We feel so lucky to have the opportunity to share another brilliant story from Laura Demers, whose “Rogue Particles” was included in last year’s anthology. The truth is hazy in “1961,” to match its grimy setting. Demers’ prose is unforgiving and honest, as she explores how willingly and easily these men perpetrate their sexual violence.
Things were foggy, even then. Three hours before, he was in that dream-state of drinking, where nothing is real, but everything is good, fun. It was that stretch of drunkenness where you think nothing bad can happen and it’s all good fellowship. They ordered another round, and that’s when she came in.
They had her out the window now, so that her neck lolled backwards. Her false eyelashes had come loose on one eye, giving her the look of a doll in a little girl’s clutches.
“Help me,” she called. Her voice was far away, down the end of a tunnel. Salvator wished he had a moment to sit down and figure this thing out.
It was Bert who held her against the window frame and Anthony who held up her feet. She grabbed onto the frame of the window, fighting them. She screamed again, twisting her neck to the beach below, but there was nobody out there. It was a grim, cloudy day, the wind whipping the curtains, the sound of seagulls in the distance. For a confused moment, Salvator caught sight of the pier in the distance. He thought of when he went there as a kid, the barnacles that cut his feet when he hung them over the side, the striped t-shirt he had loved.
“Jesus, bring her in,” he cried. No one paid attention to him, but she stopped screaming and her head jerked up. “Jesus Christ, you’ll kill her.”
Still, they pushed at her body. He noticed that two nails on her right hand had broken off where she gripped the window frame, the forefinger and the middle finger. Her nails were long and pink, maybe fake, but these two were bloody at the cuticle. She had kicked off her shoes, so that one lay near Henry, where he was curled against the dresser, fast asleep.
Salvator grabbed at Bert, and he came away easily, like rotten wood. Anthony, seeing this was the way things were going, let go as well, and the woman slid down on the floor, naked and crying.
“You sons of bitches,” she said. “I’m going to kill you.” But she had lost all fight and just curled up like Henry and sobbed and sobbed. “I’m going to kill you.”