Mimi had a pet raccoon. That lived in a wooden cage outside by the outhouse. Its name was Coonie. I would feed it elderberries and sing it songs that I learned in music class. I thought Coonie liked my voice and maybe it would soothe him and make him feel less imprisoned. I would sit there on a milk crate and stare at Coonie, blow on grass and pick at mosquito bite scabs, and stare at him. Hoping that maybe he knew I cared about him. He would scurry around in his tiny cage and grasp the wiring with his little hands and look at me with those sad eyes. Then I would throw him a worm that I picked and he would eat it with desperation. I felt he was miserable and lonely like no one understood him. I would think of ways for Coonie to escape. Like maybe I could unlatch the cage and say that I fell on it while running or that a rock hit the door latch and Coonie just ran out. I was afraid to do that though, because every time I told stories, Mimi knew—she said that my face would change and that I couldn’t tell a lie to save me.
One night after scratching Mimi’s back and watching her Elvis clock slowly tick away, I got the flashlight to go out to the outhouse to pee. I could feel the dewy grass and the nightcrawlers moving under my bare feet. I liked the way it felt—it made me run faster, like a cheetah. I got to the outhouse that smelled like poop. I sat down and worried that something might grab me, like maybe the crypt keeper would. Mimi said if I’m good and scratch her back extra-long that I could watch Tales from the Crypt. I could hear my pee trickling down the hole. I flashed the flashlight down there and there was nothing but poop and toilet paper. Then I jumped because I heard something scratch at the side of outhouse. I thought maybe it was the crypt keeper and he was here to take me to hell for not scratching Mimi’s back long and good enough. I pulled my underwear up and let my nightgown fall to my ankles. I could hear the scratching on the side of the outhouse. I turned off the flashlight. My heart was running like a racehorse. I said to my brain its nothing, it’s not the crypt keeper. You’re fast and brave like a cheetah. I counted to three and unlatched the outhouse door. I leaped out fast and flashed my light towards the crypt keeper. There was Coonie running back from me and he looked up and his eyes were not sad. He stopped and sat there looking at me. I said, “Coonie, you're out. Run. You're free. Run Coonie.” He looked at me with his calm eyes and said bye and ran off into the cornfield. I waved and felt sad, like maybe I should run free too.
Vessa Yankevich was a 9 year Pittsburgh resident but then decided to move away to get a graduate degree in Social Work and follow her dreams of becoming a therapist. She now resides in Youngstown, Ohio and works as a family therapist. When she isn't busy helping families you can find skating away with her roller derby team or at a local bar in town or hiding away in her small apartment listening to records, writing, reading, knitting, cuddling with her cat or sleeping. Vessa is a true serial hobbyist and has a serious passion for writing and storytelling. Her biggest dream is to live in a cabin in the mountains and write a novel about her sorrows and adventures growing up in rural PA as a foster child.