Suicidal head case or hardcore thrillseeker? Samuel Sattin will let you decide.
SEAHORSES by Samuel Sattin
Broods was the beacon at the center of Arapahoe Falls, and she couldn’t remember whether it or the neighborhood had been built first, but she did know that it was where the boy would be—where he always was—behind his bazaar of condoms and cigarettes, lottery tickets and chipbags of gold foil, where teenagers were kept and nearly preserved in the trappings of minimum wage. She’d never had the audacity to speak to him, and as she proceeded not to speak her desires grew and grew. She found it funny how uneasy he made her, this creature barely past the age of sixteen—sixteen like she felt, but like she wasn’t, at least on the outside—and after she pulled into pump six, she locked the gas nozzle into her tank and pressed pay inside for an even two dollars.
Above her was a pergola made from local pine with chips in the ceiling. As the gas gurgled through the rubber hose, she looked over her shoulder to the car at pump three, or what she thought was a car, emboldened by the lack of clouds. But the first thing she realized was that this car was not a car, but more of a chariot, a wooden basket resting on a widened brass axel connecting two great wheels together with eight spokes a piece. The wheels were rimmed with the shiniest iron, and a pair of reigns with studded ivory harnessed the withers of white and black horses snorting steam from their snouts to the asphalt. From the back of the chariot dismounted a man with haggard cheeks and sunken eyes, a beard of faded nobility that had sorely yellowed with the years; he was dressed in a himation sewn from soft linen and it moved like mercury at his shoulders and feet. Lifting his chin revealed eyes rife with cataracts, and he turned to allow a woman from the chariot—dark hair over her face, dressed also in a himation, but green and pinned by a whorled fibulae—who descended to the pump and turned her cheek to his shoulder. He looked at her. She looked at him. Then with his hand, he smiled, softly giggled, and began to hit her. She took it with somber determination but Lily screamed and, when she looked again, no one was there but a woman with tattoos pumping 89 into her green civic.
Is everything all right, she asked her. Lily, nodding, fled across the parking lot, lab coat gathering wind, and sailed through the sliding doors of Broods. Without paying much attention she reached for something to buy, shoes, much like those of a nurse, nervous as they scuffled. She decided on a jar of Planters. She carried her future purchase to the Gatorade cooler where she untouseled her curls and streaked her hair over the sides of her chin. She put on lipstick, a little too much, while a man with blond hair and what normally accompanied blond hair, some sort of overpriced fleece and cargo pants, raised his eyebrows as he walked out the door, checking out her polycotton ass. But her interest ebbed from him as she found the boy reading some Manga pulp, some comic strip featuring girls with lace panties.
When he looked up at her, noticed her for the first time as something beyond a customer, Lily felt like she’d reached the shore of Valhalla and with gory desire just stared at him a moment. I pressed pay inside, she said, opening her purse, and the conversation following was lost to her. She remembered they might have exchanged their lucky numbers—she told him that hers was seven, like the atomic number of Nitrogen, and his was four (she informed him of Aristotle’s Efficient Cause), and was so because it was his sister’s birthday. How old is she? Lily asked. She was nine, and had Downs Syndrome, as well as bad bones, and all the while he spoke she watched his mouth, the gumminess of it, the youthful spit. He had kinky teeth, damaged by fluoride. The dearest, darkest skin. There was a mutilated Camel behind his ear and wide basketball shoes on his feet that were bright orange with webbed toesocks and fat laces. As he smiled, Lily felt embarrassed, briefly remembering the face of her husband and the evolution of his skin as it journeyed through middle age, the teeth that, after years, had turned the dirtied-pearl sheen of an abalone shell. She returned to the boy with thoughts of conquest—actually, she felt like knotting him in caution tape, casking his body inside a barrel and then hauling that barrel out to the sea - but instead she said in her politest voice, why don’t you come for a ride, settling herself over his counter.
Her breasts beneath her labcoat seemed to glow, glow so much the boy went instantly erect, and they travelled outside to the four-door Saturn. Why don’t you drive? She told him. It’ll make things more fun. He was only fifteen and complained about a permit, but she said she was technically his guardian if he asked her to be. Then he complained about her age, and the fact that he was too young for her, asked if he was too young for her, that he was fifteen, and not sixteen as she thought, and she told him that she was sixteen too, only one year older than him, and that she’d always be sixteen, for that was the age she wanted to stay for the rest of her life and she’d actually learned how to make that possible. If he wanted to, she told him, she could make him young forever as well, but he didn’t seem to understand her and instead insisted that they get on the road before it got late and his boss returned.
Driving away from the great wheel of Arapahoe Falls onto interstate I-25, Lily took a deep breath, told the boy to slow down and pull into the right lane, where there was less traffic, and slowly undid his pants, unfurling the broad, copper buttons on his jeans where on the inside flaps were colorful printings of seahorses. The teenager gulped, and then laughed a little, and then turned down the radio as she rubbed his penis over his silk boxer shorts and then, with an unmistakable sound of pleasure, engulfed the purple tip of it with her mouth. The boy heaved and grabbed her hair. The sun blazed down through the window over her bobbing back, the two of them like animals in a broken-down piece of furniture, and they sailed under the University Bridge—there was an unexpected pile up, an accident on the Colorado Boulevard exit, and the boy looked up at the roof in dumb pleasure before they eviscerated the backside of an old woman’s Honda. With his pants down he lurched through the window. Lily’s face smashed the gearshift upon impact. She took a gash in the abdomen and woke up in the hospital with her jaw wired shut.
Without hesitating she tore the stitches in her side. She made herself hobble through the levels and squeeze through a fire exit just before the police arrived. She checked to see that the identification she’d been carrying identified her as nobody else but a dead woman from Wyoming named Clarissa Bentley (along with the car) and seeing it was, let out a sigh of relief and found a bathroom in a gas station across the street from Rose Hospital, hoping no one would catch on. There she vaguely dressed her wounds with paper towels and looked at her teeth in the mirror, a sadist’s hard-on, and noticed when she spoke she choked on her tongue, and bought a sweatshirt with the cash from her pocket.
Upon waking up from his concussion, the boy, with his broken arm, nose, and severe head trauma, not only refused to tell the police what happened, but said that all he wanted to know was that she, whoever she was, was alive, and that he’d like her to return to him and finish what they started. Unfortunately, however, Lily knew that the law didn’t cater to upheavals of even the most ancient sorts of romance, and went on vacation to Mikonos for two weeks alone in the summer of 2005.