Sherman Larson has eighty-seven bear traps buried in his front yard. Every few weeks he changes them–different patterns for different moods.

Pensive: Neat rows exactly a foot apart. Carefully measured to promote tranquility. Balanced. Zen.

Anxious: Haphazard clumps. Only some are set to activate, their mouths held open in silent screams. The rest keep their mouths shut.

Grieved: As close to porch as possible, layered almost one on top of the other. Protection against the cancer that reduced the woman he both feared and worshiped into a hollow husk.
This week: Zen.

Sherman rises from his twin bed and stretches. His tan arms, brushed with almost imperceivably light red hairs, are thin, but toned. He keeps in shape by cutting firewood and the thirty-seven pushups he does every afternoon after lunch. It is important to stay healthy.

He takes a deep breath, filling and filling, until the pressure hurts. He allows it to linger. This pushes the black Bugs away from his lungs. As long as he’s lived, so have they. Crawling inside of his chest, wiggling through his liver, in and out of the thick valves in his heart. He tried to dig them out, once. On that night, they burrowed deep into his core, past his organs, into his blood, infusing themselves in every platelet and cell. His only achievement was a bright red stain on the floor and a trip to the hospital. The doctors kept him under observation for seventy-two hours. They did not understand that he dug the carving knife into his chest, not to die, but to allow himself to keep living.

Bedroom: Fifteen steps from bed to doorway. Sherman avoids the landmine concealed under the grey-green carpet. A faded red flannel shirt, four white socks, and pair of light blue boxers cover the lump the mine creates. They are the only pieces of clothing on the floor. They have never been worn.

Hallway: Eight steps to the bathroom. He walks along the left side, one foot carefully placed in front of the other. This avoids the small pressure plates laid into the floorboards. If pressed, an electrical current triggers the arrows hidden in family photos lining the right wall. The photos are all share the same dark brown wooden frame. They are not of his family.

He does not remember when he started booby-trapping the inner rooms of his house. He just knows it is needed. Just as the Bugs have always been there, so has the feeling of looming, imposing dread. That something was watching him, waiting for him to let down his guard. Waiting to strike. The bear traps outside, the landmines indoors, all were necessary to keep it at bay.

Bathroom: Two steps into the doorway. He ignores the light switch on the wall. It is rewired to create an electric shock if touched. Sherman instead flicks the small metal lever on the side of the vanity mirror. Stepping out of his white Jockeys, he turns the hot water nozzle in the tub, not bothering with the cold. He steps into the stream, closing the dark green curtain around him.

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Jenna Swisher

Jenna Swisher wanted to be an Astronaut when she grew up. Instead she got a Bachelor’s degree in Forensics and a job in tech support, because life is funny that way. Her work has been featured in Chatham University’s literary magazine, Minor Bird, as well as Daikaijuzine, The Battered Suitcase, Argot Magazine, and Beyond Imagination. She lives in Pittsburgh with her boyfriend and their five cats. 

Contributions by Jenna Swisher