Social Studies 3

 

Social Studies 3

“Good morning, class.”

“Good morning, teacher,” appropriately answered the class in unison.

“My name is Mr. Kruztashun.” He fiddled with some papers on the little lectern on the table. He did not sit. “Mr. Drumpfelstilzchin is away on business.”

A hand went up in the back. Mr. Kruztashun nodded in its direction and pointed.

“Where’s our usual substitute teacher?”

“Mr. Braunesel has better things to do.” Mr. Kruztashun set his hands firmly on the papers on the lectern. “Today we are–”

“We hate this class,” said a little boy in the far corner. The rest of the class snickered.

“That’s exactly what we’re going to talk about! Hate.” Suddenly the class was quiet, so quiet the windows rattled with the breathing of the students. “This is Social Studies 3, is it not?”

“Yes!” answered the class in unison.

“Well, then! There’s nothing better to talk about in relation to social studies than hate.” Mr. Kruztashun put a hand on his left hip, bent forward from the waist and pointed out over the heads of the students, a good teacherly thing to do, for it kind of included everyone. “What do you hate?”

A great intake of breath in the classroom. They’d never been asked about this before. They’d been told that hate was bad and not to be disseminated out in public–and surely not toward parents, the greatest thing in the world to hate.

“I hate niggers.”

“I hate spicks.”

“I hate camel jockeys.”

“I hate girls.”

“I hate rich people.”

“I hate poor people.”

“I hate smarty pants.”

“I hate chinks.”

“And gooks.”

“And nips.”

“Injuns!”

“I. . .hate. . .parents!”

The class erupted into tremors of chaos. Girls and boys were shouting and laughing and generally whooping it up. Mr. Kruztashun did nothing to quell the uprising. After all, getting people, even little people, enthusiastic and involved was part of teaching. Only when you’ve got them on your side, as it were, interested in what you were teaching, could you succeed in teaching them the right stuff.

When the class settled down somewhat, Mr. Kruztashun put up his hand. “Wow! We’re doing so good! You hate a lot.”

The same hand that shot up at the beginning of class shot up again. Mr. Kruztashun nodded in its direction again.

“Hate is good?”

“You betcha. Before you can do anything about it, you have to get it out in the open. Then you can do something with it.”

“Like what?” asked a tow-headed little girl in the front row.

“Well. . .what happens when you hate?”

“You get left alone?”

“Right. And what’s the big word for being left alone?”

“We don’t know any big words, Mr. Kruztashun.”

“Well! Would you like to learn one?”

“Yes!” from the now enthusiastic class.

“Okay. Here it is. . .isolation.”

“Isolation,” the good students parroted.

“Right. Isolation. You hate it when people don’t leave you alone, don’t you?”

“Yes!”

These kids were good, Mr. Kruztashun thought. “So, that hate makes them leave you alone, right?”

“Yeah. We get sent to our rooms.” Lots of murmuring agreement.

“And you hate that, right?”

“But,” Mr. Kruztashun held up a knotty knuckled index finger, “when that happens and you are isolated, there are no more hateful people with you. They are all outside. Right?”

“Yes!”

“You are isolated.” Mr. Kruztashun leaned over the lectern. “And inside.”

“Yes!”

“What do you do when you’re left alone?”

“Masturbate,” said a little boy at the far end of the front row.

Everyone else snickered and giggled and held their breaths. To say such a thing in public! To say it in the classroom! What was Johnny thinking?

“Exactly!’ Shouted Mr. Kruztashun. “You win the prize.”

“What prize is that?” A smiley face? A star? A gold sunburst?

“You get to feel good!” Quiet reigned. “You do feel good when you masturbate, don’t you?”

Half-hearted assent.

“Sir?” a little blonde girl put her hand up. “You mean it’s okay to feel good when you. . .masturbate?”

“Of course it’s okay.” Mr. Kruztashun leaned over the lectern. “You do feel good when you masturbate, don’t you?”

“Yes.”

“Well, then. How can that be bad?”

Lots of mumbling and rumbling and giggling.

“So!” Mr. Kruztashun brought the class round to him. “When you hate, you are isolated, right?”

“Yes.”

“And that’s a good thing, right?”

“Yes!”

“And it makes you feel good that all that you hate is outside, right?”

“Yes!”

“So, now you can hate all you want in your isolation, right?”

“Yes!”

“What better kind of place could you live in?”

“None!”

Yes!” Mr. Kruztashun wiped the wetness from his lips. “Now. You’re left alone.”

“Yes.”

“And you can hate to your heart’s content.”

“Yes.”

“That’s like masturbating til your hand hurts.”

“And you’re all sticky!”

“Ee-yew, Johnny! You’re dizgusting.” shouted a group of girls in the middle of things.

“What do you care?”

“Yeah!” shouted another antagonistic boy. “What happens when you tickle your moose?”

The class erupted in joyous laughter and taunting.

“I bet you wet your pants,” said a shy little boy.

“I want to watch.”

“Well!” said Mr. Kruztashun, clearing his throat. “When you’re isolated, you can watch because everyone’s masturbating.”

“Cool beans, Mr. Kruztashun,” said Johnny. “You’re the best teacher ever.”

“Oh, thank you, Johnny!” Mr. Kruztashun tried hard to blush but only got his eye lashes to flash up and down. He had short eye lashes, too. “Well! So. You’re isolated. What else can you say about it?”

“Nobody bothers you.”

“Right.”

“You don’t have to pay attention to what anybody else says.”

“Right. You don’t have to share.”

“Yeah. And you don’t have to do things like other people do.”

“Right.”

“You don’t have to share!”

“Exactly! You’re your own boss. You don’t have to trade with those others.”

“Trade?”

“Yup. Like, I’ll give you this and you give me that.”

“Does that mean, Mr. Kruztashun, that, like, I can, uhhm, wear things that are mine?”

“You mean, like things that are only made by you?”

“Yeah.”

“Yes. Only things made by you, for you.”

“Like. . .no Chinese stuff?”

“Right.”

“No Japanese stuff.”

“No German stuff.”

“No Mexican stuff.”

“And no African stuff.”

“That’s right. Only American stuff.”

“Then we’ll know it’s good, right?”

“Right.” Mr. Kruztashun rubbed his hands together. “Boy! You guys are great.”

“Yeah!” shouted one girl. “We can do what we want! We can do for ourselves. And we can keep it all for ourselves.”

“Masturba-aaation!” shouted little Johnny. “Uhn! Uhn! Uhn!”

“Yes. And. . .what happens when you’re isolated and everything is for you and by your and you don’t want or need anyone else and your masturbating to your heart’s content?”

The bell rang just as the kids raised their hands, clamoring to be the one with the answer.

“Oops! Looks like we’ll have to wait for next time to talk about stagnation.”

“What’s stagnation?”

“Time’s up. We’ll talk about that next time.” Mr. Kruztashun opened the door and held it for everyone. “See you next time, guys,” he said as all the students filed out. “You’re the greatest.”

“Hate!” said one boy, giving Mr. Kruztashun a high five.

“Isolation!” said another.

“Masturbation!”

“We’re the best!”

“It’s my land.”

“Right. Hey! See you next time.”

 

© James L. Secor, 2017

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What Is This Bullshit!

What is this bullshit?!

The US radicalizes Muslims years into the future after they’ve come to the US?

This assumes that there is no radicalization in the Middle East to begin with. Let’s not even bother that these US radicalized Muslims were children when they arrived in the land of the free, home of the brave.

This assumes that these radicalized Muslims attack, in a terrorist manner, the US. Which does not–has not–happened. If they go elsewhere, who knows who the fuck they are or what the fuck they do? It all comes down to hearsay, oui dit.

What is this bullshit?!

The US radicalizes Muslims years into the future after they’ve come to the US?

This assumes that there is no radicalization in the Middle East to begin with. Let’s not even bother that these US radicalized Muslims were children when they arrived in the land of the free, home of the brave.

This assumes that these radicalized Muslims attack, in a terrorist manner, the US. Which does not–has not–happened. If they go elsewhere, who knows who the fuck they are or what the fuck they do? It all comes down to hearsay, oui dit. After all, this picture is not real but we believed it to be. This is not a partial picture of Saddam Hussein. And it is not part of the papers these children are retrieving. Even the shadow of its placement is wrong!

