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by Nellie Graham

olverine's my unborn baby. He rides in me, a nightmare growling from my belly. He's fierce. He leaps out and grabs for strangers. He can snatch up worms for a snack, tear the yipping dog from a neighbor child's arms, rip a man limb from limb, blood flashing on his white white teeth. I look down and there he is. I look down and he's pretending to sleep.

Kathryn asked me at school how he got there. We were in the library looking at magazines when I spotted his portrait and pointed him out to her. All sly-voiced, she asked me how he got in my belly. I said, loud, so everyone stared, "Little girl, if you don't know I'm not telling you. Ask your mom how unborn babies get made." She blushed and slapped me then stalked away. That afternoon in Geography wolverine took scissors to the back of her red dress and cut it to flames. Her white white skin was showing and wolverine licked it. He would have bit her but she ran to tell the teacher and the teacher phoned Dad and now I'm in the basement again all night.

I hear the damp walls dripping. They swell with rain and fungus and snails and wolverine's pissy dreams, wet and rotten and glowing in the dark. When Dad leaves for work in the morning and we get out, wolverine and I will take a shower to steam the night's cold off our skin and boy then wolverine will be hot and luscious and ready for trouble.

Wolverine has been thinking about how to unlock the basement door or maybe scratch his way through. My nails bleed, but wolverine has claws. I know he does because last week when Tommy grabbed for my tits wolverine clawed his arm to the bone, and we were in trouble then. It was basement time. Basement and belt until wolverine leapt up snapping at Dad, his teeth just inches from Dad's face like scissors on a red dress, cutting the air to ribbons and fire. Right in front of Dad's face until he went upstairs for his beer and t.v.

Wolverine has bright black eyes. They shine in the dark like a flashlight, but they're fleshlight. Sometimes when Dad comes down the basement stairs in the middle of the night wolverine will flash those eyes at him and Dad will go right back upstairs. But tonight when Dad comes down wolverine's asleep and his eyes are shut and there's nothing to make Dad go back upstairs until he's done and putting that ugly old blind worm away and latching his belt.

And wolverine wakes in the morning ready to tear daylight out of the world and there it is creeping in through the dirty window. We catch fire till we're black lightning, teeth and claws against the glass. And then we burst through it. Out into the white white air.

© Neile Graham