By Matthew J. Bruflodt

                                      Jesse walks the dirt fields with me. The ones left out of rotation.
                                      We carry our rifles and severed gopher tails home with us, miles
                                      on our tired feet. Gerard says he'll give us a quarter a tail, though
                                      we know he is lying. We go anyway because we're bored and
                                      because my mother's guarding the liquor and because we are young
                                      and have not yet had our fill of killing. We walk to the back of the
                                      farmhouse behind the row of lilac bushes that hang scepters from
                                      their limbs just beyond our knightly build. We walk together as
                                      before, though now we are without guns, without quarters, without
                                      preoccupation in the shadow of heavy woods. 

                                      The dogs here are like wind. I never see them coming. They are 
                                      momentarily there and then not. They are for catching. Jesse 
                                      knows this, but then, this is his home, not mine. All I know of 
                                      North Dakota is gophers and blood, strangers from town, stolen 
                                      PBRs and warm sips of iced Windsor, the gravel road that country 
                                      kids drive too fast on, the old farmhouse where my mother was 
                                      weaned, bathed, and belabored, and, of course, Jesse, the boy on 
                                      the farm, my friend from circumstance. And then the dogs blow in, 
                                      a happy yellow Lab and a German shepherd mutt. Jesse catches 
                                      them. His arms around their necks—a human choke collar. I pick 
                                      up a stick—a small log—I feel its fibrous under-bark in my 
                                      grip. "For the charge of treason, I find you three—guilty!" I 
                                      scream, and mount the stick to my shoulder. "I sentence you to 
                                      death!"

                                                            Bang. Bang. Bang.

                                      Jesse falls back against the house dragging the wind-dogs with
                                      him. He chooses to die. He chooses to let my stick bullets kill him.
                                      The dogs, still bound by his arms, choose to bite his face. They
                                      choose to rip their canines through his cheeks, choose to make his
                                      mother hysterical, to make Gerard kill them, to die behind the barn
                                      so the girls don't see daddy shoot their puppies. They choose to be
                                      buried in a shallow hole behind the outhouse—far enough away
                                      from the barn, the farm, and the family, far enough away to decay
                                      slowly with the other stink.


Matthew J. Bruflodt is a poet and graduate student at Bemidji State University. He has been writing poetry for about ten years.