So, here’s the opening to a novel of mine that might see the light of day eventually. Who knows. I do not. Gingerly tiptoeing away from THAT TOPIC RIGHT NOW.
NFOTA showcases young Candle who finds a newborn baby beside the Malheur River, near Vale, Oregon. She takes it home to her grandmother and hijinks ensue when the grandmother decides the baby was sent by God to give her a second chance at, well, everything.
from NAKED FARMERS OF THE APOCALYPSE, Chapter One–River Bank Kinda Rank:
Candle Santiago let the smell of the Malheur River soak into her nostrils. Fetid rotting carp and soft rotting cottonwood branches. She moved closer to the stank little river, sniffing back a snootful of snot. Her allergies had come back for a visit. Springtime had come to Malheur County like a sullen bride walking down an aisle covered with dog shit. Candle waited for Tiff to show up; they would smoke a joint Tiff would steal from her mom’s new boyfriend, Mike. It’s good stuff, Tiff had promised. If I let Mike touch my titties, he gives me a joint. It’s totally worth it. Considering that Mike was over forty and Tiff was way under eighteen, no, it really was not. But Candle had her own problems and Tiff seemed fine with an old pervert slapping her tiny boobs or whatever he did.
Something caught Candle’s attention. A splash. A faint little cry. Some animal caught in the act of drowning. Candle walked toward the heavy brush. There, a grungy pink bundle and yes, a tiny human hand extending from it. A baby. She bent over the filthy blanket full of a tiny child, which looked like a small wrinkled monkey. “Hey, what the hell.” A glance about but it seemed the baby had just been left there. Like that Moses baby in the Bible her grandmother loved to read. He floated down the Nile and the Pharaoh’s daughter scooped him right the bibbidy up. Except this baby didn’t look clean and cared for. It looked like shit. There was blood and goop on it. It didn’t seem hurt. Fresh born? Jesus on toast, as her dad liked to say, which made her grandmother lower her truly caterpillar-like eyebrows and mutter about Mother Mary, forgive my son. Candle picked the baby up and then nearly dropped it. It wiggled and went stiff and wiggled some more, and then sobbed. She had never held a real baby before. Her sister, Doreen, was a lesbian. Dora had told the entire family, at Christmas not two years before, that she wasn’t having no fucking kids, ever. Candle, then ten or so, had been too young to trust with Aunt Irina‘s brand new baby girl. Nobody was allowed to hold the little freak, who had been born with only one arm. There was also something messed up inside and everyone had acted real sad when Kaitlyn had died in the night. Just one of those things, Esme Santiago had moaned out. Just one of those things. Candle’s mother, Cris, had not been there. She had been down in Pasadena or Thousand Oaks by then. Now and then she sent post cards to Candle. I live here now, one had said, with a picture of something pretty on the front. As Cris did not have any money, Candle assumed she lived in a shithole and took the buses to get around.
“I got it…what the fuck is that? Oh em gee, it’s a baby,” Tiff came up behind Candle, wearing her favorite pair of sweat pants, stamped with the Florida Gators and already holding out that joint, which she put behind her big ear. Tiff would have been somewhat pretty if only God hadn’t given her giant elephant ears. Tiff also had a strong stench of pot. But her mother had plants. Candle really didn’t pay attention to all that pot talk; it bored her into tears. “Whatcha doing with a baby?”
“I found it. What do we do with it? Cops? Hospital? It looks real young,” Candle let Tiff peek at the dirty, squirmy little life.
I’m exhausted as the year draws to a shaky close. I see everyone else seems drained and hollowed out as well. The world seems determined to end itself in a flash of nuclear fire, yee haw.
So here’s an excerpt from a story set in and around Christmas from my book, Oregon Gothic.
I went to Nora’s side of the room. ” Nora? Something to read?”
Nora shook her head. “Not today, Marianne. Look at it snow. Christmas should always have snow.”
