Do what thou wilt

It was like magic. Two weeks ago I’d never heard of Petal, and then I was on the phone with her, planning to protest the premiere of Born on the Fourth of July. It was the kind of thing Abbie Hoffman would do, we agreed; he was our hometown activist hero. “Do you think Tom Cruise will be there?” I asked, and she said no, but if I wrote a press release, she knew someone who wrote for the Telegram, she could use the fax in her mom’s home office to send it in. I didn’t ask why she was helping me because she was helping herself, too, to be not alone where some things happened. We did the protest and after we made out in her car in the Denny’s parking lot and then we split the Grand Slam Breakfast. . . . Ronk Martin stood like a fat white spider in the third story window of his family’s massive Georgian pile, looking over Main St. Petal and I were walking toward Jreck Subs and the public library. “Is he naked?” I asked, because all I could make out when I squinted was a pale blob. “Probably.” Ronk graduated high school and then wrote a novel titled Suburban Abyss that told all the town’s secrets, more than the high school teacher and the assistant principal’s lunchtime quickies and into the cozy relationship between the selectmen and the bank managers. China Palace and trafficking. Rumor was, someone broke into the high school and stole the only copy from the desk of the AP English teacher, Ronk’s first reader. Rumor was, he’d placed copies all over town. I didn’t need to ask Petal if she’d slept with him. “You’re a better writer than him,” she answered my unasked question. “His book is just about all this,” she said as we waited for a truck with dirty Old Glory mudflaps to pass before we could cross. “Your stories are about something more.” . . . . “How would you feel about someone taking pictures of us?” Petal asked. She knew someone, Tobias, who sometimes took artistic photographs of women, naked, and sometimes of couples. He’d asked her if he could take pictures of us. “He knows someone at this magazine, Yellow Silk, I can show you a copy, you’ll see the kind of thing they like.” I thought he just wanted a way to sleep with Petal. “He can throw a sheet over us,” Petal said. “We’d just be shapes and shadows.” “What if we like it?” I asked. “What if that’s the only way we can get off after this, someone else in the room with a camera?” She smiled at me. “It’s never hard to find someone who wants to watch.” One of us was a doorway. One of us slammed shut.


Matt Dube’s stories have been published here and there. He teaches creative writing and American lit and reads submissions for the online lit mag, Craft.