Tuesday, September 12, 2017

The Future



Artistic revolutions make the future from heresy,
What is unbelievable today, or on the sinners' wheel,
Is tomorrow normal, and the next day, passe,
Despite the vapid, faithful adherent's zeal.

Till the next revolution. The wheel turns, on thou,
Grinding on thine normal reckoning of what is and should be.
The faithful of the flame, once knowing, and now,
Tossed aside, the dead of the past, unconvincingly.

So move, and move again. Will you go? Forward!
To new paths and souls and signs and religions.
Who does not progress, indeed, progresses backward,
Or stays. In lost and hopeless, forgotten regions.

On? Or up? Or off? Or nether?
Beats me. The future is, as always, omniscient.
So. Why not go off to it together?
On a calm day, and a cruel. And one so heaven sent.

To the future. Take my hand.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Hate Me Later

I’ve got it. I’ve been thinking of this for, like, thousands of years or something. It’s philosophical time, why not? It’s like Deep Thought, now that I think of it. The grand collection of billions of brains working trillions of brain-years on a simple problem.

Who should we hate?

Or, more specifically, what should we do with all of the hate that is already within us? I hate, you hate, and we all hate aplenty. There’s no besting the human race in the hate department. God, we hate people over chemicals in their skins. How mindless is that? And don’t pretend that you don’t. The hate’s there. Even when you play games that it’s not. You're not fooling anybody.

Why not put hate on a payment plan. I mean, that’s what we do with everything else, right? No money down? 30 easy payments? Monthly installments? Pieces of amortized cake? Buy now, pay later? It’s the American dream! All actions! No consequences!

Don’t like me? Fine! Hate me later. Your skin’s not the right hue to do? Well, I’ll hate you later. Right now we’ve got other cats to pet. I need to work with you even though you are a jackass idiot who probably, unjustifiable, thinks the same of me? Sure. I’ll hate you later. For now let’s suck it up and work together, OK?

You’re a woman and whenever some guy says boo to you they’re “Mansplaining?” Get over yourself, Sister. Just say, “Yes, Pal. I get it,” and get on with it. Hate the prick later. For now? Deal with it. She deals best who deals pragmatically.

You’re a guy and some woman’s giving you orders because she’s, like, the boss or something? Snivel on your own time, man-baby. Hate‘r later. Now? Do your fucking job like she’s fucking doing hers. And thank her if she’s a good boss. Those are precious hard to find, no matter what’s in their pants. Take orders from anybody who’s on your side.

They wear funny clothes? Guess what! Your clothes are funny to them. Hate them later. Right now, work together. Burka, pants suit, leisure suit, robes, burkini, butt naked. Who the fuck cares? Hate ‘em later. Now? Dig wells. Build schools. Bring peace. Hate can wait.

Can’t speak the same language? Find a new one! DeutchRus? ChinEnglish? FrancSwahili? You can certainly come up with common words for Meat, Bread, I love you, Look out for that bear! What’s your sign? and, Why did we used to hate each other, again? It’s amazing how flexible linguistics can be. Just follow Twitter. Hate? Hate can take a back seat to understanding.

If you’re an asshole and you happen to be black. Well, black, white, yellow, green, whatever. I’ll hate you for that later. Right now I just have to deal with your assholery, like every other asshole on the planet. That is universal. Color is incidental. And are you positive that the other person is the asshole? There are other candidates in the room, you know…

And somewhere down the line while we’re putting off all that hate to another day while trying to get along with and understand everybody else, we may just forget to hate anybody. Now wouldn’t that beat all?

The Hug

Coco!

A little girl is playing on her cell phone, some kind of game or nonsense. The girl with the electronic buddy. She buzzes along on her app, game, thing and does not notice that someone is calling her name.

I'm sitting nearby, back stage. At a play we are both in. In a community theater. I'm waiting for my entrance que. So is she. She plays on with her distraction machine. I look for mischief.

Coco, I say again.

Hmm?

Watcha doing? I bring my head next to hers and look at the phone screen. It dances with color and oblivion.

Playing.

Oh. Playing what?

A game.

OK. I sit up and look around the theater back stage, making sure my costume is alright and my makeup is not smudged, or properly smudged, if that's what it's supposed to be. It's ages in theater time till my entrance. Idle hands are the devil's play things. I can come up with a game of my own, little Miss!

Coco, I say, for a third time. I just can't stand sitting there, doing nothing.

Hmmm?

Whatcha doing? I stick my head between her head and the veil of shadows in her lap. She balks. Quit it!

OK. I jump back, breathing in another waft of back stage time.

You wanna see something, Coco?

What?

Something special.

What special?

It's the most special thing in the Universe!

Coco missed a beat on her game.

Huh?

Almost.

Coco's mom has been eyeing me, suspiciously, as all good moms should, from a couch in the corner next to the fuse box and an ancient ice cream machine that nobody knows why is there. She looks dubious. The next step: Kill.

Coco. What's the most special, important thing in the world? Besides ice cream.

I dunno. Mom?

Moms are good. You've got me there.

K. Coco isn't really into the conversation. I'm not into the silence.

Got a hug for me?

I can feel the female defense pheromones pouring out of Mom. Not My Little Girl!

No. It's the best thing in the world. It's the first thing in the world. It's the only thing in the world. Got a hug for me?

Reluctantly, and under the trigger sharpened laser beam eyes of Mom, Coco gives me a hug.

It's the first thing anybody feels, I tell her. The hug inside of your mother. Right there. Where her hands meet over her tummy. And we hug her back, as best we can. And we want it for the rest of our lives. And we are conflicted when it is not there. Why? Where? Mom?

Coco?

Hmmm?

A hug is at the beginning. At the after. At the now. We are forever hugging our world, our friends, our selves. We celebrate the time when you were me. When you and I were one and the Universe was perfect, placid, and serene. Before we became the I and the Thou. And so we hug.

Coco looks confused. Mom looks non-plussed. I look philosophical, whatever that means.

Give me a hug, little Miss. For that is all that is.

The Phones

So, I decided to come into the twenty first century for a bit of novelty. I cancelled my old, hand crank, candlestick, land line phone and upgraded to an alleged smart phone. I kept my carrier, AT&T because, well, I still remember when they were the Phone Company and I have nostalgia for Ma Belle, ringey-dingey, and all that (now, who remembers that reference?)

So, the AT&T store person filled me in on all the options, laid before my feet like virgins on the precipice of a volcano. I decided on a Samsung 3 something phone because it would fit in my pocket and still give me the portable power of the gods that I so richly deserved. I had seen Harryhausen movies. What could go wrong?

The Phone Chores looked up and said, Eh?

The phone lady said that they didn't have the latest glorious incarnation of the Galactic 3 phone but that I could just go buy one from Walmart, bring it back, and they could imbue it with the fire of the gods for me. I wanted to be sure I had a current vessel of imbuing.

And here the Phone Chorus sang out: Gods don't just imbue anybody with anything. Take my word for it.

So I went and bought a Samsung 3 something phone from Walmart and brought it back to Ma Belle. I specifically asked, Is this the right phone? Of course! she said, and did all the magic, configuring my new phone, creating a brand new vessel of prayer and supplication, ex nihilo, and Poof! I was connected to the Ethereal Heights!

I could call people. The Phone Chorus smirked.

So, I went home and started adding the shrines to the lesser deities; Google, Facebook, Email. And the minor helper spirits from the Halls of App; flashlight, Uber,  Hulu. And all was good.

The Phone Chorus looked at each other and shrugged.

Until. I had one function that didn't work. So I went back to the Temple of Telecommunication and asked, What gives? I had presented my supplications to the Oracle of Google, but to no avail. So the Priestesses of Belle laid their hands upon my holy relic and drove out the demons of miscommunication. Or they found the right option in settings, maybe. I didn't care. As long as I could connect its blue teeth to my car and play show tunes. So I was on my way.

He'll be back, intoned the Phone Chorus.

Another time I couldn't use voice mail, so they exorcised that malicious spirit. Then, today, I couldn't access the Internet without a hotspot, even though I was paying for a Trinity of Gigs every month. So back to the techno-temple to supplicate, Um, why doesn't the damn thing work?

The Phone Chorus sang out; What, miracles you expected?

This time I got a real answer. I had the wrong phone.

Huh?

The phone I had was for Verizon. It was not compatible with AT&T. Then why didn't they catch that little theological heresy two weeks ago when I specifically asked if I had the right phone, and send me back to get the right phone instead of this abomination to the high heavens?

It was at this point that the Phone Chorus started singing about what jerks the gods are.

So I brought my pathetic, Protestant Verizon phone back to Walmart and asked to transsubstantiate it into a holy, Catholic phone, which they did after expressing righteous indignation that AT&T was even able to get the damned thing to work at all. Black magic must have been in there someplace. You have to have the underworld to be a good story.

The Phones chirped something about hubris and call waiting.

So now, I have the right engine of supplication, 24/7, in my pocket. My own household god accepting my worship and milliwatts of power in return for 4G, Internet, Google, Voice and data, email, and all the modern liturgy of the congregation of the faithful.

And the Phone Chorus sang about connection errors, or something. Fucking frogs.

The Phones, Reprise

So, the gods granted poor Oedipus salvation, 4g, voice, and a thinking machine in the Macintosh. I should be suspicious. And so it is.

And the phones sing out: You thought we were done with you, huh?

I get a call from a robot. My mourning is interrupted by my TARDIS ring tone (Look! My ride is here!)

The Phones smirk. Karmic humor is our business, Bozo.

Madam robot informs me that she is not a telemarketer, prank call, or Nigerian Prince(ss.) She's just giving me a friendly reminder that my cyclical payment is past due. The one for the very phone I am being reprimanded on by her. I can stay on the line, exchange gold, place my first born, bound, on a hilltop, or avenge wrongs done against the gods in payment, though a credit card would work, too. Please have your phone number and last four digits of your Sosh ready. An agent will take your call directly.

Phones: Ya. We're bureaucratic, too. You should see the paperwork.

Tacky phone music plays. And an ad for something I, surprisingly, already own.
Hello! I'm Valerie. How can I help you? What do you know? A Madam Person!

Phones: Hah! Now the slaughter commences.

Oh, hello. I've been an at&t customer since it was AT&T. Back when Lily Tomlin was in diapers. Recently I upgraded to a smart phone with all the trimmings. I thought my account was already set up to charge my KarmaKard for monthly payments. It looks like something didn't hook up right.
No problem. I can set that up for you. We're sorry for the inconvenience.

The Phones were off shooting craps in an alley.

Madam Person Valerie brings up my account. Checks for unforgivable sins, or maybe credit score, then takes my incantation, full name, expiration date, security code, next of kin.
Great! I'll just rustle up the billing elementals... This will just take a moment.

The Phones say: Yah. Right.

Time passes, as is it's want.

And passes.

And wants.

Gee, said Madam Human. This is taking longer than usual. I make small talk. Her accent sounds southern, so I say I hope she missed the hurricanes. She says she did. I say I'm in New England and might get a brizzle tomorrow. That's a bit of a drizzle. She responds..., respondingly.

The Phones are like: Come on. You Mortals aren't supposed to, like, get along or relate to each other as real people or stuff. IRONIC BETRAYALS! Don't you sock puppets read the classics?

Valerie comes back and says the billing system is down. She is very sorry but I am welcome to call back later or go online if I have an account. I thank her and we exchange niceties as humans in a chaotic world are want to do. That's what makes the world nice.

The Phones look glum. What, no Peloponnesian war? No blood feud started solely on a misunderstanding? No jealous gods shoving it down each others throats?

