top of page

"Winter Pastoral" by Selena Langner

The gas station is holding a squirrel cooking contest (prize: a plaque and a taxidermied squirrel trophy). It’s wearing a little flannel jacket– the squirrel, not the gas station (if the gas station were wearing a coat, it’d be a beat-up beige Carhart, with specks of motor oil and a flask duct-taped to the interior).

You take your dog into the gas station– not the motor-oil-wearing-flask-taping-Carhart one, the nicer one around the corner, with the orange Welcome Hunters! banner and the 10-cent dog treats, the one where USPS drops the mail— and so you take your dog into THAT gas station, and they know him by name (Lil’ Pup).

He’s six-months old and sixty-five pounds, feet pounding prints in the snow, and you could swear that they’re from a bear. A Great Pyrenees, like everyone has around here (you like to remind him he’s not just a good pyrenees, and he likes to remind you that he’s your best friend– like you’ve got many other choices, but still). Cold-hardy, hardy enough to at least put up a fight with anything else that lives out here.

Tough dogs for a tough place, except when the neighbor’s 120-pounder gets out and pads down the road, crosses the train tracks and gets side-swiped by some hunter’s ATV, then bunkers down under a pine for a few nights. It’s getting down to ten degrees, and the whole community turns out, little foster-children girls crying this dog’s name (Tucker), peering into the woods, holding their own pups close at night, weaving fingers into fur that’s denser than snow drifts.

And while the little girls are cuddling their dogs, yours is out hopping around in the snow, chasing down the neighbor lady, who’s yoked herself to a sledge and is cross-country skiing down the road, toddlers tugged behind her.

The whole street is holding its breath, waiting on you to buy a plow truck, because they’re digging their way to the main road by hand, gloves patched with duct-tape, the geriatric wielding shovels like walkers.

So you’re stacking firewood all day, hoping that burning that will save you from burning dollars, what with the weather this cold, and now your overalls are crusted in dirt from rolling logs on hands and knees, a method you switched to after your legs gave out, after your shoulders were so bruised you could barely keep anything hoisted onto them.

All that, and you haven’t even put in the wood stove yet.

You leave your overalls in a heap by the front door– no sense washing them– and pour a glass of whiskey, hope your kidneys don’t give out the next day (they do), and watch darkness sink into tracks criss-crossing the fields.

You message your mother about squirrel-cooking recipes, make a joke about your cousin (Stanley), and wait for the reply.

Selena grew up in the woods, making things. Now, she lives on the prairie with her husband and their 18 very excellent chickens. She still likes to make things. You can find her work in Cheap Pop and Autofocus, or find her online at

bottom of page