wilson koewing

tennis racket

CONTENT WARNING: ANIMAL ABUSE

     When Alison was four, the family cat had a litter of black and white kittens. Her father put a towel inside a cardboard box, placed it in the crawl space beneath the house and left the door ajar.

     One day, while Alison played in the driveway with a tennis racket, she noticed the mother cat exit the crawlspace and dart from view.

     It was Fall and a neighbor was burning leaves.

     Alison opened the door and peered down at the kittens. They rolled on their backs and kicked their paws toward the sky. She plucked one out and carried it to the driveway and placed it down. The kitten ran and instead of chasing, Alison swung the tennis racket. The kitten tried to get away but Alison hit it repeatedly. She was curious what would happen if she didn’t stop.

     Which is what she told her parents, but they wouldn’t accept the answer.

     They sent her to bed without supper and though she could have easily walked through the door that had no lock, out into the house where her parents worried over the monster that was their child, she stayed, seated quietly on the carpet staring at a painting of a railway station in the snow. She wondered where the painting came from and why it was in her room. In the corner was a rocking horse she’d never ridden. On the bookshelf, books passed down from her older brother. Her prison was a room her parents constructed long before her birth.

     The following morning an Autumn chill rode heavy on the air.

     Alison rummaged through her mother’s closet for a shoe box. She found the kitten on her father’s workbench wrapped in a towel. She placed the kitten inside the shoebox and tied twine around it. She walked to the edge of the yard carrying the box and a garden trowel. She dug a hole and shaped the edges until the shoebox fit perfectly. She would not forget the fresh dirt smell. For decades, passing freshly planted flower beds or tilled gardens triggered a nausea that would not subside. Pleasant smells that for most signaled blooming life.

     Alison covered the box with dirt. She marveled at how easily it vanished. When the hole was filled, she tamped the dirt smooth, stabbed the garden trowel into the Earth and returned to her room.

23 February, 2022 

Wilson Koewing is a writer from South Carolina. His short fiction is forthcoming in Gargoyle and Bull. His memoir "Bridges" is forthcoming from Bull City Press.