Theme XI: Modern Love, “The Cruelty and The Cur”

By Nikolas Reda-Castelao

There was a small pasture behind Eli’s house, a lie of a verdigris amidst a sprawl of copycat French colonial homes in a suburban city laying waste to the natural. The creek that cut through the half acre piece of land drunkenly whispered the laws of nature, hid its devious creatures and inventions. There was a single tree at the point where the water curved and followed a path into the subterranean part of a bridge. Gabe waited under this tree on the darkest Saturday of the spring. Eli walked into the field, the valley of the restless and the repressed.

With a scoff, Gabe moved from the tree. Eli shuffled in place, deadpan. The combatants moved center ring. The charge of the wind roused the audience of resurrection grass, bouncing like energized electrons. The creek croaked in the back, “The Cruelty and The Cur”. The audience, bloodthirsty mesmerized, erupted.

There they were, center field with rebel yell stares, they knew Geneva violations were fair. It was the cusp of battle, a shared cup of bitterness. One party, Gabe, the challenger with nebulous poof hair and cavern eyes, held a banner “Virtue.” The incumbent, sheening blond hair over deadpan glare and cocksure grin, shuffled.

“You really want to get your ass kicked?” shouted Eli.

These words echoed from last Wednesday in class when the challenge was issued. David, Casey, and company hollered hype. The Hollister homeboy Eli held his hiss. Gabe gave gleams of glory in glances to the guys; he gave, “Yeah! Why not? I’m sick of the way you treat her.”

“So you think you deserve her more, huh bitch?”

The starter pistol in a gale. Gabe issued the first charge, Pickett on his heels. The sly shuffle of Eli broke rhythm and he stepped inward. The first strike, a serpentine fist skimmed Eli’s face. The body turned. A foot appeared at Eli’s face. He ducked, pitter-patter backwards; the body gave chase. Frenetic fanatic fists flew around Eli’s face. There was an opening; Eli struck, fist like a mace. Gabe lost his pace, collapsed on knee in disgrace.

A foot shot for the fallen.
The fallen fastened the foot.

Eli was towed into a shattering punch to the gut.

Eli struck both fists down.
Gabe crossed arms to save face.

They leaped back. Respite came to no one’s delight. Angry faces, crunching and twisting emotion on fleshy canvas, stared back at each other like receptacles into animal souls.

They glared back like the cool blue stare of Gabe’s Facebook conversations, digital transcripts of a religious atheist and his savior complex with this girl. He asked her if they could get a coffee the next day. She said she’d have to check with Eli. The creeks of blood in his cardiovascular, his heart, ruptured, overflowed and flooded to his jugular. He sputtered his blood on her name. Now he was going to splatter Eli’s blood. He took cavernous eyes to the bathroom mirror, let fluorescents distort his worth and he asked the question.

“So you think you deserve her more, huh bitch?”

Another clash, slash of the flesh and dash of the damned, they were madmen on a collision course with defeat. Eli launched a space program with his fist. Gabe leaped higher. He orbited round to Eli’s back, made a roundhouse kick on the tarmac of his rubber sole. The foot made meteor impact. Eli staggered. Here came Gabe.

Tornado kick skimmed the head.
The second foot followed to finish.

Eli clutched the foot. The first returned; Eli clutched that, too.

He took the body and brought it down from the sky like a Challenger explosion. The challenger exploded on the ground.

Eli sent his fist down to finish Gabe. Gabe blocked it with his foot. He regained his footing on his free foot. One foot held in fist, at pivot point, Gabe twisted his body around and surprised Eli with a centrifugal punisher to the face.

Blood spurted along the grass.

Eli saw the Pollock of his ego. He looked back to Gabe, grinning in some cocksure fanfaronade. “Prick,” he muttered while wiping the blood from his mouth and nose. Now was not the time to stop.

Eli wasn’t one to stop. The last weekend of their winter break, whilst discussing a school project they were shooting, Gabe spent the night at his house. For two hours he lectured Gabe about sex using this girl as his anecdotal muse. He did not stop. Gabe lay in his rival’s bed, drowning in the reservoir of blood in his jugular. He wrestled in that bed with his sexual innocence and it was thrashing him. This beating made the taste of everything bitter, even her saccharine name.

His castration fantasies liked to ask him, “So you think you deserve her more, huh bitch?”

“Yo Gabe!” hollered Eli. “I told her that I was gonna fuck you up today, and then she fucked me good. Sooo goooood. You’ll never know though how that pussy tastes.”

If there was proof that a human could spontaneously combust, it existed at this moment when Gabe’s body chained together nervous Chernobyls. His muscles imploded and blew out, his bones shattered and taped together, his head ticked and his pupils ate worlds. He clutched his head. He was a religious atheist being possessed and he roared in tongues, “Don’t talk about her like that. You don’t fucking deserve her!”

There was the beat. The broken meter of a battle march turn scherzo, a sexual powder keg turned schizo, he burst across the plastic wilderness.

Eli knew Gabe was a terrible bebop battle artist. His moves became worse than predictable, flailing fists, failing flails, first to fail. So came the downbeat of a beat down. Eli did the quarter notes, fist to face, elbow to back, foot to knee, and knuckle to jaw. Gabe grasped for his gasp, Gatsby’s finale. That was just the first bar.

Here came the second: smile to Gabe’s shame, chuckle to his pain, shaving of his mane, and jeer to his fear.

Here came the third: He clutched his collar, fist-gutted him, squeezed his bloody bruised brow, and yet met the whole note of a meteor fist making collision with his nose, ending the fight with a gushing fission.

Eli’s breath was shallow and he was drowning in the creeks of blood flowing down his face. Gabe slumped into himself, chuckling and crying.

“Ha! How do you like that, Eli?” He looked up. Eli could not respond in the slightest. “Right.” He clenched his jaw as the laughing stopped, hissing out the pain of everything, heart to forehead. He stood with the weight on his back of everything said. His rival’s blood turned his innards to lead; he felt he was better of dead. He divorced the question this fight had wed, went over to Eli and laid by his stead.

There was an immense silence as the hiss of the creek ceased and all they could hear was each other’s arrhythmic heartbeats.

“I’ll call us some medical attention once I catch my breath. Then I’ll tell her where you are,” said the cur to the cruelty.

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