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book itself was beautifully jacketed, rich with the kind of love and attention
a publishing house lavishes on a project when it expects to make pots and pots
Marty’s own book had been a paperback. In error, his publisher put Richard
III on the cover instead of Henry of Bolingbrook. He and his wife had celebrated
its publication anyway, rosy with hope about the future. Promotional tours. Royalty
checks. Book signings. More books. Maybe a pool. Even then Marty had pictured
himself poolside, his coarse-haired fingers curled around the wet throat of a
beer, sunglasses mirroring a bevy of giggling, bikini-clad nymphs who called
him Marty instead of Mr. Childs.
The only thing in Marty’s backyard now
was a rusted grill.
Kitchfield’s eyes. He couldn’t stand them. They bore into his own
like Satan’s screwdriver, mocking and cruel. Marty gained his feet. Although
he heard the bus’s gravelly approach, he turned away.
Across the sidewalk, Westminster cemetery beckoned, its ancient oaks curling
gnarled fingers of invitation. A half-dozen gravestones sprouting from the hill
resembled mossy teeth. Marty wanted desperately to hide there. To rest beneath
He crept up the weed-choked path.
Well away from the billboard, Marty found a bench, and sat. The pain eased. He
scrubbed his face with his hands. Just ahead rose a monument, vitriolic as a
stiff middle finger, grim with importance. A craggy face peered down from its
pedestal, cast in tarnished brass. Marty squinted. Why, it was Poe’s grave.
Edgar Allen Poe. He read the name again. He’d heard the memorial lay close.
Some society had built it. Marty knew when he himself died, there’d be
no memorials. His wife would simply torch him.
Drawing a shaky breath, he watched
a pillbug propel itself on filament legs.
And past the bug, he saw a woman drifting
up the path.
She walked tentatively, a school-marmish kind of movement, shoulders straight,
not much play at the knees. She carried a canvas tote over one shoulder. When
the woman drew near, Marty realized her hesitant manner came from stopping every
few feet to read the markers. The slim skirt and lacy blouse lent her an Old
World appeal, as did the piled-up hair. She wore no pantyhose.
His first thought was they were so completely alone. He analyzed for weight and
contour the small, up-thrust breasts. In profile, her face appeared youngish,
still soft at the cheeks. But Marty didn’t waste a lot of time studying
Her low heels scraped the brick path. Stopped. She’d seen Poe’s grave.
Perhaps she’d even come here for that purpose. He waited, breathless. An
odd excitement raced through him, one he’d never felt before. It sharpened
all his senses. And in one glorious epiphany he knew that the girl was intended
for him. Just him. An antidote to shame and humiliation. A biscuit for a good
He started toward her. Laid a proprietary hand on her shoulder. Relished her
fright when she screamed.
Afterwards, he propped himself against the monument, a little dissatisfied with
his performance. He’d ended it too quickly. Despite the disappointment,
a delicious sense of relaxation washed over him. Something dark and primal had
been appeased. He wiped his face again, panting from exertion. He’d been
a stallion. A pity his wife couldn’t have seen him. It proved, of course,
that the fault didn’t lie with him, but with her. It was her failure to
entice him any longer that drove him to desperate measures.
Glancing down, he
noted the lividity of bruises around the girl’s throat.
Ripe banana colors—yellow, brown, black. The rest of her skin shone dazzling
white where he’d torn the blouse away. Whiter surely than Evan Kitchfield’s
The contents of her precious tote lay scattered. Glasses, a museum schedule,
a book-shaped package done up in confetti paper. A gift, no doubt. To pass the
time while his heart rate leveled out, Marty stripped away the paper and held
the book in his hand.
Then cried out in anguish.
It couldn’t be. Marty stared at the hands that
had strangled her.
His book. Naked Before Mine Enemies.
was previously published at Poetscanvas.org and
is reprinted here by permission of the author, Stacey Keith.
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