The Eye of the Beholder
When Mason begins spending serious amounts of time with Leanna, Ethan tries to talk him out of it, but it backfires on him.
One day in the lounge over a game of chess, Ethan accidentally gets into a row with his roommate. The incident begins with a curious question, "Now that we don't have to keep Leanna fed any more, what do you see in her? She seems like quite an unlikely choice to me."
"I know she's not conventionally pretty..." Macon begins, but before he can rhapsodize about Leanna, Ethan, who has heard it all before, breaks in, setting Macon off immediately when he cuts him off with, "Not conventionally pretty? Good God, man, you need your eyes examined! Not only is she nearly old enough to be your mother, but she's as homely as a mud fence!"
Macon's face turns bright red, and it looks for a minute as if he will take a poke at his best friend, but instead, he stalks out.
After wandering around long enough to calm down, he calls on Leanna. He beats around the bush, trying to tell about his row with Ethan without divulging exactly what was said.
When Macon seems stuck for words, Leanna dredges up an old family story about her sister Despina. "Once when she was grading some papers, she suddenly burst into hysterical laughter, finally getting herself enough under control to read to me from a student paper, 'Solomon had three hundred wives and seven hundred porcupines.' We laughed until tears came to our eyes, but I have to admit, I can emphasize with that poor student.
"When I was in junior high, I had art with a teacher whose body and face were so perfectly chiseled that he looked as if he'd modeled for a Michaelanglo statue. He had a neat little goatee, sparkling gray eyes, long, thin, expressive fingers, and exuded enthusiasm for his work. His laugh was infectious. He was the same age as my mother, and a good family friend. My younger sister, Despina, ran around with his daughter Spider. His son Buster was my age.
"Once, we were assigned to draw a Saint Valentine's Day card. I drew a picture of Solomon, the wise Biblical king. I gave him a fierce face atop a towering body, tremendous crossed arms, huge thighs, a short white tunic, and an enormous sandaled foot, thrust domineeringly forward, complete with leather thongs crossed up the calf to hold it on, and a slave girl leaning over it, with a basin of water on the ground beside her as she knelt at his feet, washing them with her long hair. (Mine was kept unfashionably short, and kinked all over the place, but I always admired Joan Baez's long flowing hair, so that is what I drew.)
"Then I needed to come up with a clever rhyme. Valentine is not that easy a word for a junior high school kid to think up rhymes for, but even then, I had quite a grandiose vocabulary. I was good at picking up the meanings from context, but sometimes, these were a bit vague on the exact details. A lot of the connotation went clear over my head.
"I had a very severe crush on this teacher, and whether he was aware of it, or not, when I turned in my card, he called my parents.
"My father was the one delegated to handle the matter. 'What do you think a concubine is?' he began the next morning at breakfast.
"'A woman who is greatly loved.' There was nothing sexual in my understanding of the word at all. Ownership also did not compute. Animals were owned, not people. People had souls, and souls were free. My world was very simplistic. Everything was either black or white, sans confusing shades of gray.
"My inscription? 'If you'll be my valentine, I will be your concubine.'
"Ah, youth! Well, I know I couldn't handle a concubine, but a girlfriend who granted visiting rights would be nice," he sighs melodramatically.
Last updated 5/28/06 (added punch line at end.) 2/23/02. (Combined with "Back History Thought While Grading Papers 11/29/04.)
Word Count: 678
Reading Level: 7.4: