Rats

by Z.Z. Boone Read author interview June 25, 2009

On Friday nights, while most other seventeen-year-old girls are either dating or hanging out together, my father takes me to the dump to shoot rats. We wait until dark, take a couple of flashlights, pack our .22s in the car, and park on the side of the road where the gaping hole in the chain link fence hasn’t been repaired in over a year. We walk through, our beams of light preceding us, at times holding our noses, listening for places where the chirping of the rats is loudest.

“Turn off the light,” my father will say when we find the perfect spot. We’ll stand together in the darkness, our nerves as sharp as shark’s teeth, conscious of the slightest movement. My father is always first. He’ll whisper, “Now!” and I’ll switch on my flashlight and arc the beam in front of us. Red eyes will glow, hairless ears will raise, scaly tails will swish, and pop…pop…pop, just like that.

A half hour from now, when we’re back in the car and on our way to Pizza Hut or Wendy’s, he’ll talk about my mother. He refers to her as both his ex-wife and my ex-mom. It still drives him crazy that she cheated on him with a guy they both knew, and after he found out and was willing to give it another try, she left.

“And the reason she left,” he will say week after week every Friday night clear sky or rainy, “is because I approached her from a position of weakness.”

“Weakness,” I’ll repeat.

“You always approach from a position of power,” he’ll say, and he won’t utter another thing until I say the word.

“Power.”

That conversation won’t happen, though, for another thirty minutes. Until then we’ll stand in the dark, as silent as strangers, and I’ll jump just a bit when his shoulder brushes mine.

“Focus,” he’ll whisper, and I’ll focus.

“Wait on it,” he’ll tell me.

“And…” he’ll say.

“Now!” I’ll call a bit too loudly, and light as white as heaven will flood my life while rats scurry and my own gunshots deafen me.

About the Author:

Z.Z. Boone received an MFA from Goddard College and currently teaches at Sacred Heart University in Connecticut.

About the Artist:

Robinson Accola creates artwork for SmokeLong Quarterly as needed.