“Yes, I guess it should.” I said.
“You haven’t been here for a while.”
“Oh I had things come up, ” I said as vaguely as possible. I had never really discussed or opened up about my disease to anyone here. It was boring to hear an ex-drunk drone on about being an ex-drunk. No, I was just a drunk who’d put down the bottle. I’d never not be a drunk. One could be cancer-free but one could never be not an alcoholic. Blah blah, boring. And I had always kept to myself, it was, sadly, easier that way. I was just doing my time left on earth. Just surviving day to day…as I had told Fran not days before, as Fran sighed a little too loudly and shifted way too many times on her cheap office chair. Fran had put a small fake tree up in her office. ” I’m back now, though.”
“I see,” Nora kept her cloudy eyes on the solid steel and white sky outside, the ground now almost all white. “They think I’m crazy.”
A sick little thrill went through me. Yes, Nora, they do. But I carefully went stupid as a bowl of pudding. “Who does?”
Nora sat up, careful herself. Emmalou kept her head down over her Sunset, but she was listening. But who would Emmalou tell about all this?
“Everyone. There’s nothing wrong with my hearing. They think everyone here is deaf.” Nora said with a great deal of asperity. Emmalou nodded slightly. I decided this might take a bit so I sat in the bedside chair, prepared for a long listen. ” I’m not. I’ll be dead soon. My heart. There’ll be no warning.”
“Nora, why do you…”
But she waved her rough hand at me. Her hands were gnarled as old tree branches, her joints outrageously swollen and gigantic. “Hush. I know you think so, too. You’re young yet.” Her calling me, at forty-three young…! I was vastly old, far older than some mountain ranges I knew. “She comes to visit me and we play a game. She pretends I’m her grandmother. It’s a ghost. Or whatever it is. Angel, demon, ghost, but she comes to visit me. She likes to play with my dollhouse. And we pretend we’re getting ready for Christmas. If it were near Easter, we’d pretend to get ready for Easter. Or Halloween, we’d be making popcorn balls and decorating for a party, all pretend, of course. We’re just pretending.”
Ghost. Ghost? Oh no, not crazy at all.
“Okay,” I replied to all that. Nora looked at me and then she hunched up her shoulders. “Well…who is the little girl, then?”
Emmalou nodded, I saw it from the corner of my eye. Go along, Emmalou seemed to advise, go along.
“She won’t say. I think…I think she was someone who died, nobody wanted her, she died alone, like…like a cancer patient over there in the hospital.”
Which was just down the road about five miles. No trouble at all for a ghost to travel, even during rush hour. “I thought ghosts stayed where they died.” That was it for my knowledge of ghosts. Classical literature said they stayed put where they had been murdered or so forth. Or they looped, like a film, in one place, replaying some tiny portion of their existence until that energy dissipated. Or…well, nobody knew, exactly, what ghosts did or did not do as nobody could actually confirm or deny that there were ghosts. Or spirits or demons or phantoms, gods, devils or mermaids, pretty much any of the supernatural folks hanging out in nightmare or dream.
“Perhaps they get drawn to things they wanted in life,” Nora said very, very carefully. “Like a grandmother, a dollhouse, someone…someone who cares. She’s tiny and very thin, cancer or some big illness that ate her up.” Nora’s voice caught and sputtered, she kept clearing her throat or coughing. “I don’t mind if Emmalou hears this. The ghost only comes when Emmalou isn’t here.”
We both glanced over at the other occupant of the room, who had not turned a page for ages now. Emmalou shrugged at us both, whether to keep her out of it all or as agreement, I didn’t know then and still don’t know.
“Happens? Well…she walks right in and…and the room changes, it started changing.” Nora struggled to explain, as people who are not natural storytellers do. “It’s…it’s this big old-fashioned kitchen. There’s a counter, there’s a big stove. Knives and onions and gingerbread. I can smell. Everything. And it’s warm. There’s a smell of sage and onions and gingerbread. And cinnamon. She sits at the table and we shell walnuts. I crack the nuts and she gets all the walnut stuff out. There’s a bowl of oranges on the table, and I know I’ll use them in the frosting somehow.”
