Many people have forgotten the world behind the couch. There are more dreams still about the cracks in the cushions, where many still shove their toes while watching movies, too intent to realize what memories they might be losing with their toenails and their change, or slips of paper with phone numbers on them, ones they must never have meant to call.
The couches themselves have long been collectors of antiques, and some of these things do end up in the world behind the couch. Pawned off for another year spent in our living rooms, in which we do much more dying than living, often on these same couches. Some people stick to the floor realizing its lesser skills at draining. Spill something on the carpet, it’s just going to soak back into socks, stain them slowly red.
“…and god made green food and he made us on the last day before he rested but the story doesn’t say dinosaurs, and we both know you exist Littlefoot. Plus we’re in the great valley, and the valley’s for dinosaurs, so there’s definitely dinosaurs in my story.
“Well, I guess then there were people. And they ate the fruit from the good and bad tree. I guess they weren’t s’posed to know what they were, but that doesn’t make sense ‘cause they knew it was bad to eat from the tree, and they just wanted to know more about everything, so they ate it.”
She doesn’t always get to the great valley in the same way, this little girl. She doesn’t look for the rock that looks like a longneck. She just goes down the stairs, headfirst just like Littlefoot, whenever Mommy isn’t looking. Mommy doesn’t know it, but sometimes she’s Sharp Tooth too. And maybe that’s why this little girl went to look for the scissors, and brought them down the brown-carpeted stairs, squishing silent so Sharp Tooth would never know, and headed to the great valley. She jumped from the bottom of the mountain across red-lava-tiled floor to near safety, a sandy, rocky, carpet beach. Now it’s only the path, the arm of the chair, to climb, and choose the correct couch cushion rock to pass through the entrance. Finally to fresh rolling hills of stuffing poking through in waterfalls, rivulet wrinkles and clover.
“Do you know why we came to the great valley Littlefoot?
“It wasn’t just because there were Sharp Tooths. Sometimes we had to walk a really long time before there was green food. Sometimes the water wasn’t safe. Even the Sharp Tooths were dying. There wasn’t enough anymore.
“How did we know there was going to be a great valley? I really don’t know Littlefoot.
“If we leave the valley we can always get back…
Scissors on fur, brown fluff. Short straight groves. A pause in her humming.
“Littlefoot, we left the Sharp Tooths to die outside the wall.”
“Mommy, did you ever?” She’s grown to dread. Grown to expect to burn on staked questions, wonder how many of her own “what if’s” and “can I’s” and “why’s” her own mother must’ve hated, 25, 35 years ago. Somewhere, before, it seems there was less weight. Maybe it was before her own little girl had almost caught her, too many times at unanswerable things.
“Mommy did you ever cut your initials into their fur?”
“No honey,” lines in her ankles highlighted behind her eyes, slowly staining her socks red, brown. The top bedside drawer she keeps closed and locked, scattered remnants of sharper toys.
Sometimes she thinks a cut Achilles wouldn’t be too bad, but then she thinks of bending over chair backs, retrieving toys to drop back in the box, kneeling down to scrub the space between the stove and the wall, none of these tasks would be improved by a limp.
“Mommy, are you okay?”
“Yes, honey. I’m just thinking about washing the kitchen floor. My socks are sticking to it again.”
“Do you need any help?”
A sigh, thinking of the help she could offer, the ocean the kitchen floor would become.
“You could help me by picking up your toys. Especially any you might’ve left behind the couch.”
“But Littlefoot and me are still playing there. It’s the only place Sharp Tooths can’t come.”
“Are you pretending the dog is Sharp Tooth again?”
“Mo-0m-my. It’s not pretend. Sandy chews on bones and spits them back out just like Sharp Tooth.”
“Just pick up the ones you’re not using then, okay?”
Pick up the limbs you’re not using, saran wrap them for freshness, stick them in the freezer box. Five minutes in the microwave on defrost later, nothing to worry about. Just as good as if they were fresh cut.
Adam and Eve, innocent and naked, as innocent as one can be, naked. Quarreling over the sweetest fruit and whether or not to share, learned of murder when in their battle the apple flew far from their naked squabbling…
—Your dick’s too small, maybe this apple will help it grow
This apple is bigger than your tits and tastier too—
…and smashed into the head of a serpent sunning on a nearby rock.
—Look what we’ve done…
I’ve done nothing—
Knowing then that someday they’d go still too, understanding instantly they could be rid of each other but they didn’t want to be alone.
They turned to what to do with the body. What to do with this limp coil? What would they want done to their own still form, and they couldn’t feel safe throwing the serpent in the river, similar as they may be. What strange and gruesome things might happen to a body tossed out so carelessly into depths they’d never seen? But they wanted it out of their sight, wanted not to think of how still it was, decided if they put it in the ground it would be safe. It wouldn’t be carried to who knows where, maybe the serpent, if it knew it was dead, could rest.
So by the river where it still lay, smashed and bloodied, they began scraping at the ground with rocks, scraping and scraping to move the soil.
Then rock struck rock. Spitting orange in flakes that sparked flesh.
They were frightened. Maybe the serpent was angry. Angry its body still lay on the rock. They vowed to work faster and faster to keep its anger at bay. But the sparking orange kept shooting away, rock striking rock striking rock, until finally it took root in the grass where the serpent once slid. They ran, frightened of the orange leaping anger of the serpent, ran from their trees and fruit they deemed bad for beginning it all.
Behind them, paradise burned.
But maybe here is one little girl, crawling down the stairs with her Littlefoot after Mommy’s door is shut, who doesn’t want to grow up to be a Sharp Tooth. Maybe she doesn’t mind clean socks at the same time as muddy hands and wants to keep all the treasures she’s hidden in the cushions.
Maybe she can make it over the lava every time, never has to fall in.
“I’m sorry about the scissors, Littlefoot,” she whispers, curling in between the lumps of stuffing, around Littlefoot to keep him warm. “Can we just say that a Sharp Tooth got you because you were protecting me while I was asleep until I could wake up and get away?
“ ‘cause if you don’t like the ending to a story Littlefoot, all you have to do is change it.”
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Storm Ainsely (@SAinsely) (she/her/hers) has lived in 9 of the United States and will tell you she’s from fiction-land. Her work has recently appeared in Wild Roof Journal, New Note Poetry, Oakwood, Plumwood Mountain Journal, Trace Fossils Review, and Marrow Magazine. Sacramentum Oblivion Ebook