Pardon me for this is a bit of self promotion. Any regular follower here might recognize the occasional insertion of pieces I call “American Fairy Tales,” which is a project I have been working on and off for close to thirty years. The idea behind them, initially, was to tell one story about the United States of America from every year since the end of World War II, when the US became the most powerful nation in the world, and up to and including the present. I have written many of these stories, scattered throughout the decades, non-chronologically, some dealing with the Red Scare and later developments through the Cold War. Others are tales about the collapsing morality and growing selfishness of society and the increasing radicalism of people in a complicated, stressful world where our only relief are mind-numbing, digital distractions. The pieces I have published on here are all very recent, tales of the late Obama and current Trump administration years, certainly most of them not dealing directly with the specific politics, and more as sociological studies and satires about the impact and changes in civilization as we become increasingly isolated, and remain closer and closer to our homes, trapped in the “bubble” so many commentators have come around to calling the closing of our minds, regardless of perspective. These stories really helped to develop my fascination with human history–all over the world, and has also inspired an arrogant and hopeless desire to learn about everything that has ever happened. So I write these parables, realistic fiction dealing mostly with some form of fanaticism or individual apocalypse (nothing I write is particularly cheerful, although sometimes I hope you can get a few laughs). I am presently piecing together and editing Volume One, preparing it for publication, along with the biography I am writing, a novel being revised, the editing of another author’s book, and the daily essays I attempt to paste onto Recording Editorial History. And so, this is my tale for 1968, a grim piece about gender relations in a time of radical social change, written over four days, the third and whatever time I have spent on this today for rewrites, revision, and the sculpting people like me convince ourselves is ‘art.’ I hope at least some of you enjoy this. If you do, please check out the others I have posted here, and I will certainly add a link once the damn thing comes out.
“The Future of Man”
Once upon a time women were an oppressed majority. Reduced to menial jobs and convinced they were less important than men, many women wound up isolating themselves in their homes and loveless marriages, drinking too much, taking pills, and falling so behind in the endless, grueling tasks of household upkeep and the upbringing of children that was nothing to look forward to but the stress and misery that often inspired husbands to treat them even worse. Abuse was rampantly ignored, sexual assault was blamed on the victims and the opportunities to rise up out of this existence were very rare. And even if they achieved some sense of authority, an influence on the world, or at least on other women, the men would react with such disdain and jealousy, as they always did when seeing just a bit of their power on the wain, that they went on the attack. And these women were shamed, discarded, turned into cultural villains. And sometimes, sometimes in those growing radical days, some women had finally had enough.
Margaret Simon had changed her name to Saffron. She didn’t tell anyone about this, but would patiently correct people when they got it wrong. Then, after a while, after she’d broken up with her last two boyfriends who had cheated on her she decided that she wanted to try out lesbianism. Margaret decided to run away to San Francisco (she had lived all of her life in the suburbs of Philadelphia up until this point). In San Francisco she could have a new identity. In San Francisco, as she had heard and seen on TV, all see needed to do was tell her new friends her new name and they would love her, giving her the new name forever.
Saffron was confused in San Francisco, the rising and falling hills for streets, a bursting bustle of humanity and traffic. There were people rushing around everywhere, many of them with harsh expressions on their faces, and angry glares left and right. They seemed both offended and terrified because the milling, aimless crowds throughout the streets were young, foul-smelling people, simply wandering about, blocking traffic it seemed for spite. They were laughing, uproarious, shouting obscenities at the squares. Some of the things Saffron overheard were shocking. She was just a young girl, 18, her ambitions formed from of records and magazines.
Saffron had seen the protests on television and watched the public mourning over heroes like Dr. King and RFK. These events had ultimately been the cause of her change. When her father stated that it was good that “Martin Luther Coon” had been killed, and her mother claimed that “Maybe now things can calm down and get back to normal,” it was finally too much for her to take. She made her plans slowly, not having any idea how she could leave, and then Bobby was shot right before he was about to be president.
Her father’s reaction to the second Kennedy execution had been laughter. “Another one!” he yelled, “Can you believe they shot another one!” Then he added, “I guess the people are going to wipe all the scuzz off the earth!” Saffron’s mother, more physically attracted to the Kennedy’s than interested whatsoever in their political platforms, shook her head with a slight smile on her face, never quite amused enough to laugh at her husband’s crudity. She mumbled, “Oh John . . .”
