The Bogdragger

“I thought they only dragged bogs when they needed to find somethin.” My mind began burstin like some of those pop rocks we always get on the fourth of July. 

My brother leaned in, his friend Slingshot twistin a long strand of brown hair. “Not drag the bog, the bogdragger.” He paused, swatted a buzzin mosquito against his neck and continued, “it’s a thing, not an action. Learn about that shit in English class sometime.”

“Mom says you can’t say that!”

“Shut up with the mom stuff or you can go in and see her, now are you going to listen?” I nodded. “Anyways, they say you hear it first…a squishin and slurpin sound as it pulls its horrible body along.” The sun was just skiddin between the trees and the light made him a weird orange color. Ribbet! I jumped as the croak of a bullfrog filled his pause. I was a little on edge; I walked in when they were talkin about him and all, but now I wanted to know.

“He’s a baby still, scared of frogs. Leave him out of it.” Slingshot broke in, scratchin an already red bug bite on his bare arm. 

“I am not, I wanna know more.” Shane was always tryin to leave me out of things, even though I’m only five years younger than him.

“Alright,” Shane continued. “So, on a night like tonight just after the sun sinks down it begins. You hear that squishin and slurpin like somethin is about to get stuck, but trust me…the bogdragger isn’t gettin stuck. He comes around these parts or one of the other parts of the bog and looks for kids out too late.” 

“Does it ever go after grownups?” My heart was beginnin to beat hard in my chest and I felt like I needed some water. I wasn’t usually out too late, but supper was runnin late and I slipped down here to find Shane.

“Just kids, grownups know enough to stay out of the bog on nights like these. They learned early on like I’m tryin to tell you, but you’re not listenin.”

“Doesn’t it get snapped up by gators or don’t any of the grownups go and try and hunt it down?” I shook my head beginning not to believe them and knowing the story couldn’t be true. 

“See how the sun only has that bit of light left? That’s when the bogdragger knows to start moving. He’s not afraid of gators because he wrestles them dead and chews them up when he can’t get any kids.” Shane showed his teeth with this comment. He already had a few cavities, but nothin like dad. Mine were all still good and mom was proud of me for that.

“Why don’t all the adults put together a party and get a boat and hunt him?” I’d seen parties for big snakes and mean gators and all sorts of other animals, why not the bogdragger? 

“They did once. They took a boat out in the bog, guns and spears in hand. When they heard that sound begin to move closer and closer they looked through the thick fog and couldn’t see anythin. Soon the squishin disappeared and they thought they’d lost him. But you see, he can flatten himself out, change form and slip under boats.”

I held my ears, earmuffs as my parents called it, but could see Shane’s wide eyes and the pop of his mouth with his arms showin the boat flipped. I closed my eyes not wantin to see anythin else and shook my head. There were always weird noises in my room and my mom just yells at Shane, but I wonder if that’s somethin else too. I just wouldn’t go out near the bog after sunset, that would solve the bogdragger problem and maybe keep a light on to keep stuff out of my room. I opened them back up and Shane and Slingshot had these looks like they were done with me. “Told you,” Slingshot muttered. 

“No, tell me more.” The dark was already beginnin to creep in. I squinted out where the fog sat on the water like some sort of blanket. The air was thick, a humid day the rain didn’t help for once. 

“Alright, but one more time and you’re done. We don’t have time for babies.” 

“I promise.” I was still nervous, but he was actually paying attention to me and I needed to know more about this thing. 

“So, you hear that squishin and slurpin. You squint out over the water wantin to see what’s comin, but you don’t see anythin. The sound gets closer and closer and you want to just grab your shit and run.”

“Mom says…” 

“Pat, are you kiddin me? Let me keep going and don’t worry about mom. You’ve already waded into the bog and waitin for him to come. You pull at your feet, but it’s no use. You’re the next set of bones for him to grind between his sharp teeth, the next arms to snap and the next skull to place in his underwater lair.” 

The hair stood on the back of my neck, “I don’t believe you.” It couldn’t be real, I was sure now.

Shane leaned in, “Remember cousin Timmy.” 

“Shane, Timmy died of cancer!” 

“Why did they have a closed coffin? Did you ever visit him in the hospital?” 


“That’s what I thought. Timmy stayed out too late and now his skull is restin at the bottom of that bog. Is yours going to be next?” 

“Shane! Stop scarin me, I can stay with you if I want!” 

