Kate Hill Cantrill

The Hills in Pittsburgh Are So Steep They Sometimes Turn To Stairs

Cousin Dave had a snake and Kirsty loved the snake. I can’t remember what sort of snake but I know it was a boy snake and when I shut my eyes and look for it in my head, I see a python, thick as thighs. It was really his friend Downtown’s snake, but he kept it in Cousin Dave’s room and Kirsty was always in there, petting and stroking the big snake. Cousin Dave was called Cousin Dave because he was Markus’s cousin, and we all knew Markus first. Downtown got his name from drinking liquid acid. I can’t tell you how his name and the acid connect; I just know that they do.

Kirsty liked to watch the snake get fed, but I was always telling him, Cousin, don’t let me see the mice you feed that snake; I do not want to see them ever. He called me a prude and I informed him that it made no sense and he just said, Yuh-huh it does. Cousin Dave was sweet like that and jumpy, too, so I usually cleared my throat before walking into his room and asking for some weed or looking for Kirsty. We smoked quite a lot of weed back then; the living room had zero windows, so it was sort of necessary. I drew a window with markers on the wall once, but it wasn’t the same. Everyone liked it, though—Cousin Dave, Downtown, Markus, Kirsty, Nikita, Joel, and Money Cris all said it was a great window; and when we had parties with the punks and the white skinz and the black skinz and that one gay, half-black, half-Jewish skin, everyone made comments about the window. I hung yellow curtains on it and everything. We threw great parties.

Did you know that beer brings out roaches? Well it does. Did you know that drinking a half bottle of liquid peroxide will not kill you or make you pass out, but will probably turn your poo green and too soft to hold in? Truth. Ask Money Cris who crashed with us until he was officially moved in rent-free, and who was prone to moments of such high drama that he made discoveries like that all of the time. Go ahead and ask him. He’s the guy wanting to crash on your sofa who steals your cigarettes and who totes a spider web on his elbow.

Cousin Dave was not real partial to Money Cris. As I said, Cousin Dave was jumpy and Money Cris had a way of storming into situations. Money Cris didn’t like the snake, either, or at least he didn’t like how much hush-hush time Kirsty spent with the snake in Cousin Dave’s room. There was some tension there, all right. Kirsty just said, Shh, and everyone was supposed to look away and keep quiet I guess. When Money Cris got angry, I got scared and said, I hate that snake, and Kirsty said, Don't blame the snake. Shh.

Which was when I made the executive decision to let Kirsty hit rock bottom before I would help her get her shit together. The problem is rock bottom is not always where it seems to be. Sometimes rock bottom might look like a girl with big, quiet eyes who is starting to bulge in the middle, who smokes cigarette after cigarette and holds a restraining order against the supposed baby’s daddy, Money Cris; but sometimes, that is just the false bottom, like the false summit on a mountain, only the mountain is turned upside down and shoved in the ass of earth.

Sometimes the true rock bottom appears late, late at night, so late that it is almost morning, and the girl with the bulging stomach finds some sort of true solace on the floor of the bathroom, shh—her stomach filled with so much chaos, that chaos cracks the egg open and spills it red onto the tiled floor. Sometimes true rock bottom appears in the form of a thick snake curled up in the tub to keep the girl company as she goes and loses everything. And sometimes true rock bottom is only discovered because Cousin Dave really truly loved that snake and wondered where he had slithered off to, and wondered if he was frightened, or sad, or hungry, or just feeling like there is no point left to life—feeling like there is nothing to strive for but down, down, down.

Kate Hill Cantrill’s writing has appeared most recently in Mississippi Review, Quick Fiction, Cake Train, Matchbook, Sleepingfish, The Believer, Wigleaf, and others. She attended the University of Pittsburgh once and lived with a bunch of people, including a boa snake. For the most part, they are all friends again. She curates a reading series for both Bric Arts Media Brooklyn and for Rabbit Hole Studios in Dumbo. She can be reached at Or, for the reading series,

No comments:

Post a Comment