” That sounds nice. ” I said and meant it. It was like a Christmas scene as if written by Charles Dickens or Louisa May Alcott, something vaguely Victorian. Something someone would write who was having a bad life.
“And I can see into other rooms. I can see there’s a Christmas tree. With big glass balls all over it. And. And ribbon, red and silver ribbons. And presents. Wrapped. Big presents that would make a child so happy to shake and guess what’s inside.”
I had never had anything like that at Christmas. I had a feeling Nora had not had anything like that, either. “Maybe you’re dreaming all this, Nora.” I had to say it, I had to say the flat, logical assumption. But she shook her head at once.
“No. I never remember my dreams. I don’t remember dreaming much at all. I’m not…I’m not that creative or…or anything like that. It’s not a dream. I can smell the cinnamon. I can see the decorations and the little girl who calls herself my granddaughter sitting at the table, trying to get the walnuts out of their shells. So we can make cookies with them, so we can put those walnuts. In the cookies.”
“What’s her name?”
“She won’t tell me. She pretends not to hear when I ask her.” Nora sighed, adjusted her dingy shawl. It cost her something to tell me this at all. To lay bare what she had thought she had seen. Or so I believed then. Because of course I did not believe her. “You can go, Marianne. I know you’d rather be anywhere than…listening to a crazy old lady.” Nora tried to make it a joke, but it fell very flat. I could see her waiting over a skimpy supper as her husband failed to return, as the hour grew later and later…Nora getting up to check on her sick baby, her husband’s car not coming up the road as she peeked out the window. To face such a betrayal, and such a death, and go to work and be so alone and thrown away…her and so many other women. So many. To end up here, so far from her birthplace, so far from security and light and hope and, yes, love. And still be able to make tiny, flat jokes and pretend life hadn’t handed her a sandwich full of shadows and toadstools.
“It’s all right. I don’t mind. So you sit with a little ghost and cook things for Christmas. What’s crazy about that? That’s rather nice.” I had somehow said just the right thing. Nora smiled, that rare real smile she had.
I know I promised a blizzard of Ann Wuehler advertising but I went to a movie.
Been hankering since It ended to see how the It saga would end. I wondered what the film maker/s would do to match the young Losers taking on a killer clown from outer space.
[Spoiler. If you haven’t read the book and know nothing about It, by Stephen King, go away.]
After all, the kid portion of this story is so much better than the adult portion. Yeah, I said it. I find the adult versions, even in the book, rather…eh. I think King’s best writing and what makes this book hum, are the kid parts. Where our intrepid seven are young, reckless, brave, profane and just…kids. The adults they morph into lose that sparkle a bit, which is the heart of the book and hey, gets touched upon in the movie. What we can achieve as kids, via imagination, often cannot be duplicated when an adult. Yeah, got it. Know that one.
Now, movie one, It, was decidedly creepy, well done, atmospheric, well acted with a cast of mostly kids. And yes, that killer clown, that’s actually some sort of monster haunting Derry, Maine, since way way back. If you don’t know the plot to It, I cannot help you nor do I want to. You can go look it up. I wrote about It, last year. So I’ll spare you all a recap of that.
It, Chapter Two, picks up roughly twenty seven or so years after the events of the last movie. It, [Pennywise the Dancing Clown!] is active and killing again! The Losers took an oath that if It was not dead, they’d return and finish It off. They cut their hands open with a chunk of glass, took a blood oath, as kids do. The only one who stayed behind to be a sort of guard and chronicler of It, or Mike– notices the same patterns as last time, as every time It stirs, [cause he’s researched, kept notes, made charts mapping these patterns!] and he calls the others.
