(Art: ‘My Oh My’ by Astrid Albert)
In January I shoveled snow off my grandfather in his rocking chair. I made sure I kept his hair dry, swept the salt out of his shoes onto the garden below. He coughed while I worked, little puffs of pride escaping from his scarf.
“Let’s go in now,” I said, and he shook his head.
“I’m keeping watch,” he said.
I wrapped him extra tight before the sun went down, burned table legs inside and left him my blanket. I dreamt as I had before: a deer with the tongue of a snake, his fork a lover’s hand beneath my chin.
“I shouldn’t be this way,” I said, and the deer pulled me closer.
In the morning there was wind. Hoof prints in the snow.
“The devil wants to give me his coat,” said my grandfather.
In February I shoveled snow off my grandfather in his rocking chair, stuck tilting, mid rock. His beard had grown long, a sleeping scarf coiled around his neck.
“Please come in,” I said.
“Stay in the house,” he said.
I gave him my coat, burned paper inside, spit on words and breathed in smoke. I slipped fishing wire through the piercing in my tongue, tied it tight to stay awake. My eyes fluttered when the sun rose. I locked the door and pulled it tighter.
In March I swept flurries from my grandfather’s blue skin, swallowed the blood of my newly forked tongue. I chipped at the ice in his eyes with the back of my toothbrush, piled his lap with sand and rock salt. A deer smiled at me from the edge of the woods.
“He doesn’t have to be this way,” he said.
“I need him,” I said.
I piled my dresses beneath my grandfather’s chair, cut my hair with his pocketknife and wove it into a match. The deer spit red, and I curled around my grandfather’s feet, sucked warmth from my burning clothes. I spent the night holding my tongue to a battery, left fork on the positive, right on the negative, the shock rolling through my mouth like gargled water. In the morning, the deer kissed me on the cheek and gave me his hooves.
I spent April in hooves and my grandfather’s blazer. I spent April with hair on my face. I thought of my grandfather often. He was water now, but at least he would be proud.
Jenny Fried is a writer living in California. Her work has appeared previously in Cheap Pop, Milk Candy Review, X-R-A-Y, and elsewhere. Find her on twitter @jenny_fried