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CodaTo Jason Paul Fox's previous piece

The Wild Life

Beth couldn't help but smile starry-eyed at the way the arc-lit snowflakes dissolved into half-frozen black mush on the mud of the construction sight; it was like walking on an undulating sponge that protested with a squish at each step. She heard each squish as a word: "Yech! Shit! Shoes with thick soles! Quit!"

Beth was nearly nineteen; you could see from the half-knowing look that danced around her eyes as she smiled that she had recently passed boy-craziness into the realm of adulthood. She wasn't exactly pretty, at least not in the state in which she awoke, but after bolstering her confidence by applying the contents of thirteen little bottles to her face, hair, eyes, armpits, and stomach, she could hold her head high with a certain charming knowledge of her own attractiveness that was an attractiveness in itself. Still, a trace of adventurous ingenuousness lit her face, and added bounce to her youthful step.

She had met 'Gordy' at a nightclub a few hours ago, and he had given her a wonderful drug. What had he called it again? She didn't want to think about it. She had been brought up to mistrust drugs, but once she had determined to be adventurous on this rare Saturday night off from work, she had found herself drawn farther and farther into it, until she couldn't say no. Anyway, she told her self, I don't care; how could she, when everything smiled at her so reassuringly?

Beside her, Gordy was thinking less disjointedly. Clearly Beth was sufficiently spaced out to keep her occupied for a while, he thought as he glanced at his watch, but at a certain point she would nonetheless start asking questions. No amount of preparation could cover all the bases. Usually when the questions came he had no good answers prepared, and had to think on his feet. But then, that was part of the thrill of the whole thing, the pause, the stutter that he could not prevent, and the wonderful glow when his lies were believed. He could not help but try to come up with excuses as they walked. It was entertaining, and they might come in handy someday. He hated it when it came to a serious physical confrontation. His hobby was an intellectual thrill. In any case, as they approached he was coming up with answers.

They had come to the hole in the fence that surrounded the hulking superstructure of the skeletal tower. He lifted the fence up for her. She stopped and looked at him again like she was seeing him for the first time. She looked uneasy. A sudden qualm had struck her as she realized she knew nothing about this person she was walking with. She wasn't even quite certain where they were anymore, or if she could find her way back.

"Who are you?" she said timorously.

"Who are you ?" he replied.

His reply was spontaneous. He almost flinched after saying it-- and as the story he was planning to tell her came to his lips she said "I don't know."

"You want to know who I am, when you don't even know who you are yourself?" he said. Enough had been said. She had been confused by the interchange and would probably obey any command uttered in an authoritative enough voice. "Come on," he said, gesturing to the gap under the fence. She went under without asking any more questions although her expression had sobered to a quizzical frown. She needed to be cheered. If he made her laugh she would forget her mistrust. Gordy stopped at a half filled bag of concrete with a huge tear that had been snowed on and was half solid. "Look!" he said, grinning like a circus clown, "A volacano! Or a cabbage patch kid!" He kicked his foot through the half-solid stuff: "The Grand Canyon!" While Beth was doubled over in laughter, he pulled the lever for the elevator.

When he turned around, she was writing in the concrete like a little child. The concrete had become solid stone, and her finger had attained ultimate strength. Meanwhile, an iron post holding up the fence dripped to the ground, slithered snakelike up to her, kissed her on the face, and tried to whisper in her ear. She pushed it away; it was spoiling her concentration.

The lift arrived and Gordy coaxed her onto it. He had planned the line that would make a ride on the open lift seem attractive. "Do you want to see the top of the world?"

"Gorgy... oops-- I meant Gordy," she whined, snuggling up to him-- "I though you were going to take me to your apartment..."

Gordy wanted to do it then and there, and his hands shook with the effort it took to curb his impulse. He was almost frightened at his inability to control himself.

She seemed so different now, with her head lolling a little to one side, and the black of her pupils obliterating her blue irises. She had seemed so innocent before, so virginal. Now she was just like a prostitute-- sliming on him, not caring when her breasts rubbed against his chest.

Breathing heavily, he pushed her away to arm's length, bending sideways to look straight into her eyes. "Would you like to make love in heaven?"

"What?" she said. His words had come like vaporous breath from his lips and dissipated in the air before she could read them.

He didn't notice that he was shaking her, and the adrenalin made the blood pound in his ears as he said "We can take this elevator to heaven and make love among the clouds and the twinkling stars."

"Really?" she said, stepping onto the lift. "Let's do it right here, like in Fatal Attraction ."

Just like that, thought Gordy. That easy.

"Okay," said Gordy, joining her. "We can do that."

He began to peel her clothes off as the lift soared rapidly into the air with a rhythmic metallic clank that echoed in Beth's ears as if it came from the other end of a long hallway. She had many clothes to peel off. First her winter coat, which Gordy threw over the side of the open lift. The air caught it as it flapped its sleeves and flew off into the starry sky. Then her vest, which dissappeared without Gordy having to go through the effort of unsnapping the six snaps. Beth became distracted by the glorious sight of the dancing buildings receding below her, and when she returned her eyes to Gordy, she suddenly realized she was on drugs, naked and very cold on the top of a building under construction with a man she didn't know at all. A wide smile spread across her face. She looked grinning into Gordy's eyes. "So this is the wild life." Her voice sounded funny to her in the rarified air, thin and tinny.

A familiar joyous, buoyant hollowness rose in Gordy's throat, but he forced his face to stay calm-- for effect.

"Yes," said Gordy, rolling her over the edge of the lift and watching her rapid descent to the ground far below. "This is the wild life."

On his way to the car, Gordy encountered the pile of damp concrete beside the huge circle of blood. In the concrete she had written "Gordy+Beth?" in a heart. He erased it with his foot and lit a cigarette, kicking aside the snakelike fence-post. It didn't want to kiss him anyway.

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