Three pet roosters, blue-black tails, red backs and necks glow metallic in the sun as I dig. They jump in and out of the hole searching for food.
When I find white grubs curled, waiting for next June or May, I scoop them onto the end of the shovel and feed the roosters.
I dig and tell them, this hole is not for you.
I dig through the yellow-black earth, past the roots of the elm, through the tunnels of worms, because Bubby has status, because he sat curled around my neck while I wrote and rewrote my story, because he sang and I wrote, because he wrapped around my head and purred me to sleep when I thought I might die, because he couldn't resist the fatal green pellets, because the neighbors hate mice, because green pellets are easy, because they are cheap, because a green pellet doesn't bite, because it only gets bit, sometimes by a cat, sometimes, just once, by a cat named Bubby.
I dig, not because this day is atypical. A typical day might include death.
This morning, the same dogs that sunned every day with Bubby were eating his body. The dogs were sent away, their bellies close to the ground in shame, shame because they couldn't resist the fresh meat, shame because they, while they were eating, were looking around between bone crunching bites to see if anyone, any human, was watching them, shame because they knew if they didn't eat fast enough it would come to this, to the yelling, to the damnits, to the rock throwing, to temporary banishment into the horseweeds.
Bubby is waiting because of my superstitions. He is waiting for the earth to swallow him almost whole. He is waiting to be digested slowly by time, instead of being quickly disposed of by the dogs.
What will I do while I write now. Will I have to get a CD of a purring cat. Will I have to wrap a stuffed animal around my neck. What if I think I might die again. Will they just send the coroner. Will he look at me and say, She should've had a cat. Will I be sent directly to the earth. Do not pass the hospital. Do not pay the surgeon enough to buy a new car, a really new car. Instead of buying a car, I saw a doctor -- really, the doctor saw me.
The doctor saw me because I couldn't stand up, because not even Bubby's singing could make the pain stop, not even the purring could help me unfold, because I thought someone might have to dig big a hole for me.
I saw the doctor to beg for drugs or to be put to sleep.
That was in town.
Town is to-mate-toe. This place is ta-mate-eer.
The people in white and blue cotton uniforms, kept me in too much light, looking first at the outside and then at the inside with radiation and sound waves and electronic things and gave me drugs and told me to have surgery. I did not cry.
My father taught me not to cry. He also told me these things: You are strong. This is how you hit without breaking your thumb. Don't hit like a girl. Make a fist. Step into it. Only hit if you have to. You cannot act like a girl. You are strong. Do not lie. I hate liars.
My father forgot to tell me some things.
My Granny told me, God cleans house in the fall. Or was it the spring.
She, meant this is when most people die. She died in early winter or maybe it was late fall. In the white bed with stainless steel rails, I kissed her cold, gray forehead and touched her hand. The hand was like a fish, her head like a chilled ham in a dry skin. I was old enough, but I cried.
My father said, It's okay.
I think he meant to cry, but I don't know.
I realize I'm not digging. I'm standing beside a big muddy hole full of roosters.
Get out, I say, poking them with the shovel.
Bubby died from an internal hemorrhage caused from the ingestion of poisonous substances, this is what the vet would say, but I cannot pay to find out what I already know. I can read the signs. Bubby died from Whogivesashit.
I don't know why I count the scars.
First is a chickenpox. I don't remember the pox or scratching or anything.
I have a scar to remind me of what I can't remember.
My mother said the pox scars are for disobeying the Do Not Scratch laws for children with pox or bug bites.
The second scar is from a horse wreck. I might have been seven. I might have been eight or six or smarter, but wasn't.
I dropped the reigns and rode up a hill, screaming as branches slapped my face and arms. With both hands on the saddlehorn, I yelled and cried, and tried to reach the flapping strap.
I saw my father jump over the fence and grab the reigns. He handed me down to my mother and kept a hold of the reigns with one hand while searching for the rock with the other. He jerked the horse's head to eyelevel and palmed the large stone with his thick hands as he bashed the granite against the animal's head again and again, my mother's voice ringing through my ears, high and loud. My father brought the horse to its knees panting, my father panting, the pair covered in blood, in shame. Both of them covered in terror.
My father's brown face filled with blood, his color so dark his features disappeared under the haze.
My mother's voice washed over all of us, shrill, piercing.
What a pair we were, my father and I covered in blood and shame.
The longest scar is from the motorcycle, from giving my brother a ride, from riding with my brother the chicken, from riding a street bike in the mud, from having a rider out of balance, because I was going fast, faster than usual and the mud was too much for the slick tires, and the rider -- Chicken Shit, tried to jump.
The motorcycle slid into the machine shed. The passenger stubbed a toe, called the driver an asshole, and limped to the house crying.
Bastard, I called to his back. Pussy, I said.
I looked down, my jeans and my leg cut from my knee up my thigh to the center of my behind, the rearview mirror broken, the shed door dented. I hid the wreckage and went to the house.
Damn it, I said pouring rubbing alcohol onto the cut, my brother sitting cross-armed in the living room.
Tell and I'll kill you, I said.
Fine, he said, looking at my leg.
You can't hide that, he said.
I'll burn the pants. I can wear jeans.
It'll scar, he said, smiling.
Asshole, I said.
I anchored the skin together with duct tape.
I dig a hole for the cat in the garbage sack waiting to be buried. The roosters continue to circle speaking chicken language.
After the surgery, I tried to get up, like an old person tasting the air for death, like a baby learning to sit, like a three-legged cat standing. My family brought little stuffed animals and carnations and stories about home like I'd been away for a year, but it'd only been a day.
When I went home, Bubby waited on my bed, waited to sing me well, but I was already better, practically, almost better. I am a map drawn by my ancestors on foreign white skin, their query for privilege. I am a trinket, a treasure map, directions for snipe hunting.
I stand in the rain, a hole at my feet with most of a cat in a garbage sack at the bottom. I push the heavy clumps of dirt back in, as the roosters become nervous. The roosters scratch and kick the dirt before it goes back in, as if to beg for grubs.
There aren't anymore, I tell them.
Please, they mean to say.
Be quiet, I say. This is a funeral.
Pray or something, I tell the roosters.
They keep scratching at the dirt.
Idiots, I say to them. Have some respect.
They realize they are all roosters and one chases another chasing the third and they run off wings spread wide, chests inflated, feathers ruffled, crowing chicken obscenities at each other, fighting but not fighting, each letting the others know he's the rooster with the most status, asking if he's the rooster with the most status, none of them serious, none of them stopping to realize the hens are locked safely away in a pen, solid against the penetration of predator or rooster and they are free to search for grubs, free to create war or peace.