Maybe someone gives Lynndie a vibrator: a peach-colored rectangular thing smaller than a cell phone, button in just the right place. Maybe she finds it in a skimpy pile with her panties, a note taped to it in block print: Have fun. She lights a cigarette, picks the thing up, flips it over. Letters on the back: Personal Massager. Made in China. First she reads it as Personnel Manager. She inhales, exhales. Maybe there’s a roar in her head that the wind and the sand won’t blow out. Back when she was stateside and the weather charged in—wind and thunder and those twisters that jumped—those were the days that brought her an odd sense of completion. Of peace. This thing in her hand, it has to be some kind of joke. If she reports it, she’s fucked. They’ll laugh at her for the rest of the tour, snatch the hood off some prisoner with hollow dead eyes. A wink, a promise of immediate release: what would it take for them to get one of the prisoners to shank her? Personnel Manager. Personal Massager. Maybe she thinks about throwing it away, but the AAs are already in the battery pack and her head could use some relief. Grinds out the cigarette and holds herself under the covers. No noise, just a slow sweaty hum. Somewhere a radio’s screaming some tune she remembers from a couple years ago: Well he really worked me over good / just like Jesse James. Maybe she feels her teeth beginning to chatter in the hot desert grit, her nipples hard as she moves it lower. Feels the pulling in her belly, and then that funnel’s sucking her into itself and she’s rising and falling, falling deeper ’til she rises again. The funnel breaks into circles and she feels herself tracking the weather, on and on. Turns it off and lies quiet, arms around her knees. Maybe she dozes for a while, her sleep full of hooded naked men who lean in close and piss on themselves. Well he really worked me over good. But the song’s not screaming anymore. Maybe someone’s shaking her awake, two a.m., telling her We got someone to work over. Maybe she jumpstarts to attention, salutes someone who’s looking at the covers she’s kicked aside and searching out her eyes as if he knows all about her. Work him over. Loosen him up. Maybe she walks down that long cell block, sees the line of them, their heads bent in their hoods, one of them wearing a pair of Victoria’s Secret panties, orange with pink lace, and then she knows: those are her panties. Have fun. They took her panties and left her that plastic thing in their place. Maybe it happens then; she finds the prisoner lying in the hallway, no hood, leash around his neck. Maybe she smells the piss and sees the shit smeared on the wall and the floor. Maybe she can see his dark eyes. And catches him looking up right at her tits. Maybe she thinks about what it would be like to tug that leash ’til the spastic twitching starts in his body. And that funnel’s in her head again as she tugs, sinking into her belly and deep into her thighs, the circles whispering Yes. This is what you came for. Yes. This is weather.
Cori Jones, an Associate Professor at Raritan Valley Community College, has been published in journals such as The North American Review, Epoch, Fiction, and Fiction Network. A light nonfiction piece, “Billu the Beauty; Henry the Hero.” appeared in Chicken Soup for the Cat Lover’s Soul. “Sugar River,” one of two stories published in The Iowa Review, won a CLEP/General Electric Award for Younger Writers. She has received an Artistic Merit Award, a Distinguished Artist Award, and a Prose Fellowship. She is working on a satirical novel, Batman U. She lives with her husband and three cats in New Jersey.