I Miss the Slug Ooze of That Summer You Died

by Rainie Oet

I put a slug on my knee and watched it crawl down my leg.

A frenzy of night itching, blood, and waking to a constellation of scabs.

And I walked in tall grass.
And I stood so still under the sun.

I got very sick for two weeks.
I lay in bed thinking I might die too.
Silences between ice-cream truck sirens
told me hours were passing.

The family in the apartment on the other side of the wall
moved. Their black labrador got into our basement
through a hole in the wall. We kept her.

Finally, I ate a tuna sandwich with ketchup, your favorite.

Austin’s little sister must have peed in the bath
while it was overflowing – lemon-yellow water
dripped through the ceiling
and puddled his basement floor.

I found a hedgehog by the dumpster,
at the bottom of a mountain of huge, fallen branches,
and I poked its bared soft stomach, and it died.

Near it was a tiny square mirror I picked up
and carried everywhere after.

For a week in late August I reflected the sun onto Austin’s face
until he stopped being my friend. I knew what I was doing.

On the last day of August
I sat at my window with the mirror.
I reflected the sun into windows of 45 mph cars on the throughway.
I hoped there would be an accident.
There never was.
No. The one there was – wasn’t my fault.