It was a gentle autumn afternoon, a warm wind blew as the first leaves fell from the trees. Chuck Gray was walking home from school with his best friend Lenny Van Allen as a group of classmates followed behind.
"I'm troubled," Chuck said, almost mumbling, "by the President."
"You were all for his predecessor," Lenny said, scorn in his voice.
"But this one," Chuck said, shaking his head, "Some of his words seem crude and his actions a bit authoritarian."
"Are you calling him Hitler?" Lenny asked, broadening the space between the two.
"I worry," Chuck said, shrugging his shoulders. "Suppose this was Germany in 1933 ..."
"But it isn't!" Lenny said as his face turned red, not allowing Chuck to finish his sentence. "That's the problem with you libtards -- you work Hitler into every argument."
"I wasn't ..."
"And you really think the country would be better off with a radical feminist as President?"
"What's wrong with radical feminists?" strawberry blonde Wintergreen Winnie asked, approaching the two.
"You're one to talk," Lenny said. "Don't you know what the Apostle Paul said about your lifestyle?"
"I do," Marcia, Winnie's 'best friend' said in a sour tone. "But I'm Atheist, don't need your fairy tales."
Billy Dalton, president and only member of the school's Beethoven Appreciation Society, joined in. "As an artist, I feel obliged to see both sides of an issue."
"Freud," Lacy, Lenny's sister stated, "wrote something ..."
"Oh, the psychiatrist is in," Lenny sneered. "You need to put away that garbage and read some of the Good Book."
"Isn't there room for all of us?" Chuck asked. "So what if you believe what the Gospels say and Marcia doesn't. No need to be boorish about everything. That's why my sister, Rosey lost her crush on you."
"No, there is not room for all of us!" Lenny yelled. "There are the saved and there are the damned." He stormed off.
Marcia nervously watched Winnie as Chuck walked into his house. "You still ..."
"Don't start," Winnie said. "So I had a thing for Chuck once."
"And what if that 'thing' returns?" Marcia asked. "You know where I stand. How can I ever be sure with you?"
As she walked away, weeping softly. Lilac and Winifred walked over. "Still appropriating my name, I see. I was Winnie long before you moved here."
"And you threatened to sue me unless I added the ridiculous nickname. Makes me sound like a stick of gum."
"I'm older, and ageism and heightism are the only two politically correct prejudices." Winifred said, pride in her voice. That way we don't have old, short men marrying twenty-something supermodels." She shuddered at that thought and then walked into the convenience store on the corner of the street.
Jefferson, the Black kid, and habitually messy Pigsty walked past.
"You know," Jefferson said, "you should take better care of yourself."
"I am just neatness-challenged," Pigsty said, crossing his arms. "Runs in my family."
"Just making an observation. Does everything have to be so black and white?" Jefferson asked.
"Isn't on Sunday," Pigsty said, laughing at his own joke.
Jefferson took offense and walked away muttering stereotypical 1970s sitcom ghetto slang.
Winifred and Lilac emerged from the store, Lilac with a bottle of water and Winifred snacking on a small, freshly microwaved hamburger.
"You know," Lilac said to Winifred, "you should really go vegan."
"No," Winifred said. "You know, I'm getting sick and tired of you sending me your self-righteous propaganda clips of slaughterhouses. You anthropomorphize something that is not real."
"The suffering is real, Lilac said, starting to sob. "Have you seen those poor faces? What kind of barbarian are you?"
"One who can appreciate a good, juicy burger."
"Savage!" Lilac screamed, walking off.
Skippy, Chuck Gray's dog sat atop his doghouse with his best friend, a small bird called Newport. They watched as years of friendships ending abruptly and for trivial reasons.
"Silly humans," Newport said, in the frenetic chirps Skippy could interpret. "Don't they realize how precious a friend is? Friendship is about acceptance and being able to talk about things without insults or freaking out. How can they end them over political disagreements?"
Skippy patted the little bird on the head and smiled. Both might think of their ancestors, the alpha predator and the dinosaur, but those were only passing thoughts. "We're lucky being dumb animals."
Newport cooed and perched contentedly on his friend's shoulder.
Article © Dan Mulhollen. All rights reserved.
Published on 2018-07-09