Susan Kornfeld

 

Prey

     The moon was supposed to look like that, Christie thought: huge and round, bright as an owl’s eye. She adjusted her basket and turned back. Somehow between the woodear and wild onions she had dawdled the sun away. She was still half an hour from the cabin. The baby would want to nurse and Brad would have to console her as he prepared the trout from this morning. Christie pictured him cleaning the small fish, rubbing each one with fresh sage. Everything he does, she mused, is so considered, so ordered. She kicked a stone beside the trail, scuffing the pine needles.

     The distant howl surprised her. Gray wolf on the ridge. Wondering if it would howl again, Christie looked back toward the ridge and decided to wait. She sat, wrapping her arms around her knees, and thought about being prey, scaring herself a little for the fun of it. She was a hunter and gatherer - a good one: witness her full basket, this morning’s trout that Brad would be arranging neatly on the barbeque. It’s an equation, though. Things balance.

     When she stood up a few minutes later the basket handle accidentally brushed her breast, causing the milk to well up. Then the wolf howled again and milk spurted through her cotton blouse, warm, white, fragrant. Frightened, she ran, trailing milk.

     Milk and blood; baby and wolf. The words pounded with every step. She thought she could smell the trout cooking. She threw the basket down and ran faster, pressing her hands against her breasts in an effort to contain the milk.

     "Empty handed," Brad said when he saw her. The baby was crying. But Christie only thought about her race across the moonlit meadow, full of blood and flesh and scent, white milk streaming down her hands.