Naked Felonies by G. K. Wuori
G. K. Wuori
What Might Be Learned in Sewing Class
Melinda and Belinda learned it all in sewing class, an unpopular class to be sure with so many students opting instead for electives like Paleontology, Gay Politicians, or Website Design; indeed, only two other students had signed up that semester—two special ed boys as dexterous (Melinda said, Melinda the brighter one of Melinda and Belinda) as a capillary surgeon.
The principal had called Mrs. Arnithola, the teacher, out of retirement to handle the class. Ordinarily a class that small would have been cancelled, but there was such an aura of true excitement among the faculty and staff that Melinda and Belinda had decided upon such a practical, such a non-ideological goal, that the principal simply had to let the class proceed.
“Sewing?” the principal said. “Get them into sewing and who knows? Their eyelids may well fade from black to flesh, those rings disappear from their noses.”
Mrs. Arnithola, who’d come late in her career to the state retirement plan, mostly just needed the money. She thought the special ed boys were sweet, hard-working, and unusually adept at design, cutting, and stitchery. The two girls—Melinda and Belinda—the art of cosmetics lost on them, along with presentation, certainly manners, struck Mrs. Arnithola as being slightly demented.
Undaunted by either undeserved praise or an unearned bad rap, Melinda and Belinda gave diligence a free hand. They used needles and thimbles and true thread spun from cotton; sewing machines with only foot pedals and no printed circuits. They measured with tapes and not laser sticks. They worked the fabric, too, like ladies from another time, none of it precut, all of it being laid out on the big tables and overlaid with crinkly patterns (the patterns well-used, with Belinda even saying one time, “My mother has this dress!”) where you had to learn about thread counts and biases and the varieties of teeth in pinking shears.
When Being Cutting Edge Is So Behind the Times
Pedagogically, Melinda and Belinda’s presence in the class had struck the teacher, the counselor, and even the vice-principal as odd. Both of the girls had pierced eyebrows and noses and shaved heads. They had a fondness, as well, for black lipstick and nail polish and men’s heavy-soled shoes. Since none of these accoutrements of rebellion were at all novel in their school anymore, the girls’ stance, their posture of disdain, struck many as being slightly out of date, certainly not cutting edge.
“Retro,” their counselor said to both of them one time. “No one does metal anymore and the last Goth ship sailed back to Gothland at least five years ago. I look at the two of you and feel like I’m researching the history of punk in a history book. Who in the hell are you?”
“Just a couple of old-fashioned girls?” Melinda had said to him.
“If you will,” he said.
“We will,” they both answered.
Which is to say they learned all about detail in that sewing class, about focus and balance and the way one bad stitch can mar the whole forever; about the way thinking ahead was the best way to keep track of what you’d left behind. They drew up plans on paper and gasped as plan turned into reality: baby clothes for abandoned babies; shirts and trousers for homeless men; scrubs for the small surgery out at the county home as well as nightgowns for the bedridden residents.
“You make nothing for yourselves,” Mrs. Arnithola said.
“Just giving back to the community,” said Melinda.
“But at your age you’ve hardly taken anything out of it,” Mrs. Arnithola said.
“Oh, we will,” said Melinda.
“We will,” said Belinda.
A Random Insult Leads to Hard Revenge
The work gave Melinda and Belinda togetherness along with a strange bond of both logic and foresight. It taught each what was going on in the other’s mind, as though their friendship were a hammer nailing within each of them identical thoughts, feelings, moods, impulses, ideas, dreams—even likes and dislikes along with all the tiny trivia of gratitude and revenge that pops up in a given day.
Consider revenge, that most delicious and unrewarding of human emotions.
Belinda, one morning, stood near her locker eating a cup of yogurt when Howie Caritas, walking by, simply stopped for a second and said, “Hey, clitlicker.”
Which hurt Belinda’s feelings hard enough to make her cry and hard enough for Howie Caritas to feel he’d scored a victory of sorts. Skanky slurs toward the diverse Belinda and Melinda were not at all unknown, but that one cut deep in laying out a girl’s private parts like that. A couple of ninth graders only a few feet from Belinda laughed loud enough to earn an upperclass scowl from Howie, as though this had been his own private wounding with their participation an unwanted intrusion.
