Can I offer you a Slow Comfortable Screw up Against the Wall? Someone in creaking leathers and jangling belt chains has slid onto the bar stool beside Ingénue. Oh take no notice of Stud. Stud’s harmless, a second voice on her other side purrs. Stud’s exploring the dominant discourse. Thinks I’m wearing the trappings of submission to the hegemony but I could care less. Angel, by the way, a lace glove is removed and a hand held out. Dame Blanche leans across the bar: If these two get any more ironic, they’ll iron themselves out. All the same, Stud grumbles, I hate to see a woman as – Stud pauses – electrifying yet autonomous on her own, if I had a woman half as beautiful I’d never leave her side. At closing time, disregarding all their protests, Dame Blanche swings Ingénue, fireman’s lift style, over one shoulder and sets off across the fields. There’s something I’ve been meaning to say, Dame Blanche begins under the starry sky once they’re out of earshot of the small groups still round campfires. She stops, hearing Ingénue’s snores louder now than a buffalo’s.
The first thing Claribel had done, after they left her face down in the sand, was kill the mule. They had shot it many times, deliberately avoiding the head or heart so that it lay whimpering and twitching on its side. They had done this to terrify her but kept her alive for sport. There was a small knife tucked into a pocket of her saddlebag, which they hadn’t noticed when they tipped the contents out. They’d taken her water and her money. What did you ever do to anybody? she said, raising the animal’s head onto her thigh before she cut its throat.
By Maria Jastrzębska
From THE TRUE STORY OF COWBOY HAT AND INGÉNUE (Liquorice Fish Books, 2018)
Maria Jastrzębska was co-editor of Queer in Brighton (New Writing South 2014) and co-founded Queer Writing South. She translated Justyna Bargielska’s The Great Plan B (Smokestack 2017). Her most recent collection is The True Story of Cowboy Hat and Ingénue (Cinnamon Press/Liquorice Fish 2018). She lives in Brighton.
Photo of Maria Jastrzębska by Deborah Price