SPLENDOR IN THE CORN by Kate Jayroe

I am such a hot, sad wraith.

 

Open-mouthed, I sob in the park on quarantine walks. I listen to ‘Til Tuesday. I ramble as far as possible from every other person there. Fuck the Frisbee golfers. I’m processing the three most harrowing break ups of my life. I’d been with none of the people involved, save myself.

 

One is the man I’d been sleeping with. A hot, aging punk with a scarred nipple from self-piercing as a teen in his parents’ kitchen. I liked to squeeze the scar tissue in bed between two digits, other hand busy down below. It ended because he does not fall in love. A sort of policy. It ended because he called me “Carolyn” on Friday the 13th, his own swollen digits inside me. It ended because I cried watching him sleep, knowing it was a mistake to have let it last as long as it had.

 

Another, a best gal pal whom I called “wife” for years. Wifed me as well. A mutual She/They connection. You know. Nowadays. We slept together or not all over town and the world. Drank together. Gymed together. Bathed together. Ate salads with fried chicken. Ate ass and watched the Criterion Channel. Snorted ketamine. It ended because I began sleeping with the punk and she began sleeping with his best friend, a surfing therapist who named his dog after himself and brought crab dip to potluck type gatherings.

 

The third: a kindly Midwesterner who did basically nothing. Once a year, he traveled across state lines for an annual event where I likewise was present and had crossed state lines in preparation.

 

He sits crisscross applesauce all the other days in a cornfield, until his wife calls him home for supper. He sighs, looks around one last time. Then he gets up, dusts off his khakis, and crosses the threshold to a warm hearth. Some would call him spiritually touched. A holy man of modern times who cares not for wages or liquor. He leaves his marriage bed cold. But the cornfield! Warm with his breath. His tight, little buttocks.

 

In a hungry vision in the park, the angel Gabriel tells me to go to the cornfield via tractor and seduce the man within. Gabriel says: Do not be afraid of the Frisbee golfers. In general, they are socially distancing at a proficient level. Intercourse among the corn is how you heal. Ride a John Deere for your journey. Enjoy the slow sights of a cursed nation. Nothing runs like a Deere. I understand you two have sporadically dry humped for several years while both attending an annual event which holds sentimental value in terms of content and locale. If you bag the final one, they’ll all be done. Mark my words. Gabriel’s haircut looks a lot like Aimee Mann’s haircut in the “Voices Carry” music video. The angel dissipates into a cruel, clear sky. Publicly visible menstrual blood dots my grey yoga pants. A consecrated mark upon my miserable flesh.

 

I see Kansas. I see cows. I see COVID, dancing in the very air. Salome, before the silver platter. I see outdoor church services with The Word of God booming all around, nourishing the grass and torturing bees. I hear the tractor’s slow death as I approach Ohio’s edge.

 

I ask Gabriel to help me make my country mission.

 

The tractor goes kaput at the outskirts of my silken destination.

 

Each ear has such girth. Morning dew smooched each tip. All these blooming cobs are tall sex incarnate and I feel something dropping deep in the deepest goddamned pit of me.

 

Immersed in a labyrinthine patina of gold and green, I don’t know where to go. How long may I live off corn? Grilled. Creamed. Pops. Pop Secret. It has been hours or half of one.

 

I lie down and nap, under the dumb watch of a caftan-wearing scarecrow.

 

I awaken! The heat of the day. Shall I perish in this maze of desire?

 

I’ve all but left hope, when I hear a rustle. A school of greasy teens emerge. I call out: Youths! Please help. I’m looking for the man who does nothing. It’s paramount we rut among the corn.

 

They laugh in demon song. Good luck with that, says the one in front. You’re not far. Keep along this path. We see him each week and bring offerings. He wants nothing of our joy.

 

The youths did not lead me astray. I shortly see khaki out the corner of my eye. His eyes, mouth closed. He breathes in the way we are instructed to breathe for optimal health.

 

He is surrounded by offerings of the youths. Brazzers DVDs, Wild Turkey 101, whippets, fidget spinners, pop sockets, magnum condoms, greeting cards, wild flowers, a cheeseburger.

 

Gingerly, I mimic his sitting and face him.

 

Slow as a cat, he opens his eyes. He bares teeth. Well! He says. Well, well. Well.

 

I stroke his face. He sucks my pinky. We nuzzle as old horses might. I kiss his lips. He gently puts a hand up. You’re great, he says. I can’t. This isn’t across state lines. Corn won’t allow it. Besides, you know there’s someone I love very much in a nearby warm home.

 

You’ve made me ill with unresolved desire! I’m shouting. The angel Gabriel brought me here! We must rut! Please, give me your spirit. At least a 69.

 

Here, he says. He slides a Brazzers DVD my way. An ear of this stuff is bigger than me anyways. If you’d like, I can sit here with my eyes closed while you bring yourself to climax. I think there’s a portable DVD player, nearby. Gabriel will understand.

 

I cum so hard, I see Gabriel’s smile. My heartbreak rushes out of me. Silken waterfall.

 

What now? I ask. We sit here, he says. Then, we go home. Corn, for dinner.


Kate Jayroe is a writer in and from Little Mountain, SC. Kate's chapbook, Parts, was published with Dorsa Brevia Press in 2019. Work by Kate appears in The Fanzine, Hayden's Ferry Review, Joyland, VIDA's Report from the Field, Juked, Vol. 1 Brooklyn and more. katejayroe.com

Art by Bob Schofield @anothertower

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