Chthonic Memory

by Lindsay Brader

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Remember flipping rocks trying to find snakes? Uncovered, coiled and mating in the nothing space between earth and earth, their eyes didn’t shift, only shone like black water beading on their spade heads. Fists of knots unable to hear words like “slither” or “sister,” each scale breathing tiny contractions. Our avalanche fevered hands dug up their beds.

I could hear you crying those nights mom made you sleep in the crawl space under the house. You’d been bad, she said. Did the spiders make silk mazes in the corners of your dreams? Did the snakes keep you company? I asked all the wrong questions.Mom said you don’t love anyone, not even me. Words are only vibrations to you. So that you’d hear me, I walked with heavy feet.

M, you remember when you made the kitten swim? You said that’s how your daddy taught you, by throwing you in the lake, that it was the only way. It looked smaller in the water, writhing almost like a snake does, slick and sinking in the blue plastic pool. Its head stopped rolling from side to side and I was waiting for its eyes to shut when our mom came out yelling for you to stop. You didn’t flinch. I watched. Mom was screaming so loud it started to sound like underwater noise—distorted, compressed, somehow wider. Like our voices when we had tea parties at the bottom of the pool, our open eyes burning from the chlorine. I’d read your lips and you’d read mine as we raised an imaginary cup to the future.

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Lindsay Brader is avidly undergoing an existential crisis most Wednesdays and is charming every other Friday. She is wanted in two counties for overdue library books.
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