The Poison Mead Necklace

The Real People, or the First People, the Principals, kicked her out long ago for getting laid and skinny-dipping. She came from a long line of medicine people. She went to Vegas and became a barista, and then toyed with the idea of working the glamour trades until the Real People came looking for her again; some kind of bird virus was in the hills, and her aunt and a chief were coughing blood. She went back, the aunt and chief died and so did over 30 others in the caves, but still they insisted she be the doctor. She was 23, uneducated, dying to fall in love, and that's when I met her. She was catching scorpions, I was snapping mountains. "I've got the poison in my blood," she said, as a warning, "And I drip it on this necklace when the fever gets bad and I start spitting it up. The necklace keeps the drunks and the bastards away." Fine with me, I said, smells like roses.

We'd lie in a hammock together looking at the constellations, and before crawling in with me she would take off the necklace and tell me not to touch it. "It's like razorblades to any guy that's horny, instant nausea, low-grade fever, chills, runaway saliva. And I want you to be excited around me, thrilled, but I don't want to see you on your knees vomiting and moaning." I get the picture of course, and when I leave the hammock in the middle of the night I always make sure to walk far from the necklace. I treat it like a live scorpion. I won't hold her hand in daylight when she wears it. Stay apart, the way she feels comfortable except when she comes to nuzzle like a mustang and asks why I don't bump into her more. The necklace, I say. "You believe it would affect you?" She laughs. "No, no, Sean, I've rubbed my poison on you so you can whisper in my ear your little fables of escape, you're already infected." I still keep my distance, and she pretends to get furious, and when she reaches up to do undo the necklace so she can fling it aside to do the tender mustang dance I find her irresistibly erotic. So the necklace itself has a dance I associate with danger. Even coiled on the floor with the rest of her clothes, it has a sting I keep an anxious eye open toward: "I tell that necklace not to bite, don't worry," she says, without fail, every night, "Because I'm a healer, and I know what to keep safe. Love and words, man, those stories you flash like sabres, it's you who's gonna cut me and not the other way around."

-- from Seanie Blue's "The American."