Monsters: A Series of Non-Chronological Vignettes

Ryan Werner

College Apartment #3, December 21, 1999

I just started a KISS tribute band with my friends. We’re going to play our first show on Valentine’s Day: A Kiss with KISS. My car is filled with their discs and I listen to them everywhere I go, trying to revisit the songs and learn them through repetition. The first one I break scraping off my windshield is Psycho Circus, which I won’t necessarily miss. There goes Lick It Up. Animalize is shattered, flakes of the label mixing in with the snow on my gloves. It finally comes down to which disc of Alive! will be sacrificed. I decide that the girl will stay, she and I and Jesus Christ to save our issues for later.

House-sitting, July 5-13, 2000

We kiss for twenty minutes. Not a make-out session, but a kiss, our lips pressed together and held, as if in an embrace.

When we finally pull back from each other, I say, “I could live here.”

“You do live here.”

We spend most of our time unclothed and barely touching, flinching at the slam of a car door or ring of a phone not because of our nakedness, but because of our company. Of all the things we do in secret, the most enjoyable is the idyllic banalities of domesticity: she in a long dress trying to figure out how to make chicken cacciatore and me putting together a bookshelf without any instructions, stripping screws until we laugh and collapse into the couch, a half-built monstrosity on the floor next to us.

The Only Coffee Shop In Town, September 3, 1999

After running it by her bible study group for a couple months, she decided to break off her engagement to her boyfriend of six years.

“He doesn’t believe in the Lord,” she tells me, drinking cheap tea and listening to talk radio.

I know him, and I like what little I know about him, his sense of humor and intelligence. “Charming guy, though, from what I can tell.”

“Right, of course.” She blows over the top of her tea. “When I first met him he charmed my pants — ”

“Loose, right?” I’m unafraid of how I feel, like having a crush on a lesbian or a supermodel. “He charmed your pants loose, but not off.”

“Right,” she says, blushing. “Of course.”

Uh-O, April 18, 2000

In the amusing way in which people set up their own personal barriers when defining right and wrong, she won’t allow me to bring her to orgasm.

Supermarket Sweep, November 20, 2000

Using the vernacular of fathers on sitcoms, it’s possible to get enough guys on third base and still get a couple runs. So it’s not the absence of sex. It’s the question of how much longer things can be sustained without having to come to terms with the nature of the relationship, how much longer her upstanding reputation as a good child of the Lord will be more important than the facts of the situation as it exists.

I go, “How will we ever go about moving in together? What if we want to get married? Will it have to be by a justice of the peace in a remote town in Montana? Will our kids be homeschooled and sleep at the houses of actors we pay to pretend to be their parents?”

She starts crying, softly but immediately. She puts back all the items she was going to buy to make spaghetti, but I buy a Whatchamacallit. She doesn’t go to the car and wait, just stands next to me trying not to make a scene. I want to feel bad, but instead I drop her off at her apartment and then go to mine by myself. Just like that, I know we won’t speak anymore, and like everything else that makes easy sense coming together, I feel as if I had been bracing myself for such a schism from the moment I snapped that first KISS disc against the ice on my windshield: Right. Of course.

Monsters, December 29, 1999

She says she hasn’t been dancing in years, since high school when her ex-fiancé and her went to prom. Within an hour my car is stuck in a cornfield. I was trying to find the perfect spot, and when I couldn’t maneuver the car out of the spot I was in, I looked around and saw that the perfect spot had, in a way, found us.

She still has no idea what we’re doing, but she doesn’t press the issue. I leave the car running and turn on the high-beams. I get out and she follows suit. I take her hand about twenty feet in front of the car and for two hours, three hours we dance until the snow beneath us is packed solid and our cheeks are numb. Our shadows stretch off to our sides like monsters. She cranes her neck up to touch our foreheads together and the breath between the kiss is almost more important than the kiss itself.

“Monsters: A Series of Non-Chronological Vignettes” appears in Shake Away These Constant Days, a collection of short stories by Ryan Werner, published by Jersey Devil Press.

RYAN WERNER has got a body built for sin and an appetite for passion. He practices shameless self-promotion at his blog,

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