“Dismantlement equals freedom.”
Suz is there, whispering the words in his ear, each syllable hot and twisted. She’s glowing, radiant, still twenty-one and burning with the fierce need to fuck up the world.
The dead don’t age.
He finishes the knot, his hands steady, without the slightest tremble, then climbs onto the chair and throws the rope up over one of the beams in the kitchen. Old, hand-hewn beams his builder rescued from a salvage yard. They’d reminded him of Vermont. Of the cabin near the lake.
In his mind, he goes back ten years, sees Suz coming up the path, stepping into the clearing, pole in one hand, string of fish in the other: bass, sunfish, trout. They glisten like jewels, strung on the braided nylon rope she’s carefully looped through their mouths and gills.
Suz’s walk is a dance, her movements fluid, the silk tunic she wears flutters around her, making it seem as if the wind itself is carrying her, buoying her along like a kite.
She winks at him.
He loves her.
He hates her.
He doesn’t want to be here, but there’s no way he could ever leave. Once you’re in her orbit, it’s impossible to pull yourself away.
The others gather around as she lays the fish out on the table to clean them. She pulls the trout off the braided rope, lays it flat on newspaper, and slides the knife in, slitting it open along its belly from gills to vent. The fish opens its mouth, sucking at air. Suz smiles, showing crooked teeth, pushes her fingers gently inside the fish, widening the opening with her hand. The skin stretches; the movement of her fingers produces a wet, tearing sound.
“To understand the nature of a thing, it must be taken apart,” Suz says, tugging out a string of entrails, sticky and shimmering with rainbows, like oil on a puddle.
“No,” he tells her, slipping the rope around his neck, pulling the postcard from his pocket to look at one last time. “But I do now.”
He steps off the chair.
The postcard falls from his hand, drifts to the floor in slow motion, turning: moose, words, moose, words –until it lands, the carefully printed words facing up, the last thing he sees before losing consciousness: