Where It Happened
The woods behind his house, past the gray barn with a dirt floor. Inside there might have been an old basketball hoop. I only went in once or twice, because I remember thinking, this thing is going to collapse any second.
Those woods in winter, next to water, a stream, maybe, or something large enough to freeze over. I wondered if it would crack, if we walked on it. He might have fallen through, once, his black snow pants blacker and freezing water around his ankles. The water wasn’t deep enough that you’d drown.
Grandma and grandpa’s, downstairs, next to the closet and in the bathtub. Once in the woods there, past the sandpit and somewhere behind the chicken coop that’s now a deer stand. I wonder sometimes if the blood stump is still there, where my grandpa chopped chicken heads. We buried our dog Princess just nearby, with a simple cross marker that my father made. She had jumped out of the pickup bed and paralyzed her legs.
Underwater, next to the paddle boat. We stood on the edge with our brothers to see how far we could tip the boat before we slid into the brisk, brown water.
I wonder sometimes if the blood stump is still there, where my grandpa chopped chicken heads.
Under the tree. The leaves were wet from the fall soil. The oranges, yellows, and reds bled together, covered the browning grass underneath.
Under blankets. At night, on the floor, next to his brother. In the daytime, when his mother almost caught us. Always, in his room. One dry winter morning I woke up with caked, crunching blood under my nose. The pillow and white blanket, wet with it. I rolled over to the dry side and went back to sleep.
In my closet that was really the attic, where I kept accessories for my American Girl doll and boxes of Beanie Babies. The roof slanted down in there—you could hit your head if you stood too tall.
In the same closet, where, when we moved in, we found pictures of people in caskets. They were old, young, babies, even. I turned up music at night because it made me afraid the house was haunted.
Outside that house, where we were chasing what must have been a weasel. His family was helping us move in and the ground was just beginning to thaw. The remaining clumps of snow bled outward as they shrank.
In grandma’s rowboat on the lake, behind tall, green weeds. From there, you could only see the lake. He had caught a Northern that bit his finger when he took it off the hook and I had accidentally snagged his foot. He wore sandals, so it hooked and bled easy. Later, he would feel sad for a turtle he snagged. He thought it was a fish—it put up a good fight—but when he pulled it up to the boat it dangled in the air, legs flailing.
Behind the camper, up at the lake. We overturned logs looking for bait. The worms wriggled away from us, back into the dirt and under the logs, where they thought they were safe.
Inside that camper, in the morning, when everyone was sleeping, under the sleeping bag. Later, we sat next to the campfire with jackknives, sharpening sticks. I whittled one to a sharp point and pressed it to my finger, bled. I lampooned the stick into the water and started on another. His brother tripped and fell into the fire, and his mother ran to him, pulled him out, and yelled at him, as if it was his fault.
Nichole Rued is an English Composition instructor at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay and Lakeland College. She recently completed her M.A. in Literary and Textual Studies from Bowling Green State University. Her works have been featured in Verse Wisconsin, Sheepshead Review, and other journals.
Illustrations by Alex Fukui.