Sheena beat Henry with a tease only, but now it came time to terminate…the tease. She had fun. Not like the first time. The first time she teased a man like this she nearly tossed. The power of her sexuality never tested until the tease test. It marked a demarcation between girl and woman, between victim and villain. Now she teased, sometimes beatings sometimes worse, just to watch them clench. She smiled as Henry unclenched. Sheena was not alone in her wonder and fascination with the male of the species. Men puzzled women. Give men what they want and they leave in triumph. Withhold it and they stay in hope. She never knew why this worked but it did.
“Can I offer you a drink? Wine?” asked Sheena.
The relative non sequitur returned Henry from his temporary confusion.
“Yes, do you have Green Eyes Pinot Noir?” asked Henry. I knew she was kidding about the beating all the time. He checked his trousers, first back then front.
“Did you mean to ask, ‘Do you have Pinot Noir, green eyes?’” answered Sheena, still teasing. “No.” she continued seriously, “I don’t drink red wine. It turns my lips blue”.
Is that how you do it?
“In fact, I don’t drink any grape wine. It weakens my inhibitions…”
That is good to know…that she knows of such things.
“But I do have other types of wine. Fruit?”
Each word she spoke, a drop of sweet potion for Henry’s senses. Each gesture made, a motion of entrancement. Sheena excited his thoughts, accelerated them. He recollected walking into the room fully alert. He remembered that distant moment but now his senses raced as she teased, then pleased him with her kind regard. Now, he slowly but consciously gave in to the abandon her potion offered up.
Abruptly, Henry snapped back from his thoughts. Sheena screeched a short sturdy stool across the bare floor. Henry looked preoccupied, so she recruited this three-legged helper to assist in scaling her tall, lean fruitful rack of wine. Taller now, she perused the slender necks. She twisted them with purpose. He listened to the lilt of her indecipherable comments. He wasn’t sure of her whispers’ intentions. Were they for his ears or for his imagination? Sheena continued her murmuring, her mouth sometimes moving close in, her lips changing color as the ambient light diffused upon them.
Is the Princess from Pandora revealing herself unknowingly?
Suddenly, Sheena spoke, “I have a nice raspberry. You surely won’t be feeling any pain…after a couple of pours”.
So are you back to teasing already?
“I have a nice hibiscus. It helps to regulate body temperature”.
Should that be voluntary or mandatory?
“I have a nice prickly pear”.
Sheena interpreted Henry’s choked response to mean ‘Yes, I would like to try them…or rather it’. Sheena grabbed the “Cactus”. Surprised by its color, the rich fluorescent purple spirits evoked romance and nostalgia. She poured…the flow more like nectar than wine. The long stemmed exquisite promised gratification in the purest sense. The Crystal clarity and veiled motives contrasted, as enchantment always presents.
Sheena placed a glass in Henry’s hand. She placed the cork behind her…this bottle’s destiny already determined. Perhaps Henry wished his near future were as obvious.
As Sheena advanced, Henry noticed the current cork in an extra-large, a giant’s wine glass. 750 milliliters, filled with 751 milliliters of normal sized wine-corks. It sat atop this monument to merriment. Knowing that Henry watched her, she straightened and turned like a ballerina, ready to begin her next part. She approached Henry with her stemware held delicately between the thumb and forefinger.
“Enjoy” said Sheena, sitting her glass on the table beside his, then reaching across to pinch him.
“Ouch, what was that?” said Henry, sipping and squirming.
“I wanted to see if you were still breathing”.
The moment of truth came. Sheena took his hand and led him to the shiny middle door, the door closed and between the whips and the sausage. Henry, in stride, said he didn’t think he was up for this. They both stopped. Sheena pulled something out from her somewhere with her left hand. She bent at the waist, reached around, and tucked it into his right pocket.
Looking down at the skin of Sheena’s briefly and slightly exposed lower back, Henry recalled some vulgarity about bad girls ‘bending at the waist’.
“I know you’ll do fine,” whispered Sheena as she straightened.
In the bedroom:
Everything proceeded in a normal, consensual fashion until Henry blacked out. When he came to, nothing was normal or consensual.
