Separating the Body

Dad bit down on his cigarette as he worked a knife between the seams, the deer’s head nodding and shaking in little fits. The strips of meat got stacked on newspaper, and it was my job to rinse and stuff them into plastic bags.
A deer’s body looks uglier upside-down. Unzipped from tail to throat, the muscles lose their color as night presses close. What’s purple goes red. What’s red drips pink. Everything else gets left for last, left to go gray and leak slow across the ground.
Dad worked fast, so I had to time my trips to the freezer, make sure I didn’t drop anything or let the pile grow high enough that pieces started sliding down onto the oil-stained driveway.
I always hated how their heads moved like that, how they seemed the smallest bit alive, could feel every pull of muscle from bone but couldn’t stop it. How Dad was too focused on separating the body from itself to notice.
Once I heard the water heater switch on, it was safe to stop bagging and walk over to what was left of the deer. Now that it was lighter, I could ease its head up and out of the way as I used my boot to erase the hundreds of lines the antlers had dug into the dirt.

Matthew Mahaney was born in one place, grew up in another, and has since lived in several more. He currently lives in Tuscaloosa, where he is an MFA candidate at the University of Alabama. Other work appears or is forthcoming in Alice Blue Review, Caketrain, GlitterPony, Indiana Review, Jellyfish, Monkeybicycle, PANK, Redivider, and Sentence.