Reneé Bibby is the director of The Writers Studio Tucson, where she teaches advanced creative writing workshops. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in PRISM International, Thin Air, Third Point Press, The Worcester Review, and Wildness. www.reneebibby.com
We gather before the transformation takes us, reshapes us. Shed daytime trappings—pants, belt buckles, rings, and things—stashed in the broken brickwork of your neighborhood fences. When the sunset shifts we are shifters shifting. Down on all fours, ligaments crackling, joints cracking, throat howlers, we are still who we were, but more.
We know the back ways to you, derelict-fence jumpers, sprinting across fields of weeds, growlers in the arroyos. Tenacious runners fanning through cracked concrete alleyways, through the dirt and hot. Furor makers following chain link and beer can trails to your street.
We call your canines all along the way, yap yap yap! at us while they are safely caged. Your ersatz lupus mouth-foamers yanking on their chains. We could be quieter—we are the order makers, the rabbit heart renderers, bird feather scatters, patrollers, and terrors—we are peacemakers in our own way. But we want your dogs to bark the rough coded war cries of the battle we undertake.
We leap the fence into your lot, interlopers, territory breakers, and all your caged canines shy away, quiet, because we want them that way. We are under your windows. We sniff your chain link and doorways, piss on your tires to restake our claim. Ears swiveling, we hear all the way through adobe and paint to your pulse. We hear you weigh out the white. We hear you count the green.
We wait. For the sound of your knuckle breaking bruises on her face. And when it doesn’t come, we know something has changed.
You’ve made a mistake.
We are over the front fence, eschewing the way we came. Runners on the roads, headlight dodgers, leaving dogs to yip their bravado in our wake. We are time travelers, tracers of every path you take, followers of your scent molecules in space, back through the paved roads to the wildways, onto the dirt of the desert. Sniffers of your boot prints. Discoverers of unremarkable space.
We are trackers, all the way through the creosote, the cholla, to the agave bent over her shallow grave. We howl for her, the woman you unmade, the woman we did not save. Exalters, trumpeters, we howl: the woman, too cowed to file a claim, will be your unraveler.
We end our shift curled up under the bridge. When the sun is round and full, we are de-furred every-dayers in the Blue, working to build our case. Disdaining to chew soft potatoes with those tiny daytime teeth. We don’t stop for donuts, we don’t stop for breathers. We order burgers raw and eat standing at the counters, at the restaurant one block from your workplace.
In adjacent neighborhoods, black and white beasts, prowlers driving slow, skittering neighborhood kids with a quick blip of the red and blues. Collarers of your street hustlers, cigarette-sharing conversers with homeless youth on your street. Collectors of fragments, weavers of reliable tips, we lead forensics to her remains.
Detailers needling forensics for the soil we’ll find in your boots; the blood specks we’ll find in the wheel-well of your car. Builders moving backward, sweet talkers of gas station attendants, hey, you seen this face? You got security tapes? Footage corrallers, mappers of your progress across the interstates.
We are alibi breakers. Coincidence builders, running into your grandmother. Knucklers of your known associates, disrupters of your business as usual, where was he this day? Linkers of clues, we hand homicide a surefire case.
We can tear the world with our teeth and reveal the veins and beating bits of what is underneath.
We are at your door in the daytime, in our belts and rings, and all the proper papers. Every dog in your neighborhood barks and brays.
We know you in the night. We know you in the day. You cannot get away.
Photography by Toni Holtzman. Toni lives in Gaylord, Michigan, where she works as a hospice R.N. by day, and often night. She loves to travel, and recently returned from visits to Rome, Greece, and Israel.
All Special Issue photos are © 2016, Toni Holtzman