In an orange autumn world, and overlooking a winding gray creek—silver, this morning, a sea of yellowing black walnut trees and kudzu, both invaders foaming far below, and alongside that, Charlotta looked down and breathed smile at the dizzying rush below and the incredible, orgasmic pangs within. The sky above was a whitening blue, the sort of maybe blue that a city sky never is. And there were birds. She didn’t care about those birds. The almost not sounds he was making, those incensed her. Those struggled to hear over every other sensation up from their hips together, and the cool air beneath her feet, that tickled them was an unfair reminder, at the same time, that they could both fall, that he might have lied and would not be able to catch her no matter what…
The Korean boy with the JCrew shirt was doing this to her. The popped collar now on the ground somewhere, torn open.
She was brown, and to her, his skin looked white. Of all the escapees, they were an impossible couple to misidentify, even at a distance. If anybody in life gave them the once in a while odd look about it before, They were going to use it to their advantage now.
Charlotta kissed and kissed and kissed him. Then, she thought Mike would sort of dismount her, by the hips, and put her back standing face to face with him, and they’d decrescendo with another dramatic kiss like the one that got them going on Pulpit’s Rock.
But instead, Mike’s arms shook and he had to get down on one knee to do it with absolute safety. The air, the trees, Rock Creek Park was all around them. It had changed only a little since the deer people arrived.
“So, we’ve committed a federal offense.” He spoke again when he could, laying out on the sun-warmed rock. One knee to two hands and a knee, and then resting on his side. His chest and sweating neck swole and strained with breath he needed to catch.
Charlotta crawled to him and put a hand on his opened shoulder. “I know, there’s no going back now… I’m sure,” her mouth twisted, “Emperor Moi did see us.”
“No, Charlotta, I meant that this is federal property. You told me that once, I remember… you don’t? I missed the trees, you said there were biketrails in Rock Creek Park and it was a national park. Then I ran the trails.”
Another pair of fast breaths. “…Yeah. You tell me one thing on the bus, a stranger, and it change how I do everything. Morning, night. Well, when there was daylight in the summer.”
“Wow. You really listened to me?”
“I was so nervous. Nervous as shit talking to you… and I was always really mad you never shared your thai basil. I thought you were lying at first, for saying that you were growing some in your backyard, when I complained that I needed it.” Mike stopped what he was doing and stared at her.
Charlotta instantly turned around, grabbed a rock or stick or something, she wasn’t sure till she looked down at her hand, and then up at him, offering a hand up.
“Charlie, I’m trying to make you laugh. Make our last day on this earth together fun.”
“It won’t be.”
“It might be. Better to be practical.”
“You’re too negative though, that’s why you were afraid to start talking to me again in the first place.”
“It was a bad date, you running away from Flying Fish. You really did run away from me, didn’t you? I even saw you…”
“…I wasn’t really… I had to go and do something. And you were the one who actually, literally ran away from me, across the street that time rather than just explain I’d seen you kissing some girl while you were on another date. But that was before our date. So, you get a lot of phone numbers, so what? You’re hot. You’re really nice and awesome, whatever. It just hurt that it happened like, steps away from where you gave me your phone number right outside of Cleveland Park Metro.”
“…and I wasted hours trying to buy a thai basil plant in Chinatown. My brother hated me for making us drive up to Boston for that, rather than just take the train from Connecticut. Here, if you have to reach for something reach for a gun, not a rock.”
“You bought a whole plant? For me? Well, because I had started growing a plant but you needed the basil I wouldn’t give… so that gave you the idea to go and buy a basil plant?”
“I needed the thai basil…” Mike looked up from checking to see if his rifle was loaded well, then snapped the barrel back into place, “And you were being a bad neighbor. A bad neighbor with a really nice ass.”
“I was not—you were the one who had another girlfriend, for all I knew. That girl with the long braid…”
“Don’t strap on the gun that way, Charlotta, do it the way I always tell you…”
And their silly voices carried as they dressed and armed themselves on this last day of the Coronoation Hunt. Mike and Charlotta eventually stepped down from the summit of the hiking trail and got into less familiar territory then their campground, and into deeper woods.
“You know, if we keep following this, we’ll eventually end up in that area where that girl disappeared.”
“I don’t know… Mount Pleasant is getting pretty far behind us, Mike.”
“We shouldn’t talk so much, y pués callénse la bocacita. I will miss Corado’s though. And, the bibimbap at
Adams… pretty darn good for a carryout.”
“I had that once.”
“Growing thai basil in your backyard for no reason while poor hot Korean boys on the bus starve? You would. How did you know I was Korean anyway?”
“I thought you said not to talk, y calláte. Shit… no es justo. I’m not used to walking like this at all.”
“Most of the time, a lot of people who aren’t Asian or haven’t had a lot of friends, or who live under rocks can’t tell. Maybe you assumed?”
She wouldn’t answer. Mike knew that it meant she was embarrassed. “Let’s hunt deer instead of talking so much; that’s the main thing. Because this time, Moi is definitely coming for you and for me.”
“It’s short for Moises. You did ask me that earlier, before we… and, thank you for that.”
Mike was confident. He’d walked trails and hunted, though farther up the east coast in Connecticut. He finished gazing over the perimeter and his woman’s butt as she leaned to steady herself on a low branch. Then, Mike stepped aside so that they were no longer walking in a line, one in front of the other, with their guns. The narrow spaces between trees had opened up. “No problem. Baby.”
Charlotta smiled, perhaps for a thousandth time, that they were rubbing off on one another. Enamorados.
“And, you take a body shot. I’ll aim for the head.”
It should have been Mike to get her out of jail, but it was Moi. Emperor Moises with the antlers, saying to keep it quiet, saying he would explain later, and then they passed by deer people herding DC natives into corrals on Mount Pleasant Street. Charlotta remembered now, how horrifying it was then, to remember how human beings were only half… and the deer people were the other half of all the people living in DC, just like anywhere else. And how, of all the people on the Earth who’d given up and decided to go deer, her friend Moi was not supposed to be one of them.
That bad dream about she and Mike hating one another, that mean bus driver… since when was his name Marlin? Nobody knew the bus driver’s name—she didn’t…
Moi had smiled at her, when they opened the cell gate. He still had those crooked teeth from fifth grade. Shadows of antlers slashing across his face. Moi had told her everything would be alright, before shouting at the guards to keep those nasty humans off the waxed car before it drove them both down Park Road, past the mural, where the H4 bus would have gone, but then they turned onto another road, beneath the bridge on Klingle Road, through the woods, where there were deer everywhere, on everything, and that should have told her it was going to be hell.
“Mike… you’ve got to let me be the one to shoot our Deer Emperor in the head.”
“Alright, but don’t miss, Charlotta. I don’t want to end up standing in the rear-doorwell-of-life with you, much as I love you…”
1, Busdriver Marlin :: 2, The Quiet, Angry-Faced Girl :: 3, Love, After the Deer Apocalypse :: 4, Moises “Emperor Crush” Romero :: 5, Screaming in Spanish :: 6, His Hoodie :: 7, Amazonia :: 8, Behind the Waterfall :: 9, The Cricket Queen :: 10, Don Juan’s