This selection, chosen by guest editor Sarah Clark, is from All Hat, No Cattle by Mariah Rigg, released by Bull City Press in 2023.
The rats were in the walls. Your roommate, Harris, set traps for them. Traps with cheese, like they do in the movies. We waited. We waited so long we forgot about them. The traps, not the rats. The rats walked around your Eugene house like they owned it, taking bites of your bread, shitting on the stovetop. But the traps. The traps got lost in the walls. They caught a rat, and it rotted.
The first house Dad bought after Mom left him was built on the side of the mountain. The backyard had a jabong tree. Dad didn’t know it when he bought the house, but it had rats. Dozens of them. They lived in the jabong tree’s roots. They’d been there for years and were huge, two feet long, grown fat on sweet citrus. I used to hear them at night, scratching in their den. I used to see them on the wall outside my window, their shadows running over my blanket.
Harris was upstairs when the rat fell through the ceiling. You and I were eating dinner in the basement. It landed on my steak. Its red eye locked with mine: What are you doing here? I couldn’t answer. You smashed it with a broom. You broke its leg. When it screamed, I screamed too. It dragged itself across the concrete. It found a hole in the drywall as you were winding up to hit it again.
I didn’t mind the rats. I liked that they had been on the mountain longer than we had. I thought of them as owning it. But one day I came home to a bulldozer tearing down the jabong tree. I watched as the bulldozer pushed and reversed, pushed and reversed, until the tree fell. Its roots were full of cardboard and cotton, nests of shredded leaves. A single rat darted out of the den, escaping to our neighbor’s. The rest were killed and stacked beside our fence where they lay, limp and flat, until my dad bagged them up in a black garbage bag.
I swore the rat you hit with the broom was the same one we found rotten, but you said that one had a longer tail. Whatever. All I know is you and Harris fought those rats for months. You fought me for months. Until you gave up. Now, I’m in Knoxville, and you’re in Texas. Alone in my apartment, I think of you and the rats often. Harris says they’re still alive. I’m happy for them, happy without them, but sometimes I wonder. Sometimes I think about what would have happened if we’d had a little more time, if a rat hadn’t fallen down and ruined our dinner.
Mariah Rigg is a third-generation Samoan-Haole settler who grew up on the illegally-occupied island of Oʻahu. Her work has been published in Oxford American, The Cincinnati Review, Joyland, etc., and has been supported by VCCA, MASS MoCA, the Carolyn Moore Writers’ House, and Oregon Literary Arts. In 2023, Mariah’s chapbook, All Hat, No Cattle, was published as part of the Inch series at Bull City Press. She holds an MFA from the University of Oregon and is a PhD candidate at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Along with being the fiction editor for TriQuarterly and senior creative nonfiction for Grist, A Journal of the Arts, she is currently an editorial intern at Tin House.
Sarah Clark is a mad crip genderfuck two-spirit enrolled Nanticoke editor, writer, and cultural consultant. They are Editor-in-Chief and Poetry Editor at ANMLY, Editor-in-Chief at ALOCASIA: a journal of queer plant-based writing, Co-Editor of The Queer Movement Anthology (Seagull Books, 2024) and the Bettering American Poetry series, and a current Board member and Assistant Editor at Sundress Publications. They have edited folios for publications including the GLITTERBRAIN folio and a folio on Indigenous & Decolonial Futures & Futurisms at ANMLY. Sarah freelances, and has worked with a number of literary and arts publications and organizations, including the Best of the Net anthology, contemptorary, Curious Specimens, #PoetsResist at Glass Poetry, Apogee Journal, Blackbird, the Paris Review, and elsewhere.
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