RUNNING RED

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By ANDREW DINSMOOR, CONTRIBUTOR

I’m punched red as the green hills watch.  They roll on in silence, echoing the red fists that work my face into bulges and gashes.  Carl used to strike me pink with love. But these days, it’s with fists. 

Bloods squirts into the purple sky.  My head’s bent back at the neck, suspended like an arm hanging from the edge of a bed.  The drops of blood rain back down on my face.  I taste salt, gargle, and let the thick red bubble from the edges of my mouth.  The hills are quiet.  Carl lets go of my shirt, and my body hits flat on the ground. 

“Carl,” I say, “please.  I’m going to lose her.”

“I thought you wanted to, Maddie.”

“Please, I can’t take anymore!”

He takes another gulp of the golden liquid.  “I’ll tell you this once,” he says, “I’d never kill.”

“That’s the only way I’d leave you,” I say.

The hills won’t speak up, but a soft wind snakes through the valley — whistling by like air in and out of a recorder.  He empties the contents of the glass bottle down his esophagus and chucks it at the ground; it hiccups twice and falls silent in the bed of grass.  My mind walks with the lost clouds.  This sky has seen many things, but rarely does it see such red.  Carl splatters me again, but now the blood is less elastic and it oozes from my face and sits, like squeezing half an orange with its open side up. 

The red puddles in the grooves of my face, and they break when I say, “Don’t.  Not again.”  But the glass bottle has been emptied, and he continues working my face into a lump of red. 

We used to lay naked in this valley.  No one saw but the hills and sky.  Carl undressed us both —I liked it that way — and we made love on top of our clothes.  After, we lay naked in the grass until our breathing and sweat seemed to disappear, until we were dry and clean again.  Sometimes we sat up and sang each other happy songs from our childhood, and he placed a piece of wet cantaloupe on my tongue whenever I hit a high note.

But after living recklessly like this for some months, my stomach began to shape itself, and we both grew afraid.  We were afraid to ruin our youth, our love.  By the time my stomach had rounded off, Carl had started drinking every day.  I told him I’d get an abortion, but he said God wouldn’t have us if I did, so I told him I still loved him.  I made sure he kept taking me out to this valley, but as the baby grew, it became difficult for us to make love.  Soon he began driving us way out here with one hand on the wheel and another on his brandy. 

The red is bright.  There is no doubt that the sky can see it, but the hills aren’t judging.  Carl tells me that before the baby I was all he ever wanted.  His hand hits hard, and my view is suddenly forced from the sky to the green hills.  My face is a burning sphere, and I want to cry.  But that wouldn’t do much, so I stay focused on the hills.  He will sober up soon.  Red runs over my eyes, but I blink until I see green again.

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