Give Me Your Heart

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Authors: Joyce Carol Oates
trousers were splattered with dark liquid. The maddened dog was smelling blood. His
master’s blood. He knows.
    It was becoming increasingly difficult for Leonard to think clearly. A mist seemed to have pervaded his brain. “Kaspar? Come here . . .” But the panicked dog had leapt into the front
seat of the SUV and so with a grunt Leonard managed to climb into the rear of the vehicle, again trying to maneuver the pitch-fork, to strike at the dog, but unable to get leverage, and in an
instant, quick as an adder’s thrust, the Airedale managed to sink his teeth into Leonard’s exposed wrist, and Leonard cried out in surprise and pain and hastily climbed out of the
vehicle, dragging the pitchfork behind him. For he must not surrender the pitchfork, he knew. Standing dazed in the driveway in this place he couldn’t now clearly recall, which seemed to be
tilting beneath him as in a mild earthquake. The flesh at his right wrist was torn, bleeding? A dog had attacked him? Why?
    He glanced around to see a dust-colored pickup approaching from the road. A male figure wearing a cowboy hat in the driver’s seat, a female figure beside him, staring. Seeing the bloodied
pitchfork in Leonard’s hands, they stared. There came a man’s hoarse voice: “Mister? You in need of help?”

 
    Strip Poker
    That day at Wolf’s Head Lake! Nobody ever knew.
    Of my family, I mean. Not even Daddy. I did not tell Daddy.
    It was late August. Humid-hot August. At the lake you’d see these giant thunderhead clouds edging across the sky like a mouth closing over, and in the mountains, streaks of heat lightning
that appear and disappear so swiftly you can’t be sure that you have actually seen them. For kids my age, nothing much to do except swim—unless you liked fishing, which I did not, or
boating, but we didn’t own a boat—and the only place to swim for us was on the far side of the lake at the crowded public beach, since the lake on our side was choked with weeds so
slimy and disgusting only young boys could swim through it. That day we’re over at the beach swimming, trying to dive from the diving board at the end of the concrete pier, but we’re
not very good at diving; mostly we’re just jumping from the high board—twelve feet, that’s high for us—seeing who can jump the most times, climb the ladder dripping wet, run
out on the board and grab your nose, shut your eyes, and jump, reckless and panicky and thrilled, striking the water and propelling beneath and your long hair in a ponytail trailing up, bubbles
released from your dazed lips, closest thing to dying—is it? Except sometimes you’d hit the water wrong, slapped hard as if in rebuke by the lake’s surface, which looks like it
should be soft, red welts across my back, murky water up my nose so my head was waterlogged, ears ringing, and I’m dazed and dizzy, staggering around like a drunk girl, all of us
loud-laughing and attracting disapproving stares. And there comes my mother, telling me to stop before I drown myself or injure myself, trying not to sound as angry as she’s feeling, and
Momma makes this gesture—oh, this is mortifying! makes me hate her!—with her hands to suggest that I might injure my chest, my breasts, jumping into the water like that, as if I give a
damn about my breasts, or anything about my body, or if I do, if I am anxious about my body, this is not the place, the public beach at Wolf’s Head Lake on an afternoon in August, for Momma
to scold me. I’m a tall lanky-lean girl almost fourteen years old with small-boned wrists and ankles, deep-set dark eyes, and a thin curvy mouth that gets me into trouble, the things I say,
or mumble inaudibly; my ashy blond hair is in a ponytail straggling like a wet rat’s tail down my bony vertebrae; except for this ponytail you’d think that I might be a boy, and I hoped
to God that I would remain this way forever, nothing so disgusting as a grown woman in a swimsuit, a fleshy woman

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