The Collusion


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Thank God I didn’t tell Max Steve raped me.
I force all the air from my lungs. Walk into the apartment and find Max standing by the street-facing window, contemplating a chess move. His pistol and gun-cleaning cloth lay next to the chessboard. A breeze blows dust in through the window. Max coughs. He complains of more frequent asthma attacks since I “Piled in on him.”
       I dig my chin in between his shoulder blades. He shrinks away.
       “Chess requires concentration,” he says.
       He brings up phlegm, spits in a saturated handkerchief.
       “The time for you to leave passed long ago,” he says. “I gave you a week. It’s been three months.”
       He’d substituted the saltshaker for the lost ivory Queen inherited from his grandfather.
       His face darkens. I thump his back. He cringes.
       “You need a shot of adrenaline,” I say.
       “I need you to leave,” he says.
       “I just came from the doctor,” I say. “Everything’s changed.”
        I scramble the pieces on the chessboard. Raise the window.
        “Can’t kick me out, Max. I haven’t told anyone you raped me,
        “Oh no,” he says. “You will not get away with that,”
        “Are you denying you got me drunk? That I passed out? That you carried me into your bedroom and forced your way into me?”
        His expression could make rocks squirm. He lowers his backside onto the sofa: drops his head between his legs. I stare at the floor.
        “I was sore when I woke up,” I say.
        “Liar,” he says. Blackmail won’t work.”
        “Are you sure?”
        He says. “After my matches with Father Leone, I’ll attend Midnight mass. Clear out before I get home.”
        “No, Max.”
        I run my finger down the crevice beside his nose. He slaps my arm aside.
        “My friend will move in next week.”
        “What friend?” I say, “When can I move back?”
        He leads me to the calendar nailed to the wall. Draws an X on the page, and continues, Xing out the next four months.
         “And so on forever,” he says.
          I take the pencil from him.
         “Watch Galena, the stray from the slums, cross out Max’s Xs,” I say. “Let’s figure this out. We can cross off August, September, in fact every month to this page, Max, December, nineteen twenty-eight. Why that’s six months from now.”
           I draw a baby and watch the blood drain from his face.
          “Kiss me, Daddy,” I say. “My. Don’t we look scared?”
          “Any fetus growing inside you came out of another man’s penis, and you know it,” he says. “Don’t try to pin it on me.”
           “You made me drink so much I passed out.”
           “That won’t work,” he says.
           “So I’m the virgin Galena?” I say. “The second coming has been living inside me for three months,”
           “I’m not God,” he says.
            I stomp to the bathroom. Shout above the sound of my pee pouring into the toilet water.
            “God didn’t rape me,” I say. “Doesn’t matter. I’ll tell everybody you raped me after I passed out. That I woke up soaked in blood. The cops will believe me.”
            He collapses on the couch. I walk over to him. Stand feet apart.
            “I’ll be sure to tell them I’m fourteen.”
            “You’re on your own with this one,” he says. “With the number of men you’ve serviced, the music teacher before you axed him, your stepfather, Vinnie. You can’t stop describing the size of his penis. Go pick on them.”
            I sweep the chessboard with the back of my hand, sending pieces to the opposite wall. He marches to the guest room. Comes back with an armload of my clothes. Dumps them out on the veranda.
          “Your baby inside me is enough to put you away. When the inmates hear about my age, you’ll die in prison.”
           His sneer could make trees shiver.
           “You will not get away with extortion,” he says.
           “I’ll cry when I tell the police.”
           He coughs and yells.
           “Get out,” he says.
           In one leap, I take the three steps from the veranda to the walkway and wipe away tears as I trip on cracks in the sidewalk, charge across streets without checking traffic.

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