Hell of a Guy (plus other fragments)

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

“My name is Albert, and I’m a hell of a guy,” Albert said. He stood next to his chair. Ten other men sat in similar chairs in a circle. On the floor next to the chairs were white coffee cups, most filled with cigarette butts.

“Hello, Albert,” the other men said in unison.

Tim smiled broadly at Albert and leaned toward him before speaking. “Albert, why are you such a hell of a guy?” Tim was the group’s leader. He had been running the “The Man’s Men” group for three years, and had twenty ten-men groups that he met each week.

Albert smiled sheepishly. “I put my wife in her place this past weekend. It happened exactly as you predicted. She was nagging me about the lawn, and I explained to her what I felt my job was and what I felt her job was, and what I thought about our respective jobs.”

Tim stood up and walked behind Albert. “Did you explain or did you yell?”

“I yelled,” Albert said with a small laugh. “I don’t think she’s ever heard me yell. And you know what happened? She shut up.”

“She couldn’t have stayed quiet the entire time, Albert, did she? What happened then?” Tim waited behind Albert and played with the strap of the small black journal he carried around whenever he conducted his group sessions. He took meticulous notes on each man within the group, chronicling their development and character. Albert looked at the other men in the circle when he answered.

“When I finished yelling, she started to get into her feelings. I cut her off like you said, and I told her that I only wanted to talk about thoughts and not feeling. Then when she started talking again, I cut her off again, and said that those thoughts had to be rational ones or I wasn’t going to listen to them.”

Tim began clapping and the other nine men joined in. “Excellent, Albert, truly excellent. Do you see what a little confidence and truth can do to your woman? What happened during the rest of the evening?”

“She was real angry, but she didn’t say anything. When I went to kiss her at night, she let me, and she seemed vaguely satisfied in what I was doing.”

“This is what I’m speaking about,” Albert said and walked between two chairs back into the center of the circle. “This is what I’m trying to bring you to understand. Our wives are only the first step, of course. There’s an entire world waiting, an entire world that needs a firm hand, needs the decisiveness of our thoughts, or understanding, our unyielding sentiments. We are building toward that. This is your first step, each of your first steps. In time, we’ll take other steps, smaller steps, but as important, until we arrive at our proper place in the world.”

Tim went on for another hour, lecturing the men about their roles at home and in the society at large. The men listened and smoked their cigarettes, which Tim encouraged, reminding them that as men, their bases instincts and hungers must be satisfied, nothing should be sacrificed at the alter of emotions. Tim passed around bottles of whiskey and the men drank heavily. Tim was a small man in stature, but when he spoke, he seemed gigantic. The men felt his presence when he was in the room. Their eyes did not leave him when he spoke, and when he left the room, they felt like the air had been let out, his presence was that strong.

Nobody knew how many of these circles Tim ran. He had trained many men in his way of thinking, and those men had started circles of their own. Tim would visit these circles, but he trusted the men he trained to train them in his way. They would say later that he had built an army slowly over time, that his men had become his men after many years of indoctrination. It wasn’t true, of course. The men were Tim’s after the first time they heard him speak. He had to visit a circle only once to leave a mark upon the men. They men didn’t understand the mark but they knew it for what it was: a bind upon them, a guide in their life, a new way of living.

Some men in the circles did not take to Tim’s way. They leaders identified these early, and they would work with them. For the tougher cases, they called Tim in. He would either convince those cases, or none of the men would see those cases again. They didn’t ask what happened to them. Most assumed they were let go and told never to return or report what went on in the meetings. Some assumed they were killed. The truth, though, was somewhere in between.

I hugged the muddy ground of my foxhole. The explosions started an hour ago, and had not let up. I waited alone in the foxhole and searched the woods for movement. I unstrung my bow and put the string in my oil-covered pouch. The rain was heavy today, and I knew after the mages moved on, we would be given the orders to advance. Our mages pounded their side of the line as badly as there’s pounded ours. What a horrible way to make war. Give me steal and arrows any day over this mages’ game.

Boy walks into a convenience store and shoplifts a toy gun and a box of caps for the gun. After leaving the store, he breaks into a run. The storeowner sees him start running through the door, and follows, shaking his fist and yelling that he’ll catch him the next time he comes into his store. The boy laughs and runs away, knowing that since this is his grandmother’s neighborhood, and his parents almost never bring him here, there’s a fat chance that the storeowner will ever see him again.