The Beast
Ted Kelsey

H e had made the beast with a woman he met while waiting for the train. She had stumbled on him and his friend standing out of the rain in one of the clear plastic shelters. "Can I talk to you?" She asked already beginning to cry, miserably soaking wet.

"Sure," they said, eyeing her bottle.

On the train, he had drawn the alligator head first, and then handed her the pad. "The game is called exquisite corpse," he said.

"Tell me what to do, sixteen-year-old. Should I leave him, before there is something to regret?" she asked, beginning to cry at the absurdity of her request.

"Draw the body."

"I don't want to leave him, but he can't help who he is... he was adopted."

"Come on!" he said. She is too drunk to play properly, he thought to himself.

She drew a curliquing mass of lines with two boxing-glove-like squiggles on the ends of thin sticks. Bored with the game already, and in order to get the last word in, he drew a snake tail without room for feet. With a smile he handed her the pad, purely for her viewing pleasure, but she, in her despicable drunken haze, she added high heel shoes. They were just plunked on the curve of the tail. Not to be outdone, he drew the horizon line and a solitary tree far behind the little beast.

She was looking out the window, verging on some kind of sad stupor. He jabbed her with the pad in her ribs.

"Look," he said, smiling, "here, look, we made something cool."

She didn't even manage to smile at him. She took the pad, but only stared at the page in an unfocused way. Absently, she touched her pencil to the page.

"Ah, Christ!" he yelled, "Not the head! That's my part!" And he pulled the book out of her hands.

First published: February 14, 1999