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  • “ She was crazy. It didn't take much to rile her up. Sometimes just a word. Right before she slapped me I saw it coming. I could have grabbed her arm.

    She said, ‘I love you! You bastard! You’re afraid to love me! Maybe someday you’ll figure that out and realize how deeply you wounded us! Both of us!’

    Then she slapped me. I leaned into it. I wanted to feel it. I needed to hurt. She struck me hard across the face. Tears came immediately. I blinked staring straight in her eyes. She was crying, too. Her look frightened me like nothing I can recall.

    I wanted her more then than I ever wanted anyone. I knew without doubt she wanted me. She loved me. But she was right. I was afraid. The choice was mine. I walked away.

    The club was crowded. The band was playing “Treat Her Right”. Across the room I stopped and looked at her. She was watching me. She looked so small. My face was burning and wet. My ears rang from the force of her slap. The look in her eyes hadn’t changed. I turned and walked out.”

    The man stopped talking. He lit a cigarette offering it to the woman. She accepted. He lit another for himself. They smoked a moment quietly.

    “Jesus. That’s a sad story, Jack! Did you ever see her again?”

    “What do you think? She was a whore. You know how I feel about whores! They scare the hell out of me! That’s why I love you, Blanche! You crazy little whore!”

    “You don’t love anybody!”

    Blanche heaved the heavy glass ashtray she’d held in her lap at his head.

    “You’re a son of a bitch, Jack!”

    Jack reacted, flinching. He wasn’t quite quick enough. The edge of the ashtray grazed his chin as it flew past opening a small but bloody cut.

    Blanche screamed. She launched herself scratching and biting over the bed at Jack.

    But Jack was across the room pants halfway up, shoes and shirt in hand. Blanche leaped from the bed, lunging at him.

    He straight-armed her between the breasts and sent her sprawling. Blanche landed solidly on her ass, the wind knocked out of her. Eyes wide. Gulping.

    Jack, sweating and adrenalized, backed across the room. Keeping his eyes on Blanche he fished his pistol from the top drawer of the bureau and edged towards the door. Blanche caught her breath. The imprint of Jack’s open hand was etched in blotchy red between her breasts.

    “You shoved me! You pushed me down hard! Fucker! You hurt me!”

    Blanche sobbed.

    “Damn it! Blanche I’d rather fuck than fight but I gotta work. There’s cash on the dresser. Call me later.”

    Jack backed out the door. Hugging herself tightly Blanche sank to the floor. She curled up and cried herself to sleep.

    Jack got in his truck and drove to the radio station. His show started at midnight. He was never late. He wondered what song he’d play first.

    Image: Pomegranate Madonna by Antonio Gattorno, oil on canvas, 1953.
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