Sara Slaughter lives in New Orleans. A graduate of Vassar College and the low-residency MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College, Sara teaches creative writing to gifted high school students. Her work has appeared in The Honey Land Review, Method, and a collection celebrating what would have been the 100th birthday of Elizabeth Bishop.
Most Fridays, I work at the hardware store mixing paint. I grow to be covered in it by the evening's end. Tonight, a father brought his fifteen year old son in to price shelving a few aisles over. I need a person for perspective, he said, taking a photo of the boy in front of the only metal rack. And if it isn't this sturdy when we assemble it? My boss is named Satania. She doesn't have eyebrows, avoids answering everything. I hold a list of the colors I mix each day. For Fridays: winter-mood, bright biscuit, mermaid's belt, anonymous.
I’m not sure you’ll believe me, but you can smell the difference between a blue crab and any other breed of crab, I could tell a sally from a sook on touch alone, and even when they molt, the oil won’t come off. I knew this, apart from the smells, before I knew the lab. I could’ve told you that we’d turn to blue crabs if this ever happened. They’re small enough to be prey but with enough fight to eat some, too, and in the middle, that’s where you tell how things are shaping up. So, the blue crab.
There is orange peel in my closet, drawing fruit flies, not driving away moths. This means malfunction. In my classroom, an orange floats in a bowl full of water. Here, the world. There are gardeners who like orange trees but not oranges. I ask my students why. None say that fruit must be tended to, plucked. One says, burden. Some think rot, but no one will say that what we do not gather prevents more planting. One says, leave them to feed what follows. The last thing they tell me, birth. Out near Jesuit Bend: Navel, fruit, blossom, offshoot, produce.
She tells a story about a copperhead taking a shovel to the neck. She will specify the color of some things, and I do not tell her snakes represent the future. Some books say they are strange keepers of what most won't know. I say that snakes are more deadly when they're younger, when they haven't yet come to the understanding that they don't need to spend all their venom at once. It's the color that repeats: worn tan; Appalachian spring; chestnut glade. The story ends with a woman losing her foot and having a baby. Old cat-eyes, hundred pacer.