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

Speaker

He had given enough speeches to know when he was losing the crowd. Now, for instance. While he spoke of dreams and realities, students were flirting with each other, as they do. Some teacher shushed, though hers was the voice that carried.

“Now I hear you. I know what you’re thinking. Who are you, up there, telling me how I’m supposed to live? What makes you such an expert on life?” As Roger voiced their doubts, he felt their attention return. Against some murmuring, he saw more eyes in his direction. He saw nodding.

“Why should I listen to someone, you’re saying, who makes a living spouting platitudes at bored children? Why, I hear you think, should I listen to the only bozo this miserable institution could afford? What possibly could he have to tell me that I don’t already know that I would bother to accept? I’m going to college! I’m smart. Well, you’re not as smart as me.” Real talk always won them back.

“Without any other qualifications, I have managed to maintain a career as an inspirational speaker for nearly ten years now. And if that’s not an inspiration, I don’t know what is.”

#blowhard, #bluster, #children, #depression, #jaded, #lonely, #pretention, #self-fulfilling-prophecy

Psychic

A friend she hadn’t seen in years sat down on the bus, across the aisle. Claire knew that if they made eye contact, they would speak to each other, and she knew exactly how the conversation would go.

“Claire, is that you?”

“Mary Ann? I can’t believe it! How’ve you been?”

And so on. Just as they started to reveal anything real about where their lives had gone, one of them would arrive at whatever destination, and they would mean and fail to call each other for the next few years once again.

She stood up and sat beside her friend.

“Are you okay?” she asked, grabbing onto Mary Ann’s shoulder. “Tell me what’s wrong.”

Mary Ann said nothing at first. The sudden invasion had shocked her and made her forget where she was. Claire could tell. When she spoke, she said simply, “I’m fine.”

Claire knew she was lying, but as she considered the possibilities of their next three minutes together, she saw that she would never be able to coax her friend into dropping her guard.

“I can see that you’re troubled. I found out that I have heightened perception, and I can tell that you’re unhappy, deep inside. You don’t have to tell me what’s wrong, but I’m going to balance your chakras.”

Mary Ann squinted and took a sweeping look around her. In a deep breath, she asked, “I’m sorry, but do I know you?”

Claire waved her hands. “Not yet,” she said, staring through her friend. “Not yet, but you will.”

#friends, #powers, #pretense, #pretention, #psychic, #self-awareness, #self-fulfilling-prophecy

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

Hero

On the one-hundred-year anniversary of the great war that nearly destroyed them, the people of Naraquaua began to wonder how long their peace would last. Two hundred years ago, a despotic ruler came to power and asserted himself as a god. Three hundred years ago, a great evil poisoned the kingdom and all its people, reducing the population to but a single quarantined settlement.

According to legend, during every calamity, a young man came of age and rose to the challenge. Each one, the hero of his generation, overcame tremendous obstacles and vanquished the threat of his day.

Issan was turning thirteen today. His parents had known since his birth that he could be the one, and so they had left him with the church. The previous heroes had been orphans raised under monastic supervision. They had been named Issan.

“One of you is probably going to face and destroy evil,” the abbot decreed. Issan looked at his peers, all named Issan, all thirteen years old today. He knew a few who wouldn’t be the hero. One Issan had bad asthma. Another was too much of a bully, needlessly cruel to those he was stronger than. He was stronger than Issan, for instance. Issan wouldn’t be surprised if that Issan became the tyrant to be overthrown.

He saw the boy glance around and snicker derisively. He was already powerful, the best at fencing and hand-to-hand combat, and he knew it. The contempt he had for the rest of them would fuel him. He would only grow stronger, unless he was stopped.

Issan picked up his sword as the group was gathered in prayer. One stab would protect everyone. No one would even know what they had avoided.

He believed in himself.

#fantasy, #legend, #microfiction, #murder, #self-fulfilling-prophecy