By Jesse Goolsby

The day Pekka gave up his parents’ religion, a dust storm swept up from the south, blanketing the sky in a dizzying mash of spinning brown.  That night he dreamt of his dead grandmother on her ascent to heaven.  She kicked him in the face. 

“Have sex like Jesus is watching,” Pekka’s father said years ago.  Pekka was twelve and didn’t yet fully understand the mechanics of love-making, but now, twenty years old and unbuttoning his pants, he recalls the comment and imagines what that might look like: Jesus at the foot of the bed in a folding chair whispering directions. Should they be praying? Does He stroke his chin when things go right?  Is He congratulatory—a high five maybe? 

Pekka slides off his pants under the ceiling fan, on high, as the cut moonlight filters in between the twisted blinds, imprinting a faint mosaic of light on Suri, naked on his comforter save the slim panties that hug her hips.  Pekka, a master of abstinence, discovered the best way not to have sex is for Suri to keep her panties on.  They’d started, months ago, with all of their clothes in place, but they grew tired of the redundancy and slowly began to peel.  They were at their last line of defense, which had been the only barrier for the past two weeks.  But tonight, just as Pekka strides toward the bed, Suri hooks her index finger into her pink underwear and teasingly tugs.  He looks at her as he imagines Adam might have looked at Eve after she took the first bite: that is to say, “Baby, this could get good.” 

Suri has a glass eye and a lifted Toyota truck that she has to leap into.  One day, three months into their thing, she showed Pekka the pitchfork. She’d kept it, she said, “to remind myself that the devil exists.”  When he asked about the accident, all she did was nod.  It was a different nod than Pekka gets as he wiggles in between Suri’s smooth thighs.  Like all past believers, he’s scared and excited and guilty, so he keeps his eyes locked on Suri’s open mouth and listens, closely, for directions.

Jesse Goolsby’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in Our StoriesHarpur PalateStoryglossiaBreakwater ReviewParadigmVestal ReviewStirring, War, Literature & the ArtsOak Bend Review, and various anthologies. His short fiction piece “Touch” received the 2010 Richard Bausch Short Fiction Prize, and his story “Derrin of the North” won the 2009 John Gardner Memorial Award in Fiction.  His various projects can be viewed at