Henry awoke from unconsciousness. His eyelids seemed glued together and he heard terrible sounds and he felt wonderful things and he couldn’t move or stop moving. His eyelid muscles pried at their restraints. They stretched a bit and would have admitted light – but there was none. He screamed so that someone somewhere would hear him but sounds of that night in that room drowned out his pleadings. The wonderful and cruel sensations continued. Almost imperceptibly, a warm liquid began to drip down on to his face and began to free his eyelids.
Henry’s eyelids stretched again and cracked the blindfold. He sensed something or someone above him. His distended senses could only guess at what was happening to him. A spinning, alternating light source allowed his vision to focus and his mind to interpolate the scene:
It’s a cat with a rat squirming in it’s mouth and animal blood is dripping on to my face.
Henry blinked and refocused. The terror rose up in his throat even as the rest of his body vibrated with unknown sensation.
Now, it’s a bear with a salmon flailing in its jaws and an ocean of blood is gushing down upon him.
Henry realized that neither of these things was possible and he let the eyes take another look. He saw clearly now and was relieved. It was neither a cat nor a bear. It was Sheena. Sheena held something between her blue lips and gripped it in her ivory teeth and the thing was moving and blood pulsed from it.
It was a beating heart.
The Morning After
A solitary cobweb floated in stealth, moving with the subtle breezes generated by movements of things below. The attachments it formed kept it from escaping. It submitted to contentment in its corner…and existed long because it could go unnoticed. A fragile existence may continue for a long time but it can’t continue forever.
The bright sun reflected off a shiny surface into Henry’s face. Where was he? Eyes sealed shut but he sensed the light. He could not open his eyelids…again. He remembered something about this…was it a dream? At this current moment, Henry felt his arms pinned at his sides and tasted grit in his teeth and the inhaled dust. He was buried alive.
But wait…he could move his head and there was light shining on his eyelids…he was breathing. Yikes, he had heard about this – commercial organ harvesting! The horror of this thought caused him to force his pinned arms from his sides. The hopelessness of this mutilation caused him to cry in futility.
His tears moistened his eyelids. His eyes peeked through the gauze of crusted sand. He was not in a grave. It was a bathtub. Dirt didn’t cover him. Grout and broken tile covered him. He had not lost any organs…except maybe his mind.
Looking to his right he saw a large hole in the tiled wall; a head size hole; a Henry head size hole. How did this happen? He wasn’t bleeding. His didn’t even have a headache. He simultaneously smelled and saw the reason his skull didn’t crack. Thank god for mildew! He must have crashed his hard head into the soft wall and it gave way. Questions remained, but for now, by the nature of the sounds coming from the adjacent room – the bedroom – he had better, exit with extreme haste.
Something slept, something. It should simply be Sheena or Princess Na’vi or whoever she really was, but no human snored like that. No human could make that vibration continuously both in and out. That deep and satiated resonance next door could tell him something about what happened last night but he wasn’t sticking around and ask questions. It was time to go full coward.
Henry climbed out through the bathroom window. Tumbling on to the porch, he regained his feet in one hysterical gymnastic motion and, it seemed, neither foot touched down again until he was pressing one the accelerator. Now that he felt safe, his instincts forced him to look back and up to 8D. He squinted through crusted eyelids to look at the middle window. It was dark and blue and there was no movement. No silhouette projected itself against the sheers. Henry turned away and drove back towards his lonely life.
Watching from the window, a woman stood motionless and immodest and smiling confidently.
After dalliance, sitting in the park – bold
Henry sat on a park bench near nowhere. His intact head still spinning from the night, a night that just ended this morning, a head that must never have been quite intact. Henry reflected. Was this all a dream, a nightmare? Take stock. You don’t have a mark on you. No blood…no stains…of any kind…no signs of struggle. But there is this powder on your clothes. Your presence in that bathtub. Still, he thought, these images swimming in his head must be delusional.
Henry chewed his nails. Yuck! Now disgusted. What’s under my finger nails? More powder? No. It’s yellow, flaky chips. Oh, no! I swallowed that lead paint…and I’ve also got a piece stuck in my teeth.
