SHE NEVER planned to kiss the deer hunter. No matter how sweet his talk that morning on the subway to her law office—antlers, smell of musk, dark wet ball of a nose. He asked, did she get a load of Elvis, in the next car, in striped vanilla PJ’s, singing Love Me Tender to eight little boys dressed in navy blue on their way to Catholic school. She said, thanks, but no thanks, Elvis is not my hero—it’s that thing he does with his lip.
She never planned to kiss him, but he tracked her from the sardine can of commuters, through the brightly lit station, up the stairway to the world of asphalt and skyscrapers, neon signs that said, Milk, Just Do It! and, Wouldn’t You Really Rather Drive a Buick?
When they reached her brownstone, she said Beat it. I’ve got a court hearing in an hour and it’s time you took a bath. But he sat on the steps with red ants skitting in and out of the cracked cement, counting the hours, counting the minutes, counting the hangnails on his left hand, especially his thumb and pinky.
At 5:12 p.m. he hummed her a bouquet of polka dot dahlias—two dozen, crimped with aluminum foil. Will you marry me? Will you be my doe? Will you at least share a pineapple pizza from Louie’s on South Street?
Damn it, she said, put down that knife, because he waved one with the other hand, a butcher’s, sopped with blood. So now she kissed him, but all for the taste of copper. And then she fled—the heat of his buckness, sucking the air behind her.
She never planned to kiss the deer hunter. Never planned to jog, sprint, tear as she did past the rat on the garbage can, the tipsies sipping tea on the rooftop, the old man jitterbugging with his cane in the parking lot of the AM/PM.
And when she came to the lake, she stripped, flipped her yellow dotted Swiss onto the sand, then dove into stippled waves, breaststroked through the choke of milfoil, body and head submerged, chest cresting its peacock fire.
Alms for the poor. Alms for the poor. Oxygen please! To get a grip, she recited the knock knock jokes of her youth, that she and her sister slap-happied on Saturday nights—like, knock knock, who’s there? Armageddon. Armageddon who? Armageddon out of here. Or, Knock knock. Who’s there? Yacht. Yacht, who? Yacht a know by now! Or knock knock, who’s there? Butch. Butch who? Butch your little arms around me, will ya? In bed with Velveeta and Triskets.
And when she drifted to the bottom of the murk, she scaled rock and sand, fingers like talons—scratch, scrape, slash, and wished the deer hunter could see her now—ace of all breath holders—skin tinged magenta, baby bubbles somewhere over the rainbow. Face down, crowned. And floating to the top.
Ann Teplick is a Seattle poet, playwright, prose writer, and teaching artist. She works with youth through Writers in the Schools, at Children’s Hospital; Pongo Teen Writing, at Child Study Treatment Center (Washington State psychiatric hospital); and Coyote Central. She’s recently received funding from Artist Trust and Seattle Office of Arts and Cultural Affairs to adapt her young-adult novel, Hey Baby, Wanna Dance? into a full-length play, with upcoming staged readings in the fall of 2013.