Flash Fiction: Fowl Run Afoul in East Texas Dirt

We used to chase roadrunners. Actually, I don’t think “chase” is the right word. We rode our dirt bikes around the dirt roads and trails, and sometimes a roadrunner would jump out and run along in front of us or alongside us. We never wanted to catch them or hurt them. We just liked seeing them.

It’s kind of like when dolphins escort a ferry you’re on. It sort of gives you a warm feeling to take the trip with them. The roadrunners made us think of the cartoon, of course, but we never worried about the coyotes. They only came out at night, anyway, and I don’t think they really had any particular interest in roadrunners in the first place.

So we liked to see the roadrunners and the rabbits that would run along the trail. I don’t think I ever saw a roadrunner get hurt, but rabbits had a habit of running into the spokes or under the wheels. It’s no fun having a rabbit run into the spokes of your wheel. It’s a bloody mess, and not at all pleasant for a boy who’s squeamish. Other people, of course, would just pack them home, skin them, and have a little fried rabbit for dinner, but that was never to my taste.

So, those were the main animals we’d see, except for the copperhead snakes. I don’t know why they like to stay in the trails, but they do, and they’ll fight to keep the spot. We had thick boots, of course, but they always gave me a little shiver, anyway. If you’ve ever felt that thud against your boot, you know what I’m talking about. That’s just involuntary.

All this happened at the cow lease out on farm road 942. You’d only drive down 942 if you owned land there, leased land there, or wanted to buy drugs. If you ever saw a car pulled over on the side of the road out there, you could pretty much bet any money it was someone waiting to buy drugs or sell drugs.

I was never a customer or a dealer, but I thought it was a pretty bad arrangement they had. If I knew what they were doing, surely the local law enforcement knew what was up. It was just so obvious, because no one had any other reason to be stopped on the side of the road, unless their car was broken down.

It was years before I found out law enforcement definitely knew what was going on, because they were in on it. They were an integral part of the East Texas Drug Distribution Network, such as it was. I know now what I never suspected then. If an out of towner came in and tried to sell drugs on 942, that person could be guaranteed a night in the Polk County jail, and Polk County hospitality might not live up to the stories you’ve heard about southern hospitality in the US.

The Polk County Sheriffs were really nice people, but that description pretty much applies to locals only, see? The whole area was sort of overseen by the Ku Klux Klan, and you’d be naïve to think the local cops weren’t part of the KKK. In fact, if you went the other direction on 942 from where the cow lease was, you’d come to a dirt road that led off to the left.

If you turned down that road, you’d see a big banner that said, “Welcome to Klan Kountry,” or something like that. It was both a welcome and a warning, depending on who you are. I was pretty much local and had lots of kinfolk around there, but I still found it intimidating. The area was familiar to me, all right, but I never did feel at home there. What’s more, I never wanted to feel at home there. I like having friends, you see, but I guess I prefer people who are a little more open minded.

So I drove around and enjoyed the roadrunners and rabbits and such, but I kept to myself mostly, and I learned to never really trust anyone. And I learned to never really feel safe. Don’t get me wrong, I could pass for one of them easily enough, but I had to focus. I had to watch what I said and how I walked.

It was easy enough to fall foul of their good graces. Any suspicion that you were a heathen or a pervert, rather broadly defined, would be enough to put you at risk, so you had to be careful how you walked and how you dressed and everything. This is why you can’t trust what you see in East Texas. Some of those rednecks who look like KKK members are actually liberals, atheists, gays, and so on, but the closets in East Texas are larger and more securely sealed than in other places you might have been.

And that’s why stuff kept going down, you know? Steve would get a little high and start shooting his mouth off. Oh, man, he had a black girlfriend when he was in Tennessee. He thought organized religion was for sheep, man. Che Guevara was his hero, or at least he really liked those posters with his face on them. And what’s the big deal about sex, anyway? If it feels good, go on and do it. There’s no God to tell you it’s wrong.

So the law enforcement, you know the ones who dealt drugs?, didn’t really like Steve. They kind of followed him around and gave him a lot of shit. It pissed him off, but he also kind of liked it. He had enough family around there to sort of protect him from real harm, but he didn’t have enough connections to avoid constant harassment. Or at least that’s what he thought.

So he’d go to the bar in Seven Oaks and talk trash all night while sipping beer and slipping out for a few hits off a joint from time to time. Everything seemed okay. It was all right. The local women liked Steve well enough. He was good looking, and he could make them laugh, so everything seemed fine and dandy. He was in the catbird seat.

And, hey, no one ever knows how things are going to turn out, do they? And no one ever really knows what causes what or who wants what. I mean, some people don’t think Michael Hastings crashed his car. Not everything gets solved. Sometimes you’re just left to wonder. You just move on with your life, and tell yourself you’re free. I mean, it’s not like you live in some kind of God damned communist country or anything. Is it?

Photo by Daniel on Pexels.com

Flash Fiction: Foul Air and Revenge in Bolivar, Texas

Eddie had a beach house in Bolivar. Now, Bolivar, Texas wasn’t exactly a resort. It was mostly retired people and stragglers who like to fish and comb the beach for sand dollars and whatever. It’s not too far from Gulf Coast refineries, so things aren’t exactly pristine, and people don’t go on too much about the smell of the fresh air. It was just kind of a grimy place with gritty people wandering around.

The only place to drink was Bob’s Sports Bar, which was just a bar, really, with a TV, but people seemed to find their own places to drink, though you never saw scantily clad hotties strolling the beach with fancy cocktails. You’d more likely see grungy men and women pushing off in a fishing boat with a couple cases of beer.

You had a fair mix of retired people, refinery workers, laborers, and a few artists and musicians. From time to time, you could see music at Bob’s. If you wanted a nicer restaurant or bar, you’d have to take the ferry over to Galveston. I used to like walking out on the jetties and just taking in the sights, sounds, and smells. You’d hear the horns on the ships approaching the ship channel, the sound of rats scuttling across the rocks, and the bickering of older couples loading up their boats to try their luck at the trout, red fish, and flounder just beyond the breakers.

And you could smell, always, the remnants of dead fish, shrimp, crabs, and so on. When people would clean their catches, they’d put them in barrels at the marina, but of course various predators would also leave carcasses scattered about, which would add to the pungent aroma that is Bolivar. And, yeah, the refineries added their own sweetness to the miasma.

If you looked around, you’d see a bunch of clapboard houses on stilts, many a little worse for wear. You’d also see a shipwreck out in the water. Some of the locals could tell you how it got there and how long it had been there, but most people just thought about it the way you might think of a mountain in the background. It was just always there. Something you expect to see.

The beach was named Crystal Beach because it was crystal clear and clean in someone’s imagination. In reality, it wasn’t the worst beach. It was usually covered in driftwood and seaweed, but not as much litter as you’d find on a commercial beach. Most people on the beach lived nearby, so they weren’t interested in making a mess of it.

So Eddie loved Bolivar. It was a great getaway for him, and he spent as much time as possible there. He loved the fishing, walking out on the jetties, going to Bob’s from time to time, and just hanging out on the porch with a cold beer. He liked the sights, sounds, and even smells of Bolivar, but he didn’t like his next-door neighbors.

To be honest, I personally never even understood his grievance with them. His kids said they didn’t think he even remembered why he was mad at them, but he was mad at them all right, and he did everything he could to cause mischief. Understand that Eddie was a gruff and ruddy sort of guy, never really in a good mood, but I can’t remember ever seeing him do anything that actually hurt anyone in any way. Maybe when he was younger he did, but he was pretty harmless in his middle age.

So when he caused mischief, it didn’t amount to much. His neighbors had a big century plant on the border between their property and his. If you don’t know what a century plant is, it is a large agave plant. It’s a succulent, so it just looks like a big, blue cactus in the shape of a flower. They’re popular around the Gulf Coast because they grow well and impress the eye. They’re called century plants because folks say they only bloom after 100 years and then they die, so it’s a real treat to see one in bloom.

Well, that’s not how Eddie saw it. He hated the God damned neighbors, and he hated their God damned century plant. He’d sit out on his porch every night and drink a few beers and then go relieve himself on that plant. No one really understood why he thought the best way to kill a plant was by pissing on it. Sure, maybe it seemed disrespectful, but it wasn’t poison in any way.

At least, it didn’t seem to be poison for the plant. That thing grew up like Jack’s magic beanstalk, which delighted Eddie’s kids to no end. They teased him constantly about how he helped that plant grow. He had five daughters, and they really enjoyed annoying him, and annoying him was easy, but I guess it was all affectionate in the end.

Of course, other neighbors got wind of it and started asking Eddie to come pee on their tomatoes and everything like that. They would say that and just laugh in his face. He always acted like he was so mad he might blow up the world or something, but nobody ever believed he would do anything more harmful than fertilizing a despised neighbors plants.

Photo by Johannes Plenio on Pexels.com

Flash Fiction: Almost Suburban Murder, Really

“I guess I’m just too innocent,” she said. She was looking through the sex ads in the back of one of those independent papers all the cool kids used to read in whatever city you happened to be in, and for reasons you can only guess, she’d never seen any independent papers the cool kids read. She’d never seen ads for “hot, wet bisexual babes waiting for your call” before, so she figured she was pretty innocent.

