Western Cottonmouth

by Audra Kerr Brown

ma dont sit with the baby no more not since pa caught her starin barebreasted at the lantern light found his boy beneath the feather tick pale and limp as a stillborn pig pa he breathed breathed breathed til that baby coughed and spat and color spread back over him like a mountain sunrise pa slapped ma up one side down the other ma she didnt holler none just milky tears drippin to the pine plank floor plink plink plink pa says to me you the ma now so i rock the cradle with one hand fry eggs with the other while ma stares stares stares at that lantern like a sick frog and all the boy do is eat eat eat cry cry cry when pa comes home eyes fogged breath foul hands slidin up my skirt like two cottonmouth fixin to bite i cant do nothing cept hold that cryin hungry baby close to my chest say hushup boy hush hush hush

Audra Kerr Brown lives on a dirt road in Iowa. Her fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in the Best Small Fictions, Wigleaf’s Top 50 (Very) Short Fictions list, X-R-A-Y, People Holding, f(r)Online, Outlook Springs, and more. She is a Senior Fiction Editor at New Flash Fiction Review.

Photograph of Western Cottonmouth by Peter Paplanus via Wikimedia Commons (CC by 2.0).