Needing something wild, we bought a (__) from a woman in the strip mall parking lot. She carried the keys to the cage and said to keep the (__) active “or else.” We converted the bathtub in our apartment into an appropriate litter box, filled it with leaves and newspaper inserts. We taped wildlife posters to the tiles and piped in a cassette called Classic Nature. The (__) slept in the closet, curled on the clean towels. We fed it from a non-stick pot we were too scared to cook in ourselves. At first, we took turns cleaning the tub. We tried to keep its teeth clean, reaching back into its throat for the stuck venison we purchased out-of-state. Feeling guilty, we let it out of the bathroom and the (__) found a window to look out. It cried more when we tried to take it back into the porcelain, so now the (__) walks between us, claws tickling the linoleum. We don’t even tug at the rope that the (__) keeps dragging around anymore. We don’t toss the ball back and forth for fear a neighbor might recognize the predatory sound. I started to blame the (__) for the silence between us, but we invited it in, paid for it even, so instead we blame the walls for not being wider apart. I swear it was not a (__) when all of this began. It was just an envelope on the kitchen counter, a woman’s voice in the grocery store that our mother maybe shared, but she never shopped where we have to go now. Tonight’s menu holds lamb from the microwave because the (__) saw a recipe on TV that it wanted to try and we three are too tired to argue about small things, like cuisine.
Avery Gregurich is a writer living and working in Marengo, Iowa. He was raised next to the Mississippi River, and has never strayed too far from it.