It’s time. You take the things you want to be. A spoonful of the swamp, thick and green with algae, smelling of a late, hot summer. A wilted magnolia flower, the bee still clinging to the stamens. A pinch of good black earth from the cemetery and a clump of spidery, Spanish moss. The claw of the gator that ate your daddy when you were six, when he was blind drunk and stumbled off the dock, when you woke to screams and rushed out into the darkness and made the monster burst apart like an overripe tomato hitting the floor. (You did that without meaning to, but before it did your daddy any good. You did that with your fear and pain and hot thoughts. Mama told you not to tell anyone, but you kept that claw.) Into the pot everything goes. Moon’s rising, and you know you ain’t got long. Minutes at the most. Minutes left to rethink and even regret. But then you add the last ingredient, uncorking the glass bottle and pouring the blood into the bubbling gumbo. It’s done. It’s ready. You’re ready. You lift the ladle to your lips and gulp down the boiling magic. Feel the power twist and curl through your bones like snakes sliding over hot tar. You throw back your head and smile as the change begins. You are no longer you, no longer a woman, no longer individual. You are the swamp and everything within it. You are a force of nature. You are unstoppable. Your smile is a gator’s smile, and you’re already hungry.