The Holes in the Backyard Are Not Where We Bury Our Dead Animals
“Are you telling the truth?”
“Yes.” I was not.
It was my mother I lied to. And when I did, some girl in me stepped away and wandered into the backyard and dug a hole with her fingers and lay down forever.
I forgot about the girl and the hole she was buried in.
Until the 7th grade, when Jeremy Pike grabbed me by both sides of the head and pressed my mouth to his mouth behind the horse barn. He was a serpent digging into me, looking for something under my bones. But instead he found the flora of cobwebs and a room abandoned.
Some girl in me stepped away and wandered into the backyard and dug a hole with her fingers and lay down forever.
I didn’t move an inch. He was a baseball player, and the cast on his pointer finger scratched against my cheek, and I closed my eyes and thought of his eyes, a dull brown not dark enough to be the color of mud.
I went home.
I stayed in my bedroom and I did not come out.
There was no green life inside of me, no bud pushing upward from my belly into words that made sentences, no reply to shout to my mother who was calling me from the kitchen, no flowers to paint over the empty wall of day, no question to ask. The birds would lend me nothing. They hoarded their song inside of them, hanging mutely in the trees outside my window, their voices growing heavy in their plump, little bodies.
That’s when I heard the knocking, when I could not hear anything else.
A quiet fist under earth.
Not a hammer against the neighbor’s house, not a woodpecker.
But somewhere in the backyard.
I left my bedroom.
There was no green life inside of me, no bud pushing upward from my belly into words that made sentences.
I noticed Jeremy was standing at my front door, his hands in his pockets, talking to my mother about baseball scores and the weather.
I was on my hands and knees in the backyard, digging in the grass. That thump-thump coming like a whisper up from the ground and flooding my ears.
And then it stopped.
I found the girl looking back at me, buried in the hole, exactly where I had left her. She was holding the lie I told my mother against her chest, a little seed clasped inside her fist.
I didn’t ask anything. I didn’t say hello.
I knelt beside her.
I lowered the kiss and the horse barn down into the hole gently, unreeling them out of me. I gave her the feeling of Jeremy reaching like a hand through my mouth, looking to pull down that string in the empty room that would turn on the light inside of me and make everything visible.
Anna Schulte is a writer and musician based in New Orleans, Louisiana. She is originally from Omaha, Nebraska. She likes to sing in basements, eat toast, and talk to people if it's the right kind of day for that. To see more of her work, go to annaschultewriting.wordpress.com
Illustrated by Meghan Irwin.