This assumes that there is something wrong with the US. No one in the media is seeing this. No one questions this radicalization, whatever the hell that is. No one questions the iniquities of the US that would lead to radical behavior. . .even though radical behavior has been around for many years. Shall we say, since the Suffragettes? That’s, like, a century, man.

What kind of bullshit is this?

Perhaps not. US citizens are, in fact, radicalized daily, though most of us are nonviolent; a few who have become radicalized in its present day sense–whatever the hell that is!–have become terribly violent, involving themselves in mass killing. The US tries to deny a sociocultural problem by blaming the mentally ill, despite evidence to the contrary. And, yet, there have been religious men–the Berrigans –and Indians and protesters since the 60s who have gone to jail for their radical ideas.

I would have to think that, even via denial, the media, especially the visual media, are in collusion to hide the fact that the US is a fucking sociocultural mess. Racist, classist, Social Darwinist, ideologicalist. . .how many more “ists”?

This, even in the face of fundamentalism and anti-government types crying out for the violation of our precious founding fathers’ ideas and beliefs, i.e. the Constitution.

In fact, we cannot radicalize anyone but our own.

To maintain that social programs and tolerance and togetherness will solve the problem is engaging in chasing the Heffalump. Bullshit. More bullshit. As if we only know bullshit. Bullshit denial. Cliché bullshit.

The problem is the socioculture of the US. We are fucking ourselves. And, since no one is doing diddly about it, we must enjoy it. Pooh and Piglet went round and round the pit hunting the Heffalump many times before they realized they were following their own footprints. Such a silly bear of little brain.

We may want to believe in the Velveteen Rabbit but he, in fact, does not exist. He is not, however, a figment of our imaginations. He is just the delusion of the overly optimistic, the Pollyannaists.

To say, too, that the US radicalizes people from the Middle East is to say we are making our own problems. A truism extraordinaire. Because if we didn’t have problems we wouldn’t be real, we wouldn’t be human–despite utopian thinking and needs. So, we gotsta make it up.

So, really, what the fuck is radicalization? And why is it only the US radicalizes? I mean, we have the arrogant bigoted Bill Maher to lead us onward, we don’t need to imagine anything on our own, yellow grass notwithstanding. Yellow grass and high quality dried green grass.

Let us appeal to Rumi:

You miss the garden,
because you want a small fig from a random tree.
You don’t meet the beautiful woman.
You’re joking with an old crone.
It makes me want to cry how she detains you,
stinking mouthed, with a hundred talons,
putting her head over the roof edge to call down,
tasteless fig, fold over fold, empty
as dry-rotten garlic.

She has you right by the belt,
even though there’s no flower and no milk
inside her body.
Death will open your eyes
to what her face is: leather spine
of a black lizard. No more advice.

Let yourself be silently drawn
by the stronger pull of what you really love.

“An Empty Garlic” trans. Coleman Barks

Radicalization comes from the US. Well, if so, someone in the US needs to question radicalization and this radicalization bullshit. People need to wonder why it is it the US can only accomplish negativity. . .and the surreality of War is Peace, which we promote in the Middle East under the guise of “We bring you Democracy,” i.e. our version of authoritarianism and balance (in our favor). The true radicalization we create is in our invaded countries, not here in the US.

Why does everyone accept, even the news media, especially the visual news media, that radicalization of foreigners happens here, in the US?

Is nobody fucking thinking?!

I know. A stupid question. Look what we elected?

No one questions the iniquities of the US that would lead to radical behavior. . .even though radical behavior has been around for many years. Shall we say, since the Suffragettes? That’s, like, a century, man.

What kind of bullshit is this?

Perhaps not. US citizens are, in fact, radicalized daily, resulting in mass killing. The US tries to deny a sociocultural problem by blaming the mentally ill, despite evidence to the contrary.

The problem is the socioculture of the US. We are fucking ourselves.

Why does everyone accept, even the news media, especially the visual news media, that radicalization of foreigners happens here, in the US?

Is nobody fucking thinking?!

I know. A stupid question. Look what we elected?

 

(c) James L. Secor, 2017

 

 

The Boy Who Would Be Hero

The Boy Who Would Be Hero

by James L. Secor

“Stevie-boy!” called Donald the Dragon Killer.

And like magic, as if he’d known beforehand, Stevie-boy was there, in the room, just inside the door. His hulking frame, his head cocked to one side, blocked much of the light. Donald had not yet opened or had opened for him his shuttered windows, whence the two streaks of light that tore across the floor and up the opposite walls.

“Saddle my horse. I’m going out and I’m going farther than before.”

“Whatever for, Sir Donald?”

“A hero’s job is never done, Stevie-boy.”

“Yes, sir. And what of breakfast?”

“I’m a hero, Stevie-boy.”

“As you say, sir. But even heroes must eat.”

“Oh, alright. Have me a tankard of ale and a loaf of black bread sent in. That’ll do me.”

“As you say, sir.” And Stevie-boy suddenly disappeared.

For the umpteenth time, Donald wondered how Stevie-boy did these appearing and disappearing things but it was no use trying to figure it out–the workings of these lower-downs was really quite beyond him.

Candy-girl brought Donald his breakfast and stood demurely against the wall til he had finished. Then, she took the plate and tankard away. Donald belched and rose from his table. His stomach rumbled a little and he was reminded of how long it had been since he’d had a decent meal. He liked black bread and ale but the sameness of the routine bothered him. It was, in truth, wearing on is nerves. As was the idleness–or, rather, the lack of encountering heroic situations. Surely it was not possible to have swept the world clean.

Sir Donald strode out into the bare courtyard, where even the grass refused to grow. He had his mighty bow and quiver full of arrows. Sean-boy stood by his horse’s head with his trusty golden lance, never broken during battle. But it did not gleam in the pale sunlight. Donald looked up into the washed out bluish sky with its straggly, used up clouds and wondered again at what had happened to the world.

Sean-boy watched from bland eyes as his master mounted his golden gelding. He handed Sir Donald his lance and stepped back. The horse groaned a bit under Donald’s weight but stood its ground. It took Donald several kicks in the animal’s side to get the beast moving. Off they went at a leisurely walk. Although Donald grimaced slightly, perhaps this pace was better until he’d passed through his demesne.

Once again, as he had for uncountable mornings, Sir Donald The Dragon Killer rode tall through fields of emptiness. Stubble there was and an occasional sorry stalk of some grain or other, but otherwise nothing. Not even vermin or insects roamed the dry earth. The trees scattered around, dotting the hazy horizon here and there, showed dull, dusted green leaves on branches that sagged earthward.

How long had the world around him been barren? Donald could not recall. A long time, that was for sure. Why it was this way was a conundrum the hero could not get his mind around. He consoled himself by telling himself that it was his job to do, not to think. That is what a hero did. A hero acted. He killed problems and since he had to eat, he killed his food as well. When there had been game, he’d been good at it. Unsurpassed. For his aim was unerring. After all, he was a hero. Sometimes he used his hunting as an excuse to keep his skills sharp. Sir Donald The Dragon Killer was proud of himself. His abilities never atrophied.

Yes. All in all, despite the lack of game, Donald had a good life, he thought.

It wasn’t til after passing through the once fecund now fallen fallow cropland that his horse began to canter. Donald felt better at this pace and so was not bothered so much by the lack of a view. But he did pull his steed up short upon spying a forest up ahead. This was a sure sign he’d gone farther than he’d ever gone before. It was a lush green forest with tall-standing trees and dancing foliage, for there was a breeze. That brought his head around: a breeze! He could feel the breeze. He could smell the air. He felt invigorated. Surely there was life here and he’d eat well tonight. Sir Donald’s mouth watered. He kicked his trusty charger into a gallop. Unlike earlier in the morning, this did not take much effort.

The forest was much farther away than it appeared and by the time they entered its cool shade, the horse was sweating and snorting and foaming at the mouth. Horse and rider slowed to a walk, savoring the smell and the feel. Donald’s exceptional hearing picked up the sounds of stirrings amongst the trees and in the underbrush. He knew, though, that it was small stuff so he didn’t bother to look. He was after bigger game.

It would be nice, too, if there were a stream or a well.

