The Hunting Cabin
by Stacia M. Fleegal
I’m sitting on the back porch trying not to jump out of my new not-almost-married skin, talking to my father about anything but abuse. He knows about escapism. It used to be the hunting cabin; now, with his deteriorating health that makes his return as likely as my living alone in the woods, or doing childhood over again, it’s remembering the hunting cabin. I caught my first fish in the pond there, a foot-long rainbow trout, returned it, and a salamander he wouldn’t let me keep as a pet, and I now know he was being merciful, not mean, subjecting me to the 20-minute heartbreak instead of introducing me to death. He wouldn’t let me shoot, and we both now wish he would have. I met another little girl there, with her father, the men drinking, grilling, four-wheeling, the children mingling, someone’s girlfriend making us sandwiches. The girl was a year younger and asked me if I wore a bra, and I remember shushing her, embarrassed. Why do we withhold knowledge like it’s a loaded weapon? I was going to put the salamander in a shoebox with leaves, it would’ve been a lovely life, I thought, because I didn’t yet know what captivity felt like. A place my father loved—his first bow kill, his mudding tires, his venison chili in huge batches to feed his friends, somewhere he could take his little girl who wasn’t a little boy but would hook a worm and gather sticks to build a tepee fire—is a place I learned too-subtle lessons. When I was 8 hunting salamanders, he taught me what the smallest, most fragile creatures need to survive. When I was 33 being hunted, he taught me the same. I’m not ungrateful, but neither made my skin lizard-thick.
About Stacia M. Fleegal
Stacia M. Fleegal is the author of two full-length and three chapbook poetry collections, most recently antidote (Winged City Press 2013). Her poems have appeared in North American Review, Barn Owl Review, Fourth River, UCity Review, decomP‘s Best of 10 Years anthology, Crab Creek Review, Knockout, Best of the Net 2011, and more. Her essays have appeared at Quaint Magazine, Luna Luna Magazine and Delirious Hem. She co-founded Blood Lotus, and she teaches online writing courses for the Elizabeth Ayres Center for Creative Writing. She’s @shapeshifter43 on Twitter and blogs at anotherwritingmom.wordpress.com. Farmer’s markets, 90’s grunge, secondhand leather, nature, and chocolate stouts forever. Oh, and she loves most animals more than most people.