Juddering Through, to the Quiet

Image: 'Planet-Forming Disk Around a Baby Star,' by NASA Blueshift on Flickr

[Image: “Planet-Forming Disk Around a Baby Star,” from NASA Blueshift on Flickr. (Used under a Creative Commons license; thank you!) This is an artist’s concept, depicting (says the Flickr description) “a young star surrounded by a dusty protoplanetary disk. This disk contains the raw material that can form planets as the star system matures.” For more information, see the note below.]

From whiskey river:

My friend Suzie told me while I was driving her home from that bar about the real meaning of the blindfolded figure of Justice holding the scales. Suzie was drawing her own tarot cards and rethinking each card as she went. Justice, a book on classical lore asserted, stood at the gates of Hades deciding who would go in, and to go in was to be chosen for refinement through suffering, adventure, transformation, a punishing route to the reward that is the transformed self. It made going to hell seem different. And it suggested that justice is a far more complicated  and incalculable thing than we often imagine, that if everything is to come out even in the end, then the end is farther away than anticipated and far harder to estimate. It suggests too that to reside in comfort can be to have fallen by the wayside. Go to hell, but keep moving once you get there, come out the other side. Finally she drew a group around a campfire as her picture of justice, saying that justice is helping each other on the journey.

(Rebecca Solnit [source])

and:

Of the Seven Deadly Sins, anger is possibly the most fun. To lick your wounds, to smack your lips over grievances long past, to roll over your tongue the prospect of bitter confrontations still to come, to savor to the last toothsome morsel both the pain you are given and the pain you are giving back—in many ways it is a feast fit for a king. The chief drawback is that what you are wolfing down is yourself. The skeleton at the feast is you.

(Frederick Buechner [source])

…and:

Anger, [Evagrius] wrote, is given to us by God to help us confront true evil. We err when we use it casually, against other people, to gratify our own desires for power or control.

(Kathleen Norris [source])

…and:

August

Summer sings its long song, and all the notes are green.
But there’s a click, somewhere in the middle
of the month, as we reach the turning point, the apex,
a Ferris wheel, cars tipping and tilting over the top,
and we see September up ahead, school and schedules
returning. And there’s the first night you step outside
and hear the katydids arguing, six more weeks
to frost, and you know you can make it through to fall.
Dark now at eight, nights finally cooling off for sleep,
no more twisting in damp sheets, hearing mosquitoes’
thirsty whines. Lakes of chicory and Queen Anne’s lace
mirror the sky’s high cirrus. Evenings grow chilly,
time for old sweaters and sweatpants, lying in the hammock
squinting to read in the quick-coming dusk.
A few fireflies punctuate the night’s black text,
and the moonlight is so thick, you could swim in it
until you reach the other side.

(Barbara Crooker [source])

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An Everyday to Make God Belly Laugh

Image: 'Beer Beer Beer - everyday Beer,' by user Marco Verch on Flickr

[Image: “Beer Beer Beer – everyday Beer,” by user Marco Verch on Flickr. (Used here under a Creative Commons license; thank you!) The original of this photo, as well as his other work, can be found at his own Web site.]

From whiskey river (in one of those weeks when I could just link there and say, Read everything):

I want a life that sizzles and pops and makes me laugh out loud. And I don’t want to get to the end, or to tomorrow, even, and realize that my life is a collection of meetings and pop cans and errands and receipts and dirty dishes. I want to eat cold tangerines and sing out loud in the car with the windows open and wear pink shoes and stay up all night laughing and paint my walls the exact color of the sky right now. I want to sleep hard on clean white sheets and throw parties and eat ripe tomatoes and read books so good they make me jump up and down, and I want my everyday to make God belly laugh, glad that he gave life to someone who loves the gift.

(Shauna Niequist [source])

and (italicized portion):

Humans are tuned for relationship. The eyes, the skin, the tongue, ears, and nostrils—all are gates where our body receives the nourishment of otherness. This landscape of shadowed voices, these feathered bodies and antlers and tumbling streams—these breathing shapes are our family, the beings with whom we are engaged, with whom we struggle and suffer and celebrate. For the largest part of our species’ existence, humans have negotiated relationships with every aspect of the sensuous surroundings, exchanging possibilities with every flapping form, with each textured surface and shivering entity that we happened to focus on. All could speak, articulating in gesture and whistle and sigh a shifting web of meanings that we felt on our skin or inhaled through our nostrils or focused with our listening ears, and to which we replied—whether with sounds, or through movements or minute shifts of mood. The color of sky, the rush of waves—every aspect of the earthly sensuous could draw us into a relationship fed with curiosity and spiced with danger.

