September 2, 2015KR OnlineFiction


I’m going to feed you, I know you don’t want me to, but I’m going to feed you, I’m going to push this tube down your nose, down into your stomach, and I’m not going to lube it up because I want this whole thing to go slow, I want you to feel me at work, and I see you there shackled to the chair, I saw you squirming before I came in the room, I watched you through the little window in the door, you were twitching and sweating, trying to convince yourself that you were somewhere else, maybe back in your cell, maybe back home, and when I walked in I could tell you liked me right away, a woman, you thought, easier, and I saw you relax because you were worried it might be some rough-and-tumble blockhead Marine, but no, you got me, and you think I’m going to go easy on you, you’re guessing I don’t want to be in Cuba either, these shitty hot summer days, but you’re wrong, I want to be the one that keeps you alive, I want to be the one that forces food down into you, I want to prolong your life, and two minutes ago you had an empty room, you had fading hope that you’d starve to death, gorgeous martyrdom, but now you have me, and I’m going to give you this minute, I’ll let you think that you have a woman who is going to take it easy on you, a weak woman here to comfort you, to talk to you when I thread that pipe down your nose, maybe you think I’ll whisper to you like your mother used to do, maybe I’ll tell you it’s going to be OK or that it will be over in a minute, but that’s not what you’re going to get, you’re getting a dry tube shoved down into your stomach, and you’re going to gag and beg me to stop but you won’t be able to speak, you’ll only give me a whine and a gurgle, and I’ll ignore you, and you’re shackled tight and I’m going to show you this bottle of Ensure so you know that you’re getting the good stuff, the shit with all of the calories that will fatten you up for life, and I see you looking me up and down, hello there, it’s me, and you don’t know it yet, but I’ll be here tomorrow and the day after that, we’ll just hit repeat on this feed, but let’s start with today, right now, and you can watch me pull the cover down on the little window in the door and walk toward you, take another few seconds to breathe deep, feel that stale air enter your body, scan around the room and look at those white cinderblock walls, breathe deep and look back at me, yes, here I am, I’m going to feed you, I know you don’t want me to, take this nod and think about what it means, wish for your mother’s voice in my throat, take these seconds and breathe, think about your hunger strike, you and your buddies sending a message, yes, good, give me that scowl, go ahead, you want me to know you’re a tough guy, but take a moment and think about the days you’ve gone without food, you and your buddies trying to get our attention, and guess what, we got the message, got it loud and clear, and here I am, ready to fatten you up, I’ll keep you alive, yes, you see that bottle, yes, speak to me, chant at me, let’s get religious, show me your soul, sing to me, turn it up, good, keep it going as I set up, pray for salvation, sing the devastation of facing more days on this earth, chant at me, tough guy, keep it going, good, louder now, yes, I hear you, you want another nod, I know it, here you go, pray at me, close those eyes, sing me back to south Chicago and my son, you think that’s where I want to be, but know that I can wait at least a little longer, because I want you to live, already I’m studying your nose, your nostrils, which one I will choose, yes, I’m checking you out, this woman, you think, who will speak to you as your mother did, this Marine, she doesn’t want to be here, but I’m here, I chose to be here, to hang this bottle, to puncture it with one end of the tube and ready the other end between my fingertips, and I’ll tighten your head restraint first, let me get close to you, think of me and smell me, calm yourself, you’ll live, you are here to live, and I’m going to feed you, I’m going to control you, yes, I hold the tube in front of your eyes and you quiet down, yes, this is going into you, take this nod, yes, this will hurt, feel the tip in your left nostril, I’ll leave it there for a moment, it tickles, go ahead, feel the tip in you, just barely into you, think about how you’ll fight it, how you’ll feel the dryness all the way down, how you’ll gag and beg and squirm like you’re dying, but I’m saving you, prolonging you, this Ensure hanging beside us is your savior, I’m here, I’ll keep you alive, feel the tube in your nostril, feel it start down, dry, slow, feel it catch and feel me push harder, yes, let’s take our time, feel the plastic enter you, curve into you, yes, try to call out, I’m here, feel the plastic catch on something deep now, I push again and you spasm, yes, groan, louder, yes, that tube deep, and with the other nostril you smell me, smell the soap from my shower, smell my breath from my breakfast, shake those limbs and test the arm shackles, yes, test them again, that pipe sliding down into you, the pain and pressure, yes, and yell out at those cinderblocks, at the summer heat, yes, we’re here, and you’re ready for the good stuff, the Ensure, white and thick working into you, you fight it, but you’re not going anywhere, no one waits for you, and there it is, you feel it in your sinus first, the coolness trickles deep, yes, test those shackles, gasp, go ahead, I’m here, cry out, you’ll live, and I’m the reason, fight it all you want, it’s too late, the liquid seeps into your body, healing you, it’s me, yes, look at me, right here, take this nod and think about what it means, feel me touch your arm and listen to me, calm down and listen to me, hear my voice as I speak to you, these are the only words you’ll get, calm down and listen to me say, “I’m saving you.”

Jesse Goolsby is the author of the novel I'd Walk with My Friends If I Could Find Them (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). His fiction and essays have appeared widely, including Narrative, The Literary Review, Epoch, Alaska Quarterly Review, and the Best American Series. He is the recipient of the John Gardner Memorial Award in Fiction, the Richard Bausch Fiction Prize, and a distinguished fellowship from the Hambidge Center for the Creative Arts and Sciences. A genre editor at The Southeast Review and War, Literature & the Arts, he lives and writes in Tallahassee, Florida.