Fuck, I need a real job.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

A Moment of Silence



At 1:00 O'clock, Saturday, August 26, 2017, a service commenced at the chapel at Pomfret School, Pomfret, Connecticut, in memory of Bob Sloat. He was a retired teacher from Pomfret School, a talented, active member of the community who inspired and befriended all he met, and a genuinely loving person. I knew him from my activity at the Bradley Playhouse where Bob was a founding member, president emeritus, and often conducted the orchestra for musicals. He was also involved with the tech, such as lights, and mentored many people in technology, such as me.

Unsurprisingly, the chapel was packed. At the same time the cast and crew of the Little Mermaid assembled on stage for a moment of silence. If we could have, every one of us would have been there, too. Room capacity be damned. So we paid our respects the best way we knew. By getting dressed in our costumes, putting on makeup, doing warmups, pre show hugs and kisses, making sure our spotlights were in working order, mic checks, making popcorn, greeting patrons, ushering people to their seats, and generally preparing for a first class show to give to our audience, as Bob would have wanted.

And we paused from our theater hubbub. Cast. Crew. Orchestra. Lobby staff. Theater management. Whoever could. And were silent. For Bob.

In silence we meet a fearsome foe. And a fickle friend. Memory. So we remembered.

It is said that the worst thing about losing someone is not in the grief that he is gone. It's in all the days after when he stays gone.

We remember.



Now conduct the choirs of Heaven, Bob.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

