Behind our house is this little old trail we started calling Bushwick for no reason other than that’s the place we fell in love. No one around here gets it and we’d never explain it if they asked. It’s a secret. Most days it’s cedar boughs dripping songs onto the oak leaves, but today we woke up to sun crisping the skylight so we tossed on some boots and went walking. At the end of Bushwick trail you hit the highway and take a left, right where the river breaks in two and the mountain cuts a zigzag on the skyline. Around the bend is the cedar mill and just beyond that…


Before I started working there I had this thing where I wouldn’t work anywhere. You gave me shit for about six months and then, when I finally ran out of money, I said, “You know what? It’s weird, but I kind of think it would be cool to work at the Dairy Queen.” I never could figure out why the thought hadn’t crossed my mind earlier, when I still had money, but I was probably too busy with the chicken coop or the cob shed or the steelhead run to give a shit. They put me on drive-thru at nights and all it was was these high school kids in bandanas with skis on their cars ordering parfaits. They’d give me high fives and weednugs and I’d slip a couple Dilly Bars in the sack. We had a good thing going. I think you were pretty pissed off, though: me coming home late with a smile on my face circled in fudge. Yeah, you were pissed alright. But we always came together on The Notebook.


We watched it at least once a week and for a while it seemed like they were just a couple mad kids who lived down the street, Allie and Noah, and any day now we’d be calling them up to order pizzas or sing karaoke at the Ice Axe. We just had so much in common. “But we don’t, really,” you said one time, and I looked at you, absolutely betrayed, and muttered, “How dare you.” We were eating venison stew again. We were probably watching too much of The Notebook.


Because we had our own movies, and most of them took place around a fire. We had about three different fires, so the movie was expansive. We had a fireplace, down in the den by the crochet sticks where we’d play Cards Against Humanity. We had a firepit out back in the trees, right before you hit Bushwick trail, where we’d play Cards Against Humanity and smoke pot and watch the stars come out, stirring up coyotes with our yips and yaps. We also had a firepit on the river just a few minutes away, where we’d roast marshmallows and feed raw hot dogs to the raccoons, where it was never light enough to play the card game, but dark enough to make love.


It wasn’t two weeks into your job at the Ice Axe that they started sending you out back to shovel the clog from the ice machine. Every couple hours you’d have to do it. You’d flip your apron over your shoulder, go back there in the rain with a big dumb shovel and knock at the side of the cooling tower. You’d have to wait til the giant crash came before you could go back in. That was the ice. All the shovel did was fill the whole goddamn canyon with a racket, but they made you use it anyway. That’s of course how we got to know Nympho the cat, so how can you complain.


Sure, at first you were concerned and probably a little enamored by her. Nympho the cat was an ugly little shit but she got you good, and real quick too. She’d be waiting out back near the empty kegs just mewling like a billy goat. Soon you started bringing her nips of meat and cheese from the fryer, all her brown eyes begging. The little slut. Then you were smuggling cans of cat food in and out of work, full then empty, getting the wiry thing all fattened up. It was all you could do to leave at the end of your shift. Then one night you came out and there they were: about ten raccoons staring you down, waiting for the feed. Green glowing eyes. You told me later, you said, “It scared the shit out of me. But then I looked and right there in the middle of’m was her.” Nympho the cat.


They were Nympho’s babies. You never saw them come out of her, no, but she’d lie right up on the ice machine radiator and let the things suckle her clean. I told you I wouldn’t believe it until I saw it. “Maybe it’s one of those nurture-instead-of-nature types of things. Like one of those viral videos,” I said. And, “No. I don’t think that’s what it is,” you said. Then you told me the thing from which Nympho earned her name. You said, “Well so tonight I go out back and the cat’s got a raccoon wrapped around her and he’s got his johnson hanging out her ass.”


We actually started calling Nympho Nympho a few days later, after we rescued the poor thing from her depraved, bestial skid into motherhood—at least that’s what we thought we were doing. We figured she’d been caught in a misunderstanding, like a nanny trafficking scam for feral coons, like she might enjoy a good fire and some real company for a change. But it turns out as soon as we got her home she was right at the window, looking long with lover’s eyes, hissing and rubbing her girl parts all over the floor. “What the hell,” I said, and you knew I was right. We couldn’t just take in every tramp like this, every little tramp we saw. “This cat has some kind of sexual problem,” I said, and you tried not to agree, but it was true.

Then all these eyes showed up in the darkness and Nympho started freaking out. She whipped around the living room with her ears all owled back. We opened up the door and no more than a couple feet onto the patio she dropped trou, and here comes this bull raccoon hobbling up with his johnson sticking out like a pinky all pink and steaming. Nympho just took it in, squinched eyes, and you said it right there, “Yep. Total nympho,” and we laughed. That’s when we started calling him Randy Johnson.


I feel like he’d probably be a pretty chill guy if he was a human. Randy Johnson stayed true to Nympho. He was a good father, and a stand up guy. Even when she got kidnapped by us, he took care of the little ones and trotted out to find her. He could hold his own.

Soon enough they were all hanging around in the backyard, building big fortresses in the trees, knocking over ravens’ nests, clawing trout out the river. For a while it was a hoot. I only began to notice when you bought a camera and started climbing up the trees, taking little videos.


Plus, the neighbors were starting to complain, and really it had become a problem. This was one time we didn’t see eye to eye. The whole gang would raid the dog food next door, spread trash everywhere in the cul de sac. I’d say, “Really, it’s becoming a problem.” You’d do your best to make excuses, biding their time, but we all knew the end was near. It couldn’t go on like that. Not forever.

I know you’ll never forgive me, and I know it’s going to be hard to forgive myself, but that day that I did it, I want you to know my heart was in the right place. I want you to know I had my heart in a place that made it okay, and that place is the same one I keep you.


We’re walking to Dairy Queen in the sun. My shift’s a good half hour off. You pull a lighter out your pocket and post a cigarette in your lips, pretending to be mad. “What?” I say, half expecting this gag of yours to go on, “So you’re ACTUAL mad?” You can’t do it, though. You can’t even pretend to do it. You break down laughing, smoke swooshing everywhere as the cars buzz by. We’re in that spot underneath the bridge where they shot a bear last winter with a tranquilizer gun.

“You know, those babies weren’t Nympho’s blood,” I say.

“Yes they WERE.”

“Well, yeah, they had cat feet, and blue eyes. But I just kind of don’t want to believe it, so I’m not going to.”

“Oh, wow, I love what the outdoors has done to you.”

“GIT-chawww evuh-lution outta here.”

“Jesus. Is this even real?” you ask. I know exactly what you mean. Ever since we moved out here it’s been like this: master and slave. Us and the world. We’ve literally had our way with life. “Like, can you imagine what we’d be doing right now if we never left?”

It is an unpleasant thought.

“Drinking?” I say. But that’s not even the half of it.

“We never really drank that much.”

“Yeah. Nothing?” I say. But that’s not it either.

“No, you idiot. We’d be making all this shit up. Like idiots, idiot.”

These are of course the kinds of things you say, because, one...


And also because, two, they are…


We get to that spot on 26 where Chuck got rear-ended and his windshield’s all busted over the shoulder and we part ways. “See you in a few. Uglies tonight?” I say.

“I still can’t believe what you did to those raccoons, though. And Nympho.”

“Yeah, neither can I. Can you imagine what some people would think?”



“So. Uglies later?”


I text you an hour after that: I can still see you out there with that stupid shovel, pounding on the ice machine. I’m inside twisting soft-serve, bb. Meet me on Bushwick trail. I’m your man.