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Practicing

by Matthew Anderson

 

Below the house, the pest control man inspected the crawl space for termites. Crawling along the cinder block perimeter of the wall, he looked for signs of termite tubes. The little mud highways they build as they chew through the insides of houses. He crawled on his belly, following the beam of his headlamp. He turned his head one way, then the other, waving his circle of light across the bricks. He has found many things in crawl spaces. A rusted knife. Dog collars. Scared and coiled snakes. But most often what he found was death. Stiff rats and stinking opossums teeming with maggots. He often wondered about how painful their deaths were, often imagined his own bones giving way, shattering inside of him from the impact of a car, like so many small frail creatures. He orbited death like a lonesome moth transfixed by a lightbulb. He spoke nothing of it to anyone. He spoke little about anything. But he felt a peculiar peace when deep inside of cool, quiet crawl spaces. Sometimes, after finishing a termite inspection, instead of going home to her unwavering disappointment in him, he would turn over to lie on his back and perform his only ritual. He would let his gloved hands flex in the dirt and feel the cold of the ground slowly leaching his heat. He would turn off his headlamp and stare up into the blackness that had just been the floorboards above. He would let his eyes adjust to the deepest dark, a soothing blindness. He would set his hands atop one another on his stomach and close his eyes. He would lie in the dirt as still as stone, and imagine never seeing such a world again.

 

Matthew Anderson is a Southerner living in Portland, OR with his fiance and two Sphynx cats. He experiments with prose poetry and non-fiction and is currently working on a memoir. His work can be found at medium.com/@matthewdavisanderson and he can be found on Instagram @yerboymatthew.

 

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I actually was a pest control man myself. I spent many long hours crawling around and squeezing myself through tight spaces under houses. There is a true strangeness to crawl spaces. I’ve had rats and frogs run across me, seen black mold cover entire floors, and once found a dirty old crack pipe. Yet I did become quite comfortable in them, and I would sometimes turn off my light and take a quick 20 minute nap in the dirt. I have definitely slept beneath the goings-on of many people in their houses in Charlotte, NC. I would never do that job again, but it was a unique experience that I still ponder from time to time.

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