Yet it cut, no doubt about that, deep enough so that when Melinda, not five minutes later, ran into Howie in the hall, she asked if she could see the ring he’d gotten as goalie for the state champion soccer team just that fall. It was a fat ring in gold with a pearl face engraved with a soccer ball. Melinda bounced it in her hands several times while saying, “Heavy enough for a lifetime, Howie. Real quality.”
Then she swallowed it.
Later, she told Belinda that Howie had simply had a look about him that called for revenge. She hadn’t, of course, known at the time the offense he’d committed, nor that it had been directed at her most best of all friends.
“Injustice,” she said to Belinda, “doesn’t always need a label in order to be corrected.”
“So you swallowed it?” said Belinda.
“Of course I’ll give it back to him,” she told Belinda. “Shit knows that’s the highest point his life is ever going to reach. Do you think I should clean it first?”
“He called me a dreadful name, Mel,” Belinda said.
“I’m not surprised,” Melinda said. “Perhaps I’ll just warn him that bleach might fade any coloring on it, might even dissolve the gold.”
“Or he could put it in boiling water,” said Belinda.
“That’s probably not a good idea,” said Melinda, “although I don’t know all that much about jewelry. I just hope it doesn’t get stuck.”
“Stuck?” Belinda said.
“You know,” Melinda said.
Having No Money for Expensive Things
Neither Melinda nor Belinda ever had any money. Belinda’s dad, a young man who smoked and worked for a wrecking yard, gave her an allowance each week of three dollars, while her mother, knowing that amount wasn’t nearly adequate, gave her another three dollars.
They meant well, Belinda knew, but her mother’s idea of extravagance was buying a name-brand toothpaste or replacing a sixty-watt light bulb with a hundred-watt bulb. Belinda didn’t think her dad had any idea of extravagance.
Melinda’s situation, though different, was equally penurious. Her father, an insurance salesman, gave her twenty dollars a week, but she had to invest that money in a mutual fund from which she could withdraw only the quarterly interest—usually about twenty-one dollars.
So they had to pierce each other’s eyebrows and lips because they had no money to pay for such services. When their hair grew beyond a quarter-inch stubble, they’d shave each other’s heads, too—only caution and not much skill required. Now and then, however, they would go for lunch to the nearby Burger King or McDonald’s, carefully saving the sandwich wrappers and bags to be used for tomorrow’s or the next day’s peanut butter or tuna sandwiches—the appearance of a casual prosperity, they knew, as good as any reality.
They had none of the common electronic devices so many of their peers had, either, such as cellphones or tablets or digital music players, although Belinda did have an old transistor radio her dad had given her, and sometimes they listened to that when they were out and about. Belinda always kept it well-hidden in either her purse or backpack. Too much about them, she knew, was already thought to be highly weird, and being out of the technological loop would mark them forever as being irredeemably lost.
Weirdness and the real, if undesperate, poverty of the two girls made for a bubbly chemistry. That might have been motivation enough for what the two girls did, but motivation has always been something of a three-legged horse—very there; not very useful.
As Melinda said one time, “Some things happen because they need to happen.”
We Always Like to Ask, “Exactly How Did It All Begin?”
So they began it with a gas station.
Not one of those convenience stores with a bank machine and chips and pastries and lottery tickets—just a gas station owned and run by a man who’d owned it and run it for thirty-seven years. Everyone thought the business quite old-fashioned since his gas came in trucks with no brand name markings; he always put the gas in for his customers himself, and he washed windshields and always offered to check the oil and the tires. He opened the station at six in the morning, and every afternoon at four his wife would come by with his supper on a china plate wrapped in foil.
He closed the station then at ten-thirty every night after counting his receipts and putting them in a small safe set down into the concrete floor. He may, of course, have closed the station a little later the one night when Melinda and Belinda walked in with their faces painted up purple and white and wearing nothing more than that face paint.
They were naked.
“Please give us your money,” Melinda said.