The time passed almost unnoticed and then Donald spotted a clearing ahead. And in that clearing, his keen eyesight espied a fowl. A partridge. A very fat partridge. He moved a little closer, steadied his mount and took aim. His arrow flew silently and swiftly through the fresh air and sank itself into its target. The bird keeled over without a sound. But as Donald was cantering in to gather up his kill, a keening cleft the air.

When Donald broke into the clearing, a skinny old lady dressed in rags stood over the fallen fowl howling her grief, hands raised in the air, a look of horror on her gnarled and crinkled face. The door to her lean-to stood open and her spinning wheel lay spilled on the ground, thread sprawled everywhere. She looked up at Donald’s approach.

“You bastard!” she cursed. “Look what you’ve done.”

Donald looked. “Yes! I’ve just shot my dinner. Excellent marksmanship, don’t you think?”

“It was my only laying hen you shot!”

Donald dismounted. He looked closely at the dead bird.

“Yes. You’re right. It is a hen,” he said.

“Damn right I’m right. What are you going to do about it?”

“Do? I’m going to take it home and eat it.” And Donald reached for the dead thing.

The old woman sprang between him and his goal. “Over my dead body!”

“Surely you jest. I’m a hero. I always get what I want.”

“Not this time, buster.”

“Who the hell are you to challenge me?”

“I’m the old lady of the woods and this is my bird.”

“Life’s tough, honey. Tell me about it.”

“You want to take my hen and leave me to starve to death. Is that it?”

“That’s it.”

“Well, that isn’t it. . .unless you pay me first.”

“Pay you? With what?”

“You haven’t got anything on you?”

“What good’s money when you’re out hunting?”

“You haven’t got anything on you?”

“What good’s money out here in the woods?”

“Well, then. You have to kill me to get the bird.” She pulled her scrawny self up to her full height, perhaps her head came up to Sir Donald’s nose, so she was not too terribly intimidating.

“Okay,” shrugged Donald The Dragon Killer and he drew his sword and cut off her head in one fell swoop. “Evil old lady,” he muttered as her head plopped onto the ground and rolled around, staining the spun thread red. “Dinner and one less witch in the world,” Sir Donald The Dragon Killer said to himself. He was quite satisfied. It had been a good day.

Sir Donald carried the arrowed trophy-hen proudly over his shoulder.

“Zippity-doo-dah, zippity-ay,” he sang.

He turned to look back at the forest before the long journey home. The color was not so green and the leaves did not rustle. Somehow, the woods had sunk in on itself, it wasn’t so big any more. Like all the life had been taken out of it.

Sir Donald the hero wondered why it is this happened wherever he went. He shook his head. And then he turned round and headed home.

“My, oh my, what a wonderful day,” he sang.

(c) James L. Secor, 2017

Getting a Mouthful

Getting a Mouthful

by James L. Secor

People are isolated and isolated from themselves. They are alienated, from themselves and others. There is no knowing anything of anybody.

With this unbridgeable gap between me and you, commitment centres on me and what I want whenever. Life happens to me and I go with it. That’s all any of us have. So, what’s important is now because I only exist in the now. I don’t exist in the past tense. And, of course, I can’t exist in the future because it’s not here yet. I only exist here and now. I only feel things in the eternal now. One thing after another. Me and you. Separate but going along the road. On and on. Wherever it takes us. Just me bob-bob-bobbing along. Me. Because I have no idea about you and I have no idea where this  road of life is taking me.

Since I know nothing and am not an agent of anything in particular, I cannot be held responsible. Life affects me and I react: I have no choice. I can only go with what I’m given. Now. Events are not future. Events are now. We are all at the mercy of events. The nowness of life. Events happen to you and me but there is no connection between the events and no connection between us and we have no choice but to go along with it. Events are the stampede makers of life. Like grasshoppers or lemmings.

Take the case of Johan de Witt.

I, of course, did not know him. Personally. How could I, being of humble origin? But I knew of him. I had seen him in his numerous processions through town, through the province, though he progressed through more than just mine. The whole country, in fact. He was a handsome man with long dark locks, a thin moustache at his thin upper lip and no beard, though perhaps there was some peach fuzz right along the chin; heavy eyebrows and a long, thin nose. Aquiline? I don’t know. I don’t know what an aquiline nose is. Nor have I found it necessary to find out. What is important is that he smiled at us as he passed. He smiled and waved. Once, his eyes made contact with mine and I knew he was human. Acquired aristocracy be damned.

He was everybody’s hero.

But this was not to stand him in good stead. For who knows what will stand you in good stead since you don’t know where you’re going or what road you’re on.

Is there more than one road?

Isn’t it more like a delta where the river splits into myriad channels that inevitably lead to the ocean? And at the ocean what does it amount to?

Johan de Witt. A Republican, a man who believed in the people and the Republic of Holland and not a supporter of Holland as the aristocracy’s playground. The True Freedom.

Imagine that! A you-and-me type of person coming to rule the country. Stranger things do not happen.

Johan de Witt brought great prosperity to the land and, therefore, everyone loved him. He brought overseas trade–other than with Britain and the other European nations–though we knew these others were barbarians, barely human. But what does this matter when we should never have to meet them? Living off of their labor was no problem at all. We introduced them to civilization. We brought them need and the need for satisfaction. Which we held the key to. In the name of free trade. And the country became rich. And the people therein. More ours than theirs, as would be expected. Advanced countries need more, eh?

Could a born aristocrat have done as much? I dare say not, since an aristocrat would be interested solely in himself. That is, in fact, the definition of an aristocrat: self-interested. The rest of the world be damned. It’s the way of the world. And nobody likes it.

Johan de Witt was a breath of fresh air. New blood. And so his end is the more telling. Some would say, it says more about the people, the yous and mes, than it does about him. But he’s just like you and me. Just another human thrust along the event path. Just because he made something of himself doesn’t mean anything. Certainly not that he’s different than you and me. You and me aren’t what’s important. We are what makes the world go round. You and me. I. It takes a lot of I to keep the gears working. So many that we are faceless. All the more reason to celebrate Johan de Witt.

You might say, success went to our heads.

Johan de Witt cut quite a figure at the head of the armies. He wore the minimum of armor passing through town and countryside since the battle was down the road a piece. Thank goodness. I would not want to have it here. Me and you, we have lives to live. We are not soldiers. It is not our profession to fight. Though I think more come home than die. It doesn’t seem like it, all attention being lavished on the dead and wounded. But there it is.

In establishing the Republic, the Free Hollander Johan de Witt led us into wars to repel the greedy European powers that drooled over our riches. We would not be slaves to their appetite. A road we’d been on far too long. Mostly, we fought against the English and the French. The French had long belabored us and were petulant over losing their colony. The English were greedy barbarians who believed killing their rulers solved problems and proved their strength and worth. A land of slobs and rogues.

There were many wars against these English upstarts. Johan de Witt and his brother Cornelius were successful, though we lost New Holland during the second war. No great loss. Not much in the way of trade. Not really. We, in turn, sailed up the Thames River to London and demolished the English. No one had ever done this before. What a coup! In the end, we became richer and stronger until finally we Dutch could strut a bit.

Revenge. Justice. Judgment. It’s all the same. Control yourself? Where’s the rule of thumb? Where’s the standard? Where’s the proof that control orders anything? Things happen. First this, then that. Move on. Life’s like that. No telling what’s up next. So, what’s this control business? Controlling yourself does not control the world. And who are you to tell me, eh? You don’t know me. Can’t know me. I don’t know you. We are all separate individuals.

What happened to Johan de Witt was sad, though. I’d like to say no one deserves such an end, but who am I to make such a judgment? And what is it to say that it was due to the disaffected? We’re all disaffected. Isolated. Alone. Stumbling along as best we can. We are not responsible for what life hands us. If it says to go this way, we only go that way. Go with it.

One day Cornelius de Witt was arrested. No one knows why. Some malfeasance or other. Johan de Witt went to see his brother in prison. When he came out, standing a moment to suck in the fresh air, people attacked him, beating him with clubs and pipes and knotted rope. They kicked him. People flailed away, frenzied beasts. When Johan de Witt fell silent, his body was dragged to the square where hangings and other punishments were accomplished. Fires were built and set alight. We hacked Johan de Witt to pieces and roasted his parts. Several of the inns rolled kegs of beer before their doors so we could drink as we ate and carouse the night away. There was not enough of Johan de Witt to go around.