(David Abram [source])

and:

The mind wants to live forever, or to learn a very good reason why not. The mind wants the world to return its love, or its awareness; the mind wants to know all the world, and all eternity, even God. The mind’s sidekick, however, will settle for two eggs over easy.

The dear, stupid body is as easily satisfied as a spaniel. And, incredibly, the simple spaniel can lure the brawling mind to its dish. It is everlastingly funny that the proud, metaphysically ambitious, clamoring mind will hush if you give it an egg.

Further: While the mind reels in deep space, while the mind grieves or fears or exults, the workaday senses, in ignorance or idiocy, like so many computer terminals printing our market prices while the world blows up, still transcribe their little data and transmit them to the warehouse in the skull. Later, under the tranquilizing influence of fried eggs, the mind can sort through all of these data.

(Annie Dillard [source])

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Forms, Aligning

Image: 'Symmetries: passage2011 - logfiles / GÆG: Thomas Huber & Wolfgang Aichner'

[Image: from the “passage2011” project of artists Thomas Huber and Wolfgang Aichner, undertaken for the Venice Biennale in 2011. (Found on Flickr; used here under a Creative Commons license — thank you!) The two artists built a small wooden boat, “launched” it at Furtschaglboden in the Zillertal Alps — thence dragging it over the Alps to Venice, where they would make their way to the Canale Grande to launch the boat on the water there. The Flickr page’s description says: “After more than three weeks of tireless exertion, the artists reached Lago di Neves in South Tyrol, Italy. From there, they continued their journey via Bozen to Venice. A transport ship conveyed the red boat to the exhibition venue, the Luterana in the Scuola dell’ St. Angelo Custode. Following a christening ceremony, it was launched and proceeded to sink within a few minutes without ever reaching the Canal Grande.” The project’s home page is here; you can read more about it at the English-language Der Spiegel site.]

From whiskey river:

What is the meaning of life? That was all — a simple question; one that tended to close in on one with years. The great revelation had never come. The great revelation perhaps never did come. Instead there were little daily miracles, illuminations, matches struck unexpectedly in the dark; here was one.

(Virginia Woolf [source])

and:

Dear Friend
(excerpt)

Y.

I become each day more reckless,
too impatient for summer, the unbearable heat,
the calm that comes with it. There are no hills here,
not one, and I’m bored with the stillness

of the yellow field outside my window. And you,
who cannot keep still, who can never
look back, where will you go next?
How will I find you?

Can you feel the world pull
apart, the seams loosen?
What, tell me, will keep it whole,

if not you? if not me?
Send a postcard, picture, tell me
how you’ve been.

(Blas Falconer [source])

and (last four lines):

I once had a friend. He had been teaching a long time when I was just starting. He liked telling his students he’d seen them before. In another life, at another school, the same hairline, the same kid brother back home in eighth grade. In class, he gave them obituaries to read. And though we’re no longer close, here is consolation: I still believe in what he was up to: seeing if he could make them dizzy. Suggesting they write their way into or out of the disquieting facts he offered up. Offering the chance to find themselves breathless, to consider themselves a point on a circle falling and rising, falling/drawn up, as the wheel moved, moves, is moving relentlessly on. He wanted them to feel conveyor beneath their feet, when all along they’d assumed they were walking. To consider they might, somehow, for another, be a mark and a measure of vastness. A site.

As he was for me.

What do you see? What aligns? he’s still asking…

Of course, I could say I won’t write about my old friend. And, to be honest, I’d rather not, since I still feel regret and sadness about that loss. But things about him assert here as subject. The obituaries (you’ll see). The dizziness. His belief in the uneasy matter of chaos. It’s all here, important. All-of-a-piece. These lightest of strands, moments, memories unbury. Forms align in each others’ presence.

It’s the noticing that cracks us open, lets something in.
Shows we’re in use.
Uses us.
Right now. Right this minute.