Henry used a piece of cardboard he found in his back pocket as a sort of floss to remove the paint chip. But this chip wasn’t quite the same as his erstwhile finger food. It was more like…shell? Yuck again, what kind of slimy thing crawled into my sleeping mouth…a SNAIL? Oops. The only other way a person would swallow slime – willingly and joyfully and expensively – is in the form of a French appetizer. Something must have happened…
It’s still a dream…has to be. Paint clips and snail chips could have come from who knows what or where. My unconscious mind worked them into the dream. Henry convinced himself. It was the most obvious or, at least, easiest explanation. He saw himself returning to his safe, unremarkable life, post nightmare. Satisfied, for now, with his shaky assessment, he streched back on the bench, picked up and crossed his left leg on to his right knee and closed his eyes, exhausted.
What now? Discomfort between his legs. Something in my pocket making me uncomfortable. Henry uncrossed and reached his hand into his right pants pocket. His shaky assessment vibrated…then vaporized. Sheena put this in my pocket last night. It was part of the dream. But if I’m holding it, looking at it fully awake, it’s not a dream. He reached into his back pocket to retrieve his floss-er. 8D Pete Street.
Henry stood resolutely. I’m goin’ back in!
Return to Pete Street
Henry caught every light on his rampage back to Pete. He violated every law that got in his way: moving, non-, even warnings. At the swamp, the short cut, the road was closed and he was rerouted back to the main road.
The heat of the day suited him and he left the windows open and the radio off so that he could ruminate. No more nice guy. No more manipulation. He was intent on changing his life. He would not be a fool. He would act boldly, bold no matter what threat emerged. Enough is enough. Bring it on!
The tenements curiously welcomed Henry back. Their cookie cutter arrangement, sweetly allowed him to relax and slow his heart down so that he could boldly go forward where he had fearfully just lef. Henry regained his alertness just in time to realize his vehicle had arrived at – 8D. He swallowed with difficulty and remembered his reflux pill before stepping to the muddy parking lot with resolve.
The impressions under his step were the same but he wasn’t. Same distance, same destination, same dilapidation greeted him but not with the same intimidation. The first apartment would appear familiar and therefore was unseen, as were the next two. Henry stepped on to the forth and final porch, egged on by an inner voice encouraging boldness…but he wasn’t deaf. He was not hearing voices now, he heard voices.
He heard screams… They were doing something to Sheena! Quickly followed by louder screams.
“Leave her alone” Henry sputtered.
The screams grew even louder. They weren’t screams of terror. But someone was doing something to her. That’s all his mind would allow him to conclude…for the moment.
“Open the door. Sheena, are you alright?” Henry pleaded.
That last scream was much louder…and different? But familiar.
Henry boldly stepped forward to…bang on the door? Knock it down if necessary. Before he made contact, the door disappeared and Henry saw a hulking neanderthal head, an undersized white cotton sleeveless chest hair revealing shirt, and a pair of arms the size of legs. Brawny Man? Looks like Brawny Man, the lumberjack, two ply paper towel mascot?
“What are you looking at” said Brawny Man.
“Nice shirt” said Henry. He was petrified and yet he craned his neck looking inside for evidence of Brawny Man’s signature red plaid flannel shirt neatly hanging from a log fixture or axe handle .
The big paper towel mascot lifted a huge-leg-fist menacingly.
Henry boldly closed his eyes and hollered, “Wait, stop!”. In that instant, his mind raced with thoughts but they were not thoughts of death or dismemberment. They were inappropriate thoughts for, at least in this the instance. No, they were weird thoughts, in any instance, about Brawny Man and how he had PC’d over the decades – for the worse. Brawny Man’s clean shaven face with the styled coif was not as manly as the mustachioed, needs a hair cut John Holmes look alike. Henry, however, did concede his approval of Brawny Man’s return to the ‘Virgil’s got his wifebeater on, looks like Helen’s gonna get taught a lesson tonight!’ A-shirt…just before reality hit him.
Instead of being punched out, a jolt to Henry’s right shoulder twisted him sideways. He peeked out of one eye to see that he was still standing, and alone on the 8D porch. Not for long.
