by W. Todd Kaneko
After church, the congregation comes outside to discover a freshly killed deer by the side of the road. Metalhead’s parents don’t like him hanging around with older kids, so when Rockgod walks toward it, Metalhead follows. He listens to Rockgod tell how his uncle loaded a roadkill deer carcass into the back of his truck a few winters ago—then in the middle of rush hour, the animal sprang back to life and leapt out into the road where it was struck again by a station wagon traveling in the opposite direction. Good roadkill is the first sign of Spring in Michigan, Rockgod says as he pushes the toe of his boot into the animal’s neck. Today’s sermon was all about renewal, some shit about how we survive the darkness of winter because we are promised Spring, how we are promised paradise in the hereafter if we just take care of one another. Rockgod runs a hand through his mop of hair and wipes his fingers on his jeans. One day, Metalhead might understand something about his friend: why he had to spend an extra year in high school, why he keeps pursuing and breaking up with the same three girls, why he drives Metalhead to school and shares his pot. Metalhead leans down and places his palm on the deer’s forehead. He shuts his eyes and imagines the electricity that once coursed through its body, every pulse and twitch as it stalked through the woods foraging for Spring foliage. Behind them, the pastor calls them away from the dead animal. Rockgod spits into the road and says that Metalhead should probably wash his hands.
W. Todd Kaneko is the author of the Dead Wrestler Elegies (Curbside Splendor, 2014). His poems, essays and stories have appeared in Bellingham Review, Los Angeles Review, Barrelhouse, the Normal School, NANO Fiction, the Collagist and many other places. A recipient of fellowships from Kundiman and the Kenyon Review Writers Workshop, he co-edits Waxwing magazine and lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan where he teaches at Grand Valley State University.
Image: from The Sportsman and Naturalist in Canada, by William Ross King.