I found this story while browsing the website of Corium Magazine, an online magazine that “publishes stories and poems with substance and connection. Words that touch on nerves and stay. Make us feel something.”
Robert Kloss’s “The Souls of Alligators” definitely lingers beneath the surface of the mind. I had to read it several times to understand quite what was going on, and with this story, you never quite get the feeling of claustrophobia out from under your skin.
There are quite a few things about this story that stuck out to me, the first of which being the use of second-person narration. Personally I find second person a challenge to read and to write, but Kloss has mastered it here. I noticed its use in the beginning, and then promptly forgot about it as the story took over–it didn’t create any distractions.
The descriptions are also well-crafted and visceral. I love the way Kloss uses sensory details as a device, as seen in this paragraph here:
And then you were before your father in his bed, the door closed behind you. He wore no shirt, your father, emaciated and pale, the pathetic curve of his ribs, the tufts of white hair, the throbbing of what must have been his heart, that faint pulse beneath the almost translucent flesh, the beads of sweat. You opened your mouth and perhaps no sound emerged. You did you not hug him nor did you smile upon him. His face as if collapsed, half his mouth slumped, the other half spitting and struggling to work. Finally he said what you believed was your name, overwhelmed by the noises outside, the cries of carrion birds, the workers on their skiffs, grunting, calling out, as they hefted the dead weight of alligators onto docks, into the backs of wagons.
The long, run-on sentences add to that overall claustrophobic feeling throughout the story. And there is the overarching image of alligators that persists throughout the narrative that sticks under your skin, gets into the crevices of your mind.
This story keeps cropping up on the outside of my thoughts. Go read it–you won’t regret the decision.