Liminal7 June 2017
Do you think it’ll hurt?
Shawn is standing, hand outstretched, at the edge of the neighbour’s paddock. In front of her is a fence, wire wet and drooping with a sign attached:
KEEP OFF – KEEP AWAY
She takes a step back and the frosty grass crunches beneath her boots.
I don’t want it to hurt, she says, looking back at Gill, who is holding herself in the cold.
Just get it over with, Gill says. It probably doesn’t work anyway
Shawn looks back at the fence and wonders if it makes a difference that she’s wearing gloves or that the fence is wet. She tries to remember what her mother told her as a child, about what to look out for with electric fences.
I reckon I can hear it buzzing, she says. This isn’t true. The morning is muffled with drizzle and frost and all she can hear is both their breathing. Shawn begins to panic. She wants to be the type of person who doesn’t care about the fence and about the possibility of pain because she knew that was the type of person Gill wanted.
Gill sighs and says don’t worry about it – let’s just go, hey? It’s fucking freezing. Your parents are probably up now, anyway. She starts walking back to the house.
Shawn imagines them going back there, sitting down to breakfast and chatting with her parents. Her dad would laugh at what they had just done and say that of course the fence wasn’t live, it hadn’t been for years and then Gill would look at her, giving her that look and she would feel stupid. She’d feel as though she made a big deal of nothing and ruined their morning. So she pulls off her gloves (the ones Gill had knitted her last Christmas) and stuffs them into her pocket.
Fine, she snaps. I’ll do it. It’s not a big deal
Gill smirks and says I know it’s not a big deal
Then why do you want me to do it so bad?
You asked me to dare you
You don’t have to push it, though. You always push me
I don’t. I’m not. Just do it or don’t
Shawn walks to the fence, hoping she looks confident. She thinks about the animals that must come in to contact with electric fences all the time, and they’re alright. There was a horse in the paddock, off in the distance.
She extends her pointer finger and she makes a nervous squealing noise in her throat and then touches the wire. The small muscles in her finger contract and the shock passes through the surface tissue for approximately 90 microseconds. It feels like a wasp sting, but coming from the inside out.
On the way back to the house, Gill says I hope you’re not mad at me. I didn’t know it would be live.
You didn’t know it wasn’t, says Shawn.
Neither did you, says Gill.
Either way, says Shawn, I knew it would hurt
They’re walking side by side up the gravel garden path now, their hands close but not touching. Shawn’s finger is dully throbbing still, under the gloves Gill knitted her for Christmas last year. She puts her hand in her pocket and continues up the path.