WARREN G. HARDING
by Sarah Rose Etter
Every night, Warren G. Harding puts two fingers in your mouth. Every night, after work, in his suit and tie, he spreads your lips.
When Warren G. Harding has you open, he takes the bottle of bourbon and begins unscrewing, then pours it down your throat, feeds you liquid that feels like glass shards, putting hurt into your gullet.
“Isn’t that nice?” he mummers, running a hand over your shoulder. Warren G. Harding only touches you during this time, only once per day. His fingers feel like holy objects, small crucifixes smoothing your skin.
You nod and stare at the floor. Inside your stomach, the black hole has opened up full, it is swirling, pulsing, dark. The black hole only comes around when Warren G. Harding is here, only when he is doing his good damage.
“You’ll want more then,” Warren G. Harding says. His voice lilts till you go slick in the secret place, till your thighs shiver with the pre-want.
Warren G. Harding has mean hands, long fingers. They find the place between your lips again and pry. This time you make it easier, give him yield, think of him as a dentist, an oral surgeon. Warren G. Harding has not kissed you once, not ever.
You tilt your head back this time, no force from his hands.
“There she is,” Warren G. Harding says when he can see your tonsils.
He slides the bourbon into your mouth again, spilling it over the edges of your lips and down your shirt, the rest of it sliding into you, down into your stomach where it roils lava-like, where the black hole waits for it.
“Say thank you,” Warren G. Harding says.
“Thank you,” you tell Warren G. Harding, eyes watering, mouth watering, every part of you watering.
Warren G. Harding runs his mean hands over your shoulder again, rougher this time, and then down to your breast, which he cups as if he owns it.
Your skin is heated now, flushed, you feel hungry and drunk and horrible. The bourbon sits between the two of you. Warren G. Harding’s hand finds your nipple in a mean way, tweaks.
“Almost time,” Warren G. Harding murmurs.
The liquor ache coats your organs, forest-firing your insides. You are a burning coast.
When Warren G. Harding opens your mouth for the third time, it is even easier, you make your lips pliable soft dough, you put up the resistance of a cadaver. The bourbon sloshes down to the other bourbon, creates a liquor ocean.
The phone rings while you’re burning and Warren G. Harding turns away from you, turns toward the shrill.
The entire office is deep fine wood, you are together cocooned in this. You sit on Warren G. Harding’s chair and wait.
“You heard me the first time,” Warren G. Harding says into the phone, his fingers wrapped around it instead of on you.
Your body is tight wound, waiting. You sit very still with the fire all inside of you, don’t move or twitch or moan.
“I said ‘Return to Normalcy.’ That’s the backbone of this campaign, Harry,” Warren G. Harding says and then he slams the phone down.
“Do you feel drunk?” Warren G. Harding asks, turning to you.
You nod and a wooziness washes down over you, makes your head dip deeper down. The black hole of want expands and sucks at your other organs, threatens to make dark out of all of you, your eyelids drooping.
Warren G. Harding runs his hand down your leg and to your feet, both of which are covered by boots.
Warren G. Harding’s hands have memorized the way to undo these, they know the way to the unlacing and the skin beneath. He frees the boots from your feet and slides each sock down over each foot. There is air between your toes. His hands on you are more dizzying than the bourbon, which riots as it soaks into your stomach lining and blood stream and cells.
It is hard to catch your breath as Warren G. Harding runs those fingers over your feet, as his skin contacts your skin, as it generates an electric current that feeds the black hole in your stomach which sings, makes its mouth ever wider.
Warren G. Harding strokes your feet slowly, fingertips on the arches, caressing your calluses, tracing the shape of each toenail, hardening as he moves his hands.
His fingers begin working more feverishly, pressing down harder on your feet, finding the grooves between your toes.
The black hole in your stomach finally bursts, black stars out into each of your limbs, you are a desire nerve exposed, trembling, wanting more. You know the rules, but you do it anyway. You slide your face to his, move your lips to Warren G. Harding’s, attempt to mouth meet.
Warren G. Harding finds your shoulder roughly, shoves you away, your head snapping back from the velocity of his hands.
“I have a wife,” Warren G. Harding snaps. “You are not being much of a lady.”
Warren G. Harding pulls his hands away from your feet, from your skin. He stands up and moves away from you, shaking his head, disgusted.
The bourbon turns sour, begins an internal assault on your organs, starts to generate the vomit, which will come as it does every night, which will come after his hands are gone, after the door closes, when you are alone again.
Sarah Rose Etter’s chapbook, Tongue Party, was published by Caketrain Press in 2011. www.sarahroseetter.com. Read the next story, CALVIN COOLIDGE, here.
* thanks to Amber Sparks and Brian Carr for their editorial work on this project.