The courts disagreed, of course, but she didn’t seem aware of the irony of her being too innocent for the commerce of the flesh but guilty of attempted murder. I mean, what’s a little attempted murder between friends? She never would have gone through with it, surely. Truth be told, and I think it was, she didn’t even know how to do it the right way, which is surely why she got caught. It’s safe to say a real criminal would have handled things a little differently.

She got off pretty easy, because the jury found her guilty but basically too incompetent to take out one of her neighbors by hiring a backstabbing cousin who wouldn’t lift a finger for you, much less kill someone. She later admitted she was crazy for thinking this layabout cousin could kill a mosquito, much less a neighbor lady. So she was back to her more or less suburban life, living two houses down from the woman she tried to have taken out. And her daughter was still good friends with her intended victim’s daughter, so they all just continued to live their suburban lives, except with lots more publicity.

These are the kinds of things you are driven to, she explained on television, when you love your children a little too much. That’s exactly what she was guilty of, she said, loving her daughter too much. You know, if you love your kids, you should be willing to hire someone to kill their friends’ mothers. Otherwise, can you really say you care at all? Donohue seem sympathetic but unconvinced, and that irked her even more. What did he know about her or her life? He acted all sensitive and everything, but he was still a man, and no man can understand the love between mother and daughter.

So there you have it, the picture of innocence, sitting in a Mexican restaurant while being scandalized by the idea of bisexual women taking money from desperate men. Some sins really seemed worse than others in her eyes. She was counting on the fact that Jesus would see a mother’s excessive love as the way of God and not at all like flaunting perverted sexual proclivities in ads that could be seen by children. I mean, good God, can you imagine a family eating in that restaurant and having to explain those ads to their six year old?

So she just went about her business, taking classes at the community college and hoping to work up to a better job and everything. Maybe make enough to send her daughter to a good university. Of course, it was a little awkward at the community college. The mother of her intended victim was the supervisor over at the college food court. She couldn’t eat lunch at school without seeing her, so she ate at home, in her car, or just on a bench in another classroom building. It was a small sacrifice but worth it.

Of course, everybody knew her business, anyway, seeing as she’d been on national TV during and after the trial. Even after the Donohue fiasco, she’d accepted a few interview offers, and she’d again tried to explain about how much she loved her daughter and all that, but the audiences never really want to hear the truth. They just all thought she was some kind of joke, and she made her way into more than one comedian’s monologue. Luckily, she could laugh at herself, too. After that all the hullaballoo had died down, the local video store had the movie about her in the bargain bin.

She walked right up to the cashier, waving that video around, and said, “Hey, this movie is about me. I’m a local celebrity! I think I’m worth a little more than $1.99, don’t you?” The cashier doubled over with laughter and said, “I sure do, lady. I sure do. Y’all have a good day now, y’hear.”

Fiction: Bold, Bashful, and Isolated

I tell you, Bobby could be so bashful he’d stick his foot in the can and piss down his leg to keep anyone from hearing. At least that’s how he was sometimes. He seemed to have moods or something. It probably just depended on who was around or what the situation was, but sometimes it was like he just couldn’t bear to be in the vicinity of other human beings unless he knew and trusted them, and he didn’t know and trust very many people, I can tell you that. He mostly liked his own company. He was quite content to be on his own. The only problem, as far as he could tell, was the crushing loneliness.

So he sort of always liked to have at least one companion. Now most people like you and me seek out a sort of constant companion who keeps us company, gives us emotional support, and provides a sexual release. I don’t know about you, but sexual release was usually the first thing on my mind when I was Bobby’s age. I figured the emotional support and all that would come eventually, but getting my baser needs met was pretty much my first priority.

But Bobby wasn’t like you and me. He just wanted someone to talk to. He was quiet most of the time, but once he got on a roll, he would just ramble on for days. And I don’t mean he would always hog the conversation, either. He could listen. A lot of women said he was a good listener, you know, when he wasn’t spewing out his stream of consciousness out loud to some vessel or other.

Some women liked how respectful he was on account of how he could listen and talk without immediately putting the moves on them. They thought he was “quite the gentleman” because he seemed to suppress his need to get in their pants for some time after meeting them, and they found that kind of refreshing.

Others weren’t so complimentary. After getting no response from what they considered quite obvious flirting, they would tell Bobby in no uncertain terms that he was a “God damned faggot.” Those were the words they used, because women can be homophobic, too. Women can be homophobic and mean and abusive, and Bobby had some stories to tell, but he never really told them.

So that’s how Bobby was. He tended to be oblivious to flirting, and he never really thought of sex at all until he got to know someone. If he felt someone really cared for him and really cared for them, his feelings were intense. He wanted touch, and he wanted as much of it as he could get. You can see how someone might feel flattered by that. On the other hand, some people might think it is a bit clingy. And, hey, maybe it’s a little of both, right? You can be all those things, can’t you? Characters aren’t always one-dimensional.

But then there’s the dissociation. And the depression. And the distance. So it’s all complicated, really. Someone who listens and talks and craves physical touch can sort of disappear somewhere for a time. So many times Bobby suddenly became aware of a woman touching him and asking, “Where were you just now?” He wanted to just say, “I was right here,” but he knew what they meant. He would just say, “I don’t know.”

And he probably didn’t know, or at least he couldn’t explain it. He couldn’t just say, “Oh, I was just thinking about my dog that died,” or anything like that. His thoughts didn’t always have words associated with them. It was like he was just kind of separate from everything. Some people described meditation that way—like they were just being with empty thoughts and all that. Well, Bobby didn’t think that was any great thing to achieve. He often felt about as aware as a stone, but he couldn’t see any great advantage to it. He had a feeling there was something wrong about what meditation was trying to achieve.

On the other hand, he often got lost in his own thoughts, which tortured him to no end. Well, sometimes they tortured him. Other times they were just thoughts, if you can get your head around that. They might be thoughts about infinity, cars, the sound of running water, God, or the durability of denim. Bobby wasn’t really focused. If you asked him what he was thinking, he’d just say it was nothing and try to move on. He was often embarrassed by the banality of his thoughts, the obsessiveness of his thoughts, or the emptiness of his mind.

And all this is to sort of explain his complicated relationship to sex, because sometimes someone would do something that would trigger something in Bobby that just made him shut down. Really, like someone flipped a switch or something. Like he’d go away. Sort of like having a flashback to something he couldn’t remember. You might see how that could be inconvenient for a lover. Inconvenient, I guess, or even alarming. Some people couldn’t really deal with that shit, or even want to. So, it wasn’t easy, see?

Photo by Katie Salerno on Pexels.com

Flash Fiction: Infidelity and the Self-Fulfilling Prophecy of Divorce

Maureen was at the door in a flood of tears. Jan didn’t know Maureen. They’d never met. Maureen lived two doors down, and there she was on the front porch crying her eyes out. She was crying because he left her. Why did he leave? Because she was so afraid he was going to leave.

That’s about all Jan could get out of her for the longest. She was just sobbing and going on and on about how it was all her fault. That’s what he said, of course. He said it was all her fault. He didn’t want to leave her, but she gave him no choice, see? He just couldn’t stay with someone acting the way she was acting.

How was she acting? She was acting like she was afraid he was going to leave her, and the circle just went on like that for the longest. It went on that way because Maureen was ashamed to say how it all started, but eventually she got her composure enough to explain the situation to a neighbor who was also a near complete stranger. Maybe it’s easier to unburden yourself to a stranger, anyway. I think that’s probably what I would want. Maybe you feel differently.

So, anyway, Maureen finally explained that she met Carter when he was still married to Marie, and she and Carter carried on quite the affair right under Marie’s nose without Marie really suspecting anything for the longest time, and Maureen did not want to be like Marie—how could anybody be so unsuspecting and trusting in the first place? Maureen didn’t want anyone thinking she was naïve or too innocent or anything like that.

So, you know, she kept her eyes wide open. She looked for signs. Did he always take his phone to the bathroom with him? Did he answer his phone before work? She and Carter had enjoyed some pretty intense conversations when he was commuting to work, so now she would call him in the morning just to see if he answered. She didn’t want to be stupid about anything. Not the way Marie had been.

But Carter wasn’t unaware of her snooping. Even worse, though, was that she was constantly nagging him about what he was up to. She was constantly asking if he still loved her. She was constantly asking him to compliment her looks. She just needed lots of reassurance.

And, of course, she made the odd accusation or two. Where were you? Who were you talking to? Can I see the texts? Can I see the office email about the work lunch you said you were on? You get the idea.

So Carter told her he loved her, but he couldn’t go on with all the suspicion and nagging and all. It was like that Elvis song. You know, “we can’t go on together with suspicion on our minds” or however it went. And Maureen went nuts over this, but she tried to calm herself. She tried to show that she trusted him, but she thought maybe he would meet someone else like her who would be able to keep secrets and be available at odd hours and all that.

Maureen was just afraid he’d meet another Maureen. He told her he’d been down that road, and never wanted to go again, but he was really breaking under the pressure of constant surveillance. And so there you go. You have Maureen crying her eyes out at Jan’s table and telling all her secrets. Well, she told some of her secrets, anyway. I guess they both thought they might become friends after that, but it never happened.

