The army drones crawl from under my neighbor’s vine,
trailing a slippery streak of silver towards the garden of mine.
Camouflaged against the brick, the heedless foot gambles over the lot,
a miss will squish crunchy goop, like a delicate vase full of snot.
With bucket and glove, I pick, I pluck, and I plunk those
little bastards like dirty love,
but they have eager hearts and fight their way to the rim,
feelers erect and squirming to live.
“I brought at least forty,” I say, knowing they hide like dirty rats.
“Forty snails,” I say again. “That gets me at least the Wright’s cat.”
The hair on my arm bristles at the shake of nearby brush
and faces emerge from the thistle, sneering with malice and such.
Not like pastel fairies, aglow and shimmering,
but muddy, wrinkled, and green-eyed with jolly beards so deceiving.
The gnomes are mean as evil sprites, unless I bring them something nice:
snails, slugs, frogs, and moles or when I’m desperate, koi with tadpoles.
“Cat is 100,” one of them snarls.
“60,” I reply, receding from the yard.
“90,” the red hat one says with a hop, as a snail crests and drops into his greasy chops.
I lift the bucket over my head, as they encircle around me, heart beating dread.
“Doggy, doggy, doggy,” I advise. “What a great idea for Scotty’s Christmas surprise.”
“75,” one with a shovel says.
“45,” I return. Never back down, the gypsy woman said.
“Give us the bucket and we’ll scare the cat,” he tells me with putrid grin.
“50 or I’ll promise you two Doberman.”
The rowdy gang disappears into a thicket of mugwort. An hour later,
a knock at the door reveals something in the dirt.
It's the Wright’s cat, limp as a mink scarf,
poor little Mitsy shouldn’t shit by my car.
With bucket and glove, I scrape, scoop, and skip to the hill,
thorny limbs slashing at my bare heel.
“I brought a cat,” I say, waiting for the shadows to come.
Then, like eagles in the night sky, charcoaled wings flap and drum.
I drop the bucket and back up,
for one touch of those stony talons would bring bad luck.
“Male or female,” one gargoyle hisses at the pail.
“Female of course — not even missing her tail.”
“Which house?” Another asks, spinning a roll of toilet paper to string like rain.
“The bright blue one down the block, still smelling of fresh paint.”
"Bartering in the Hood"
Copyright: © 2011 Erin Cole
Erin Cole has work published both online and in print, but is most proud of her novel, Grave Echoes: A Kate Waters Mystery. She balances her love of writing horror with good deeds, such as treating hitchhikers with respect, paying her taxes, and telling her children the truth about their coloring skills. She blogs regularly at www.erincolelive.blogspot.com