It came down for three days,
Leaving a snow as hardpacked and unyielding as rock salt,
All furrowed and bare as a fallow kulak’s field.
But the mail truck, snow chains on its tires,
Clanked and lumbered along its route regardless.

Emile and Lucas trudged out at about the same time, in snow boots,
To snag the day’s catch of bills and circulars.
Their mittened hands first exchanged waves, then managed the letters, about as well
As a Kodiak bear with frostbite trying to paw salmon spawning upstream.

“Hell, it’s cold!” Emile shouted, his breath a white gust.
“I know it,” Lucas said, hunkered in red-checked mackinaw
And matching cap boasting beaver-fur earflaps.
Having harvested the day’s haul, and with pleasantries exchanged,
They trudged back to their houses of wooden clapboard, stone, and vinyl siding,
Armor sufficient to see them through the remains of this worse than average winter.

Emile, younger and a bit more spry, disappeared into his house first.
Lucas shortly followed, stomping his boots on the linoleum, their squeak
A slick mix of sounds like two otters rutting on an especially lubricious carpet
Of gutta percha.

He slithered out of his boots shellacked with snowmelt and salt.
Having passed through the mudroom and now safely inside the house-proper, he let
The warmth work its way through his crepitating bones, shimmied out of his mackinaw and

Placed his hat on a brass hook hung from a wooden board nailed to the wall.

Lucas set on a pot of coffee to brew, its glass interior ringed
With brown crystal-calcined circles, amber palimpsests
Of ten-thousand previous blackstrap-bubbling sessions.
He walked to the gray-painted basement door,
Tugged the beaded chain that dangled from the top of the staircase.

A buttery cone of light spilled over the unfinished concrete expanse,
Like some kind of anti-halo half-illumining the sickly gloam.
He walked, in soft stockinged feet, down the creaking wooden stairs.

The pelts, flensed free from those last three hitchhikers, dangled from a laundry line,
Covered in white coats of greasy fat (for truck stop food had made their skins adipose & soapy, squamous even to his expert tanner’s touch).
They dripped their final bloody beads, which ran free in gory sheets
Cascading from the undersides of their uncured hides, sliding
Into slowly forming pools abiding in thirsting oil pans.
Their tenon-sawed limbs lay in the wall-length freezer case,
An industrial strength storage unit for vacuum-sealed venison,
Hacked from deer and man.
The drip-drip music of blood hitting pan formed a pleasant contrapuntal
To the moan of the woman who had survived the opening salvo
Of his hidden werewolf soul’s first hollered hullo!
Out there among the black whispering firs that dowsed their branches
To applaud the hunt’s start with silent druidic fanfare.
And though she had run without succumbing to either the slasher flick’s over-the-shoulder-Glance, or broken-high-heel trope, she’d still lost the footrace, caught as the firs finally became
A white oak copse, only a quarter mile from the highway, and salvation.
And now she sat tied to his grandma’s antique wooden chair.

She had yet to stop struggling against
The wire that entwined her like strangling snakes, and she writhed heedless as if
It were mere hemp, which only made the cords bite deeper,
And caused the blood to seep faster
In bands that tore her skin, leaving red prints numerous and distinct enough
To mimic the year-swirls tracing the heart of a mighty sequoia.

Lucas grinned, exposing a mouthful of uneven though still mostly white teeth.
He undid the button snap on his duck cloth pants,
Dropped trou, and brandished his loins,
All porcupine-prickled and cactus-spined with every last needle taken from Granny’s
Tomato-shaped pincushion of red chintz.

The wounds that studded his glans and testes,
Suppurated, throbbed and swelled, overripe & purpled like eggplant
Picked from some monstrous garden that thrived
In black midnight’s last green patch, a place where blood rather than water
Might fertilize and feed the loam of the soft wet soil.

He licked the thin nightcrawler line of his upper lip,
Removed the first needle, this one from
The bruise-stippled, pus-filled prepuce.
An able enough fly fisherman, he worked as if dexterously baiting a summer lure,
Cold winter hands be damned. She watched with screams silenced by electric tape as he slid
The catgut thread fine as horsehair
Through the once-silver, now blood-rusted needle’s eye.
His dexterous hand made it seem, in the harsh shine of naked light,
As if he might perform some black inversion on the parable about the rich man
And his camel-based plight.

But it was not quite yet Bible Study time.
That came just before turning in for bed.
Now it was time to sew.