What happened before this, I will have to fill in later. For now, I cannot begin to write it.

What followed was an intensive and emotionally distressing period wherein we laid down a bargain. By that, I mean my father established that either he held the scalpel, or I did. I could pick which of us held it.

My room, where we—he— had taken this situation by now: it looked to be liquefying around us, crushed and oozing like the larvae, before me, of insects, which I loved dearly and continue to love. My very line of vision tilted in tandem with my stomach.

In the end, it was myself I chose to hold the scalpel. I understood by now that the real object was to keep it away from him.

In retrospect, it does unnerve me how I was able to stay upright and continue, with the blade, flattening flies in their infant stage.

When I was an infant, I was prone to ear infections. So was my mother. She was born with numerous small defects, actually, for which she underwent swift surgical correction. She’s seemed to feel gentle about it since I’ve known her.

As for my father, I cannot count the illnesses and injuries he has sustained. But they drove him partly deaf, too, like my mother was at birth.

I retained a good, and accurate, sense of hearing.

The maggots crackled, and beneath them, the hollowed-out garden snake. It was very dead, but its body had still had cause to move.

Up to my nose tilted a wave of stench. Even then, I knew this meant that somehow, the molecules were fusing to my ol-fact-ory organs.

My blood screeched in its vessels. Even as I knew that I was untouched, my head felt cracked open, like stories my father would tell me about his high school friends.

At this point there faltered— or falters— much of my perception, or my memory now, or both. For sure, I can tell you: this is the most disgusting thing I have done.

The last maggot lay there to the side of the snake, I can also tell you now. It, meaning the maggot, and its siblings were brought to their deaths swiftly and deliberately by myself, the writer of this letter. No unnecessary delays were made between the turning of the blade, its application, and its bearing down.

Something large and wet punched me from inside my throat: probably bile, tears, or both. I’ll never forget this. My father had just asked me if I wanted to keep them.

I told him no— at least I could say that. He had never made me feel lower, given me a lower choice, than this. I had no flesh of his on top of myself to irritate. This whole time, he did not touch me.

In that moment, my father then expressed to me that he wanted to keep the snake and the maggots.

Where was he going to keep them? In the back of my sock drawer.

He said this: “You have two minutes to push all of your socks out of the way, as much as you want. It’s nice that you have so many socks. I’m even going to get a Ziploc bag to make it clean for you.”

When he spoke to me telling me what he was about to do, he enunciated clearly and used what I knew were his best grammatical conventions.

That seemed powerful to me. Until just now, writing this to you, but really also to myself: I couldn’t have fully understood.

I pushed my socks out of the way. He slid the fly babies, the snake, and the scant remainder of its contents into the plastic bag. Then, as promised, my father deposited into the back of my sock drawer the cut and decaying flesh.

Reminiscent of other times, my father informed me that I was “going to keep it in there” until the smell got to be too much for me. At that point, he informed me, it would have to be my responsibility to figure out what to do with it next.

He wasn’t going to touch the snake again.

I remember asking— “Or the maggots?”— using the word for them that I had unfortunately just learned that day.

My father confirmed this: “Or the maggots.”

I don’t remember how I handled the scalpel afterward— only that it ended up back with him and that he said it had returned to its place in the washroom. It would not be used again that day, he informed me.

“Don’t try to steal it,” he mentioned to me. “If you do, I’ll know.”

I knew better, too. I’d had enough.

My father stepped over to my doorway so that he blocked the light outside it. He flicked my own light switch to the off position.

“Stay in here,” he said, “and don’t come out unless I say so.”

He took another step back. The door— which, thank God I had it by now— it closed.

That night, through the crack between the door and its frame, my father and I found something on which we could agree.

It was this. I would not be setting foot outside my room, or eating, until noon the next day.



Mackenzie Dwyer