They didn’t talk again. Six weeks later, a for-sale sign went up in front of Maureen’s house. And that was that.

black and white picture of a crying child
Photo by Lucas Pezeta on Pexels.com

Dialogue: Angry Feminist Assails Socrates In Epic Rant

Characters:

 Know it all (KIA)—the author imagines this to be a cis-gender, heterosexual male, a stereotypical mansplainer, but it could be anyone, really.

Knows more (KM)—the author imagines this to be someone who presents as a woman, the usual victims of mansplainers, but it could also be anyone.

Setting:

The characters meet in the kind of place people might meet and have a conversation. It could be a train, a food court, a post office, or even an open marketplace (Agora).

Our characters come across one another and greet each other in the usual ways.

KIA: Hey, what’s up?

KM: I have to go to a lecture on Socrates as the father of philosophy, which excites me as much as watching algae grow on paving stones.

KIA: I love Socrates! What’s wrong with you? Haven’t you read the dialogues?

KM: I’ve read them.

KIA: Most people who read them love them.

KM: And?

KIA: How can so many people be wrong? The people who understand him love him.

KM: So, I don’t understand him?

KIA: It’s just that most scholars find the dialogues enthralling.

KM: If you didn’t know, the dialogues are written by Plato. Socrates is just a character.

KIA: I see no reason to think Socrates wasn’t as Plato portrayed him. Anyway, Plato is just as good.

KM: Plato’s Socrates is not the same as everyone else’s Socrates. And I’m no more fond of Plato than Socrates. They both seemed to be a bit too fond of tyrants.

KIA: I thought you would like Plato because he was an early feminist.

KM: How is he an early feminist?

KIA: He wanted women to be trained as men and to share in rule as philosopher queens.

KM: Why did he want them to be trained as men?

KIA: To rule equally as men.

KM: Then why couldn’t men be trained the same as women?

KIA: Women had been deprived. He wanted to lift them up.

KM: Lift them to the level of men?

KIA: Yes.

KM: So men would have to lower themselves to be equal to women?

KIA: No, that’s not what he meant.

KM: I think it is.

KIA: Why

KM: Well, he said, “We will not then allow our charges . . . to play the parts of women.”

KIA: Because men and women would play the same parts.

KM: And he said men shouldn’t “imitate a woman young or old”

KIA: Well, of course, no one should be false to himself.

KM: By being “involved in misfortune and possessed by grief and lamentation”?

KIA: He only meant we should respond to tragedy rationally.

KM: By “rationally,” you mean “like a man.” He also said no man should act as “a woman that is sick, in love, or in labor.”

KIA: But, still, he felt that women could be elevated.

KM: And he felt they needed to be elevated.

KIA: He wanted them to make society better.

KM: By not being women.

KIA: But he recognized the potential in women.

KM: Excuse me if I’m not flattered by his opinion that I can be a worthwhile person if only I try to be more like men.

KIA: He didn’t mean it that way. He recognized many wise women.

KM: Many?

KIA: Look at Diotima. She’s the voice of reason in The Symposium. The wisest person in the dialogue was a woman.

KM: Diotima wasn’t a real woman.

KIA: Many people believe she existed.

KM: Why?

KIA: Because Plato used people’s real names.

KM: How do you know?

KIA: Because they match historical accounts of the people.

KM: Do they match historical accounts of Diotima?

KIA: There are no historical accounts of Diotima.

KM: So why do you think she was real?

KIA: Why would I think she wasn’t?

KM: Because there is no record of her other than Plato, and Plato rarely made mention of women?

KIA: He spoke fondly of Aspasia.

KM: Socrates liked Aspasia because she wasn’t a shrew, which is what he thought his wife, Xanthippe, was.

KIA: But Plato respected the opinions of Aspasia and Diotima.

KM: Because Aspasia knew how to manage a household and Diotima spoke of non-physical love as ideal Forms, but he had to invent Diotima to make his point.

KIA: Still, it was a woman who instructed the men on love.

KM: Yes, and she taught that the only true love was between men.

KIA: She taught that love was of the mind. Of ideas.

KM: And it is men, not women, who are ruled by their minds. Ultimately, The Symposium is just about Plato’s ideal forms, love being one of them. He speaks of true love between men because he didn’t see women as being capable of true understanding.

KIA: Not all the men. Not Alcibiades. He was a libertine and a horrible traitor to his country.

KM: And friend of Socrates—someone who wrestled with him, slept with him, and drank with him.

KIA: But Socrates rebuffed him.

KM: And everyone else. Or, all the men, anyway.

KIA: Socrates hated Alcibiades.

