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THE PRISONERS

by

Jonathan Carr

She was by the pool and she was just at the point where she was getting too hot. She could feel the distant signs of perspiration in the creases of her elbows and the tender points behind her knees, but the damn pleasurable lethargy of the sun held her captive in her lounge chair. So hot. She wanted to move and yet didn't and it was one of those strange moments where she wondered if perhaps she were paralyzed even though she knew this was a completely silly thing to wonder. It was a beautiful day; the water glowed a brilliant topaz. The sun seemed much too large to be real; it looked as if someone had made it up. She was wearing sunglasses--giant sun glasses--Jackie O sunglasses--and they were doing nothing. It was like they weren't even there, like they had evaporated.

She finally managed to shift herself up onto her elbows, her back peeling itself slowly off the lounger one rubber stripe at a time with a thunk-thunk-thunk. She was considering a drink. She was considering a Manhattan. That was when he fell through the bushes. She was considering going to the bar to mix a Manhattan and he fell through the bushes, and landed facing her, a thin strip of red glistening open across his cheek where a pricker had scratched.

They looked at each other a moment. Sunglasses to sunglasses. Not a sound to be heard in the world.

The pool water lapped in the chlorine retainers.

"Well then," he said finally, "are you going to scream?"

"I'm not sure."

Hi sun glasses were garish in the Elvis sort of fashion. It was a statement. A commitment. He was as pale as she was tan. He had a sleeve of tattoos running all the way down his left arm. Oriental mythology.

"Nice pool."

"Nice sunglasses."

"Where are we?"

"The Hamptons."

"That's what I thought."

He began fishing around in his baggy cargo pockets.

They were about the same age, she realized. She spent so much of her time with old men that at first he had looked young to her.

"Mmmm."

He pulled out a needle and held it up to the enormous sun, tapping it a few times. In one violent motion he jabbed it right through his pants and into his leg.

"Ahhh ohh ahh."

"Hey," she yelled. "Just what the hell do you think you're doing?"

"Don't mind me," he said. "I'm diabetic. My blood sugar was getting low."

She crossed her arms. Her left foot tapping rapidly. She looked out at how the sunlight jumped like fractured shards of glass across the water.

* * * *

"So what are you, some kind of peeping tom?"

"No, I'm a performance artist."

"Why were you in the bushes?"

"I wasn't in the bushes. I fell through the bushes. I was running and I turned into the bushes."

"You're not really a diabetic, are you?"

"You have nice legs."

"I think you're a peeping tom. I think you were hiding in the bushes taking a peek. I think you were hiding in the bushes watching me and by mistake you fell out."

He lay back on the grass crossing his arms behind his head.

"Think what you want," he said distantly.

"I don't think you're a diabetic."

"I told you, I'm a performance artist."

"Then what the hell are you doing in the middle of the Hamptons?"

"I've been asking myself that all morning. Hey." He pointed at the sky. "Did you notice how fucking unbelievably huge the sun is today?"

They both sat and looked up at the sun with their giant sun glasses.

"What's up with that?"

"I have absolutely no idea."

The day began to drift by with the lazy hum that summer air dons in humid late August.

* * * *

"So what sort of performance do you do, in your performance art?"

"Well, that's a very interesting question." He got up onto his elbows to look at her. "Coming from a beautiful tan girl in giant sunglasses in the middle of the Hamptons."

"What the hell is that supposed to mean?"

"Nothing. I just wouldn't think you'd be interested."

"Why the hell not?"

"I just--"

"Why the hell not? Why the hell not, Mr. Fucking Peeping Tom? Why don't I just call the cops right now?"

"No, no--I just mean--all I mean is--this whole day is too surreal--"

"Fucking tan girl in the--"

"Really, that's all I meant--was--surreal--"

"Mr. Elvis glasses tattoo peeping guy--"

"No, really, that's all I meant--"

"Falling through the bushes--"

"Like, I'm wondering for which one of us this is a more surreal situation..."

The pool water lapped in the chlorine retainers.

"Well?" she said some time later.

"Well what?"

"Who do you think is having the more surreal situation?"

"Now I'm thinking it's definitely a tie."

* * * *

"What kind of performance art do you do?"

"For a long time I worked with condiments."

"Condiments?"

"Yeah, condiments, you know, relish, mustard, that sort of thing. That was a silent show. Movement and Condiments. That was the name of the work. Movement and Condiments."

"Really?"

"Yeah."

He picked absently at the grass blades.

"Then there was Plastic Wearables and Nailguns. But now I'm working in an entirely new genre, a whole new ball park."

