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The Marriage of Bonnie Parker

The Legend of Bonnie and Clyde

Bonnie wanted to be a writer. She filled her notebooks up with poems she scribbled on the porch to escape the Texas summer heat. Time would drip slow as molasses through her fingers. She was bored, she was broke. She, above all, had the nagging feeling she was meant for so much more.

Clyde just wanted the chance to survive. His face was already too recognizable by the laws, and the pigeons and the town preacher who always looked down his nose at him. He’d lost two toes and some dignity in a jail cell not long ago. He wasn’t banking to lose anything more, but the past wouldn’t let him go.

Bonnie wanted stardom, infamy if fame wouldn’t have her. She was terrified of dying nameless some day. She wanted nothing more than for the world to remember her face. Clyde wanted a house, a family, money enough to support them, nothing too grand, just ordinary happiness. Clyde could have been a good man if the laws had ever given him a chance. Not Bonnie, though—there’s just no saving some people and she was one of them.

Legend said that Bonnie always set up a typewriter in the backseat of each stolen Ford the couple claimed. She thought it was important that their story be recorded while it was lived. Click, clack, clack. Bonnie’s blood red nails tapped against the keys, sometimes beating a maddening tattoo into the silence of the open road. Click, clack, clack. Clyde considered throwing the entire contraption space bar over ribbon out the window more than once, specifically on a bridge, crossing a river. But he never did. It made Bonnie happy to have the thing there. And he’d do anything to see her smile. 

The papers painted Bonnie ugly. Some did far worse and described her only as a lady who’d been duped into the whole thing, blindly and unintentionally by a man who she thought loved her. This was not how Bonnie wanted her story to go. Didn’t those reporters know that she was the author of this whole damn thing? She had to do something to set the record straight.

The couple found an abandoned camera in one of the Fords one day. Bonnie persuaded Clyde to pose with her against their newest stolen automobile, license plate exposed. She clenched one of Clyde’s cigars between her teeth, blew smoke rings to rival any man’s. She kissed Clyde full on the mouth, as if they were at the altar of the wedding they would never have. She pointed the barrel of one of their machine guns at his chest in a manner of jest.

Clyde felt every hair on his neck stand up, a chill ran up his spine. He knew in this moment that this woman would be the death of him. He didn’t know how and he didn’t know when, but he had seen the face of Death, and it wore Bonnie Parker’s poppy red lipstick.

Luck didn’t last forever for the Barrow gang. A mob of cops trailed them to a hotel. The laws waited until nightfall, 'til after Blanche had said her prayers, 'til after Bonnie had pooled the red lace of her lingerie to the floor for the night. There was no warrant, no warning, only gunfire; click, clack, clack. Buck, Clyde’s brother, was shot through the skull. Blanche, the daughter of a preacher, Buck’s wife and reluctant and blameless gang member had her eyes peppered with broken glass. Click, clack, clack. She was left blind and alone and arrested even though all she ever did to help the gang was to pray for their souls.

As they made their getaway, Bonnie typed furiously in the backseat; click, clack, clack. The couple were on their own once again. Clyde was left to reflect on the type of woman he had so vehemently chained himself to. He saw more vulture in her lately than woman. He cringed when he saw her own words in the papers, letters to the editor imploring them to let people know that she didn’t really smoke cigars. It was all for show. There was a tall, tell all poem that implied that their reign would only end with the two lovers being buried side by side. “But I want to live,” Clyde thought, but didn’t tell her. “With you, side by side, with a house and a child or two.” Some day.

But Bonnie had little interest in any of these things. Clyde was reminded of something his mother had always told him; that there were two types of women in the world: those you only see after the sun goes down and the daylight women. The daylight women are the girls you bring home to meet your family, they are the ladies that blush at cuss words, they are the women you marry. Clyde realized now that Bonnie was bone deep soaked in everything midnight, but it was too late to change it. He was already in love with her smile.

