The Pull

Kara Vernor

That time my dad took me camping by the Eel River at the Fortuna KOA. As we lay under the stars with the fire dying, he told me people eat spiders in their sleep—hundreds in a lifetime. They crawl toward the smell. “Don’t be a mouth-breather,” he said, and then he rolled over.


That time we flew to Tacoma to visit Grandma. I pressed my cheek to the window, prayed against the turbulence, its sticky grip. Stepping onto the tarmac after, the sky was darker, for the hive of planes above us, I thought, buzzing up there as we drove off, as we kicked a soccer ball in the park, as we waited for grandma’s poodle to pee on weeds. “Dad,” I said unable to see through the clouds, “how much does a plane weigh?”


That time with my dad’s girlfriend and her stack of black cotton candy hair. She set me on a barstool in front of the bathroom mirror and sprayed and bobby-pinned and teased a blond tornado from my head. “Why doesn’t everyone wear her hair like this?” I asked. She said because that old lady died, the one whose hair was home to a black widow. They found the woman dead in her bed, found two tiny punctures on her scalp and an egg sack behind her ear.


That time my dad discovered my tampons under the bathroom sink. He put me in his truck and drove. Didn’t say why or where we were going. When he spoke, out by the Brussels sprout fields, he said, “You need to understand: If you get pregnant, I’ll kill whoever did it to you.” He said, “For every life you add, I’ll take one away. Keep things even.” He turned the truck around and drove to Safeway, picked up some hamburger meat and ice cream.


That time in Big Sur with my boyfriend. Driving a thread of road that stitched the edge of a mountain. Him with that look, his hand dragging up my thigh. He didn’t feel the pull of the ocean below, the slight drift of our car when I looked back. He didn’t thrash in our tent each morning when the same dream spun its reel: the screeching of metal against the guardrail, our Datsun flipping over and cartwheeling down, the slap of the ocean and the slow sucking under, the both of us each millisecond wondering, Am I alive? Am I still alive?

 About the Writer
Split Lip Magazine

Kara Vernor’s fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in PANK, Wigleaf, Hobart (online), The Los Angeles Review, Monkeybicycle, and elsewhere. She co-hosts Get Lit, a monthly reading series in San Francisco’s North Bay.

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