Dirty south, desperation, Dead Birds Hot.

She tossed her smoke and stumbled toward me, leaned down and put her hands on either side of my waist.

“Want a lap dance?”

“Sure.”

I loathed strip clubs, could count on one hand how many times I’d been in one, and it only took three fingers. But she was obliterated there, and I was in the Rome of that place. She corralled the pugs into her room with her and closed the door. I stared up at the painting again. The horses didn’t look happy to me, they looked trapped. They were running around the property line to blow off steam so they could deal with where they were. She returned holding a CD, wearing a short dress and heels. She loaded the disc and hit play. Rebel Yell started, and she moved her hips to the song, staring down at me through a mess of wavy dark hair, her nose sitting there the way it was, her eyelids heavy with drink. She gyrated off-beat to the song, and lifted her dress up and off. She lost her balance and stumbled back into the stereo, and a few things fell from the shelf. She kept going, made her way over to me, turned and spread her ass in my face. The thong was blue, and the tampon was still in. She slapped her ass and pressed her hands to her knees and shook it for me. Ricky walked out and grabbed a coke from the fridge. He was in his boxers, half awake, and he glanced at the room casually, popped the can open, nodded to me, then went back to his room. She kept going, and the CD started to skip. She walked over and beat on the player, and kept beating on it, and then she beat it even harder until it started to break apart. The stereo was her life, the state, a man on the couch that didn’t care if she lived or died, but a man she thought she needed. I looked above it all to the painting. They were definitely trapped. I watched a few cars lurk down the street and waited for her to finish. The noise stopped and she stood facing me. The stereo was destroyed. I expected her to break down crying, but she didn’t. She stared at me, her face flushed and reckoned with hatred. Without breaking eye contact, she pulled the tampon from herself and dropped it to the floor. The rawness of it ran hot in my blood. She walked over, pulled me to the floor, ripped off my pants. She rode me hard and mean. I pressed up into her and let her go at it. Her face was angry, and she shuffled back and forth onto me and dug into my chest, then hauled off and punched me in the face. It was a hard hit, a right cross to my jaw. My skull echoed and she went harder. I stared at the tampon. It laid there looking sorry and pissed. She reached over and threw it across the room. It rolled under the sink.

—Excerpt from “Rebel Yell” in Dead Birds Hot.

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About Jeff Stewart

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