Nat Baldwin



My brother knows I do not like dirt on my skin. When there is dirt on my skin I always try to peel it. When I peel the dirt with my nails the dirt turns to mud. I wipe the mud with my palm and lick it. I would rather have mud taste in my mouth than dirt caked and cracking on my skin.

The light blinds, the chain loosens. My brother drops to the floor. The weight of him shakes the wood. I lift my face from the voice.

The sound does not sound like the sound of my brother.

I do not know the word. He keeps saying father, father, keeps saying corpse. I do not know what it is. I like the sound and he kicks my mouth with his boots.

I spit out a tooth. Nails poke through the wood of the floor. We stop at the glass in front of the chair where sits a man. No skin on his face. Mouth open. No sound in his mouth.

My brother lifts the chain, high above his head, says the word father.

Then he says a word not father.

He says the word again and again and again and again and again and again and again.

The father’s face rots, blackened to bone.

My brother walks back from the kitchen, hammer in hand.

Says the word maggot.

I look at black holes the father’s eyes once filled.

My brother puts the claw in his mouth. I hear the scrape of teeth against steel. He picks a piece out with a nail. He lifts his finger to my mouth and wipes it on my lips.

He looks me in the face.

He says hold still.

The chain falls from my neck.

My skin in the teeth of the chain.

I crawl on the floor. I cannot see my brother. The chair empty, I drag my body to the chair. I call out to my brother. I hear a tap on the glass. Nothing but dirt. The father crawls out of the dirt. Father’s body not a corpse. Cannot see his face. In his hand, the hand of my brother. He drags my brother to the ditch. The ditch at the end of the road that runs into the river. I watch them disappear in the ditch. I wait and I watch. When the bodies rise up mud covers my brother. He runs ahead of the father. The father walks slow. The father holds up a shovel. I lose sight of my brother. I forget to watch my brother watching the father. The father walks up to the glass, presses his face to the glass. Bugs, maggots, no eyeballs in sockets. All that’s intact on his face are teeth. His teeth tap at the glass. I’m in the chair. The father lifts his arm above his head. Holds my brother by the hair. The face of my brother muddy. The father walks backwards and does not drop my brother. He does not stop looking through the glass. He lets go of my brother. Flips him around face down in the dirt. Smears his face in the dirt. He lift the shovel up, brings the shovel down. Cracks my brother’s skull. In the dirt digs a hole. The hole bigger than the body of my brother. He drops my brother in the dirt. He does not drop my brother in the hole. The father steps to the hole’s edge. He looks down, then up to the sky. Lets his body fall. Clouds of dirt rise up from the hole. My brother lifts his head. Wipes mud from his eyes. He pushes dirt back down to the hole. I watch my brother watch the father’s face fill with dirt. When the hole fills to the top my brother lies on his back. Mud spills from the sides of his mouth.

My brother says the father is not the father. For many days he says no other words.

My brother looks at me with a blank face. I wait for him to kick my mouth.

He does not kick my mouth. He walks up to the father slumped in the chair. My brother puts his mouth up to the eye. A maggot crawls out of the eye and into my brother’s mouth. My brother swallows the maggot, looks me in the face and says mother. I repeat back to him mother. He picks a maggot from the eye and says open your mouth.

I walk up to the father, grab a handful, stuff my mouth full. I say mother again and again for my brother, my mouth stuffed full.