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The Nightmare Lover
by Nathaniel G. Moore

Cherry beach, the burnt cologne of strong wood and coal fragrant on her lips and tongue and under her nails. Fame smiles, tilts her neck to the side. Benjamin drives out of the parking lot, the back of the car to the lake. Empty Tupperware, tiny seeds and red drool roll in the back seat.

"That was odd. Lobsters on the beach," she smiles, rubs his hand with her finger.

"The whole night was weird. Where did that swan come from?"

"It was beautiful. The fire and the swan and the beach." She squeezes his hand.

"And the lobster. Did you see the water, you know what is out there?"

"No. There aren't any. Don't scare me."

The car is filled with their smells. Tinfoiled lobster, bread soaked in butter, a half-drunk bottle of white wine and their blanket crawling with nostalgic herbs and twigs. Folded up by her feet a charcoal sketch of a calm ocean, a couple knee-deep in seaweed and green foam. The car rolls into the unlit driveway.

* * *

Early Sunday morning she rises from the bath. They nestle in bed. The bath is her coffin. Some mornings she cries uncontrollably. Sometimes he paces behind her, shadowing her cleaning. She rolls over, into his mouth she puts a finger.

"I had another shark dream. We drove out to the beach. The headlights stayed on and we walked out into the water. I was dressed like a bond girl. You were in a tuxedo. We were drinking martinis."

"Did we go under water?"

"Yes. And then it came at us, and bit into us. The screen went all red as we kissed."

"That's romantic."

"I would be the Bond girl who died in the first thirty minutes of the movie. I know it."

Fame climbs into the bed. Benjamin is lying on his back. She presses crawls onto his torso. Begins to swim. He lies back; a dense chainsaw is faintly heard through the small crack in the window. The early morning activities begin to unravel. Elastic bands fling from newspaper, sprinklers and hoses relive their circulation. The asphalt heats, tar stretches.

"I'm getting some juice. Want anything?" Fame slips down the staircase into the white kitchen with the dark blue tiles. There are waves of plastic from salad and vegetables, fresh ones.

He reads his horoscope. He reads hers. She bites his neck. Lips, gums, and teeth red from the juice. Pure cranberry extract.

"Remember Easter at my Aunt's?"

"Yes. I peed red for a couple of days."

"The beets and the roast beef. It was all red. The Wine too. Even the napkins."

They fade in the new sun. The sun pushes itself up into their bedroom. The digital alarm clock numbers fade. A hot day. The morning peels itself. Asses are in those white chairs across from the cemetery. The convenience store is getting a paint job. He wants coffee. Crows, sparrows, squirrels. He counts the animals. Stares out the window, she sips her juice and reads her horoscope. Goes into the bathroom.

There is always something to look at, he thinks. The lines from the cable companies make it that way, especially for driving. You can look up and follow the lines. Stay inside them. On the road. Don't run over the cows. Don't topple the weak fences.

At the beach, he thought about the empty salad dressing bottle, waiting for it to come out. He forgot to shake it so there was this pre-cum, thin and without flavour. He brushes his teeth.

There are things he misses about gaps in his memory. Her face fills up the pillow. He crawls back in the bed. The rich taste of cranberry in his mouth. She offers him another. A faint moan from a bending negative mouth on the television. An open road, a highway sign.

"Can you fix the reception?" Fame pouts. Blinks her eyes. He blinks his eyes back. The screen cackles. Car lights bend across mountain curves. A woman in a dress blurs gray and red and white. The volume is down.

In another world his coffee mug is full, a few sips less than when it was first poured and another woman in another outfit is sipping another kind of juice with another man.

"Do we still have strawberries?"

"I used them all in the salad for the picnic."

He imagines every sentence and word everyone would ever say to him for the rest of his life and tries to estimate how long it would take to pronounce each vowel. He notices his legs were crossed at the ankle. The last time Benjamin went to his grandfather's at the nursing home his feet were crossed. At the ankles. His grandfather held his hand. His grandfather couldn't describe Benjamin his dreams. He was frail.

Fame nudges him. "What are you thinking about?"

She gets up. The bathroom door closes. He turns off the television. There is a cold draft. He shuts the window.

The bathroom lights are off. Heat and flesh and moisture from the flesh. Curls her toenails. A rubber shark floats in the bath. Mouth molded open. She slips in. Screams. He runs. Opens the door. Her mouth. Up from water. He slides in.

"Kiss me." Fame spits out a playful showing of water and juice. Pruned fingers walk along a bar of soap. Little snags of armpit hair get temporarily trapped in a six-string of coiled shadows. Mirror fogs up.

Benjamin feels the tiny dark hairs crawling with soap next to his thumb as his spine bumped by the plastic toy. A hard fin. She grabs the glass of juice with laughter, her back to him. Turns around fast. Fame's mouth spills cranberry juice down her throat in between her breasts and into her belly button. The bath turns red. She lunges forward. Arms flail. They kiss softly, scratching. Plug is pulled.

"I'm cold." She sips the rest of her juice. He towels off, the deep scent of the fire and the lobster is nestled in his difficult chest hair. Swallowed by the blanket, head cradled in the thick pillow, he watches her tiny feet dangle and wave from the bathtub.

Nathaniel G. Moore waited with feet dangling. Not anxious.

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