The Bed - A Story of Redemption



A girl wakes up in bed with an older man, who is sitting up and cradling her head in his arm. She assumes he seduced her. She jumps up. “I need a rape kit! What happened to me? What did you do to me?”
He says nothing happened to her.
“Why am I here?”
“Because you’re not anywhere else.”
“I don’t remember anything.”
“You wouldn’t. I was in the bar at the casino downstairs last night. I saw someone slip something into your drink. Soon you got woozy and your escort ‘guided’ you toward the elevator. So I followed and got in with you. As soon as the door closed I told him that you were my daughter and that the police were on their way here. If he wanted a quick fuck and a dump in an alley, he’d better go someplace else. You weren’t worth it. I suggested he get off at the next floor. He did. Men who drug women are notorious cowards.
“I took you to my room. By then you were convulsing. You were crying. You were crying out in pain. I was afraid you might choke on your own vomit, so I put you in bed and lay down next to you. I waited until you were at peace.”
“I suppose you’re going to say that you did something wonderful? That you saved me?”
“No.”
That you did something awesome. You kept me from being raped?”
“No.”
As it were, she had been raped the night before. He saved her this night only. He suspected as much.
“Did you rape me today?”
“Do you feel raped?”
“No.”
“Then, no.”
“I can scream rape!”
“I can scream ice cream!”
“So, what are you gonna do? I go to the bar. Men buy me drinks. Some give me drugs. I wake up in a ditch. So what? What the fuck is it to you?”
“Nothing. Nothing at all.”
“I’m on top of my life.”
“Of course you are.”
“I know what I’m doing.”
“Of course you do.”
“Why are you fucking doing that?”
“What?”
“Agreeing with me!”
“I’ll stop if you want.”
“What happened?”
“You were drugged. I saved you.”
“If it wasn’t for you...”
“If it wasn’t for me you’d be in an alley somewhere. Or, if you were lucky, a clinic treating your overdose with a quick pound of plasma and you’d be on your way, primed for another night.”
“Fuck you. Who are you? Some kind of preacher? I suppose you’re going to tell me I’m a sinner or something.”
“No. I’m the guy who scraped you up from a drug fueled molestation and brought you here. You’re free to go back to the rape blackout any time you want to, of course. Don’t forget your kit.”
“Really. Who are you?”
“Nobody. Somebody. Just a man.”
“You’re not just a man. I know men. And they are nothing like you.”
“Then I should be pleased to be not one of them.”
“Who asked you to get involved?”
“Nobody.”
“Why did you?”
“I don’t know.”
“Then fuck off.”
“OK.”
She ran to the bathroom. Then she realized she was still fully clothed. So was her rescuer.
She came back.
“You didn’t do anything to me?”
“Yes, I did.”
“What?”
“I convinced a pathetic cocktail lounge rapist to leave you alone. Then I guided you to my room and put you to bed. You were in danger of choking to death on your own vomit so I lay next to you and watched until you were at peace. Is that a crime?”
“I’m fully clothed.”
“Yes, you are.”
“Why didn’t you undress me?”
“Because you are not my daughter.”
“Where are my cigarettes?”
“You’re out.”
“Can you get me some?”
“I can. I won’t.”
“What did you do to me?”
“Rescued you. You mind?”
“Yes! I’m a big girl. I don’t need any do-gooder Midwest preacher running my life.”
“So when you wake up in the alley, barely any cloths, no purse, ID, cigarettes, what do you do then?”
“I’ve got a locker. I keep my important stuff there.”
“Clever. Efficient. Where do you keep the key?”
“UP MY CUNT!”
“At least it’s not lonely.”
“That was funny. God, I need a cigarette.”
“Wrong deity to ask.”
“Will you…! I suppose you locked the doors somehow. You’re a psycho killer with a limp dick who just gets off on grabbing girls and fucking with their heads like you can’t with their twats.”
“Door’s unlocked. And, no. You’re not in a cabin in Montana. You’re not in the basement of some picture perfect house in suburbia. Noone’s going to call and say, ‘Quick. Get out. He’s in the house with you!’ I won’t ask you to put on any lotion. You’re in Las Vegas. In the same hotel as the bar you went catting around in last night.”
“OK. So what? Now I suppose you’re going to tell me I’ll get pregnant or catch some disease or shit like that?”
“I assume you already know all that.”
“You know what I did last Saturday? I went around to all the bars starting around 2:00 in the afternoon to see how many times I could get fucked. What do you think of that?”
“How many?”
“I don’t remember.”
“OK. So instead of a fuck buddy you have a fuck battalion. Do you want me to judge you? Or be impressed?”
“You haven’t said it.”
“What?”
“The name.”
“Name?”
“The name they always call people like me. Slut. Whore. Scuzzy pussy. Fucking cunt. Bar virus. Go on. Call me a skank.”
“Why would I want to do that?”