(c) James L. Secor, 2016

The Donald’s Revolution

 

 The Donald’s Revolution

by James L. Secor, Ph.D.

That part of the country that does not like Donald Trump–especially the radio and TV pundits and the Hillary supporters–and those modern Neville Chamberlains[1] who urge us to give the man a chance. . .I say, that part of the country will never be able to deal with The Donald because they are like three-year olds who are incapable of seeing someone else’s point of view. So, these Donald haters stand around bitching about him and what he’s doing and saying and, I suppose, figure that’s enough; that is, that bitching about him and his individual policies that daily become more and more obvious via his Cabinet choices is enough to take care of the problem of The Donald.

There is no thought here. There is no intelligence at all. Just a three-year old’s tantrum. Everything is interpreted through the three year old’s sensibility. And because no one has the separation to analyze and organize against The Donald’s very obvious anti-social bent, there will never be any focused effort to come to terms with The Donald and his concentrated aim, his purpose.

Because judging The Donald is the moral high ground, a definitely honorable yet useless cock-of-the-walk stance, there is no hope, for The Donald believes he exists outside of the bounds of accepted behavior. But just what does he believe? The misogyny, racism and general hate he articulates is not it. Like a recipe, the end product is not the individual ingredients.

Congress is totally useless, as they have been for quite a number of years, so nothing can be expected from this disparate bunch of greedy ideologues[2] who again cannot see past themselves and their childish wants. Like three-year old children, they are, each individual Congressman, stomping their feet and pouting. “No! I don’t want!” Though there might possibly be an outside chance that they actually manage to do something, they have become so settled into the nothin’ doin’ tar pit that a couch potato appears hyperactive.

The people? Even those who consider themselves political?

The people are historically, socially and politically ignorant, though it might be more PC to say naïve. They believe what they are told is the way to see things.  They are culturally isolated and, therefore believe their culture is the true and right culture, much like the 19th century Brits. They do not read anything that does not agree with their beliefs. Having thus chosen ignorance, the people, like The Donald’s followers, can be led around by the nose.[3]

Though the people who hate The Donald don’t have any perspicacity in understanding what’s going on, it is also true that the political machine–the individuals who ought to know–does not know what’s going on, either. But, then, they are part of the problem, the dysfunction. Whether anyone wants to admit it or not–aside from the few reporters who raised up this argument (and were left to wander aimlessly in the Desert of Silence)–The Donald has his finger on the tenor of the times: the country is in turmoil, people are alienated, and he’s going to change it, dammit! Just as he sees fit–his idea of a fix.

The problem? Social dysfunction that has left so many out and so many without. A dysfunction that allows no success or improvement for much of anyone. The dysfunction of a crippling economy that boisterously shoots itself in the foot while increasing the inhumanity shown to the people without whom the self-styled elite could not function. The dysfunction of a society in great denial, a society of exclusion; the same kind of arrogant exclusion found in the religions of The Chosen because, after all, the elite are chosen.[4]

The dysfunction-makers haven’t the damnedest idea what’s going on or what they’re doing, either. Greed. Power. Self-interest. And to hell with the rest of you. The elite status quo is perverted, being composed of ideologues who interpret policies and ideas for their own benefit–and then have the academics from the better universities helping them. As with Adam Smith and his Wealth of Nations: aside from the fact that Smith was dealing with “nations,” he believed that corporations were the bane of existence, the ruin of an economy. But the academics kind of forget this. On purpose.

Because ideologues give no thought at all to the repercussions, to the consequences of their exalted weltanschauung, the rest of society is barbarized. Like a cancer, the elite status quo does not see itself as dysfunctional because it is only interested in living. Like a parasite.

Does anyone know why it is parasites die?[5]

Let me see if I can give you an idea of what’s going on, for The Donald is no more than a symptom of dysfunction gone wild.

What to do? What to do? Oh, oh, oh!

With the loud and vociferous blatherings against The Donald and “what’s happened to this country,” none of these loud mouths manages to think further than their wagging tongues and their prognostications of the end of the world as we know it. You may be sure, though, they will be right there in the heart of the carnage declaiming with great vigor and self-righteousness, “I told you so!”

Why are they only clacking their gums? Probably because they just don’t know; probably because the elite status quo likes the dysfunction–and The Donald’s taking over; probably because they are part of the dysfunction. Even so, this does not mean all is lost. If people would just shut up their self-reflexive ranting and raving, they might actually begin to see what’s missing. . .and do something. Because what you don’t see is important.

So, what is happening beneath the clamoring chatter and damning personal attacks of The Donald and his disciples of hatred?

According to Chalmers Johnson’s Revolution and the Social System[6] what we have is an Anarchistic Revolution. Anarchistic Revolution? Just exactly what is this? Aren’t all revolutions the same? Answer: no. The US has witnessed many anarchistic revolutions and has lost every one it’s involved itself in.[7] Johnson says that these anarchistic revolutions “occur in response to conditions in the social system when major changes. . .have already occurred.” These changes are supposed to have relieved a social dysfunction. But they’ve not. Thus, these people believe that these changes they disapprove of are the cause of the dysfunction. These people want to relieve changes to the dysfunctional world that caused further dysfunction that arose from previous changes to solve the dysfunction that exists now.

Johnson notes this might also be called a nostalgic revolution, whether the nostalgia is true or, as in “Make America Great Again,” imagined and romanticized, because the feeling is that “before now” was a better time.

We live our lives by our dreams and feelings, our wants and desires, by our idea of purpose and value, thought and belief–and yet these drivers of life are based on “an integral without-ness.”[8] So that “Make America Great Again” may have no relation to actuality but what’s important is the belief that it does. This belief fires people with enthusiasm and they become infused by the idea and go out and do something about it: The Donald’s apostles.[9]

At the same time, believers of this slogan (or jingle) of a need to “Make America Great Again” are looking back onto a time when life was better for them, less complicated, a time when they had more control over their lives. . .they believe. These people are looking for a return to the good old days–a nostalgia for “the past.” When were they, those good old days? And whose good old days are they talking about? All imaginary. All scientifically, materially absent. And all vital to living.

The Anarchist Rebellion that is infused with this nostalgia comes via a time when there supposedly were no controls on behavior, no controls on business; that is, a belief in total freedom.

Once again, when you have unbounded freedom, you have no freedom at all; what you have is whatever goes, what you have is a free-for-all. No rules, no regulations, no guidelines, nothing to help you make a decision outside “fuck the other guy, I’m important.”

Real or fantasized is unimportant, because it is just this human characteristic of running our lives on emotions, feelings, ideas and desires that we need to consider. Terry Deacon calls these influences absentials because you cannot see, feel, touch or scientifically prove their existence yet they are central to behavior and life.[10]

What is important is how these absentials affect (and effect) our world. Two perfect examples of this are the ideologue and the do-gooder.

Marx saw anarchistic rebels and their nostalgia as people who feel they have been left out of the advancements of society. Indeed, an anarchist rebel does see himself as having been “bypassed by history–and now they’re going to reclaim it,” dammit![11] These people, this take-over by The Donald–it’s all about dysfunction and their impression of the dysfunction and the necessity of change to right the wrong.

And the social dysfunction(s), for they are real?

The sources of dysfunction are always ambiguous via non-labeling–a well-known political ploy–but nevertheless are threatening to the rebels. Personally threatening. But “me”–and the narcissistic and victimized me me me–can do nothing about it until a leader comes along to bring all the mes together.[12] Not, however, a true savior. As the believers are “already” prepared, like marinated meat, by an idealized tradition that drives them on even though the idealized tradition is unreal. That is to say, these anarchistic rebels are out of tune with their own historical reality. Which is good for The Donald and this Anarchistic Revolution.

This present Anarchistic Revolution comes as a “last resort in attempting to frustrate changes in the system that run counter to [their idea of] their established function.”[13] These people have poor prospects for the future because they are looking, lurching toward a utopia based on an idealized, romanticized notion of the way things ought to be. They are only looking backward. Not to be wondered at as the future holds naught but fear (one of Deacon’s absentials). They are driven by an unrealistic, unfounded fear one might call hysteria.

