Sunday, March 3, 2013

Bad people: microfictions

Peace pie

There’s a boy in our neighborhood whose dad is a pacifist. If you beat up his son, the dad brings your family a pie. It’s supposed to teach us something – that violence can be ended with kindness; that if you respond to a hit with another hit, violence is neverending.

But we beat up his son a lot. We think it’s funny. We joke about who’s having peace pie for dessert tonight. His dad is a really good cook. 

Cut Off Your Nose

Saint Ebba heard they were coming.

She’d both feared and looked forward to it. Everyone had been looking at maps – this place was right on the path, right in the way. She’d lain awake at night, flat on her back, looking up in the cold. Vikings were monsters in stories parents told at bedtime. They didn’t come into the lives of just anybody. She had almost felt honored. Her life might mean something after all.

What would they do when they got here? They would take the girls. She wasn't supposed to let that happen. She was in charge of everyone. Mother Superior.

There were no men or weapons to protect them, so she had to be clever. She had to twist her mind. It came to her in blackness one night. It almost excited her. It was terrible; she shivered then went to sleep.

In the morning she passed around knives. They would do it if she told them to, especially if she went first. Their pretty faces would be as ravaged and ugly as she was deep in her heart that had wished for this all along.   

Hang in there, toots

The letter was written to "Ask Auntie E.," the MILF-like advice columnist for Elle magazine ("the thinking woman's Cosmo"). Auntie E. is whippet-thin and strawberry blonde, wears leopard print and calls her readers "doll." She tells it to you straight.

The letter was from an Indian woman whose parents had arranged her marriage. The woman was pretty sure her husband was gay, and he was also terribly immature. In bed, he would demand that his wife go down on him -- and not only did he never reciprocate, but they never had intercourse either. And he told her to keep her underwear on during it -- one time she removed her bra, and he asked why her breasts looked so weird.

Auntie E. said in her reply that her gut instinct was to tell the Indian woman to "kick him to the curb!" But, being a diligent journalist, Auntie E. had consulted with a scholar, an authority on Indian culture. The expert said life could be hard for the Indian woman if she left him; she might be ostracized by her loved ones. She might be happier to just stay there. Hey, maybe he'd grow up; people can change! Hang in there, toots. 

A Sunday

It's an Edgar Allan Poe, early winter, snowless day. Brittle barren branches and crows.

I'm wearing my coat but my bones are cold. I have arthritis. Cold in the fibers of the wool.

I'm walking on a country road. I'm your widow.

Today is Sunday. Normally I would refresh your flowers. It's been about a year.

But this morning I remembered why sometimes I used to hate you, and I find myself walking in the opposite direction.   

Scarecrow

He's resourceful. I'll give him that.

He makes things, builds things, rigs things up, carves flowers out of wood, beckons vegetables out of stubborn earth. These are qualities I fell in love with.

He finds a way to get what he needs.

I don't think he meant to mock me with this last thing. He was simply building a scarecrow and needed a head. Somewhere he found the head of a beautiful lady mannequin. He placed it atop a tall, vaguely human form and dressed her incongruously in lumberjack flannel and a trucker cap.

I see her from my kitchen window. Sometimes I stop and notice how glamorous she looks, with her pageboy haircut and heavy-lidded bedroom eyes, a face sort of like one of the older Barbie dolls, before they got saucer-eyed and vacuous, and virginal. Those older Barbies with their half-lowered lids looked like they were up to no good.

The thing is, it wasn't just one other woman. It's a serial thing. It's chronic.

Why does he keep me around? I know why I stay here, for our son, even though he's grown; your child is always your child. But why does he keep me here? I feel like a spare tire, the little donut kind you use only in an emergency, just to get you through until you buy a nice new one.

I have my own resources. If I didn't, I couldn't stay here.

I look out my kitchen window and wonder why I have to see his women everywhere. 

So help me God

"I have to live my life right. So help me God. Starting today I live my life right."

He looked up. The blue autumn sky above the prison yard was bright and vast, as if it had no end.

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