We get tiny glimpses into the people Beverly, Bill, Richie, Stan, Mike and Eddie have turned into. And of course Ben, who was the Fat Kid. He’s now Handsome and Svelte. And still into Bevvie! Who basically married her dad, as we do get a brief moment with Beverly packing for Derry and her physical fight with her husband Tom, who’s an abusive asshat. There’s a far more in depth take on this in the novel. But in novels you have time to go into backstories in leisurely detail. Not so much in movies with seven different characters to cover.
But I’ve read the book, so I don’t need the refresher courses on Bill the Writer, Ben the Architect, Richie the Comic, Stan the Accountant, Eddie the Driver who Married His Mother by Marrying a Fat Chick, Mike the Librarian and of course Bev the Designer Who Married Her Daddy by Marrying A Mean Guy Who Beats Her.
Okay! Before you think I hated this flick! I didn’t. Oh man, I did not.
There was about three of us in the theatre but to be fair, it was noon on a Tuesday. I snuggled in, as the movie house had put in brand new fancy seating. Comfy wide chair that reclined! A tray in front of you for snacks and drinks! I just needed a knitted throw and my jammies! Okay. Previews, schmiewviews. Whatever! Will Smith fighting himself because his clone is evil?? What? Skipping that. Downton Abbey?? Yes!! Weird Emma Thompson movie trailer for a movie from June. Where she’s a late night talk show host…um, in America? We don’t have those, sweetie. It’s not still June, is it?
It, Chapter Two begins!
We get some reminders of the killer clown, we get Derry having some sort of harvest or fall celebration. And we get, yes, a murder. This same murder started off the It book, the murder of a gay man by Derry locals. This rather gruesome beating, which seemed to go on a long time, ended with the beaten man, Adrian Mellon, being dumped into the river, where Pennywise yanks him out and snacks on him in front of Mellon’s boyfriend who has tried to find Mellon by getting down to the river’s edge, despite being banged up and beaten to a pulp himself.
This death, and murders/missing children prompts Mike to call the Losers.
Now, that opening hate crime is never ever addressed again. It’s just kind of a throwaway crime to advance the plot. Plot– Pennywise is up to his old antics again and hey, we need to finish this clown off once and for all so drop everything and let’s do this.
There’s also two other rather disturbing deaths that I just…eh. Ugh. Both children. Now I know this thing preys mostly on kids. But still.
Let’s get into the Grown Ups. Ben, boring. Bev, eh. Bill is played by James MacAvoy, who I just watched in Split…mm. Eddie, lots of fun. Stan, oh dear. [If you don’t know Stan’s fate, he takes himself out of the equation so to speak.] And Richie…ah, given life by Bill Hader, one of my favorite funny people to slink out of SNL. Richie was perhaps my least favorite character in the book…and here he’s one of my favorites. I’d say that was due to the kid and adult actors frankly.
Also, they gave Richie a new direction in the movie that, yes, worked. I think it worked. It added some nuance to an otherwise bland set of adults who just mostly ran around screaming as Pennywise yanked their chains until the Big Finale where they united in a chorus line to sing the big anthem as they tap-killed the clown into puddles of greasepaint. Just kidding! Or am I???
And what was I doing during the antics of Adult Losers [who had all become successful, if not filthy rich sorts] versus Pennywise the Kid Killing Menace? Bawling mostly. Yep. The waterworks went on as adults struggled to reconcile how changed they were to the kids they had been and…yeah. And how relationships among their group had changed or stayed the same. And Richie and Eddie the comic relief and yes, the heart of this film at the end. I could have cared two snots in a single nostril about the Bill-Bev-Ben triangle. Yeah, we get it. She’s attracted to Leader Bill while Sidekick Ben gazes at her with longing adoration and the patience of a trap door spider. And Bev [That’s Ben and Bev’s named combined…yep] end up together because of course they do.
Some of the scares in this movie. Damn. The old lady and Bev. That was…I had actual shivers. It was so quiet and well done and a gradual build up that Something Is Not Right Here. High praise for that. And high praise for the genuinely unsettling Stan’s severed head turns into a spider…spider legs with hands on the end. Fuck! No!
Finally, the scene with the little girl with the birthmark and Pennywise. She tells the clown he’s creepy. Yes! I’m thinking, finally, somebody calls out how damn creepy and repulsive this clown is. But It starts fake sobbing, and whining that everybody hates him because of how he looks…which appeals to the little girl with her vast large bright red birthmark. [Parents didn’t have this removed or plan to? What is this, Victorian England??] I thought she had paint on her face from the town carnival going on. Anyway! Pennywise offers to blow the mark off her face. She trustingly turns to allow this…and CHOMP. God damn it.
So. To sum up, Bill Hader as Richie was fantastic. My take. The rest of the Losers, eh. They were okay. Not nearly as engaging or as fun or as likeable as their predecessors. But that was also true in the book. Maybe they’re not supposed to be. Maybe that’s another message about aging. You lose that appeal! You turn into a too-sensible scaredy cat who just wants rocks in your whiskey and bills paid on time.
We also get a nod to the Ritual of Chud, which seems out of left field, but which will take down Pennywise. Mike shows this to adult Bill [I had to powder my nose, so missed the Back in the Past alien artifact flashback]. The Adult Losers all more or less work toward confronting the clown and ending his million or more years reign of terror. [In the book, It turned out to be female and an egg layer…yep.]
And there were digs all through the movie about bad endings…cause King’s critics have openly said King has weak endings or even bad endings to his novels. Tee hee, now back to the kiddie killer clown that can only be killed by the Ritual of Chud and um…this wasn’t in the first movie. Um. Okay!
Now, I rather like how this movie ended and how Pennywise was [spoiler alert!] defeated. I won’t actually spoil that but it rang true. It echoed back to the first movie, to that power of togetherness and belief that monsters can vanquished. Which echoes the Neil Gaiman quote about the importance of fairy tales—basically that they are important in that such tales show monsters can be fought and conquered. Which is the basic and utter universal appeal of the horror tale…that monsters can be taken down and order restored.
I should also mention a sort of villain, a holdover from the first movie. There’s this rather grand, bloody and nearly operatic intro to the once-kid that terrorized the Losers and Ben in particular. Henry Bowers frees himself [with help from our fave creepy killer clown!] from the state mental hospital to return to Derry to…totally not be anything but a slight hindrance. There’s a premature ejaculation quality here…a lot of promises and fizzle and dribble off to the side sorta arc here.
I remember from the book that he really mucked things up for the adults but here he’s almost another comic relief who’s cray cray and slightly murderous. Eh. Also, we don’t get anything from Bill’s wife or Bev’s husband…both of whom played a slightly bigger part in the book than here.
Fine! Just go read the damn book, Ann!!
I did, so there!
Oh and the film also employs a rather astoundingly numerous set of flashbacks. But they work, pave over, smooth those rough edges of ‘why are they doing that again?’ or ‘who is this person?’ or ‘why should I care when Bev stops to stare into the bathroom with a gaze only echoed on Victoria’s Secret runways by models in thong panties and angel wing attachments?’ We also get to remember why the first movie worked so well as the kid actors figure in these flashbacks…and the adult actors do a competent job of nostalgia, sorrow and determination to end It once and for all.
With that out of the way…in conclusion:
More Bill Hader.
The clown transformations into weird, unsettling crap, well done. That it was at the expense of character development and so forth, well. It is a horror movie. You don’t need characters, you need victims and an intrepid band of such and such or the last remaining survivor to take on the monster/psycho/alien or multiples of said whatever evil force/invading plague.
