by Alex Aro
Her mouth was a war zone, with pistols for teeth and a knife for a tongue. She’d never been to a dentist, but was very familiar with gun polish and a rag. She didn’t know the pain of a cavity but she’d be damned before she got rust.
She was the life of the party. Open windows and open booze, she stood on tables and danced. Thick black lines raced around her eyes while her hair fell in tangles that bounced against her puffy cheeks and her dress flirted with the air above her knees. Sometimes the boys would throw wine glasses in the air and ask her to shoot at them, and she would. Bam, bam! Broken pieces embedded in the carpet and everyone clapped and yelled.
Sometimes they placed fruit on their heads and shoulders and trusted her in their drunken state. Apples exploded and oranges burst all over as she twirled; the bullet spewing ballerina. When she got too drunk her tongue lazily hung and cut up her lip. That’s when she sat and the party would too, eyes off the table and to the floor, cans rested and slowly as the night wore on bodies would drift to sleep.
When the sun crawled in through the windows and spread across the floor, she woke up with blood clots on her chin. There was a haze across her eyes that made the room sparkle like empty snail shells glued to the walls. She looked around at the boys, how they curved around the furniture and rested in crime scene chalk fashion. There were other girls too, she didn’t know their names but they followed the boys like thunder.
Some mornings when she was the only one awake, she would go outside and set up beer cans along the brick wall in the backyard. This morning however, she just sat on the wall, whipped her feet across the grass back and forth while she rested her chin on a clenched fist and thought about what else she could shoot. There were birds dancing across the telephone wires and squirrels running across tree limbs. There was a rotting tomato garden and a statue of an angel that overlooked a birdbath. She looked up as a plane disrupted the morning silence and she traced its jet black trail with her mouth. When the smog cleared and the clouds returned, she wondered if she could ever shoot them down and blanket the world in white.
As she stood up one of the boys came out through the backdoor. He staggered over towards her; his hair disheveled and molesting the air. He leaned his hand on the birdbath to keep himself balanced and he smiled. “Hey,”
“Hi,” she said.
“That was some party last night huh?”
She nodded. “Yeah…”
Slowly, he sat down on the grass. She sat down too, across from him and the edge of her skirt tickled his knees. The sun had climbed higher into the sky and the clouds moved like rush hour traffic. The rest of the neighborhood still slept. The morning song a slow and silent tempo and she listened as her hands pawed through her hair. She thought the boy’s name was Eric, but she wasn’t sure.
“I can’t wait for tonight,” he said.
“Mmmm,” she hummed in agreement. Her hair was clumped together in tight twists and she fidgeted to separate them. He still sat with his arms at his side and he stared beyond her at the wooden fence at the end of the yard. She stood when the soundtrack changed to the early afternoon and she heard car engines starting, people walking on the sidewalks and music pouring from screen windows to fill the summer void.
She walked back into the house and everyone was awake, moving around on the couches and touching things that didn’t belong to them. Some people patted her on the back as she made her way to the kitchen. Some yelled at her, “Yeah! You fucking shoot that shit!”
She sat at the kitchen table and wondered if anyone here even knew her name. The only name she had heard all night was ‘that chick with the guns’. Sunlight dimly lit up the room, trying to push through the closed curtains. Life sprung throughout all the rooms of the house, girls showered upstairs while boys wrestled with the remote and outside cigarettes were lit over the excited banter of tonight’s party.
The afternoon wore itself out and slipped under the shady comfort of a starry blanket. The moon was bright and bore its craters proudly. As the boys dragged in booze and the girls trampled down the stairs in skimpy outfits, she was still in the kitchen alone. She thought of shooting the legs off the table, shooting through the refrigerator door and damaging the cartons inside, she thought of shooting through the windows to let in the summer night.
Someone came into the kitchen and touched her shoulder. She didn’t turn her head to see who it was but she smelled cheap cologne treading over a musty odor. Whoever it was squeezed her shoulder and asked “You gonna stay in here all night?”
She pushed the hand away and got up out of the chair. “Give me a beer,” she said.
She was on the table in an hour as she danced to the deafening jams that erupted from the speakers. All around her everyone cheered, and then the boys grabbed one of the framed artworks off the wall. “Shoot it! Shoot it!”
She stopped her dancing and stood spinning. She looked at the piece of art in their hands, the intricate designs, the swirls and black smudges, the circles that might be eyes, eyes that stared through her, and the hidden message that was dried somewhere on the canvas. She swayed and the more the picture moved with her, the more it made sense. The lines connected into the pattern of a heart and the eyes all around it watched. The black smudges like the boys and girls that held this art for her to destroy.
“C’mon! Shoot it already!”
The girls were as excited as the boys. They clawed at her feet and threw their arms into the air, the music never stopped. She felt like the art up on the table, all eyes on her as they waited for her to perform, to make her message seen and heard. The heart began to beat as the boys started to throw the painting into the air in hopes she would shoot it. Up and down, the heart and the eyes were alive with pastel flair and acrylic awareness.
“Fucking, let’s go!”
She opened her mouth and everyone cheered, the music stopped and they waited for the bullets to pierce the painting. It was the boy that threw the artwork, he was first. The bullets riddled through him and he flew back into the wall. She caught the painting with one hand before it hit the ground, and then laughed with gung-ho spirit.
The boys and girls panicked and ran circles around the house, trying to wake their bodies from their drunken stupors while the bullets Swiss-cheesed across the house. She couldn’t stop her laughter and each time a bullet hit, the painted heart pumped violently. There were holes in the windows and outside lucky footsteps raced up the pavement. She had never been as excited as she laughed and laughed, her head tilted back and gunning the ceiling. The glasses and fruit hadn’t run, they hadn’t screamed, they just broke.
Finally the house was silent and she closed her mouth. The heart was frantic and leaped on and off the canvas as she placed it back on the wall. She stuck out her tongue and licked the bouncing organ, slicing it open. She took a step back to admire it and wondered who the artist was.
An earlier version of “War Zone” appeared in Parnassus, 2007-08.
ALEX ARO is a young and aspiring writer, artist and musician. He has been previously published in Parnassus, where he won the award for Best Fiction in 2007. You can find more of his writings at: www.alexaro.wordpress.com