The old guy’s name was Eustace. He’d been a hermit for twelve years as a young man until the young woman who would be his wife found his shack near a creek and on the edge of a cornfield. She asked if she could interview him for her college paper and he said sure. But when he saw the nice, two-page story she’d written and the three pictures she’d taken he decided to try out the world once again. He enrolled in the very same college his not-yet wife went to, and they were married right after graduation. The gas station was a stroke of luck. Eustace bought it for one dollar from a man who said he was disgusted by the Vietnam War, Hubert Humphrey, and Marilyn Monroe. “I will,” he’d told Eustace, “prosper no more in this land of the freely greedy.”
The man died not long after the sale due to diabetic amputations, so Eustace had some doubts about whether the man’s protest had been sincere or if maybe he’d just wanted to clear things out before his transition.
Eustace, prior to this one night, had never been robbed.
For as much as he thought Melinda quite polite for a robber, he could tell she was serious. Naked they might be, too, with no weapons of a visible sort, but he knew that even an average cemetery was filled with people totally certain they’d not been in harm’s way. He opened up his cash register and put all of his cash and coin in a bank bag and gave it to Belinda.
“I will say this much,” he began, nothing secretive about the manner in which he stared that young flesh down from earlobes and up from toes. “I mean, I don’t know how much is in the bag since I ain’t done my receipts yet for the day—pretty slow day, you want to know the truth—but it’s worth it.”
Eustace wanted to tell the two girls he’d seen neither his wife nor any other woman naked for a good fifteen years, but he didn’t think that would be appropriate under the circumstances.
“Thank you,” Melinda said.
“But if this is a career choice,” he continued, “you gals looking like you’re at about that age, you might want…”
Eustace stopped then and reached under the counter and pulled out a .38 caliber pistol only slightly older than he was.
“That’s an unctuous-looking weapon,” Melinda said.
Belinda, turning nearly inside out in a quick moment’s fear, farted and dropped the money bag. She farted again as she bent over to pick it up.
“I’d like you to take this with you,” said Eustace, extending the gun toward Melinda with both hands, the barrel pointed toward himself.
“Excuse me,” Belinda said. “I meant no offense.”
“None taken,” Eustace said. “We all get made red-faced by our nerves once in a while. But I’d like you to have this. Someday your looks will go and them perky little tits will start to sag and none of it will any longer be quite what you think.”
“Thank you,” Melinda said, taking the gun.
“Be careful,” said Eustace. “It’s loaded.”
“We will, sir,” Melinda said as she and Belinda turned and walked out the door.
Armed Robbery Is More Serious Than Simple Naked Robbery
Both of them appreciated the thoughtfulness of that man along with his concern for their safety. However, armed robbery, they well knew, was a whole lot more serious than simple naked robbery. Armed robbery would require greater planning. It would also require no small amount of thought as to the nature of human life and the fragile malleability of human flesh. Anticipating panic on the part of one of their clients (as they thought of them—or of Eustace, since he was the only one so far), they’d decided that simple flight—their own—would take care of that. Just exit the scene in a pre-planned manner (“Rapidly,” Melinda said, “but cool.”), then work through what went wrong later so that they could make sure it wouldn’t happen again.
With a weapon, however, their options would be greater as well as far more serious.
As to the matter of flesh, however, their own, they’d already agreed on one modification.
“No more paint,” Melinda said, “on our faces.”
“Too noticeable?” Belinda said.
“Like a mouse in a bowl of mashed potatoes,” Melinda said. “All they’ll ever look at are tits and bush anyway.”
“Your bush,” Belinda said.
“Your tits,” Melinda said.
They agreed, too, about letting their hair grow out and removing the various piercings from ears and faces.
“Plain naked,” Melinda said, “like an Olympic wrestler armed with nothing more than what’s in his head.”
“Not at all memorable,” Belinda added. “If anyone ever says, ‘Well, I don’t know, really, they were like ghosts. Just in and out and I’m not sure what they looked like. Stacked, though, like a pile of cardboard in a box factory. They were that,’ then we’ll know we’re where we ought to be.”
“You just came up with all of that?” said Melinda.
“I think I did.”
“I mean, it was really nice, kind of beautiful,” said Melinda.
“Our hair, though,” Belinda said, “that will take some time.”
“Hair always takes time,” said Melinda.
“We have that, though,” said Belinda. “Lots of time.”
Working Through It Carefully With Tommy T.