The elite status quo created this situation–the great dysfunction of unbounded freedom and much else–and wallows in it into a future they believe they own; and as the elite status quo backs the socio-historical myth of freedom that is the basis of this country, the anarchistic rebels believe this myth fervently and, without question, follow the elites’ lead; and so, they truly become the lost ones they only believe they now are. The elite status quo is totally indifferent to the consequences of its changes or to these dunderheaded rebels (whom they are nevertheless using to advance their agenda–double patriotism).

The elite status quo, in creating more social dysfunction, is fracturing society–but they don’t care and, so, bring about the Anarchistic Revolution and their own downfall. In the name of total unbounded freedom. Which they have made the disaffected believe is what the disaffected want. The chaos that ensues will bring about total destruction.

Anarchistic principles are short-lived and are situation-specific, like whimsy. The über-anarchistic rebels and The Donald can be attacked and overcome through this out-of-context behavior; though, in fact, the falling apart of the nation may be a necessary precedent to a solution.

The Anarchistic Revolution is a means of giving meaning, of finding form and sense in the present chaos; it is the physical manifestation of an absential, a potential something. The Anarchistic Revolution is a beginning place for ideas of change. And the change is not necessarily what the mob wants; it will be the change The Donald wants; he is only pitching it as hatred of this, that or the other person. Like a used car salesman selling you a lemon in the name of an unbelievable deal.

Realizing the absentials that are driving The Donald, we can work to manipulate them and can thus handle the future. But if all we’re going to do is bitch and point the finger and concentrate on what he’s doing “at this moment,” we’re lost; and then, when The Donald brings the edifice crashing down, we will have nothing to offer, not even a bandaid. Because we’ve concentrated on items out of context, individual and out of context.

What are the principles? His dreams, desires, beliefs, values, intentions, purpose–absentials, things that are not yet come about but point somewhere, that are important. His hatreds (fears?). Unbounded freedom. And something he said early on about running the country like a business?[14] Only a start, a starting place.

There is a major problem, though: Congress feels the same way, in a material and mechanistic way, judging from their verbiage and ideology and the pushes (putches?) they’ve made in the past. And Congress makes the laws.

Or we can look at this time as a return of the dark times of the dark god Tiamat.

[1] Neville Chamberlain was Prime Minister of Britain at the time of Hitler’s rise to power. Throughout, he kept telling people to give the man a chance, even after Hitler invaded Poland when he could not avoid taking the country into war.

[2] An ideologue is someone who is a blindly partisan adherent of a particular thought. There is no compromising with these sorts because any little tiny insignificant variance to the entirety of their thought is unacceptable. Ideologues are intolerant to the extreme. Visionary and idle speculators of some political or religious belief or other.

[3] Mark Twain remarked that people who do not read are more dangerous than people who can’t read. If we consider people who can’t read ignorant, then those who choose not to read choose ignorance over knowledge. If people read, they’d know the difference between socialism and communism. Paying attention to the absolute mess we’ve made in Africa with our idea of civilizing and advancement is one very good example of our arrogance and cultural narrow-mindedness, a result of not reading. In fact, it is not out of order to say that people do not know their own history. As evidence, the belief in the myth of the First Thanksgiving–and the subsequent behavior of the loving, open-minded and thankful god-fearing Pilgrims and white people: by the end of the 17th century there were virtually no Indians in New England, the very people who made it possible for the inept Pilgrims to survive.

[4] Social Darwinism: only the better sort succeed. And since everyone else is of the lesser sort they can be preyed upon.

[5] A parasite is a life form that lives in or on another life form (its host) and derives its nutrients, its ability to live at the host’s expense. As the host dies, so, too, does the parasite, having killed its food source. But it had a good go of it while it lasted. Cancer, tapeworm, leeches, lampreys, mistletoe, balamutha mandrilliaris.

[6] Hoover Institution Studies publication, Stanford University, 1964. No one since has done any study of a similar sort. One should look, nevertheless, into Ernst Cassirer’s The Myth of the State, even though The Donald is not the Moses.

[7] I think it might be interesting to look into what an anarchist is. Anarchists believe in unbounded freedom. Unbounded freedom means chaos. Anarchy is “the state of society where there is no law or supreme power; hence, a state of lawlessness or political disorder.” As with a biological cell, if there is no boundary, no cell wall, there is no cell, just a mass of stuff without definition or purpose. There are anarchists today who believe this is true freedom, however, and fly at any criticism with religious, fanatical romantic ideals about the goodness of people and how this will, without willing, bring about a just society. Utopian thinking? Again, when you have no bounds, you have no definition, no discrimination and whatever the hell you want–whim–becomes the imposed going thing because whoever doesn’t like what you’re doing can impose their wishes upon you. This kind of freedom always ends in a tyranny.

[8] Terrence Deacon, Incomplete Nature. But, also, heed Laozi, 11: “Therefore turn being into advantage, and turn non-being into utility.” Or, in a freer vein: “Though we can only work with what is there, use comes from what is not there.”

[9] “Human beliefs and purposes can shape events in ways that often have little direct relationship to current physical conditions. . . .” Deacon, p. 57.

[10] Cf. Incomplete Nature by Terrence Deacon, especially Chapters 0 and 1.

[11] Cf. David Mitrany, Marx Against the Peasant.

[12] In order to help give a solid footing here, see Richard Storry’s The Double Patriots where he lets us see the anarchistic quality in the history of pre-war Japan. It’s easier to see it’s shape in an unchanging environment (history) and then lay it over, like a transparency, the present and look for lines of conjunction.

[13] Revolution and the Social System.

[14] “It is in the realm of social interaction with other creatures like ourselves that we need tools for navigating the challenges created by ententional processes [absentials]. . . .social life constantly demands that we guess at, anticipate, and plan for the actions of others.” Deacon, p. 80.

The Old Witch

 The Old Witch

by James L. Secor

The old witch lived in the inn at the edge of town. It was an old inn, run-down and nobody stopped there any more. She was an old lady, bent and crabbed with arthritis. There was a woman who went once or twice a day with food but she left it on the veranda. She would not venture inside. She had, one day, when curiosity got the better of her, looked in at one of the open windows. Most of the windows were shuttered. She saw, in the place of honor, a little bell with an oblong mirror behind it along with the little pine branches on either side. The name of the little tablet she could not read. Anshin she thought it said, “easy,” “relief,” “safe.” Or maybe it was anji, something suggestive. She saw the old woman sitting before the relics, the bell and mirror and pine branches. But she could not see the reflection in the mirror. The glass was too small and cloudy and, of course, too far away. She saw the old witch rise, so she ran down the path as fast as she could, only pausing to look back at the gate to be sure she was not pursued. But she talked a good story when she got back to town. It was a small town so word got around. In one form or another.

It was rumored it was best to be far away from this old witch. This old woman. It was rumored there was something disrespectful about her past and that is why she lived alone with no friends and no visitors.

No travellers bothered with her hostel, it was so unkempt. Indeed, the front gate looked to be falling down at any moment. The weeds in the garden had choked out the flowers and any trees that had grown there had been shorn of their leaves by the strangling vines that hung limply from the bare branches. It was indeed a desolate inn. Only the path remained clear and passable. No one thought this was strange but perhaps they should have.

The cracked and grained wood had lost its vitality and was pitted, water-rotted, almost black. The shutters, pulled all around but for the one window, were warped and falling in on themselves. But it was at the front doorstep that the food was left, a great slab of stone worn down from the feet of long ago travellers.

The tatami mat flooring showed weeds poking through in places. It was worn colorless where the old witch sat. A path led from the entranceway to the sitting place and from thence into the dark depths. The old witch dragged her heels when she walked.

One day, after years and years of silence and teasing stone-throwing by the neighborhood boys and girls, a traveler stopped at her inn. No one saw him go in but the next morning when the woman brought the old witch a morning meal, there was a memento attached to the falling down gatepost. It was red but had no temple’s name written on it. It was blank but for a little dragon crawling beneath a bell.

