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Opening the Cellar Door

Bethany Tyler Lee

Sticky traps scattered in what seems at first a higgledy-piggledy sort of torture, a jumbled manner of dying mean and dying slow. Consider the facts—the brown recluse infestation, the six-month-old and his mania to touch what can move of its own accord— and you realize that the mice are necessary casualties. Malice is always more subjective than you think, and the monsters themselves so stalwart: ten months without food, three legs plucked off will not kill them. Even limbless, relieved of their abdomens, they can bite for eight minutes. If you were just teeth, you could do almost nothing to another man for eight minutes. Once one has wounded you, it does not matter how he died—more death will flower behind him, the toxin a Venus flytrap in your back, your thigh, opening to take and consume what is healthy and within reach. And though miring recluses in glue is the soundest defense, they don't seek to attack. They are outsiders, little hobos of necrosis in your basement. They eat cast-off insects, drink the washer's condensation from cinderblock walls. Still, you gloss over them with guests, do not repeat the story of the night you woke to find one lolling on your arm, away from her cardboard flap to steal a moment of warmth. Inches from the hand draped across the baby. Flung into the toilet bowl and flushed from memory, the spider is your schizophrenic uncle, the gap-toothed girl you were made to lay off your fourth day on the job. You do not notice one until you step into the shoe where he lives, feel the stiff roots of tissue burst beneath your skin. Though you say you fear only for the children, you know it's tougher to murder one with poison than with water.