Bam! Something rammed Henry from the the back and opposite side, twisting completely around and causing him to fall on his face inside Sheena’s apartment. Fortunately, she had added carpeting since his last visit, yesterday. From a prone position he half raised his head. Just beyond his nose were ten toes, ten painted toenails and two legs, two too white legs. Henry’s gaze crawled up Sheena’s legs halfway, then stopped. There it is…the shirt, Brawny Man’s signature red flannel shirt.
“Sheena, why are you wearing that man’s shirt” asked Henry.
The looked down past her folded arms with a look he had never gotten from her before.
“You’re not Sheena” said Henry.
“Who’s Sheena, A-hole” chorused three different voices in a single volley, including the personage formerly known as Sheena.
“What are you doing here?” asked Henry.
“What are you doing here, A-hole?” came another volley, this time more staggered, nerves tensing, vocals chords taut.
An identical vulgarity, in practiced harmony…they gotta be family. “I…” began Henry.
“Shut-up” came an angry man’s voice.
I know, you A-hole.
“What are you doing here?” said angry man.
In dawned on Henry that someone or something was mistaken and angry man was not going to give Henry’s little dog brain enough time to figure it completely out.
“Look, you’re mistaken. I’m here by accident” explained Henry. Didn’t convince anybody with that one.
Angry man was getting angrier staring at the back of A-hole’s head and A-hole’s head was staring at the thighs of his estranged wife, who was glaring at the couple’s teenage daughter. A Mexican, er, white trash stand off seemed to be congeal as Henry calculated his poor odds of fleeing this scene.
“Oh, sure, it’s an accident,” began angry man sarcastically. “You were just collecting bottle caps in the parking lot and tripped over a dead animal and stumbled into a fourth floor apartment and fell on top of my wife”.
“That’s not what happened” whined Henry.
Simultaneously, the family members rolled their eyes, each with a different take, smirk and vulgarity forming on their individual lips.
“Doesn’t matter” barked Angry man, “Nobody’s leaving today, by mistake, accident or grace”.
That’s an interesting way of putting it.
It dawned on Henry he literally fallen into a hostage situation. Although, he was figuratively in a world of shit, he remembered his almost forgotten vow to be bold. He watched TV. He would negotiate his way out of this situation and, as an after thought, he might save the lives of these fine…a…ladies.
Henry turned on to his back, to face his captor. Woooah daddy. We’ve gone from a paper towel lumberjack to Deliverance. Stop it compose yourself. Think. Get him talking, keep him talking, until we can be rescued.
“That’s an impressive gun” said Henry.
“It’s a revolver” countered Angry Man, never taking his focus off of his wife.
“Of, course. It’s well maintained I can tell by the shine of the plating”.
“It’s never been out of the case” sneered Angry Man, still focused, “I bought for one reason, and this is the occasion”.
This isn’t working. Try some other approach. Henry watched TV and remembered the History Channel’s programs on the JFK assassination. Jack Ruby used a similar revolver to take out Oswald.
“You know Ruby…” started Henry.
“What about my wife” snapped Angry Man, breaking his focus, now leaning in toward Henry.
Angry Man’s wife intervened, “Stop it. I never saw this A-Hole in my life until just this minute”.
Satisfied that his cheating wife’s veracity would suffice, Henry stupidly continued, “Ruby…”.
“Ruby is her whore name” screamed Angry Man.
Ruby, addressing Henry, clarified, “I’m not a whore. I’m a call girl. There’s a difference you know”.
Henry, addressing Angry Man, meekly, “So what is your wife’s given name”.
“Ruby May” Angry Man almost choked as he said her name.
The quiet in the room, permitted by the three now vanquished voices of the adults was punctuated by the resonant sobs of the teenager who had led her father to her mother’s affair. The daughter’s piercing anguish ignited her father once again.
“Alright, ” said Angry Man, “There are four bullets in this revolver. One for Ruby May. One for Jesse Pearl…”
You two should be shot.
Angry Man finished, “…and One for me”.
Henry was confused, “Who’s the other one for?”
Epiphany at Pete Street swamp
Return to Avatar Bar
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