SHEARS

By David Alan Richards

She came towards him.

He stood naked, pressed against his bedroom wall, trembling. She had shears in her hands and she was going to do something horrible.

The shears came closer, closer to his crotch.

His small penis shriveled up in fear.

No, he thought, beyond panic. The word no was vivid, yet muffled in his mind; an ache dulled from shock.

The shears came closer and he whimpered.quicksand

He remembered how it began:

 

When they left the Angelika, she wasn't looking at him.

The cars on the busy NYC street whizzed by. There was the usual cement and the usual crowds of people accounted for.

What someone in The Voice had called the vague Bohemia of a richer, greedier SoHo surrounded them.

Henry frowned.

The article'd informed him that the place had been richer and greedier . . . and vague, since before he and Elena knew how to spell it's four-letters.

They walked.

Soho? He didn't know what to think. He bet the place must be a lot more sensible these days.

In a few blocks, they'd reached his gray Honda Civic. He opened the door for Elena. She went in, silently. No thank you or acknowledgment. Henry got in soon after, worried. He fidgeted in the driver's seat a while. Then buckled up. Maybe buckling up was part of the fidgeting. He hadn't started the car, yet.

 

***

"What?" he asked after he'd locked the Honda doors and some time had passed. Elena seemed to draw more into herself.

"Nothing," she said sharply, but blankly enough so it came across frightening.

He'd rather she be directly angry at him. That might be scary, also, but Henry felt a blank woman was even more of a threat. One didn't know exactly what would happen, especially with . . . Elena.

He absentmindedly drummed the steering wheel, feeling nervous.

They'd just seen Hard Candy together, a perfect print.He'd commented Ellen Page was a lovely, young actress. He wondered what else she'd been in. Could that have started . . . things, tonight? But why? Who knew. Elena had her . . . ways about her.

He couldn't believe Elena felt competition with a teenage girl. Had Elena ever wanted to act? No. So that was out. 

Then Henry felt something in his stomach. A queasiness. It was about Elena and the movie, specifically about the character Ellen Page had portrayed. Did Elena have a problem she hadn't told him about?

He dismissed the thought. They'd been going out for years, on and off. If Elena had something to tell him about her past, she would have. She'd open up about that sort of a thing. He told Elena everything and Elena told him everything. Actually, listening to her go on about everything was sometimes quite tiring, although he'd never let on.

Who would have done such . . . things to Elena, anyway?Not her father! Jack, was a nice conservative, republican man in New Jersey.

Her dates before Henry were teenage boys. Mundane sounding, teenage boys who'd gone out with Elena when she'd been teenage herself. And older men when she was . . . older.

Now she was thirty-something and going out with him. Henry was thirty-three. Things had been respectable all her life as far as he knew.

Elena hadn't gone out with anyone older when she was . . . younger.

Sometimes, her previous dates sounded handsomer then him.

Most thirty-three year old men were somewhat bald. What thirty-three year old male didn't have acne scars and dry skin and not much color and a nose that was maybe too big--all right, was too big--and thick eyeglasses and nearly as thick worry lines on their forehead? Not every 33 year old, but a lot of people that age. Hell, Elena was no movie, herself, Henry thought, defensively. He tried to mentally excuse himself for thinking hell. He knew it wasn't much of a curse, but still, it wasn't . . . helpful.

"Just before!!!"

What?!"Henry jumped, nearly out of his seat. The safety belt tightened against him. He'd shocked himself out of his attempt at self-forgiveness. I might have hit my head on the car roof, he thought, if I wasn't physically contained!

"Before!!!" Elena screamed. "Why were you blushing? You must have been thinking about something!"

"Something?" Henry's voice trembled.

"Something!" Elena screamed her words.

"I was thinking . . . how beautiful you are," Henry said. It was a lie, but a white one. He couldn't remember what he'd been thinking. Oh. Ellen Page and what had happened in the movie... He blushed again. This time more deeply.

"You bastard! You're red again! It stands out against your zombie white skin!!!"

"Elena, please! My skin is normal." A beat passed. "Basically normal... I was thinking about . . . how nice you are and how lovely our time is together and how I enjoy our relationship together and--"

"No you weren't! You were thinking about raping Ellen Page!"     "What?! Henry asked. He'd said too many whats he was so shaken. "Wait!" he tried, instead.

