Russian 117 by Linda Wojtowick

How it ended up set on a dusty brown television in the electric trailer park is strange. But maybe not stranger, say, than an amphibian rain. A bend in wind. The father crushes his cans in a homemade machine and tends the dirt-filled pails. Under his constant hat his head is downy and small. The mother, gorgeous some years back and now puffing lowly at the eyes and jaw, is rarely home. She drives places with friends, to flea markets in other towns, to suspicious estate sales on dying farms. Their lanky child, a skittish pink boy derailed by skin, walks the roads by the old park, its ragged zipline against a muddy quartz of sky. There are fenced-off tanks there, bulbous and clicking. A dome made of tires. He rides his bike to Bootlegger Trail, pushes apart carefully barbed wire. He navigates the ankle- breaking swiss cheese of gopher holes and dandelions. He can see the wide bluffs from the field and imagines buffalo tumbling down off the blue cliffs. Screams trailing from their grey tongues and beards. He thinks of their big triangular bodies hitting the ground below, all accordion ribs and hatchet scapulas. Leg bones like shattered porches. When he is home alone, on the rare days both the man and the woman are in the world, he surveys the trailer with a dull, pinging excitement. He palms glass cats in the curio box. He upturns snow globes on her dresser dreaming candyblind of tiny storms. And there is another object, a dark apple-shaped thing with deep grooves and a narrow carved door like a craft. On the bottom an engraving: Russian 117. He did remember: One night his father took him out to the yard. He pulled air and sour beer noisily from a pale can. He pointed somewhere up and out. They’re sending Siberian tigers into space, you know. They trap them in the forest and load them into chambers like eggs. When they come for us, when they drop the bombs, I want you to take the gun and the pills and get to the cave.

Linda Wojtowick grew up in Montana. She now lives and works in Portland, Oregon where she indulges her cinematic obsessions without restraint. Her wordstuffs have most recently appeared in Spoon River Poetry Review, Off the Coast, The Prompt, and Clementine Poetry Journal.