“I don’t know. Guys love to do that shit. They’re more than happy to sniff around our snatches and scuzz them up for us, then we’re rotten meat. You’re all hypocrites.”
“I can’t argue with you there.”
“Will you stop agreeing with me!?”
“No.”
“Guys have it great.”
“Do we?”
“Yes, you do. You can fuck all the women you want to and never be called a man-slut. Never humiliated on the school ground or talked about around the office It’s always the girls fault. And shame. It’s like, guys don’t count anyway. Who cares where you stick your dicks? Male? Female? Animal, mineral, vegetable? Nobody gives a shit. But women? Woah! Don’t damage the merchandise, missy. Some man might not want you if your flap is broken.
 “The Cove.”
“Hmm?”
“The Cove. When I was a little girl I lived on a street going down to a cove. There were boys and girls on the street. We used to come out after dinner and play. Down by the cove. Along the water. In the woods behind our houses. In the streets with chalk and games of hide and seek.
“Little boys. Little girls. We were all friends. The girls giggled and thought the boys were funny. We liked being around them. It was fun. I’d fall asleep remembering some silly antic of one of the boys or other. Walking out on a fallen tree branch over a muddy pond. Falling in. Getting us all dirty and scaring us. Acting all clean and pure and yelling, ‘Gross! Get away from us!’ Trying to scare us and put toads on us. Stupid tricks. We loved them.
“It all changes when their dicks ripen.”
“Cunts don’t ripen, too?”
“Cunts ripen. Yes.”
“When the cat’s away, the mice dance.”
“Hmm?”
“An old proverb. Do you really want to get back at men? Is that what an unknown number of fucks last Saturday are all about?”
“What do you mean? Yah, why not. They fucked me. But I can’t fuck them back. We can never fuck guys back the way they fuck us. Those are the man-rules in the Maniverse.”
“No. You can’t. You can only choose to put your crotches in their paths as a lure and watch them jump like frogs on a log.
“You mentioned the Midwest. But here we are. Las Vegas. Where are you from, originally?”
“Oh, God dammit. Do you want me to get all weepy about where I grew up and how much I hated my fucking mother and shit like that?”
“Shit like that. If you like.”
“Sure. I grew up in Scott City, Kansas. The belly button on the beer belly of America.
“I thought you grew up by a cove? Not too many coves in Kansas.”
“We moved a few times. Cove time was when I was little. Kansas time was later.”
“And was it better?”
“Fuck. Junior high varsity. Cheerleading. Jesus Christ, chess club champion. I played the flute. Oh, I was in the photography club, too. Back when it was all chemistry. Well, enlarging photos, at least. The pictures were digital. Developer. Stop bath. Fixer. All that old school stuff. Photoshop is overrated. If you don’t know how to do it manually, you’ll never be good at it digitally. Our advisor, Mr. Darkson…”
“Yes? Mr. Darkson?”
“Never mind. God dammit. God fucking dammit. Why are you fucking making me do this? What did I do? What did I do to you?”
“So, what else was memorable in Scott City, Kansas?”
“The pool. In the center of town. It was a place to go in the summer. Me and my friends would swim around. Get a soda. Or a tonic, I think they called it there. Flirt with the boys.”
“And?”
“And play games. Geesh, you know? Spin the bottle? Feel up the girl? Accidentally brush against her pubes. Pull back and act all shocked while giggling? Teen age sex, alright?”
“Alright.”
“Not like you never did that shit.”
“Never said I didn’t.”
“It was fun. It was… enticing. It was, uh…, I liked it, OK?”
“OK. Forbidden fruit. You still liked the antics of the boys. You still liked to act scared by a toad and squeamish by the mud. No harm in that. So what brought you from teenage sex play to seeing how many times you can get fucked on a Saturday?”
“God. I’ve got to get out of here.”
“Door’s over there.”
“And what do you expect from me?”
“Not to slam it on your way out.”
“And what do you want to take from me?”
“Nothing.”
“Honestly? Everybody wants something or is selling something or is stealing something. What the fuck are you?”
“A friend.”
“Ha. Well, friend. Just mind your own friendly fucking business, will you?
“I wouldn’t be much of a friend if I did that, now would I?”
“Fuck. I do it to forget.”
“Forget? Forget what? What do you do?”
“Drink. Get drugged. Pass out. Wake up in a ditch with a sore pussy. I guess the fucking is payment for the free oblivion.”
“And what do you want to forget?”
“Everything…
“Julie.”
“What?”
“My name. Julie.”
“I am pleased to meet you, Julie.”
“I thought it was important.”
“Thought what important?”
“To tell you my name. I don’t tell anybody my name when I’m…”
“Yes.”
“I say I’m Sunshine or Baby or Esmerelda. You know, A stripper name. I hide behind it.”
