June 20, 2016 by The Citron Review
by Kelsey Englert
Today I completed the taxidermied tick mosaic. You said I never follow through because of the half-painted bedroom, and my unfiled taxes, and the blank job applications on my desk. I have changed since you’ve left. For half a decade of warm seasons, I rolled through the tall panic grass in the wild field beyond Buck’s Creek. I wore white pants and white shirts. I spray painted my hiking boots white. All this, so that when those valuable black bloodsuckers attached to me, I might see them before they leapt away. All this, for you.
After rolling through the plants until my teeth itched, until dry grass sliced into my skin like paper cuts, I combed my body for the crawling black. Some ticks, unsure where to bite, moved with swiftness onto my inviting fingertips. The latched creatures, already burrowing into my flesh, required plucks from tweezers. I collected them in sealed plastic bags. Some pushed against the edges. Others resigned to their fate, knowing that I, fighting for you, made too great a foe.
At home, I put the ticks on the chickens and let them fill. I used your old painting room as a workspace. I replaced your light. It was too weak. How did you see at all? On your desk, one at a time, I used alcohol-cleansed tweezers to lift swollen ticks from plastic bag. The needle injected death into them. With the gentle stroke of an acrylic-dipped paint brush, the taxidermied ticks were assigned a color, and placed on aluminum sheets to dry. Their painted corpses collected in Mason jars. The colored piles grew in the jars lining the shelf above my workspace. The jars’ bottoms filled with rainbows of broken legs. And now I’ve finished.
Remember holding hands in the field beyond Buck’s Creek? The warmth of the sun that summer day? The end of your blue skirt catching rides on the breeze? You froze, stopped me, too. Look, you said. Grasses growing past our knees. Ruby splashes of blooming wildflowers in a sea of gold and green. Oddly shaped trees, branches sculpted for decades by rough winds on open fields. That pile of dirt near the forest’s edge, grown over with weeds. Who shoveled that there? What was he up to? The field seemed silent until we listened, until we leaned our ears towards the wild symphony. You said, I wish I could capture this. Take it with me. This peace. We walked farther. My hand dampened with nerves holding yours. You startled. Flicked a black bug from your pale arm. I hate those things. The only downside of this place. You ran your paranoid fingertips across your body, through your hair, over the laces on your brown shoes. I saw one resting on the helix of your ear. I saved you. You shivered and thanked me.
I hated when you left.
I killed the downside. I painted it. I glued each piece of it on a canvas for you. A mosaic of the field beyond Buck’s Creek. Come see the peace you left.
We’ve wasted so much.
Come home, my love. Everything is right.
Kelsey Englert’s fiction has appeared in Bartleby Snopes and The Broken Plate. She earned her M.A. in English at Ball State University, and is currently pursuing her M.F.A. in creative writing at West Virginia University.