Pedro Ponce


The bodies have been piling up for days. On television, the analysts have dropped their righteous anger to hazard admiration for the monster's cunning and efficiency. Their reports greet the boy as the father opens the door to let him in.

The father offers the boy a beer he knows will not be taken. He chuckles as he digs a pipe from his cardigan pocket. The boy asks about the family's month at the lake. Went by too quickly, the father says. He fears that the summer sun has made his daughter soft in the head. That's why he appreciates the boy's tutoring. He pats the geometry book nestled against the boy's chest. Good man, good man, the father says, pointing toward the stairs. First door on the right.

Halfway up, the boy can already smell the mingled perfume and lotion of the girl's room. Through the open door, he sees her sprawled on the bed over a magazine. She prods the air with a bare bronzed foot. Seeing the boy, she smiles, turns onto her back, and gets up. You can sit there, she says, indicating the bed. The sheets are still warm from her as he sits down. While she puts her hair up in a ponytail, the boy digs his fingers deep into the furrowed linen.

Who do you think the monster is? the girl asks.

The boy crosses his arms quickly. I don't know, he says.

It could be anyone, she observes. She goes through her list of suspects: the school janitor, the friendless exchange student, the embittered widow across the street.

What about him? the boy asks. He points to the signed picture wedged in the corner of her mirror. The boy in the picture wears a helmet and a sleeveless shirt banded with school colors.

The girl gives the mirror a sly smile that reflects back to the boy. Jimmy? she says. Jimmy's a sweetheart. He'd never hurt anybody. Would you Jimmy? She closes her eyes and puts a finger to her lips. She withdraws it with a loud smack. She reaches up to dab the face in the picture, smiling and closing her eyes over something she keeps to herself.

She gets up and takes a seat beside the boy. Her hand almost brushes his knee. One thing for sure, she says. I know it's not you.

The TV downstairs is loud enough for both of them to hear. Another death has been reported in the area of - The boy says they should get started.

She begins to list the contents of the refrigerator. There is lemonade. There is cantaloupe. There is pound cake. Is there anything you want? the girl asks. The boy shakes his head.

The girl opens her book to the assigned chapter. As they work through the lesson, the boy watches the moon grow fat behind the branches outside and trace ivory shards over his pale, hairless skin.

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