But the laws wouldn’t leave Bonnie and Clyde be, just as Bonnie’s poem had predicted. There was a noose tightening around the couple. Their life slowly lost its glamour. Hotels, motels, family homes had become too risky. They began camping out in the woods, draped across the backseats of their stolen Fords. Clyde’s feet often accidentally kicked the typewriter in fitful sleep. Bonnie would curl a delicate hand, once manicured, now chipped and dirt ridden, into his palm.

“Clyde, I’m scared,” she’d admit. And he’d have to bite his lip to keep from telling her it was all her fault. He kissed her forehead as though he were comforting a child. 

He said, “It’s alright, I’ve got you.” 

And she would smile that smile that made it all worth it.

After the fire, Bonnie didn’t smile anymore. She limped. The laws had driven them into a ravine. Flames from the car’s engine had licked their way up Bonnie’s thighs the way Clyde’s hands used to, when they first met, when the world still belonged to them. Bonnie’s legs weren’t the porcelain, pretty, dancing things she had always counted on them to be anymore. Her thighs were mottled, resembled raw hamburger more than the petals of a rose now. Something wilted in Bonnie that day, something hardened and learned meanness. Clyde couldn’t recognize the woman in the passenger seat anymore. There was no click, clack, clack, of the typewriter from the backseat anymore. Bonnie had forsaken their story, it seemed. Bonnie sat up front with him now, a machine gun slung across her lap like the child he had once wanted them to have together. But there was no more chance of that now.

Clyde thought for a moment that if he could bring back Bonnie’s smile, he could bring her back, too. Easter morning, while she lay sleeping in the backseat, he strolled down the road about a mile to a farmer’s house. He bought her a white rabbit, an Easter bunny, a dot of normalcy in the insanity that had become their lives.

Bonnie awoke with the creature’s blood red eyes staring her in the face. She looked up at Clyde sadly and snuggled the rabbit to her face gingerly, as if she were afraid it would crumble like porcelain in her too rough hands. And then she said something that didn’t make much sense at all. “You intended this for someone else,” she said. “Not for me.”

That afternoon, on the holiest of Sundays, that shred of a rabbit rode on Bonnie’s lap through all their travels, its paws shifting tentatively over the barrel of her machine gun. And when she gunned down a cop that afternoon, the rabbit scampered away, the ivory of its fur splattered with a shade of poppy red that almost matched its eyes. Bonnie let it go. She knew better now. There were just some things in this world she didn’t deserve anymore, and that, it seemed, were most things.

Bonnie and Clyde were no longer the Robin Hoods of the Depression. Bonnie had killed a fiance. The newspapers had photos of the fallen man’s bride to be, dropping tears into his open grave, in a full wedding dress. And Clyde found it ironic now that all his hopes for ever being a groom himself had died with this man as well. The laws were out for blood. Clyde had seen Bonnie pull a trigger with as much ease as filing her nails. He could not help but think how the sound of the gun sounded eerily similar to that of the typewriter, that same; click, clack, clack. If his eyes had been closed he would have never known the difference. He had never expected Bonnie to kill anybody. Not really. How could he love her now, knowing what she had done? But what was life without Bonnie? What was life without her smile? All she had ever wanted was for them to go down together. And so, while Bonnie slept, Clyde made his way to a phone booth and ordered his own coffin.

It would be an ambush. Bonnie and Clyde would never see it coming. The laws waited in the bushes. Their fingers shook on hair pin triggers. Their lips mouthed prayers asking their gods for permission for what they were about to do. The Ford rounded the bend. The guns went off before they were even sure it was truly the right car; click, clack, clack.

The form of Clyde slumped against the steering wheel, dead instantly. The world is sometimes fairer than it knows. But Bonnie was stubborn 'til the last. Her screams could be heard through the holler. Those gathered there would later report that they heard the sound of it still, decades later, deep in the midnight of their dreams. The body of Bonnie Parker was reported to be smiling garishly into the face of death. Those who knew her best never wondered at all. Bonnie would be remembered. She lived the story she had written, to the last word, after all. 

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The Marriage of Bonnie Parker
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