“A name is who we are. Or who we aren’t. Julie. It’s a nice name. Thank you for trusting me with it. You should use it more often.”
“What time is it?”
“2:00 O’clock.”
“AM or PM?”
“PM.”
“I should be going.”
“Where?”
“Anywhere! Away from here. Away from you, Bud. To where I belong.”
“Where do you belong?”
“Not here.”
“’Not here’ is not a place.”
“Fuck.”
“So. When you leave here, since you are not a prisoner. You just crashed here unexpectedly and can now leave any time you want. What next? Where are you going?”
“God. Jesus. For someone who hardly ever speaks, you’re an asshole, you know that? Don’t answer! I don’t know. Get a shower? Buy some cigs? A nap? And then do it all again?”
“Why?”
“Stop that! ‘Why’ is my business. Not yours. Stop getting all Sigmund Freudish on me.”
“Is that what I’m doing?”
“Yes. It’s bad enough my moth-“
“Your mother?”
“I’m tired of being judged. I’m tired of being told that I am a bad girl. That it’s all my fault.
“When I was 9 I found my clitoris. It felt good. It was beautiful. I told my mother one night in the bath. ‘Look Mommy. Look what I have? Look how soft and sweet it is? And what I can do with it? Isn’t this great, Mommy?’ Nothing was ever the same between us after that. I was now a wanton woman. She told all her fundamentalist Midwestern Christian friends so they could pray the sex devil out of me. Her little Jezebel. My father blamed me for her death years later. Like I have magic powers over cancer!
“And you! You are everything I hate about men. And my father who made no effort to conceal that he wanted a son and my self-righteous mother and the whole fucking world that treats women like shit while fucking us blind and throwing us over the edge and then expecting us to wake up the next morning and make you coffee and birth your children and stay at home while you’re doing who knows what until you come home and want us to suck your cocks. There was nothing there for me.”
“You liked photography club and Mr. Darkson.”
“Yah. Liked. Something else a fucking man took away from me.”
“What happened?”
“He raped me. In the darkroom. How appropriate. I was wearing a cutesy teenage thing. A little sun dress. Easy off. Easy on. Well, easily dropped on the floor. I had to put it back on myself. And everybody knew. Everybody can tell a sex rumpled sun dress from a thousand paces. And he’d probably done it before but nobody in the school ever did anything about it. Like the Drivers’ Ed teacher who used to put his hand on the boys’ knees while they were out driving. Everyone knew what a perv he was. No-one lifted a fucking finger about it. His father was a selectman or some fucking thing. Fucking bastards. The whole damn, picture perfect, Bible Belt, Midwestern Smalltown.
“’You’re my favorite student,’ alright. ‘Real talent. Going places.’ Sure. The real talent was between my legs and that’s the only place he was going.”
“And what happened next?”
“Nothing. I couldn’t tell my mother, little clit girl? She already thought I was the village whore because my body worked. Do you think she’d blame a rapist for a little Lolita?
“Christ. She’d drag me before the female elders of the village shouting, ‘Cut it off!’ It’s not men that fuck women. Men are too stupid. Women fuck other women. Men think with their cocks. Their stomachs. Their mouths. Never their brains. Men think they’re in charge and calling the shots, but it’s women who make other women miserable, the herd of viscious cats! Women make a science out of it. We fucking fuck ourselves, dammit!”
“Mice dream dreams dreamt by no cat.”
“Another proverb?”
“Hmm. Here. Put this on.” He gives her a small locket on a chain.
“What’s that? A cheesy locket? A stupid necklace?”
“It’s a token. Like all tokens, it’s worth much less than what it is worth. What it represents.”
“And what does it represent?”
“Hope.”

It is midafternoon. Julie stirs uneasily. She is having weird dreams about coves and darkrooms and mysterious men she can’t understand. And mice. She wakes in a hotel bed curled up in a fetal position. She jumps up, confused. This was unusual. Usually she wakes up when the traffic out on the street is too loud. She’s fully dressed, too. Not just a dress pulled on over a naked, used body.
She drags her fingers through her hair and blinks some of the sleep out of her eyes. She comes across the necklace and the locket around her neck and stares at it. Someone must have given it to her last night. Someone flirting with her and giving her a tin trinket which she would have giggled helplessly over and mock given him a stolen kiss like a bashful teenager on the wreck room floor of a friend with the boys and the bottle. Pretending it’s love. Knowing it’s a game. A game she can’t win.
She opens to locket and reads one word.

Hope.

And then she starts to cry.
She picks up her cell phone and presses the contact she always had but never intended to use.
“Daddy?”