He says, don’t let the dog outside. He says he has skinned the beast.The smell goes up and down, confused by wind, the need to call down other animals from the sky. He takes up a knife between two fingers, my brother, for sharpening the end of a fallen limb. If my cigarette ever ends I can’t ignore him anymore. I can’t ignore the smell. It’s colder than Florida here, not as cold as a hospital, and all of being in the middle makes the right temperature for maintaining a body without its organs, without its blood. He has hair almost black and eyes almost black for marking a death. If my cigarette ever ends, I will have to ask what he has done.
At knifepoint, the limb becomes indecipherable from anything that was once alive. He peels back its skin the way he might have done the animal until it is smooth bone, white as sun in winter though they call this winter milder than most. With a knife he makes another knife and touches it, the thing that was once alive, with the ball of his white and naked finger to see if it will pierce the skin.
He takes a pill in the morning and, if that wears off, a pill in the afternoon.
The cigarette is cut down to its brown nub, so I send it out to sea again how death is when it comes lucky by the shore in the half-filled water bottle where he spits tobacco from his cheeks. I want to see what’s left of it, the animal. I want to see how dead and empty a body can be made. He stands to full tallness and leans his body into beautiful arching, the weight of the long weapon in his hand, and sends it off sky-wise, a spear now, so that it comes to violent point in midair and lands vertical, splitting blades of yellowed grass where it has punctured the earth. He is an animal self-made for war, and I feel nothing.
I am reconstructed with pills. I have been made experimental to feel what all people are meant to feel, which is nothing, which is to practice death through God.
With a length of leg, he lands heavy off the porch onto the wet ground below and pulls the smell from where he’s left it underneath a spiny bush. It comes up again like tired rotting, something almost sweet, exhausted, as if it has been smothered in its own odor long enough and now must sleep. With his brave, naked hands he lays it out against the concrete for a crude rug until it starts to take the shape of an animal, what might have been a squirrel, its matted fur still wet from kissing other squirrels before the pellet left the gun. He says it fell from the tree with little thunder. He says that when he cooked it, bones plucked out for jewelry and some organs, it hardly had a taste to it at all.
If he takes a pill in the afternoon because the morning pill has worn off, he says, he won’t sleep that night, and that night could very well become another night and then another. He says that he can hear things, see things, things that may very well not be real the way things other people see and hear are real. The psychiatrist is thinking schizophrenia, the awful mouthing of it, and gives him pills. He is seventeen, my brother. If he has anything at all, any new shaping of the brain, it is not yet happening all the way.
What is left of the animal, now splayed out limber on the concrete, begins to curl its skin at the edges in embarrassment. We are underneath the sun, we three. We are easy for being seen. My brother, in his eyes almost black and hair almost black, spits tobacco into the half-filled water bottle and shakes it until it is a swamp the way South Florida can become a swamp in the wet season, in every terrible season, and I feel nothing. With pills, we are becoming two short sentences. With pills, we are bodies without organs or blood.
He has skinned the beast so that he might be true for going into woods. To go into woods and be safe to enjoy the killing of another animal is any animal’s intimate detail. He says he will go into woods and build himself a house there where he might live private from the standard eyes of neighbors with a little stream, maybe, cool for drinking, and knives for making other knives, and that is the means by which a man becomes a man. In our same ugly blood, we look alike as strangers. If he goes into woods and goes the way of madness in the woods, how can I find him again? He has hair almost black. He has opened up an animal, and it hardly had a taste to it at all.