There Is No Why

One day they’ll tell a fairy tale about me, the girl with one arm and a pinkish heart full of love. Perhaps something with forest animals, doting parents, bird seed, bread crumbs, lost chicks returned with quiet grace to long-abandoned nests. They’ll know me by the shape of my memory, my flawless skin, or maybe my name, my true name, not some razzle-dazzle pseudonym someone made up for the story.

The road to town is hot asphalt, a track through the woods covered in thick, black tar. I sink up to my ankles but keep walking anyway, leaving deep black footprints oozing longing in my wake. Nary a breeze blows over this, the part of the story wherein our heroine faces obstacles. Surrounded by fairy godmothers, dragonflies, and yelloweyed wolves staring from behind the trees beyond the road. Where is your grandmother, they growl. Where is she.

The shadows are growing like fattened calves by the time I make it there, the trailer park mud-encrusted and grandmother/godmother nowhere to be found amid aluminum windows and sagging, coathanger antennas. The wolves are bolder now, throwing rocks, sniffing, pissing on tires, watching with hungry eyes the baby birds dropping dead with fear like stones to the ground. No quarter, the bees whisper, clinging to the undersides of leaves. There’s no quarter here.

Sun goes down and the honkytonk across the road blinks, bewildered. How did I get here I ask the darkness, but nobody seems to know—or if they do, they’re not telling. The highway is cooler now but louder, too, asphalt speaking tongues, clattering, clanging bells that interrupt the flow of the narrative. No better idea, I’ll drink with the wolves, I say, eat my flesh raw as nature intended and in the dawn I’ll find my way, if I can, back along another road.

Inside, grandmother tends the bar, serving pork rinds pulled from blown-down porcine houses. Wolves line the walls like trophies, stacked like firewood, and I realize I’ve held onto the basket all this time. It feels light, a small thing in my hand my fist wraps around, sweaty but willing. Break our fast, the wolves whisper. What’s in the basket.

What’s in the basket. He comes at me, and the knife is not a huntsman’s axe because those are for forest trees. I slit his belly open and out fall kids, bonnets, assorted baked goods and rocks of various sizes. Grandmother grins and pours another drink. The knife is slick in my hand, slick as egg yolks and bird shit, slick as snot. It comes alive and I think that’s how they’ll find me—not a trail of bread crumbs or clever names, but one of bright red drops turned rusty in the sun. My fairy tale is not your fairy tale but that’s all right. I’ll cut you belly to balls, I say, to no one in particular. Belly to balls.

—Lynette Mejía