Us on a concrete park bench, my hand in my pocket, until he pulls it out and makes room for his. His hand in my pocket, and his other hand in his own pocket. My hands flounder, in his hair, at my knees, wherever. Fine. I like air against my palms, how it keeps them from sweating. He pushes his fingers around in my pocket until he finds the hole in the lining, and beyond the hole a patch of my thigh—shaved smooth. He presses it with his index, his other index taps against the plastic of his gun.
“You shouldn’t carry that around,” I say.
“It’s fake—just BBs.”
“I know—you shouldn’t anyway.”
He takes his hand from my pocket. No more warm lump. Fine. I like the space and slack I gain in its absence.
The park is littered with shade, is garbage strewn. I’m numb at the middle because my shirt is thin and cropped high because my shorts are also cropped high because I have recently adopted an affinity for the aesthetics of throwback fashion. Today, I’m 80s-inspired.
A squirrel chases another squirrel, their hum-fluff tails shake in agitation until one pins the other and saddles it.
The trick is over so fast he misses it, so I describe it to him because I know how he likes spring for the lumping together of animals.
“I’m going to the pond,” he says. “The ducks are probably doing it, too.”
I go with.
Mallard drakes plow mud-water, nip the necks of the hens. Bullish, handsome, they pull their buoyant bodies onto the tan, feathered hen backs. The struggle and slosh collapses lily pads. We sit in the grass at the edge of the pond, legs stretched straight in front of us, and watch the gray-green-brown feathers slip up against each other with such force a fire could be rubbed into existence and the birds would phoenix.
“What the bitch ducks should do,” he says, “is they should calm the hell down. It’d be easier for everybody.”
He puts his hand overtop mine; he pinches the back of my neck with his teeth and quacks in my ear. I haven’t known him long, but since I have, I’ve learned he is talented—I mean, he is good—at impersonating other animals. As he nips and quacks, I think back a few weeks. Four Saturdays ago he met my mother, barked at her shih-tzu every time her shih-tzu barked at him. He and the dog were practically non-stop. It was funny until he got close and the shih-tzu bit his lip open. He ripped into a growl so low the shih-tzu pissed and shit at the same time.
His hand pinches my chin and he gets close.
“No. But thanks,” I say, point to the pus coming from the scab on his bottom lip.
“So that’s it?” he asks, pushes me sideways—hard—so I topple. My cheek hits ground, hits cold duck shit. “That’s why we can’t screw lately—‘cause of your mom’s asshole dog?”
I sit back up, wipe the shit onto the shoulder of my crop-top, say, “Sure, yah. I’m way grossed out. That’s totally the only reason.”
In my head I can list four other reasons:
A week and a half ago, he gave his ex-girlfriend my phone number because she told him she was ‘in a dark place and needed a girlfriend to get deep with.’ Since then, she’s been picture-messaging me naked shots of him. I can’t tell, are they recent or aren’t they?
When I asked when I was going to meet his family, he said, “They only want to meet the girl I’m gonna marry.”
His tongue has a weird smoothness to it—like clam-fat—not textured enough. It doesn’t feel right.
His breath is soupy.
The gun rattles in his pocket, then out of his pocket, then cocked. And this is my hand slapping at his leg and pinching blood to the surface of his aim-angled arm. I tell him to put it away, but his trigger finger tugs, and the BB launches forward in a straight line—thwack—against the dewy skull of the girl duck. Tiny feathers spit from her crown, waver in the air, skim the water like lost petals.
The doing-it is done.
“You asshole,” I say, “you might’ve killed her.”
I stand, set my legs to move in the direction of the ugly city. It rises up beyond the park’s shag, dull and beige-colored, sits on the bay. The bay’s water is drabbed by the chore of acting mirror for office buildings. I walk and imagine how green the bay used to be, imagine how quiet, too.
“I didn’t mean to hit the thing—I didn’t think I could even. Shit, my aim is tight.”
And he paws himself up off the grass and trips after me—asks me to slow down. But I don’t. I break into a run. He copies me, runs too, so when he yells it comes in bursts: “YOU,” _____ “ARE ALWAYS,” _____ “FREAKING.”
I don’t run as fast as I could run. I run with both hands in my pockets so the seat of my shorts makes my ass firm. I run so he can almost catch up. It’s sad. I feel sad for him. Because he’s so slow and his voice is so big and his hand is so dumb, waving that BB gun all around.
We pass joggers and roller-bladers and dog-walkers. They adjust their headphones, their ear buds, and look on, past us, toward the obscured horizon. No one wants to see him and me up-close. But I guess there’s a guy who glimpses the desperate and wild look of his plastic gun. I guess the guy who glimpses it is stronger than him or built of something sturdier than boy.
Because this is his body slammed belly-down under another, pinned by its mass, by its bulk, by the knuckles of its kneecaps, and the hands hold his hands behind his back. His head is bashed quick against packed dirt and his forehead is cut by a stray fang of clear glass. For a brief moment all breath is spun out of him. And I’ve never seen him this way: speechless, lovable, easy as a doll.
About the AuthorTaira Anderson lives in Seattle, Washington, where she is a fiction editor for Isthmus and volunteers with the Greater Seattle Bureau of Fearless Ideas and Hugo House. She is currently working on a collection of very short stories inspired by the inescapability of American pop music.