My parents’ basement
was a cobweb wasteland. Krista’s hair
looked like spun silver in the light
from an unscented candle. Beneath
our nervous bodies, the broken mattress
was a chiropractor’s goldmine.
“You have protection, right?” asked Krista.
“I do,” I said, reaching under the mattress.
I pulled it out: a fudge-flavored condom
a friend had given me a week before.
I bit open the wrapper and put
on the condom. As I got on top of Krista,
she pulled the bedcovering over my back ––
a jungle-themed quilt with cheetahs on it.
My mom had gotten me the quilt during
the previous holiday season. I never
had the heart to tell her that I had grown
out of my obsession with wildlife ––
that the long hours I used to spend watching
Animal Planet were now dedicated
to softcore pornography and trying
to picture Krista’s 14-year-old tits.
“Are you sure
you’re ready?” I asked Krista.
“Yeah,” she said, breathlessly.
“Just tell me if it hurts, and I’ll stop,” I said.
I could hear my own heartbeat and feel
my lungs struggling to hold my breath.
Despite the 80-degree temperature
and soup-like humidity, my teeth chattered ––
the way wind-up toys do. Cold sweat seemed
to sprout from every pore on my body.
My stomach went for a carousel ride.
Krista’s moans were faint –– muffled
by pleasure (or what she thought
was pleasure at the time). Her hands gripped
the jungle-themed quilt while the cheetahs
stayed frozen in time with fury
in their eyes, drool in their mouths,
their claws outstretched as if ready to kill.
I thought about childhood.
I thought about Animal Planet
and all that is sacrificed to hunger:
blameless antelopes who are
just too slow to keep up with their herd,
dogs eating dogs, dogs eating cats.
By morning, the cheetah quilt was ruined.
There was so much blood.
B. Diehl is the author of the poetry collection Zeller’s Alley (White Gorilla Press, 2016). His work has been published by Hobart, BOAAT Press, FLAPPERHOUSE, Words Dance, and other venues. On the first and third Sunday of every month, he hosts a reading series in Catasauqua, PA, called I Hate Poetry. When he is not writing, reading, hosting, or breathing in dust at his warehouse job, he is usually hanging out with his cats.