Abby holds love in her right hand. Walter kneels on the cement. She dangles the love, the size of a marble, over his grease-fumed hair, rolling it around her meaty and sandy palm as she decides what to make him do first. Roll over, she says. Walter hesitates. Roll over, she repeats, her voice a butter knife. Walter rolls over, nicks his black rimmed glasses against the heat-stamped driveway where he scrawled W+A 4ever in blue dust yesterday, and sits up again, eyes locked on the love cradled between her swan fingers, and awaits further instruction.
Walter would do anything, lick a frog, swallow a worm, eat his homework, because friends told epic tales about it, he read about it in books, seen it in movies, this magic bean, this wondrous explosion just inches from his nose, the most talked about essence in the world, the love stone that could start wars but somehow never end them.
Down, she says. He falls to the cement and turns on his side, exposing his belly. He is now a submissive animal in the woods, a buck who kicks up his hooves at a poker table, smokes a cigar, hangs his antlers on the nearest branch, sets his blood-stained cards on the table, and mutters to the camouflaged hunter, “I fold.”
Sit, Abby says. He does, this the first trick he learned. A bruised daisy bulges through the powdered cement and he wants to burn this absurd image with an ant-murdering magnifying glass and watch the edges melt to black like a torched Polaroid. What about the daisy soldiers still buried in unmarked graves underneath, submitting to the corporate high heels of his stepmother and the rubber smudges of his father’s running shoes and his own vomit chalk lines? Walter then wonders where dead plants go when they die, the roses left on a fresh grave, do they have a heaven, do they make it to his blue grandmother in the beyond, and he craves Abby again like a root beer float.
What else, what else? Abby thinks, tapping her finger to her chin, her mother’s warnings fresh like pain. The ground rattles and then stops. She listens. She waits. Dance, she says. Walter says nothing. He does nothing. She repeats, cheeks printed red with madness, dance, you stupid, dance, she says, and she shows him the love pellet, the thickening reminder of what he needs from her, and he jumps to his feet and wiggles and waddles does the best he can under a suburban tent of suppertime silence.
Abby pats him on the head, tells him good boy, and tosses the love into the sky. Walter catches it between his split teeth and swallows. It fills him up like ice cream and he spits some onto the driveway like leftover chewing tobacco. His river-flowing saliva washes away the blue chalk confession from yesterday.
A prickly and brokenhearted woman smokes in her garage across the street and narrows her seeded eyes and flicks the invaded and used bud into her rose bush. Walter holds the residual taste of dental floss in his mouth. He runs his tongue over his freshly prodded teeth. He offers Abby the cigarette he stole from his older brother’s desk drawer. She tucks it behind her ear. Expired dandelion seeds stick to the edges of grass like lint to sweaters.
The silver road cracks open, china plates crash and slice, ocean waves moan, and the following unnumbered casualties, the abandoned red bike at the corner, the smoking neighbor, the flaming rose bush, the summer helicopter seeds bending the air, all fall into the slobbering hole, into the erasing ground, and dirty fingernails fly by. Walter holds the dead daisy. He tosses it into the vortex with a small prayer.
Abby’s confused. It can’t be her who caused the earth to split, her legs didn’t split, the world didn’t split, everything’s connected and lovely because she made Walter work casually for the love, made him dance before the dance, and then her ribs bleed open, and she falls to her knees because maybe her mother was right when she said promiscuous girls cause earthquakes but wonders why the world isn’t one big crater because it wasn’t the first time she handed it over and it wouldn’t be the last and she would never be the true kind of sorry.