Ironically, at school these changes were looked upon as hopeful developments, some gentle motion away from that arrogance that had expressed itself in all those small assaults on the body. Black granny dresses were replaced by jeans and blouses, the white and black lipsticks gave way to the blush of a pale rose.
Patience, too, Melinda and Belinda had learned that in sewing. Calmly did they wait it out until their hair had grown back and they could work it into something short and quite average.
An older man in his forties who did janitorial at a fertility clinic during the day and delivered for Domino’s at night became their next client. His name was Thomas Thomas, but everyone called him Tommy T.
Melinda and Belinda watched Tommy T. one night as he left and returned from several deliveries, then followed him to a house only three blocks from Belinda’s neighborhood. They drove Melinda’s mother’s car using license plates they’d taken from a car in the employee parking lot of the Holiday Inn Express. When they were through with their client and safely in another part of town, they planned to put Melinda’s mother’s plates back on and return the stolen plates to the car at the motel. If that car was gone (unlikely, since they’d already checked that the car belonged to the night clerk), they’d just throw the plates in the motel bushes.
After parking behind Tommy T’s car, they watched as he took his thermal box up to the house, rang the doorbell, delivered both the pizza and a moment’s chatter, and started back for his car.
Both Melinda and Belinda waited for him in the street by the door of his car.
No paint, no masks, no guns—only nakedness as the truly disarming foe. They’d scramble his human alertness by being more human than anything he’d seen in a long time. Melinda had said that, and Belinda thought it was a good theory.
“Yes, sir!” Tommy T. said as he came around the front of his car and noticed the two girls standing near his car door.
“We need twenty dollars, if you don’t mind,” Melinda said.
She saw up close then that Tommy T. was dressed only in shorts, sandals, and a sleeveless undershirt. His shorts were elastic on the top and covered his ample belly, but Melinda thought he was the hairiest man she’d ever seen—his legs, wrists, neck, even the tops of his hands gloved in dark fur. Hair on and hair off Melinda knew about. She wondered if the man had ever looked into a quality depilatory.
“Are you cold?” said Tommy T.
“Not at all,” said Melinda.
“I guess it is pretty warm tonight,” Tommy T. said.
“Twenty dollars, though,” Melinda said again. “We want that. Do you have twenty dollars?”
“I have more than that,” he said. “But I don’t care to spend it on your…services.”
“Our services?” said Belinda.
“I have a wife,” he said, a gentle smile on his face. “We get along quite well in the sex department, so I’m afraid I just don’t need, um…anything.”
What the man meant by a sex department eluded Melinda and Belinda, but the allusion did come clear in only a moment—to both of them at the same time.
“I think you’re confused,” Melinda said.
“I think at least one of us in this group is confused,” Tommy T. said. “But look. Life is hard and the days are long. How about for five bucks I touch a tittie and then we all get back to work?”
“Sir?” Melinda said.
“Just a touch. Give you cab fare.”
“We don’t need a cab,” said Belinda, gesturing behind her. “We have a car.”
Melinda wished Belinda hadn’t said that. For all he knew their car could have been any car parked on the street, the girls themselves having materialized out of the bushes, out of a nearby house, out of a family room and a life of decent harmony, or simply out of one of his weaker dreams, the fantasies of overwork. Few middle-aged men could resist being robbed by naked women.
“This isn’t an exchange of goods and services,” said Melinda. “We’re robbing you.”
“You’re robbing me?” said Tommy T.
“I believe we are,” said Belinda.
For a moment, he seemed to be deep in thought and Melinda and Belinda worried that something untoward might happen, something not in the plan. Melinda also decided that having their own car right there was not good since it ruled out a run if a client went all froots and loops. The gun, then, maybe that had to be re-thought.
“Oh, I’m sorry, then,” Tommy T. finally said. “I thought you were…well, I guess I’m not sorry. I mean, if you’re robbing me…Jesus. Listen to me. Please, you know—don’t hurt me.”
“Hurt you?” said Melinda. “Why would we hurt you?”
“I meant like stabbing or shooting. Look—here’s my money belt. You want it. You got it.”
“We don’t have any weapons,” Melinda said. “We’re not like that. We’ve never hurt anybody, though I suppose it’s always a risk.”
