Leo: Natural Born Killers by Anita Arlov

The light’s hinged. You missed three texts last night. “It’s a salmon dawn,” you whisper, leaning close to wet-wipe Leonie’s chin. She stirs, sleep mucus pearling in the corners of her eyes. She coughed her guts up in the night and you weren’t a million miles from coming down strong and hard with her triangle pillow.

Leonie sleeps half the days now. She’s only good for stories, stories to pad the silence spaces, sunny stories with no endings, like the first time you two hooked up. She was a cosmic dynamo then: the wildcard on the ‘Godmothers of Rock’ bill, prowling the stage, red Fender roaring, her bandmates vassal planets orbiting their Rā.

“Tell me the tattoo story, Kat,” Leonie murmurs.

This one you own.  “I’d elbowed past the others to reach the pass gate just as you were coming off stage. You swallowed me head to toe, eyes popping at the tat.  Later you said, it was my lion-head did it, all golden scrolls and mane, straight off MGM.  “Another fucking Leo!” you laughed, yanking me through.

That first night – remember? – you trailed a slow felt-tip around me on the bedsheet, like I was your private crime scene, my legs Barbie-wide, the touch and almost-touch – I had to bite down so I wouldn’t blurt out the ‘l’ word.”

Leonie smiles.

“…Find a line,” she sings, lento, crackly, “milk it red,

It’s a thin bled line between the quick and the …

Kat, when the show’s over, will you bring the curtain down?’”


The lungs the joints the looks failed one by one but you’d imagined passion had safeguarded the heart; that her sick blood dialysised through the filter of you – yonks younger – and back into her, purified, oxygen-rich, vivid; but the machinery of her was way too fucked. Cardiomegaly.  Congestive heart failure. Leonie all bitchy  blast and bluster lit up on the hospital steps and sank two cans  before you’d hit the highway.

“The pride starves without the lioness,” you quip, and Leonie slips sideways from the effort, mouth gaping.  A dribble of curdled saliva oozes from the well behind her lower teeth and trickles across her cheek onto the bedsheet.

You wonder, when she’s dust, which Leonie will elbow past the others in your mind’s eye.

Morning: the time you love the best. You text back.

Anita Arlov lives in Auckland, Aotearoa/ New Zealand. She hosts Inside Out Open Mic for Writers, an open mic event with musician guests. Anita writes poetry and flash fiction, has trouble telling her left from her right and has a tattoo of the MGM lion on her thigh, though one of these is a lie.  Her work appears in Best Microfiction 2019, Best Small Fictions 2019, Bath Flash Fiction vol 4 2019 and Flash Frontier: An Adventure in Short Fiction.

A vintage photo of a woman in cage leaning against a lion and next to another lion
Share This