(Lia Purpura [source])

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Senses of Self

Image: 'The Tragedy of 'Dona Ajada' - I - The Headdress,' by José de Almada Negreiros

[Image: “The Tragedy of ‘Dona Ajada’ – I – The Headdress,” by José de Almada Negreiros. This is the first of six lantern slides produced by Almada for a 1929 collaborative multi-media theater piece, with music by Salvador Bacarisse and poems by Manuel Abril. This work was performed only once, on November 29 of that year; according to a recent monograph accompanying an exhibit of Almada’s work at the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum in Lisbon, Portugal, Dona Ajada was a “free adaptation of Lope de Vega’s poem La Gatomaquia (1634), the satire of a classic epic whose principal characters were cats… it seems that Abril and Almada had replaced [the feline female protagonist] for a witch, Dona Ajada, while slightly altering the 17th century plot.” All six slides can be viewed, needless to say, at Flickr as well as other locations around the Web.]

From whiskey river:

We cannot live in a world that is interpreted for us by others.
An interpreted world is not a home.
Part of the terror is to take back our own listening.
To use our own voice.
To see our own light.

(Hildegard of Bingen [source])

and:

…if we watch ourselves we are many people. All day long our field of consciousness is entered by autonomous complexes. If you can recognize them as such, you can steer them, either to keep them out of your system, or by going along with it and knowingly putting it aside again. But if you are possessed, so to speak, it means the complexes enter you involuntary and you act them out involuntary.

(Marie-Louise von Franz [source: see below])

and:

I’ve Been Known

to spread it on thick to shoot off my mouth to get it off my chest
to tell him where
to get off
to stay put to face the music to cut a shine to go under to sell
myself short to play
myself down
to paint the town to fork over to shell out to shoot up to pull a
fast one to go haywire
to take a shine to
to be stuck on to glam it up to vamp it up to get her one better to
eat a little higher
on the hog
to win out to get away with to go to the spot to make a stake to
make a stand to
stand for something to stand up for
to snow under to slip up to go for it to take a stab at it to try out
to go places to play
up to get back at
to size up to stand off to slop over to be solid with to lose my
shirt to get myself off
to get myself off the hook

(Denise Duhamel [source])

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In the Spaces Scattered Among Moments

Image: 'Self-Portrait: Me First, Safety Last #3,' by user MattsFlicks on Flickr.com

[Image: “Self-Portrait: Me First, Safety Last #3,” by user MattysFlicks on Flickr (used here under a Creative Commons license; thank you!). This is actually a composite photo — multiple exposures: “one of the scene, one of myself with the hammer, one of my pried open eye while leaning over my workbench and a bunch of photos of a pair of safety glasses that I cut up using a pair of cable cutters and lineman’s pliers…  I brought everything into Photoshop, assembled the scene, and added some motion blurs, some blood, an umbilical cord, and some babes.” The photographer has posted several more of these staged accidents at Flickr — each capturing an apparent split-second while actually requiring hours of in-between time.]

From whiskey river:

Even in childhood I watched the hours flow, independent of any reference, any action, any event, the disjunction of time from what was not itself, its autonomous existence, its special status, its empire, its tyranny. I remember quite clearly that afternoon when, for the first time, confronting the empty universe, I was no more than a passage of moments reluctant to go on playing their proper parts. Time was coming unstuck from being—at my expense.

(Emil Cioran [source])

and:

Evening Talk

Everything you didn’t understand
Made you what you are. Strangers
Whose eye you caught on the street
Studying you. Perhaps they were the all-seeing
Illuminati? They knew what you didn’t,
And left you troubled like a strange dream.

Not even the light stayed the same.
Where did all that hard glare come from?
And the scent, as if mythical beings
Were being groomed and fed stalks of hay
On these roofs drifting among the evening clouds.

You didn’t understand a thing!
You loved the crowds at the end of the day
That brought you so many mysteries.
There was always someone you were meant to meet
Who for some reason wasn’t waiting.
Or perhaps they were? But not here, friend.

You should have crossed the street
And followed that obviously demented woman
With the long streak of blood-red hair
Which the sky took up like a distant cry.

