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The Secret Game

by: Kevin Hedman

There’s a man sitting alone on a park bench. The sun goes slow above him and a long time later a woman in all white happens past. She’s sweating and panting. Beneath her clothes, her body is as wet as a frog’s. She glances at the man, decides that he looks alright to her, and sits down beside him.

He watches her breathe for quite a while. If he’s impressed by the relentlessness of it, he doesn’t show it. He just says, “I have some soda.” He holds out a can that’s already been opened and she takes it without thanking him. She brings it to her lips and pours it straight down her throat. Her lack of consideration excites him, and he says “There’s wasps in it.”

“I like wasps,” she says.

They sit together without talking for minutes on end, him staring into the distance and her chewing on the stingers in her mouth. They crunched between her teeth just as the gravel on the ground crunched under the foot he couldn’t keep from tap tap tapping.

He says, “I want to go away from here with you.”

She stands up and tells him, “Fine.” She reaches out her hand and he takes it. Hand in hand, they walk out of the park. As they go, he explains, “I meet people at that bench all the time,” and he asks, “You’re not a whore, are you?”

The woman ignores him. She looks down at her clothes and sees that all her sweat has stained them yellow. It would be best to move less on days like this, she decides as they come upon the man’s car. It’s one of those long black ones, like they use to carry around rich people or dead people.

“I can bring you wherever you want if you do me just one favor,” he says.

She gets into the passenger seat without saying anything. He gets in too and they go rolling down a street that still sunny but almost not so. The man says, “I’m not really a man at all. I have the equipment, but too many chromosomes.”

The woman tunes the radio to a station she likes, “Don’t confess things to me,” she says. “I don’t want to hear it.”

He lets out a soft sigh and he stops the car. He pulls off his mustache and unzips his fly. “Maybe I’ve got something you’ll like.”

“Just drive,” she says, “Just a little farther.” He obeys her because way down deep in his spirit he feels it’s important to stay a gentleman until it becomes truly impossible.

“You’re a whore. It’s obvious. Someone’s pissed all over you,” he tells her.

She says something. She enjoys the song on the radio because it reminds her of how some people sometimes tell the truth. She sings along, but not really. It’s more like she just half-sounds some of the words in the chorus. When the man reaches out to touch the bare part of her leg, she bends two of fingers back until they snap like the thoraxes of wasps in her breakfast cereal.

Her eyes stay closed while he screams. Once he’s finished, he says, “You’re cruel, but I’m going to prove myself worthy of it.” He drives awhile and then he stops. He feels safe taking in her beauty. He feels they’ve come through something together, even though they’ve only gone two blocks. He holds his ruined fingers in his mouth and he waits for her to open her eyes.

When they did, he says, “I’m going to snatch up that little girl out there. We’ll be a family, us three, and I’ll use her for everything you won’t let me do. See if I don’t.”

The woman looks out the window at the small child standing on the closest corner. She’s in a bright red dress and she’s got a mouthful of gum. Her jaw moves left, then it moves right, and she blows a great big pink bubble that leaves sticky remnants all over her face when it pops. She laughs at that, the odd blonde creature, and the woman in the car smiles. It’s a smile that lets the man see all her teeth and her tongue moving around in the spaces between them.

“Go ahead,” she says, “No one’s stopping you.”

He takes it as a dare, which is just how she meant it. He pulls his fingers from his mouth and he gets out of the car. He walks right up to the child like he knows her, like he’s only known good intentions his whole life. He bends down before her; he holds out his good hand for her to spit her gum into and he puts his bad hand in front of his mouth.

The woman can see his lips moving regardless. She can see the child’s face grow redder than that dress of hers and that’s how she knows that the two of them have started to play the secret game.

It comes to the child’s turn to say something dirty, and that’s when the man puts his ear very close to her. They’re so close her lips are touching the lobe, right there on the darkening street, and the man’s eyes go wide. They’re cast right upon the woman in his car as the child presses in even closer. What she’s saying, it surprises him. He clenches his teeth together, his forehead folds up into neat little lines, and the whites of his eyes fill up with blood.

The child talks and talks as the man blushes and bleeds. When he opens his mouth for the last time, he’s limp on the ground at her feet and wasps are flying out of all the holes his body has. They rise up in a great swarm over the child and over the trees to vanish into the slippery twilight sky.

The streetlights come on then and the woman slides over to the driver’s seat. She rolls down the window and waves at the child. The child waves back. She leaps over the loose body below and goes skipping up to the car. She’s radiant, but she’s frowning too.

“You said you wouldn’t hurt them first,” she says after she’s climbed into the passenger seat,
“You promised, daddy.”
“I always tell lies. Even to you,” says the woman. She’s reaching into her once-white clothes to pull
her real parts from their hiding place. It always stings some, and the child watches the wincing with
pleasure.

“I lie too, daddy,” she says, so proud, so sweet.

With a hand on the child’s head, the father says, “My baby. My baby.”

The car starts up and surges ahead. The child’s eyes roll back into her head and when there are no
pupils showing at all, she whistles too. She whistles the song her father likes as she crawls onto his lap.

She twists to face him. Her knees on his knees, she lifts her dress as high as it can go. Her father leans in close to take the child’s nipple between his tiny, far-apart teeth. With one eye on the road ahead and one eye against the silent heart of his favorite daughter, he feeds and feeds on the poison inside her until she’s empty and he’s sated.