Certain Solitary Creatures: A Triptych by Rebekah Bergman


The animal life here has grown robust: the roaches, the mice, the creatures who are late for work and tunneling underground.

The epidemic is now obesity, and not starvation. The squirrels will not touch acorns and they prefer their pretzels with yellow mustard.

In the old days, it was different.

Hungry pigeons would peck out eyeballs out of sheer necessity. Rats collected cigarette ash to bake bread on sidewalk grates.

This is all true.

Imagine it. You could hear the growling of stomachs from all corners. It sounded like thunder rolling and rolling, from burrow to burrow below.


Once, her father asked if the word “smother” came from the word “mother.” Her mother had answered in silence only.

That was in the old apartment. Now, her parents live separately: smother on the east side, sfather, the west.

She sits in the park, freezing, imaging the city folding in half the long way, the park at its center, how warm she would be, nestled in the middle of everything.

She misses the den, their old couch, which fit all of them snugly. She’d watch TV and they’d watch her. She felt important there. Like a reason for something.


Sidewalk grates are evocative; that erotic footage of a sex symbol fighting her skirt.

Sidewalk grates are the loci of inequality; a man on a cardboard bed, hungry for heat. Behind him, a doorman building with fourteen private balconies.

Sidewalk grates are routine annoyances; a woman gets a heel caught, cuts a toe.

Or else, this:

“On Tuesday,” the newspaper says, “a man fell through this very sidewalk grate.”

There was one witness. “He was large but not enormous,” she says, “It wasn’t weight-related. It could have been anyone. It happened so fast. He didn’t have enough time to scream.”

Rebekah Bergman’s fiction is published or forthcoming in DIAGRAM, Joyland, Hobart, Passages North, and The Masters Review, among other journals. She is at work on a novel. Read more at rebekahbergman.com.

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