The Inextinguishable Beulah Ratcliffe
by Russell Hehn
Beulah Ratcliffe walked out of the apocalypse unscathed. She was the only speckle of moving-ness against the red glowing monotony of desolation. Not a hair on her head was disheveled and she knew it. Beulah was wearing nothing at all. She'd been taking a shower when the cosmos came roaring down in blasphemous sheets of ruddy magma. As she stood there, silhouetted against the backdrop of the raging brimstone of civilization I could see her tender breasts jutting out in humble defiance of the everything that was now nothing. And I knew by God: I knew I had to have Beulah Ratcliffe.
But I was scathed Ooooh boy was I ever scathed. She took my hand and pulled me out from under what had once been the South Carolina state credit union. A nickel was fused into my kneecap, but I didn't care. Not a single bit. We walked down the sulfurous remnants of Magnolia Street hand in bloody, mangled hand and did not say a word. Beulah had to slow down for me because the flesh on the balls of my feet was steadily disintegrating. It was like treading a landscape of grisly atomic banana peels. My polyester shirt was melted into my skin, leaving a heart-shaped patch of plaid over my fading and faltering lungs. I wanted Beulah to see it, but my hand crumbled from my arm when I went to point. It was a glorious afternoon.
I looked at Beulah Ratcliffe, stunning in her composure and colder than she'd ever been now that time was burning away in embers around us. I couldn't help but look at her breasts again.
"There's an ash on your bosom," I managed to choke out through singed and frayed vocal cords.
"Oh, is there?" she said, looking down at those bolus of desire as though she didn't recognize them.
"May I?" I asked.
"Please do," she said, and I wiped away that gray corruption from her supple mammaries with the gnarled and oozing hand I still had.
"Thank you," she said, and my Adam's Apple fell from my neck like an overripe plum. I nodded and she knew I meant, "you're welcome."
It was about that time, my knees inverted and the thing that had once been my face slapped against what had once been a sidewalk next to what had once been a chinaberry tree. My left arm tore off at the shoulder and Beulah Ratcliffe continued to hold my hand, then she gently and prettily laid it by my side, assuming I'd kicked the bucket. "Sweet dreams," she said. She whispered it like Kathleen Turner and continued on, walking with the confidence of a million Cleopatras. My eyes still worked. My eyes still worked, by God, and I saw her pull another mangled soon-to-be corpse from beneath the melted and melting Exxon marquee and walked toward the crimson horizon, nestled in the crook of his arm. What did he have that I didn't, Beulah? Both ears and most of his hair, still? It would be gone soon enough. And look at his lower intestine, Beulah. See how it spills out like that? A man without entrails could never really satisfy you. And his nose, how small and ugly it is sitting in his fat, blistery paw. You wouldn't want your children to have small, ugly noses like that, would you? A man with a nose like that could never love you, Beulah. I could love you. I could love you till the end of time.
About the author:
Russell Hehn is trying to finish up his MA at Clemson University. He'll write about it later.