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There was also another weird thing that happened that summer. Before we got our own rooms me and Jacob used to sleep in a bunk bed. I was on top and Jacob was on the bottom. I wanted to be on top because it's cooler, otherwise what's the fucking point of a bunk bed, but later I found out that it's actually better to be on the bottom because if you want to get up to pee in the middle of the night you don't have to climb down this fucking ladder. But then we got our own rooms and after that the room we used to share turned into my room, and me and Jacob's rooms were connected by a bathroom that had two doors. We had pet gerbils that were in a cage on the bathroom counter. We had always had pets there because it had always been our bathroom. One of the gerbils was Jacob's and one of the gerbils was mine. Mine was named Stonewall Jackson after my favorite Civil War general, and Jacob's gerbil was named Puffytail. My gerbil was really cute and fun to play with because he was really active and friendly, but Puffytail was like this fat retard gerbil, he never did anything so he wasn't fun to play with. Like, we would put Stonewall Jackson in this plastic ball we had and he'd run around all over the place. Then we put Puffytail in the plastic ball and he would just sit there. We always had two pets in the cage. One time it was mice and one time it was guinea pigs, but there were always two of them and one was Jacob's and one was mine, and usually my pet was the fun one and Jacob's pet was the fat retard one. This time it was gerbils. None of the pets ever died of old age. For some reason they always got lost or died in bad ways. So one time that summer our family went on vacation. We went on a camping trip to Big Bend. It was really hot and we didn't see a fucking tree the whole time. We were gone for like four days, so right before we left me and Jacob dumped a whole bunch of gerbil food in the gerbils' food bowl and we filled up their water bottle. When we came back, my gerbil, Stonewall Jackson, was in the middle of eating Jacob's gerbil, Puffytail. He had started eating him at the tail and was just working his way up. He had already eaten hAlf of him, up to about his middle, and his gerbil skeleton was sticking out of him and Stonewall Jackson's face was all covered in blood. He didn't stop eating him when we came in either. He was just going like, nip nip nip nip nip. Also, their food bowl was still full. Jacob opened up the top of the gerbil cage and reached in and grabbed my gerbil by his tail. He held up my gerbil dangling by his tail, and my gerbil was just sort of going like, what? Jacob was so fucking mad at him, but he didn't know what to do. He pointed his finger at my gerbil and yelled, "Bad!" and he kept pointing his finger and saying, "Bad, bad, bad!" Our dad cleaned the cage out and got rid of the hAlf-eaten dead gerbil. We still had Stonewall Jackson for a couple days after that, but neither one of us really felt like playing with him anymore. Jacob wanted to punish him, so he took my gerbil and threw him over the backyard fence so he could get eaten by our neighbor's cat. I didn't care, though. I understood that he had to be punished, because justice had to be done. Sometimes the one you think is fucked-up is actually the less fucked-up one. After that we got hamsters.
is a recent graduate of the Iowa Writers Workshop and the recipient of an Iowa Provost’s Fellowship and Michener-Copernicus Award. His fiction and nonfiction has appeared in Harper’s, The New York Times and Conjunctions, among others. He grew up in Colorado and now lives in New York.