You Live Alone In a Small House

by a contributor

Delaney Nolan

You live in a small house. Underneath the house is a dead possum. Or a cat maybe. Or a very confused bird.

You can smell it rotting. You consider calling a friend, some male friend with paint-stained jeans and burns on every knuckle, some friend who would be amenable to crawling under the house. Excited even. Some friend who would walk twice around the perimeter of the house, nodding, to get a feel for possible entry points. He would stretch arms and crack his knuckles as though he were excavating coal, rather than the furriest corpse. You consider doing this, but lately you have trouble with operating the telephone, you have trouble answering the door, and it’s a confusing kind of problem, maybe a physical problem, and so instead you decide to crawl under the house yourself.

It is not the first time you have had to fetch a dead animal. In fact, you have the peculiar misfortune of finding the bodies of woodland creatures with some frequency. A chipmunk on your morning walk. A deer with splayed hooves, keeled over behind your dusty parked car. A stiff dog, curled up like a pastry, zipped into a suitcase in the back of your garage.

So you get on your belly. You scratch. You slither. You pull yourself forward with your hands in the dirt, black leaves under your nails. You are wearing your overalls and your best adventure hat, the silver sequined one with the oyster shell in the middle like a spotlight, plus the matching boots. The boots gain poor traction. The crawl takes you a long time.

You follow the smell. It’s an easy thing to do. You find it where you thought you would, under the floorboards of the master bedroom. It’s a big house. It was a long way. You’re tired from crawling.

You can see it now, see the shadow on shadow it makes in the distance. You have to take this thing. It’s easy, it’s practical, it’s a simple act, this gathering up of the dead. It’s yours. Just reach out your hand. There.

Delaney Nolan’s fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Apt, Gargoyle, Grist, Hobart, Post Road, Wigleaf and other places. Her chapbook “Louisiana Maps” (Ropewalk), winner of the Ropewalk Press Fiction Editor’s Chapbook Prize, will be published this fall.

See also: Delaney’s story Lessons in American History, and 5 Things You Should Read.