From that day forth, the old witch never touched her food and so people assumed she died. Because after awhile, the lady who brought the food stopped bringing it. If the old hag wasn’t going to eat it, it was a waste. There were others who could use it. No one visited her decrepit old abode to find out if there was a body there or not. No one was that crazy or brave. They just let the house rot and fall in on itself and the weeds grow over it.

Oddly enough, out of the mess beautiful flowers grew and, some years later, it became fashionable for lovers to traverse the path and pick a flower for their loved one. Never more than one flower was picked. The lovers always had happy fulfilling lives, so a truth was established.

One day, a traveler came to my house and though he could not pay for his keep, he said he had a story to tell. A strange story of love and deception. It was, indeed, worth his night’s stay. I thanked him and pondered on the tale afterwards.  . .

He came to an old inn one night. It was a new moon. The place looked very tumble-down but he nevertheless took himself to the font door. He opened the door with some difficulty–it stuck in its trough. He entered and shut it behind him. In the musky blackness he shouted out for the master. “Hello? Is anybody here?” There was no answer, so he moved further into the large room, stopping at the first set of sliding doors. “Hello? I’ve come for a room.” Pause. “It’s a desolate night.” No answer. Just as he turned to leave, he heard the shuffle of steps somewhere in the darkness beyond the doors. He spoke again, “I’ve come for a place to stay the night. Can you put me up?” A pale lamp and a face floated up before him. The shuffling stopped. The silence carried on. She stepped aside and let him enter. She moved ahead of him, then raised a hand to have him wait. She shuffled out of the room and returned with a second small lamp. She indicated that he should follow her. He did. Keeping close so as not to become separated and lost in the blackness. The rooms smelled unkempt, dirty. The meager light showed up walls wrinkled and wasted like old men. Perhaps they would fall in on him as they groaned into the night.

The old woman led him to a small room to one side of the house and indicated he should sit. The tatami felt damp. The table was dusty. She did not bother to clean it off. He looked up. She had disappeared. Outside the tiny circle of his little lamp reigned darkness and the sounds of the house trying to maintain itself. He took out a cloth and dusted the table. She appeared out of nowhere with food and set it down on the table. With a swift, jerked movement, she bid him eat. She stood to one side, holding her lamp, waiting for him to finish. When he finished, she took the tray away. He was finishing his tea when she returned and spread out his bedding. Then she left him to himself.

Not once did she speak. His lamp went out and he was lost in the oppressive darkness and creakiness. Dank and musty smelling and a little cold, he shivered and climbed into the bedding. Cold and dampish. Soon, though, it warmed and he fell asleep. He dreamed. . .

“Strange dream. Strange. . .even now as I’m telling you I’m not sure whether it happened or truly was a dream. It seemed that she came into the room about midnight and sat down at the head of my bed. She had her little lamp with her and was haloed at the edge of its yellow waxy glow. The apparition spoke: ‘I have a story to tell you.’ I looked up at her and suddenly the air about her began to glow and shine. An ellipse of brightness that cast no aura. She was a mess. Her clothes rotting from her frame, her hair falling about her shoulders like a ghost’s, her hands hoary with arthritis as they lay silent and polite in her thin lap. There was not much life left in her. The light seemed to pass through her making her appear diaphanous. ‘It’s late and I’m tired,’ I said. ‘Yes. It is late. Too late for me. I must tell you my story. You must hear me out.’ I nodded. She smiled a toothless smile without mirth or sadness, just an open widening of the thin lips. She licked her lips.

“‘This was also not a time when the clergy were as attentive to their vows as they are now. One day, one of them stopped by on his travels. I could hear his voice from within. I stopped my sewing and went to have a peek at who could have such an enchanting, warm voice. Rich and mellow and coming out of the depths of a body like a spring from the mountains. He was beautiful. If a man may be beautiful. A marvelously handsome man. I wanted him right away. I had never had a man before but I knew what the feelings that rose up in me were. I felt all wet and warm and perhaps a little dizzy and a pressure grew in me that fairly choked me. I went back to my sewing but was not at all concentrating on it–I stuck myself several times with the needle. Little pinpoints of blood stood out on my fingers. So I put my sewing down and went again to look at the lay monk. He was gone. I had expected him to stay the night. Most did. I was taken by some kind of hysteria. I immediately left the house and ran after him. My parents called after me but I did not answer. I could not answer. I felt my heart, my soul was leaving me behind and I had to catch up to it before I died. I ran and I ran but did not find him. I asked some travellers along the road. They said, yes, they had seen such a man, a monk, and that he had gone down the leftward road. I ran on. It is not easy running in long skirts. I felt they were breaking my legs. They were getting caught up and I could not abide them. I tried pulling them up and running but that was no good. They tripped me from behind. My clothing became quite dishabille and began to fall away as I gained speed. This urgency overrode my senses. My hairpins fell out, leaving a trail behind me. My hair flew about my face and stood out behind me in a wildly undulating wake. I ran into other travellers. They laughed at my appearance. Others pulled away, shocked and frightened–I must have looked a sight! Women simply did not run about as I was doing, hair falling all about their shoulders, clothing in disarray, where it still clung to my body. They, too, told me the monk had passed along this way. He had gone to the river. I grunted and flew on. And my legs began to feel very heavy. Great massive tree trunks. I was panting and my face was stretched taut with my straining. There! I could see him at the ferry. I called to him: Wait! I yelled: You cannot leave me! He looked up. He looked at me as if I were a demon. Fear contorted his face. Quick, he shouted to the ferryman, get me across the river before that demon catches me. For, you see, I had turned into a great dragon. My hair tangled in a mass round my head. My face pinched and pointed with bulging fiery eyes. There were nubs, like little horns, growing out of my head. Out of my mouth grew fangs and I lathered, my tongue snaking out over my lips. But I only learned of this later, on my return journey, when people told me of the vicious beast they’d seen pursuing a hapless young monk. At the time, I could not understand why he would look at me with such loathing, run from a woman as beautiful as I was–and I was beautiful. I was held to be the most beautiful for several counties. And he was running from that exquisite beauty! Why? I knew monks were not chaste. It was a well-known fact. They often strayed. Stray with me! I want some of your holiness! Some of his holy love. It had to be holy coming from a man so beautiful himself.’

“Here, she, the old lady glowing at my bedside, sighed. The sound was the exhaling of steam.

“‘I continued on. There was nothing for me to do but go on. Nothing to my existence but having this man. I accosted another ferryman but he ran away and jumped into his own boat screaming obscenities at me. Did he think I would eat him when I was hungry for another? He rowed like mad out into the middle of the river. I was left standing on the bank ranting and raging after my love. He was my love, you know. I had to have him. My love. My soul. My body cried out for him. My heart was no longer mine. Who was I? I was enflamed. I jumped into the river and swam. But my body weighed me down. I felt long and old and worn out. I looked back and saw my dragon tail, my dragon scales. And my tail seemed to grow as I swam. Only, I wasn’t swimming. I was undulating through the water. When I reached the other side, I ran on along the road. An unbearable chore. I grew slower and slower, heavier and heavier. I could hear him screaming ahead of me. Then I could see him screaming at a robed man, screaming and pointing down the road at me. I heard, later, that I was a great cloud of dust and fire that bellowed along. Everyone took flight, not even closing the gates to the temple compound. I plunged through the gateway into the barren courtyard. No one. There! On the bell tower! The bell was off its perch. It sat on the wooden flooring. They thought they were so clever–hiding him under a great bronze bell. This temple, Dojo, was known for its bell. It rang out over the hills when it was struck. But now it was impotent. I wound myself around the bell, squeezing tightly. I squeezed until I fused my body with the bronze behemoth. My energy turned me red and I heated up. Smoke rose round me. Heavy waves rose from my body. It was all I could do to hold him tight. Hold him to me. So I passed the night wound round the bell, holding his love. Keeping the silence. Just at sunrise I left and returned here. I have been here ever since.’ She licked her lips, relishing the memory maybe? ‘When the monks saw that the mighty dragon had gone, they tried to move the bell but it was too hot. Still glowing. They burned themselves for their humanitarian efforts. They threw water on it and waited until late in the afternoon. Then, as dusk began to descend, they raised the bell and. . . the monk had been fried. He was a pile of ashes. I had burned him up with my passion.’

“Her eyes looked down at me. They penetrated right into my body.