KM: But they slept together? As enemies do?

KIA: Again, nothing happened.

KM: Some might think naked wrestling is something.

KIA: But Socrates didn’t respond.

KM: I find it interesting that Alcibiades expected all wrestling matches to become sexual.

KIA: How do you know that?

KM: Why else would he be surprised that Socrates didn’t respond?

KIA: I think he was just disappointed Socrates didn’t return his feelings.

KM: Maybe it was just because Socrates was so old?

KIA: Socrates wasn’t interested because he was concerned with more important things.

KM: Maybe Socrates wasn’t interested because he wasn’t gay.

KIA: Socrates was a philosopher. Alcibiades wasn’t a serious thinker.

KM: Do you think Alcibiades might have represented Plato’s feelings?

KIA: What? Why?

KM: Well, I mean. Plato was gay, wasn’t he?

KIA: Why would you say that?

KM: Hey, remember in the Republic where it says women should do physical training like men? You know, naked? And it says it would be hard to look at the naked women, especially the ones who are ugly or old.

KIA: I’m sure he was just addressing the concerns of the day.

KM: Oh, I’m sure. By the way, who did Plato marry?

KIA: I don’t know. No one does.

KM: Socrates had two wives (see Myrto). So did Aristotle. If Plato had one, don’t you think someone would have mentioned it?

KIA: What does that matter, anyway?

KM: Well, it’s consistent with him being gay.

KIA: And why would Plato portray himself through such an awful person as Alcibiades?

KM: Maybe Plato wasn’t proud of his feelings.

KIA: What!?

KM: Maybe Plato wasn’t proud of his erotic love for Socrates, so he portrayed it in a disgusting manner.

KIA: Why wouldn’t he be proud? Homosexual relationships were encouraged in his society.

KM: I didn’t mean he was ashamed of being gay, but embarrassed that his own feelings for Socrates weren’t returned. Also, maybe being embarrassed by his less than “Platonic” love for Socrates. Also, it was Plato, not Alcibiades, who was the wrestling champion.

KIA: I think Plato was just committed to higher ideals.

KM: Or maybe Plato was wrestling with his own daimons, and he could only express them through a drunken Alcibiades.

KIA: That makes no sense.

KM: Did you see what I did there?

KIA: What?

KM: Wrestling with his daimons? ‘Cause he was a wrestler? ‘Cause Alcibiades wrestled Socrates naked? ‘Cause daimons are spirits that impart wisdom and not demons?

KIA: Oh, yeah, I get it. Who do you think you are, anyway, Mark Henderson?

KM: If only Plato had made more puns instead of wrestling naked boys.

KIA: Like Socrates, Plato was a man of wisdom and honour, not a profligate!

KM: Sure. That’s why he shows the struggle only to have love of reason to win in the end. The lust of Alcibiades is defeated in the ultimate wrestling match.

KIA: Maybe he wasn’t interested in teenagers.

KM: Wasn’t Xanthippe a teenager at the time? You know, when Socrates married her.

KIA: No one knows for sure how old she was [typically claimed to be an older wife, the exception to the rule of girls marrying as teens].

KM: Socrates was 55 when his oldest son was born.

KIA: Xanthippe may have married late. It’s possible she was in her 20s.

KM: Seems likely, right?

KIA: Of course it does.

KM: It really doesn’t. Most girls married in their teens. Socrates died at 70, and his friends were worried about his sons being fatherless, because they were still young.

KIA: Of course they were concerned.

KM: Sure. Perfectly normal.

KIA: It is.

  1. Yes, if you’re an old man who married a child.

KIA: Poor guy. Xanthippe was a total shrew.

KM: According to Socrates.

KIA: According to everyone around him. She was angry all the time.

KM: Everyone around him only knew about her through him. Maybe she was angry because she was forced to marry a middle-aged man while she was still a child.

KIA: But Socrates was well-respected.

KM: By Plato and who else?

KIA: All of Athens.

KM: That’s why they killed him?

KIA: He was a pillar of the community.

KM: What did he contribute to the community?

KIA: Knowledge.

KM: What did he contribute to Xanthippe?

KIA: He took care of her.

KM: With her own money. She came from a wealthy family. Socrates wasn’t working and bragged that he never asked for payment.

KIA: Socrates was a stonemason and a soldier.

KM: He did all that before Xanthippe met him. Most of it before she was born.

KIA: He wasn’t just a layabout.

KM: In the Apology, he said his search for truth had reduced him to poverty because, you know, he wasn’t working.

KIA: That was at the end of his life.

KM: Right, exactly when he was married to Xanthippe. He wasn’t doing any paid work, and she lived off her family’s wealth.

