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We sat in my living room on a Saturday morning, our laptops and manuscripts strewn across the well-worn upholstery with its patina of cat hair — three writers, women, mothers, wives. I’m not sure what the order should be there. It probably depends on our moods, being girls and all. (I hate that stuff. I should probably stop bringing it up. It just encourages the misogynists.)
Physically, we were in similar stages of age-induced decay. We struggled against aching joints, weight gain in awkward places, frequent urination, and the pain and itching of invasive idiocy — the nation’s intoxicant of choice. We took advantage of the small but friendly audience we provided one another to rail in harmony at recent examples.
First was the sympathetic mourner who had asked if the lost loved one had been “saved.” Would the answer determine the depth of the mourner’s sympathy, we wondered, the volume of her prayers, the amount of tuna casserole she’d drop off?
“What is wrong with people?” we asked, and it was not rhetorical, but we did not have an answer.
Fuming about Louisiana’s education reform law that allows the use of tax-funded vouchers for private religious schools, I slammed my mug on the coffee table and ignored the small wave that rose in protest. “One of the state reps, Valerie Hodges, was a big fan of the reforms — until she discovered that ‘religious’ does not mean ‘Christian.’ She opposes using public funds for teaching Islam, but it’s peachy keen for teaching kids that a few thousand years ago God was pissed and smote the earth, thus begetting the Grand Canyon? What the hell!”
“At least now we know how to oppose school vouchers!” one of us quipped — we’ll call her Bella, as in Abzug, not that wimp in the vampire books.
Another — let’s call her Shirley, as in Chisholm — chimed in: “I was in Major Market the other day, and I heard a woman talking about undocumented immigrants. ‘All they do is breed!’ she said — she stood right in the middle of the market and said it!” Shirley moaned and excused herself to pee.
Bella was already overdosed on bigotry, having just returned from a transatlantic cruise accompanied by racist xenophobes who also assumed such hateful things could be safely uttered among their “own kind” — read white, affluent cruiseters.
“It’s OK to be racist, now?” Bella said. “What happened? What happened to us?”
I wiped up the cream-laden coffee mess, what was left after the cat had had her way with it. “We’re becoming irresponsible, evermore so. People write things on social media sites they’d never say face-to-face. They say things on video in hopes they’ll go viral. They do things, because they can get away with it. And on top of all that, they read crappola!”
“If it doesn’t have a vampire or a zombie, it can’t be popular fiction,” Shirley sighed and sank back into the sofa.
“My kiddo and I drank too much wine one night and got all spun up about writing a wise-ass vampire satire. Thankfully, we woke up with hangovers instead.”
“A friend of mine,” Bella started, “a writer and filmmaker —.”
“Hey, I have a great idea for a —.”
“Documentary films,” Bella said.
“Just kidding,” I said.
“Well, he thinks all the vampire books are so popular because once upon a time we had significantly less information to process, while we had better critical thinking skills; now we have way more information and significantly weaker critical thinking skills; and this is all because the best and brightest women used to be teachers, but now they’re doctors and lawyers and CEOs.”
“And that’s because we pay teachers bupkis and expect them to fix kids that society has screwed.” Shirley sighed again and stroked the cat who’d splayed across her belly.
“You know,” I stood and waited for the blood pressure medicine vertigo to slow down, “this conversation would make a terrible short story. There’s no arc. No beginning, no middle, no end. No one changes! It’s the same old crappola. Can’t we fix anything?”
“I think we’re too—“
“Hold that thought, Bella — I have to pee.”
Kit-Bacon Gressitt's commentary and political fiction can be read on her blog Excuse Me, I'm Writing and is republished by SDGLN, The Ocean Beach Rag and The Progressive Post. She formerly worked for the North County Times. She is also host of Fallbrook's monthly Writers Read open mic and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.