By Robert McDonald
My dearest Tessa, in our deep vaulted prison cell, we’ve befriended the carrion beetles and one gray mouse, elderly and scabbed with mange. The beetles don’t seem to understand, how anyone from a family as wealthy as ours might end up arrested and locked away here: earthen dining room, bed of dirt, iron shackles the fashion at our ankles and our wrists. The mouse knows. He himself once a prince and lord of mice. “Treachery,” squeaks the old mouse. “That, and deception.” In our deep vaulted prison cell, the beetles clack the boxes of their mouths. “Sin,” they mutter, as they chaw on ribbons of shroud, on shards of bone. Dozens, their black diamond eyes, in the glint of our last beeswax candle. “Sin,” they repeat, “after all, you can’t believe we entered life as these rude invertebrates. We don’t quite remember what it was that we did, or what we were before, but God has reduced us to a life in this dungeon, waiting for our friends to submit to Death, that we might enjoy a full meal.” Tessa my dear, at times I believe them, that everyone was once something or someone other, whether beetle or rodent, amoeba, or beloved.
I pray that at times you are thinking of me, when you arrive at a party, and you wear a new frock, something sleeveless and green, and the candles are fresh, the orchestra not yet seated. A footman in the courtyard ties his boot. The spider, looking out at the scene from a fold in the curtain, don’t swat at the creature, that once was me.
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Robert McDonald's writings have appeared most recently in Six Little Things, Apparatus Magazine, Literary Bohemian, and Right Hand Pointing, among others. He lives in Chicago in a tatty coach house, and works at an independent bookstore.
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