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Shovel, Knife, Story, Ax

Illustration by David Huang

Erika Howsare | Longreads | May 2019 | 18 minutes (4,826 words)

I am going to tell you a bunch of stories about killing and death, but the first one is a story about a story. It was short, and my neighbor was the storyteller. He told it to John and me ten years ago, the first time we met him. After hello, his very next words to us were: “I once killed a copperhead on your kitchen table.”

Taken aback, we laughed. In those days, we had no killing stories of our own. Now, things are different.

Hear the self-defense in this one:

One morning last June, the day of the solstice, I had a little time on my hands. We had a vet appointment at 10:30 and it was 10:18, a bit too soon to wheedle the cat into the car. I brought some things down to the basement of our old house to put them away.

In the underground chill I deposited the laundry basket on top of the washer, turned back toward the stairs, and heard a little sound. Like a soft slap, an object slipping onto the floor. I looked. There are often animals in the basement, birds and crickets and mice. This was a snake. Read more…