Friday, September 19, 2014



      Tight Rope

            I had never picked up a hitchhiker, let alone a pregnant one, and now as we drive outside of the Seattle city limits with the Olympics fading fast over my shoulder, she opens the glove compartment, rooting around with a familiarity that’s both startling and alluring.
            “Hey, what’s this?  You pack a gun?  I didn’t take you for the type.”
            It was actually my father’s pistol.  Dad was always trying to make me more masculine.  He bought me work boots and toolsets even though I am a law clerk and write poetry.
            “You probably shouldn’t play around with that,” I say.
            “You’re kind of a nervous nelly, aren’t you?”
            My fiancé had just called off our engagement.  She claimed I had no pluck.  I had to look up the word, but after I had, I realized she was likely correct.
            This girl, the pregnant one, is maybe twenty.  Maybe.  She wears a plaid shirt unbuttoned too far and she might be wearing a bra but I can’t see anything except skin and valleys, shadows and curves.  Her eyes go wider when she spots me staring.
            “Might want to stay focused on the road there, chief.”
            I have four sisters, tomboys all of them.  I was the youngest, Dad’s only boy.  But we all knew I was a disappointment from the get-go.  Even now, Mother is convinced I’m gay.
            “Seriously, you should put that pistol back.”
            “Pistol.  I like that word.”
            “Yeah, why’s that.”
            “Pistil, stamen.  Like biology.  Like sex.”
            I swallow, louder than I want.
            “You ever do it in a moving car?”
            A croak jumps out of my throat.  “That would be extremely unsafe.”
            “Don’t you ever do anything dangerous, hmm?  You ever lived on the edge?  Even close to it?”
            I want to tell her a fantastic story about me being daring, and borderless but I can’t think of one.  “I used to skinny dip in the neighbor’s pool.”
            “But I’ll bet it was only at night.  And you were alone.  And you probably only did it once, and not for more than a couple of minutes.”
            Had she been there, seen me?
            She drags the snout of the gun between her cleavage, rubbing up and down, doing it slow, in jerky spasmodic movements.  Her breathing has changed, gone deep now, gotten spicy.
            I switch the heater to AC.
            “How far along are you?” I ask just to have something to say.  My mouth is so dry the words feel like hair balls.
            She smooths the gun chamber across her belly, sighing a little.  “Seven months.”
            She nods, her eyes glassy, her mouth parted, lips glossy with sticky saliva webbed like a tightrope between the upper and lower one.
            “I think you’re really handsome.  Hot.”
            “No you don’t.”
            She nods again and the web of saliva pops in two.  “I want to have sex with you.”
            “Are you nuts?”
            “You’re driving me crazy.”
            “I just picked you up.  Ten minutes ago.”
            “I know.  That’s the nutty part about it.”
            It is hard to breathe.  The air’s too thick, as if it’s filled with sawdust or gnats.
            She licks the rim of the gun barrel, her tongue a slithering white worm.
            “Please don’t do that.”
            “You want me to stop?”
            “You do?”
            “I’m trying to drive a motor vehicle.”
            She looks down at my lap.  “That’s not all you’re doing.”
            My eyes start to water.  I hold my breath down the same way you drown someone in a shallow pool.  I’m afraid that I might combust.  My knees knock against the instrument console.  My jaw is flexed so tight I can feel one of my molars is cricking.
            When I look over, I see that she has half the gun inside her mouth, simulating a motion I’ve seen in films.  Or maybe she isn’t simulating.  Maybe she’s getting off.
            She says, “Yes.”  He
r voice is hot and high, perfect.
            She says, “Yes,” again.  One hand steers the pistol in and out and in and out of her mouth while the other hand massage her swollen stomach, the a breast, finding a nipple.
            “Holy hell,” I say.
            I am on the summit Snoqualmie Pass, at the section that always gave me the willies because the road runs right to the edge of a sheer overhang, no guard rail in sight.  I’ve been afraid of heights my whole life, even more so after Dad made me go on a hot air balloon with him at age eight, the to the top of The Space Needle where he goaded me into spitting over the edge.
            The girl is in a trance.  Drool spills down the gun metal, glistening on the trigger, pooling in her the crux of her palm, sliding down her wrist like a foamy slug.
            Her eyes inch up, latched onto mine like a pair of bronze manacles.  My legs twitch.  “Do you want me?”
            I do.  I do.  I want her.  I want her desperately.  I tell so.
            She smiles just before swallowing the gun nearly to the very hilt, gagging, then slowly withdraw it.  I’ve seen snake before, eating whole mice.  I’ve seen other things as well.
            “Do you really want me?”
            “I told you I do.”
            “How much do you want me?”
            “Come on, I’m dying here.”
            “How much?”
            “I’d do anything.”
            “Yes.  Anything.”
            “Prove it.”
            When I look at the instrument panel, I see that I’m pushing ninety.  Out the window the air is vacant except for our vehicle.  I don’t know exactly when I’d driven off the edge of the mountain, but I know that I’m flying now, that there’s no going back, that I’ve finally doing something brave or foolish.


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