MOUTH FULL OF VENOM - JAMIE GREFE
It was becoming hard to focus. The bedroom, a strobe of monochrome and neon. Soupy blood gushed from the fresh gash in my fat gut. I used my left hand to shovel stomach bits back in while Technicolor crimson swirled across my upturned right palm, dripped in stringy strands to the floor. Things were slipping from my grip just like the unhappy marriage and the torrid affair. Phlegm formed in my throat, sat in my mouth. I fondled the lampshade for support.
Salino stood by the bedroom door, eyes locked in a dead stare, mouth wide: a grin of marital vengeance. Bastard had stabbed me. The hunting knife in his hand was wet, gold front tooth sparkled in the street lamp glow from outside the open window like a cheap jewel. Salino: smirking murderer, handsome devil-dog, and better half of Lexa, the fairy that squawked, mistress sublime. I spat that gob of phlegm on the floor, tried to count the watery monochrome chunks.
He tugged at starched sleeves, straightened his jacket in quick twitches, ran a slender hand down the length of his necktie. He strode big steps to stand closer, steps that carried with them an invisible velocity, nudging me back to the bed where I slumped drooling. My head swayed in a slow bounce. Oozing waves of blood made everything prickly with perceptual fuzz. The bed felt springy and warm, my head woozy and flat. Salino approached spinning the knife around, twirled it in his tattooed fist like a bad kung-fu pantomime. The word, “Love” engraved on his fingers wavered up and down, each letter undulating in an ebb of the violence incomplete. Almost.
Open your mouth, he said to me.
You gonna kiss me? I said.
His other hand, the one with “Lexa” inked into it, gripped my chin, tilted my head up to meet his gaze. Cheeks squished, my mouth puckered open in a crusty oval. Bruised eyes looked up, all the way up to the tip-top of his bald head where a skull-sized cobra, tongue flickering fire, had been tattooed in blue ink. The hunting knife eased gently across my cheek. I held gut blood in, kept my insides from spilling out. The cobra’s eyes stared.
I’m gonna cut you up, Salino said, touching the rim of my lips with the tip of the knife. But first, and he paused to reflect before whispering, I’m gonna cut out your teeth, one by fucking one. Just carve ’em out of your gums like a pumpkin. He paused again. I’m gonna wear those teeth around my motherfucking neck just so I can remember this moment forever. Quite sentimental, Salino, I thought. Quite sentimental.
I choked out a cough from the rank fog of his husbandly bad breath. Salino, the serpentine husband, shouldn't have stood so close to a man with nothing to lose. There were things I was still capable of in this, my last stand. I summoned another gob of phlegm to the roof of my mouth and shot it into his face, watched it stick to his lips, drip from his grizzled chin.
Give that one to Lexa, I said. She’ll know who it’s from.
His fist lashed out and rammed my nose back into my head with a whop. I felt a road extending within me as my nose crumpled inward. He ran the knife down the front of my face and touched the blade to the gap between two front teeth. It was perfect timing to catch the snake by the neck and bite its head off.
I raised blood-soaked hands from exposed guts, grabbed hold of both of his sleeved wrists, twisted his arms back toward his face, and rammed that hunting knife right up through the cobra’s head. It was quick. The blade ripped into the skin under Salino’s chin, tore past the mouth and face, up to the peak of his domed head until Salino, her cobra husband, spit out a final diminishing hiss and nearly splintered in two. The blood splattered everywhere in a shower of red venom. I rose in explosions of pain along with the gripped knife, savoring its majesty as if it were divinity itself. I wanted to relish the moment. My stomach applauded in gusts of neon pain. Salino’s head wobbled, two clumsy eyeballs trying to focus, seeing the unseen, perhaps the monochrome, while simultaneously lolling in disbelief, probably at the fact that the head that had joined those eyes together for the entirety of their existence was literally, and oh-so-gracefully, coming undone. His head split apart just like my marriage, just like an orange.
Lexa, do you know what we could have had? I said to the dead Salino.
She was probably outside waiting for him in the Buick. I watched his body, melt and wither with droppings of slobbery goop spurting about the bed, spattering me crimson as he tumbled to the bedroom floor. Perhaps some of the cobra’s guts could be mixed with mine, I thought in a rare moment both lucid and deranged. There’s treasure in those guts. We could mingle. I huffed toward the window, considered carving out Salino’s gold tooth or scraping off the skin of his tattooed fingers. I wanted to demonstrate how evil my love could be. I wanted Lexa. I wanted to be him, the husband. Salino’s Buick was parked under the street lamp. She would be in there.
When I hobbled out the front door, I saw Lexa’s concerned face, little lonely sheep eyes, staring out from the passenger seat. I swung open the driver’s side door and threw myself behind the wheel. This is what it feels like to be a real husband, I thought, looking over at her with a blood-drenched gold-toothed grin.
My sticky hands covered her mouth to stifle that hideous shriek. Fragments of skin and letters dangled from my knuckles. A sliced chunk of Salino’s serrated facial skin hung limp, stretched over my real face. The mixture of phlegm, sweat, and blood wasn’t quite doing the trick, holding his face to my own. It was sagging. I could feel the ink of the serpent’s spit seep into my skull, drip down into the abyss of my aching guts. That bastard ink was the elixir of love. Crawl, baby.
It’s just you and me, Lexa, I said, leaning in for a wet kiss, mouth full of venom.
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