What’s worth happening happens in deep woods. Or so my daughter tells me. 

Her plotlines: In the deep woods someone is chasing, someone else is getting hacked. Hatchets are lifted, brought downdowndown. Men stutter blood onto snow. A cast of animals—some local, some outlandish—show up to feast on the bits. “The bitty bits,” she’ll say, “the tasty remainderings.” Good luck diverting her. Good luck correcting or getting a word in once she gets going. It’s gruesome, but this type of storytelling, I’ve been assured, is perfectly normal among children her age.

I have a fat stack of books concerned with the inner lives of little girls. I have glossy pamphlets, full-color articles I’ve taken from waiting rooms. Her stories may be distasteful, but my daughter is happiest describing dark-spattered worlds. Routine is what’s important, all the experts agree. Stability. So tonight is the same. “Woods it is,” I say when she takes me by the wrist.

I’m the first to admit it—I tune her out. I know there are foxes in her stories—I know there are men. She misses the dogs, maybe. She misses her father. She’s an excitable kid, prone to rushed speech. Truthfully, she spits. I’m told this mess is evidence of a rich mind. Doctors say it, teachers. My girl has strands of dazzling beads hidden in that throat. She pulls them up from somewhere rich, way in the back.

The tent she’s fashioned is small and drab, a sagging thing posted by a pair of bar stools. Soiled, pulled straight from our beds, these drooping sheets are my daughter and myself layered, fitted and flat. She scurries inside, whistles for me.

I bunch up and crawl through, hem in hand, nude hose flashing, nude pumps kicked off. The air inside is damp, trapped and sharp from her socked feet. My cheap and not-cheap perfumes mix and float.