Nick Sawatsky


When Nick Sawatsky isn’t writing, he’s studying writing at Hiram College. Or editing said writing or submitting to literary magazines or drooling over MFA program webpages. Or watching Here Comes Honey Boo Boo. His literary laundry list consists of publication in Stumble Magazine, RiverLit Magazine, and on Thought Catalog.


Us Bowbar girls hopped off the school bus like we always did and the high school boys in the back with their hot hanging tongues had the windows ripped open and were barking about us being white trash bastard girls, like they always did. Chastity flashed her titties and I gave them the bird. They hooted and hollered and humped their seats, slapped palms against the windows and who knows what else cause we were already gone stomping through the park.

Me and Chassy and Olive, we went reckless past lawn ornaments, things that were bought wild pink, but got tamed pale with time in the hot sandpit sun. We spun ourselves dizzy in circles past dogs furious on chains, pit bulls hazed over with heat madness, mouths like boy mouths: saliva wet, wanting, full of yellow teeth smashing. Chassy shook her ass at them, squeezed her boobs. The dogs on their chains, pulling their chains taught, ripped with paws at the air for girl meat. She skipped passed them then halted, kicked her feet back playing bull.

Our trailer park was full of deer shit. The pellets were scattered across the dirt bed lawns, over welcome mats. The deer, skanky furred doe nibbling at flowers in car-tire pots, pissing hot in the dirt, came from the meadows behind the park at dusk. They came huddled tight, but not nervous, splitting the tall witch grass and stamping into our habitat when the dogs were too tired to care and the sun didn’t scorch so hot.

There were three gathered by a trough full of dry corn as we stomped by. Some park folk liked to lure them in, living and breathing lawn ornaments. Chassy howled at their spotted backs and they flicked up their tails, twitched their ears, and strutted away out of irritation more than anything else.

Our trailer was all shut up, curtains closed tight. Chassy flung off her boots and dragged from behind the trailer a plastic baby pool. She slapped it down in our lawn, got the hose and filled it freezing with city water. She slipped in and swore and hollered about her nipples. The dirt of the place came out in the wash, soaked blue to grey.

“Hey, get the radio!” She splashed waves over the rim and the dirt congealed to mud.

“It’s too quiet out here! Get out that damn radio!”

I got out the damn radio and set it on the dining room table playing picnic. My fingers were at the knobs, twisting to life bleeps and bloops and static. Chassy clapped her palms against the water’s surface. Olive snapped her fingers and drifted around the yard curling her arms in the air, tangling her fingers in her hair and mouthing big the pop songs clogged in white noise. We needed it loud, make it loud. I twisted the volume until the knob cranked off and then I stuck it back and stepped back. Some chick was singing about some romance that came and went with the damn summer. I sat in summer, slapped a fly on my neck and peeled it from sweat.

Olive went to her barrel of cans back behind the trailer and I knew it cause I heard her rummage: clinks, crackle, and an “Aw shit.” She came back with a sack full and she crushed them and it was the clink and crackle of robot bones compacting. She found them turned to ashtrays, found them stuffed with stamped-out cigarette butts and ash. She found old kisses, smears of pink gloss. She speared the kisses, the cigarettes, and the spit. She carried this old burlap bag and she humped through vacant lots on Saturday afternoons to spear and collect and crush and turn it all in for a few bucks to buy herself something ceramic and stupid: a knickknack, a memento of nothing.

Olive used her foot on a can. Her heel went down hard, down down down, more times than necessary. She grated the thing into the dirt and all around the pink clay ground inflated into mounds of clouds. Her fists were clenched.

That summer chick finally shut it and the radio rasped over to some guy mumbling gruff, like he never did have a summer. He wanted us to watch for signs of this missing girl, like he did last night and the one before. And each night I kept seein’ jam finger prints smeared across everything I looked at. I kept on waiting to come across a rain bloated doll, for this kid to make herself known like the radio seemed to think she would. Watch for signs, said the radio, like she >was a plotting and teasing girl playing a game. Watch for signs. She had become a sign. I’d seen her picture stuck to and slipped beneath and curled around the door knobs of trailer doors and car doors and any other kind of door the mini-van women from the recreation center could find. This gone girl was all freckles and dimples and missing teeth. She was harsh black and white, a kid photocopied into too much contrast. The ink was thin on some of the pages. It was run down by the wet weather on others.

