I was masturbating when Cole knocked on my door and told me Queenie had bit him.

“I ain't gonna die,” he said, “She’s bit me a bunch of times.”

He held out his arm and stood real still and I touched it gentle with my masturbating smell fingers. His skin was raised around two little punctures and it was bleeding, right where her fangs went in. I’ve never seen a snake bite before. He said his mama puts apple cider vinegar and baking soda on it to take out the soreness. Cole’s a scrappy boy, I believed him.

I coulda called Rhonda but seeing as she’s the one who called me down here to look after Cole and Daddy while she was gone, I figured I shouldn't. She’s a saint for my daddy. And she’d been wanting to go on that ladies motorcycle trip to Dollywood for a long time. She’d been sending me pictures of them riding the rides all morning. I didn’t want to ruin her trip.


I got the baking soda and apple cider vinegar out the kitchen cabinet for Cole and watched him make it into a paste. Daddy was out in his tool shed drinking Crown and Mountain Dew from his special shrimp cup. I know he was upset about Cole’s bite, worried what Rhonda would do when she found out. But I’ve never seen him like this. Rhonda said he’s been much more emotional since she’s been getting him to ween off the weed.  

While me and Cole waited for the paste to sit on his bite a little, I figured that since it was on my mind I might as well ask him. “Just between you and me,” I said, “How often do you see Daddy Bill this bent out of frame?”

“Oh I don’t know, like a lot.” Cole spun around on the top of his stool, “Mama told me he’s had a sad life, said that he raised you all by himself.” Then he stopped himself spinning, “Did your mama really leave y’all to be with another lady?”

I told him yeah.

Then he asked me when was the last time I saw her.

And I said I didn’t remember.

Then he asked me if I ever talked to her on the phone. And I said, “No.”

“Not even for your birthday?”

“No,” I said.

“Don’t you miss her,” he said.

I shook my head no and bit down on my fingers and tasted my smell. I was washing my hands at the sink when I heard Cole behind me.

“Don’t you want to know where she is?”

I just got out my phone and pulled up what to do about a python bite. “Look,” I told him, “This says we need to wash it now. And get some Neosporin.”

“We need to ride to Walmart for that,” he said. “I used it all on my knee last week.” He pointed to his scabby little knee.

When we told Daddy we were going to Walmart, he perked up the way he would around me when I was little. “Now look here, I know what’s going on,” he said. He put his arm around Cole, “This boy here’s been wanting to go to the Walmart all damn month. His mama don’t go to the Walmart for nothing. She don’t believe in it.” Then he looked at me, “I don’t know why but she don’t believe in the Walmart, Maddy.” Then he pulled Cole closer to him, “Now tell what it is you want at the Walmart, son. Go on now and tell us.”

“Minecraft,” Cole said smiling.

I started laughing.

“This boy wants that Mind Craft, that video game,” Daddy laughed too and finished off his Crown and Mountain Dew.

I’d heard of Minecraft. It’s what Patrick plays all the time. When I get done with classes and go to his place I can hear the music coming from the living room as soon as I come in the door. And there he is, sitting there in a trance shooting arrows into zombies. And I sit next to him hoping he’ll put his arm around me or something. Because he’s always got night shifts delivering pizzas. But nothing. Then when he does touch me he is full on boner and ready to go and so we go to his bedroom and we have sex and then he comes and we lay there a little and he lets me lay on his chest and I listen to his heartbeat and he tells me that I need to talk about my mama more. Patrick says that my mama has shaped me into who I am now. He says she is still shaping me. He says this because among other things I take the pillow cases off pillows when I sleep. He’s a philosophy major. And I already know what Daddy would say about him if they met. He’d say his handshake felt limp as a dishrag.

But I think it’s pretty good sex. My dorm mates tell me about guys going down on them like it’s really wonderful like they’re in another world. Patrick has only done it to me twice since we’ve been together and I don’t think I ever came when he was down there. I mean I didn’t feel any different. I think it’s cause I don’t shave down there. When we first started dating he said that some girls shaved the whole thing and he asked me if I ever did that and I said no. So one day I did it to surprise him and it took forever and then he didn't even like it that much I don't think and I hated how it made me itchy and I looked like a baby. I looked his ex up on Facebook and she was sitting on a yacht in a bikini, with a big bow in her hair. Patrick said her Daddy was real rich. Tina was her name. They lived together and everything.


At Walmart Daddy gave Cole a piggyback ride to look at some tools and I grabbed the Neosporin and went to get some hamburger for supper. Hamburger Helper is what me and Daddy always made together when I was growing up. He’d smoke a fat joint and add a lot of extra cheese. Rhonda don’t like it too much because it ain’t that healthy. When she moved in she planted a garden. It's off the porch he finally finished with her help. She’s always sending me back to school with fresh tomatoes, enough for the whole hall.  But I wanted that night to be like old times. So I got the meat that looked the best and headed on to the electronics and games.

