Pushcart 2011: Caitlin Horrocks, “Steal Small” from Prairie Schooner

“You need one of those shots?”
“Tetanus? I’m fine,” he said, but there’s no way of knowing with Leo if he meant fine because he’d had one or fine because fine’s what you are when you don’t think too much about yourself, about how you’re really doing and what you really need. We’re both of us fine most of the time.

There are people in this world who go around picking up “free to good home” dogs, and, occasionally, “found” dogs, if they can spin a line smoothly enough, to sell to laboratories and pharmaceutical companies for research purposes if they have a Class B Dealer license from the USDA or know someone who does.

There are people in this world who remember once when they were kids stealing a stick of butter, a teaspoon of baking soda, and an egg, to make cookies, and how the shopper who caught them (a woman with a cart full of Hi-C and fruit snacks) did not turn them in but did not help them either.

There are people in this world who zap 3200 cows between the eyes every workday, one very nine seconds on the slaughterhouse assembly line, and are the only thing keeping those cows from being butchered alive.

There are people in this world who work at Goodwill putting donated toys in plastic bags for two weeks to suffocate the lice, checking the inside of women’s pants for bloodstains.

There are people in this world who claim to be locked out of their garages to get little girls to “rescue” them, then reward the children with popsicles so they’ll do it again the next day.

There are people in this world who as kids used to hide in old-fashioned refrigerators, the kinds with the door latches that couldn’t be pushed open, because it’s better than “rescuing” the neighbor from the garage again, and now they go to college and study biology.

There are people in this world who want to let the “found” dog loose before it gets delivered to the Class B dealer but know it wouldn’t do any good so they endure the howling for a week and sleep better when its gone.

There are people in this world who sign letters, “love and squalor” and who become experts in somber truths at a very young age.

There are people in this world – and Caitlin Horrocks is such a person – who write about such people in a way that makes you love them, because you realize we are all being tempted into the garage with popsicles all the time, and we all hide in different kinds of refrigerators.

So I refuse to wish Leo nice, or the dogs free, or my sister happy, or myself forgiven, or much of anything all that much different than it’s likely to get. I just won’t wish them, and then when they all don’t happen, it won’t mean a thing to me. If this is what I get in the world, I’ll take it. Love and squalor, but mostly love. I’ll take it and I’ll take it and I will not be sorry.

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2 responses to “Pushcart 2011: Caitlin Horrocks, “Steal Small” from Prairie Schooner

  1. Pingback: Caitlin Horrocks: “Sun City” from The New Yorker, 10/24/11 « A Just Recompense

  2. Pingback: BASS 2011 – Caitlin Horrocks, “The Sleep” from Atlantic Fiction for Kindle « A Just Recompense

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