The radio kept on saying her name: Bethany. Bethany. Bethany.

Chassy’d stopped slapping the water and Olive’s crushing became slow and mulled over, each can weighed in both her hands before the crushing. I sat at the table and laid my head down, got cheek to cheek with the radio. We wanted it loud, make it loud.

I turned down the radio with my head still flat on the table. My stomach spoke to me in some language I didn’t know how to translate: gurgles and bubbling like a kind of yearning. On the table was ketchup gone to crust. I could still smell the tang of what it used to be clinging to the flake it’d become.

“Let’s have a smoke,” I said.

Chassy had gone under water, quiet except for her breath as bubbles gurgling up. Olive was too rhythmic to distract me. The cans crushed to a beat, within a pattern.

“I need a smoke,” I said. “Or something to eat, good Lord.”

My fingers tangled over my stomach.

Somewhere, the panels on a miniature windmill creaked in a lazy circle of a cycle. A pit-bull was far away and something was with it, because the bark bounded and bounced from trailer to trailer. Bethany was six years old and lived in a yellow house and her mother and father were just devastated, but still had hope for her. I knew this because their voices came through the rasp of the radio, their sound waves tripping over one another until they were one conflicting crying noise traveling sonic across the whole damn park and state and up to the stars, through concrete and human bodies, but still she was gone and still they had hope. I hugged my stomach and muttered to God about cheeseburgers.

“When you think Ma’ll be back?” Olive said.

“It’s Friday,” I said. “So I don’t know. Maybe Sunday?”

“When you think that rat bastard of a dad gonna be back?” Chassy said.

I slapped my hands on the table and perked up. “Any minute now! Oh, sure.”

Chassy went under water. Olive said, “I wonder what he looks like.”

“Just like you, Olive.”

“Really? Youse the only one of us to ever remember him.”

“Yeah, really.”

Over next to me was our one-vehicle parking spot and when I was six years old Dad done walked out to it, got in a Cadillac, and got gone. He had on what was left of a Metallica tee. I remember the cigarette holes stained over some devil draggin’ out of Hell. In my head was Dad’s back and that was all of him there.

“Yeah, really,” I said.

I knocked my chair backward in the dirt when I got up. Another one of the backrest rungs popped off. Two left out of five. I picked up the newest amputee and dinged it against the trailer’s bulk. I stomped up the stairs, clapped open the door and inside the afternoon heat had stewed so that everything was lukewarm and lifeless: A baked sofa full of dust, a wilted fern on the television, a coffee table peppered with stamped out cigarette butts.

On the fridge were magnetic letters making up profanities and in the fridge was an old box of baking soda. I popped open drawers and slid open compartments, but everywhere everything was gone. Oranges gone to fuzz. Milk gone to curds. Cheese gone to mold and an apple gone to mush and in the freezer was the whiskey. Nothing wrong with the whiskey. Before I went outside again I swallowed down half an inch and gave a dollop to the fern.

“Hey look there.” Chassy pointed with a toe.

Two men geared up in camouflage and florescent orange cut past us, headed out of the park. They spit and tipped their baseball caps to us. They had guns, long and polished shot guns resting against their shoulders. Chassy kicked up her legs and slathered them together. Thick, wet, and milky, she crossed them in the air and flicked droplets from her little buds of toes toward the men. The men just kept on tipping their caps until they were gone past us and past the park, gone waist deep in the meadow before the woods beyond.

“What you think they hunting?” She floundered back and forth, sloshed heaps of what had become bathwater.

“Overpopulation problem,” I said.

Olive crushed a can. “Exterminators.”

“Maybe they’re a search party for that little girl.” Chassy tweaked her own nipples that had budded through the wet of her tee. “If that girl was gonna get found, she would have been a fat minute ago. She’s right chalked if you ask me.”

“They could still find her,” I said. “It hasn’t been that long.”

Chassy rolled out of the pool, got hands and knees in the mud. She slashed streaks of it beneath her eyes. “Let’s follow them.”

