Caleb Kaiser

Cherry Skinning

We found them upright on their porch swing. They left a towel to help us clean. So many questions came to mind: who bought the .38? How’d their bodies hold off rot? What sort of man would rather eat the steering column than drive without a passenger? Above all else, we were boys enough to blame will: how it possessed him to follow her through the exit wound. Anymore, I’d make a case for cherries.


Can you recall our first summer? How I’d shower half the day? No neon in the bog back then. Just enough shine to spot a shadow taken by the mudsuck. I like that. I like fishblood in my skin. If you let the sweat stick, you can hear what they did when I wouldn’t swallow. The biters come squalling from the mangroves, the dead reeds ring around your kneecaps, and your pores push something like sugar sap from cherry jars. That’s the truth, and I never imagined it was a thing you would see.


The paper claimed the husband had just come across a tumor. Aside from the hole in her head, the wife was in perfect health. Years ago, I’d have shown you the swamps, but never what they swallowed, as if the truth were holier half-lit. Anymore, I have a better sense of blessings.


There was never a night my will kept you dry. At my best, there was just your mouth wrapped around a maraschino, saying “Let me get a look at you.”

Caleb Kaiser is a writer from Kentucky. Recently, his work has appeared in Muzzle, BOAAT, Painted Bride Quarterly, DIAGRAM, and PANK. He is Claudia Cortese’s son.