“‘You looked so like him. . .so I told you. I could not help myself. I had to say this. I am not a bad woman.’

“She got up and walked out of the room, leaving me in hazy, grey blackness. I’m not sure if I slept the rest of the night. When I rose the next morning, she was nowhere around. The sunlight somehow penetrated the dreary insides of the inn and there, to one side in the main room, I saw the little bell and mirror and the pine branches. I stopped. Took a deep breath. What was it had happened that night?”

It has been years now since the man told me this story.

I had once picked a flower in that old, overgrown garden but my love had not been so obsessive, so possessive, so overwhelmingly consuming. We had a good life, not the disaster that befell such an extreme woman.

(c) 2014, James L. Secor

The Woman Who Lost Her Face

by Minna vander Pfaltz

On the other side of the river there was a mud flats. The road passed over it on a low boardwalk. Occasionally there were bulges where passers-by could let others pass by. About halfway across was a large area with a table and a few benches. A woman sat at the table, a large flattish bowl before her. Several dishes of colored clay or mud were scattered around this. She was feverishly applying mud to her face. She would pick up a piece of broken glass, look into it, exclaim loudly and wash the mud off her face. Then she’d mix some color into what was left in the pan and begin applying it again.

I watched her for some time, leaning on the handrail. My legs needed the rest. I listened closely. . .

“A powder room. A dressing room. A place to change one’s appearance. To maintain the mask, the cover-up for the night. Or the day. Day or night. Night and day. It doesn’t matter. On and off the stage. Adoration. Affirmation. Accolades. All because I successfully sit before my mirror and make myself over. Put on a face with an exquisite touch. I’m good at it. Was good at it. Very good at it. Perhaps because I liked it, keeping face.” Then she screamed at her image. “What has gone wrong?!” Holding the syllable until she ran out of breath.

I moved a little closer.

She cleaned her face once again and looked into the mirror.

“What have I done to myself? I’ve lost my face!”

And, indeed, there wasn’t much of a face there to see, as far as I could see.

“‘Play hard to get,’ mom had said. ‘No man wants an easy piece.’ Something I wanted, though. Sometimes. Easy. With ease. ‘It’s like fly fishing,’ my mother said. ‘Keep a loose wrist. The rod’s just an extension of your hand. Your body rhythm keeps that line arcing, coming back in better and better ellipses til the moment of casting. Then it’s just a matter of reeling it in.’ Mm-hmm. Just a touch of reality was bait enough. Just enough to keep him coming. Then I had the last say. Yeah. I had to have the last say. Even sometimes when I was wrong. Sometimes I erred and what I got wasn’t worth the effort. But usually I came away with something. All because of a touch of reality. But that’s all changed.” She paused, took a breath. “Look at me” she shouted to the skies, beating her fists on the table. “No more shadow flying out across the water tempting morsel.” She laughed crazily. “The boudoir led to the sleazy motel. And now to nowhere at all.”

She threw her hands up, smiled wryly.

Once more, in she dipped to get the mud spirit colored and out she came with just dyed mud. Over and over. A practicing disciple following her long historical precedent.

“There is no need for me to advertise,” she mewled. “No need to shout from the top of the mountain, ‘I’m a cunt!’ Not any more.” She did not stop slapping on the dyed mud. “No one’s interested in my cunt. Men love a cunt. But it’s got to have a face to go with it.”

She perused herself in the remains of her looking glass, threw the broken glass into the mud flats and pounded her fists on the table. The pots of unguent jumped.

“I used to have an odalisque. A Romanesque-Art deco divan draped decorously with a woven silk-fringed shawl I never wore. The bed was in the next room. Five or six thick hand-made futons piled high and soft so I sank into their plush interior. The pile of bedding sat in the middle of the room so it could be seen through the half open door. A plush middle-Eastern flying carpet of desire.” She giggled, shutting her eyes against the memory. “The windows to the street were only half-blinded. I liked showing off my well-kept body. It was my face, though, that created the magic. Like every good artist, I had a plethora of masks to choose from.” She smiled at the little pots. She smiled at herself, running her hands down her midriff to her waist so slim and over her gently rounded heart-shaped hips to her finely rounded ass. She squeezed. “Men like a good ass as much as a good face. And I gave it to them every morning with gluteal exercises–and stomach crunches to flatten my belly, emphasize my mound of Venus. My exhibition pieces. I was a choosy bitch. Once.” She jumped up and down on her seat. “Now there is nothing to be choosy about!” She looked at herself in the water bowl. “I am so much less than a whole person.” She leaned forward for a better look. “Men are not blind!” She leaned on her elbows.

Silence.

“You had something by Divine Right. Woman first and foremost. Only you give life.”

“And then we give and give and give. And then we have the life taken away from us and made into a damned mystery. A curse. Trivialize it. Isolate it. Give it back so it’s yours again. But with something missing. Instead of life we’ve been turned into a painful repository. A thrusting place to be used, even worshipped. But the key,” she raised a finger and shook it, “is our face. Faces. Fucking two-faced bastards! ”

She sighed. Her body sank in on itself.

“You are nothing without your crutch?” She raised herself up again. “I used to have high cheek bones with just a hint of youthful blush. Slightly almond-shaped eyes. Long lashes. The full-lipped mouth barely rouged a light coral tint. That wet look. Like I’ve just done one man and now I’m ready for the next. It’s so successful, why do I feel I should change it? I must be losing it. I must be! Look at the way I’m sitting! Come on. Straighten up, old girl. It’s not long now til the need for a veneer won’t be so obvious. Cranky old ladies get to say whatever they want. Look however they want.”

She leaned forward some more, her forearms stretched along the high gloss surfaced table, almost another mirror with the high sheen of the wood beneath. Japanese red cedar to roseate the lifted chin and smooth cheeks. To make her look healthy.

“So, why do I worry? I’m not nearly so old. But I feel like shit tonight. Well, then,” she clapped her hands, “let’s make a change. Just enough for people to wonder at. What’s different about you, honey? They’ll be surprised it’s just me. The one-eighth Algonquin Indian girl with the. . .with the. . .what? Just the right look. Je ne sais quoi. With the white lovers. What a pollution. What’s being Indian have to do with anything? A cunt’s a cunt. But I’m on the rolls. An authentic Indian fuck. So, I can pay and pay and pay. I’m a pay sausage-making machine!”

She bowed her head. “No diluted offspring for me. I’m the last of the line. Yeah.” She leaned back on the bench, arms outstretched, hands on the edge of the table. “Is it any wonder we look for financial stablemates? Love be damned, we need to get something for the time we spend on our backs. Just once. . .once. . .” she blew air noisily past her lips. “Love isn’t all, honey. Don’t moon. It’s what he’s got in the seat of his pants that counts. It’s the bankroll that sells. Sex is just the way to getting it. If it isn’t that good, well, that’s the price you have to pay. A lover on the side can liven things up a bit. A gigolo with no standards and no ethics. Who cares? A cock’s a cock. It just takes up space. Money, on the other hand. . .now, there’s something you can get a grip on. Do something with. Make something of. Yeah. Something that doesn’t use itself up. Money changes a girl. Yessir, it sholy do!” Her voice changed to a sugary drawl. “It sho do. There’s nothing like money to make a woman’s heart go pitta-pat. Atrial fib. A little extra warmth in the chest, a tightness in the throat.” She pressed her hands together and looked up. “That’s why the fashioning is so important. They have to feel I’m worth it–have to see I’m worth it. Men are so easy! Suckers for a good fly fisher of men. A female Christ. A virgin mother. And I am certainly that! I move with grace and fortitude. Not even number two could fathom my depths. Boy did I come out the winner on that one! A house and a $17,000 debt that became his responsibility. What a fool! He still loves me. After all I did to him. Raped him. Flayed him. Hung him up to dry and beat him with a switch. All of that love and joining of souls hogwash he believed in. Well. . .if he wishes to believe it, okay. Let him have his fantasy.”

She leaned back, to get a better look, to see her pride somewhere out there before her.

“His letters are wonderful epistles of love. Maybe I’ll publish them one day. A little love-letter package. Proof that men are easy. Ruled by the flesh between their legs. Long or short, what does it matter? It’s all the same thing. All the same.”

