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Peggy Munson

I met someone who is all wrong for me. We met in a place where I should never have been to begin with, a place where walls are made of cardboard and the people smell like ice -- clean at first, clean at first and then the meat starts to thaw, and it is rancid. I could say that she seduced me but she didn't. She knew every stronghold in the book but she did not hold me down and did not make me go. I went willingly. I went because I wanted to hate her as much as I hated myself. In other words, I wanted to play war. I thought she would be perfect. A perfect soldier. I went with her. We went to burn a scarecrow and to go behind a barn and fuck. But instead we chose a boxcar. There we were, in the railroad yard, and the door of the boxcar was ajar. If I said that she was ugly it would be an understatement. She had a face like a criminal. She called herself Lobo. She asked if I had ever burned a scarecrow and I said no. Who has ever burned a scarecrow? She asked if I had ever tried to say my name while breathing nerve gas. She asked if I'd been kidnapped as a child. Her questions were the kind to which you always answer no. She asked if I could protest while she fucked me. I said no. And then she smiled and pulled out rolling paper and tobacco. We smoked before we burned the scarecrow. The one we chose was nowhere in particular. It was just anthropomorphic. She dragged the scarecrow to the railroad yard and watered everything around to keep the fire from spreading. "You want to kick it, don't you?" She asked and yes, I did. I kicked the scarecrow and I said, "I hate you." She said, "If you hate straw men you're in trouble." I hated her. Her face looked like a swamp. "You know you probably think that it is you," she said, and flipped the match into the little pyre.

"I don't," I said.

"Then what makes you defensive?"

It's true that she began to look like crows. Not one but two, the way the firelight danced around her eyebrows. The way she raised her arms to smoke and shadows flew around her. It smelled like something burning but I couldn't quite say what. She said, "I bet you've waited all your life to burn this thing." I said, "You are ridiculous." She said, "Perhaps." Her teeth looked like the rubble of a coliseum. But it was just the light. The light was strange. The light was ornery and out of control. The fire would die down quite a bit and then she'd take a stick and stoke it. In minutes, it would look like someone's hell. Then she would light another cig and look away.

When we left I walked like I was hollow. We went to the boxcar and the car was hollow. She opened my mouth and kissed me and my mouth was hollow. The night was tricky, like a wolf. The way it circled, circled, circled and just waited. It was the kind of night when something had to die. I hoped that something was the scarecrow. She asked if I would protest when she fucked me. I said no. I wondered if the night was watching us and saw that she was ugly and with me. She asked what I was looking at. I said her eyes. Her eyes were not quite real, like eyes you see in a still lake, with fish beneath. Her eyes looked like they had been winding skeins of cord. Her eyes looked like they never stopped on anything. She asked if I could protest when she fucked me. I said no.

She asked if I had ever kicked a bum. I said, "Yes, once, by accident." Her eyes lit up. I told her I'd been walking and I looked up in the sky and saw a blimp. And it looked more like an old-fashioned dirigible, the kind that might burst into flames. And then I told her how I read that you could walk through a fire if it was burning hydrogen. The people who died on the Hindenburg all jumped. The ones who rode it to the ground could walk right through the fire. And when I looked up at the blimp I kicked the bum. She asked if he reacted. I said I didn't know because I just walked faster. She asked if I had ever been somewhere where people had been trampled. She said the witnesses could feel the bones beneath their feet. She asked if I would hold her to the wall and press her there. I did and when I did the space around me hugged us. She asked if I had ever really been in love and I said, "No, I've only kicked a bum."

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