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Love and Other Wounds

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

Except this ain't Shakespeare and it sure as hell ain't no sonnet.

Love and Other Wounds by Jordan Harper

I love you.

I watch you bleed. I pull back your sweatshirt. I rip the bloody cloth with adrenaline Hulk-hands.  I watch blood bubble from the bullet hole, frothy and too fast. The bullet caught you high and hard where the shoulder meets the neck. The bullet burst out the other side of you and smacked into the liquor store’s wall. You’re a part of the liquor store forever now. Inside it. The way you’re inside me. And now you are bleeding too fast to live. Too fast for us to fix here on this dirty kitchen floor. You need a hospital. I tell you we will get you there.

Rift says no hospital.

We came back to his place after the job went bad. In the yard out back, Rift’s dog barks, the kind of sound that calls up caveman fears from the base of your brain. The dog growls. It whips drool chains around like a biker looking to beat ass. Part pitbull, part cane carso. All killer. So is Rift. He paces. He rubs on an India-ink neck tattoo. He counts blood-stained money. He says no hospital. He says with a bullet wound, doctors got to call the cops in. He says after the doctors sew you up, the cops will make you for the liquor store job in two seconds. He says you’ll give up me and my faggot ass in two more. He says once the cops get to me, me and my faggot ass will flip on Rift faster than a Chinese gymnast. He says after that one clerk went for his piece and plugged you, Rift had to do them both. He painted the cigarette shelf and the boner-pill display with a fresh coat of brains and hair. He says the two cooling bodies turn the job into a capital case for all three of us. He says it’s a death jolt for sure if we take you to the hospital with a gunshot wound. He says if you’re bleeding out, you die to save me and him. Too bad so sad.

I love you.

You can’t talk. You are past talking now. Your eyes, beautiful and fear-wide, beg me. I tell Rift you won’t say anything to the cops. I tell him I know how strong you are. I tell him that you have to go to the hospital. I tell him that I’m taking you and he can kill me if he wants to stop me. I stand up. Rift picks his pistol up from next to the pile of bloody money.

Rift says he’s done fucking around.

One bullet in the head of each the Koreans behind the counter means the Ruger still has four shots. Plenty enough for me and you. He points it at me. He says he’s chopping up one corpse or two tonight, my choice. He says he’ll use our meat to teach the dog to hunger for long pig. Says if I want to be with you so bad, we can mix together in his dog’s ass. Behind him the dog scratches the glass door and shows me his teeth, the back of his throat. It bites the air as an appetizer.  I know I can’t let you die. I know there has to be a way out.

I love you.

I move past him to the glass door. The dog goes epileptic with blood lust. I open the door. Time does me a favor and slows down. I dodge dragon teeth. I get the dog by the collar. I unchain him. I barely control him. My grip won’t last long. I tell Rift to get the car started. I tell him I’m taking you to the hospital. I tell him there won’t be any cops called. Maybe animal control at worst. Because by the time we get to the hospital, there won’t be any bullet wounds left. I aim the dog at you. At your shoulder. Rift gets it.

Rift says oh shit oh shit oh shit.

I set the dog on you. The dog bites down hard. You scream. Of course you do. He resets his bite and gives you a death shake. He grinds the muscle of your shoulder to hamburger. He chews the bullet wound away. When it’s done I rip him off you and thrown him back in the back yard. He smears pink drool against the glass as he scratches at the door. I don’t care. I’m done with him. I lift you. You’ve never been so light. I tell Rift to get the car. We don’t have much time. You’re bleeding so much faster now. He runs to do it. He’s scared of me now. He knows I can do anything. I know it too.

I love you.

Jordan Harper’s short story collection American Death Songs is available now. Follow him @jordan_harper