Even the Sudden Comes in Increments by Shannon McLeod

The crawlers are finding their way into the spaces, which gape from the vibration of dissonance. You fear they will unpeel you to that fat stalk of fraudulence. The crawlers will suckle at the back of your knees. They will buckle you. They’ve already eaten her. She broadcasted static to the world and prayed you’d hear her murmurs. Now she’s buried outside a duplex cathedral. I’m dumbfounded, rearranging her reputation and her sayings splayed out on my shaking fingertips, stretching rays from a palm she once read.

“You’ve got a short life line,” she told you. You forgot how she also said we’re all mirrors. Then come the memories, which feel like epiphanies, of her later isolation.


The crawlers sought out cracks in her callouses. They even decayed the splintered swing set seat. Her daughter sits on it still now, courting a breeze.

“The river’s silt should be dredged,” she had said to the gravel, half engulfed. She’s no longer living at its edge. And the DNR sent a suit; whoever is responsible must personally sift the remnants through his toes. They didn’t know it was the crawlers, whose backs can’t trap debris, only shimmy under skin. They’ve consumed adipose tissue, fat, muscle – they’re making their way to bone marrow. Bending and breaking.

She left journals, didn’t she? So her daughter could know full pages of her mother’s life, and not just the way she left it?


We’re all dumbfounded – stealing her pain and painting our faces with it. There are two times we can see doubtless truth: one is a belly laugh when something is really funny and the other is that split second of silence after loss.

Shannon McLeod is the author of the essay chapbook Pathetic (Etchings Press). Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Tin House Online, Necessary Fiction, Hobart, Joyland, Wigleaf, and Prairie Schooner, among other publications. She teaches high school English in Virginia. You can find Shannon on twitter @OcqueocSAM or on her website at shannon-mcleod.com.

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