Ed Taylor

He and she. The eternal. The infernal. Recipe for lava and smothered landscapes. Bring on the scholars of Pompeii. This pair, their pairness broken and frayed, hissing and spitting like a downed power line. They lie together in bed, the late night weather in the seventies, both in temperature and spirit, the windows open, all but one curtained. In the one is a piece of tree like a neural diagram. The design replicates the memory to which he keeps referring, like a map. She doesn’t know where they are.

He’s talking, she’s crying, he feels like crying. She talks, he sighs, she takes her hair in hand as if it were a handle. She wants to take off her head, leave it on a train to be discovered and defused or to become a chrysanthemum of power, an explosion. She doesn’t care. His head’s a referee dealing cards in a hotel suite, patient, his faith in luck and his hands’ micromuscular movements. He leaks, silently. His eyes are sweating. She weeps, she releases streams as if they’re always circling in her waiting for an opening and here it is. They come out like trains shaking free of tunnels, of engineering and gravity, into the air with speed like fury.

In the dark she hits him, hard, with a fist. On their backs, they are lying next to each other in bed, so to hit him she has to roll toward him. She hits him again, then sits up. He’s still, prone, already turning it into a story, editing; the three of them, the tree, the waters, pain. She hates him for this. She knows what he’s doing. She hates stories. She wants to remove thoughts from her head, wants to be empty, wants to be another species.

She kills him, pulls it out by the roots, the story. The thin clear filament at the story’s center shines in the dark.

Sure, let’s go to sleep now, goodnight dear. Sweet dreams. Don’t let the bedbugs bite.

They have stairs. They go down them, into rising cooler air, the dark wood of the interiors emitting a chill, like yang to the yin of the radiators. Then, sitting on a sofa, in thin night clothes, their skins call to each other like inbred cousins whistling across a holler, stuck to each other, wet with it. They move closer and touch, arms and hands grabbing whatever they can. The kissing is meaningful. A wave carries him. She’s just trying to keep from drowning, holding any piece of him she can reach.

Something happens, and he feels a stirring, a shift, he thinks, in her. She’s tightening her thin memento. If he knew, he’d call it a souvenir.

He will live forever. She will die. The story snaps like wire.

Ed Taylor is the author of Idiogest (BlazeVox Books) and The Rubaiyat of Hazmat (BlazeVox Books). His fiction, poetry, and essays have appeared in a number of U.S. and U.K. publications, most recently in Mississippi Review Online, Southwest Review, North American Review, Willow Springs, Anemone Sidecar, Elimae, and Pif.