“Always,” said Tommy T.
“So you don’t have to worry about that,” said Melinda.
“Well then how are you going to rob me? I mean, I don’t suppose I’m just going to give you my money. It doesn’t work that way.”
Neither Melinda nor Belinda had thought about being blatantly refused. Mrs. Arnithola, after all, had welcomed each and every one of their projects with an often syrupy glee. Refusal, Melinda thought, this was good. They could work on it.
For the moment, though, they were naked and everything was on the table. They had mature and significant breasts and forested pubic areas, and Belinda was even standing there flicking both of her nipples until they were smartly stiff. Melinda supposed wars had started over similar moments of cranky stalemate.
Finally, Melinda said, “Here’s how it works.”
With that she peed. The man looked down between her legs as he heard her water hit the street and said, “Okay.”
A Review of Past Actions in Light of Future Plans
“A hundred and ten dollars?” Belinda said. “That’s erotic, darling, almost intellectual.”
Melinda, long used to oblique expressions from Belinda, found that one equally dense, if sincere. The moment was exciting, though, she had to admit that, even if she still couldn’t believe that her heart could pound the way it had just before she peed. She finally confessed to Belinda that the man had scared her, that she’d felt boxed into a corner for a moment and had no idea what to do.
“I almost ran,” Melinda said.
“Without me?” said Belinda.
“I would have grabbed you.”
“But it was so smooth, what you did. You caught him like a fat fish to where he didn’t know whether to vote or eat a peanut butter sandwich.”
“Not planned, sweetheart,” Melinda said. “I leaked in panic and only said what I said to keep my mind off of opening up my bowels.”
“I don’t like to talk about bowels,” Belinda said.
“Like an animal,” Melinda said. “Like I could explode in panic, a vicious creature spelling out freedom in a terrible gore.”
“Maybe we should wear panties,” Belinda said.
“We need…” Melinda began.
“No more bowels. Not a word,” Belinda interrupted.
“…to carry the gun.”
Because she hated the idea of it, because she couldn’t imagine holding that steel boxlet of death up to someone as if to say for the contents of your purse, for the balance on your credit cards, for whatever you can calm your hands enough so as to pull out of an ATM machine, I hereby threaten to disrupt at random any number of your pulsating organs until they spin you right into death—because of all of that loathing surrounding such an inconceivable act, Melinda agreed that Belinda would carry the gun, that they would tie a piece of rawhide cord around the trigger guard and then she would drape the cord over her neck so that the gun rested in between Belinda’s still-growing breasts. Good enough to distract any man in his lust or any woman in her envy. The gun, the breasts, and the implied contract then of money in exchange for, if not peace, at least the status quo (what Melinda referred to, with a giggle, as “tit for tat”) would enforce for their future clients what the sheer power of their nubile flesh would not.
There was nothing in this of any failure, Melinda knew, only the clean cut of thorough preparation.
“Would you have let him?” Belinda asked once they’d freed themselves of the pizza man who didn’t want to be hurt.
“What?” said Melinda.
“Touch you,” said Belinda. “For five bucks.”
“That wasn’t the point,” Melinda said. “He was thinking we were what we weren’t.”
“Prostitutes,” Belinda said.
“Yes,” said Melinda.
“But would you have?” Belinda asked again.
“Of course,” said Melinda. “It’s just skin.”
Discovering Trust and All Its Tricky Betrayals
Melinda saw it in the paper, the notice, and it seemed worth trying, seemed gentle and yet would provide a good test of their new no-nonsense policy. Off-guard, too, this client would definitely be off guard and feeling, in a church parking lot, not at all vulnerable. What Melinda saw, then, was this:
———-The Apostrophes Book Club will meet Tuesday night
———-at seven in the lower dining hall of St. Thomas More’s
———-Church. Discussion of Tammy Banter’s selection, Jane
———-Eyre, will take place.
“I have a need,” Melinda said, “for something physical. Not injurious, only simple contact. It’s just that I’m not sure we’re learning enough of what we need to learn. We’re too vulnerable in our sweetness.”
“You think we’re sweet?” Belinda asked. “You really do?”
