The Rival – Elizabeth Neal

She wore a spider broach to the party & told him it was named “Edgar.”


“Everything is ‘Edgar,’” she laughed and pointed to the roses

& the guardrail over the water

& the water

& what was left of the moon


& a crunchy black spider by his head.


He loved her then; her laughter like steel & flint, her obfuscations and allusions, all that she concealed

beneath her black hair & within her black tulle.


But rising above the bodice in the exquisite country between her neck & shoulder sat a fat, rubbery mole,

the gristly bit that marred the whole.


He loathed it at once. It was selfish & confrontational. It refused to rest behind a thigh, aside an ankle, even beneath a breast. It longed to be regarded. It was a narcissist.


It grew as great as what was left of the Moon in his eye. It eclipsed the satin of her cheek. It pronounced itself a rival. It was no “Edgar.”


He mourned her near perfection.


In his lust and grief he lunged and bit.

The blood, so abrupt and obscene forced itself into his mouth. The thing itself came alive and leaping against his palette. He caught it between the tip of his tongue and his front teeth, lest it dance down his throat, and he spat into his palm.


She tipped him over the guardrail, her blood black in the night. He ate the thing and grinned, teeth white and crimson as a tiger’s. He ate it before the fish stole away his victory.

Elizabeth Neal is a Portland actress and bookseller. She is proud of her Union, ILWU Local 5. 

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