Fiction: Gregory Lee Sullivan
The Cow with a Hole in It
I know all you want to do is stare at the hole in my side. How you’ve never seen one like me, even on the university farms. You want one of your girlfriends to go to my other side and stick her head through toward where you’re standing now, so that she’s monkeying for your phone camera. You want the photo where it’s like she’s putting her head through a tire swing.
You don’t need to feel bad, though. Take your pictures. I promise my emptiness grows back like a lizard’s tail. The whole center is reformed after just a season, and someone will come and re-carve me, singing songs while they saw, just so new people will watch me go through this again.
It’s okay. After all, I’d look through you the same way if I were you and you me. And I’d have no problem putting my head through your gaping hole and otherwise poking around your body. But right now I’m going to walk down this hill to the pond. I love how the water is perfect and blue there. I’ll drink for a while, and you can come too, and we can look at the catfish.
Our dog sneaks into the bed each night now before I’m there, if my wife falls asleep early. She doesn’t climb down anymore, slow and defeated, like she used to when I’d swing open our bedroom door to join them for sleep. Once, the dog could be controlled through spells of guilt, but no longer. When I tug at the covers so she’ll give me room, she’ll stand on the bed on all fours, guarding over the spot where I want to lay my body.
Only when I sternly say Dog-bed does she sulk off and down to the pillow on the bedroom floor. It must be done sometimes, and she must learn. She’s changed since we moved here. It’s a colder climate, so when she’s in the backseat at the drive-thru and we see the kids standing around in the absurdly heavy coats that seem to be fashionable, she’ll bark at them as if they’re police. I’ve reasoned she doesn’t like animals, or anything, that puff themselves out in ways that appear to her as unnatural.
There are too many people where we live now, and sometimes when I’m walking her on a leash past all these crowded neighborhoods someone will want to talk, and I want her to be socialized, but it’s hard because I also don’t want to be sued and I don’t trust people where I live. Meaning they seem like the kinds of people who sue neighbors for fun. I want to think it’s that she senses this mistrust of all of them when the fur on her back stands in a ridge and the skin beneath the white parts of her fur turns pink.
Lately, my wife arranges the pillows in our bed in funky ways because she’s pregnant, and the dog waits and hopes for her to fall asleep before she sneaks into my spot before I come to join them in the bed. She stretches her body and takes up as much space as a human does. I tug on the covers, and she acts as though if she pretends I’m not there, I’ll simply go away. You’ll do the same thing to her, friends tell me, when the baby comes. Recently, I’ve learned to sleep in impossible shapes due to my refusal to sleep on the floor. And my wife looks at me in the mornings now, with her hands on her stomach, and says, Something about you seems different.
I had a dream that the new megachurch in my hometown was built so large that it blocked our downtown of the sun so you couldn’t tell whether it was night or day and the whole city went crazy, every last person (mayor included). Even commerce shutdown, and that’s saying something.
So somebody later asked me what’s better, megafauna or megachurches? I began thinking of the megafauna I’d been thinking and dreaming of most recently, the so-called “terror bird,” Titanis, which migrated up into the Southern US from south of the Isthmus of Panama. They were larger than ostriches with axe-like beaks and could run more than sixty kilometers per hour. Whichever of them that was created or constructed by God, I said, indifferently.
Gregory Lee Sullivan’s fiction appears in The Nervous Breakdown, The Collagist, Permafrost, and other journals. His recent journalism appears in The Washington Post, Guardian Books, VICE, and elsewhere. He holds an MFA from Rutgers University-Camden, and lives in North Carolina. His debut collection of stories was recently accepted for publication by MadHat Press. He also just finished writing a novel.