A WOMAN IS
Girls should not eat dog food said the Dentist as he was selecting the instruments to clean my teeth. The thing about dog food, I told him, is that it is salty and crunchy, everyone’s favorite combination, and then on top of that sneaking on your knees to the dog bowl and leaning down to eat knowing you are doing something people don’t want you to do adds an extra thrill. And it’s free. When I’ve been out swimming and in the woods all day, it is a pretty good snack and I can drop by anyone’s house and find it. Dogs don’t even need to brush their teeth so seems it could be a superior food in that respect. The only better snack, which I can also find in anyone’s fridge, in terms of taste/energy is a stick of butter. Hardly anyone notices if you cut off half of the stick of butter, and then you’ve got this salty, creamy delight.
He looked down at me, instruments in hand as if I were a brown recluse, his look withering. And then he changed the subject. I would normally have never given my daughter what I consider to be a man’s name, he said. But Regan was, without a doubt, the best president, and so I made an exception to my feelings on girls being girls and named her after my favorite president.
With his large meaty hands in my mouth, he said, “You know, no jury around these parts is ever going to convict him.” I laid there, looking at the cutout of a smiling red apple of the ceiling with a toothbrush in its mouth.
In an instant, I was back on the dirt road, sweaty from running, face the color of the Red Man of the Ozarks, the devil that everyone told stories about around campfires.
I liked to run down the dirt road in the morning when the earth was still damp, past the abandoned barn, to the fork in the road where drunks had shot up all the road signs, towards the cemetery and the Neighbor’s house whose graveyard-facing-side was covered with an enormous Confederate flag and decorated with a cross. The house sat at the top of a sloping hill on a curve. I stopped in my tracks in front of the cemetery. To my right was the Neighbor on a red and black four-wheeler, gun in hands. To my left, some 20 feet from the Neighbor, was a faded blue Ford truck parked near the cemetery fence. Beside the truck was a girl’s body in the overgrown summer grass, her curly hair sticking up above the weeds. I could see the Neighbor’s eyes, glassy, his mind flying somewhere else. He was mumbling and I wanted to hear what he was saying. My feet planted on the side of the road, I leaned in. All I heard was “deer.” And then over and over, “I thought she was a deer.”