May 272011
 

A little boy threw something out the window of his school bus. The driver saw him and gave him a note to take home to be signed. This little guy is bright, full of life, and his eyes shine with hope, joy, and irrepressible potential. Why had he done this and what is to be done?

Coming in the door, our intrepid miscreant meets his waiting grandmother. I can imagine his apprehension and hesitation. He already knows he’s in some kind of trouble. Worse yet, Grandma is a retired elementary school teacher. Grasshopper stands nervously in front of Master. She sees instantly that something is amiss. Still, she doesn’t hesitate to reward his homecoming with her biggest smile and warmest hug.

“Can I go out and play with Bobby?”

“What are you holding?”

“A note.”

“Well, then I had better read it.”

The usual suspect reluctantly surrenders the charges against him to the officer of the court and examination begins.

“What did you throw out the window?”

“I don’t remember.”

“Uh huh. What did you throw out the window?”

“A piece of paper.”

“Why?”

“A boy told me too.”

“Why?”

“I don’t remember.”

“What did the bus driver say?”

“I don’t remember.”

Grandma is no fool. “Well then, I need you to sit on this chair and try to remember while I finish cooking supper.”

For our little boy, time passes like he were crossing a turbid stream. He cannot see his feet nor the uneven bottom of the stream bed where he must place them. Surging water constantly threatens his balance. He is alone; with no one to hold his hand. The far bank is in sight, but his immediate future is clearly at risk.

Granny loves him enough to let him suffer for a while. Eventually—no, actually at a thoughtfully chosen interval—Granny turns from her work and, offering a reassuring smile, resumes the interrogation. “What did the bus driver say?”

“He said, ‘That was stupid.'”

Granny’s diaphragm spasms and she barely suppresses the impulse to cackle hysterically. “Well, do you think it was stupid?”

“Yeah, I guess so.”

“You know you shouldn’t litter.” Grandma has made a misstep, but she doesn’t realize it yet. She had him on the defensive but has just appealed to the knowledge and rationality of a prepubescent child.

Seizing the opportunity to object, he asserts himself. “But I wasn’t littering.”

“You threw paper out the window.”

“But, littering is when you throw a can out the window.” A cunning twitch of satisfaction caresses his lips. But now he has made a misstep; forgetting that he is arguing against prosecutor, judge, and jury.

“Littering is when you throw anything on the ground.” Objection denied. There is no further response from the accused; he has no recourse but to throw himself upon the mercy of the court. The verdict is in and It is all over except for the defendant’s statement and the reading of the sentence.

“How do you feel about your littering?”

“It was wrong.”

“Should you do things just because another boy tells you to?”

His pupils dilate momentarily as he considers the potential loophole of being told to do something by a girl. Sanity returns. “No.”

“What should you have said to the boy that told you to do it?”

“I should have said, ‘I’m not stupid.'”

“Do you promise to not litter like that again?” “Like that,” she said. Grandma has deliberately given him some discretionary wiggle room. He understands that he just got a suspended sentence with probation. This will be a test of his character.

“Yes, I promise.” No hesitation. No caveats. Just so. Well done. She signs his note and hands it back. The trial is over and the jury is dismissed.

“Okay, then I guess you have about fifteen minutes to play with Bobby before coming in for supper.” He glances at his wristwatch. Granny knows that he will be back soonish. She bends down to give him a hug and kiss before he dashes off.

Hesitating, he looks back briefly and says “I love you.” They both know that his record has already been expunged.

Copyright 2011, David Satterlee

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0), which essentially says that you are free to share the work under the conditions that you attribute it fully, do not use it for commercial purposes, and do not alter it.

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Sep 272010
 

Touching Women

By David Satterlee

A Fergus Johnson story of gender relations

[Note: Contains some suggestive allusions and mild profanity.]

“You know, I think that women like to touch me” mused Fergus Johnson. Fergus obviously hadn’t actually intended to speak although this was a men’s support group and everybody was expected to share. It had just kind of slipped out as the subvocalization of a personal epiphany. Bobby, who had been revisiting his whine about striking out with women at bars, stopped in mid-sentence and looked puzzled.

