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Prey Drive

Oliver Brooks


I am all mouth. If my teeth were any bigger, they would crowd and fall from my face. They have held up well—I ate rocks when I was young. Gravel. Little greenish, purplish pebbles like kibble or fruity cereal. I was taken to the doctor to see if my stomach needed to be cut open. The doctor cut out other bits instead.

            I was once small enough to fit in a ceramic bowl.

            I like small things. Rabbits, baby opossums, squirrels. I snack on lizards when no one’s watching. Once, I found a bluebird chick fallen from the nest. It was all trembling wings and bones. It was crunchy. Savory. Afterwards, my lips dripped with pink froth. At times like that, I dip my mouth into the water like a drinking bird pendulum, unquenchable. I might have been drunk on the decadence of death if not for my reflection in the water.

            Bluebirds are a rare find, though.

Another time, I dug up a horseshoe. This land used to be a ranch. The horseshoe was a fun toy until I buried it I-don’t-know-where, and now they scold me if I dig to search for it.

            My brother sleeps more than anything else. He can’t help me find the horseshoe. He doesn’t know the half of what happens on this property, not the way I do. For example, I know that the water oaks by the road are rotting from the inside. I smell the wet wood buried deep within the shell of bark. I carried a chunk of fallen bark back to the house as evidence once, but no one cared.

            They only care about the grass.

            The tall man always smells of it, especially his knees. He is always outside, sweaty, shortening the grass so it barely rises above my toenails. The woman, large and dark and buttery, stays inside while he does this. When she does exit the house, she goes far away until I neither smell nor see her. She returns dragging gusts of sweetness with her, as though doused in sugar.

I never think to follow her. There is no fence to bar me—not electrified chain link, wood panels, or even half-hearted hedgerows like our neighbors’. If there was a fence, I would dig under it. I fancy myself a sort of gopher. Gophers are small, and I have only found one once—although it may have been a vole. Regardless, I must remember not to dig. I am not a digger. I am a protector. A staunch guardian. Which is why I stay when the woman leaves.

            Besides, the tall ones and I have a relationship more formal than friendly. I suspect they would not hesitate to cut the tongue from my head if I ever tried to use it. I imagine my tongue on a sugary wrist, my tongue on a cheek—trying to be tongue-in-cheek but out of check. I know where my body begins but not where it ends. I chase my tail and they laugh. Is this tail not me? Is this glob of drool not me? This tumbleweed of free-floating fur, this mound of excrement, this row of teeth? Outdoors is where I can taste the air and roll in my own skin. Outdoors, I belong.

Loping through the mulch, I smell the shit on the breeze. I pee in the sword ferns. I know when things are not where they belong.

            The intruders arrive at golden hour. They walk along where our fence would run if we had one. The tall ones carry a newspaper and a black trashcan. The little one runs scampers ahead—not as fast as I can run—and crouches, reaching for the rocks that do not taste like kibble.

            I must warn the small one. It would not want its stomach cut open.

            The tall man—my tall man—is not home. The woman is indoors, as is my dozing brother. None of them see me flying forward. The grass is short and not slippery the way it might be if it grew high, so I move fast. I feel untethered for once, as if I am not moving but the world is, as if gravity might fail me, like a newly hatched bird. I know I must have loose feathers flying.

            The small one straightens, clutching its stones, but even standing upright it is still tiny. It might as well be another vole or pup. How easily it could fit in my mouth, tender and wet like the hollow, cramped inside of a tree.

            Then the woman is outside for once and howling my name.

            I am a good dog and come when called.


Oliver Brooks is an MFA student at Florida State University and currently serves as Assistant Poetry Editor for the Southeast Review. His multi-genre work has appeared in Honey Literary, Full House Literary, Spellbinder, Antithesis Journal, and elsewhere. You can find him at or @obrooksbooks on Twitter.