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Roger Leatherwood
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poisonthatfeedus.jpg
Art by Betty Rocksteady 2015

THE POISON THAT FEEDS US, THE CHAOS THAT COMFORTS US,

THE DAMAGE BY WHICH WE BLANKET OUR EYES

 

Roger Leatherwood      

 

 

1.

 

She never should have been called Quenivere, because everyone she met, every teacher who called her name in class, every boy who wanted to take her away smiled and placed her in a box of their own imagination, and strived to rescue her from some dark and moldy past or high castle of her secret past. 

They nodded and said "one day you would find your knight," and that she would be taken from the claws of her own misfortune.

They were wrong. Quenivere shook her head and tightened her tresses, laced up her Ariat field boots. Closed her book and did not let them see the spine. There was no miserly dread in her younger days. Her adolescence was clean and unsullied by figures of evil. Stepfathers and in-laws were not the ogres of her virgin nightmares. The figures of evil she brought into her own life. She pursued them.

They were a reality of her now and of her secret nighttime desires.

The boy whom she loved was named Rohanan, and he hit her when he had a drink. He worked in the aging Laclede Steel Building, converted to manufacturing cardboard boxes in stacks 100 yards tall, printed with foreign characters and names from far-off lands.

After the shift Rohanan went to the One-Armed Champion Bar downtown by the old Alton Bottle Works and flirted with the waitresses, all three older than him, in their early 30s at least, one blonde, one redhead, and one a brunette. 

Quenivere wouldn't go home until late hoping he would call her, then have to finally start dinner for her mother and sister, endlessly distracted if he did call, worried about how he sounded, and did he want to see her later? Or if he didn't call —why not, why wasn't he around anymore; was he with someone else?

She loved Rohanan with all her heart, the cutest boy she ever met, with a steady job and he didn't even wear eyeglasses.

 

2. 

 

Rohanan was a Sanskrit name meaning "sandlewood," or rough sand.  Something like that. Rohanan hated the small hovel he grew up in, he hated the bed he had to share with his older sister, Auronia. He hated the feeling of her butt pushing against him when he was trying to sleep, her nudging him out of his space in the middle of the night while she pretended to not wake up.

He hated her smell.

He would go on long walks on weekends, journeys into the dark jungles of the district by the river, and he would lay alone in the tall black grass along the rebar and the concrete berms. He would smoke the magic pipe and learn how to be a man, taking lessons from the elder wizards who lived down there now, bearded and ejected from the stone factories when the economy had cast a black shadow over the steel belt of Illinois like a dragon circling overhead, blocking the sun from the potions of Spring.

And Rohanan grew horns and acquired new skills and was able to walk like a warrior amid the kingdom of Laclede Steel, and if anyone gave him shit he returned it threefold.

 

3.

 

Quenivere climbed out of her back window, on the ground floor since the house her mother lived in was just a one-storey, with posies, their previous abode a casualty of the black season of their abandonment. She crossed the fingergrass and jumped the chainlink fence that led to the asphalt alley and she walked to the main market square.

There were darker bars, with more tourists up from and circling the convention center. There were no working class like the ones that Rohanan and his friends from the garage would go into. 

Quenivere sat in the back at the end of the bar, nursing wine poured into a tumbler cut from thick glass. The strangers would nod and say a couple words to discover if she was alone or awaiting some companion, and she follow them into the back hall and hold men she didn't know in her mouth. 

They finished in splashes of lust, the expression of uncontrollable sensation that she herself had elicited from their loins.

 

4.

 

In the light of the waning crescent moon, Rohanan snuck into the steel building through the loading dock below the ramps, which were always open in a matrix of pipes and sharp-edged branches of metal, laying a perforated maze of shadow upon the ground. 

He crawled along the pulley gutters and got the bottom of his shoes black with axle grease of the wire cables that ran deep in the walls.

He snuck through alone in the dark. The floor was lit by florescent needles piercing through the catwalks, and by caged lights over every stone opening.  Eventually he got to the tracks the coil cars ran on, circling the milling furnace in the center of Building L.

Carefully, with sweat running down his back, Rohanan loosened the large mounting screws that held the braces supporting the slab binder. It ran down through the floor in a hole 100 feet deep. 

At best, there would be a wobbling when the binder was going full-bore, and alarms would sound. At the worst, the coil cars would tip, or the entire brace fall away, creating chaos and noise and potentially fatal accidents in the surrounding area among the rest of the lowly workers.

 

5.

 

Quenivere called up Stephano, Rohanan's closest friend from high school, and went to his house to see if he knew where Rohanan had lately been traveling.  She confessed her love for Rohanan and her deep anxiety over his absence and lack of wanting to commit to her, to take her away from her mother and sister. 

But Stephano couldn't explain the actions of his friend. He did take Quenivere in his arms and kissed her tears away, and opened her bodice to feel her impatient heart, and slipped a loving hand between her legs and quenched her ardent desire with his growing need, at least for the evening. And she stayed with him through the night, holding him and trying to pull from him more than mere attention, more than just a tablespoon of his essence; instead perhaps a word, a confession, or heroic action. 

Which Stephano was not able to supply. For he had fallen asleep.

 

6.

 

Rohanan, exhausted and still drunk, found Quenivere the next morning tangled among the bedclothes of Stephano, and pulled her loose and searched for his perfidious friend. 

Stephano was in the kitchen and able to defend himself but was not called upon to battle at the height of his ability. Rohanan, deferred but not defeated, squired Quenivere away, pushing her into the backseat of his Dodge Valiant and drove to an abandoned field outside Rosebriar Heights.

Quenivere cried and said she never could have found him otherwise, but he'd stopped the car and pulled her up and he hit her in the sober light of morning.

Quenivere cowered, as she always did, but blood did not cross her lips. He found his power returning. He hit her again and she lay back on the seat of the car, wishing to disappear or to travel a thousand miles away. And Rohanan stood straight and he felt like a man, erect and in control. 

And he tried to savor the moment of his renewal. A one-armed champion.  Blind and ready for the next unseen battle.



Roger Leatherwood worked on the lowest rungs of Hollywood for 20 years before returning to university and to print fiction. His work has appeared in Nefarious Ballerina, Thirteen Myna Birds, Razor Dildo, Apocrypha & Abstractions, Oysters & Chocolate, and other publications named after desirable objects.

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