Forest Crust – Lexi Covalsen
We are picking each other’s scabs on your trampoline – the house ahead of us lightless and dead
in the stale 2:00 am night. We are picking each other’s scabs on your trampoline and some
otherbody inside mine can already feel the metal clasps of your Papa’s belt hitting our cheeks,
yours then mine, twin teeth rattled. It has already happened, it is happening, it will happen.
“Time doesn’t exist and it always fucks you in the end anyways” just like Daniel from down the
road says when he won’t leave us alone, checking his mail in his camo sweatpants.
I don’t know where to put the scared. I try to whisper it down into the black screen of your
trampoline – salty on my mouth from bare little girl feet and brown rain that’s dripped from the
trees – but I think it just hit that forgotten fairy circle of unmowed grass below and bounced right
back up into my throat. If I wait just one more minute, I know the scared will grow and tumble
and turn into a hollering kind of high, an undeserved adrenaline. I know this because we are
thieves and good ones – real cockroach girls stealing everything that has ever been good to us.
Donuts, bubblegum, and car keys, pop songs, bikini tops, quiet daydreams in the backyard rub
each other’s skin behind the big tree. Scared roils through me and I wonder if it too is just a
summer story that has been here since the beginning of time, lurking somewhere waiting for me.
But we are still on your trampoline.
The moon shines down on me and I feel like I am supposed to earn it so I untangle my legs from
yours. My head is ringing from the plastic of your Papa’s dashboard, beaten and red and alive in
a way I think I was supposed to have been this whole time. On replay: your speckled toenails
slamming on the brakes, the sugar grain, the scalding numbness of gas station coffee on my
knees. The body of our dead deer shining ahead, hooves and fur and real animal things – a
useless gone baby, he’s gone, he’s gone, blood on his fur. His family left him, running into the
woods, flashes of sixteen eyes and goodbye, all the Little House on the Prairie books I’ve read
come true. What do the girl deer do, now? I think about kissing you one last time, open the
passenger door and throw up.
So. Here, now, we sit waiting on another useless middle school hurt to hit us. Hog Liver Road
and those sour orange headlights abandoned, seventh grade remains. Rain jackets left somewhere
on the black ground, curled childhood guts filled with Doritos and secrets and other Georgia
things. Our tongues are still blue from the Jolly Ranchers and I ask, blood underneath my
fingernails, what do the cows whisper to you at night?
They tell me to sleep in my closet slit my wrists eat my homework paint my teeth in pink
highlighter. That kind of thing.
Remember when we were little and thought a little ghost girl lived in the barn she was green with
her head bent down sitting on the bench by the bug zapper?
Yeah. Real southern gothic.
Listen I gotta tell you something sometimes I miss you like the sun sometimes when I say I’m
going to the swing set I don’t really swing at all I just stare at all the tires in my backyard and
cry. That day, last week, when you climbed the fence to fetch the shoe I threw over in a fit of
rage your shorts tore up the side and I decided god doesn’t exist – there’s only ever been science
and recess and your baby black leg hairs and that moment when you whispered into my mouth
and your breath smelled like grapefruit juice? I loved that.
Remember when you dared me to climb one of those trees behind the gym and I spent the rest of
the day licking sap from my fingers? I think about that every time I’m in the bathtub and I don’t
know why but if I thought about it hard enough glitter would fill the water. I could pretend I am
someone touchable and lovely, pretend I am Madeline in her yellow dress in France. Are the
blades of grass in Georgia different from the blades of grass in France? And if so, what do they
taste like? Do you read books? Do you watch movies? Can you tell me? Please answer the
The back screen door slams behind us, kitchen light on. 3:00 am. The silhouette of your Papa’s
belly comes rolling out of the darkness and all the pores in my palms – the ones where salty
things like sweat and trauma live – are telling me that there is a belt in his right hand. Suddenly
the beeping of your Papa’s open car door, somewhere alone on Hog Liver Road beeping and
beeping and beeping into the empty heat, is all I can think about. We are laughing. There is
nothing else to do. Bloody craters of used-to-be scabs dot our legs. You don’t answer any of my