Category Archives: Leah Eburne

Commotio Cordis

It wasn’t the constant low hum of anxiety but the driving that allowed Thane only to snatch sleep in fits as they traveled. Sef held his knee under the steering wheel, not so much driving as allowing their old Toyota to drift easy through the torrent, letting the rain beat over it and guiding the car back onto the highway when waves of the storm crushed it. Thane stirred in the passenger seat when they hit the first patch of black ice. He extended himself upright when they hit the second. The boy opened his mouth as if to say something, anything damaging, but paused as the beginnings of a grin climbed up his friend’s face. Another game. Sef trying to establish a rhythm with the storm and get them to where he wanted to be: as far from his particular brand of debts as fast possible. A gust hit, he downshifted, and the car glided to swirl down the road and against a shallow ditch.
+++++“Pretty good, right?”
+++++“No.”
+++++A chill soaked under their feet. It crept through their bones to wind into the bases of their skulls. Thane bundled himself inwards. Sef rubbed his hands together until it felt better.
+++++“It’s cold.”
+++++“Fifty isn’t that cold.”
+++++“Fifty is cold. My nail beds are blue. Look at my hands.” He pressed them over his mouth and huffed. “I don’t have your, uh, you know northern constitution. This weather’s not normal. ‘Fifty isn’t cold’. You and I’ve lived here for six years and you’re like, ‘No this is fine.’ This weather is a record low piece of garbage and you’re just, ‘No it’s not that bad.’”
+++++“Sorry.”
+++++“Save your sorries for when you do something wrong. Hey. Gimme your sweatshirt.”
+++++“No.”
+++++“Might be stuck here for the night. I can’t drive in this.”
+++++“I see that. Should’ve checked the forecast.”
+++++“If we’re not driving then nobody else is,” Sef said. “It’s not gonna be a thing.”
+++++The little tension lines in the boy’s face relaxed. He drew the hood of his sweatshirt forward and curled sideways into his seat. Sef shrugged then turned it into a stretch, bearing against the steering wheel. He played the clutch with one foot. He looked out the window. He watched the rain passing over them in sheets, gently then with a strained malice, gently, soft, then beating hard against them. The sound of thunder clambering somewhere, ahead, faint. He adjusted his seat and turned off the headlights. The car squeaked.
+++++“You got a cigarette.”
+++++“M’out.”
+++++“Oh, I got gum never mind. Hey. You asleep already.”
+++++“Take a nap.”
+++++“I can’t sleep on cue like you. I’m bored.”
+++++Thane said nothing and, for a time, Sef played with his phone by reading and deleting a backlog of text messages one by one. U up. Delete. Where R U. Delete. Hello. Delete. I’m coming over. Delete.
+++++“Hey.”
+++++“Hn.”
+++++“D’you know if you punch someone real hard right in the breastbone their heart stops. Like in a movie.”
+++++Sef waited. Thunder roared, closer now.
+++++“Hey.”
+++++“What.”
+++++“You believe me.”
+++++“No.”
+++++“It’s totally a thing.”
+++++“It’s not a thing.”
+++++“It’s in your wheelhouse. Try it.”
+++++“Maybe if there’s a good opportunity.”
+++++“’N’ try it on me.”
+++++“That can’t be a real though. Maybe you saw it in a movie and you were-“ Thane held one nostril shut and sniffed.
+++++“I’m cutting back. Hand to God.”
+++++“Mn.”
+++++“Not kidding about the one punch thing.”
+++++“Hn.”
+++++“One punch. Gimme one.”
+++++“Mm.”
+++++“Don’t be a pussy. Come on. Just,” he inflated, rapping his chest. “One big punch.”
+++++The boy flipped to face him, still bundled into himself, and drew something from the big front pocket of his sweatshirt. Soft tapping noises.
+++++“Oh. You’re gonna check on your little phone. You gonna fact check me now.”
+++++“Yeah I’m gonna fact check your shit.”
+++++“My ‘shit’.” Sef tongued his gum into one cheek to force the juicy, wet noises out while Thane squinted into his phone. Paused. Drew his thumb over it again. Paused. He didn’t move his lips when he read anymore.
+++++“’Precordial thump’.”
+++++“Does reading about it at four words a minute make you feel better or you gonna go ahead and give it a try.” Sef knocked his breast.
+++++“This says it’s a ‘medical procedure’.”
+++++“Yeah but you can do it in reverse, y’know. Like. Make the heart do the thing by punching. Why are we being weird about this.”
+++++“You’re instigating.”
+++++“Big word, big man.”
+++++“Did you sleep today?”
+++++“Did you. You read that whole article, idiot?”
+++++“Don’t make this into a thing all a sudden. C’mon, Sef.”
+++++“C’mon, Thane. Just a lil’ tap.” The way he knocked his breast, it rang hollow. Not that there was anything in there to begin with.
+++++“Nah. I’m not playing with you.”
+++++“Because you’re a faggot. This is so a thing you duneven know.”
+++++“I know. I read it. I believe you.”
+++++“Just hit me right here then.”
+++++“Nah, c’mon, let’s just sit and wait for the rain t-“
+++++“Fucking why.”
+++++“I’m not gonna. Hit you in the chest? Because you’re bored. Take a nap, okay.”
+++++“This has you written all over it.”
+++++“Learn how to go to sleep.”
+++++“Don’t tell me what to do.”
+++++“Please, then,” he drew back his hood. “Sef, please.”
+++++“I’m giving you permission. It’s weird you’re being such a princess about it. You’re not gonna spoil me. Just gimme what I want ‘n’ I’ll shut up.”
+++++“Y’know you’d shut up if you’re dead,” he mumbled, worrying a callous on his thumb.
+++++“Prrrobably.”
+++++The boy settled back and Sef climbed over the shoulder rest between them, the parking brake, the stick shift. Thane shrank. Sef drew himself close until they almost touched and his sweet breath cast its heat along the boy’s face.
+++++Then slid a tongue into his ear.
+++++Thane bore down on him. He thrust a fist square into the bony hollow of Sef’s chest, resounding once like a gunshot, and cracked him off the driver’s side window. The man made a noise then contorted. He clutched his chest with his thumb and forefinger curling over his hard-edged collarbone, pressed into his shirt, tunneling as he breathed once. Then jerked. Then made a little chuckle as he their eyes locked. Now grunting without awareness of how it might sound. Jerking again. One hand arched over the dashboard and the other against his chest becoming frantic. Shuddering. Thane inched forward to hear it. Just there. Just in the air between them he thought it was there; the heart inside twisting, fibrillating. Sef’s face gained enough sense of itself to convey the faintest wondering delight before its light changed and a shade passed. Thane waited. He waited as the body cooled. When the minute, near imperceptible stillness cast over it to wash the eyes glassy, fixed and dilated. Stupid grin, fixed too. Stupid fucking grin. The triumph of the last word resting on his face.
+++++A squall rocked the car on its axles. Thane stared into it and massaged his ear. He looked at the body, twitching now. He laughed then wound his fist up for one more.