Wonder Woman Comes Over to Play Cards Against Humanity with Me and My Friends by Katherine Riegel

Pursued by Rees Nielsen

Pursued by Rees Nielsen

Wonder Woman Comes Over to Play Cards Against Humanity with Me and My Friends

First of all, she’s big. I mean, tall and muscled and beautiful, and we can’t see up under her jeans but we think the red boots go all the way to her knees. We didn’t really expect her to show up in full uniform, so to speak, but I can tell the guys are disappointed.

We don’t see the car she must have arrived in—or plane?—but then, that’s to be expected, right?

After drinks are offered and accepted (she takes a beer, an IPA, which disappoints me a bit because as usual, I’m the only one drinking gin & tonic), we get down to it. She’s never played the game before, so we start with our go-to explanation. “Have you ever played Apples to Apples? It’s like that, but completely vulgar, dirty, offensive, and inappropriate.”

She shakes her head. They don’t play games much at the Justice League because everyone’s too predictable—Superman will be honest to a fault; Batman will think he’s not giving anything away but in poker, at least, he ALWAYS lies; Aquaman will inevitably get bored and start juggling beach balls like a two-armed dolphin. And Flash—well, he has an unfortunate way of distracting the other players with something like the kind of unsuper flash you get from guys wearing trench coats in parking lots, but so fast it’s nearly subliminal, and no one can ever concentrate after that.

Anyway, we get started. My red-haired friend who follows Cthulhu reads the black card that says, “If I were going to design a new line of fashion underwear, I’d call it ____________.” Just thinking about what he’ll have to read aloud, in his resonant red-haired voice, has us all laughing before we’ve even chosen our cards. Will he get the “Flying monkeys throwing feces” card? “Diamonds coming out of someone’s butt”?  “Slowly easing into the seat of a John Deere after a hyena had cubs in it”?

Wonder Woman looks at us a bit puzzled, like we’re zoo animals and she can’t quite figure out what she’s doing here or what our noises really mean.

We keep going and she never wins, so we don’t know whether she’s dirty-minded or odd or just boring, because we never know what she played and she doesn’t volunteer. When it’s her turn, she chooses the “fountains of pee lit up with colored lights” card, which doesn’t tell us much about her, really, except that she has an appreciation for pretty things—though her shiny, glittery, evil-fighting outfit could have told us that.

The drinks flow from the refrigerator, the smokers go out on the back porch, everyone finds a way to tease the redhead. Bathroom and menstruation ditties are sung to the tunes of 90s pop songs. Wonder Woman’s taken off her boots (they are knee length) and tucked her feet up under her on the couch. It’s a party now and the conversation’s vying with the game for biggest yuks when someone says, in that tone that makes anything sound dirty, “I’d like to see your golden lasso.”

And—we all turn to look at her. She hasn’t been laughing much, but she hasn’t remained impassive, either. She’s still an enigma to us, despite her smile and those white, white teeth. Honestly, we’re all good boys and girls—we don’t steal candy in the checkout line or trip old ladies trying to cross the street or even make up (much) on our tax returns so we get just a little more back from The Man to spend on books and booze. One of us has a mini-weiner-dog, for god’s sake. One of us leaves cards and gifts in other people’s mailboxes. This is the closest we get to villainy—saying things we’d never say in our real lives, in the classroom in front of impressionable students, to our mothers or bosses or the checkout clerk at Target.

We play at being bad. But we’re smart enough to worry, just a bit, about Wonder Woman’s Lasso of Truth. Her anger wouldn’t be too scary—her shtick is mostly stealth and defense, anyway—but that Lasso. What if she doesn’t have such a great sense of humor when it comes to herself? What if she decides to use the Lasso on us, make us say all the excruciating truths of our lives that make us feel—not bad, not important enough to be evil—but small? Those things we know better than to reveal to anyone, even those who love us, in more than glimpses and half jokes? What if we don’t even know what truths that Lasso might force us to speak—and isn’t what’s unknown most terrifying of all?

She stands up, awful in that “we are full of awe and dread” sense. She puts her hands on her hips. “So,” she says, “do y’all want me to whip it out?”

Katherine Riegel is the author of two books of poetry: What the Mouth Was Made For andCastaway. Her poetry/creative nonfiction chapbook, Letters to Colin Firth, won the 2015 Sundress Publications Chapbook Competition and will be published in 2016. She received her MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and has taught writing at various places, most recently the University of South Florida. Her poems and essays have appeared in numerous publications, including Brevity, Crazyhorse, Mead, The Offing, and The Rumpus. She is co-founder and poetry editor for Sweet: A Literary Confection. (website)

Rees Nielsen farmed stone fruit for 35 years in California’s San Joaquin Valley. One day his wife, Riina, requested a series of paintings to fill a blank wall which led to a twenty five year pursuit. In 2011, two years after her passing, he moved to Indianola, Iowa, to take an active part in the lives of his grandchildren, Marshall and Adelaide Taylor. Rees has had his paintings accepted at numerous publications, including, Agave, Empty Sink Publishing, The Riding Light Review, Paradise Review, The Yellow Chair Review, The Sonder Review, Dirty Chai Review, Birds Piled Loosely.