Animals I’ve Known

by Stephen Graham Jones

The goose that laid the golden retriever never got caught, because who would expect a retriever, a dog bred to collect waterfowl, to mount one of the birds he’d been trained to deliver? But, too, we all understand, I think. Are all dogs. I mean, for years you hold their long, delicate necks in your mouth, know the weight of their bodies, how it feels when their muscles undulate from tail to beak, but are warned never to taste. Then one day, splashing through the shallows, no gun behind you, one of those birds turns around, presents herself, and what gets you excited isn’t the invitation under her tailfeathers there, but the memory of her neck under your teeth, the way her body can quiver in death. And then when it’s done, she’s so shy about it, preening the way geese will, her head ducking down to the base of her left wing again and again, and for the first time ever your bird spreads her wings to cup the air, and lifts off into the sky, your seed swirling inside her, soon to be wrapped in delicate eggshell, the shame inside it golden like you, like that afternoon, and safe, because she knows better than to ever warm that egg back up. Except in memory.

Stephen Graham Jones has eight novels and two collections on the shelf, with four or five or six more in-press, and probably a hundred and thirty or so stories published. He also does reviews and essays and writes on the back of hand and the top of his legs a lot, and teaches in the MFA program at CU Boulder, and got his PhD from FSU in 1998. See more at demontheory.net/.

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