The car was small and cramped. At least it felt that way at the moment.

"Just like the man in the movie. You rape fourteen year olds!" Elena punched him on the shoulder.

"Ouch!" Henry said. Where was Elena coming from? He knew she sometimes acted . . . oddly, like the time she'd felt he was having an affair with another woman based on the very obscure reasoning he'd been wearing his shirts buttoned too low, or the time just a few month ago when she felt he and her sister were somehow . . . plotting to overthrow her? He'd never even met her sister.

"Elena! I--I--I wouldn't rape a fourteen year old girl," he stuttered. He massaged what he was sure would be a bruise mark.

"You rape fourteen year old boys?!"

"No!"

He'd been initially attracted to Elena for her, he guessed you'd call it . . . spontaneity, but sometimes she was too . . . spontaneous. There was a side of her that was so wildly . . . spontaneous he found it threatening.

"This is coming from left field, Elena. This is a very unusual thing you've accusing me of."

A light-bulb in his brain flickered on again. Not a new one. The same light-bulb he'd tried to dismiss. Maybe Elena was odd about this issue, because...

"Elena?" he asked, trying to keep his voice neutral as possible. "Do you have a past . . . experience you might like to talk about?"

"What experience?!"

"Did someone? Did something happen to you,a long time ago, that you might . . . like to discuss?"

"Pervert!!! Child molester!!! Michael Jackson!!!"

"Elena, I never... to anyone! And Michael Jackson was found innocent in court. I mean, when I was fourteen." He paused. "All right. Fifteen." Henry didn't see the difference, between fourteen and fifteen, but Elena had him somehow feeling like a criminal and he had a strange compulsion to be extra clear. "The girl was fourteen and a half and I'd just turned fifteen in January. We didn't have . .. extreme sexual dealings. We just kissed."

Elena was still looking at him hostilely.

"We didn't french kiss!" Henry felt himself cringe.

He should have gotten leather, instead of these uncomfortable, synthetic Honda seats, but the dealer had charged so much. Henry supposed if he'd been manly enough he could have argued the fellow down.

"We came close to french kissing." Henry was defiant. If he hadn't been defiant with the car dealer, at least he could be a little defiant with his . . . spontaneous girlfriend.

He paused and sighed. "I didn't have any breath mints." he said more quietly. "I'd eaten garlic pizza earlier that night at dinner. When I suggested we french kiss, she was rather cross about it."

"And?!"

"I drove her home."

Henry looked deep into his memory, taking a minute to think of his young date in a vaseline of nostalgia. She'd been lovely. He sighed for the missed opportunity.

"Monster!"

"Elena! This has really gone too far!"

"What kind of horrible things did you do to that young

girl?"

"I--I--I"

"Bet you wanted to rape her!"

He mentally threw his hands up in the air. "No!"

Elena sounded completely . . . spontaneous.

"Honey," he tried reason, "are you really making sense? The garlic breath was a minor awkwardness between two peers. We were about the same age--

Elena's eyes glared wide enough to pop out.

He lowered his voice to a whisper, a psychological trick to try to get her to lower her's when she spoke next. He'd read about it in a dentist copy of Scientific American. The crown had fallen right out. "I drove her home when she asked me."

"I don't know! I can't think! Stop making me think, Henry! Stop making me think so much! I'm vulnerable!!!"

Elena paused. Her fingers drifted to her forehead, spreading across it until they were grappling her temples. "Don't you know anything?!!! My father abused me!!!"

"God," Henry said, his voice a shocked grunt.Well, he definitely wouldn't have thought Jack, but he knew something was off when she started on this subject. Elena had often

been . . . off. He felt things were especially off tonight.

He didn't want to hear, but he felt he had to. He was her supportive partner.

Henry didn't want to hear any more. He had vague thoughts of somehow jumping out of the car and running away.

"When did it happen?" he asked quietly.

"I was seventeen." Elena said. Not fourteen and a half like some people!"

Henry was somewhat ruffled, but rather then be defensive, he decided to let the comment about his former flame pass. Arguing with Elena was frightening. Besides, there were bigger fishes to fry.

What happened, honey?" he asked. He knew honey was a sexist term and he'd used it once already, but he was trying to be sympathetic. 

