A Free Sample
Posted by Dirck on 11 August, 2014
I’ve been rattling on now about all these stories I’ve been working on. The titles don’t give away much of the sort of thing I’m writing, unlike À la Recherche du Temps Perdu, The Whisperer in the Darkness, or Godzilla vs. The Smog Monster. Well, a small inspiration passed by on the weekend, with the result that I’m going to do some public fictioning with not quiet enough time and nothing like enough editorial oversight.
The inspiration stems from a little thing that Facebook threw at my head. Let me show it to you, in all of its inflammatory glory.
I think I’ve mentioned that I’m not a fan of sexism. Have I? Well, I’m not. This thing got me rather stirred up. I agree with the final sentiment, but little else. Overall, I rather doubt the absolute unanimity of either gender in approaching the purported task. The supposed female response is… well, it’s the expected thing, a reflexive demeaning in response to the centuries of denigration a patriarchal power structure has visited on women which doesn’t actually help because it still puts gender politics in confrontational rather than co-operative terms. That put forward as the male response bugs me because it suggests a lot of layers of brutishness. The commas are quite unnecessary, and suggest either a pile of dummies who aren’t not no good at grammaticals (sic, sic, sic, of course) or a nest of extremely subtle monsters who understand that by rendering the centre of the phrase parenthetical they can imply the nothingness of women regardless of the presence of a man. That’s the same sort of negation that I object to in the “female” version. Bah. Bah to all of it.
Having gotten stirred up, my response is to mess with the task at hand. Can I, a male, apply a different set of punctuation to that phrase? Can I do it in such a way as to not feed into the sad, pointless battle of the sexes?
The answers, as it turns out, are “Yes, with some liberties taken,” and “I believe so, but there’s always someone who can interpret it in a way I hadn’t intended.” In any event, here’s what grew out of affair:
I had idly watched the little park from my apartment window for some time. A game of catch just east of the bike path. A young couple picnicking on the slope to the west, the sincere joy flowing between them more than enough to forgive the hipster look he affected. Cyclists meandered rather than raced along their little pavement. Just the scene for a lazy Sunday afternoon.
I sat longer than I had meant to, the pleasant scene and the soft breeze seducing me away from the dishes in the sink. They needed, I rationalized, a good long soak anyway. I watched the kids at their game, trying to make out any order in the way the ball moved across and about the rough circle of players. Before anything other than fun became obvious, the formation exploded into a game of tag. The one with the ball pursued the others into the trees further to the east.
Looking back at the picnickers, I saw another person approaching their blanket, moving down the little hillock. Tall, but slender and feminine, the newcomer was not really dressed for the park. Dark clothes with a full skirt, and some kind of ornate hat, the brim of which concealed her face. Interested, I watched her walk purposefully to the edge of the blanket, where she dropped on one knee with the grace of a dancer and held out between the couple some small object in an upturned hand. A shadow, thunderstorm dark, fell across all three.
They were surprised by her arrival. Each looked slowly up the out-thrust arm to the face of the newcomer. The young lady rose suddenly to her feet, as awkward as the other had been graceful, took a few steps that could not decide between walking and running, and fell onto her side in the grass where she kicked aimlessly. Her fellow looked back down the arm, absolute amazement on his features. He sat for a moment, rapt, then dropped straight onto his face, sprawling across the lunch he had been sharing.
The dark figure was motionless throughout, but as the man fell, she looked up slowly, as if somehow aware she was being watched. At the moment the brim of the hat would have moved enough to reveal its face I stood, the sweat of panic itching along my spine. I turned to run from the window, a vague notion of calling for help mingling with a more visceral imperative simply to flee that scene.
The dark-clad figure was standing no more than arm’s length from me, looming with a height I had not realized looking from the window. I looked from the splendor of that terrible face, hidden no longer by the hat, down along the slender arm holding the same offering in a delicate hand it had proffered to the couple. I saw, and understood the whole of the weak joke whose punchline is humanity, and the nature of this creature which had come disguised as one of us.
A woman… without. Her! Man is nothing!
…which is, I admit, not much more original than the supposed female response. It’s also rather more overt than I’d usually go for this sort of story. However, it kept me off the street for a while, and it probably gives some hint of the sort of writing I’ve been getting up to. More of a hint than, say, the frequent references to H.P. Lovecraft I make.