Zoe was seven when she realized she could make dead things wake up. She was in the woods behind her grandfather’s house, the only part of her grandfather’s property where he couldn’t be found, and had just stumbled upon a dead sparrow. Wings tucked behind its back, motionless, face flat on the dirt, a lonely fly circling—it was the kind of animal her mother warned her not to touch. Because of her mother’s rule, and because her grandfather yelled whenever she came into the house with dirty hands (and got it all over the couches!), she kept her distance from the bird and busied herself with a piece of sawgrass. She chewed on it, and though it didn’t taste like much, it was pleasant enough, and therefore warranted 45 seconds of her attention.

When she grew bored of the grass, she balled the spitty mass up in her mouth and spat. She hadn’t meant to spit it anywhere in particular, but it just so happened that the wet grass ball hit the sparrow right in the head, bounced onto the ground, and before she knew it the bird was flapping around and in no time had flown away.

Naturally curious and flush with excitement, Zoe raced around the woods in search of another carcass. Soon enough, an old mouse was in her hand, and for minutes, she prodded in vain with another piece of sawgrass. Nothing happened. Not even a twitch. She put the mouse on the ground and touched it there. Still nothing. She balled up the sawgrass and threw it on the mouse, which took four or five tries. Nothing. Zip. Zilch. Nada.

Finally—and this was more out of a sense of frustration than a good-faith attempt at problem-solving—she reared her head back, inhaled deeply, and spat on the thing, hocked a loogie right at it.

The mouse jumped up and scuttled into the forest.

Zoe sprinted back to her grandfather’s house, and after barely registering the terrible scolding he delivered after finding smudges on her hands—Again! Again!—she found her mother in her mother’s room. It was the one next to her grandfather’s, chosen so her mother could be of faster service when he woke up shouting, which happened more and more often as he got sicker and sicker. (Her mother insisted that he was only confused, though he never acted very confused to Zoe.)

“Hey there, Zoots.” Her mom was bent over something at the desk. She turned sympathetically to Zoe. “Everything okay, baby? He wasn’t too angry this time, was he? You know he doesn’t mean it.”

“It’s okay, Mama. But guess what!”

“What!” said her mother, turning back to the desk. The papers on the desk were very important, which was made clear by an illegibly small font.

“Mama,” said Zoe, “in the woods today, a bird came back to life. First it was dead, and then it flew away.”

“Wow! Sounds like you had a real adventure out there!” Her mother turned back around to face her. “But you’re not touching anything you’re not supposed to, right?”

“I didn’t touch anything,” said Zoe, which could well have been true. “It got back alive because I spat on it.”

“Honey, don’t be gross. Hey—I was thinking: how about I see if I can get Grandpa to go to bed early, and then you and I make some mac ‘n’ cheese?”

Zoe nodded and flopped down on the bed. She was always interested in mac ‘n’ cheese.

Grandpa didn’t go to bed early, and they had pork chops for dinner again, but over the course of the next few months, she found much happiness in the reanimation of little animals in the woods behind her grandfather’s house. It made her smile and laugh, and so it was that she spent most of her time in the woods, especially once her grandfather got so tired that he lost the ability to yell at her when she came back inside. Soon, he wasn’t leaving his room, and in not much time, he was brought to a bed in a hospital.

“It happens fast,” said Zoe’s mom. “It happens so fast.”

It didn’t seem all that fast to Zoe, who had been living at her grandfather’s for what felt like forever. But now he was far away, and Zoe was alone in the house, free to lounge on the couches (from which her mom had allowed her to remove the plastic coverings), free to find the unlucky spiders that had frozen, legs up, death long past, and to watch their spindly legs twitch with new life. By now, she had named the spiders and caterpillars, and was familiar with their personalities, especially those that had required her powers more than once.

Her mom was out at the hospital for all of the day and occasionally the night, and though this supplied ample space for Zoe to do all the fun things that were technically off-limits (run around and jump on furniture, sneak treats from the top of the fridge, punch random numbers into the phone), she missed her mother.

On his last day in the hospital, her grandfather little more than a bedsheet and a small pillow, Zoe spent most of her time staring at the floor. She complied with instructions, said goodbye to him, and soon his machine emitted a piercing beep and he was gone.

Her mother, crying, whispered a few words into his ear, and kissed his cheek. She turned around with tears in her eyes. “Zoots,” she said, “want to give your grandpa one last kiss?”

Zoe stared at the ground. “No,” she whispered. “Sorry, Mama.”