(Charles Simic [source])

and:

I want you to stop running from thing to thing to thing, and to sit down at the table, to offer the people you love something humble and nourishing, like soup and bread, like a story, like a hand holding another hand while you pray. We live in a world that values us for how fast we go, for how much we accomplish, for how much life we can pack into one day. But I’m coming to believe it’s in the in-between spaces that our lives change, and that the real beauty lies there.

(Shauna Niequist [source])

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Weekend Music Break: Offa Rex, “The Queen of Hearts”

Image: Offa Rex (Olivia Chaney + The Decemberists)

[Offa Rex: Olivia Chaney (third from left) and The Decemberists]

While I’ve known of The Decemberists for years, and appreciate their reputation (among folks whose musical taste I trust) as musical geniuses, innovators, and so on, I confess that I’ve not spent much time listening to them. I should probably be embarrassed, too, never (until now) to have heard of English folkie Olivia Chaney. But plenty of others have heard of her, raved over her songwriting and performance… So as it happens, this “Offa Rex” joint project has given me plenty of opportunity to listen to all of them together.

The Queen of Hearts, says NPR, is “an interpolation of vintage British Isles folk music as filtered through electric guitars and a sinewy rock backbeat. The result is both a tribute and translation, connecting the dots between contemporary indie music and a deeper cultural legacy.” Adds The Guardian:

You’re not going to go far wrong with Chaney — a thrilling singer, the Anne Briggs of her generation — on a set of folk standards, but [The Decemberists’ Colin] Meloy and co also deliver. A shimmering, echoing ambience includes chiming guitars, drones, cello, harpsichord and harmonium; the churning “The Old Churchyard” is a standout.

I can’t think of much to add to either estimation (or, to pick just one more, this). But yes: “The Old Churchyard, especially,” grabbed me from the first listen. And Chaney’s rendition of “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face,” while having almost nothing in common with Roberta Flack’s, can stand right alongside it.

Here’s Offa Rex then, and Queen of Hearts:

The Queen of Hearts

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Not the Weaponry of Reason, But of Pure Submission

'Easy,' by Rob Cruickshank on Flickr.com

[Image: “Easy,” by Rob Cruickshank. Found on Flickr.com; used here under a Creative Commons license (thank you!). No information available, really, although this seems likely to have been taken in the Hamilton, Ontario area.]

From whiskey river:

Terns

Don’t think just now of the trudging forward of thought,
but of the wing-drive of unquestioning affirmation.

It’s summer, you never saw such a blue sky,
and here they are, those white birds with quick wings,

sweeping over the waves,
chattering and plunging,

their thin beaks snapping, their hard eyes
happy as little nails,

The years to come—this is a promise—
will grant you ample time

to try the difficult steps in the empire of thought
where you seek for the shining proofs you think you must have.

But nothing you ever understand will be sweeter, or more binding,
than this deepest affinity between your eyes and the world.

The flock thickens
Over the rolling, salt brightness. Listen,

maybe such devotion, in which one holds the world
in the clasp of attention, isn’t the perfect prayer,

but it must be close, for the sorrow, whose name is doubt,
is thus subdued, and not through the weaponry of reason,

but of pure submission. Tell me, what else
could beauty be for? And now the tide

is at its very crown,
the white birds sprinkle down,

gathering up the loose silver rising
as if weightless. It isn’t instruction, or parable.

It isn’t for any vanity or ambition
except for the one allowed, to stay alive.

It’s only a nimble frolic
over the waves. And you find, for hours,

you cannot even remember the questions
that weigh so in your mind.

(Mary Oliver [source])

and (in slightly different words):

Whatever exists in us is a natural situation. It is another dimension of natural beauty. People sometimes go to great lengths to appreciate nature, by climbing mountains, going on safari to see giraffes and lions in Africa, or taking a cruise to Antarctica. It is much simpler and more immediate to appreciate the natural beauty of ourselves. This is actually far more beautiful than flora and fauna, far more fantastic, far more painful, colorful, and delightful.

(Chögyam Trungpa [source])

and:

Seven in the Woods

Am I as old as I am?
Maybe not. Time is a mystery
that can tip us upside down.
Yesterday I was seven in the woods,
a bandage covering my blind eye,
in a bedroll Mother made me
so I could sleep out in the woods
far from people. A garter snake glided by
without noticing me. A chickadee
landed on my bare toe, so light
she wasn’t believable. The night
had been long and the treetops
thick with a trillion stars. Who
was I, half-blind on the forest floor
who was I at age seven? Sixty-eight
years later I can still inhabit that boy’s
body without thinking of the time between.
It is the burden of life to be many ages
without seeing the end of time.

