The Foreman passed out garbage bags and told them they'd come too late for gloves. She held her companion's hand. It had been a while since she squirmed her fingers into his palm, but the workers were pushing past them, squeezing them closer together.
We trapped a big one today, the Foreman said. And I don't know about you, but I'm in no rush to sit around and wait. We've made some mistakes, I'm a big enough man to admit that, but this one here.
The Foreman crouched in front of the felled bear, dragged his big knife across its belly.
The one? she wondered. This one here is the one? She stood on her toes, but the Foreman's back blocked his work.
Her companion's thumb twitched against her finger, settled into smooth petting. Maybe this was the way he preferred to touch, back when they first tried at lovers. It was hard to remember them as anything they'd tried to be besides movers.
The Foreman grunted and jumped back into a squat.
You see, folks? he said over the workers' applause, muted by latex.
Voices were originally invented for grunting, she thought, bearing down to get things done. As a child she loved to collect these facts, something she could share and not lose.
There was the animal, its furry, fatty, cellophane layers open like a book. This was how she imagined science classes. You learned to construct things by making them opposite.
The bear was full of people. It was full of clothing. That hiking boot belonging to this hairy arm. This sweet skirt to that severed ankle.
You have to break a few eggs to catch an omelet, the Foreman said. Better to kill a few eggs before they kill you, I always say.
The workers surrounded the bear. Those with gloves handled the limbs and torsos, filled and tied up their bags in flat minutes. They dragged them away for weighing and payment, mailed them as evidence.
Her companion was looking at her with green eyes.
What if you hold the bag, he said. I'll do the grabbing. Do you mind if we just try clothes today?
Hadn't his eyes been blue when they were children? This must have happened gradually.
We can go slow, she said.
He pinched a pair of jeans, hooked a hooded jacket on his pinkie and dropped them in.
It was nice to remember him as someone next to her. Yes, he was always there, but she'd only stopped to think about it when she was angry, when he insisted they move again, when she thought she'd find some permanent man in some permanent town one day.
Now, this place. It seemed quaint at first, a greasy spoon, a hardware store. But they'd only shared a hotel for two nights before they found out about the animals. Soon enough, he wouldn't be able to stand it. Just like the town full of diseased mothers. The town of collapsed roofs. The one overrun with butterflies.
Lined up around the bear were more split animals: bobcats, wolves, tiny foxes.
How could those foxes kill anyone? she asked. There can't be people inside those foxes.
If you squint hard enough, you'll find a toe, said a worker. What, are you saying you don't want to find the killers?
There was no record of a wolf ever attacking a human, she thought. Her companion shook his head at a soggy sock and tossed it in.
She wished they were children again, when they could occupy themselves for days simply learning what their bodies owned. She could hook her tongue into the space where her tooth had been. She knew every groove and healing nick inside her mouth. She used to lie underneath him and count the freckles on his chest, pinch the rough skin on his elbows. He'd push her cheeks, make her nose into a pig's. They learned the word underpass and used it. This word changed when hair sprouted, when new smells moved in.
Their bag wasn't full, and there were no more clothes so he threw in his sweater, tied the bag.
She ran her tongue along her teeth. The points and squares were familiar, but over the years they'd been sanded down, the backs beginning to hollow. Your liver never changes size between birth and death, she thought.
* * *
There was lamplight on his skin. It was too warm for blankets.
It's like this is everyday for them, he said.
It'll be like that for us soon. Like the town with the storms?
She traced her finger from his shoulder to his forearm. I don't want to move again, she said.
They could have stayed in the almost perfect town. Thank you seemed excessive there and the bus tub at work was always full, but this was just rust, like every town needed. It could have been permanent.
Why did they have to find the cove where the whales were killed? That rose-colored water like they'd never seen?
It's only here, he'd told her, gathering their picnic supplies. It won't affect us.
But if someone offered her a glass of that rose water, she'd gulp it. She could fall asleep to that tragic opera song. Moving had been her decision.
She lay on her back and tugged his arm until he obeyed, became a bridge over her. In lamplight, his eyes were blue.
Do you remember underpass? she said
Your graffiti has changed.
She moved her finger down the line between chest and belly. His skin was still freckled.
This is new, she said and tugged at a patch of hair near his ribs.
So is this. He rubbed the round shape of her stomach.
It had all happened slowly, but he was next to her still, tracing her ear.