Evan and Ashley are in a room together, the kitchen, sitting on the floor, backs to the wall, a pair of very expensive white paintings hanging above them, blowing holes into each other. This is the third time this month they’ve been like this.
The worst part is not the pain or the blood or the clean up afterwards; it is the way she can only tell the truth in tiny bits. She has to scrape away at it. He does. It is that the more layers she throws off at him, the less he can hear her – she sinks into these awful whispers – and that it all has to come to this again. He blows off part of her ear at first, but it is just a nick, so he really takes aim and there goes her nipple.
She doesn’t care. She takes a nice spleeny shot followed with her question, a mumbling why don’t you believe me? It isn’t this but other things that have been wearing through her like water. But it has come to this, again.
I am going to shoot you in the heart, she says. I am going to shoot you in your heart.
The heart and the head, Evan responds, are off limits. Anywhere else is open. Those are the rules. Points his barrel at the hole in her collarbone. There, he says. Then points to where his shoulder used to be and then the hole through his foot that looks like a bad burn, infected black. And there and there, he says, both fair. But this business of shooting my heart. He wipes his brow with the back of his gun hand, brushed with blood, then aims at her head. This is too far. This will kill us.
She shoots him in the knee. Bits of denim and bone fly into the air. Some falls in his hair.
If you want to quit this, we don’t have to do it, he says. He means to say they do not have to let it go this far. And he means it, but she hears differently. She puts her gun back to his heart, and he pleads with her. Why do we do this, he yells. Why are we doing this? Why are you doing this?
I am doing this, she says, because you are the best lover I have ever had.
He stops yelling, takes a moment to compose himself. Finally, It’s ok, he says. My heart spilling out, your brains on the wall. I’m fine.
They level off at each other for a long time, tapping triggers. Eventually she sneezes and then he winks and there is smiling and each pulls just in time.
art by Danny Jock. See Gary Sheppard’s bio here.