(Jim Harrison [source])

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Caught Unawares

Image: 'Your Reflection May Be You,' by Simon Matzinger on Flickr

[Image: “Your reflection may be you,” by Simon Matzinger. Found on Flickr and used here under a Creative Commons license. (Thank you!)]

From whiskey river:

If you knew what was going to happen, if you knew everything that was going to happen next — if you knew in advance the consequences of your own actions — you’d be doomed. You’d be as ruined as God. You’d be a stone. You’d never eat or drink or laugh or get out of bed in the morning. You’d never love anyone, ever again. You’d never dare to.

(Margaret Atwood [source])

and:

Imagine that one day you are out for a walk in the woods. Suddenly you see a small spaceship on the path in front of you. A tiny Martian climbs out the spaceship and stands on the ground looking up at you…

What would you think? Never mind, it’s not important. But have you ever given any thought to the fact that you are a Martian yourself?

It is obviously unlikely that you will ever stumble upon a creature from another planet. We do not even know that there is life on other planets. But you might stumble upon yourself one day. You might suddenly stop short and see yourself in a completely new light. On just such a walk in the woods.

I am an extraordinary being, you think. I am a mysterious creature.

You feel as if you are waking from an enchanted slumber. Who am I? you ask. You know that you are stumbling around on a planet in the universe. But what is the universe?

If you discover yourself in this manner you will have discovered something as mysterious as the Martian we just mentioned. You will not only have seen a being from outer space. You will feel deep down that you are yourself an extraordinary being.

(Jostein Gaarder [source])

and:

Psychologists and psychiatrists are moving from their traditional hostility to ecstasy to an understanding that it’s often good for us. Much of our personality is made up of attitudes that are usually subconscious. We drag around buried trauma, guilt, feelings of low self-worth. In moments of ecstasy, the threshold of consciousness is lowered, people encounter these subconscious attitudes, and are able to step outside of them. They can feel a deep sense of love for themselves and others, which can heal them at a deep level. Maybe this is just an opening to the subconscious, maybe it’s a connection to a higher dimension of spirit — we don’t know… The journey beyond the self is not safe or predictable. On the other hand, staying in the self also has its risks — boredom, staleness, sterility, despair. Ultimately, there’s something in us that calls to us, that pulls us out the door.

(Jules Evans, thrive [source])

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The Fourth, Revisited

Those of you who haven’t visited the site much probably won’t know about my two “big” Independence Day posts. I thought I’d reprise them today:

  • The first, from 2008, appeared just a few months after I’d started this blog. The subject, in those innocent times a few months before Barack Obama was elected: certain similarities between the political atmosphere then, and the counterpart in 1776… as represented by a selection from the Broadway musical, 1776. The song: “Cool, Cool Considerate Men.” (Just the few lyrics excerpts there should be enough to convince you that not a whole lot has changed since then — at least, not for the better.) On a trivia note: this was the first RAMH post to include a little audio-player thingumabob for embedding music in a blog entry.
  • The second, from 2012, melded a bit of personal history about patriotic parades with some background information about the marches of John Philip Sousa. By that time, as you will see, I’d gotten over all shyness about incorporating music in my posts.

…and of course, if you’re so inclined, feel free to visit my post of a few hours ago. It, too, has some things to say about the occasion celebrated in the US today. Sorry, no music for that one.

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Red, White, Blue: A Holiday Fiction

Red.

The President emerged from his private Oval Office bathroom, rubbing his hands together. It didn’t help right away; they dripped on the carpet. Not his problem, though. He had people, after all — people whose only job was to sop up spills at his feet, dry the doorknobs behind him, hand him towels before he touched anything that might not shed water, or might later reveal a handprint. Documents of state. The hands of dignitaries and friends. Women. Whatever.