“I think that’s how we’re seen,” said Melinda. “It’s a strength, but only on the outside. If we start to believe it, we’ll get skunked.”
“You want to hurt someone?” Belinda said.
“Not at all,” Melinda said. “We just need to touch them, to feel what they feel when they’re helpless and losing something they don’t want to lose.”
“That’s kind of complicated, honey,” Belinda said.
“You just can’t talk your way into and out of everything, Belinda,” Melinda said. “They need to feel you, your authority. Up to now we’ve only been a gimmick.”
“You don’t have to get mad, Mel,” Belinda said.
“I’m not mad.”
Which led them to the parking lot of St. Thomas More’s Church at eight-thirty the next Tuesday night—their guess as to when The Apostrophes Book Club would be finishing up. As Melinda hid the backpack that held their clothes in some bushes, Belinda draped the rawhide cord over her head and rested the .38 caliber pistol on her breasts.
Very simple, Melinda said. They would find a car—that Cadillac over there, on the edge of the lot, that looked good—and Belinda would get in the back seat. When the woman came to her car, Melinda, in the bushes, would come out and approach her, would give her a naked girl’s story as to how something bad had happened, a story sad enough so that the woman would stand there listening until the other cars were gone. Then Melinda would make the offer as to how problem-free this all could be. At that, Belinda would emerge as the conversation-killer.
“If necessary, of course,” Melinda continued, “I might hit her. I might do that because we need to, but you’ll still be in the back seat and ready to come out if anything goes wrong, like if she resists or something. Okay, Belinda? Is that okay? I won’t hit her to hurt her, but we need to get the feel of it. We need to be ready.”
“Melinda?” Belinda said.
“You can hit me if you want.”
“Why would I hit you? We’re friends. We love each other.”
“I meant if you just needed to do that,” Belinda said. “To hit someone—I don’t know, just to have that feel of it, like you’re some kind of boss and here’s how things are going to be. You could hit me and then we wouldn’t have to worry about being animals and all that. If you thought it felt pretty good, pretty useful, then maybe I could hit you and then we’d have the whole thing out of the way.”
Belinda didn’t think Melinda would hit her but she’d meant it when she’d said it. She’d stand right there and Melinda could use her hand or a stick or a piece of rope. Then they could go on with this thing that was like a little theater or a TV show where good forces and bad forces got themselves a kind of balance, which she’d been thinking was the deal with the gun, that its presence—nothing more—would be sufficient to insure upright and fair transactions. Hitting, though, that “touch” Melinda kept talking about, put them down there with the tobacco boys and the bareback girls, and Belinda didn’t think she and Melinda were like that. Maybe it was okay, though. Maybe it had to be.
They both wanted more than okay, but okay seemed even more than all right as eight or ten women came out of the church, got in their cars, and drove off—the Cadillac now alone in the parking lot.
Melinda, in the bushes, hoped the car didn’t belong to a priest or someone like that. Neither she nor Belinda were churchgoers, but a holy person might have something they didn’t know about—not lightning bolts or silliness like that. A priest, though, he might get on his knees and pray and then what would they do? Just how many odd things could they reasonably be expected to plan for?
She whispered to Belinda as she lay on the floor in the backseat of the car, “You okay?”
“I’m good. Anyone coming?” Belinda said.
“Right now,” Melinda said as she saw a lone woman come out of the side door of the church.
Melinda guessed her age at maybe forty or forty-five—young children, no doubt, still at home, yet time for a book club. Time for a Cadillac.
As the woman stepped up to the door of the car, and Melinda slipped out of the bushes behind her, the woman suddenly noticed Belinda in the back of the car, saw that glowing white body and that short hair, ridiculously short hair, not at all stylish and looking chopped, the naked legs in motion, maybe starting to rise, maybe only shaking.
She saw the brief flutter of shadow, too, as the silk scarf came over her head, passed her eyes, and found her throat.
Melinda tightened the scarf and heard the woman’s muffled, “Please.”
“On your hands and knees, ma’am,” Melinda said, her one hand with the scarf wrapped around it guiding the woman down. She gestured toward the woman’s purse as Belinda got out of the car. Belinda hadn’t known about the scarf and it bothered her that Melinda was using ideas she hadn’t shared, or that she’d been prepared in case the client spotted her down there in the back seat. Time enough, though, to work that all out later.
