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.