We went, one of us squelching with wet and another clanking with cans and I was there too, somewhere in-between. Olive had her satchel hitched over her back, her can-picking stick jabbing at the dirt as we went. She left a trail and so did Chassy: a carved line in the sand, a cluster of damp footprints. There was nothing of me there, no proof that I walked with my sisters or that I went with a bottle in my clutch. I sent it back a few times and each time one of them sent glares my way.

“You ain’t even a boozer. Put that crazy shit down.”

By the time we got to the meadow, everything was soft. Night came gradual: violet flushing in and stars freckling dim, but then came all of a sudden: full dark dropped, every screech of some far away owl bellowed in me like an entering hour on a clock. We waded through the snarled grass and ducked below the iron skeleton of a telephone tower. I stumbled and landed down within the grass where it was shaded and cool. An overpopulation problem. I thought of lying down like the deer do, flattening the grass and curling tight. I thought about home being where ever I put my head and where was Bethany’s head? Did she sleep like doe do? Was she gone off to shit in lawns, eat flower heads? I took a long swig and it flamed up my throat, but stewed hottest in my gut. I gathered, pulled, and put between my lips a bundle of grass. I spat.

“Get up,” they said and their hands had me by the underarm flab. They pulled me up stood me up on two feet to balance, erect. I wavered and searched for the moon, but its bulb was burnt out that night. I saw the stars and all the clouds were down there on Earth, kicked up by the feet of my sisters.

“Where’s the moon?” I asked.

“You’re gone, girly,” Chassy said.

“Let’s turn the fuck back,” Olive said.

“No,” someone said and it could have been me clinging to my stomach, but I think it was Chassy. “I wanna see what they huntin’.”

“You know its them fucking deer. Deer in a damn trailer park?” Olive speared a can, Bud Light, and dropped it over her shoulder, into her treasure sack. “That just ain’t right.”

“I ain’t drunk. Just softer.”

“You’re shitfaced.”

“Lemme get a swig of that.” Chassy took the bottle and nipped. She blew raspberries. “You’re crazy, Sissy. Why you drinkin’ so damn heavy tonight?”

The owl shut up when the blast sent the other night birds to the stars like a gunshot. We stood still, Olive to the right and Chassy to the left, and me somewhere in-between. The stars were still dim, so dim, barely there, almost drained out. But there were so many, even if not at full twinkle, their quiet light was there. I tried to count them, tried to count the stars, but they started to overlap, so many so weak. I held my stomach.

The woods were not made of dense, confident trees, but were built of erratic bramble. We got down and crawled. I stayed down, face in the cold marl. Grains of it, nuggets of earth, pushed past my lips and my teeth grinded down. Chassy in front, Olive behind, I had to catch up and wait up. I threw up in a thorn bush.

Olive’s bag snagged and there was a small zip of a rip. “No way them hunters went crawling through all this mess.”

“How do the deer even get through all this mess?”

We got to a clearing and to our feet. The bramble collected itself into things more sturdy. Ashen pines huddled close and their rusted needles smothered the ground. Our feet crunched over them, but we didn’t wince. We’d earned elephant skin during our childhood summers romping over rocks, in brooks, on pavement. We’d grown up stomping. They found one of Bethany’s sandals stuck in a mud puddle outside the elementary school’s playground.

The moon wasn’t in the woods either. The stars were gone to a roof of laced branches. The owl had hushed. Our feet murmured over gathered leaves and twigs and garbage drifted in from a nearby highway. I stumbled and slipped on a plastic bag. Olive’s stick clicked frantic, plucking up left-behind diet sodas and twenty-four ounce tall boys. There was a plastic ball won out of some family restaurant claw machine. The cartoon imprinted on it had scrapped off; the color was dull. I crouched and pressed a finger to the tired rubber and thought for a quick second it was the ball that bleated out, not the heaving mass from which the sound actually came.

Olive and Chassy shuffled away, backed to a pine and cowered behind the scabbed trunk. “Sissy, get over here. Sissy.”

Not on hands and knees, too drunk for hands and knees, but on forearms and thighs I dragged myself to the doe baying out to dim stars, to a gone moon. Her fur was caked in her own syrup and the ooze hadn’t even stopped yet, still pumping fresh, the flesh of it throbbed. The hole gaped like a dumb mouth. Like my mouth, opening and closing. No radio. No static. No pop music. We wanted it loud. I couldn’t make any noise.