Belinda pulled the purse from her hand as the woman went down to her hands and knees with Melinda straddling her and sitting on her buttocks.
“Eighty-eight dollars,” Belinda said.
They both heard the loud, raspy gasp as the woman worked hard to pull air into her lungs.
“Is she strangling?” Belinda said.
Melinda released her grip on the scarf just slightly. The woman took in a huge breath of air, then vomited all over the left front wheel of her car.
“Not good,” Melinda said, tightening the scarf once again.
“Careful,” Belinda said. “She might throw up inside herself.”
“What?” Melinda said.
“Throw up inside,” said Belinda. “Into her lungs and then it’s all bad news.”
“How do you know that?” Melinda said.
“Just things you know,” Belinda said. “I don’t know.”
The woman raised one arm off the ground and moved it, gestured, pointed—a slow greeting of suffocation, the hand flapping madly as if to ward off an angry bug or an annoying child.
The woman, frantic now, tried to get up. Belinda wrapped her hand into the woman’s hair to hold her as Melinda tightened the scarf even more.
“We’re hurting her,” Belinda whispered.
“We can’t go back now,” said Melinda.
“We haven’t gone anywhere,” said Belinda.
“Oh we have, soft girl,” Melinda said. “We’ve gone to a far place now. Assault and battery and probably the thinking of impure thoughts. We’re in the land of lawyers now and illiterate cops struggling to read you your rights. Do you want to try it?”
“Try what?” Belinda said. She noticed for the first time how careful they were not to use each other’s names.
“This,” Melinda said, pointing to her hand. “The scarf.”
“I don’t think so,” Belinda said. “That’s your idea. Where’d it come from?”
“Naked,” Melinda said, “they don’t know us. But they suck us up anyway with their eyes. Like I told you before, I wanted to touch, to take something deep.”
“Do I know what that means?” Belinda said.
“I’m always trying to keep things simple, honey,” Melinda said. “Just for you.”
“Thank you,” Belinda said. “But I can touch, too, you know. Just as hard. You could have told me about the scarf.”
“It’s all right,” Melinda said.
“With this,” said Belinda.
Belinda pulled the cord around her neck over her head then and took the pistol in her hand.
“Right here,” she said as she pushed the barrel against the woman’s ribs. “Or here, right on her ass.”
“Be careful,” Melinda said. “My ass is right there, too.”
“Or here,” Belinda said, this time pushing the muzzle of the gun hard against the woman’s ear, the loud squawk coming from the woman’s mouth the best she could manage of a scream.
Belinda pulled the trigger then.
The loudest sound they heard was of the woman—“poor woman,” Melinda said later, “we took so much away from her”—reconciling any number of fears as both her bowels and bladder emptied onto the parking lot.
The smaller sound they heard was that of the man in the gas station all those weeks ago saying, “Be careful. It’s loaded.”
Which it wasn’t, they discovered; something they’d taken on trust and never bothered to check out for themselves.
“He just lied to us,” Melinda said.
Quickly, she got off the woman and rushed into the bushes just behind Belinda.
“A dangerous lie,” Belinda said, looking back toward Melinda and the car and the woman on her knees, who seemed to be sobbing.
“We could have been hurt trusting him,” said Melinda.
“I believe you’re right,” said Belinda. “I honestly do.”
© G.K. Wuori
G. K. Wuori is the author of over a hundred stories published throughout the world. A Pushcart Prize winner and recipient of an Illinois Arts Council Fellowship, his work has appeared in such journals as The Gettysburg Review, The Missouri Review, The Kenyon Review, Prairie Schooner, and TriQuarterly. His story collection, Nude In Tub, was a New Voices Award Nominee by the Quality Paperback Book Club and his novel, An American Outrage, was Foreword Magazine’s Book of the Year in fiction. His most recent book is the novel, HoneyLee’s Girl, published by Black Rose Writing. He lives in DeKalb, Illinois and can also be found at gkwuori.com.
Join our community
Support the mission
Get the book
Writing That Risks: New Work from Beyond the Mainstream
The anthology that started it all. Available in trade paperback and ebook from most online retailers, including: