Short Story: Discussions Over Coffee

 

 

My husband Josh and I ran an organisation that fought for the rights of LGBTQ+ people. We always managed to work well together but our ideas were often very different. Over coffee at our house these things usually come up. The thing where we mostly differ is how we feel about bigots or people who are brainwashed and therefore behave in a prejudiced way.

“Evan, you can’t just go straight in on them with anger. I grew up in a conservative area where people have these feelings about things like this. They wouldn’t respond to that. You need to speak to them from your heart.”, he said, sipping his coffee.

“But Josh, I am.”

“With anger?”

“Of course. I’m not a robot or a computer. If someone insults me I would have thought it would be natural to react with anger.”

“But aren’t you then just reacting to them in the same way as they are to you?”

“How would I be?”

“Well, with hostility.”

“Standing up for yourself or other people is suddenly hostility? No babe, the only time I’d say it was the same thing is if I said their sexuality was wrong.”

“You have said that.”

“In response to them, yeah of course.”

“Two wrongs don’t make a right …”

“In this case two wrongs make things equal. I can’t sit by smiling with false understanding when they have insulted me.”

Honestly, is that what he’d expect me to do?

“But you need to try to understand them. There’s reasons behind it. Maybe try to understand, try to see where they are coming from.”

“Baby them in other words?”

“No. No, that’s not what I mean. But there is reasons why someone thinks like that.”

“There’s two reasons why and I don’t even need to go all psychologist to know them. They are either prejudiced or brainwashed.”

“That’s too black and white Evan.”

Some things are Josh.

“And you’re perfect, are you Evan?”

“No but I’m not prejudiced. I have my brainwashed moments. I look at someone on the street and think I know their gender. Which is stupid and wrong because I know I can’t. I wish I could wash all that out of my head. But I’m an adult. I know I’m wrong. I know I have a problem in that way. I need to unbrainwash myself. I don’t look for excuses. When I’m wrong I admit I’m wrong and I apologise.”

“But it’s difficult for a lot of people Ev. You’ve got to keep the channels of communication open, see their perspective and where they are coming from. You know and be respectful of them.”

In other words treat them like children. They are adults with brains. I treat them as such. From very early on we all learn that with responsibility comes consequences. As an adult, if you do or say something wrong there is consequences. People won’t think it’s ok and they are perfectly right not to. If anything I have more respect for prejudiced people or people who are brainwashed to behave in a prejudice way because I treat them as adults with brains. Soft-soaping them and giving them passes is like giving a child a pass when they throw their toys out of the pram in the middle of a shopping centre. But the child wouldn’t know any better. The adult does and by not been soft with them I am treating them as an adult with an adult’s brain.

“My parents were very conservative Ev. But they came around to me being gay in the end.”

With family it’s messy to say too much. Really, I’d love to say “Josh, did you come around to your parents being straight in the end? Didn’t you always think it was ok that they were? With everyone of every sexuality being equal why are you making out it’s perfectly alright for them to have to come around to you being gay when you have always being alright with them being straight?”

“When you came out as pansexual to your father, you reacted all wrong.”

“I never had a problem with my Dad being straight.”

“Yeah but your Dad didn’t know any better.”

My Dad’s not 2 Josh.

“Look I love my Dad. We are very close. But I’m equal to him in every way. If I accepted him preferring me to be straight as a normal way of thinking about it I might as well be saying I don’t think I am equal. I had three choices. I could either be honest with him that I didn’t like his reaction, pretend that I was alright with his reaction or a bit of both. I went with the latter but the point was I still knew his reaction was wrong. I’ve never excused it because there is nothing wrong with me being pansexual in the same way there is nothing wrong with him being straight.”

“Maybe he’s worried about you though Ev …”

“In that case he should have been worried when he thought I was straight too.”

“But that doesn’t make sense.”

“Of course it makes sense. If you’re saying that he’d be worried about me not being straight because I would face prejudice then he’d be worried that being straight would mean there would be a bigger chance I would be prejudiced, be involved with prejudiced people or be thought to be prejudiced.”

“But it’s hard on your Dad. You should be gentler with him.”

Here we go with the soft-soaping again. It’s not a bed of roses for me either and I haven’t even done anything wrong bar be myself.

I adore Josh. At heart we have the same feelings about things. We value equality, love and kindness. But he’s like a friend to the prejudiced, I’m just polite to them. That’s where we differ. I get where he’s coming from. Building bridges with the brainwashed might yield results, with the actual prejudiced it never would. But pandering doesn’t bring equality. Pandering puts across a misleading message you are unequal. No one is less than me but no one is better than me. I don’t need anyone’s approval. If I have a problem with something someone says I am entitled to respond how I like.

“Look it’s great that you’re being the bigger person Josh …”

“It’s not about that. It’s the humane way to respond.”

Of course he’s being the bigger person. If you respect someone’s sexuality completely and they don’t respect your sexuality completely and you are ok with that then of course you are being the bigger person in the situation. But humane? I act humane but I have to stand up for myself. There’s being nice and there’s being too nice.

“They aren’t bad people Evan.”

The brainwashed aren’t. The prejudiced are.

“Josh, I’m not rude to people but I defend myself. Just like if I said them being straight was unnatural or wrong. I am pretty sure most of them wouldn’t sit back and try to understand where I was coming from and I wouldn’t expect them to. So why would I expect myself to?”

“If someone has a problem with these issues they are entitled to say it. It’s freedom of speech.”

“I never said they weren’t. I just don’t treat them like a 5-year-old who shouldn’t be said anything back to. Josh, you are forgetting one thing here.”

“Really? What’s that?”

“I have my freedom of speech too.”

“I never said you didn’t.”

“You kind of did. When you say they are entitled to their freedom of speech you are saying by me responding to them that I’m trying to take that away so you are saying that I shouldn’t respond.”

He takes a sip of his coffee.

“But you are verbally very aggressive.”

“In what way?”

“You say people who are like that are bigots …”

“Well they are Josh.”

“But people don’t like to hear that about themselves Evan.”

“Well I don’t particularly like hearing that I live ‘an unnatural life’ or there’s ‘something wrong’ with me either …”

“But people do think it and they are entitled to say it.”

“Of course. And I think they are bigots and I’m entitled to say it.”

“But you are name-calling. You say they are fuckers and everything. The tactics you employ are the same as theirs.”

“No they aren’t. I would much rather if someone called me a fucker than said I lived ‘an unnatural life’ provided they called everyone they didn’t like of any sexuality a fucker.”

“But this kind of attitude alienates people.”

“I don’t alienate people. I just don’t like them. I wouldn’t be pals with them. That would be a very unequal friendship for me. And in general I’m not that fond of negative people. They alienate themselves …”

“But Evan, that’s not a nice thing to say …”

“Well if I had a prejudice against straight people I’d be alienating myself. The thing is I would know that was my fault and not theirs.”

“But you think you’re right. There’s many ways of seeing things.”

“Oh on these things I know I’m right Josh. But you know what really gets to me about these things in terms of what’s right and what’s wrong: everyone goes on about there being different ways of looking at it when it’s non-heterosexual people. When do they ever say let’s look at whether it’s right or wrong to be heterosexual? When do we ever look at different perspectives on that?”

“We don’t. But that’s just how the world is.”

And much as I love you to bits Josh, if we went on your theory of pandering to build bridges it would always be what the world was like.

“It doesn’t have to be.”

He smiles and sips some coffee.

“What are you grinning to yourself about?”

“Jeez, you are passionate.”

“Of course. So are you. In your own way.”

“I like to think so.”

“Coffee refill?”

“Yeah, thanks. But during this coffee I think we should probably talk about Game of Thrones.”

I smile.

“Ok, deal.”

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#FlashFiction Prompt for Hurricane Relief #Flash4Storms #LemonSharkCharity @SarahBrentyn: Write & Help Those Affected By Hurricanes Harvey, Irma & Maria

Sarah Brentyn blogs at  Lemon Shark and she has set a Flash Fiction Prompt to help everyone affected by the hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria. Sarah is set to donate $1 to hurricane relief for every flash fiction story posted with a link to her blog. Writers, come on, let’s come together here and do something good. It won’t take much out of any of your times to help so come on, let’s get together and do it everyone! 🙂

Rules:

1. Write a piece of flash fiction in 50 words or less with the theme: Help

(This can be any sort of assistance, support, encouragement, or a story of someone or something that needs help. You do not need to use the prompt word. Be creative! It can be 50 words, 15 words…even a six-word story. Anything goes provided it is prose up to 50 words. It doesn’t have to be sunshine and rainbows but keep it PG and friendly.)

2. Add a new post on your blog with your flash fiction and the hashtag #Flash4Storms in the title

3. Link to Sarah’s original post

4. Leave a comment here with a link to your post so I know you’ve participated

5. Help spread the word on social media with the hashtags:

 

#Flash4Storms

 

#LemonSharkCharity

 

 

Ok, here’s my flash fiction story:

 

 

Till Death Do Us Part

I’d proposed here. Now he was going to die here from cancer. At the seafront. In my arms.

“I love you Paul.”, I said, kissing him.

“I love you too Keith. You helped me through everything. Now you need to help yourself.”

He died. I cried helplessly into his chest.

 

Fellow writers, please help by writing your own piece if you have time. Thank you.

A Short Story A Day For A Month: Short Story: Ben The Pug

(And so we come to the close of what has been a great journey doing Short Story A Month. I apologise once again for the lateness of it’s ending and thank you all very much for your patience. The last story is about a wonderful little dog called Ben. Hope you all like it. :-))

 

Every Saturday afternoon little Ben could be seen relaxing outside a coffee house in Bray. He watched the people go by, got to know many of their scents, got to know who would give him treats or not. He liked treats. He found them better than the skip and dustbin food he was used to as a stray dog. He was often disliked by many of the other dogs. If it wasn’t because he was a pug, it was because he was homeless. Dogs didn’t know much about sexuality or gender but they felt these things so they knew these things all the same in their own way. Ben wasn’t fussy about the gender of his partners but he was fussy about his partners. They needed to have a sense of humour, a zest for life, a family with a bit of money wouldn’t go amiss but it wasn’t essential. For Ben, it was a nice added bonus though, he had to admit.

Ben watched the people going by often. And he wasn’t concerned with their gender, their sexuality, their nationality, their race, their religion or their class. All he was concerned about was were they nice people?, did they have interesting stories to tell?, what were the insides of the shops like that they shopped in?, did they value everyone exactly the same, completely?, what was fudge cake like? Did they try it? It looked nice but he couldn’t afford it and he heard chocolate was bad for dogs. He wondered a lot. He was a curious little dog with a heart of gold bigger than many people, a brain brighter than many people and feet smaller than most people.

A Short Story A Day For A Month: Short Story: Listen

 

 

It was finale night at The Starlight Amateur Theatre Group’s version of Dreamgirls. Carol stood backstage trying to keep calm. No matter how many times she performed, she always felt nervous. But it was like her Dad always said and she could hear him saying it now in his wonderful Dublin accent, “When you lose the nerves that’s when you’ll know you don’t care anymore.” And he was right. Nerves were passion. Nerves were worrying because you cared about it being right. She was getting rave reviews in the local press:

Carol Murphy is simply superb. She draws the audience in with her breath-taking vocals. Murphy’s Listen is the highlight of the show.

Carol Murphy as Deena is the star of the show. You’ll think you are at a West End show when Murphy soars into a heartfelt, note-perfect version of Listen.

One little lady. Some powerful lungs. Carol Murphy is sensational. And her version of Listen is sublime.

Carol Murphy – one word: Wow.

She had always been a huge Dreamgirls fan and Listen had been the reason she had wanted the part of Deena so much. The words spoke to her. As she sang each night she thought of the path she had went through being pansexual. She had once shied away fearful she wouldn’t be understood, wouldn’t be liked. She pretended to be straight, she pretended to be gay, she pretended to be bisexual. She pretended to be anything that could be understood. She was an introvert. She was passionate. She couldn’t face the awkward and ignorant questions. Or she felt she couldn’t anyway. So she followed scripts that she thought people would get, might be even ok with. She followed the voice they gave to her but then she had to find her own. She was tired of people saying her feelings weren’t real. She never questioned theirs. She believed they had the right to say what they liked but still she thought how dare they? I’m nice about your sexuality. How fucking rude are you mate?

 

 

Soon time came for her to sing Listen. She looked to her father in the crowd. She looked to her husband sitting next to him. The two men in her life who made her feel like she wasn’t weird. Who made her feel loved. She held back tears. Ever the professional. To come from been a young woman unsure if she was strong enough to face the world, deciding been a recluse might be better in a world even less kind and understanding than today to a regular theatre performer with the group, in the local spotlight often, a wife, a mother to two daughters and a daughter to a father who was for both her and her sisters Linda and Jo who had texted their support earlier. A sister to two straight sisters who never seen her as “the pansexual sister”. She was strong now in her forties and she didn’t give a damn about anything negative the unenlightened might, and often did, say. She was too mature for immature comments.

She began to sing:

Listen to the song here in my heart
A melody I start but can’t complete

Listen, to the sound from deep within
It’s only beginning
To find release

Oh, the time has come
For my dreams to be heard
They will not be pushed aside and turned
Into your own
All cause you won’t
Listen

[Chorus:]
Listen, I am alone at a crossroads
I’m not at home, in my own home
And I’ve tried and tried
To say what’s on my mind
You should have known

Oh, now I’m done believing you
You don’t know what I’m feeling
I’m more than what you made of me
I followed the voice you gave to me
But now I gotta find my own

 

 

 

A Short Story A Day For A Month: Short Story: Hyped Up Ferrets

(As you all know I have been having some internet problems but they are now sorted and I’m back in business. Though later than expected Short A Month will be finished with 3 more stories which I hope you all like reading. So I’ll stop rambling on now. Enjoy the story. :-))

The idea of standing up there in front of everyone terrified Beth. All those faces staring, all those ears listening to her every word and hearing the nerves in her voice, feeling sorry for her. Missing out on her story because the nerves in her voice made everyone awkward. It just seemed like it was better on paper than how it would be if she read it.

Best to stay behind the computer screen typing away happily, not hyped up to the last.

So instead for over a year she would listen to other writers reading their work been thankful she hadn’t been asked, been thankful she hadn’t put herself forward.

They don’t sound like hyped up ferrets so clearly they are the best people for the job.

After a year and a half of watching others take on the terrifying task of speaking in front of an assembled audience, Beth made the very big leap to read her own short mystery story to the audience present at the arts night.

And she did sound like a hyped up ferret. People did clearly feel sorry for her. But it didn’t matter. Strangely it didn’t matter. What was a big deal in her head suddenly wasn’t in reality. It was an achievement. The start of getting experience which would make her more confident each time she read her work out again. And soon she was an old veteran of reading out her work (inside still a slight hyped up ferret) and more hyped up ferrets took the plunge to read. Beth could identify with each and every one of them. And the circle continued throughout decades upon decades and beyond.

A Short Story A Day For A Month: Short Story: East Forum Road

(I am having a few computer problems at the moment but am going to try to finish short story a day from the library. But just letting everyone know if I miss a day near the end here that’s why. But I promise I’ll catch up. Sorry about this everyone. :-))

 

Cartoon dog cat for frame border element

Bella was a small terrier. She was the nicest dog on East Forum Road, thought Chloe, the cat. She was the only dog who never chased Chloe and her friends who were cats called Daisy and Lily. She almost always greeted Chloe with a warm smile and greeting except for bad days which Chloe understood. She had heard from one of the pigeons, Sunny, from the road that Bella suffered from depression. Sunny was a nosy old bird and he was always flying in and out of the other animals’ business. Chloe didn’t like him very much but she remained pleasant with him.

As was tradition for a good Friday for Bella, she and Chloe shared the chicken Bella got from her owner Joe every Friday while Chloe shared the salami she got from her owner Christian. They would sit laughing away about the latest village gossip while eating and drinking. Chloe loved these days and Daisy and Lily often joined them later. Bella was the only dog a cat could hang out with in the tiny village without been called a traitor. And most definitely Sunny would be all ears for a fight among the cats. A pigeon among the cats he would be totally changing the phrase cat among the pigeons.

By Monday, Chloe heard from Sunny that Bella had passed on in the early morning of that day. She knew Bella was a good age but it still hurt. She cried and Daisy and Lily comforted her. That night every animal walked in the street as a mark of respect to ‘dear old Bella’. It was a mark of how much she was liked by everyone. Chloe, as her best friend, said a speech in honour of Bella for all those gathered.

“My dear friend Bella who never saw difference in some way as division, who was strong in the throes of pain, whose smile was warm and who to chat with was a joy and a great laugh. Generous with chicken, generous with love, kindness and friendship. I speak for me but I speak for us all. We will miss you greatly our dear friend Bella.”