You slip your hands into my feathered body like a surgeon who needs to sell my fluttering heart. Someone clips me in the head with the tip of a tire iron, and in my pain and vertigo I realize it is only a ringed knuckle on the bedroom door. I flop like a netted starling in the sudden straight jacket of your arms. An over-loaded coal barge slides like a slow drunk island into our room. Down from that unmanned mountain of future light comes a family of four, all in two-for-one business suits, including the four-year old, their stern business faces saying, It may just be personal. They swagger like film cowboys with murdered families who know they can burn down anything and still get the girl. The kid has his thumb deep in his belt. Any interference might be taken as impropriety, so I quietly remove my clothes and lie prostrate at your feet. You weep like a broken pipe and mumble the love song I taught you in Swahili as you step over me. The family huddles around you, cooing and now and then nostalgically flicking lint from their spacious lapels. We have real butter in the chopper, they say, and lay you on a stretcher, strapping you down with quality leather belts, the four-year-old sticking out his tongue in concentration as he tugs your bindings tight. They goosestep you out to their helicopter. Cowering beneath the blades, I see your hand brush that man’s as he lifts you. I run to the doors as they shove you on board, braving decapitation by airfoil to show you things that don’t catch your eye. You break from the bindings, a heroic effort, prop yourself up on all fours, turn your beautiful face to me, pull back your lips and say, They’re paying to get these teeth fixed, and that thing about my upper thighs you hate so much. You laugh in a whinnying sort of way and toss your mane. I stand in the bull’s-eye of the landing pad as you sail upward. I love your collar bone, I yell.
Without you I wander through the towering I-beams of the half-built city trying to read a different expression into these giant steel letters. Everywhere is the childhood smell of oxidation and burnt plastic. I try to remember your smell but come up only with alfalfa. My arms break out in a rash. Hay fever is almost as bad as love. I walk to the palm reader’s and cut the line, elbowing past the crones who pet my cheek and whisper about death’s card. I give her all my money and say, The city is speaking to me. What does it mean? Also, do you smell alfalfa? Seven dollars? she says. Not enough. She reaches into my pocket and takes out my pistol. She squeezes it and the thing zips about like a deflating balloon, the woman whipping behind it like a kite tail, bullets slipping into my clothing like an impatient lover’s rough fingers. The psychic’s jilted husband bursts in, arms full of grenades, looking around like a woman come home from the market with too many bundles and no counter space. He is young and tan and tosses the little bombs in the air like confetti. Bankers leap from windows everywhere, soaring away on dark wings, eating their money as fast as they can. The little bombs roll like marbles around the uneven floor, finding their way to my feet, revealing that I am the lowest point in the room. I notice I am standing in a puddle. I consider to what depth hand grenades are waterproof. I notice a single coy staring up at me, its giant lips making the letter ‘o.’ Then the world explodes. I fly skyward, my body riding upward on a bed of evenly spaced shrapnel. I land in twelve even pieces, a crowd gathering, their eyes searching my body like only certain parts of me are on sale. They make clicking noises and nibble my ear lobes, checking my teeth and gums, shoving thermometers diligently into any orifice they can find: I will buy it new clothes! I will feed it steak! I will name it Tabitha! If it does my dirty work, I will love it forever!
Allen Jones is a literature professor presently in Norway. His work has appeared in Moss Trill, Slipstream, Bird’s Thumb, Whale Road Review, Pilgrimage, Third Wednesday, The Deus Loci and the Lyrical Landscape, The Bitter Oleander, Fiction Southeast, The Louisiana Review, GSU Review award edition, The Southern Anthology: Louisiana, Ekleksographia, Two Hawks, The American Journal of Nursing, Flaming Arrows, Korea Lit, Maudlin House, and various other journals.