When Lumen Fowler looks back on her childhood, she wouldn’t have guessed she would become a kind suburban wife, a devoted mother. In fact she never thought she would escape her small and peculiar hometown, where at puberty, every resident “breaches” during the full moon. On these nights, adolescents run wild, destroying everything in their path. When We Were Animals is Lumen’s confessional, and below is an excerpt from the haunting and beautiful novel, which goes on sale today.
Do you want to know who I am?
Do you want to know what I do?
I live next door to you with my husband and my child.
I have done such things as would shame the devil, yet I keep my front yard tidy, the trash bins lined up neatly on trash day.
I attend the meetings of the PTA. I offer to bake cookies.
At night, after everyone is asleep, I creep downstairs to the kitchen table and write down my memories. They are the stories I tell myself when I can’t sleep. Like fairy tales—or the mythos
of a lost culture.
I was an excellent student.
I am an excellent member of the community. I never spit, and I always put my waste in the proper receptacles.
Do you know what else I do?
I sometimes walk out into the night. I walk down the middle of the deserted street. Our neighborhood is always silent at this hour—we comprise wholesome families. I feel the chill, as I did not as a girl. Maybe as you get older you grow into new kinds of dis-ease. Maybe death is the ultimate discomfort.
I walk to the park, which is deserted except for four teenagers who scurry away when they see me. The air they leave behind smells of marijuana. On the ground is an empty plastic bag and a box of matches with the name of a bar on it and an illustration of a woman sitting inside a massive martini glass.
The playground equipment is still and skeletal, unhinged as it is at this time of night from the fuss of child life, illuminated by what we used to call a Pheasant Moon.
I am alone. I am in love with my husband and my boy, but I am still alone.
Sometimes you want a hand over your mouth—you want to be hushed. Other times you just want to burn till there’s nothing left.