It was a problem in this joint, a serious problem if you asked him. Back home, in fact at any of his homes and he had a lot of homes, all right?, back home he had people in the bathroom who’d stop him as soon as he stood up, turned away from the sink, stepped out of the shower, whatever — dry him off, make him presentable to all the squeamish dopes he might come into contact with before the water and other things could evaporate or be patted away. But here in this place, wow, how did his predecessors live like this, anyway for even four goddam years? Probably some rule, some budget restriction that needed approval from the sneaky cocksuckers on Capitol Hill.

Unusually, nobody else was in the Oval Office right then. Good. He needed to pull himself together, get a grip on something before he faced anyone else — the something that had greeted him, shocked the hell out of him, when he peed just now.

The red.

Blood, all right? He knew blood. He was used to drawing it from people who got in his way. He saw it on TV, on those movies they make. Back in his school days, he saw it flowing from the nose and lower lip of a guy who’d jumped him. Yeah. That other guy had hit him first, which nobody else cares about when they tell the story, and he’d just given that guy what he asked for, and yeah, all right?, that guy’s blood was there, then, sure. But blood wasn’t supposed to come from him, the President, the Honcho. If you cut him he’d do only one thing and that was cut you back, and you better believe it, cut you back.

He couldn’t tell anybody about it. He couldn’t see a doctor about this, couldn’t breathe a word of it into the air of anyone who might hear it, which was to say, of anyone. Not his wife or his kids. Nobody. It was like his mentor once said to him: Never let them see you bleed. And then, because that left the door open to other possibilities, he’d added: Never let them know you can bleed. Ice water, not blood, right?

Smart man, his mentor. And he didn’t care what they said, that smart bastard was no queer.

No, he couldn’t mention the blood, because once he did he’d be dead. That person would tell somebody else, or that person would write it down where it could be read by somebody else who would then tell somebody else, all the way up and down the chain. And the way things worked in this fucking city, everybody in the goddam world would know about it by the end of the week, and then he’d be dead. Might as well be. Unfair. Newspapers, fucking media… He patted his jacket pocket, but oh, that’s right — they’d taken his phone away, changed his passwords. No outlet there.

He just had to tough it out. It’d go away. It was just something he ate, something he drank. The goddam food in this place, right? Mexican chef, he was pretty sure, or maybe a Frenchie, Chinaman, one of those. It’d pass, whatever it was. He was the goddam President.

White.

He had a fellow who worked for him now, did all kinds of odd jobs, ran errands, tied his tie, opened doors. Never came with him back to New York or to Florida, just stayed right here and waited for him, the President, to return. He couldn’t take the guy with him to those other places, they wouldn’t understand. They’d talk. Guy was a queer, he was pretty sure — the only person in the White House, as far as he knew, who ever used that goddam creepy transgender bathroom his predecessor had installed. And on top of that, the fellow was black. A Negro, right? African-American. Afro-American, whatever they hell they called themselves now.

Well, this fellow who worked for him was in the Oval Office one day, standing along the wall like he did, at attention or whatever. Like a flagpole. Sculpture. Piece of furniture, something you didn’t have to deal with or even pay attention to. Also in the office at the moment was his counselor, his — what’d the Guidos say? — oh yeah, his consigliere. And the consigliere was going on the way he’d started doing, getting a little full of himself in fact, some days he didn’t think the guy would ever shut up, and jeezus could he have a more annoying laugh? But the guy was going on, blah blah blah, and then he said it. He said: Don’t forget, we gotta give the niggers something, too. And then he stopped and raised an index finger and waggled his hairy goddam eyebrows over the top of his glasses and then he pointed at him, the President, and added, No, correction, you gotta give them something. And then the goddam laugh again.

The President looked away from his counselor, over to the fellow who worked for him. Guy didn’t even flinch. Or maybe he’d flinched already, but fast so you couldn’t catch him in the act. Sometimes they were like that — one way when you’re looking, a different way when you weren’t.

But then the guy did something — maybe it was nothing, maybe it wasn’t nothing, who knew. He didn’t flinch, but he twitched. And not twitched his face, or a shoulder, or his body. It was almost invisible, real fast, just one little flick of that one finger, the middle one… He wasn’t even sure he’d even seen it, and he looked up at the guy’s face thinking he’d catch him looking embarrassed or something. But embarrassed, well, who even knows if they get embarrassed? It’s not like they blush or anything, right?

