DANDELION - ANDY HENION
They lie on the floor, naked and intertwined, like the couple on the painting above the fireplace. He’s still inside her, wilting now, hands wrapped around her slender throat. This is not his house, but he adores the painting. Man and Woman in Garden. Plans to take it when they leave.
After many minutes she shudders and pushes him away, gasping. Curls into a freckled ball.
He laces his fingers behind his head and stares up at the painting. It’s bigger than anything he’s seen, life-sized, so big he’ll have to remove the gold frame to get it in the trunk of his Pontiac, parked down the street off a weedy two-track. From here he plans to head west to Kalamazoo and down into Chicago, where he’ll find them another house or garage or outbuilding to stay for a few nights, but even in the big city he’ll fight the urge to pawn the painting, the way he pawns just about everything else, for he means one day to put it above their fireplace, in their house, on their woodsy lot. Somewhere down in California, maybe even Mexico, three or four kids running about. A storybook setting that belies his upbringing.
“Do you see them?” he says, pointing to the painting. “The dandelions?”
She ignores the question, holding her throat. She was raised in a house like this, but only in theory. Her own little hellhole. When they met, on a cool, rainy day, she was working at the bookstore and he was stealing books, this slick, longhaired stranger with a definite intensity about him. She followed him to the parking lot and climbed in the rusty Pontiac with the out-of-state plates, and when he looked into her dark eyes he knew better than to ask questions.
“You’re my dandelion,” he says now.
“Don’t call me that.”
“They’re fucking weeds,” she says, thinking, for the hundredth time, she’s made a terrible mistake hitching her wagon to this Neanderthal.
He’s reaching for a fistful of her long brown hair, ready to teach her another lesson, when they hear the garage door. He scrambles for his clothes, more specifically for the nine-millimeter atop the pile, but she’s already there, she already has it.
Pointing it at him.
“Nice recon job,” she says. “Gone another week, huh?”
“We gotta move,” he says. “No fuckin’ time for this.”
“Sure there is,” she says, and shoots him in the face. But she’s never fired a gun, and the slug travels low and tears through his cheek, exposing teeth. He makes a sound, somewhere between a growl and a gurgle, and holds his arms up, pleading. Two hands on the grip now, easy breaths, and the next slug finds its target and drops him where he stands.
She looks over to see the homeowner standing there. He’s a tall, well-built man, more than twice her age, but regal looking, with a strong chin, powerful hands. And cufflinks: She’s never seen a man with cufflinks.
Instead of terror on his face, there’s only curiosity as he takes in her bruised, naked body.
“Better off dead, I take it?”
She shrugs. They’re out in the forest, no neighbors for miles. The recon said he was divorced, kids grown, a frequent business traveler with money to burn.
“I can help with this,” he says, motioning to the gory heap on the floor. She understands his meaning, but holds his stare in a desperate attempt to see through to his true nature. He has an easy way about him, kind blue eyes, but even at nineteen she knows it’s an impossible task, reading men.
The gun in her hand gives her choices. But she better make one soon, because the regal man is easing toward her with a familiar look in his eye.
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