Which the film makers forgot all about when they made the first It. They instead offered us characters we genuinely liked and cared about. They were not meat for the beast or wisecracking no-layered shills designed solely to look good covered in sexy blood and wounds. [Which crosses over into pornography and sexy fluids splattered here and there and there again. Mm]
So there’s my hasty, long take. I’ll wait until 9/12 to post this. Watching or listening to Pumpkincunt try to look solemn and sad today has actually erased the filter between my brain and fingers so I think I need to work on my screenplay and funnel that fury there. That fucking fuckstain dares give speeches about…fuck you, fuckstain. Just fuck you.
It’s long, it’s messy, it’s long. My concluding remarks on America Now. Just sort of kidding.
But what I wanted to talk about was Offred or June.
As I expected to hate her. I’m not a big Liz Moss fan. I had almost no liking at all for Peggy on Mad Men, found her annoyingly whiny and too much of a Mary Sue. Which was probably the writer’s doing that but still. And then episodes I did like her and then…it seesawed. But here. I find myself holding my breath on Offred’s fate from scene to scene and I read the damn book. Years ago!
Moss’s character provides the voiceovers. This is June’s tale. This is Offred’s tale.
Of-Fred. I had an actual OMG moment…I realized how those names were arrived at in episode one of this series.
I had either forgotten or not figured it out when I’d read the book and yes, seen the movie made of this, with Natasha Richardson as Offred and Robert Duvall as the commander. The real names of the handmaids are not used! They lose their identity! They get erased! OMG.
Yeah, then you realize…that’s what getting married does, or did. Still does. The wedding industry, after all, wields gigantic power as well as churning out gigantic profits. You, the girl in the marriage equation, erased your name and took on a new one. You have a maiden name.
Tee hee, how cute!
Handmaid’s tale doesn’t include any radically new way we’ve treated females in the course of history, does it?
Tangent. Back now. Offred. Oh.
Her voice is the voice we need. It is our rock, our anchor, in this batshit crazy Gilead, where everything is so stark and harsh and demarcated.
Commanders, the wives, the Marthas, the Eyes, the Aunts, the handmaids…it’s like a rancid layer cake. With the frosting tasting like blood, tears and shit.
June speaks of her days, the dread of that Ceremony, what her life was like before and what her life is like now. We see her oh so careful shuffling through her existence and hear her rebellious, fierce reaction to it all; her thoughts wrap around us like blankets of thorns. We grow uncomfortable. We become witnesses.
Witness to her daily degradations. Witness to the routines her life has become. Witness to Serena’s understandably abusive treatment of Offred/June. Witness to Fred’s pattern of flirting with handmaids too scared and broken at times not to play along with his obvious games.
Witness to her letting this fragile man win, witness to that ego stroking that most women on the planet have had to do…
Witness to her growing relationship with Nick, the driver, even though we know her husband is still yet alive.
Witness to her friendships with the other handmaids, which is fraught with suspicion and paranoia, as anyone could be a spy in this new reality and that spy could very well get you hanging from the wall down by the river, your body rotting away, some sign nearby stating your crime. We witness how nothing about Offred is important except her uterus.
Nothing else matters. She’s a womb on legs, as the show had one of the wives say. A womb on legs.
I don’t know if it was ever stated why the fertility rates had gone down. [America’s own birth rate has been down the last two years running, by the way…] Oh yes, it was attributed to pollution, for one. Ah. Mm. Do I even need to go there with the current administration? Do I?
The sequence involving Mexico.
Where the diplomat, a woman, refused to help Offred. Because Mexico wanted the breeding potential of the handmaids and was prepared to trade with Gilead to get fertile women…after Offred stood there and told this diplomat, a woman, the truth about her existence after having been forced to lie.
To a room full of people who clearly knew she lied and yet…it was all a show. A show with Offred forced to give a bravura performance or face dire consequences, more than she already endured.
