When we bring her ashes to the cottage on the lake tonight, you point out a gaze of raccoons through the windshield of your pickup, rooting around garbage cans that have been empty since we closed up last summer. You chuckle slightly and say, You know your grandfather was so poor as a kid his family ate those damned things. He gave me a real coonskin cap he skinned himself. Felt like Davey Crocket. You could have told me this three years ago, after his funeral, and I wonder how many years it will be before you open your mouth to let out stories of her— maybe after the next family death, with some other loved one’s urn cradled in my lap.
You could still be talking, but I don’t hear. I stare at the raccoons darting in and out of the cans they’ve managed to tip over. You nudge my shoulder. Hey. Whatcha thinking about so hard? I tell you a guy I know in my dorm wrote a story about a cracked-out prophet hearing the voice of God from a raccoon. You chuckle again, conjure a beer can from the back seat, pull the tab, take a long, focused pull. God. Cheap meat. Maybe they’re the same thing.
He did write that piece and read it to me when I was still panty-less and lupine under his sheets. And maybe I will think of it and the dimple in his right cheek the next time I see a raccoon. But there’s one standing on its hind legs at the lip of a garbage can peering in, paws pressed to each cheek, and what I am really thinking about is her tearing at her face, eyes swamped in wet eyeliner and cheap mascara. I read this raccoon’s hungry stance as the twin to the despair that tensed her body into something sharp and quiet. And I remember finding her stiff and hollow on the bottom bunk of the bed we shared as girls.
Maybe you wanted to spread her under the sun, but I push out of the truck clutching her pale blue urn, and the slam of the door behind me scatters the coons, and I am walking past the cottage to the lake. I thought before of spilling her at the forest’s edge near the wildflowers, eternally crowned. But I know now not to leave her where they run to, all hunger and taut.
I don’t wait to see if you follow or to arrange my face for ceremony. I claw the urn apart where the lake laps at my ankles and feel it empty into the swell.
Carly Maria Hubbard holds a BA in Creative Writing from DePaul University. Her poetry has previously appeared in Crook & Folly, Pentimento, and Hooligan Magazine. This is her first piece of published flash. Carly is currently writing, being haunted by the spirit of Lucille Clifton, and loving in Chicago. Come say hi on twitter @carly_maria