Ruination by David Mohan

I waited for the last dance to finish.

They were playing something Countryish, a little ripe and mawkish, and the couples on the dance floor were close together as clams in a basket.

But I was on the hunt. I had my eye on the line of boys who stood this dance out on their lonesome, sultry with longing, their eyes like feral confetti thrown back in the face of the glitter ball. They were the sorts of guys who almost choked on hunger. The banished. You could see it in their stance: defiant but defeated. And the very worst of them was Hank Troy, whip-thin and taut, almost-ugly with need, and the desire to spit out perpetual obscenities for the rough treatment he expected was his due.

Since my mother died, and my daddy went crazy from the grief, cursing me out and making the house seem a prison, and then Gram ailing in the back of it all, and my sister refusing to write from Austin, I’d made my decision. These years were never going to work out all beautiful like I’d imagined, especially with mama gone. She’d have paid attention to stuff nobody else could, so there was no point trying to be perfect, or nothing. My daddy didn’t expect it of me, neither. He expected the absolute worst. He’d rage about it every night, and so I’d long ago decided to serve him up the worst raw. See how he liked the taste.

When the lights came on, the couples disembarked from each other’s arms, and stood dazed in the glare of the room, each one a witness to some blazing revelation made flesh. The boys chewed gum, looking disgusted all the while, then spat on the sawdust, or smoked. Keeping my eye on the gossips and the tattletales, I stalked past Hank Troy, giving him the knowledgeable look I’d been practicing. It was the one I’d expected I’d never need to use. The one brewed in my sorry soul to taste like the most potent moonshine.

So, it was no particular surprise when he almost flinched as he caught my eye. He jolted backwards, and no mistake. I don’t think he’d ever seen me like that before, with that fire in my gaze. Not properly, that is, and never like this. I just wasn’t that kind of girl. But now he did, and he was quick enough on the uptake to follow me out into the warm August night, the hissing of trucks on the highway rising to crush the miniature orchestra of crickets playing at the edge of the darkwater swamp.

Hank Troy walked behind and near beside me in the slow light of this moon. It was, just for a moment, our own open-air mirror-ball, jiving for any night time lovers who chose to call it out from behind its curtain of clouds.

Soon enough, courtship presumed to happen in fast motion, the whole thing speeded up. First of all, Hank Troy took my tender hand. Then, suddenly, his arms were all about me, and we were necking, all reckless, and then kissing, and his hands were all over me, first base, second, third. Then, before we could prevent ourselves, we were lying down together in the wet grass, gently and ungently entangled. I closed my eyes like a suicide, as though inviting the waters of a creek to close over my face.

And as I shut my eyes, I pictured my ruination with the same satisfaction some girls possess when they imagine their wedding day. I was proud to think of it as an epic, a biblical storm, a revelation.

Panting in time with Hank, and lost in my vision, I swore I saw the specter of this future hang over us already.

Oh mama, it is lightning-fringed, and black as an eclipse of the moon.




David Mohan has been published in PANK, Necessary Fiction, Word Riot, SmokeLong Quarterly, Matchbook and The Chattahoochee Review. He has been nominated for The Pushcart Prize.




(Front page image via)

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