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|Three Animals by Colin Winnette|
The Italian poet and novelist, Primo Levi, kept a KOMODO DRAGON for ten of his later years, from 1975 to 1985. The dragon was a gift from a niece turned billionaire. Hardly anyone knew he kept the dragon until it came out years later, when they discovered his written work on the subject. Primo was terribly depressed and the dragon bit him often. Dragons do not make good pets. When his dragon bit him, Primo wrote about it in a journal. He observed the swelling, noted the shooting pain radiating from the bite, often all the way up to his elbow. The dragon is venomous Primo concluded. He is angry with me. He has spent his life defending himself against me. Primo, as a rule, did not keep pets. He had not thought through the true burden of the gift, however, when he accepted what he thought was a relatively small, household lizard. When the dragon grew up, he called his niece. Isn’t he great? She said. Primo did not have the heart to tell her otherwise. Komodo dragons, in fact, are not truly venomous. They mostly eat carrion. They have claws and muscular arms. They do not benefit from poisoning their prey. It is incidental. What Primo did not know is that dragon saliva is ripe with bacteria, and this is what caused the reaction in his hand. They are publishing his journal posthumously, the publisher having recently titled it Kiss of the Dragon. At one point in the journal Primo comments It is not hard at all for me to understand why something so magnificent would be so angry with me. So angry all the time. Reading it, you say, No, Primo. You’ve done nothing wrong. You’ve written something beautiful. Finish it or they’ll finish it for you. Dragons make terrible pets.
Never owe an ELEPHANT money. They will make a point of humiliating you. They will find you on public transportation. They will find you in a shopping mall. They will find you at Thanksgiving. They will find you mid-climax. They will find you mid-sandwich. And they will get away with it all because they’re elephants, and you owe them money. If you are the kind of man or woman who goes hunting, do not hunt elephants. If you are the kind of man or woman who watches nature documentaries for the attack scenes, for the chase scenes, for the violence, do not root for anything other than the elephants. They’ll take it personally. They are very sad looking, but in all honesty they are very angry creatures. They are deceptively deeply angry creatures. An elephant grabbed me by my collar once and asked if I knew how out of line I was. I did not. I wanted to think back on what I’d done but the elephant was looking at me with those wet eyes of his and holding me against the wall with his flat, leathery feet. I would do anything an elephant asked me to do. Elephants have angled mouths and tongues and they lick their mouths with their tongues while telling you how they don’t want to have to do this, you shouldn’t make them have to do this. And you can say, You don’t have to do this however many times you like, but they remember everything. Their eyes do not stray from yours. They are cruel. They say You’re gonna make this right, my man. You’re gonna make this right.
What FOXES won’t tell you is they don’t really need space at all. They say they need space, but what a fox needs is time away from you. Whoever you are. My fox said I need space then slid herself into a white cocktail dress and went out. She never told me where she went. My fox and I had a pajama bottoms kind of relationship. We were microwavers. We sucked ice cubes and put tequila in orange soda. I need space, she said. She didn’t want to break-up, she just wanted a kind of freedom that even the idea of telling me about began to weigh down. It was not that she wanted to hide it from me, necessarily, she just didn’t want that part of her life connected to me. Some things were for us. A pint of ice cream. A cache of cola bottle caps. Pictures from our trips to the zoo. Other things were not for me. A white dress. Her pierced ears. Perfume and not pulling out. At first she kept her freedom things in a separate closet. She took them out as needed, kept the closet locked in between. And then she moved them all into a box. One day she moved the box into a separate house. Not a nicer house, but a different house. And then she was in that house most of the time. She said, I’m going to need an ice cream pint for my other house. She said, I’m going to need a bottle opener too. She said, we could select one or two of our photos from the zoo and use the other frames for newer, better pictures, no? She said, I’d like you to look the other way now. She said, I’d like you to think of something else.
Colin Winnette lives in Chicago, Texas, Vermont and between. These three pieces are from his most recent collection, You’re the Tarantula. More of his work has appeared or will appear in American Short Fiction, HTMLGiant, Fractured West, PANK Magazine, Necessary Fiction, Everyday Genius, The Ampersand Review, Blue Fifth Review, Beecher’s Magazine, and elsewhere. He’s always online at wwwcolinwinnette.com..