KIA: Well, there’s a lot more I could tell you about Socrates, but I have some appointments I need to prepare for.

KM: Oh, sure. I look forward to hearing from you. Maybe you can deliver the next lecture on Socrates and Plato.

KIA: Maybe I can.

low angle photograph of the parthenon during daytime
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

Fiction: Sex as Nuclear Option

“I’ve had plenty of anonymous sex before,” she said, “and I still know how to find it.” Jan intended this as a threat or warning, obviously, but she also knew it stung in its own right. She first learned to weaponise her own sexuality when she saw the crestfallen look on her father’s face when she knew he knew what she’d gotten up to with John one night. Since that day, she had learned a number of ways to use her own numbness to sex to devastate men. Not that it made her feel that much better, but it was something.

Maybe it was revenge. Maybe it was something else, but it gave her a feeling of power, and who doesn’t want to feel that sometimes? Everyone wants to feel a little control over things. The way she told it, she had always controlled her own sexuality. She was 12 the first time, she said, and she knew exactly what she was doing. Her parents were gone for the day and she called her school band director on the phone and asked him over. It was her idea. That’s what she said.

She said it hurt, but he was very nice. He took care of her. When he lost his job at the school, she and some other girls formed a group to get signatures on a petition to get him his job back. They really liked him. When she graduated high school, she wrote to him to let him know she was doing all right, and he wrote back and said he was glad to hear it.

Bobby couldn’t believe what he was hearing. He told her she was only 12, for God’s sake, and definitely no child could be responsible for what she described. She had obviously been groomed and manipulated, and so had all the other girls. She was raped, he said, but she averred. “But I knew what I was doing was wrong,” she said, “That’s why I never told anyone before now.” Bobby told her it wasn’t her fault, but he wasn’t prepared for this conversation.

Somehow, he made her feel more judged than supported, not that he was trying to, but he really wasn’t equipped to respond to this information, and he felt a little sick. But Jan didn’t notice that. She was just trying to make a point about her prissy classmates who acted so shocked to find that a professor was having an affair with a student. She was just wanting to say, “Hello! I was having sex with a teacher when I was 12! Grow up.”

man performing on stage
Photo by Gabriel Santos Fotografia on Pexels.com

Fiction: On the Behavior of Bears, Bobcats, and Wolves

After a pretty much fruitless day of hunting that big trophy buck Johnny said he saw, the guys were just sitting around the fire doing all the things you’d expect a bunch of grown men to do around a fire: you know, drinking beer, pissing on the fire, throwing pennies in the fire to watch the flames change colors—the usual stuff. The only difference was that Ricky had one of those new Q-Beams, I think they were called. It’s like a flashlight, except it has the brightness of a thousand suns or a million candles or some other damned thing I can’t remember.

The idea was that you could shine this light around and see animals in the dark, especially if you happened to catch their eyes. So they were just shining it around, not expecting much of anything, especially with all the noise they were making, and sure enough they picked up some reflections.

They suddenly went all quiet and started shining it around more slowly to see if anything jumped out at them. They were all cool about it. They were like, “Hey, man, maybe it’s a bobcat. I’d like to have a bobcat to mount on my wall.” But they were getting a little more serious about their search for wildlife or game or whatever. They were aware, also, that a few black bears were moving back into the area, and it would be nice to get a glimpse of one.

“Just remember,” Jimmy said, “If it IS a black bear, you don’t want to run a way from it. If you run, it WILL chase you, and it WILL catch you. No, you want to stand up to it. Show it your ready to fight it—man on bear.” At that, they all laughed, “Don’t worry, Jimmy, we’ll punch it right in the nose if it tries to get you. There ain’t no black bears around here, anyway, though.” But Jimmy still thought they’d better take a minute to verify that fact.

So, anyway, they kept shining that light around and just looking for bears or bobcats or whatever. Hell, I guess they would’ve been excited to see a ‘possum or armadillo or anything really. And sure enough, they picked up another little glint of something. They kept shining until they could see a set of eyes just as clear as if it was the light of day.

And then they saw another set. And another. Pretty soon they saw seven or eight pairs of eyes, but they thought they saw much more than that, because their adrenaline production had picked up a bit, if you know what I mean, so they were convinced they were surrounded. And then they heard a little sound that was kind of like a dog but different enough for them to know they were surrounded by a vicious pack of wolves. At least that’s how it seemed to these drunk boys who’d been pissing on a fire all night.

They weren’t too worried, though, because they had guns and everything. They were on a hunting trip, after all. It was about that time that Ricky remembered they’d left the guns in the cab of his truck, and he thought it might be a good time to go get some of them out. So he walked slowly out to his truck as Bobby shown the Q-beam on it to light the way.