When Daddy and Cole won’t there, I figured they were still looking around. Daddy loves to look at everything in Walmart. Him and Cole were probably caught up in some rods and reels.

The girl that was working in electronics and games had huge breasts. I’d never seen her before. And I thought what I always think when I see huge breasts. I wondered what it would be like to suck on them. They would probably be nice and soft in my mouth. Patrick would say this has something to do with breastfeeding and my mama. I don’t know if she breastfed me or not.

Her nametag said Cammie. I asked her if they had Mind Craft for XBOX 360.  

“You mean Minecraft?”

"Oh yeah, sorry,” I laughed, “My daddy calls it Mind Craft.”

“Well, yeah we have it, people have been going nuts over it lately.” She led me to the shelf where it was and grabbed it for me. “You ever play it,” she asked.

I looked down at her handing it to me and said, “No, but my boyfriend does.”  

“It looks boring. I mean everything is just blocks.” She looked at the block headed people between my thumbs. “Is it boring?”

I didn’t know what to say to that. I was thinking about what color her bra might be, her nipples and I said, “The music is kind of relaxing.”

“Oh,” she said, “Well I’ll ring you up now I guess.”  

I told her I didn’t want the receipt. I told her that when a half-drunk man and a kid with a swollen arm came up to buy Minecraft to tell them that Maddy had already bought it for them and that she was waiting in the truck.  

“OK,” she said. It sounded like she said it in a way she doesn’t say it every day.

Patrick called me on the way to the truck. He’s always worried when I’m at home because he says it’s a place of no opportunity and poverty and high crime and teen moms. He’s looked at the statistics. He grew up in Raleigh. He’s a city boy. But he says he loves my brain. “It’s your brain that got you out of there Maddy,” he says to me. We met in Honor’s World Lit first semester freshman year.

I didn’t answer because I’m mad at him anyways.  He’s obsessed with this old house downtown and won’t take me to go see it. And he won’t stop going on and on about it.  

He was standing in my room just a couple nights before I came home telling me about it, freaking me out. He told me he’d been going to see this house every night that I wasn't with him. He said he’d been doing it for like three weeks. He said he needed to see it before he went to sleep. He even told me he’d gone to the state records and looked up the names of everyone that lived in the house. Then he’d gone to the cemetery and did grave stone rubbings of everyone who lived in the house. When he was in my room the other night he showed me one, rolled it right out on my bed.

“Here,” he said, “I want you to have it.”  

But he couldn't tell me why, him out of all people who knows the reason for everything, he couldn't tell me why he had to look at that house at night. The way he looked at me. I’d never seen anyone look like that before. He said, “I wish I could tell you why.”

He said at night when the moon is in the center of the roof of the house across the street, the moonlight shines in a high window on the house and you can see the spiral staircase that leads up to the widow’s walk.  

I asked him to take me and show me and he said he couldn't do it.


Waiting in the truck I watched the people going in and out of Walmart. And I did see teen moms and one of them was wearing a “Coal Ash Plant = Jobs” shirt and I knew it wouldn't do any good to tell her any different, to tell her I know this because I’m in college- a place she can’t afford to think about because she’s got a baby she’s toting and caring for and if she needs that Coal Ash Plant job what do I tell her? Patrick’s right about where I’m from.

And I saw myself like I was a character in a movie. My daddy’s an alcoholic welder. His girlfriend has wire rose tattoos. Her son isn't afraid of snake bites. And I was sitting in the Walmart parking lot in a town with a big water tower. Nothing out from it except fields and fields, and woods for two hours until you got to a place with a mall or movie theater. And you just keep going from there until you end up in a big city where people don’t care who you’re holding hands with.

Maybe everything would have been alright if I’d been from the city. Mama would have been able to love me somewhere like that. That makes sense to me. But that’s not how it happened.


I wanted to think about something else, so I pulled to the edge of the lot under a tree and I got to it quickly. I closed my eyes I started thinking about Cammie’s breasts, how they’d feel heavy in my hands. I was still wet from where I was before, moving my hand in circles. Then everything got dark and a light shined on Queenie in the corner, she was scared in a little ball, her scales moving with her breath. I moved harder then, tried to think about something else, focused on my fingertips, the pressure building, I moved faster, how to get to it. I felt my body getting stiff but I was rising. I was pushing my heels off the floor. Cammie’s erect nipple, then Patrick putting his fingers in my mouth. And right before I could tell it was happening, I saw Mama and Daddy in bed. She was laughing, licking his face. I came then like something so big had come out of me. I heard myself crying, and I was. I didn’t want to but I couldn't stop. I couldn't help it.

Ashleigh Bryant Phillips is from Northampton County, North Carolina. Her work appears in The Tusk and Bull. Follow her on twitter/insta at @woodlandraised.