ZYGOTE IN MY COFFEE.COM
                        
***BIO*** Stephen Jones: I have 3 novels out, one short story collection, and another novel due in 2006.
2005 zygoteinmycoffee Ink.
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THE BALLAD OF TAD AND KIM ROGERS
by Stephen Jones
They were a week into the novelty-of-a-new-hole phase of their marriage when they met Walter the Pigeon. He was old, single; they'd been married two months, then, were still holding hands in line at the coffee shop. Walter said he saw them first over the styrofoam lip of his strawberry shake, and the way he said it, you could see his lips curved at the same slow angle of the cup, into a smile: instant nostalgia. Tad and Kim were still trying to blink the coffee shop into focus, the day, make it permanent.

'You love each other,' he told them, finally.

Tad and Kim settled their eyes on him.

'Is it in my hair?' Kim said, soft, her fingers working across her collarbone, to the nape of her neck, the base of her skull. It made her back sway in some.

Walter smiled.

'The way you walked,' he said.

Kim sat gingerly across from him, guiding herself down with her fingertips on the table. Tad was balancing her coffee behind her.

'Yes,' Kim said, 'we do.' Love each other.

'At least you think so,' Walter said.

Tad shook his head in wonder.

'What's it to you?' he said, the old man tag there even though it wasn't.

Walter looked up to him. The way a pigeon would, maybe.

'You think you've done it all now,' he said.

'Enough,' Tad said back, after the mandatory couple of beats.

Walter shrugged, looked away, as if scanning the coffee shop for two other, more likely candidates.

He came back to Kim, though.

She didn't lower her eyes.

'What?' she said, the word pointed.

Walter smiled, swirled his finger along the pink lip of his cup, and nodded at Tad without looking at Tad. 'I used to be him,' he told Kim.

Tad was wavering on his feet, spent, drained, his cup of coffee the only steady thing about him. He lifted it to Walter.

'Then who was she?' he asked. Who had been his Kim.

Walter didn't answer, or, did, but indirect: 'You think you know what penetration is,' he said. 'What love is.'

They stared at him, wanted to nod.

A week from then, maybe because of this morning at the coffee shop, maybe in the natural course of things, the two of them would be three nights into fun-with-alternate body-fluids. Then it would be paint-your-face-day at the Rogers house, then a backslide into the-world's-messiest-home-videos, then the complicated disappointment of I-hope-that's-not-your-grandmother's-rosary, then the-monster-with-three-backs - Robert, in for the weekend, and willing - then at last they would find themselves standing hand in hand outside a perfectly ordinary nightclub on a Wednesday night, about to cross the parking lot, start all over again. But right now it was Walter, the Pigeon, telling them about the true nature of penetration, which was the true nature of love: his Kim, getting hit by a truck on one of the many sidewalks of his twenties or stepping through a closed sliding glass door to touch a hummingbird or walking out of a bank into the dotted line a falling safe was falling down. It didn't matter. What did was that she came home from the hospital injured.

Tad sat down.

'Injured how?' he said.

'We thought we'd done it all,' Walter said, 'like the two of you, I mean.'

'You're not me,' Tad said.

'Just wait,' Walter said back.

Tad chewed his inner cheek. Kim watched him chew his inner cheek, found her hand holding his.

'A colostomy bag,' Walter was saying, in the middle of all this, then explained what it was, what it did, where it connected. Touched his own side to show, then paused.

'I think I wanted to crawl inside her,' he said. 'Just ball up and - it's about depth, wouldn't you say?'

Kim and Tad watched him, then, as he spoke, pictured him, removing the clear tube from his wife's side on the third day, kissing her on the cheekbone, the temple, her head cradled in his hands, his hands at the level of his chest. How she arched sideways into him. How it was just another hole.

At the end, Kim was breathing shallow, not letting herself cry.

Their coffee cold. Walter unable to pull out.

'I'm sorry,' she said.

Walter shrugged.

'Some people never know each other that well,' he said. 'Don't be.'

On the way home, Tad drove slow, using all his blinkers, and for twenty-four hours - a record - they didn't touch each other, couldn't, because it would just be fingers on skin, fingers on the outer layer of skin, but then halfway through the morning of their second day of abstinence, passing each other in the hall, Tad pinned Kim against the bodylength mirror there, held her hands under his, above her head, and leaned down, forced his tongue into her nose - all he could think of - and she stopped breathing, said it: deeper. After that they fell into their roles, Tad saying it into the part in her hair, that he had some scar tissue he really wanted to show her, Kim whispering into his chest that she had a hooded friend he really just had to meet, and they closed their eyes, opened everything else.

'I want to lay you down in a bed of roses,' Tad whispered, 'and fuck the shit out of you.'

Kim looked up to him, her eyes moons, then slivers of moons.

'I love you too,' she said.

When it was over they rose from the carpet hungry, went to the video store for ideas, and on-line, and then they were inviting Robert over for dinner, dessert, and, finally, after drawing a ragged bull's-eye on Kim's side, which didn't work, it was a fashion magazine from the grocery store, about relationships, about how you could dress up in other clothes, pick each other up at a bar, make it new again, and Kim smiled, nodded. But then they still knew each other, even in the half-light, Walter stalking them in their sleep, engorged, bloody, so they hid in each other, asked for and found the right-hypnol pills and dissolved them in their own drinks, just enough where they could recognize gender still, probably. Just maybe not each other. And they stood hand in hand before the nightclub like faded images of themselves, Kim in a wrong-wig, another in her purse, Tad in a RUB IT EASY MAKE IT HARD shirt he was supposed to peel after she left, replace.

He did, with a concert-t, his favorite band, the one she knew too, then followed her in after an indeterminate amount of minutes, and the night wore on, drink after drink, dart after dart, rack after rack - all the songs, the singing, the couples slipping out to the parking lot, coming back buttoned up wrong - and at some point Tad found himself leading a girl with unusual hair out the side door, not sure if he knew the hand, then sure he did, that it wouldn't be this natural if it wasn't her, then stopping just out of the light, pulling her close, saying it: 'I want to bend you over the hood of every car out here.'

The girl, the Kim, smiled against his chest, he could feel it, and turned around so her back was to him, her skirt, her handlength heels, and the first car they tried was a sedan born the same year they were, and it rocked with them like it had to, groaning from the weight of their love.
Oct. 2005
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