Sometimes they played games before falling asleep. Her favorite was when they told each other stories. Campfire style, she called it. The story unfolding word by word, him speaking after her, until one person gave up, saying End after some unwitting The.
That night they told this story.
Once there was a giant who slept under the sea. In his hands he carried two golden hammers. On a hazy spring morning he awoke and rose above the waters to seek the sun. When he saw its rays he lay his hammers down and said, ‘All my life I have loved the sea. Now I love the shore.’ And he walked into the darkening horizon. The End.
They lay on their sides, their bodies curled together like edges of an autumn leaf.
His eyes never left her as she spoke. She would giggle, glance across the room, even frown, searching for the right word. His only movement was leaning forward to press his lips against hers. Even then, he never shut his eyes.
The story of the giant upset her. The word darkening doesn’t fit, she said. The giant was seeing the sun, it can’t be dark.
That’s the fun of the game, he said. To see who can ruin the story best.
I thought the fun of the game was building something between two people, she said.
Like a reenactment of creation.
That’s gender roles for you, he said. Men think about winning, women think about people. She told him he was an ass. He kissed her.
Some time passed. She wasn’t angry anymore. The story had disappeared, lost in the movement between them.
In the morning, she will not remember how it began.
Sheila Mulrooney has an MA in English Literature from the University of Toronto. Her work has appeared in magazines such as Typishly, Not Very Quiet, Dappled Things, The Agonist, Classical Poets, and is forthcoming from America Magazine.
image: Lisa Lerma Weber