Bully

Although he was proud of his son for discovering his identity so early in life, Sutherland had worries. While he was fine with whatever a seven-year-old thought gay was, probably not much different than what other nine-year-olds thought of close friends, he didn’t have much faith in the youth of Polk County Public Schools. They would be ruthless, if not yet, then soon.

“Son, you have to watch your lisping. I’m your dad and I love you no matter what, but other people don’t know you yet, and they’ll see any sign of weakness as a chance to attack.”

Allen nodded seriously at this advice. He was a good kid, sensitive and socially focused. When Sutherland corrected him on his walk, “You’re swinging your hips too much. You’ve got to make your motions deliberate,” the boy followed his advice exactly, and asked clarifying questions.

“What should I be doing with my arms?”

The boy would be great at choreography someday, Sutherland thought.

He remembered how unhelpful his own father had been, about everything. Interests in painting and guitar had been personality flaws. With a little encouragement, he might have gone to art school, but the way his father sneered at him about impracticality turned him into the vague professional he was today. He was not his father. He would do all he could to help his son be the best person he could be.

“You cannot wear that shirt. They’ll kill you. You go upstairs and you change it right now. And stop that mincing!”

The boy complied as best he could, without complaint or will of his own.

#abuse, #good-intentions, #identity, #parents, #self-fulfilling-prophecy, #society

Drifter

He would always be an outsider in this sleepy mountain town, but he’d stay a while. The innkeeper and his daughter were keen to take his money, no matter whence it came, and no one gave him any trouble. His reputation proceeded him.

Annette, who spoke a little English when she had the nerve, brought him biscuits every morning, saying she’d put them on his bill. In six months he’d never seen any kind of a tally, but she wouldn’t let him refuse. “You have to eat, or you will die. I will bill you. Do not worry.”

She owned him by this point, most likely. Someday she’d cash in, though what she planned on doing with a wreck like himself, he couldn’t rightly figure. “Thank you much, Miss Annette. I do so like your biscuits.”

At the edge of the bar, he savored a single bottle of whisky for the rest of the day.

“You’ve got a lot of nerve, showing your face in public.”

He shrugged at the man, an either short or hunched-over sort he didn’t recognize. As he lifted his bottle to his lips, he tried to think of who it might be. Some banker he’d ripped off? Some rancher onto whom he’d pawned a dead horse? Could even be an ex-lover, or an ex-lover’s lover. He squinted, trying to recognize any familiar feature in the man.

“I figure someone has to,” he said, gesturing to the empty room. The stranger or old friend or old enemy, whoever he was, made some threat and stomped away. They’d fight later, at sunset no doubt. Another man dead, another identity to take. This next time, he hoped it was someone interesting.

#boring, #genre, #identity, #lawless, #meta, #western

Role Model

When they were children, Jill’s little sister copied every aspect of Jill. She chose her favorite foods by her sister’s inclinations. She followed every hobby — piano, karate, theater, video games, origami, track, underage drinking — and came out as lesbian, right at the same time.

“I actually am,” Jill said sternly, and her sister insisted, “I am too. You’re not the only one in the world, you know.”

Jill decided later she was bi, and when she married a man and went to live in Colorado, she expected her sister to follow along behind her somehow. When they fell out of contact, Jill took the opportunity to take up knitting and existentialism, pleased that for once her interests were her own and would remain hers. Her husband wasn’t interested in anything, and that’s why she loved him.

Her daughter was a similar blank slate. Occasionally Jill noticed the baby mimicking one of her gestures or trying to imitate her speech, but she did her best to gently discourage this behavior. She left the television on, just so the baby would have some other input. The baby had her eyes, and that was enough.

“I want to learn the piano,” her daughter said, age five. Jill frowned. “I already know how to play the piano. We don’t need two pianists in the family.”

When the girl came out as lesbian, Jill was supportive, if skeptical. “You should talk to your aunt,” she said, after a obligatory hug.

Her daughter made the call, and when she was finished, hugged her mother again. Jill wasn’t sure what was going on, but the girl, now a teenager, wouldn’t let go, and she kept saying, “I’m sorry. I’m sorry.”

Jill didn’t know where that self-loathing had come from. It certainly wasn’t from her.

#aging, #identity, #imitation, #microfiction, #self-fulfilling-prophecy, #self-loathing, #siblings, #sisters, #twins

Abridged

His main duty was to sweep the front porch every morning and every afternoon to keep out the fleas.

Mary Lou bought several cases of lima beans. They ate nothing but for years.

The children found a set of false teeth in the yard. No one ever found out whose they were, but they became a favorite toy.

An older boy tied him up and rolled him in a wheelbarrow up and down hills until he peed all over himself. Mama switched him for making a mess.

One cup was for blood pressure. One cup was for heart stuff. The rest were vitamins.

He owned an apartment building. He did all the maintenance.

He was fixing the light, but someone told him not to strain himself.

His children were good at math and science, but they struggled with English and common sense.

“You should write your memoirs,” someone told him, a nurse who was struggling for something to say that wasn’t pity.

A postage stamp cost seven cents, the same as a bottle of soda or a gallon of gas.

He woke up in wheelbarrows sometimes. He was covered in sweat.

A cup of coffee could kill him. So could a dash of soy sauce. So could almost anything.

His daughter had a husband who mistreated her, but he couldn’t really blame her for not knowing any better.

That might not have been his daughter. That might have been a novel by James Michener.

It could have been anything.

#alzheimers, #experiments, #identity, #memory, #microfiction, #prose-poem