Always in Pairs

They have been traveling for weeks since she picked him up in a coastal city whose name he doesn’t remember and she’s said maybe sixty words to him altogether: move. stay still. watch. now. wait. no. fine. here.

Her face in profile is long and beaky, swept back from a regal nose. Hair grey, solid grey, and thinning: nights he can see the firelight reflecting off her scalp. Jowly. She’s beautiful who knows everything, who laughs only with her eyes and the curl of a lip.

She teaches him walking. His feet harden and splay, and they spend a few nights weaving sandals for him. He can’t stick forever beside her, and so he runs through the long grass ahead or behind the sway of her mule, drunk with green. Bolts up trees to spy out the land while she leans against the trunk rolling a joint. Happy to be fed, proud to be useful.

Eventually the ground turns to muck. They come to a river, then a town. She unwraps the long barrel of the rifle and whistles him close. The woods fall back and the town pushes in: he clutches her leg, fearfully wondering.

Born in Flames, Cauled in Blood

Normally Tits doesn’t give a hot fuck what happens in the parks, on account of it’s usually empty words and full cocks, but lately something’s set her city aroil like a nest full of hornets. The poets and the socialists are armed to the teeth and there’s a new one dead every day for a month before she figures she has to step in.

“Look,” she tells the sad-mouthed boy facedown in a fountain, “what the hell goes on here? What’s got you kickin’ up, my breaker of words?” Gurgles, mostly, so she hauls him up by his hair and lets him get one lungful in, two, before she slaps his mouth hard on his teeth. “Talk to me, sweet summer’s child.”

“War,” he grins through a copper jawful of blood. “War and fire and new beginnings. Thursday is coming, and he’ll drag you down, all of you down, to the mud and the snakes and a ruby-bright stone.” Useless chatter, so she pushes him back under water and leaves him there till life comes foaming out of his nose.

War, huh. She’s an old hand at war, the bloody spirit of the times, a walking apocalypse already. Let cities and nations fall: she’ll be riding the cycle with a sword in her mouth.