She looked at him picking at the grass. "What ballpark is that?" she said.

"Well, basically I disassemble a 1983 Mercedes convertible while quoting from memory the pilot episode of M*A*S*H."

"M*A*S*H?"

"M*A*S*H."

"Why M*A*S*H?"

"Don't underestimate the sociopolitical importance of M*A*S*H."

She looked deeply into his Elvis glasses trying to catch a hint of his eyes.

"M*A*S*H?"

The pool water lapped in the chlorine retainers.

"Did you know they have the set for the swamp from M*A*S*H at the Smithsonian Institute?"

"No."

"M*A*S*H is important. Don't fuck with M*A*S*H."

* * * *

"How old are you?"

"I'm twenty-three."

"You're not twenty-three."

"Yes I am."

"You're lying."

"I'm twenty-three."

"You look like you're in high school. You look like a cheerleader."

"How old are you?"

"Twenty..."

"Twenty what?"

"Just twenty."

"Just twenty..."

"Just twenty."

"So what's a twenty-three year old girl with legs like that doing out here in the middle of the Hamptons? Is this your daddy's house?"

"No."

"... ."

"It's my husband's house."

"Your husband's house?"

"That's right, my husband's house."

He stood up and started pacing around.

"Hey," she said, "where are you going?"

"Oh great, that's just great, that's just great," he said. "What is he, some kind of Wall Street type or something?"

"Don't worry about it."

"Don't worry about it? Don't worry about it? You're a married woman."

"So?"

"So? So? So I've got enough trouble as it is. The last think I need is another rich guy chasing me around the Hamptons with a shotgun."

She looked at him. He looked at her.

"Another?" she said.

He looked up at the giant sun and shook his head.

* * * *

"Hey come on," she said. "Where are you going? Don't you want to kiss me?"

He was brushing his hands back and forth at the bushes trying to find a way back in but they were so damn thick it was like an impenetrable wall. How in the hell had he fallen through?

"I told you Richard's down in Atlantic City," she said. "Come on."

She came up behind him and wrapped her arms around his back so that her chest pressed up against him. He could distinctly feel her nipples against his back.

"Stop it!" he said. "Get off me!"

"He's not going to be back for days."

"There's cameras!" he said, throwing a finger in the air. "I've read about these sorts of things, there's cameras in places like this, and goons with baseball bats crawling all over the place! And cameras! And dogs! Dobermans!"

"Don't be silly."

"And pit bulls. I hate pit bulls!"

He was digging at the bushes more frantically now, his hands getting cut up with the effort and starting to bleed, but he didn't notice.

"If you kiss me I'll let you leave."

"No way. Get off me."

"If you kiss me, I'll let you go out the back gate."

"Look honey, you don't want me." He stopped flailing at the bushes and turned to look at her. "You were right about me. I'm not diabetic. I'm a junkie. That was morphine I popped in my leg. Look, I couldn't get it up even if I wanted to right now I'm so loaded down with junk."

She let go of him and took a step back.

"I knew it," she said.

She walked back over to her lounge chair. The day had suddenly cooled, in that way that it can in late summer when evening creeps up in a moment. She put her face in her hands and began shaking her head back and forth. He looked at her in the chair, then looked back at the bushes. He looked over at the giant sun sinking lower towards the horizon and swore at himself. He walked back over to the chair and sat down Indian style in the grass.

The pool water lapped in the chlorine retainers.

"Surreal," he said.

She was crying in her hands, her back shaking. He picked at the grass absently; he put his hand on her shoulder and patted it.

"I fucking hate this. This prison!" She screamed the last word so that it echoed off the darkening waters of the pool.

He looked hard at the grass thinking the thoughts of a junkie which are the thoughts of a prisoner.

"We're quite a team," he said.

She looked up at him from her cupped hands, her trembling lips twisting into a smile. She laughed, a sad little laugh, smearing the tears on her cheeks with her fingers.

"You can kiss me," she said. "You can still kiss me. I don't care if you're a junkie. You can kiss me."






ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Jonathan Carr is very busy these days. He is the director of New Media at Web del Sol; he is the editor of Magazine Minima, a journal of microfiction; he is the editor of 07(group), a journal of New Media Art at Web Del Sol; he is editing for the publication Rivendell. Oh, and did we fail to mention that he is 3am's New Media editor?

His multimedia art, fiction, and poetry have recently appeared, or shortly will appear in: poems that GO, In Posse, Double Room, The Voyeur, Diagram, The Del Sol Review, Minima and Artifacts.








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