by Albert Alexander

In response to the painting, “Two Bullets”, by Kimberly Alexander (Fall 2016 cover art)

The painting is on the cover of this book. Don’t look at the painting.

Go to your living room. Open the windows. Whatever clutter is on your tables and desks, leave it. Sit and wait until you are hungry. 

Don’t eat, just drink some water. Wait longer.  

Now you can look.

I. The Tree

Hold your breath as you race through tangled brush. The branches are arteries full of blood. The arteries run back to your house, where your family waits. Your mother, her boyfriend, and your little sister are all there.

At the front door, there is a hole where the door handle should be. Push the door open. Your family is in the living room. Look at your mother lying down, two holes in her jaw, blood behind. Look at her boyfriend, much the same. See the gun.

Look at your sister, alive. Pick her up and hold her. Call the police. Stand by the window. 

As you wait, you see the artist in the yard. She is a teenage girl in a brown plaid dress. She hasn’t had a mother since she was four years old. She looks at you so she can paint your mother. She looks at you the way someone looks in the mirror. 

II. The Animal

Get a pick and shovel. Dig the animal out of the dry dirt, careful not to displace the arterial growths penetrating the torso. Wear nitrile gloves. They are more to protect the animal’s skin from yours, rather than the other way around. Don’t contaminate the corpse.

Pry up the roots with a crowbar. The skin is tough, so don’t be afraid to use some force. Just be sure to use blunt instruments. Once the animal is fully dislodged, prop it against the wall. Make a note of all damage or aberrations and mark the side in better condition as “front.” 

Return to the house. This thing is too large for a proper casket, and who would pay for it anyway? Bag it. Send it to the lab team for mounting. Take the three-year old girl into custody. 

III. The Bullets

Notice the holes in your chest. They are lined up with the bullet holes, lined up with the bodies. It is from the trajectory of the bullets. If you step to the side, the bullets would miss you and the holes would go away.

If you haven’t lost what the little girl has lost, you may feel uncomfortable. You may want to step to the side so your holes will go away. But hers won’t.
So don’t move. Be calm. Keep looking. The boyfriend’s death was messier, but don’t look at him. Look at the mother.