Grief by Bill Ratner

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Narrated by Bill Ratner


Grief by Bill Ratner
Illustration by Sue Babcock

After Matthew Dickman

When you see it up ahead in the road standing there, looking right at you—a wild buffalo dead ahead—you’re going to want to floor it, pedal to the metal. But in the opposite lane a semi’s coming at you, so about your only hope is speed/swerve/evade.

As soon as you careen toward the shoulder, that buffalo, all wooly, wiry, mournful, and huge, with hooves that could crush you to oatmeal, blocks your path. So brake. Hard. Pull over. Stop already.

That creature in front of you is a survivor. Remember Buffalo Bill Cody and the Wild West Show? Bill personally skinned more of those poor old beasts than crows grow tailfeathers. And now she’s looking right at you.

Even with your car doors locked and your windows rolled up, you can hear her labored breath. This is better than a unicorn. Certainly bigger.

Get out of the car, go over and pet her. Don’t stand behind her. She’ll do what a bronco does—kick your ass from here to Kalamazoo. Give her a little scratch behind the ears. She’s a mammal. They like that.

Talk to her. Say something, like, Wow, I’ve never seen one of you up close like this, or, Hey, as a kid you were on my cowboy-themed wallpaper. You were always there.

Now if she up and shits or moseys back onto the prairie, consider it a visitation. Call after her, Good to finally meet you, or, Stay in touch?

I can’t make any promises. This might never happen. She’s been through a lot. They stripped all those hides and left her kind to die.

But take a drive. You’ve been on a treasure hunt before. Maybe you’ll get lucky.


BIO: Bill Ratner is a Poets & Writers Readings & Workshops Grant recipient. His forthcoming poetry chapbook is being published by Finishing Line Press in May, 2021. Bill’s readings are featured on National Public Radio’s Good Food, The Business, and KCRW’s Strangers. He is a 9-time winner of The Moth Story Slams. His poems, essays, and stories are published in The Chiron Review, The Baltimore Review, Rattle Magazine’s Rattlecast, Star*Line, Pleiades, Missouri Review Audio, and other journals. Bill earns his living as a voice actor. Info at: • @billratner