Billy plants pawpaws. He plants them on the land he inherited from his pop, a place with hunting and a half-unlivable house thick with wood rot and mold that you can taste on the back of your tongue. The duck hunting’s half decent though, and he grills them with a rub he makes from wild cherries and black pepper. He has to cook outside because of the smoke when duck grease hits the flame. He tried it inside but it got so bad he couldn’t see. He won’t cook in the rain but the snow is okay. Billy works the dogs often. His own dogs and whoever is paying him to train up theirs. People fly their dogs halfway around the world to Billy. He makes videos about how to train dogs and how to feed them raw meat. Sometimes his raven or crow walks in front of the camera lens. He says, get out of the way, asshole. Then he says, they do that on purpose to be assholes. They live with him in the house, and a pigeon who lays eggs in his hair while he sleeps. There’s a blackbird who’s in love with the pigeon but the pigeon is in love with Billy. Billy makes videos about foraging chaga mushrooms, brewing them into a bitter tea for health reasons. Billy’s health is not so good. He gets really angry if someone at Walmart tries to pet his dogs. Billy makes videos about buying food for his dogs at Walmart and fish for his cat. He compares the taste of jerky brands standing right there in the aisle, and why the hell there is so much sugar in it. When did meat start to taste like candy, what the hell is wrong with people? Billy was on a cliff with some other boys from the reservation and they were rolling boulders down the cliff and Billy went over with a boulder. Over and down, a mouthful of dirt and a dent in his head. Billy makes videos about Bigfoot dissection, he has a Bigfoot that his dad shot. He wears coveralls and an eyeshield and he dissects Bigfoot on youtube and then laughs at the dumbfucks that think it’s real. He made it out of deer bones and suet. He learned shit like that in art school. Sometimes the squirrel gets in the video, the squirrel lives with Billy and squirrels live a long time, this one will live even longer than most but goddammit Billy hates bats. Well he does have a fear of rabies and also tetanus and he should get a shot if he ever finds a doctor. Billy eats what he kills, but too much sugar and salt is what kills his family. He wishes they’d drink the chaga mushroom but it doesn’t taste like Burger King, because it comes out of the woods, that’s why. The pawpaws take a long time to fruit. The first ones he planted look like they might be budding. It would be nice to eat some damn pawpaws for once.
Lynda Gene Rymond is a poet, author, and artist who lives on Goblin Farm in Applebachsville, Pa. She has been a runner-up and finalist for Bucks County Poet Laureate. Her poetry has been published in journals and the anthology “Carry Us to the Next Well” (Kelsay Books.) Her short story “Turn, Turn” won the 2020 Pennwriters competition.