"I was seventeen." Elena glared at him more for a while.

"Yes?" Henry pressed.

"My father . . ."

Henry nodded. He hoped encouragingly as opposed to the nauseously he was feeling.

". . . wouldn't let me drive his car to see my friends at the mall."

Henry waited.

Finally he asked, "And?" as gently as possible.

"Isn't that enough?"

Henry blinked.

"It was emotional abuse! I didn't say it was physical!"

"Oh." Henry said "I guess you could call it that. If you wanted to--"

"Emotional abuse is the worst! Worse then physical! I read that in Seek Nothing: A 105 step Recovery Guide for Feelers.

Henry raised his eyebrows.

"It's independently published!"

He felt both relief and annoyance about Elena's main disclosure. "So you had a fight with your father?" he asked somewhat less carefully. Truth be told, he was feeling a little more nonchalant about asking questions right now.

Elena's eyes opened wide in fury.

He reevaluated his emotional response. "You had a fight with your father?" he asked more seriously.

"Not a fight in so many words. You know Daddy. He never argues."

Henry nodded

"He's not in touch with arguing."

Henry took a second longer before nodding.

"But he wouldn't let me drive the car to the mall! Damn it! Damn it to hell!" Elena burst into tears. "I had to take the bus! And the bus smelled funny! And there was this ugly guy in the backseat who might have been staring at me. He was looking at everyone. That's why I feel so much for that poor girl, Haley," she said between sobs. The sobs seemed hysterical, not in any danger of subsiding, but finally they went down to sniffles. "She's been through so much, like me, and you said that you want to rape her!"

"I never said that, Elena."

"You bastard!"

Elena stopped talking for a minute and Henry wondered if she might be having a hard time sustaining her argument.

"You're in denial or cleverly manipulating!" she said. Then she was hitting him again, her hands fists. This time on the shoulders, chest, and head. She aimed a blow at his stomach which must have been awkward for her as she had to lean sideways in an odd position in the passenger seat.

"The actress was older then fourteen." Henry said weakly. His body was hurting. He wanted Elena to stop.

"Rationalizing rape! Molestation! I hate you!"

"She was over 21..."Perhaps if Elena wouldn't hear sense, she might hear chronology.

He moaned or whimpered, but it didn't stop her. Would he be bruised? Would it be worse?

A fist slammed into his head. Again.

Wasn't there something about putting your chin on you're chest to avoid a concussion? He'd learned that in martial arts class at six. He'd only taken one class and done at least . . . competitively, but he'd been scared of the other kids in the gray locker changing-room afterwards. They'd staged a inappropriate contest that wound up with Henry being teased about his private parts. The other children weren't so well endowed, but he supposed that was besides the point.

All he remembered was them laughing at him and pointing and playing with themselves to accent what they felt his physical failing. It had happened a long time ago, but Henry never forgot. That had ended karate lessons. He refused to go back, not telling his parents why. They'd been furious, but eventually accepted things when he'd screamed and held his breath for long enough. The instructor hadn't released his parents from their thousand dollar year contract, so they'd given him dirty looks for a while, but at least it had been over.

If he screamed and held his breath now, would Elena stop punching him or he would just die here in the car. A victim of extended brutality.

The punches began to hurt more and he remembered putting your chin on your chest wasn't for getting punched. It was for falling down, so the back of your brain didn't snap against your skull when you hit the floor.

The punches kept coming.

"Elena!" he cried.

And waited.

Eventually, she stopped.

"I get very emotional," Elena told him. She slumped her shoulders briefly. Maybe in guilt, or maybe just in exhaustion, or because her shoulders hurt.

Elena soon straightened. "You can drive me home," she said matter-of-factly.

Henry felt weary. He should voice more of an objection surrounding her outburst, but he didn't know how to voice it. He paused.
"Yes?" Elena said with an edge.

"Nothing." he gulped a whimper and was embarrassed to hear his throat squeak.

After awhile, Henry started to drive.

 

***

 

When the Honda got to her apartment, Elena turned to him before getting out. "I think we had a relatively nice evening, except for our falling out"

Henry looked into Elena's eyes in astonishment and meet a cold, hard challenge.

"I'm sorry?"

He bowed his head.

"I'm sorry?" Elena stated again. "I didn't hear you saying you enjoyed yourself."

