After five years of nothing, my father called and told me that he had shot a Bigfoot dead in his backyard. He asked if I would come identify it because I used to be a park ranger. I had actually been a ticket booth security guard for a state park in Delaware during my gap year after undergrad, but I didn’t correct him. Josh said I should go. I had been planning to bury the hatchet anyway and my father had been making an effort to like my posts on Instagram. Josh offered to come along but I said I should go on my own. Besides, Josh had watched “Harry and the Hendersons” as a four-year-old and it terrified him. He laughed and kissed my head and I thought about his lips against my skin for the five-hour drive.
My father was waiting on the porch with a pitbull I didn’t know he had. Or a pit mix. I couldn’t tell. He came down and opened the car door for me.
“New car?” he asked.
“Only sort of. Josh got it for me three years ago.”
“Oh.” my father said. He eyed a scuffmark just above the passenger door. “How are you?”
“I feel like I drove across three states,” I said.
He laughed. “Did you get shorter?”
I asked if he wanted to show me the dead Bigfoot and he said that we could do it after dinner and showed me to his spare room.
There was a painting of a lake on the wall. In the corner sat a carved stump that was supposed to be a chair. I filled the dresser with the little clothes I brought and tossed my bag under my bed. I hadn’t packed enough. I didn’t know how long I was staying. It felt like I was camping.
My father and his dog were waiting at the bottom of the stairs as if they’d been listening to me unpack.
“Dog’s name is Susan.” Susan’s jaw hung open. She panted, drooled, and shifted back and forth on her feet.
“She doesn’t look like a Susan.” Maybe that was a good sign. If my father could see the dog as a Susan, maybe he could see me as an Amy and not an Andrew.
We ate a store-bought rotisserie chicken. I had forgotten what my father’s cooking even tasted like.
I asked my father if he remembered the Peruvian place we ate at when I was a kid.
“No,” he replied. He had set out silverware for himself, but held the chicken thigh in his fists, stripping the flesh with his teeth.
“They had good chicken.” I fed the rest of mine to Susan.
I did the dishes. I felt like he would expect it of me now and I counted it as a small, patriarchal victory that he let me. After I finished, he stood waiting by the door to the garage. I followed him. Susan didn’t want to join. She stood by the door and growled with a slow rumble.
The Bigfoot was laid out on a big blue tarp. It was lighter than I expected. In the famous video, the one with the weird big boobs and child-like swinging arms, the Bigfoot was gorilla black. This one was moose brown. It also had a penis. I couldn’t see where he shot it. Blood stuck to its body, in clumps of its hair, and pooled on the tarp beneath it.
“That is for sure a Bigfoot.”
My father nodded. “You’ve seen one before?”
“Yes,” I lied.
I said, “In the woods,” and that seemed good enough for him.
My father said he woke up and heard something eating out of his trash. He shot it and saw that it was a Bigfoot.
“Did you ask it to stop eating your trash first?”
“No,” he said as if it had never occurred to him.
I wanted to touch the Bigfoot. My father didn’t stop me. There were sticks and leaves tangled in its blood-matted fur. It smelled like Josh after a run, mixed with copper and earth.
“We should call the police,” I said.
He shook his head.
“You can’t keep it. It probably has diseases in its meat and fur and bones.” Part of me worried that he wanted to eat it. I realized then that the Bigfoot’s eyes were closed, its mouth shut.
“I wonder if it dreamed.” My father’s eyes were closed too.
“Want help getting rid of it?”
He said yes.
My father and I spread another blue tarp over The Bigfoot and tucked it under its legs and arms. The head and feet still poked out. We each grabbed an end and carried it out of the garage like a couch. We had to put it down often to catch our breath. My father would lay the head on the grass gently, but I kept dropping its feet on the ground. I wasn’t as strong as I had been and I sucked air and groaned with each embarrassing thud. Eventually we reached my father’s big, red, rust, muddy pickup, the very same one I that I used in high school to make out with boys in when he wasn’t home. It took forever to load the Bigfoot. My father called for Susan, but she didn’t come. She stood on the porch and barked. I asked if he thought she would be okay and he told me not to worry.
We took the truck down the winding roads and I turned a visor down to cover my eyes from the setting sun. I could hear the Bigfoot shifting around in the back as we turned down a wooded road that may have been a fire lane. I didn’t think my father should be driving there, but he seemed confident and in his space. We stopped several miles in, shortly after the sun had disappeared. We grabbed both ends of the Bigfoot and lowered it to the ground. My father retrieved a headlamp from under his seat. He handed it to me and I felt safer. I had never liked the woods.
“Should we try and bury it?” I asked.
“It’ll be hard with the roots and rocks.”
We decided that Bigfoot probably passed away in the foliage anyway.
I thought it was tough getting the Bigfoot from the garage to the truck but that was nothing compared to hauling it through untamed forest. I tripped and bloodied my ankles. My father stopped, waited, but did not ask if I was okay. I was alright with that. We found a tree that had tipped up and created a hollow of roots, dirt, and moss.
We unraveled the Bigfoot and let his arms unfurl from his sticky chest. My father grabbed the feet, and I cradled the skull as we lowered it. Its body curled into the crater like a napping child. Sweating and bleeding, I listened to the night sounds and my father’s labored breathing. I shone my headlamp toward him. His eyes were closed again. He took my hand in his and wrapped his dirty fingers between mine. I gripped back harder than I thought I would and guided him back to his truck.