Dr. Anderson, always looking for something to add some semblance of newness to the weeks-long rambling bitch session [pun might or might not be intended], urged Fergus: “Go with that.”

Fergus seemed to stare vacantly at the Kewpie doll on one of Dr. Anderson’s shelves across the room. “I’ve just been starting to notice a trend is all.” He paused again, his eyes flickering up and to the right as he searched his memories. “My waitress at breakfast this morning put her fingers on my shoulder several times. And, I’ve started noticing that when I stand talking to a woman, it’s not unusual for them to reach out and briefly put their hand on my arm.”

“That kind of thing happens.” Observed Larry the Letcher, hopefully.

“Yes,” Fergus continued, “but I’ve just started noticing how frequently it happens. I’ve always just taken it for granted. It’s like my uncle Bucky who always heard a little voice in his head telling him the answer to math problems in school. He named the voice Minerva and assumed for years that everybody had the same kind of experience.”

Larry wasn’t done being jealous. “My uncle, the Reverend Poleaxe, is always talking about what Our Lord Jesus tells him to do.”

Fergus considered this briefly. “Yes, but Minerva’s answers were usually wrong.”

It occurred to Larry that his uncle, the Reverend Poleaxe, was prone to some rather lameass decisions that probably shouldn’t be laid at the hem of Our Lord Jesus’ outer garment.

Things were starting to drift out of focus again and Dr. Anderson, beginning to entertain his own fantasies, redirected: “You were talking about women touching you.” Jordan Nickerson and Lucky Joe leaned forward in their chairs.

“I guess it has been going on for a long time. It’s more than Aunt Fancy mussing up my hair and Granny Gooch insisting on being kissed on the lips. I mean, I must have assumed, as a little kid, that I was just exceptionally cute like everybody said. Mom used to take me to her club meetings. I was as popular as free chocolate.” Larry didn’t have anything to say to this; he just sat there with his jaw kind of slack. Lucky Joe was getting an intense and slightly feral look on his face.

There was no turning back, so Fergus plunged on. “The thing that really got my attention was last week. We were visiting my second wife’s second daughter, Becky. She was having a very stressful time with a difficult situation and was getting really agitated. She was sitting on the sofa and I just got down on my knees in front of her, reached out, and held her hands. She relaxed a little. And then, like an Eskimo offering a visitor the comfort and warmth of his best wife, my wife told Becky: ‘Hug him.’ Becky looked as confused and uncertain as I felt. My wife urged her, ‘There’s something special about the way he holds you. All the tension just goes away.’ I suppose I already knew this at some level, but her definitive assertion was news to me. Becky scooted forward and I reached out and we embraced.” Fergus took a deep breath. It was very quiet. It seems likely that he was the only one breathing at that moment.

“At first, she was real tense; she gave my shoulder a few quick, nervous pats and a short jerky rub. We had both been well-trained in the politically-correct way to formally and safely hug someone when you wanted to be sure that they, and everyone who might notice, didn’t misunderstand your intentions. It didn’t help that, at that moment, we could hear her ex, who had been coerced into helping her move, backing his trailer into the driveway. This was going to have to be quick.

“I was at ease and kind on cruise control at this point. This was as comfortable and natural as holding one of our cats. I told her, ‘You don’t have to pat. You don’t have to rub. You don’t have to worry. Just let it be.’ Her breath caught for a few moments and then she slumped a little: like she had just lost five pounds. ‘There it is’ I said. ‘Okay, we can do that again, later.’ We untangled our arms and our auras and I glanced at my wife. She was just sitting there with a little satisfied half-smile.”

Larry looked up from his reverie and asked, “So did you ever, you know, do that again?” Fergus glanced up with an intense and slightly feral look on his face, held out his arms and replied, ‘No, but do YOU need a hug?”

Copyright 2010, David Satterlee

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License, which essentially says that you are free to share the work under the conditions that you attribute it fully, do not use it for commercial purposes, and do not alter it.