When the scratching starts at the window screen, I know it is the raccoons, and that their long claws are raking through each screened-in square, drawing holes until their noses can poke through, and I know that they’ll push and push and push until they’re there, in the room with me, and I can picture it even though I’m only six, because I’ve seen my great-uncle feed raccoons in his yard, seen them gobble strawberry shortcake, seen the berries drip red down their chins, seen them scurry off before his Maine Coon— bigger than me— can let loose a hiss, seen them come back for more, late, as my great-uncle clomps clomps clomps to the screen door, his peg leg— a souvenir of polio— draggin against the hardwood floor; and so when the scratching starts, I stand there, in my dad’s old work t-shirt and play with the cement caked on the fabric, and I am very quiet because my little sister is sleeping in the bed next to mine, and I decide I will protect her, so I press my bare feet into the hardwood floors, dig my toes into lines illuminated by moonlight, and when she wakes with the sun, she will not know that I stood there, guarding her, all night, but she will see that I am tired, and when she is older, and when she has stopped talking to me, and when she lives on the other side of the country, I will tell her come visit any time and she’ll shrug and say sure, and I’ll trace the scratches on the screens of my home, try to duct-tape over the holes, and as the tape peels from the metal and flits to the ground, I’ll say it again: anytime.
Selena Langner lives on the prairie with her husband and sixteen chickens. She likes to make things. You can find her work in Roi Fainéant, Cheap Pop and Autofocus, or find her online at selenalangner.com. She’s occasionally on Twitter at @selenalangner
image: Amateur photographer and author Andrea Damic(Sydney, Australia) has words published or forthcoming in 50-Word Stories, Paragraph Planet, The Dribble Drabble Review, 50 Give or Take (Vine Leaves Press) Anthology, Spillwords, The Centifictionist, The Piker Press and elsewhere with her art featuring or forthcoming in Rejection Letters, Door Is A Jar, Fusion Art’s Exhibitions, Welter at the University of Baltimore and elsewhere. You can find her on TW @DamicAndrea or linktr.ee/damicandrea.