Tell you one thing. It was funny at first, all right? It was funny and it was fun, this whole thing. Being President. Signing, signing, signing. He was a signing monster in the early days. He’d write his name, hold it up so the cameras could show he signed it himself and didn’t use pre-signed stationery or automatic signing machines or any of that crap. All those people standing behind him, grinning. He got along with those people, with everybody who got along with him, all right? He was a lot more genuine than they all thought. Really real, you know? And so he’d sign all that stuff, and somebody would take it away, and he didn’t know what happened to it after that but the way the left-wing dopes screamed maybe it was being shoved up their keisters. He hoped so. And he could feel the country changing under him, behind him, and that was good, right?

His counselor was still talking. Talk, talk, talk. He waved the guy away, out of the office. Shut the door behind you, right? He looked over to the fellow who worked for him. Still a statue. Not a twitch. Maybe something in his eyes, something the President had never seen in a statue…

But then it was gone, and the President’s attention turned to other things.

Blue.

They all thought he had enemies, the President knew. And yeah, okay, he might even have used the word enemies a few times himself, back in the days when he could still use his phone.

But he didn’t really have enemies. He just had pains in the ass.

And the worst of all the pains in the ass were the liberals, the lefties, the fuckers who controlled the newspapers and the media and the other countries and even the companies and all the people who’d turned against him. They had to be behind it, because who would turn against him otherwise? He was great at what he did, right? Lies. They just lied about him, constantly. All the time. And they were lying about his so-called enemies, but if any of them had said pains in the ass instead, he’d have nodded like he was agreeing. And then he’d have pointed right back at them.

Democrats. Bastard turncoat Republicans, the weak shits. “Independents,” and who the hell knew who else was in the mix. Communists, anarchists, socialists, bomb-throwers, queers and women, African-Americans and Mexicans, Canadians, Muslims, the plain old goddam people anymore — the people who used to talk about him in the old days, talk about him all the time, in titty bars and in their kitchens and at baseball games and after church and in schools…

Ungrateful pains in the ass, all of them. They think he was doing all this for fun? No, he wasn’t doing this for fun. He was doing this for them, and so they’d know he was doing it for them — for their outspoken knowing. Applauding or bitching, he didn’t care back then, right?

The hell with them. He didn’t care anymore, either. Because they didn’t care. They were all talking about other shit. March Madness. Report cards. TV shows, and they couldn’t even talk about his TV show anymore because the bastards had pulled the plug on that two years ago. Food prices, gas prices, toilet fucking paper prices. Didn’t they know who he was? Didn’t they know what he could do to them?

His, what was it, counselor… no, his consigliere had quit, saying publicly that he had personal reasons but privately that he was just “tired.” (Tired, the weakling.) The fellow who used to stand at attention in the Oval Office when the President didn’t have anything else for him to do — he was gone, too. Took a research job with the National Science Foundation, the guy told him with a smirk on his face, he knew it was a smirk, and he didn’t understand that at all because he thought he’d signed something in the early days that canceled the National Science Foundation, hadn’t he? (He himself couldn’t check on the Internet anymore because they still wouldn’t let him have a phone but he’d ask one of the kids to look it up and tell him, answer the question: did he pull the plug on The Egghead Show or didn’t he?) The Vice-President was still around somewhere, but probably out of town the way he always was anymore. Making speeches, visiting Capitol Hill and K Street, with his tie all tied and his hair close cropped and his jacket buttoned in front. Posture of a phony, that one. Keeping his own hands clean, the bastard. Never trusted him. Never.

No. He was alone now. Nobody was looking, nobody was listening.

Talk shows had other things to talk about.

Comedians joked about married life.

Cab drivers bitched about traffic and pedestrians.

Pains in the ass. Everygoddambody. He’d show them yet. He was the President, and they’d remember him all right. He was the President.

He pulled the drawer of his desk open, and reached inside.

______________________

Copyright 2017 by John E. Simpson. Feel free to make use of this piece however you’d like; that said, please include this copyright notice in the reusing work. I’d appreciate it, too, if you could include a link to the story’s original posting on my site, at this URL: https://johnesimpson.com/blog/2017/07/red-white-blue-a-holiday-fiction/ — but I won’t unleash the lawyers on you if you skip that step.

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