Ron Gibson Jr.

The Cold War


I once had a librarian named Svetlana. She was short, bespectacled and fawn-like. When she said my name, it rolled off her tongue with a purr of R’s – each step of the tongue, a soft fingertip down the ridge of my spine, pushing nuclear warhead buttons in my brain, like piano keys. I would check out more books than I could actually read to only hear her purr, again; so I could imprint the exact musical intonations that would bring about my destruction. 


One night I had a dream in which I could make any woman come if I spoke a Russian word aloud. I had inherited the gift from Rasputin. It answered a lot of history’s questions (besides the monstrous appendage on display in the Museum of Erotica): this would explain why Alexandra was under his spell. With but a word, he could send her into paroxysms of delight.

At first it was a boon. Every woman I had ever lusted after lusted for my mouth to enunciate the syllables that would seize their body, initiating a grand mal orgasm. I would whisper into their ear, and the instantaneous moans and spasms were arousing. Then I realized I was hard, and they had already gotten off, always unwilling to extend the favor.

I began withholding, explaining I would only say the word after I came first. Apparently this prospect was unappealing, and the word was all they craved. If the word had worked in anyone else's mouth, the women would have been rid of me. But we were stuck with one another.

On the streets, in stores, over the phone, women from all over the world hounded me to say the word. They electronically monitored my movements, and I could never get away. Out of frustration, I furiously screamed the word, bringing about swooning destructions for entire city blocks.


All the next morning, as I walked to the library with another armful of unread books, I tried to pronounce the unpronounceable word. It felt alien in my mouth, as if my tongue were stuck in a taffy machine.

When I unloaded the books into the return slot at the front desk, my eyes met Svetlana's bored gaze. She smiled, politely, and I blurted out the word instead of Hello. Her eyebrow raised in a way I'd never noticed before, and for a moment I began to hope that mask of calm would disintegrate and contort into a beautiful mushroom cloud of heat, but all she said was, "What?"


Ron Gibson Jr. has previously appeared in Pidgeonholes, Cease Crows, Maudlin House, The Vignette Review, Word Riot, Exquisite Corpse, Spelk Fiction, Unbroken Journal, etc..., forthcoming at Story and Picture & Ginosko Literary Journal, been included in various anthologies, and has been nominated for two Pushcarts. He tweets @sirabsurd.