They were separated young. When they came home from the hospital, their mother began cutting apart their dresses. She worked for the next couple of days under a yellow lamp fogged with cigarette smoke. In their now separate beds, they fell asleep to the hum of the sewing machine.
The following Sunday they went to church. The girls sat inches apart, thumbing the new hems along their skirts. While no one was looking, the girls slipped a hand under their dresses to feel the hem along their pale thigh.
They could feel the ghost pressure from the other. A line was drawn between the two of them by the bright red velvet of the pew cushion. During prayer they reached for each others hands but stopped at either edge of the new barrier: separate and alone.
When you were living alone with your father and falling asleep before he came home, you called your mother an evil woman. Just left the family without a letter or took a thing with her. That spring you were stung by bees in the apple orchards and had to suck out your own stingers. As the humidity settled over the house, you walked around naked through the disheveled rooms until the mill whistle blew. You found your dog dead under the porch while retrieving a baseball.
Meanwhile, your awful mother was in the arms of a man and damp from the basement atmosphere; High up in the mountains where no one could hear and she never called you once.
After the bees had started disappearing, your mother was picked up off Highway Eleven. Covered in wet grass, she didn't say a word. Roadside trash was tangled in her graying hair, washed with runoff water, she was stiff and cold and could never sit up straight again.
All the women in town said she had been asking for it.
My father shoots stray dogs. They wander into our pasture and torment our bird dogs. Their white teeth gripping and pulling at the chain link cages till they bow. Our pointer continuously howls and chases his tail in a manic state till my father pulls on his boots and stomps to the gun case. I find the dry trails of mud leading down the hallway and out back.
The withered pile is always a different color and size. Sometimes it's a stocky, maned chow or a wolf-like mutt, and this time, a small framed, sleek black generic dog. Their skeletons remind me of cathedrals: the flying buttresses of the rib cage, the vertebrae pews, and the columns ornamented with lifeless sinews. The dog's mouth is wide open in silent worship.
I pick up a rock and stand over the body. It's dead eyes are set on the horizon, frozen in a pursuit of the tree line. I'm still staring at it's eyes as I drop the rock on it's skull. The sound is hollow and wooden and reverberates. My hands are over my ears and I'm running back towards the house. I'm leaning against the door in the hallway. The sound is standing on our welcome mat and echoing patiently, waiting for me.