There was a pause.

"...very nice," Henry mumbled, afraid of what she'd do if he let out his true feelings.

"We'll discuss the movie more, sometime over a cup of cappuccino."

Elena got out and slammed the car door.

Henry hoped she hadn't broken it."Perhaps we should get cold drinks, he suggested, picturing a cappuccino burning his skin, horribly disfiguring him.

Elena, two thirds of the way to her apartment, didn't hear.

He watched her briskly enter her apartment's lobby, not bothering to nod to the doorman opening its entrance and slowly closing the lobby door behind her.

 

***

Henry went home to his ikeaized apartment; bothered, upset, and exhausted.

A clock radio sat on a shiny steel nightstand. It read

9:00 PM in blue neon. A glass of unfinished camomile tea was beside it. He preferred Postum for breakfast, but he couldn't find it in the small, self-proclaimed gourmet market near his home.

A full-length mirror stood opposite his night stand. A few mass-produced, framed Ansel Adams he didn't like, completed the picture.

That was his entire bedroom besides a small bed with

post-modern white Formica bedposts. It looking sterile and not very inviting, but he was very tired.

Before he slept, he took most of his clothes off and looked in the mirror. His basically scrawny upper torso held a fat belly. The belly was from food, not beer. Henry hardly drank. He didn't feel he ate that much either. It was probably genetic.

He was blemished with bruises--some purple, some red. The few lighter ones--tan brown.

The bruises, his undeveloped body, his pale skin. The entire effect reminded him of . . . an abused child.

He frowned, disgusted with himself, or with Elena, or with the world.

His pajamas had black stripes against a white cotton background that reminded him of a prison uniform and bought back a reminder of Elena's accusation, so he sleep in his undershorts. It had the effect of making him feel more macho, anyway. In the back of his mind was an image of Rocky or Stanley Kowalski sprawled out in masculine boxers.With the lights off he could imagine he had more muscles. He knew the fantasy wouldn't work if he was awake, but he wasn't.

He slept.

***

 

In the middle of the night, he felt his underwear dragging across his legs. He thought he was dreaming. (An odd dream, but a dream nonetheless.) When he felt rubber tight around his wrists and ankles, he realized he wasn't and startled himself half up.

Elena was standing over him with a large cloth Barnes & Noble bag. She smiled tensely.

"Elena?" He couldn't move. His arms and legs were tied with rubber to the white bedposts. "What the hell! Excuse my french!" Even though he hadn't said anything very rude, his hell still made him feel self-consciously gruff.

"Your hands and feet are tied with with condoms, Henry. I couldn't find anything else on short notice. They're good condoms.I think Trojans . . . or Lifestyle...Maybe Durex?" She paused again. "Actually, I don't know what kind. I just grabbed them off the pharmacy shelf. I guess I wasn't very observant."

"Elena?"

"Yes?"

"Elena?" Henry said again, stunned. 

"I'm going to castrate you, Henry, like in the movie. You're a bad man."

"How?" was all Henry could think of saying.The cobwebs of sleep were scattering from his brain, fighting with the panic of the situation.

I got in with the key that you keep in the Winnie the Pooh cookie jar under your Famous Amos.

I would have given you a key."

"Why is a grown man involved with Winnie the Pooh?" she asked sharply.

They used to be my favorite books... Elena! Let me out of these condoms!"

'You want to molest Christopher Robin?"

"No!"

"You probably want to molest Christopher Robin's girlfriend."

"Christopher Robin doesn't have one."

"But you were thinking about it, weren't you!"

"Pooh bear was Christopher's platonic friend. In the modern sense, not the Greek sense. Christopher Robin was . . . young. He never experienced strong sexual desires for a girl or . . . anyone else."

"Shut up! " Elena screamed. "You demon intellectualizer of souls!"

"What?"

"Shut up!"

Henry felt he had no chose but to.

"I'm tired of being intellectualized, stepped on, trampled, treated like garbage, felobotimized by an evil male patriarch!"

"I thought I was a child molester," Henry said.

"Both."

Elena removed a sharp pair of garden shears from her bag. "For your victims!"
"Elena. I never victimized anyone. I never--"

"Shut your child-molesting, dirty, filthy, horrible, girl sucking, patriarch mouth!"

"Elena, you have some kind of . . . mental problem."

