portion of the artwork for Jeanann Verlee's fiction

Menace
Jeanann Verlee

“Have you ever taken a gun / out of the hands of a murderer / as a gift"
—Patrick Rosal


His hands were made of gears. His face, a hurricane. The jarring angles of his forearms, the way his knuckles creased around a Zippo lighter. The whistling from his crooked nose, the thud of his boot against the dog’s haunches. The gaunt recess of his back, how the knife’s handle reached skyward from the butt of his jeans. They say I should’ve known it was coming.

*

There were eleven visits after his incarceration, despite the restraining order. He would pilfer the yard, the garage, the cars, for tools of entry. Once, he scaled the bricks, climbed in through a kitchen window; once, he waited at the front door, never removing his long, wiry index finger from the bell. Once, rocks at my bedroom window. It was finding him on the porch at 3 a.m., wielding a hammer that stays with me. I never stopped seeing his reflection in shop windows. I still sometimes find his shadow lurking in my hallway mirror. His crumpled face, the low timbre of his voice.

*

I double-check every lock.

*

When he pressed the blade to my throat, detailed the exact sound of cutting through bone, when he said he was doing it because he loved me, I dared him to try. Do it, coward. I grabbed his arm, pressed harder, Do it. Then I waited. And waited. Watched his face curl. His body, lurch. I whispered, You don’t have it in you. Then laughed with my whole terrified body. When he released the knife, stooped to the floor, sobbing, I considered the weapon. Considered his hunched back, the large roundness of it. Considered the blade’s weight, size, sharpness. If it would sever a rib, empty a lung.

*

To write him into a monster means admitting I was a cutter, a depressive, a drunk. To write his truth, I must acknowledge my own: I was a cutter, suicidal. A drunk. To write the honest story, I have to tell you why he came for me. Why he returned again and again.

*

I was an orchard of forgiveness. A sweetblossom of yes and yes and yes. My mouth, a chime; my hands, an orchestra of preen, stroke, cherish. I unfurled my fists. Softened each softness. Made a haven of my sheets. I sang lullabies. Invented new words for mercy.


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FRiGG: A Magazine of Fiction and Poetry | Issue 41 | Summer 2013