In a frustrated movement, she kicked her piano bench away from the table, slamming it against the opposite railing. She stared at the assortment of visages, of shrouds that crowded her world. All around her. Staring back at her with cold, black, blank eyes. Feral animals. So many to choose from!

She closed her eyes. She did not want to look at herself any more, not as she was at any rate. Not now. She was dissatisfied now. She couldn’t let that get in the way. She had to concentrate on the evening’s goal. Even out here in the mud flats, there was an evening’s goal. I remained very still, like a fence post.

“Maybe my red lace crotchless panties. My thigh-high silk stockings, shimmering white. No garter belt. No bra. Yes. I’ll be ready then. But what face should I be tonight?”

A new one was in order. She’d been wearing this one successfully for a long time or she’d not be out here at the end of a wooden walkway overlooking slowly lolling muddy water. She must have worn it for so long she’d gotten she had it on. . . and then. . .then it had become so very comfortable she had to  get rid of it.

I had friends because of it,” she whispered. She smiled crookedly. “A support group, you might say. People who believed in me. Best of all, I was quite successful in business: who could resist such a face? Such a fuck?”

She thought a moment. “Then there was diamond teardrop variation. I’m looking, really looking for something different.” She fingered the air. “Which one? There were quite a number to choose from, once. It took me a lifetime to build up my. . .gallery. My wallflowers.” She smiled up into the darkening sky, a firmament of well-placed stars on a rich azure background. Evenly spaced stars.

She sat in her niche for hours looking at these different facets of herself, facets of her stardom. She liked their brooding lives. She could make things happen with them. She could put together a world with just one accoutrement. Once.

But she was just a little tired. She slouched. The deftness and swiftness of choice and characterization was no longer with her. Her impetuosity slowed. Over time. A slight slowing, like a lingering disease. Or maybe the beginning of one. Early onset.

“It just isn’t easy any more. The thrill is gone.” That wagging disappointed mother finger shook itself again. “No,” she whispered. “Not gone. Just. . .delayed.” She sighed, squinched up her face. “More effort involved now. After these many years. One would think, with my experience and repertoire–fuck!” She wiped at her face, smearing it. “But the times. . .the times. . .the old days. The past. The fucking past! My, my, my. . .moments of heady success. Once. . .”

She stopped mid motion, lost in the moment. What was she seeing? The masks around the mirrors of her boudoir? Each new façade the thrill of putting on a show that would never end? Or, perhaps, the high of making each new guise work, moving in the world. The adrenaline rush. Each conceit manipulated to perfection so that life came out of its half-shell. Life, like a disease, took over the wooden body–her wooden body. The mask and the body always went together. Trout and lure.

She heaved a great sigh. Morbidly vaudevillian and romantic. Stilted realism.

“It’s so hard any more.”

She sat still, arms loosely on the table top. She sat still an inordinately long time, masks of the past floating in and out of focus, dancing silhouettes out over the water, now seen, now enshrouded. As her attention slowly took shape, she held her head in her hands. She murmured, somewhat displaced and a little dizzy. The cowls the dark edifices of dead Greek heroes were now tarnishing livery.

The air became a little oppressive.

She put her hand to her throat and drew in a deep breath. Coughed. Tried to fight some feeling, letting it sweep over her. She blinked. She winked. “I see you out there, out in the blackness around the edges but I can’t switch on the lights. Look. . . my regalia is just eerie shadows in the night. Pieces of rhinestone jewelry.” She looked up to the sky and howled like a dog, “I-eeeee know exactly what I look like, what I want to be looking like.” A little laugh. “It’s the actor’s choice. Self-conscious awareness.” She mumbled to herself as her arms slowly descended, “I so jaded?”

She looked out over the darkly winking water. “Maybe I should brush up a bit.”

She stood and pulled at her thin mantlet folding it about her thin shoulders. Right over left.

She moved into the glaring circle of light and reached out to touch the face only she could see.

“So smooth and smiling quietly back at me. Eyes demurely lowered, of course. I could be regal and I could be innocent.” She shook her hands, waggling them side to side. “This particular shell was my bread and butter. Everyone liked me as Columbine. So sweet and pure and wanton. The absorbing caress of acceptance. My ravishment.” She smiled into the night. “Number two had particularly found it enthralling. The allurement brought out a duality in him. The gentle, thoughtful dominator. Many’s the time we had spent the weekends ensconced in the house–my house–playing Columbine games. Once had. . .once. . .once. . .”

She let go the illusion. A net was closing around her. She shivered. Her hand moved with her eyes and came to rest on another unseen face. “Diamantina? Diamantina could get what she wanted. Because, like a Noh mask, there was no conjunction and, so, she could be the bicameral mind navigating through time and space with two different maps. I liked being the double persona.” She laughed loudly as she let loose the unseen. “And to think they called multiple personalities psychotic!”

She threw her wrist to her forehead and staggered back, slightly disoriented. She sat with a clunk. Still like a statue. A murmur broke from this edifice.

“Ahh, number three suffered the consequences of this mask’s soft and polite and lilting voice. It danced jigs and subtle minuets around his man’s head. Diamantina, the flashing beauty.” The threw her arms up. “He was no more than a laundry list. Alimony, a house and a restraining order. That’s all it took. El Capitano brought to his knees.” She flipped her hands. “Men appreciate being ravished as much as women, innocence turned into an insatiable little tart.”

She sat down and squeezed her thighs together.

“Oh, yes, I remember. I remember. It was with that virile body-builder. Number three. He did my morning exercises with me. In the buff. Ha-hah! An exercise in futility. Begun in the nude and finished with his masturbating directly into my vagina. Right on target from–how far away? It doesn’t matter. In or out, it was masturbation for him. Masturbation for me. I got off, then, watching his river of come spew over my lips.” She pulled her chemise closer about her. “It’s true what they say about athletes. They peak early. Dammit! A girl has a right, too. Doesn’t she?”

Or perhaps, as her eyes roved over more airy deception, she’d choose something else that would do the trick? “Of course, any would do the trick. All of them would! Could. Did. I did. Very well, thank you. That’s the whole point: to take one’s due. To take one’s dew. Nothing personal in my treatment of a man. Why should there be? Two separate bodies. Two separate souls. Spirited encounters but definitely not spiritual. There was no way I would let a man rag on me. You give me trash, I give you trash back. Margaret Atwood, hymning a pig.”

She sighed and looked way into the darkness around her, the chaos out of which life was born.

“In the beginning was the word. And what was the word? It was me. Me. My. Mine. It never touched another soul except as succubus.” She hissed. “I’m tired of the game. I’m so. . .no. . .so. . .unidentifiable. Untouchable. Unsatisfied. You see, without a mask, without a shield, a castle keep, I am nothing. I needed my enameled skin, my horned dermis. Every animal had its skin. Skin was necessary to keep the outside from imposing on the inside. Overwhelming it. The casque. Feral me. Never once touched. No. Not truly. Once. . . There! Once I could reach out and touch what I didn’t have myself. It’s all about definition. Definition and altruity. A living up to and giving up to.” She stopped and looked about, looked into the shining table top. “I have nothing but emptiness to give anyway. ”

She faced the mirrored table top, the floating mirror of the water front-on. She looked tired and haggard. She began to strip off the mask she had worn for so long. She’d worn it for so long the fiction had entered into the reality because the mask was not there. As she tore frantically at her face, she pulled off great patches of skin. Her fingernails, dermis- and DNA-encrusted, ripped red valleys into her face. I watched the destruction of Aphrodite in Repose. I watched her create the desecration of herself. Her face ran with blood and glared out at her from reflected worn and bloodshot eyes.

In the end, then, she’d lost the reality. Her pain became a surreal sketch with nothing to offer but a desert, a desert after its first and only rainfall. She was a Dadaist persona, a destructed personality to be fulfilled only once.

She stared emptily at the carnage, the assassination of herself.

“Here it is. Come and get it. The carcass is on the block. The fingerprint of life is here for all to see.”

She could not now walk out into the sun. The sunshine. The mud, the dyed clay would not stay in place. There was nothing to cling to.

She remained still into the night. There was nothing to say. There was nothing to cry for.

 

Dedicated to Fran A.

 

for Si Tang

2016

 

 

© Minna vander Pfaltz, 2016