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October 1, 2011 | Fiction

At the Benjamin Franklin

Gene Kwak

At the Benjamin Franklin photo

People think we’re in love, like goo-goo eyes and fingering, because we’re always together, Katie Jean and I. We’re always together, Katie Jean and I, because she has her mouth wired shut and I’m good at sleuthing mumbles and also I don’t need much to get by, no back pat or I love you or even the necessary combustibles to keep most relationships going. I’m talking friend-to-friend, not the handhold type.

Katie Jean and I are fresh from high school, daydreaming our way into respectability, when we decide why not? Why not figure out what’s so hot about the rub up of two perfectly due bodies? We make the spot the motel out by Millard, the Benjamin Franklin. Katie Jean’s mother is a cleanup lady and we used to spend nights gurgling into their never chlorinated pool. Katie Jean gets a key and we find our way into a second floor room. The key has a big metal spoon attached to it. The smell of cleaning product is so harsh we do the blurred world through tears. Make our way like the blind.

Once inside, Katie Jean uncorks a bottle of strawberry wine and pours a third of a cup for each of us into dirty glass tumblers. She drops ice into the cups with tongs and then sets off into the bathroom, shaking water from her fingertips.

Katie Jean is doing a sexy striptease, but her nightie or negligee is getting caught in her metal face. A tiny strip of lace unspools from her pink sex blocker and makes wisps in the air like cotton candy thread. I chomp the air trying to free her but also wonder how good it might taste, the look of it being so sincere.

I throw her onto the sheets, the top sheet with its jizz and blood no doubt saturated in, this is what undercover television has alerted me to, and we start to tussle. Her nipples are hard and dark and I take them in my mouth one after another, trying not to play favorites.

We can’t, we can’t, we can’t, we decide. Well, she decides, and I go into the bathroom to jerk off while she reads the late night line-up from the TV Guide. There’s only a clock, not digital, the actual hands one, and a Bible and that’s it. We watch Nick at Nite and clink together our glasses only we clink them together so hard we break their bottoms and laugh when we realize tiny shards are in our skin and little rivulets of blood make their way down our arms. But it’s not a serious pain, more a nuisance and a sight.

She scuttles off to her mom’s secret mop and towel room to find cleaning supplies. She goes barefoot into the night, her ass like sweet low moans from your diaphragm, or that’s what escapes me when I see it off. Because Katie Jean is a looker if it wasn’t for her techno-jaw. At our age, though, there are enough lookers that dudes will find any reason to pass.

Katie Jean comes back in, grease under her eyes like she’s major league, and she’s got a dustpan, towels, cleaning products, and a Kit-Kat, still packaged, dangling from her facial contraption. She robot babbles words that give me the idea she took our hunger into consideration.

We make a molehill of glass bits with a broom that tsks us the whole time, and then leave it be before the final sweep. The effort, enough. We drink some more of the strawberry syrup straight and start dancing to old timey tunes on the TV. Katie Jean kicks a can of Comet across the room and the bleach arcs in a high, white fade and there’s white in the air, white on our faces, white in every tight space of us. We care less. We breathe it in in heavy gasps while we laugh. I twirl her around, gentlemanly, and we jounce on the bed, with its squeaky cheap springs, while some crooner belts us with his soprano song.

 Bobby Darin sings “Beyond the Sea” in black-and-white. He’s playing the goof to a live audience, now long dead. “You know, this song was made up of a French version that barely had to do with this one?” I say. “The original was about the ocean being a finicky bitch and some American guy comes along and jiggers the whole meaning to be about the sea keeping him and his lady apart. He dug the tune and made up his own meaning out of the mumbles.”

Katie Jean and I tire and sit, sick with effort, on the once semen-slicked bed, and she touches her hand to my knee and her head to my shoulder, and a whisper of words comes low and slow from her lips, but I can’t make them out. I go for what I guess is what she wants and grab her by the back of the neck and force my face as close to the wiring as can be.

I scream into her mouth as loud as I can. I scream and I scream, but she can’t scream back.

image: Valerie Molloy


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