I slumped myself over her, because it was all I could think to do. The ground was lined with tracks from panicked hoofs, old wet leaves kicked up, but with the weight of me so on her, she had to steady the frenzy of going to gone. Her body only swelled then deflated in a cycle of rasped breaths. I wrapped my legs around her fat torso, craned my neck to meet her eye. It was not only full of the blackout night, but regal surrender.

Next to us, a rock.


I stayed mounted until the beacons came. Olive and Chassy were stowed away somewhere in the dark. Their girl rasps, blustered and struggling past lips stuck with gloss, were all that was in the still of the woods until somewhere a twig snapped and my neck too, jolted up from the dying warmth of her hide, alerted. I strained my eyes through the impenetrable dark, but mostly kept my ear cocked out: each snap cracked its way closer. And these predators came with lolling light, two beams adrift, only interrupted by the unmoved bodies of trees.

“I told you that weren’t gonna work.”

The girl rasps hushed at the man speak, words tarred with chewing tobacco.

“I read about it in a magazine, see. A huntin’ magazine. You go and you shoot one of them and leave it there so it’ll go on hollerin’ and attract more of the herd.”

“Horse shit, Pete. You treatin’ this like we’re lookin’ to find a mantle. This ain’t sport, boy. It a job. Find, shoot, lower the herd number.”


“Hush, Chassy.”

“Where are ya?”

“By the doe. You stay over where ever in the hell you are and watch after Olive. You got Olive?”

“Aw hell she does, right by the damn hair.”

“Be quiet,” I said.

The men came to the clearing, lit up like Halloween decorations behind the tungsten flush of their flashlights. Their beams scanned across the space until it caught me.

“What in God’s name? Hell, what you doing on that deer, girl?”

“She weren’t dead yet.”

He lowered the light and came to crouch by us. “Well she sure is now.” He smelled like home cooking, like he had a wife that made meatloaf and maybe a kid that hissed up fits about cleaning her plate.

“Can you teach me how to keep her?”

He spat a wad of brown and rolled something behind his lips, over his teeth. “Keep her?”

“I wanna use the best of her.”

“You mean you want me to clean it?”

“Naw. I wanna. Clean her.”

He handed the light over to me and I aimed it for his eyes like he’d done to me. They lit up white before his hand came and knocked the thing from my hand to the ground and her eyes lit white too. And the white shed over her leaf pillow, and she drooled like Mama did when she was dead tired, but the doe wasn’t tired and she drooled sticky black.

He picked up and pushed the light at my chest. “Aim it for the deer, would ya? Pete, you get that rope and gambrel from the car. Prep it.” He snapped fingers at my face. “You, you pay attention.”

Meatloaf flipped the doe to her back, stretched her lower legs away from one another. A noise came from between them like wood crying before breaking.

“But I want to do it,” I said.

“You ain’t never cleaned no deer. Have ya?”


“How are ya gonna clean this one?”

“Show me.” I nudged my way between him and the deer. The harsh swish of his vest rubbed once against the nape of my neck, but it rubbed hard and left stinging. My chest dangled over her. “What do I do now?”

His hands snuffed over my hands, we broke open her legs.

I cut the tendons of her legs and stuck this plastic triangle, what the guys called a “gambrel” in the slots. Pete helped drag and secure her upside down between two trees. The girls came from the trees like wary animals. They kept hunched and circled around, feet stumbling through and snapping the rusted needles. They backed away swearing and gagging and laid down where the doe had been and bone matter got tangled in their hair and blood got smeared in patches on their cheeks. They didn’t know. They didn’t care. They sat dumb and watched as Meatloaf and me approached the prepped doe.

“Okay, Miss, first thing you’re gonna have to do is skin it. Now careful, cause if you do it wrong up by the ankles, the whole damn rest of the body gonna snap off.”

He guided me in making quick slits around the pattern of her white underbelly. Together, man hands over girl fingers, we slipped away her skin to unveil a translucent film over what nestled inside of her: veins and organs and doe bones.

