The Ladybug

by John Oliver Hodges

The fence held in the cows, or did it surround the swan pond? What matters is I held the ax while my brother knelt below me. The ax was what we used for pounding U-nails into posts, only there were no posts. Our instructions were to kill the pit vipers along the bank. My brother clamped the snakes against the earth with a garden rake as I chopped off their heads. I then chopped the dead snakes into bits. I put the bits into a bucket. That evening I would feed the snakes to the alligators in the alligator pond.

But here is my question: Did my brother put his head between the blade and the snakes? Or did I move my arm so that the blade made contact with his head?

Could I have been making a bid for the golden brooch, a flower pinned to my chest, its needle reaching into my heart and sucking, its petals now animated with a crimson truth to identify me as more than useless? A supreme creature—or joke, have it as you will—foreign to cowardice?

My brother fell. When his head hit the earth, his vision jumped across the lake, and then settled upon a blade of grass. The truth is a hippogriff. My brother watched a ladybug flap her wings.

Do not think I am saying that my brother was too good for the world.

I knelt before him. He looked like a new, superior creation with the ax stuck in his head. I said, “What do you see?” My brother said, “A ladybug,” and I pulled out the ax.

John Oliver Hodges worked on a farm in Florida once, but he never got over it. He later wrote Quizzleboon, a novel of comedic redneck horror; and The Love Box, a collection of short stories and pictures.
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