“All you have to do is snap a photo,” Slingshot pulled the camera from beside him. 

I gulped, “That’s all?” 

“You’ll be the hero, if you can get a picture to show everyone what the bogdragger looks like.” Shane continued, his eyes now piercin the darkness. 

The squishin and slurpin came like a loud suckin sound.  The hair stood on the back of my neck and I looked out through the fog, but it was hard to see. I put the camera up to my eye, but that made it harder and I put it back down. “Shane?”

“Shhhhhhhhhhhh!” He held a finger to his lips.

A dark form, somethin blurred by fog was out there. I squinted tryin to see the dark against the now dark night, but it was hard. My heart beat harder as it got bigger and bigger. Squish, slurp, squish, slurp, squish, slurp! Closer and closer and I wanted to close my eyes, but forced myself to keep them open for Shane and everyone else who needed that picture. “Shit, what’s that smell!” I looked over at Shane pinching his nose and then it hit me: something rancid, something wet, something stronger than that boggy smell we were all used to. I turned my head back in that direction knowing he must be close. 

“Pat, why don’t you and your brother come in for supper?” I heard her voice break through that night, over the squishing and slurping and our heads turned back towards her call. I looked back and it was a clear black night, no dark form. She must have scared it off. 

As I walked back home, I knew I’d see the beast again with its slurping and squishing, the flattenin under the boat, the crunchin of bones and the breakin of arms. Most of all, I now have the image of hollowed eye sockets where my eyes used to be stuck in my head and knew that it ate children. I was safe for now, goin to supper. I wondered when I’d see it again or if it would creep up after supper and be in my room ready to peel my skin and pick my bones clean like chicken. Maybe I’d get that picture someday, but I wasn’t going to try it today because mom needed me for supper and she worked hard to make it. 

Matt McGuirk

3 Questions for Matt

What was your process for creating this work?

My process always starts with a spark from something around me and I base the story off of that. In this case, I was thinking about swampy stories and conversations with siblings came into my mind, the two ideas mixed and out popped this piece. Once I had the idea, I jotted it down in my notebook that I have with me, a lot of my ideas come to me while driving so I keep it in the truck with me. I do all of my “actual writing” once my wife and daughter fall asleep, so mainly like 8:30pm-midnight. I wrote the “rough” draft in a sitting for this one, as I do for all my stories and poetry, whether the story or poem is less than 50 words or more than 7,000 words. After that draft, I gave it a look (I didn’t change much here) and then let my wife read it for another perspective. Most of the time she likes or loves the pieces, but there have been some she has disliked or even despised, but that’s sort of what you get with writing in general. "The Bogdragger" was one she liked with very little fine-tuning. The last part of my process is taking another look after talking with her about the piece and sending it out. Harpy Hybrid Review was the second magazine I sent this to, so I feel fortunate it found the right home so quickly because that isn't always the case!

What is the significance of the form/genre you chose for this work?

I think the idea of a story inside a story works really well for the mythology issue. I also wanted the reader to consider the source that the information is coming from (an older sibling). The combination of the unreliable narrator, the hearsay and the mythical/haunted nature of the story all play well into the uncertainty of the narrator and reader, which for this time of year works really well.

What is the significance of this work to you?

The piece was a joy to write and really fun to play with the aspects mentioned above (unreliable narrator and haunted nature around the story) but I always think of significance with writing+literature in terms of how the reader might be able to connect to the story. This piece holds a lot in terms of that as well because it's talking about relationships between siblings and also between people and their hometown. The narrator is getting a hazing or initiation of sorts by listening to the story from the older sibling and those milestones/rites of passage as you grow up are things that stick with you.

The piece also asks the reader to question the veracity of the source they are getting information from in general. It's kind of like playing telephone as a kid and seeing where the story goes. You wonder where this story actually started and what the original version looked like because it has probably contorted and twisted many times before reaching the narrator's ears. I'm sure it will hold significance in many other ways to different readers and that's the beauty of writing and reading and the relationships formed between the writer and reader.

Matt McGuirk teaches and laughs at his puns by day and scribbles somewhat coherent words nightly. He lives with his family in New Hampshire. BOTN 2021 nominee with words in Bear Creek Gazette, Daily Drunk Magazine, Maudlin House, Purple Wall Stories, Sledgehammer Lit, Versification and othersTwitter: @McguirkMatthew Instagram: @mcguirk_matthew.

Next (Hide and Seek) >

< Back (In the Beginning (Photography Series))