She waits in the half-light—where else?—for him to bring his catch: four raccoon, two badger, one coyote with sagging teets, blood always there in memory, darker as in old photographs, the sepia tint turning on her muzzle. The girl’s mother, half shadow, half light, tired even in photographs, tired even in memory, down on all fours, slicks the hardwood floors to shine. The girl leans into the window’s frost, clears a space in her mind, thinks of an orange slice on her tongue, clears a space with her breath, watches him spin raccoons end on end from the hay mound.
The badger follows—what else to do?—through light, an arc, flat tail fanning out like the rose petals the spinster aunts reach for in their dreams. The mother, up from bent knee, dark hair on pale cheek, holds out the cotton. The inside is embroidered, blue, yellow, green, traditional, bright; the outside, white, pale, the bodice too tight, and the mother spreads it through her hands like her mother before, like duty—what else?—like love, puts down the sewing sash, to unveil the veil, to thread mothers of pearl through small loops.
Hard to manage alone, she says, and holds the dress out for the girl. The coyote’s leg bears the snare’s ring, juts up at a right angle, points off to the photograph, the shadow, the blood, the orange slice, the what might be.
He comes for them in the first light. She steps in.