Once he opened the truck, Bobby started shining the light off at the trees to see if he could see any more animals. About that time they heard a bark or a howl and a crashing sound over by the truck. They were a little worried and Johnny called out, “You good, Ricky?” Ricky shouted back that he was and then came back to the fire without his gun and didn’t say anything.

After that, they all decided it was time to get some shuteye, so they all just got in their respective campers and went quiet. They next morning, when Ricky got up, Johnny was waiting for him. He said, “Looks like you had quite a night fighting them ol’ wolves, Ricky! The barrel of your gun is clogged with mud and the whole gun looks like you dropped it in slop. There’s also about 8 or 10 holes punched in the dirt by your truck.”

By this time, Johnny was laughing so hard I worried he might have a cardiac. They still give Ricky a good ribbing about that every time they go to the hunting lease.

black and beige short coat dog head photo
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Fiction: Seven Oaks and the Alcoholic Lifestyle

XIVScreenshot 2019-07-29 at 22.08.37

Someone said Jim lived in Seven Oaks. Now, to some people that might sound like a compliment or, at least, a nice comment on account of the fact that some pretty nice places are named Seven Oaks, but Seven Oaks, Texas isn’t one of them, and Jim didn’t own or rent any kind of home in Seven Oaks.

Jim lived in Livingston, Texas, which was a few miles south and happened to be the county seat of Polk County, which was a dry county, meaning you couldn’t buy a drink of alcohol in Livingston come hell or high water. If you liked to imbibe a drop or two of spirits, wine, or beer, you’d have to drive north or south on highway 59 until you got out of Polk County.

If you drove north on 59, you’d cross the county line and be greeted by a sign saying, “Welcome to Seven Oaks.” If you drove a tiny bit further, you’d see the Seven Oaks bar. I don’t think it is there anymore, but you’ll still find a liquor store there.

Anyway, that Seven Oaks bar didn’t exactly have a concealed parking lot, so your car would just be sitting there for God and all the world to see.

So if any of your nosy neighbors or family saw your car there more than once in a week, they might start gabbing around about how you lived up there or something. It was a not so nice way of saying you were a drunk.

I don’t remember anyone ever saying he was an alcoholic, though. In fact, his sister insisted that he most certainly was not an alcoholic, though she did concede that he made a habit of being drunk, so she was willing to say he was a habitual drunk, but he never got the DTs if he didn’t have a drink for a few hours or anything like that.

And he could clean up and get through a Sunday sermon all right if push came to shove, and alcoholics can’t really pull that off, so he just stayed drunk because he wanted to—not because he had to.

And I guess that’s all that matters sometimes, you know? We’re all just trying to do good enough to pacify the family and the neighbors. If you can keep that up, you might just have a pretty good life. And who knows, someday you might hit it big with one of those scratch-offs you keep buying at the Seven Oaks bar.

R Horton

A Collision of Amphetamines and Insomnia (#fiction)

Screenshot 2019-07-10 at 14.59.19XIII

Jan hadn’t slept much. Like, for the past three days she hadn’t slept, but she was about to crash. Like hitting a wall or something. She was coming down because the speed was just about done, and she was sort of looking forward to the crash. How could you blame her? This is how she planned her weeks, you know. Speed on test days. Pot on weekends. Beer for dancing, mostly. Or just because boys like it.

The problem was that Bobby was sort of revved up, because that’s just how he is. He just gets all this nervous energy and then just talks and talks and talks. Philosophy, politics, music, love and loss. Bobby wasn’t into drugs and really had no clue about drug etiquette or even just the parameters around what drug users might be going through. Some people found him rather inconsiderate.

And Jan kept telling him she was really tired, but he really didn’t feel like being alone at that particular moment, and he didn’t want to stop talking. She thought sex might have done the trick, because guys notoriously fall asleep right after, but Bobby was a hard-core insomniac, even if sex was calming, it wasn’t enough to settle his nerves.

So this went on awhile—until she passed out, and Bobby was left staring through the screen on the window and counting the moths on the outside. He was thinking of Carson McCullers and Frankie in “Member of the Wedding.”

Somehow Bobby related to Frankie, though it would seem unlikely that he would. He just liked the way this little butch girl looked out the window and pondered the “irony of fate” for the insects out there. And he thought a lot about the irony of fate, and sometimes he felt like a little butch girl stuck out in the country just wanting to fit in at a wedding or something.

Jan was dead to the world, but Bobby checked to be sure she was alive in her drug-enforced slumber before he stepped out into the steaming evening air. After a moment of regret for forgetting mosquito spray, he set off toward Old Main, hoping Mary might be up there again, because she never slept well either.

Randall Horton