by Jerrod Schwarz
Issue 1: Grotesque | 475 words
I kill the airboat’s engine fifty yards away from the stadium and paddle up to the rope ladder. All of my pockets have zippers, but I pat myself down anyway. Phone. Wallet. Extra D-rings. Box cutter.
At the front of the boat, the couple whispers the brochure aloud. “Wildlife affected by the rising…
“Different species had to adapt to their new coastal…
“With any luck, you might see…
“No flash photography.”
I tap the husband on the shoulder and point to the ladder—thick tug-of-war rope tied into rungs and covered in duct tape handholds; it climbed ten stories up the rusting, mossy stadium wall.
The couple is in their fifties, which is preferable, which is muscle truth, which is trusting the rope and not your own fingers.
I climb up first to check for tears or snags. Halfway up, I stop to pat my pockets again and look back down at the boat. Phone. Husband tucks his shirt in. Wallet. Wife double knots her shoelaces. Extra D-rings. A shape they cannot see swims under the boat. Box cutter. A turtle head bobs near the fan blades.
I reach the top, put my thumb up, and wait. I keep my back to the inside of the stadium but cup my ears backwards; bird claw scrapes the nosebleed seats, vines whisper their heaviness onto the buckling concrete, and hooves splash in the semi-flooded field below.
When they climb over the ledge, the husband tucks his shirt in again and the wife triple knots her shoe laces. I motion over to three telescopes; their legs are welded into a railing and all of the focus knobs are beginning to rust.
We peer in together, and the deer are visible today. Two bucks stand belly deep in the end zone with their heads cocked back and their eyes closed. Both pairs of antlers are already bloody from fishing; dried scales glint over the sharp, concrete-rubbed ends.
Bubbles surface between the two bucks, and the deer simultaneously slam their heads into the water. The wife knocks her heels together, the husband clenches his shirt sleeves, and I pinch my right pocket zipper.
Water thrashes. The deer slowly lift their heads out of the water. A four-foot-long catfish suspended between their antlers kinks and coils against the horns rammed through its body.
They carry the fish away, side by side into the dark, tunnel entrance of a locker room. While the couple waits at their telescopes for the deer to reappear, I walk back over to the rope ladder. Over the ledge, the airboat floats exactly where I left it. A large shadow cuts the water and the boat in half, but when I look up, there are no clouds in the sky. From the outside of my pocket, I cannot tell how many D-rings I brought with me.
Jerrod Schwarz is the managing poetry editor of Driftwood Press. He holds an MFA from the University of Tampa and works as a teacher at the Glazer Children’s Museum. His work has appeared in PANK, The Fem, Entropy, and many others. His erasure poetry has been featured in articles on New Republic and The Poetry Foundation.