Armadillo by Robin Wyatt Dunn

Some cosmic drifter across the sky I saw my own hand inside of the runnel trough beneath the Hewer Farm stuck as though a dead weight had it, you know the place down by the sand where the wind has sanded the sight of the mine right through the coal, where it stood when I was but five years old.

Well I’m saying but the barn she stands well though she is old and you can see her light even from some distance from the farm, like a bell cow running from her bull at a slow and hefty pace, hushing up on the pasture as it rises to meet the hazelwood stands and the pool where Shelly came.

I had awoken deep in the night because I could hear this sound, like it was a part of myself, rustling underneath the mulberry tree, and sure enough it was the old armadillo, the one that had been rooting in Aunt Marie’s tomato plants, and so I knew I would have to make a good effort for it, and spend my work day that night, so I got up and went down to set a piece and find where the devil had been tracking itself.

You’ll find, I tell you for sure, that a varmint like the armadillo if it comes round a place it has found and that it likes, it will not be too far it will have found itself a place to lie up, perhaps for several months, and it looked like it had chosen my barn.

It was not yet night and the barn willows blew past up above the eaves where the metal has been easing itself off of the woodwork around the edges, though I thought to replace them only last summer, it’s been working itself away a piece, so it makes a sound like an old Ford delivery truck, banging itself down into oblivion. I could see his shining face, the varmint, amidst the boysenberries. I planted those myself not two years ago, and now he had gotten into them.

Now you know how it got to be, an animal is like yourself and though the armadillo does not have good eyes he knows what he is about and will startle, so I crept around on the side of the barn to get ahead of him and lie up with my 22, which is a quiet rifle, with not too much shot in it. Might not even be enough to kill with it but you’ve got to aim careful, and with my right eye I no longer can because of the glaucoma, so I shoot left.

I got him in the front of the body like I intended to but I could not say exactly where. He run up into the barn and so I knew he had made his nest there and what I did was I went and got the old nest of wires Aunt Mayberry had kept up there ever since she moved away with her chickens, which she never should have done, but anywhere she had left many of her wires and I set it up all around the building on each side, and digged down into the earth surround it as well, so it was a kind of fence to it, extending both above and below the ground. And over the door I sealed with it more of the fencing and pieces of wood left over from last summer’s interns who never did properly clean up after themselves.

So as I say he shouldn’t be able to escape; that should serve as his death chamber. Because although an armadillo does know how to dig, and he will dig a lot, I don’t think he has the brains to dig down, and then up again, around the fencing I put him in. So it might stink up the barn a bit, but I think I solved that problem. Some things you just have to see to when you see them. I slept most of the day, just figured I had it off.

I couldn’t quite rest though and after a while I saw what it was, that the varmint had stirred up some of the grubs who dwell in the grass I set about the yard, for the possum she also likes to dine there, and I realized that they had been feeding together, the two creatures, perhaps even sharing recipes, there in my front yard. It had got onto moonlight, and though I’ve been trying to fill in the dead places in the grass the holes, when it is day, are still visible, and they don’t look too good. But in the moonlight the grubs were phosphorescent, and they turned in the loam like sea maidens fleeing the great arms of Odysseus, churning through the sea. A great glimmering patch of them where the animal had been feeding.

We have dogs too, for the dog likes to hunt armadillos, some of them, that is all they do, worrying away at them until they can flip them, and tear away at its fleshy belly. Shelly didn’t care too much for the dogs but they tolerated her all right, and the armadillo dog, who used to be Darryl’s dog, my brother, but later became mine, would stay out all night hunting them, for he was a fierce character with the armadillos. He would stand straight and listen for their rustles, and then creep up on them, almost like a cat, and he was deadly with them.

Well I had a bit of a smoke then after I had made sure the varmint was to meet death on my terms, and I set out on the lawn where I used to lie as a boy—right beneath the pear trees. You remember when you planted those? I was twelve then, and so they must have stood now for fifty years, and as fragrant.

The ghost of the dog perhaps it is who comes when I can hear him howl, in my sleep. And though I rest, and I wanted to, I wanted it to be with you. Sometimes I still think of you when it is night, and with Memorial Day coming on, I realized I would have to get some flowers and walk down to your grave, the way I used to with father.

I am like a dog too—sometimes I don’t work too good but I still get to working. My hands are still with me, and though they get the cancer spots on them the nitrogen takes them off well enough, and I have been wearing my straw hat, which should help matters.

Well that armadillo should be dead soon enough. I got him in the front of the body and though he was still running, he won’t be doing it too much longer.

I wanted to tell you: I dreamt of you the other night. The way you had stood by the pool in the hazelwoods when you were thinking about going to college, but you just went down the road a ways, to the business technical college. I always told you you could do whatever you wanted, within reason, but you didn’t want to leave your momma. Even though she done leave you.

I wanted to tell you: there weren’t too many things left I could tell you. That barn is still there: I didn’t burn it down. Though perhaps I should have. And the house too. It is still here, just like how you wanted it. And I am taking care of it. And my father too.

And the car is still running. And I still hunt the armadillos.

 

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Robin Wyatt Dunn was born in Wyoming in 1979. You can find more of his work at his website.