The Heaven of Cannibals – New Short Story by Amber Koski

RESTLESS BACKCOUNTRY CANNIBALS

by

Amber Koski

typewriter love

We’d sat at the same 4-way stop sign six times today. The floorboards of Andrew’s car were speckled with fluorescent green chippings from my bored picking, and the white-sky sucked the color out of my face as I looked back at myself in the side-mirror. It was hot but without any true sign of the sun, like I imagine it to be when you stand near the sun in outer space – so bright it’s all white, or in London where they say even the summer’s are grey – hot without the warm hues and blue skies.

If I lifted my leg away from the clingy leather seat again I was sure the seat would come up with it, pancaked to the back of my thigh. There’s nothing to do in Tupelo but sweat, and Andrew and I spent our days conditioning his 4-Runners canyon cracked seats with our personal reserves. Kid’s bounced on soapy wet trampoline tops tanned like fresh-cooked cookie dough and I wondered when we’d become too “mature” for that.

“Let’s make drinks,” he said turning the corner of Peledo and Craw to pass his families duplex again. His mother went away to a retreat in Gatlinburg every summer and came back with Bible verses needlepointed on what might be a throw pillow, a decorative hand towel, a bib for the next baby born in town, and sometimes napkins for special occasions. But somehow wiping your hands on Holy verses seemed sacrilege even to an atheist.  The torn screen door to his house was still open – like we left it, but stood still because the wind decided to leave us to suffocate on days like this.

“And what drink do you know how to make?”

“Hell, sweetie that’s what the Internets for.” Andrew’s upper lip was slick with sweat and one-shade-too-light foundation.

Two traffic lights later we pulled into the Piggly Wiggly praising mankind for the sudden smack of AC.

The cashier gave us an odd look, the kind we were accustomed to, the kind where they just can’t figure what we might be doing together, what we could possibly need one another for. She scanned the bottle of apple flavoring and the bottom-shelf gin, brown bagged them – a ritual to saving the children from sin and its shiny enticing packaging.

“Honey, can I see some I.D.?” Her pupils centered over the bridge of her glasses.

Andrew snaked his bag around his waist and his hand disappeared into it. The sun slid through the storefront blinds just enough to give his glittered eyelids a zirconia effect. I clinched the neck of the bottles in either hand, braced for a ditch and dash. Andrew slid his top and bottom lips against one another then opened them into a smile, lip-gloss stringy in front of his enviable teeth. He was one of the only friends’ post-braces time had been kind to. The cashier’s eyes flicked between he and I spying for guilty glances we might exchange. Andrew’s flat-ironed hair flipped out at the ends. His deep Hollister V-neck exposed his hairless chest and his clear-coated nails shined as he handed her his fake, “23 ma’am,” he said in his usual elevated tone.

We sipped apple martinis – teeth red like the lust brewing in our bodies abundantly seasoned with innocence.

“Tupelo is only enjoyable when you’ve been drinking.”

“Or kissing,” I added.

“Fucking before kissing. You and your romance are drying me up, and summers are for sweating – on top of someone.”

“I just want a girl who wont make me fear her last loves strengths.”

“Christ, take that else where, no girl in Tupelo wants to hear that Hemingway shit.”

We laugh teeth raspberry ripe and clink glasses at spilling speeds.

“I’ve got someone for you.” He picks up his phone and the Blackberry keys tic-tic, followed by a short buzz and one of his sly grins.

_______

I threw my legs over her knees and said, only for tonight will I find Waldo. Her rounded middle edged over her belt, but she carried it well. Selena Waldo, blue Mercedes, the kind of gap between her two front teeth that Vogue lusts after. She was wearing an Old Miss cap making it hard to execute a kiss.

“You’re tipsy as a turvey top,” she said, southern in a way I’d only heard watching Steal Magnolias.

Andrew sat, legs crossed at the knees picking at his cuticles while Davin staggered around him to Natalie Imbruglia’s Torn.

“What sort of party music is this,” Selena said cracking a new Coors open with one hand.

“A queer party, didn’t you know?” I bent down sucking the foam from the top of her can.

“We’ve got the whole queer community under this one roof,” I said.

“How old are you anyhow?” She said titling back to drink.

“Old enough not to know better, but to know how.” I pressed my hip into her belt buckle.

Her left hand felt slick against my thigh, the short hairs on her neck rubbed against my sunburned arm as I hooked around her shoulders steadying myself for a kiss.

I didn’t have a clue about the how.

“Hey, are you dykes gonna do anything or can Davin and I take the bed?” Andrew pulled his hair into a low ponytail, picking at his teeth with the bobbiepin that usually held his bangs.

Mid-lift, my dry glass hits the couch and Selena carries me backwards down the hall.

“No messes, bitches,” Davin shouts.

The springs squeal as she tosses me hay bail style onto the bed. My shoes smack the faux-wood floor in unison and she turns her cap backwards.

“You done shrooms before?” She asks pulling a Ziploc from her pocket. I sit up and hold my hand out. My mouth dries, now soil dusted, and I want nothing but to swallow them whole.

“You’ll feel all right soon, kid.” She flicked her bangs to one side and leaned in to kiss me, the residual taste of earth tossed between our mouths.

Ole Miss hovers from the ceiling. Lips slide down my torso, two in-sync slugs. Metal against my hot palm, clink – open, clink – floor. Weighted to the mattress. Knees like mountains for resting hands. Knees rising, hands skiing down the backside of my two slopes. Sweat that smells sweet, brewed from a different kind of heat. One – free and brisk, torrent. Two – mountains part. Three – indistinguishable, full. One – intricate, braille. The heel of her hand feels slick against my thigh, a stolen mollusk wet from the ocean floor. We lay under the ceiling fan, two hot coals, stoked and coming apart.

black tree