The Tanner’s Wife
The woman hides behind a stump to watch. Her husband suspends a fox skin over a fleshing beam. Last year, he watched from the window their daughter, her hair the color of turned leaves, run in front of a car. He lifted her from the curb, cradled her head like the pears he palmed for their ripeness: her eyes blinking rapidly, her lips opening and closing, opening and closing. She died in a quick splutter, there against his chest, there in in front of their home. He took up haunting the highway shoulders, stalking the deaths of does and coons. The woman took up laundering linens, stalking her husband. The dawn hit the sepia of this fox’s fur, its tail twitched idly before it ran head-long into traffic. A clean, unremarkable death: not a mark on it, only its left eye, gold ringed with black, filled with blood. She could see its last rattle as he carried it to his truck bed. In the morning, the woman opens the fridge for the orange juice and finds the fox’s head there. In a day’s time, it will be gone: the brain used to oil the skins. She waits until he sleeps to remove his button-tufted quilt, messed with blood and fur, smelling of his body, those skins. She starts the water. She picks hair from the button’s mouths. She remembers when they laid together under this quilt with their baby, her lips the size of a thimble; how their baby between them felt like a warm bag of sugar, impossibly sweet.