Truth or Dare

Elliot Erwitt

         That evening in the resort sky bar in Waikiki, the day after their tenth wedding anniversary, the wife proposed a game of truth or dare. Nothing the husband would have ever suggested, shitfaced on mai tais on this somber eve of their departure back home, but when he asked, “Do we have to?” there was a certain unyielding fury in her eyes that told him yes, whether he wanted to or not.

         He asked half-hearted questions to which he already knew the answers, scared that he’d turn over the wrong stone. “Which neighbor of ours would you make love to?” or, “Did you fake the orgasm in the civil war graveyard?” Whenever it was his turn, he chose dares. She made him sing the first verse of “Love in Vain” in the restroom, loud enough that she could hear from the table. She made him skip out of the restaurant with her gigantic blood-red purse slung over his shoulder.

         An hour later they sat on the beach as he ran his fingers down her back. Slouched as she was, he could see the nipple of her left breast just below the top of her blouse. What he wouldn’t give to fuck her, but that was one more thing that hadn’t happened, wouldn’t happen, on this trip. Though they called this a vacation, most of the time it felt as though they’d fled here, fugitives from circumstance.

         “We’ll be fine,” he said. “It’ll be a new beginning when we get back.”

         She stared at the improbable sunset, full of tie-dye colors, some trick of volcanic ash in the atmosphere. “You seem so sure,” she said. “Doesn’t cost you a thing to believe, right?”

         “We’re in one piece, aren’t we?”

         “Isn’t it peachy fucking keen to think so?”

         He sighed.

         “Truth or dare?” she asked.

         “It’s my turn to ask,” he said, realizing he sounded childish.

         “No, it’s my turn,” she said, “and it’s going to be my turn for a while.”

         So the game continued, the wife goading the husband on. Across the street from the resort, outside the touristy torch-lit bars, he bear hugged a wrestler type. Slow danced alone for a full minute in front of a restaurant. Asked a cop for directions to the nearest whorehouse. With each dare he hoped that reconciliation and absolution were around the corner.

         Finally, standing with his pants down on top of a parked seafood delivery truck, he tried to break the impasse. So many arm-linked couples strolling along the sidewalk, neon glinting off their staring eyes. “Is this enough?” he shouted down. “I’m sorry, but I don’t know how many more times I can apologize.”

         “Truth or dare?” she asked with her arms akimbo, looking up from the sidewalk.


         “Do you love her?”

         “I picked dare,” he said, more harshly than he intended. Then after a moment he said, “Come on, please don’t cry.”

         “I dare you to answer,” she said. “Do you love her?”

Thomas Cooper lives in Florida and has fiction forthcoming or currently appearing in Lake Effect, Bayou, Storyglossia, Pikeville Review, and Opium, among other places. The latter magazine has invited him to read at New York’s Literary Death Match. Next year he will become book review editor for Southeast Review.

© 2007 Underground Voices