For this first installment of Team Writing, Emma Kemp sent Tom Dibblee a short story she was working on about a nameless couple wandering the hills. She said it was missing something. Tom suggested she add some sex scenes. Emma said she was busy and asked Tom if he could add them for her. Tom agreed and added a few things, without deleting anything Emma had written.
In the truck I am small and contained. I rummage my feet through debris and pick up little shapes, cardboard letters sprayed fierce shades of pink and orange. An A, a T, an S. I arrange them on the dashboard alongside a length of painted wood. I found the wood discarded by the roadside and deposited it in the bed of his truck like a magpie. This happened several weeks ago and I am pleased but not surprised to see it here now, in the window.
In the chair I feel myself (COUGH) vaginally; the seatbelt gripping my left breast in a rough way, running the risk of (COUGH COUGH COUGH) a type of chafe I haven’t endured in too long, nipple chafe, belt chafe, synergy—the whole world is raw, my “feet” pressing hard on the “carpeted floor.” The floor is grey, almost smoky where scuffed white areas touch dark, hardened, fragrant stains—of (COUGH) ejaculate, maybe, I barely know. We say little, listening to the sound of a stranger’s voice. I look over occasionally, tilting my head very slightly to the left. I note the darkness of his (COUGH) penile expulsion hole. A few weeks from now we will discuss the darkness of his hole, talking through the computer screen in separate rooms of our house. In some small way he will compliment me, and in return I will steer the conversation to safer ground, away from our hands, our (COUGH) genital commingling, and what I like to eat for breakfast.
We drive for a while until the road disappears, turning first to a chalky dust, then a muddy ravine which naturally was an anal thing. There are many peaks and hollows and it is wildly exciting to drive fast, bouncing with the wheels of the truck that, once, in a time I can no longer remember, he’d kept hidden inside his pants.
Do you want to walk for a bit? he asks, having thrown his pants out the window. There is no indication in his voice as to whether he would like to find new pants or not. I take a long time to answer, considering the quizzical glances sure to be cast our way from strangers, as his member dangles limply, or, (COUGH) points at the horizon. Instead of thinking, I imagine the expanding black shape bridging our worlds. I look out of the window as he waits. We are parked at the top of a dusty canyon, the city spread out below like a dirty blanket we have used to (COUGH) clean our legs, chests, necks, and backs.
Okay, I say. I swing my legs around and slide awkwardly from the truck. I cannot walk right. I have (COUGH) anal pain. I wish I were graceful. I imagine myself as a seal in an oil slick, large and insoluble.
As we walk I ask questions about the height of the canyon, how far above sea level we are, whether our ears will pop…? If after they pop, maybe we could fit something in them? I understand that these sorts of questions empower him. I have been this way for as long as I can remember, manipulating others at personal expense, for my own gain. We climb a little higher, commenting on flowers and the dryness of it all. At some point a clump of rocks appear and we look for snakes in their crevices. We find none. So then we both stop our fictitious search and stand deadly still while he sticks his own snake right in there. I am balanced on a taller rock, slightly elevated. I can see him awkwardly rubbing himself on the rock, a man seeking a hole, an egress, some kind of sympathy from this cruel universe. I look down at him and he looks up at the same time. I fear from the look on his face that his snake is broken. I picture this scene from an external perspective; the both of us perched on a broken plane with the whole city laid out below and the dead air and the dryness of it all. His sweatshirt is a khaki shade, camouflaged against the landscape. I stuff it into the abyss of his severed groin. An eagle interrupts the motionless vista and I follow his eyes following the bird. I wonder if the penis flew out the other side of the rock and if maybe the eagle caught it mid-flight. In the wrenching air I realize the implications of my presence. I understand the fallacy of reason.
To read the next chapter of “Happy Couple,” click here.
Emma Kemp is here for the sunshine. Artist and Writer from London, U.K. Find her at eekemp.com.
Tom Dibblee is Trop’s editor. His fiction has appeared in Glimmer Train and his nonfiction has appeared in Pacific Standard, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and the Point. He lives in Los Angeles.