The day wears its gray shroud protectively, keeping the clouds tucked in close and sending roaring gales through the alder in the front yard. I’ve just showered. On the walk home from campus, the rain soaked my pants until denim melded to my skin and my socks oozed with every step. Our neighborhood smelled clean. I burst through my back door in a fit of chills and irritation.
A month ago I was in California. The temperature climbed up into the mid nineties every afternoon, and we stayed inside where it was cool, basking in the breeze of an electric fan. Now indoors is where I go to warm up beneath a blanket. A month ago, the grass was knee-high and cracked golden from perpetual sun. Lizards were more common than squirrels, darting from the dust path into the refuge of grapevines when my footfalls interrupted their sunbathing.
I found a baby rattlesnake. Marcus was unhappy because that meant he’d have to kill it, but Pierre volunteered. He took a picture of the snake with his phone first. The shovel that I’d been moving garden soil with was used. Pierre advanced on the snake; it seemed uncertain and terrified, tearing along the planting bed edge and rearing up to expose its slender rope of a body. Then a swift thump against the wood. I didn’t want to look. The rattlesnake’s head snapped on the ground, feet from its convulsing body. Marcus held it up to examine the underdeveloped rattle, and dark blood was trickling out where its head had been severed off. My face was wet. Pierre hooked an arm around my shoulders and tried to pull me close. I’m sorry, he said.