CNF: This Boy Bags Ghosts

This boy vacuums the taxidermy. Moves the black nozzle over still-soft hair, over pink-veined ears, polished noses, thick necks. This one looks awfully offended. He’s gentle with the horns. Hardly skimming. Indignant. This boy wonders if the bucks his father shot still visit their quartered selves. And this boy wonders, as he tends to them as he would a carpet—going with the grain of their hair, never against—if they hate him. The wand grabs spiderwebs, dander, dust. It grabs mites, microcosms. Invisible galaxies. This boy thinks of these deer, and he thinks of them moments before his father fired those killing shots. His father, in his twenties. This boy, in his twenties. A mirror, skewed. This boy wheels the vacuum one way, then the other, trips over the cord. This boy scowls at the heads. This boy, as he chases loose gravel, lint, skin cells smaller than the eye, contemplates dying as if dying was a baseball game. He ponders the pain of chemotherapy. Heart attacks and Alzheimers and SARS. Getting shot in Walmart. Getting shot in the woods. This boy has to leave the room, has to clean another room. The cord is in tangles between his feet. This boy imagines his father’s adolescence. A cup of nature and a handful of gnats, of fireflies. Ticks trying to feed through denim. Blood. Red. Viscous. From deer bleeding out on verdant moss. From the broken bodies his father would see, years later, during his residency. Save a life, take a life. This boy only writes about lives. He writes about dead heads on walls, and he writes about vacuum cleaners. He writes about panic and fear. Phobias. This boy hunts down the right words only to find the wrong ones. The tree over the forest path blocking progression. The mount’s fraying fur. The blackened eyes of the long-gone and dispossessed. This boy bags ghosts. This boy looks at his father and tries to reconcile the current image with who used to exist. This boy wonders if he’ll still exist when he’s his father’s age. This boy shuts the vacuum off and winds the cord in slow, practiced loops. One after another. And another. Another. This boy knows they watch him, but this boy doesn’t turn to look. All this boy can do is write about the way their eyes feel on his back.

Jared Povanda is an internationally published writer and freelance editor from upstate New York. His work has been published in Pidgeonholes, CHEAP POP, Maudlin House, Riggwelter Press, and Splonk, among others. Find him online @JaredPovanda and