11

Social Contract
by Stephen Elliott

“You have the right to bare arms,” she says, slipping the ropes through my fingers, and then around my elbows, pinning them painfully together and cinching them through the window handle above my head. “Just not these arms.”

Her skin is the color of pasta. She has large cheeks, a careful mouth.

“Harry Truman invented the national security state,” she says, my right leg pulled at the ankle by a long cord that finally connects at the base of a radiator. My other leg spread, the rope looped around the refrigerator. My legs spread akimbo, my body utterly vulnerable. “The people have to be afraid, Truman said. That was the way Harry Truman thought. We have to fear the communists. Franklin Roosevelt was dead. Long live Franklin Roosevelt.”

The nipple clamps hurt. The ball gag she has stuffed into my mouth makes it impossible for me to answer her, if there was an answer to be given. She didn’t ask me if I wanted this. She’s stronger than me, especially since my accident. I never fight her anymore. She does what she wants.

“The Geneva convention holds that you can’t torture prisoners. America is a signatory to the Geneva convention. Are you a prisoner?” I nod my head. She closes my nose shut with two fingers. I can’t breath through the gag she has forced into my mouth. There is a moment of peace. This is it, I think. I am going to die. And then my body starts to flop, the panic coming through me involuntarily, and she’s laughing, and she lets go of my nose, and the air rushes into my body in deep, sweeping breathes, and her laughter fills the room with its cruelty.

“We don’t care about treaties,” she says. “Hitler didn’t care about Versailles and they gave him Czechoslovakia, the Rhineland, and Austria. Anshlung. That’s what they call it. But Hitler had his problems. Repressed homosexual.” Her hand runs along my stomach and the top of my leg and then down beneath me, her finger touching my anus.

“Are you a repressed homosexual? You don’t seem to like sex very much. I think you are.” I feel her finger slip slightly into my anus and then out. “So he died in a bombed out bunker in Berlin in 1944, with his new wife. What the hell for?”

I watch as she stands and walks to the closet and dips through the door, rummaging through the sound of paper bags. She has such long legs. She’s a cyclist. Her long thin body is knotty with strips of muscles. Then she’s in front of me, between my legs,
looking gleefully into my eyes, forcing something large into my ass. I scream into the gag, a muffled gasp, a blunt dulled shriek. Whatever it is goes in and it burns and it stays there, throbbing slowly. The pain begins to subside. But she still has something in her hand and she squeezes it and an electric shock shoots through my bowels, my eyes bulging in my face, my body pouring sweat onto the sheets.

“I was wondering if that would work.”

She smiles, warmly, happy, and content. It’s been twelve years now since the first day we met. A couple of waiters in a young restaurant on the edge of the city, working to make ends meet. We didn’t know what we had.

“We don’t care about treaties,” she continues. “In 1954 Eisenhower signed a treaty that provided for free elections in Vietnam in two years time. But when it came due he changed his mind. He said if Vietnam had free elections Ho Chi Minh would receive eighty percent of the vote. And that wouldn’t be good for America. So much for democracy. Do you feel cheated? Look at the Iranians. The Shah served us well for
twenty-five years. Then they took hostages.”

She steps forward, her naked foot on my stomach, she walks over me, and then places her foot on my face. She rubs her foot over my face, back and forth, across my nose. She steps on the clamp on my nipple and I let out another involuntary dull scream. “Cheated by our vows, to have and to hold, to love and to cherish, to protect, till death do us part. Do you think we’ve parted too early? Did you think things would be different when you pledged your allegiance in school, and at the baseball games? That your country would protect you, while the bombs fell and U.S. installed dictators sent death squads into the villages of South and Central America to kill the women and children first. Here is your democracy.”

Her foot presses hard on my face, and my nose hurts, I think it’s going to break. With the heel of her foot she pushes the gag further toward the back of my throat. Tears spring from my eyes, soaking the fabric around my ears. “You should be able to answer some of my questions. You should. I’m not blaming America,” she says, sitting heavily on my chest, and then turning around, facing away from me. Her long back, straight and
proud, the bulb of spine and her dark hair which she’s taken to wearing short. She’s wrapped a chain around my penis and balls and she’s slowly making it tighter. “I was born here, same as you. I’m not blaming anybody. It’s just that you have the right to remain silent, and maybe the Republicans really did win the election, and maybe they didn’t.
It’s too close to call. Both sides believed in three strikes you’re out. Life sentence, no parole. How many strikes do you have?” she asks, turning her head to me briefly and then going back to her task.

“There’s no welfare here. You’ll have to work for what you get.”

I’ve surrendered myself to the continuous pain. I’ve allowed the pain running through my body to numb my mind. This is my wife. This is what we have. Who would have thought we would have lived in this apartment all this time.

“And then the wars came.” Another shock rings through the electric plug in my ass, pain striking through me, her hand in my hair pulling hard, her other along my ribs, buckling forward as if she was riding a horse, her feet sliding back toward my cheeks. And then stopping. She’s loosening the chains. Gently wrapping her thumb and forefinger around
my penis and balls. “And they flew planes into our buildings and our buildings crumpled and fell to the ground. We have to defend ourselves. They would have done it anyway, whether we deserved it or not. That’s the way people are. And the president didn’t want to consult congress anymore. He asked them to dissolve themselves, to remove themselves from the conflict. And of course they did. Self-preservation, in the face of terror.

She slides her body back, so her ass is just in front of my nose, the smell of her and her flesh totaling my vision.

“Do you remember Bukharin?” she asks. “It was 1936, and he confessed in a public address to the people. He turned on his fellow Bolsheviks, Kamenev, Trostsky, Zinoviev, all Jews. He wanted to save himself. But Stalin placed him under house arrest anyway. Koba, why do you need me to die? he asked in his unanswered letter to Stalin. But who was he to ask for forgiveness? All of the original Bolsheviks subscribed to a doctrine of terror, of starving their own people. It was merely the rooster coming home to roost.” Her hand is in my mouth, fishing out the gag, plucking it from between my cheeks. She rubs her fingers inside my lips, massaging my gums. And she’s right, I breathe so much easier now.

She undoes the rope at my ankles and my knees slide together, my legs bending on their own will. She undoes my hands from the window and releases my elbows but keeps my hands tied together. My hands tied, I curl into a ball, pulling the tear soaked sheet with me. And she curls behind me, her body circling my body, her knees forcing between my
knees, one hand underneath my head and across my chest, the other between my legs, gripping my penis. I can feel her body, her strength which seems to increase everyday even as mine declines. Her body is so firm, intent and purposeful.

“My darling,” she says, a whisper, her voice like the cars on the street, penetrating into the darkness. Thank God for the evenings, when the sun is down. “I’ll protect you.” Her breath swimming across my ear, searching through my hair. “You don’t have to worry. Never worry. Never ever worry again. I am here. I will keep you safe.”

Stephen Elliott grew up in Chicago, where in his teens he was made a ward of the court and placed in various State run homes. He attended the University of Illinois and received his Masters from Northwestern University. Currently Stephen Elliott is the Marsh McCall lecturer in Creative Writing at Stanford University. His books include Happy Baby, What It Means To Love You, A Life Without Consequences, and Jones Inn. He also edited the fiction anthology, Politically Inspired. His web site is www.stephenelliott.com.

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