The Masters Review Blog

May 29

New Voices: “The Tail” by Kailyn McCord

Kailyn McCord’s wonderfully creepy “The Tail” begins as any good horror begins: with a seemingly innocuous, if slightly unsettling, discovery. “At the corner of our country parcel, where the driveway meets the street, my husband and I found a tail.” What follows cannot be explained by any conventional means, but her husband is certain the woman who lives across from them, le envou, is responsible. Enmesh yourself in “The Tail” below!

The woods behind our house are private woods. We do not own them, but someone does. We walk in them, long walks full of silent minutes in which my husband and I experience our own, separate peace. The morning after we found the tail, this several months after we found the cairn—which of course we had forgotten about, had not as we’d said bothered to speak with the neighbor woman—the woods sang with the steady hush of some far-off din. We had long theorized it was the ocean, or else the wind across a higher ridge line we could not see. It was not, as we’d first thought when we’d bought the parcel, traffic. Traffic was a city concern. When the sound rose, we would often stop and listen to it, straining to distinguish it enough to give it a name. Sometimes we held our breath, although this always seemed to make things harder, the steady, deafening pump of blood.

At the corner of our country parcel, where the driveway meets the street, my husband and I found a tail. Or, I found it, and showed him, and that was how things began.

We arrived at dusk. The tail hung on the edge of the trash box, which was square and rotting and had been an aspect of the property we ignored save for its function as marker, as the first built thing to signal the place as ours. The box listed—still lists—against a power pole, and lettered down the pole’s wooden length in fuzzy, faded paint was the acronym USA. Not a reference to the country, but some code, of meaning only to the company men who serviced the lines, indicating where to cut, or what they might find if they did. We had never considered the letters, or very much the bin; we used a service for our trash, women who came and disappeared it from the corner of the garage. We paid the power bill. The lights stayed on.

But anyhow, the tail. That day as every day, the bin stood sad and a little disgusting in its dusklight silhouette, the top adorned with what from far away we thought was a flag, what on closer exam proved to be a fluttering black and white spindle of hair. The driveway beyond stretched up into the property, willows on its border obscuring the house, the length of its crumbling macadam edge crowded with abalone shells. A pretty scene, all in the budding moonlight.

We’d been many hours driving, winding the passes, my husband’s face taut and flushed from concentrating too long on that which he could not well see. He hated driving at transitional times of day, or in dappled sunlight, hated when there was no clear adjustment he could make to see the world sharply. He slowed the truck. At the passenger’s side, just beyond the glass, the soft taper of the tail’s end hung past the box lid, into the empty air. I rolled down the window. An acrid odor swelled into the cab. I reached out.

“Don’t,” he said.


“Don’t touch it.”

“It’s just a skunk,” I said.

“Someone left us a skunk?”

“Well no,” I said, “the tail.”

A breeze blew through the black spindle, ruffled its hairs.

To continue reading “The Tail” click here.

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