Jonathan Elliott is an old friend of Episodes from the Zero Hour! who served as an editor on EZH! Volume 3: Weird Game Hunter. His story, “Circular Logic” will appear in the upcoming Weird Tales from the Zero Hour! anthology.
by: Jonathan Elliott
It’s hard to slip into a space not meant for you. Like one of those children’s toys, with the solid sheet of wood with holes in it and a bunch of blocky shapes to correspond to each hole. Pressure and pain and resistance and splinters teach us very early on what happens when the pudgy little pyramid meets an opening meant for the fat cube. But as we get older, we learn the virtues and potency of force and grease and compromise, and somehow, the shapes work their ways on through the spaces we’ve got, appropriate or otherwise.
This is how we get what we want. This is how I get what I want. This is why she is in front of me now. It began downstairs at a gorgeous new bar in Asbury Park, patterned after that French film, “The Red Balloon.” Nothing but dark woods and flights of fancy and classy fonts all mish-mashed together, tinted in a little bit of crimson and scented in assorted varieties of chocolate. She found me. This is different, and I am off-balance, because I am very good at doing the finding. Sometimes the nights end in misery and rejection, and sometimes I locate a lady who is willing and waiting for me, and what you might imagine would happen does, indeed, happen, and we go our separate ways.
There is a third option, of course, which I believe I outlined at the start of this conversation. I’m a little bit of a gentleman, so details are probably out of sorts, but it is incredible what might happen if you put your mind to a task and then commit to never mentioning it again, after the fact. Bruises heal.
Tonight is none of those. Tonight I am found. She is talking to me. She wants to know me. And I am distrustful of that because it means she is not only willing and waiting but wanting, curious of and about me in a way women never are, because of my too-slight shoulders and lack of a strong chin. I have decided those are my flaws, and it must be so. But she is on me, arm around my shoulder, casually cool in her smile and conversation and incendiary in her breasts and thighs and clingy dress and the way she licks the very center of her lips as she waits for me to finish my parts of the conversation. And we speak of my unremarkable job and her unmistakable laugh and what we think of this restaurant and how the drinks taste and she chuckles loudly and places her forehead on mine. It is a sign. I do not know what to do in these moments where I am wanted, and there’s no need to push the pegs into places they don’t exactly fit.
We are suddenly upstairs in her condo. I am unsure how it happens, but there we are. I did not know these units were finished or that anyone was living here, but there we are.
I am disrobed and reduced to flesh. Her hands are everywhere, and I fall back onto the bed and she does her work. I do not know what to do, and don’t understand how to participate under these circumstances, so I let go and she carries out her ministrations. I sweat and I stare and she says nothing as her nails press hard into my sternum, leaving eight half-moons as a signature on my chest. I breathe in a little too deep and I release.
She kisses me. I don’t know what to think, so I think of nothing.
The tension leaves my body and I don’t even feel the knife slip between my ribs. It fits perfectly, like it’s always been meant to go right there, and she twists it a little, just a gentle flick of the wrist.
She puts on her earrings, she slides back into the clingy dress. I feel the mattress soak underneath me, wet and cold with my sweat and blood.
The door clicks shut behind her. And I am left here.
And, as breath leaves me, this is where I fit.
“Pegs” © 2014 Jonathan Elliott
Originally Presented for Episodes from the Zero Hour! Halloween 2014