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"A Former Apex Predator" by Chris Gilman Whitney

“Where does the moon go during the day?”

The child stands with his hands in his pockets, his head craned towards the sky. A wide expanse of blue that hasn’t disappointed him yet. He has lived for seven years now and I don’t know how I ever loved without him. I tell him that the moon doesn’t go very far away, it’s just that you can’t see it. Like the moon gets shut off, just like the light in his bedroom.

“Why does an elephant have such big ears?”

I tell him it’s because they have to hear predators approaching. I do not know if this is true but it sounds right to me, and I hope it sounds right to him. An animal must know when something dangerous is coming, I tell him. With the big ears, they know what is coming, so they can prepare.

“Like if a coyote comes at them?” he says. I say, yes, just like a coyote. A snarling, evil little package of fur and teeth, rabid, cursed.

The child begins to sprint, away from me, his little feet slapping against the ground a ticking clock. My life is running towards an end. I catch up to him, breathing heavy from the effort. I get it. My chest, my head, my heart, they’re all broken. My bones picked clean by some mangy creature. The doctor called it Takotsubo Cardiomyopathy. I don’t have answers for the child. I’ll never have the answers. Not the right ones, anyway.

“Where did mommy go?”

I raise him up. His flaxen hair cascades almost to his shoulders, obscuring his face, tickling mine. His bony clavicle so fragile and perfect. I hug him tighter, the sharp angles of his body pressing into my ripened flesh. Even still I am amazed at where he came from. What man was I that made such a perfect person? How many versions of me died so that this one could live, so that he could be here?

“Dada, why are you crying?”

Chris Gilman Whitney is a writer from Western Massachusetts. He has an MFA from Bennington College, and his work has appeared in Gulf Stream, Anti-Heroin Chic, and Complete Sentence.


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