Rudy stepped out of the shoe store in downtown Synecdoche with a box of new Nikes in a shopping bag. Despite the cool breeze, the sun was warm on his skin. Countless men walked down the sidewalk on both sides of Province Street leading naked women by leashes attached to collars around their necks. At numerous hitching posts all along the street, naked women were bent over with their wrists shackled behind their backs, with their collars attached to the hitching posts. A cop was writing a parking ticket for a car parked illegally in front of Guardians Theater. And some guy had his knee on his slave girl's chest as she lay on her back while he punched her in the face again and again. After the fifth punch, she began spitting up blood. Waiting to cross the street, a transit bus drove by, so he waved to Tammy. Then he crossed the street, walked a short way up Kay street, and stopped into Dogz Cafe for a bite of lunch.
A little later, he found his way back to his car parked in the public lot behind the State Department Of Taxation Of The Ignorance Of Probability Theory and drove home to his second floor apartment just out of town a little way.
He climbed up the stairs onto the shared deck between his and his neighbor's apartments. His neighbors were a quiet couple who mostly kept to themselves. Sylvia was standing on the balcony, naked of course, by the door to her apartment leaning over the back railing as Rudy reached the top of the stairs.
"Afternoon, Sylvia," he said as he walked to his door. "How's everything?"
Sylvia sighed. "Everything's fine, I guess."
Rudy smiled as he started to unlock his door.
"No, it's not!" she called out as he entered his apartment.
Rudy set his shoes down and walked over to her. "Need to talk?"
Sylvia tugged at her leather collar and fidgeted with the small brass padlock. "Well," she began, "I probably shouldn't be telling you this. But, God, I need to confide in someone."
"Sure," said Rudy.
"Tony," she said, "never beats me any more."
"Really?" asked Rudy.
"Really," she said. "When we started going out together, he treated me so bad. On our third date, he beat me with a baseball bat and cracked three of my ribs. I was in agony for weeks."
"But?" said Rudy.
"But the last time he hit me," she sobbed, "he hardly left a black and blue mark."
"That's horrible," said Rudy.
"It gets worse," she cried. "I had a headache a few days ago, through no effort on his part, and he offered to give me a Tylenol to ease my pain."
Rudy held his hands to his mouth. "The monster!" he gasped. "Everyone knows it's illegal to give pain killers to a woman. I know you can't call the police; they won't take a report from a woman. But do you want me to?"
"No," she sighed. "I don't want him to get in trouble with the law. I just wish he'd start beating me again."
"Well," said Rudy, "would you like me to hit you?"
"Oh," she gasped. "I don't know. I'd feel like I was cheating on Tony. But thanks for the offer."
"I understand," said Rudy as he turned to go back into his apartment.
"Wait!" she called out just as he was closing the door. "Yes! Would you?"
"Sure," he called out as he walked back out to her. Stepping up to her, he made a fist, pulled back, and drove it into her face with all the force he could muster. He hit her with such force that her body went flying backward into the brick wall causing her skull to hit with a loud crack.
Sylvia lay there for a minute as Rudy stood over her. Then she slowly struggled to her feet on her own, staggering a little. "Thank you," she said with a lopsided smile before staggering into her apartment.
A few days later, while Rudy was in his kitchen eating lunch, his doorbell rang. Getting up, he peered out to see Sylvia at his door. Her jaw was swollen and black and blue where he punched her.
"Hi Sylvia," he said as he opened the door. "Come in."
"Rudy," she sighed, "you won't believe it."
"Believe what?" He asked.
"Tony saw the black and blue mark and figured out I cheated on him."
"I bet he was furious," said Rudy.
"No!" she gasped. "The bastard forgave me. He didn't even touch me."
"You poor girl," gasped Rudy.
"I've decided to leave him, Rudy," she said.
"Can you do that?" he asked.
Sylvia tapped the leather collar around her neck. As was the social norm, a leather collar indicated she wasn't legally owned and was still a free woman. A steel collar signified full legal ownership of a slave.
"So he doesn't legally own you?" said Rudy.
"No, thank God," she said. "But I have nowhere to go. All my friends are owned." She smiled at him, "If only a cruel neighbor would offer to let me stay with him for a while."
"Of course, Sylvia," said Rudy. "No problem. Do you need to get anything? Since he doesn't own you legally, you must have some things of your own."
"Not much," she said. "Just a few CDs and some jewelry. I'll be right back."
She returned a few minutes later with all her worldly belongings in a small knapsack.
"Now," he said. "About that collar. I bet you want it removed?"
"If you would," she said.
He got a heavy cutting tool out of his kitchen drawer and had the leather collar removed in a few minutes.
She smiled at him slyly and said, "Maybe you have a collar of your own you'd like to put on me."
"Sylvia," he chuckled, "we hardly know each other."
"Well," she said. "I know your apartment is only one bedroom like the other one. Where were you expecting me to sleep?"
"Well..." he stammered.
"Just treat me badly and beat me every day," she said softly, "and I'll be a good slave. I swear."