up a rabbit stew?

The rabbit

I’m not one for walking. In my leap, there’s a point where my legs are tucked in, my body stretched cigarette thin, ears slick as scales. I know I draw the eye, like lips smacked with ChapStick, fish-skin flashing ribs, a blue-grey conductor of a dangerous life, knowing it’s safer to live near the tree roots on the edge of fields where the tide of dust-dry washes from the woods in the summer. Knowing this in muscle and sinew. Living instead under her glossy, heart-shaped leaves of arum, brushing the tickling whisper of the everlasting flower scattered by hand from the step at the back door.


I keep my hair in amber clips. Keep my collar neat. Keep my duties scheduled sharp as a conductor with a whistle. Keep my vices to myself, my secret cigarettes … I chew verbena leaf, smear a smack of cherry ChapStick, sometimes spearmint. Dennis is stern about tobacco, but what he don’t know won’t hurt him. I keep my husband a little in the dark. He’s ahead of me in age, but I’m an archer, skilled and smart. I kill a rabbit clean enough to serve it whole, though Dennis likes it mangled, stewed all afternoon with boiled, cut potato.

The rabbit

The girl moves slowly, but her fingertips vibrate where the fletch meets the shaft. She’s pretty as a daisy, hair as gold as dying daffodils. She wants me. She wants me to run. I see it in the way she arches her feet, bare on the cusp of the step, toes splayed like a pitchfork. Her husband’s had no use for her calves. She wants a chase, but I don’t move. If my mother could string words together, she’d say I’m a troublemaker. We hold each other in rounds of nickels, irises of brass. We imagine my furred ruff in her knuckles. We imagine I’ll succumb, honey silk on a silver spoon licked clean by a tongue. She lets the arrow fly.