“I wanna keep it all,” I said.

“Squaw,” he said.

We went around and did the same slitting to her back, our hands grueling down through the brown hide until it slid from her. Olive came crawling and scavenged away the fallen bundle of skin.

The meat came from the back, peeled from her spine in thick, long slabs. Pete came, flashlight tight between his teeth, and shook the muscle into plastic zip-lock baggies.

“Here’s a roast,” Meatloaf said and our hands hollowed out a hunk from around the bone of a tied leg and then carved another from the other. “That’s two roasts. Two meals here alone.”

Meatloaf stepped back and rubbed his rough hands through his steel woolen mustache and beard. “Pete, the saw. For the girl.”

Pete handed the hacksaw to the girl and it was heavier in my grip then I had thought it’d be.

Meatloaf pointed and I did. I chiseled through one dangling leg, the hoof limp and light. It fell to the ground and Olive got it. She got the other when it fell too. But when I had gotten through the muscle and throat and bone of the neck, I told her the head was mine.

We got behind her spine for that good meat, the tenderest of all of her. We tossed the organs of her to the pines. A dog howled back at the park. We worked in a rhythm, shoulders bent over and elbows pointing out and heads cocked and every once and a while someone let out a hot and hard exhale cause we were all holding our breath.

Pete whispered to Chassy and Olive about how to tan a hide.

Meatloaf said he oughta take me buck hunting, teach me how to use a gun.

In my pocket, the rock.


I was angry hungry when we got back to the park and so were Olive and Chassy, so I clanged out the grill and Meatloaf got it going. Pete had some classic rock crooning on the radio, kept tapping his boot tip to the tune. Chassy bounced up and down on his knee.

“How long this gonna take?” Olive had thrown her can bag to the dirt and sat on it under the porch light.

“How you want it done?” Meatloaf flipped a slap.

“Rare,” I said.

Moths came to fry against the ultraviolet porch lamp, came to become just flakes of wings, singed things rubbed into dirt beneath our feet. I passed on my bottle of whiskey to Meatloaf who handed it off the Pete who got it stolen by Chassy who offered it back to me, but hell, I’d had enough.

Meatloaf handed me my kill on some old, chipped china. He stuck a fork and knife on it too, but I left them behind on the picnic table. I took a seat on the steps in front of the trailer and rested my back against the cool of aluminum.

We were lit up but the space beyond was as black as the woods. Out there, dogs whined to get let in or to get to me with my meat. I gathered it up with both hands, hands full of hot flesh dripping pink juice. I got into it with my teeth, ripped with my teeth and pulled with my teeth and gnashed with my teeth until the meat was tamed and landed heavy in my stomach. My face was wet with her, but I kept my napkin dry.

Meatloaf kicked up his feet and sawed at his cut. “You’re eating some kinda mess, Miss. You on stork watch or something?”

“Just hungry.”

The bellyaching of the male crooner on the radio got interrupted by white noise and then a woman came to clarity and she spoke like her teeth were bleached, official talk. She went on about a ransom letter made of magazine snippets that’d gotten to Bethany’s parents through the mail. The police were dusting for fingerprints. Cut to the parents. Cut to two noises scrambled over each other, desperate hope. They didn’t know where she was or what kind of state she might be in. They didn’t know if she’d been beat to shit or raped or brainwashed or moved to Mexico. Still, desperate hope in the sound waves that moved through all our bones. Meatloaf and Pete, Chassy and Olive.

Me too, me hunkered over my cleaned and cooked kill.


My trailer park girls brawled into consciousness after I spent a weekend in county jail reading Gone with the Wind. The brass and conviction of Scarlett O'Hara snagged itself in me. I stopped binge drinking and started binge reading. I gorged through Southern literature, particularly the Gothic: McCarthy's Suttree, Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury, O'Connor's All that Rises Must Converge. It was all so relative. There I was; me in their decadent backdrops and in the depraved characters sloshing about such backdrops. But, I've always lived in Ohio. This story came as a response to these works, a means to show the grit of the North. We have trailer parks and angry dogs on chains and angrier girls getting off school buses to stomp through their environment, girls desperate and clawing for some kind of nourishment. Us too, we want to be taken to a place of being okay.