• Dzama


Stattin wore a yellow raincoat to protect what was left of him. His face was puffy and bleached but under his mac his body was bones and gore- fatty tissue and knotty intestines barely hanging on. To see him walking through the woods you just thought, There’s a guy wearing a yellow raincoat, maybe a fisherman. But there’s no place to fish in these parts anymore- the rivers have become mud and in the middle of what was the lake there is a wide mucky hole that goes down for miles into the earth.

I used to think I heard woodsmen cutting with chainsaws out in the trees- a common sound when I was a boy- but the industrial grinding was Stattin- that’s how his ruined voice came out. He’d make those horrible noises and slap his limp hands against the tree trunks, dragging his rubber boots through the dry leaves.

One day Stattin had a friend- it was a girl, a beautiful girl. He sculpted her out of mud and clay and river muck and shaped her body so it looked like she was resting on Sunset Rock. She was truly a beauty. Her lips were red, colored by poisonous berries pulled from brambles. She had a mysterious smile that cast a hypnotic spell on anyone who looked long enough. Stattin looked and looked and dropped to his jagged knees in front of her. She’s the one who would tell him to do things.


Later, after all the bloodshed I thought back to those evenings as the sun was setting when I’d see Stattin silhouetted, kneeling there before the sensuous mud goddess, listening, listening to a beautiful velvet voice soothe him and command him.


I was only about fourteen when I went into the woods alone to see the mud girl up close. I stood beside her, nearer than I’d ever stood to any girl. I asked her, What did you tell Stattin? What’s he gonna go do for you? And she stared back at me, grinning. I closed my eyes and felt her soft fingers stroke the sleeve of my jacket. I heard a soft voice whisper just like the hiss of a snake.

Then I took off running, tearing down the hill, sharp tree branches ripping at my face as I got lower and lower into the valley, not stopping until I was at my own doorstep and could smell stew and cornbread cooking on the other side of the front door.

With my hand on the door handle, I glanced back over my shoulder at the dark hill with its thin branches silhouetted against the blackening sky. Then I slipped into our house and bolted the door behind me.

In the middle of the night I heard that terrible grating chainsaw-wail and looked out the window to see an unnatural glow up by Sunset Rock. I could just make out the shadow of Stattin returning, dragging a heavy sack behind him.

When the glow finally faded the cicadas lulled me into a half-dream where I imagined myself dancing with the mud girl. I kissed her stained red lips and tasted the poisonous juice on my tongue, all the while listening for the terrible sound of Stattin returning, an unfortunate lump in a dirty burlap sack dragging behind him.



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