Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Sweet Jesus

Beauty Spirken sat with his friend Reddy Fellowes on a park bench watching the squirrels.  Beauty’s real name was ‘Elspeth’ since his mother had strongly pined for a girl of that name.  He received the nickname when a teacher remarked upon hearing his name for the first time, “Well now, that name's a beauty, isn’t it?”  After that, any other kid calling him ‘Elspeth’ was in for a fight.  Reddy’s given name was Obadiah, but anyone, large or small calling him by that name was sure to be in for a battle too, and instantly.  He was always ‘ready’ as they said.

Reddy scratched the side of his nose and observed, “Look at that ‘un there Beauty.  Now he’s a sight.”

Beauty glanced to where Reddy pointed to see a chubby little boy about six years old.  “What do you mean Reddy?”

“Just you look at the fat little bastard.  When you’n me was that age we didn’t weigh half as much.  I don’t hardly ever see thin kids anymore.  Back in our day there simply weren’t any fat kids around.  No place, no where.  Now, that’s all you see.  They say it’s an obesity epidemic.”

“Yep. And, we didn’t have any McDonalds around back then either, or any other fast food places.  You couldn’t get pizza on every corner, not to mention the grocery store.  They have whole aisles of soft drinks in the store now, and at least thirty different kinds of ice cream.    The sugar lobby has Congress in their pocket and is in complete control.  There’s been some kind of subsidy for sugar since 1812.” 

Both Beauty and Reddy were pushing seventy and had been friends since their first days of school, keeping in sporadic touch throughout their working lives.  Now each retired, they spent a lot of time together even though polar opposites in many ways.  Beauty had been a world traveler throughout his life, and lived in many different places.  Reddy never lived anyplace but the small rural town they grew up in.  Reddy was conservative to fault and Beauty had grown more liberal and progressive over the years.  Nonetheless, each was tolerant of the other and avoided too much detailed political discussion.  The one thing they each heartily agreed upon was the subject of religion:  Just so much goddamned silly folderol and fairy-tale marlarky.  Neither had any use for it and Beauty was downright hostile to it.

“Yeah, I don’t know about a sugar subsidy.  You gotta help out business you know.  But, there’s a lot of other things the fat little turds are hooked on these days.” said Reddy.  “Like computer games and TV.  All they do is sit around on their lard asses with some kind of controller in their fat little hands.”

“My folks never had a TV until after I went off to service.” observed Beauty.

“Me neither.  Only mine were too damned cheap and close with money to buy one.” said Reddy who had never been in service, having been married early and exempt from the draft during his time.  Nonetheless, he was very much more hawkish than Beauty, and was a strong advocate of military action and against perceived enemies of any sort.

“Well, we never had reception where we lived until a few years after I left home.” said Beauty.  “But, I am worried about the kids today.  I’m worried about what it means for the country and for the world.”

Reddy sniffed.  “Me too.  The fat little lazy bastards can’t get out of their own way.  Can’t play sports unless it’s on some kinda Gameboy thingy, and all they do is lay around whining and complaining because their mama won’t buy them the next new kind of digital play thing.  Every one of them over eight years old has to have his own cell phone too, and all they do is sit around texting each other, whatever that is.  They’re just a goddamned nuisance I tell you, Beauty!”

“Texting seems to be some kind of typing and sending a message on the cell phone.” he replied.  “I can’t see why they don’t just talk.  Probably their way to keep things secret.”

“Yeah, and if their folks won’t provide them a cell phone it’s like the end of the world for them.  They will do anything for a cell phone.  That and those Gameboy thingys are about the only thing they will get off their ass for.” observed Reddy.

“But, I do try to keep things in perspective.” said Beauty. “I try to remember what it was like at that age.  I’m sure we were a pain in the ass to our folks too.  In fact, my mother often told me I was.  In between whippings that is.”

“My old man would just bust my ass if I stepped out of line.” replied Reddy.  “‘Course there was a lot of things I hid from him too.  I guess I actually got away with quite a lot.  But, you hit one of your kids these days and they’ll come take them away from you for abuse.”

“If they saw the way my mother used to whip me back then today, they’d heart attack.” said Beauty.   “She beat me so much and so often and for so many different reasons it didn’t matter anymore.  I got immune.  That’s probably why I don’t much give a shit today about authority today.  I got no problem telling the tax man to piss off.  It blows their minds.”

“I was too scared of my daddy to not give a shit.” said Reddy.  “But, he did teach me how to take care of myself though.  He was an amateur boxer you know.”

“Yeah, I remember how everyone gave him lot’s of respect.”

“If you ever saw him move his chaw of tobacco from one side to the other, you better watch out.  You were fixing to get hit.” said Reddy.  “Maybe even shot.”

Yep, times sure were different back then.  I don’t think we’ve made much progress.”

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