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February 11, 2015 Fiction

Beaver Hunt

Vanessa Norton

Beaver Hunt photo

We stood there, not knowing what to do, so he lowered himself to the floor to show me how he slept.

“Don't you get cold?”

“Only when it's windy.”

“You're in Wyoming.” 

“I'll show you something else.” He led me to a map constellated by gold stars. I asked him about the stars and he told me they were pools.


“I've swum in sixty-two pools.”

“What for?”

He brought over a cigar box.

“Go ahead,” he said. “Open it.”

Inside was a mound of human hair: fine red, horse blonde, golden blonde, ash brown, and wiry black.

“I used to be a painter. Now I do this.”  



I looked at the hair.

“Touch it.” 

We kissed. My shirt opened. In the moonlight, the shadow of my belly was steep, but he didn't seem to mind.



A month later, I ran into him again. This time creeping along the edge of a gas station with a jug of milk. He squished his nose against my window.

“How come you didn't call?”

“Neither of us has a phone.”

He got in my truck and we headed for the river. It was spring. The water would be fast and cold. I parked by a bridge and we walked along the flooded bank. He stripped to his underwear then forced himself into the deepest part of the water. Barbed wire hung across, a property marker I never understood.

“Trust,” he shouted to me. “You ought to try it.” 

“I need to leave the state,”I shouted back.

After he collapsed onto the grass, I told him there'd be one in Fargo. If not, we'd have to drive to Minneapolis. I was only within legal range a few more days, but I knew too many people in Denver.

“When do we go?”




In the first town, we stopped at a plaza with a liquor store and a porn store. I don't look down on these places; I have earned mostly on the side. Naughty Neighbors, Peeping Tom, Beaver Hunt.

In the corner of the lot, a magnolia tree bloomed from a crack. Its petals were like thick, pink skin.

“The pools have lost and founds,” he said, pouring his bourbon into a flask. “We can hit them for shampoo.”



He started talking once we crossed the state line.

“I knocked up a gal in college. That was in the Dark Ages, around the time you were born.” He turned to me and winked. 

I shrugged.

“I took her to a guy who worked out of his house. He had a room in the back.”

“A room in the back?”

“She got pregnant like every other month.”

“Did you see the room?”


“What did it look like?”

“It had a cot with a shower curtain draped over it and a sink and a refrigerator.”


“I got this urge to open the refrigerator.”


“Just because.”

I took the flask. “What was in there?”

“Nail polish, hundreds of bottles. Pink, red, orange, you name it.” 

“What was the doctor doing with nail polish?”

“I guess he liked to paint his nails.” 



All night, I drove across the prairie as he slept. Every once in a while, a semi would come at me without dimming its brights and, momentarily, I'd go blind. In that second, the motion of things would slow down enough for me to wonder where I was going and what I was doing. Then, I'd be back on track, wishing I had some speed.



In the morning, we found a town with a municipal pool. We paid two dollars. I liked the place; I liked its warm sterility. I liked how no one knew who we were.

A woman wearing a plastic whistle was guarding the front desk. “Just so you know, the Waterlillies arrive in 20 minutes.”


“The Waterlillies. Synchronized swimming, ages 6-8. I wouldn't waste time if I were you.”

“Where is the lost and found?” 

The woman pointed to a display of odd things on a bench.

He grabbed a towel and a bottle of shampoo and headed for the locker room.



In the women's locker room, I stripped to my underwear and the tatty bra I wore on account of the swelling. I didn't look bad, but the shape of things was obvious.

Three women entered through the pool door and stood beneath the showerheads, peeling off their suits. They were old; fat hung over their crotches. Their pubic hair had thinned away. One gave me the once-over. I watched the question form on her face, her decision not to smile.



When I arrived at the pool, he was cutting through the water with surprising force—so much that I thought about what I'd like to do to him after it was through. Then I remembered this would have to be weeks from now. By then, I wouldn't know where he was.

In a distant, hollowed-out room, young, female voices bounced off the walls. I looked at the surface of the water, the dark blue tiles below. 


image: Claude Rouyer