Saffron had shrieked and called the two of them fascists. For some reason she was much harsher on her mother while her father sat there (it was the morning after the assassination), while her father sat there drinking his beer and watching the coverage on television. John’s company had closed for the day, fearing riots. When Saffron’s mother started to cry, John grew annoyed and shushed the two of them.
But now, lost among the crowd, Saffron was unsure of herself. Why had she come here? She wasn’t really a hippie. She had been a straight A student and was planning to go to Princeton before the fight with her parents. And now she was just another teenage runaway who had tricked herself into believing in a new life of purity and freedom and–
“You look lost, beautiful one,” came a humbling voice behind her. A heavyset woman with scraggly hair, dressed in what could only be described as a smock, walked up to her and embraced her, kissing her hard on the lips. “Welcome to freedom,” she said, and then disappeared back into the hordes.
Confused, Saffron looked around. Plenty of people were kissing, so she felt slightly more comfortable about the confrontation. Men and women were kissing, some of them going farther into the next stage, hands up braless shirts, fingers down tight, tight pants, and some people simply naked, men erect, woman visibly wet. There were a few couples pressed up against street poles, actually having sex.
Men were kissing men and women were kissing women and sometimes there were more than two people involved. There was an orgy going on within the center of the crowd, nominally blocked off by the nervous passersby.
Other people were peeing in the street, a random one or two easing their bowels. The whole scene was a mess. It was disgusting. Who were these people? Why had she ever wanted to–
“Do not judge, little girl. If you do then you’re no better than them,” said a man with a fat, steaming joint in his mouth. He spoke with contempt, mockery. He was condescendingly arrogant. He wasn’t wearing a shirt and he was far too thin. His hair was long and extremely dirty. He walked right past without turning back, and passed his joint to a random somebody.
Saffron kept wandering around and found herself in the insanely crowded City Lights bookstore. She squeezed her way through the crowd murmuring and sharing pot near the entrance, and sought a quiet nook to think and maybe find a book of poetry to restore her faith in the movement. In the aisles she found many solitary people, sitting on the floor or in chairs, wrapped up inside some book or another, all of them annoyed and scowling when she passed by with in an endless refrain of excuse mes.
Eventually Saffron found a place, although it was tight and very narrow, in a dark, dusty corner against a wall. The only books nearby were sociological current events studies, most of them on feminism, and blistering attacks on the patriarchy. She grabbed a random one, Man Hating by Hester G. Crane. She paged through it disinterestedly, growing increasingly miserable as she realized that the love generation in the capital of the freedom movement was not what she expected. In many ways it seemed every bit as judgmental as the rest of the world.
Another young woman entered this section after a while. Saffron, with nothing else to do, had decided to read some of the angry rant in her hand. She had been at the part where Ms. Crane was saying “. . . the lies that seed carriers tell about true Herstory are the most oppressive part of the ongoing chattel slavery we have experienced, since Eve was framed for biting an apple.”
“That’s my favorite book,” the young woman said with a smile. She plopped herself down beside Saffron, effectively blocking her in. “You’re going to hear the truth for the first time in your life.”
Saffron looked at the girl with interest. This was the first person she had encountered in San Francisco who was neither threatening nor rude. And she was beautiful: long, luscious, wavy Auburn hair, piercingly reflective dark-green eyes reflecting deep intelligence, and a Romanesque face. She had perfect cheekbones, a perfect nose, and her body, beneath a thin, almost see-through white blouse with sky blue flowers, was perfect. She was a goddess as far as Saffron was concerned, With her new desire for women she found herself melting under her gaze.
The girl smiled and pulled herself back up. ” I’m Heaven,” she said. ” Come with me.” She held out her hand.
Swooning, Saffron reached out and allowed herself to be guided along. They walked out the door, Man Hating still in her other hand, a finger marking her place. Then Heaven took her into the future.
After wandering for a short while through the overwhelmed streets, Heaven led Saffron to a dented Volkswagon van, formerly white, put painted with swirling paisleys in every off-color imaginable. Heaven stated without explanation upon seeing Saffron’s wonder that the van was colored after the song-birds of paradise. Saffron nodded, then allowed herself to be led to the rear doors and stuffed inside.
The van was musty and crowded. It smelled strongly of pot. Inside there were four other young women, all of them dressed in trendy hippie chic. Up front there were two more ladies, these far less dazed, and they were arguing.
“The one in the pink,” the driver said, “I don’t trust her. I mean . . . pink?”
The passenger was whining, seemed to be yearning. “Oh . . . come on! She’s just an innocent little girl. She’ll be fine. She can’t be a spy. I mean . . . she’s really sexy!”
“I don’t trust her,” the driver said again. An evil smile lit her face. “Still got that strappy thing? Maybe you can beat it into her.” The other girl laughed.
Heaven got in and said, “Let’s go.” She seemed to have completely lost interest in Saffron and was chatting and laughing with the two up front. Saffron simply sat there. She looked at the other girls. The one in pink was smoking a joint, and she offered it to her. Tentatively she accepted it, then took a weak pull. The smoke went into her lungs and immediately exploded in her brain. She was suddenly very high, but it felt like something more. It was something more. This wasn’t just pot, it was . . . it was . . .
“Pass that over here, sister,” one of the others said, reaching for it.
“Wha . . . wha is this . . .” Saffron asked with a hand so shaky that she dropped the joint on the floor. The other woman picked it up without regard and leaned back, taking a drag as though it were a book of divine poetry.
Two of the others were looking and laughing at her. They were whispering. They were so silly and over the top that Saffron did not know whether to relax–clearly they were on the same drug she had just taken–or to be even more horrified. There were several joints going around. Did she smoke the wrong one? Did they dose her with something? Was she being kidnapped? Was she about to die?
The girl in pink smiled at Saffron. She appeared to be sympathetic. “Don’t worry, honey,” she said, a surprising confidence to her voice. “It’s okay. It’s just mixed with a little Rocket Fuel.” Saffron had no idea what this meant and she was scared. As the girl in pink was talking to her she began seeing the nubs of horns popping out of her forehead. The girl was going on and on about something and the words stopped making sense. They were pouring out of her mouth so fast that they began to take on a visual aspect, letters endlessly connected and taking over all the remaining space in the van. It was suffocating and Saffron began to choke. The two giggling girls began laughing loudly; the girl in pink leaned back to smoke some more, along with the rest. Saffron collapsed on the floor and passed out. The women in front did not even notice.
When the van arrived at the compound outside Jewel Lake, Saffron was still unconscious. In her mind she saw numbers spinning around and around like a whirlpool that was threatening to suck her down. There were trillions of nines swirling, swirling, and then they all changed into eights, and the black hole in the center grew larger.
With the countdown, lying there helpless, Saffron began to panic inside her dream. Her heart rate drastically increased as two of the girls carried her out of the van. As the numbers shrank and the darkness was taking over Saffron knew she was going to die. The ones started to fade as the black hole consumed them, pulling everything in this mental universe down into its oblivion. And yet, when Saffron’s mind was finally sucked through, she fell into a realm of endless nines again, an even larger, although tinier cosmos of the infinite mathematical calculations that formed the universe–that may even be the actual proof of God.
This went on for hours while a rotating band of women watched over Saffron, sometimes nudging her, one of the angrier ones lifting her by the hair and slapping her with increasing severity, several times in the face. Eventually she woke up.
It was a stunning place she saw, despite the rather primitive set up of the camp, There were high, snow-capped mountains in the distance beyond the muddy waters, surrounded by tall, lusciously green trees. Wandering around Saffron could see mossy formations pocking the cliffs. It was the most beautiful place she had ever seen.
Saffron was still woozy, the world pasted over in plastic. She was unsure if anything she was seeing was real. Remembering her long nightmare, and almost forgetting how she had actually gotten here, Saffron wondered if she was, in fact, actually dead and that maybe this was Heaven, or at least Purgatory, and that she could live with the musical birds chirping and the clean air forever and ever and never have to worry or fear anything ever again.
Then she started vomiting, coughing up whatever poison she had ingested with that one puff. Throwing up felt strange, however. The only times in the past Saffron had ever been sick like this was twice when as a child she’d had a stomach flu, and the three times she had gotten so drunk with her friends that she could no longer hold it all in. But now, this time, with all this strange fluid and acid pouring out of her mouth she could only see rainbows in the puddles of puke. And the feeling, the sensation of vomiting was nearly bliss, like a purging of all stress and all evil from her deepest soul. Perhaps that was what this was, a kind of new age baptism. Maybe these people really knew what they were doing. Perhaps this was the ideal way to live.
Eventually Saffron saw Heaven again, talking to several people, and walked over to her. “What was in that–”
“Excuse me,” Heaven said, turning away from her conversation with three other ladies, all of them older than the milling crowd of women that made up the compound. Heaven turned back to the others, dismissing Saffron.
She went in search of the girl in pink. There must have been fifty young girls in the camp. Most of the ground was covered in tents, although there was one crude structure made out of sodden, rotten logs, with a hole in it’s roof and the scent of shit and spoiled nature wafting all the way over to the lake. Saffron wondered where she was.
All of the girls were smoking the drug, Several of them were reading books. It was the same book she had left in the van. Saffron recognized it as Man Hating. Some of the other girls were excitedly talking.
“I can’t want to meet Hester!” one of them shouted. This was followed both by “Me too(s)!” and outright applause. One girl were dancing, wrapped up in an internal rhythm, raising her hands and rubbing her body with her eyes closed. Girls were naked, frolicking around in the lake. Some of them were kissing and fondling and even making love. The voyeur inside Saffron kept her interest on the scene. She was not even aware of stripping her clothes off and walking towards the lake.
As she waded in a feeling of community overcame Saffron, even though no one was talking to her. Her awkward loneliness began to fill with a similar rhythm as the one girl, now publicly masturbating to the song in her head. Eventually Saffron swam over to some of the others, and they instinctively got into the hilarity of a splash fight, all of them laughing, some falling down, the hysteria like yet another drug. By the time they began wandering out of the lake Saffron was hungry. She was thirsty. The drugs were beginning to wear off and suddenly she felt the need to remain high. She casually walked over to one of the smoking girls and took the offered joint. This time she smoked more thoroughly, sucking in and holding the smoke until her lungs were about to burst. She took another quick hit before passing it on to another girl quietly waiting.
A bell clanged. Saffron hoped it was to announce dinner. As the crowd began walking over towards the sound, Saffron wondered what the meaning of the compound was. She noticed that almost half the people were holding copies of Man Hating, some reading without looking where they were going with looks on their faces like they were learning the gospel.
When they arrived Saffron was pleased to see that it was, in fact, lunch time. There was a large cauldron over an open fire, full and bubbling with something that looked like oatmeal. She licked her lips. At the front, by the cauldron, several women were scooping up bowls while others walked around dragging a sack, occasionally stopping and handing a book to the hungry. Standing behind the cauldron Saffron noticed a short woman, much older than everyone else in attendance, watching with a keen eye. Beside her stood Heaven.
The women began bringing bowls around to the girls, and before they handed it to each person they poured a few drops from a glass vial into the mush. When the woman gave Saffron hers, and dripped the liquid in, she lifted her head and smiled at her and said, “time to turn on, sister.”
The books continued being passed around and when Saffron received hers it was no surprise that it was Man Hating, by Hester P. Crane. Slurping her gruel down, Saffron opened the book randomly and read.
“The true issue is that we have been at war since we were extracted from Adam’s rib in his selfish act of masturbation. The “rib,” in such prim times of ancient storytelling, was merely a stand-in for the seed man oozed onto the earth, planting what would become the ultimate perfection of God’s plan. Mixed with Mother earth herself, inside her body we gestated and came to be as perfection. Truly Her plan.”
Shushing suddenly tore through the crowd. Saffron looked ahead. The old woman was moving forward. She moved to the center, in front of the boiling cauldron (Saffron amused herself thinking that it looked like the witches pot from MacBeth). The whispers announced her name. “It’s Hester!” they said, warped into a tone of divine worship. Saffron looked at the book again, which to this point she had found confusing and really nothing but an angry revision of the bible. But the way many of the women were standing, clutching the book to their hearts, it was like this was a new bible to them.
Saffron began feeling strange, the liquid LSD poured into her food beginning to take effect. She zoned in on Hester Crane with fixated fascination, like under a strange crowd hypnosis. Everyone around her was suddenly silent. Hester stood there waiting, staring at the people. She waited long enough for the drug to push everyone far gone and then began to speak in a soft, monotone voice:
“The law of the land,
Makes woman a slave.
The law of the land,
The law of the land,
Is a structure of hate.
The law of the land,
Insists we go straight.
I do not take these laws as the truth
We will not bear their shallow use
We cannot take this anymore
And so, my womyn, let’s go to war!
All were transfixed until a soft clapping began by one of the women behind her. This caught on immediately until several people were shouting and woo-hooing. Hester smiled.
“We spell womyn with a ‘Y’ because men are not a part of our lives,” she began. “Womyn are the final evolution of the human species, replacing the primitive cave beast that was once called man. And we are winning the war, we are winning because we are learning how to control men, to make them into pets, to put them to sleep and euthanize them. Please turn to page 26.”
There was a rifling through the book, the only sounds beyond nature being the flipping of pages. Saffron was already there. She stared at the words. Her mind was reeling. She had never taken LSD before and she had apparently been given quite a lot. The plastic sense of reality had returned, but had altered into a melting smear of colors with only the rhapsodic words of the master–of God Herself–preaching Her gospel to the devoted. Saffron realized that she was ready for this, had found what she was searching for all her life, and that this was where she would plant herself, a fellow member of the devoted, the only real seekers of truth in all the world.
Hester read from her book, her tone suddenly changing to the wild invocations of an Evangelical Preacher, shouting out the word of Lilith, of the formerly censored judgment on Adam (referred to as ‘a man’). This was high religion, a radical faith. What was demanded was a reevaluation of biblical truth and an understanding that, “if people could just realize that God was a womyn (who else gives birth?), then the truly ordained order of the world can finally begin, as prophesied. Please turn to page 116 and bow your heads and pray,” Hester commanded with a hovering glare for those not following the order.
Saffron looked at the book but the world had finally smudged in her view. She heard others saying repeatedly variations on feminine dominance and forced segregation of the genders. There was outlined, apparently, a developing social and scientific process to restrain men on farms and continuously “milk” them, then transfer their emissions to a laboratory, where a eugenic process was being developed to increase the likelihood of female birth.
“By the year 2000,” Hester said, “The global population will be ninety percent female. By then we will have the newest development, which our scientists are working on today. They are inventing a synthetic, viable sperm substitute that can only form female zygotes. The remaining men will be neutered and will serve as carriers, gestating the growing fetus until birth.”
Laughter grew, and the words “cesarean section,” were spread about.
“Considering the nature of the new product of life, they will easily develop inside a man’s otherwise useless body. And while most of the infants will be cut out of the intestines when they reach their full potential, some are able to be born naturally, squeezing through the penis to give our womyn the idea of just what those things were meant to be used for.”
It was insane, but seemed possible. Saffron found herself nodding her head. And while some lingering doubts threatened her confidence, repeating to herself that this was nothing more than a cult, a cult, a cult that she had joined, there seemed to be an important truth hidden within the extravagant gospel of the messiah. There was a deeper metaphor about the way things were supposed to be. Man was the servant–the servant of God, even in their own holy scriptures. But womyn was never called a servant. She was a “helper,” his “partner.” If translations have been lost, as Man Hating stated, men had provided false meanings to these words. Originally, the new bible claimed, womyn was designed as the future, the more fully evolved “master” of man. And Hester was correct that prophecy was being fulfilled.
Saffron remained there until the police rousted the group two weeks later after complaints from tourists exposed their lair. Violence erupted and several women were injured. The hatred of men was spat out with increasing fury and the officers were condescending and sometimes even sexually aggressive. Saffron overheard one of the officers with another, pointing his thumb, saying, “These bitches just need some hard dick. That’ll straighten them out.” The other man laughed.
Rage. Pure rage. Saffron was now a true convert, one of the missionaries sent into town to seduce the lost little girls like she had been. The future was going to be bright. It would be feminine. Hester told them that there would soon be a holy war between the genders and Saffron knew this was true. And their army was growing. It was growing and before too long men would know that they were nothing more than horses to ride, cows to milk, and dogs to sometimes pet or beat. Men would become women, finally, and be treated as God had planned since the dawn of life.
©2019, 2020 Lance Polin