A Love of Wounded Animals

     She awoke to him hitting her.

     Then his foot struck her in the back and she rolled out of a dream onto the floor upon her hands and shins like some semi-conscious feline deformity.

     Faltering up from all fours she edged away from the bed and stared at him. He writhed and hit and kicked and yelled orders in his clamor. He had a list of names he screamed in his sleep too, Private Ramirez, Sergeant Coe, Specialist Johnson. Tonight’s ghost was someone nicknamed Juice. These terrors were always the most violent and she inferred from their intensity Juice’s end must have been the worst.

     The man in the bed was sobbing now. He shook with each whimper until the convulsing aroused him. When his wits broke the haze of anguish he took a panicked assessment of his surrounding and saw her standing frightened a few feet away.

     She eyed him with vision adjusted to the darkness, a sweating silhouette obscuring the digital face of a clock on the nightstand. She noted the hour by a silence so eerily dense it could only creep over you in the hour of the wolf. Wordlessly, she walked into the hallway without doing him the discourtesy of switching on the bedroom light.

      In the kitchen she filled a steel kettle with water, turned the knob on the stove till the gas burner lit with a pop. She got two cups from a cupboard, two spoons from a drawer, and two bags of chamomile tea.

     When the kettle’s whistle sounded she heard him get to his feet. He entered the kitchen shirtless taking the hall at a guarded pace, a simultaneity strangely stalwart and forlorn. She wondered how much of his allure was the skin stretched over his frame and the heat when it contacted.

     They sat drinking tea together as he apologized to her. She acquiesced docilely but couldn’t draw her mind away from his stoic manner, the now truant emotions that spilled onto the bed and into their nights.

     She imagined where the line lay and how soon they would cross it.

     He reached across the table, grabbed her hand and squeezed it gently. She returned the gesture and their gazes met, awash in too many sentiments to discern.

     And with his touch came the recollection of her murdered dream.

     She sat in a great grass plain wearing a white sundress splayed about her. A short way in the distance was a sparse collection of shade trees under which the beast of the plains lay on its side billeted from the sun. She rose and eyed the creature that cried out in foreign, furious pangs. Something sharp stuck in its claw, the beast’s massive tongue licked up the carmine cascading down the callous, padded paw.

     Then driven by some innate constitution, as if offended by the very existence of suffering, she rose and approached the beast with the most naïve of intensions.