Issue 3: Minimalism vs. Maximalism
A Publication of the USF MFA in Writing Program

The Contract

Jennifer Coke

COMES NOW Kenneth, the Party of the First Part (herein referred to as he/his/him), and says:

            —I don’t love her. I stopped loving her, a long time ago. I dunno? I just sort of fell, you know, out of love with her, I guess. If I ever loved her, I mean.

            AND HE SAYS FURTHER:

            —Stop asking me questions. He says, kiss me. He says, do that again. Just like that, he says.

            Xandra (herein referred to as “The Party of the Second Part”) plays with the spread eagle of gray hair on his bony chest.

            The Party of the Second Part says something. Her young voice sounds to him like tissue paper rustled.

            —What? says he. I didn’t hear you. Come again? He doesn’t want to cup his ear, his new habit.

            —Who was driving the car? When it happened. Who was …? Xandra almost whispers.

            He blows the air out of his concave chest. He stills her tracing hand on his nipples. Her fingernails feel to him like a spider, crawling. He stops the young hand of the Party of the Second Part tighter than he means to.

§     §     §

            Affiant, Kenneth, swears this is his true testimony:

First Cause of Action:
We were driving up to Montreal
It was late
I was tired
Had three beers
I guess I was driving fast
No faster than everyone else
No faster
Skidded on a patch of ice
Black ice
Didn’t see it
Car spun around once
Before you know it
Hit the oncoming car.

Second Cause of Action:
Not a scratch on me
She was in a coma for 3 months
They didn’t think she’d make it
Woke up, she was a quadriplegic.

§     §     §

            The Party of the Second Part clears her throat. She kisses the shoulder of the Affiant, Kenneth. She lays her young breast cool on him. She says:

            —That why she, like, lives with you?

            He nods his bobble head.

            —How old is she, anyway?


            —Five years older than me, the Party of the Second Part needlessly points out.

            — If anyone is counting, he says.

§     §     §

            He picks up his heavy gold watch from the nightstand; he squints at the time. Two giddy children chase each other in the apartment overhead. Someone tells them to wash up for dinner. One child jumps. The other child jumps.

            The Party of the Second Part turns over her damp pillow. Her voice is colored sweet. She says:

            —Ever maybe thought of some kind of rehab center, some, like, nursing home or something? Put her in?

§     §     §

            Affiant pulls the blanket up over both their nakedness. He shifts his middle-aged buttocks.

            Affiant pleads:

1.         I dated the woman on and off for a whole year
2.         And I was about to break it off
3.         But she wanted to go to this B&B
4.         Thought Canada would be romantic, snow and all
5.         She has no insurance
6.         She has no family.

I owe her this, I owe her this, I owe her this, I owe her this. I owe her this, I owe her this, I owe her. I hate her eyes on me. I hate her smell. I hate the fucking bitch.

            The Party of the Second Part crosses her arms extravagantly. She does not look at Affiant.

            —Well, so, like, what about me? Her voice is very loud, like a young woman hailing a taxi.

§     §     §

            WHEREFORE, the Affiant begs for relief and prays as follows:

            If there’s a God in Heaven, I hope she goes soon. That sounds cold and callous, I know. God forgive me, this is a horrible thing to wish on another human being. But I hope she dies, you hear me? I pray every day. Every day I pray. I want her just to give up. Just fucking let go. Jesus God Al-fucking-mighty, it’s been three years. I want it over already. Do you think I’m proud to feel this way, Xandra? No, I don’t. Do I wish it were different? Goddamn straight. But, what can I do? You tell me; what the hell can I do?


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