"Henry. Please don't make this a stressful situation. My therapist told me I don't handle stress well.

"It's not going to hurt. At least, I don't think it will hurt. Actually, it might hurt.

"Who knows?!"

"It will hurt, Elena," Henry said trying to draw on Elena's sense of guilt. "Elena! My god!"

"Yes?"

"Can't we discuss this?!"

I'm afraid not."

Henry thought of telling Elena to go fuck herself, but then thought the better of it. That might be the wrong thing to do.

"Elena! Put down the garden shears!" He tried this last not very complicated appeal to reason.

"After the innocence you destroyed, shoved into the moon's dark cycle of terror for their scar-filled lives."

"Where'd you get that?!"

Elena scratched her head, thinking. "Something . . . Black Magic.It wasn't by Scott Cunningham."

"What did I do?!"

"Don't argue!"

It was hopeless.

Elenalunged at him.

He lifted his pelvis away as her shears whizzed by his testes. He took a breath. He felt his manhood still there--the manhood he had. Unless it was ghost testicles he was feeling. People who'd lost their arms or legs, or whatever in war, had talked about ghost parts in an emotional public television series. They claimed to still feel them attached, even though they weren't. He heard the show had been controversial and angered Mobil. They'd withdrawn funding for it and it hadn't been aired again.

Henry glanced downward. In the darkness lay the shadowy outline of his genitals. Before he had a chance for complete relief, Elena lunged again.

"I didn't... I'm not..., I didn't... I'm not..."He was repeating these incomplete sentences like a mantra.

"Hold still!" Elena screamed "It's so small!"

These words drove the memory of the karate children's laughing back to him. Their smirking faces rushed into his frazzled, horror-filled brain. He thought would scream or cry.

It was then the rubbers around his arms snapped. Henry wasn't particularly strong, even in humiliated desperation. He assumed the condoms must have been brand X.

He untied his legs quickly while Elena readied herself for another attack. Before she could make it, he was free. He began to run around the room, Elena chasing after him. In circles.  Henry screamed as he ran.

You!" Elena raged from behind him, hateful beyond thought-out curses.

She was gaining on him. It was a small room and there wasn't a lot of space. As for speed, Henry had never been an athlete. His fear gave him adrenaline, but in the end, his muscles wore out. Sooner then later, Elena had him against one of the bedroom walls.

He heard the shears click open and closed his eyes tightly, preparing for the worst. Still, he instinctually twisted his pelvis around as the blades came calling a few inches below his abdomen.

I must look like I'm spinning an invisible hula hoop , Henry thought in a moment of clarity.

"Would you stay still! I keep missing!" Tears ran down Elena's wide, cold, crazy eyes, spittle down her mouth. "I want closure!!!"

Henry felt the garden shears draw close, cutting some of his pubic hairs loose. He thought of bananas being sliced. John Wayne sadly tipping his hat. John Wayne was the last of the cows. No, Henry meant cowboys. He tried to correct the idea in his mind, but its image remained cows. Cows staring at him.Archetypical, ageless cows. They had Elena's angry face.

The cows leapt up on two legs and began to run toward him, their large teeth fang-like under a bloody sky, their eyes blaring, garden shears in their ancient front hooves.

It was then Elena slipped.

Henry had left his socks on the floor when he'd undressed.He believed that that might have been what she slipped on, when he thought about it later.

On the other hand, it might have been the room-temperature camomile liquid in his knocked over cup of tea.

Henry would go through various thoughts and meditations on this, while he was wondering how to explain things to the police.  Now--Henry opened his eyes.

He saw Elena, her upper half near his crotch. The weapon's sharpness coming in for what looked like its final, effective work.

Her body lunged forward.

In the next millisecond, just before the blades reached, Elena's left leg somehow twisted, her lower half stumbled. She screamed. This time with surprise.

Elena tried to right her balance and hold onto her castrator at the same time. She accidently flipped the open shears around towards her neck as she began to descend.

What was intended to be a final thrust of, from her point of view, victory had also been her angriest, her most powerful, and her most intense.

Elena's movement, positioning, and her bodies weight were fully committed.

Perhaps it was the fates, Henry thought later, if one believes in such things.

In any case, it happened. Elena's neck came down on waiting metal and she was decapitated.

 




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