I was sitting on a bench in the park, this time with a purpose. There is a new bridge across the river and bicyclists had been terrorizing pedestrians. I was hoping to catch one in the act.
Then who should sit down beside me but a beloved professor from my undergraduate days, Dr. Ben Kimpel. He was a kindly, portly fellow, a lifelong bachelor if you know what that implied back in those days. He once told me that I had to read all of Proust but not simply read him, read him in French, including the earlier versions of À la Recherche du Temps Perdu. Of course I haven’t, making it both a shocking and frightening experience to see him sitting beside me.
“Still underachieving, are you son?”
“Is that you, C.W.?”
“Tell me at least you remember this one.” He produced a worn volume of the collected works of Aristophanes, that wily old Greek.
“What can I say?” It was an admission as much as a question.
“You had some promise,” he said. “Not much, but much more in the potential than in the achievement.”
“Don’t you have something better to do?”
“I want to know about your species and its fondness for war.”
I thought. “It’s a major preoccupation, that’s all.”
“Well you remember this, don’t you? Please tell me you do.” With this, he opened the volume to Lysistrata.
“I wasn’t that negligent.”
“So the plot was?”
“No more war or no more sex.”
“Have your country’s women ever considered that?”
“I’m not sure. Many of our women are more warlike than the men.”
“What if your countrymen simply decided not to fight anymore?”
“That’s pretty much illegal.”
“You went to war, as I understand it.”
“Reluctantly. Very reluctantly.”
“Did you consider disobedience?”
Oh yes. I was once to the gate of a compound where they helped reluctants get to Canada.”
“And changed your mind?”
“And changed my mind.”
“Decided to help protect freedom, eh?”
“Let me assure you that I was not protecting anyone’s freedom, except maybe the workers at the Remington and Boeing plants.”
|I once went to war, to save a dying land.|
Had an army of ten thousand,
And a big sword in my hand. - Gary Dan Toler 1965
“I was afraid that someday I might have to face my mother again.”