“You Think Your Luck Is Bad,” by Amy Wright

Sep 29th, 2021 | By | Category: Nonfiction, Prose

For my entire life anytime I complain about anything my mother responds with some newly acquired anecdote about someone who has it harder. I first noticed the pattern in college after I griped about a roommate and she told me about a boy born without hands who had taught himself to paint by holding a paintbrush between his teeth.

No doubt I would be a better person if her responses fostered in me a deep capacity to empathize or seek gratitude in times of struggle. Alas, I fail my mother regularly and feel worse for not being more appreciative when, after all, I do have hands.

Though I have yet to acquire the humility or nobility of character she wants for me, I sometimes manage to get over myself long enough to laugh at my supposed problems. Still, I grumble. When a crisis at work prompted me to phone her, she answered by relaying a fluke so unfortunate I can no longer think of life as antagonistic to me in particular without recalling this creature.

“You think your luck is bad!” My mother opens.

She and my father had just returned from one of the rounds they make every few days to check on mousetraps they set at a recreation area we call The Meadow. Some years before, they had purchased a field on the outskirts of the Jefferson National Forest, in a county once heralded as the Cabbage Capital of the World, and outfitted it with a tiny one-room cabin and mattress loft. The few times I’ve slept there was like being in the hold of a ship with a porthole to the stars. Between camping trips, they use it for storage: hammocks, lounge chairs, picnic quilts, fishing poles, and tools to tend campfires.

Some of the goods inside tempt mice as bedding options, which they chew into fluff and ruin, so Mom stocks two traps with peanut butter—one on the floor by the entrance and another overhead by the stair ladder. She also tries to make the lodging inhospitable to wee brutes by laying out perfumed dryer sheets, but their effectiveness fades with their noxiousness.

On a recent round they found a mouse in a state so accursed he might have been struck by lightning inside a hole in the ground. They missed the scene as it transpired but could infer from its finale that the mouse had gotten his leg snapped in the loft trap—but lived. The dire situation became bleaker as he dragged himself, trap and all, five feet across the bunk floor in hopes of finding something to free himself. A moment of promise entered his scrambling when he heaved his compromised body over the 2×4 that edged the nook and tumbled to the floor below, a fall that would have sprung him loose from the plastic trap if a single odd were in his favor.

Instead, unbeloved by God or man, the mouse landed squarely on the tongue of the second trap and, twice-caught, died.

I took it as a sign. Not that I should stop complaining, as my mother would wish. There was still some comfort in that. No, I took it as a sign so uncanny it seemed a divine order that she should take far greater pity on me, because life is unconscionable.


Amy Wright’s nonfiction debut, Paper Concert: A Conversation in the Round, is forthcoming in August from Sarabande Books. The author of three poetry books, her essays have appeared in Georgia Review, Fourth Genre, Ninth Letter, Brevity, and elsewhere. She has received two Peter Taylor Fellowships to the Kenyon Review Writers Workshop, an Individual Artist Fellowship from the Tennessee Arts Commission, and a fellowship to Virginia Center for the Creative Arts.

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