I also wondered why this brand new spanking theocracy didn’t just use in vitro fertilization. Instead of that ghastly monthly rape ritual. No monthly rape ritual, the wives can have their husbands back and handmaids can still be bred like human cattle. And you can feed babies formula from the get go, so, really, no need at all of the vessels after they’d pushed out their sole purpose for being allowed to live at all. Sure, it’s not Biblical. Or whatever that reasoning would be. But why not use modern science and ancient patriarchal oppressive regime stuff in one horrid, lumpy lump?
Offred and Nick, the Eye spy.
Both are victims of this new, awful regime. Nick might seem freer, being, oh, a guy and everything but he’s really not. He’s walking a big tightrope here that could very well end up with him going splat. And by splat I mean being hung by the neck until dead in a very public way. Or shot. We find out he’s there to spy on Fred Waterford, and he admits to Offred that he’s an Eye. Yet, we also see that Nick has more than a professional interest in the oh so carefully controlled handmaid, who can’t quite yet hide how repulsive she finds this entire new system.
I find the characters of Nick and June to be those of survivors cast deep into a prison that can crush them at will at any time. Both driver and handmaid are, after all, interchangeable. Any fertile woman will do, any guy who can drive can sit in that front seat behind the wheel. They are not valuable or unique in Gilead, at all. They are bricks in the wall. Thank me later for that song going endlessly through your head.
Nick and Offred find ways to rebel. Their forbidden affair. It allows them a measure of illusion. A measure of control over their very much regulated and regimented lives. Nick doesn’t betray Waterford, as it would also get Offred taken away. It might also get him into deep doo doo as– why didn’t he report the commander’s behaviors IMMEDIATELY?
There’s no actual mercy for anyone in this world. You could be next in the public execution spectacle, no matter your rank. We see this, over and over and over.
And as the series moves relentlessly onward, we catch glimpses of Nick’s growing feelings for the newest handmaid in the Waterford’s lovely but prisonous abode. And Offred admits she goes to Nick’s room because it feels good.
This is sex she chooses to have. This is sex that’s not about filling her womb with some sort of sacred child. Even though their first time…was under Serena’s hard, watching eyes. As she arranged a far more likely fertile stud for the vessel of God living in her home. Nick’s body is also at the mercy and exploitation of this new order; what would be the consequences if he refused? And he can turn Serena in for this one, but then what? Mm.
That manly ideal of rampaging, all-powerful stallion who can run everything all day and fuck everything that moves all night. That toxic notion seems to be rampant in this world.
The manly leaders, praised for their potency, are seldom actually fertile or even able to achieve an erection at times. But these men in charge must be praised incessantly for how potent and hard-dicked they are…while the handmaids are probably fertilized via doctors, drivers and whatever lower down stud the wives can arrange. Or perhaps a handmaid let a doctor or some other male other than their commander use them to get that much-lauded pregnancy up and running.
Again, it’s all about the Big Show here in Gilead.
Where was I? Oh yes, Offred. I wanted to end this rather long take on a positive note, because America right now is a grim-seeming dystopia in the making.
I find that last episode, where Offred says no to Aunt Lydia ordering Janine stoned by the other handmaids incredibly satisfying. Here is what I want the Resistance, that so-named movement against the Far Right Fuckery, to be like.
And of course win the day and turn everything back to what it once was. I am just as delusional as the next person, thanks.
I want that HEROINE TO RISE trope. I want it. I want it!
You shouldn’t have dressed us like an army…Offred thinks at us. And I go, FUCK YEAH, BABY!
We get to see the actions of a swelling opposition to Gilead’s draconian strangle-hold over its citizens. We see a small act of defiance. We see decency and humanity take forefront over conditioning and fear. We see that in June’s face, her wide blue eyes as clear as open skies full of freedom, hope and strength. Those stones dropping from hands is the act of revolutionaries being born.
Do You Hear the People Sing, from Les Miserables, should be playing in the background!
We get an actual HELL YEAH GIRLFRIEND moment in Moira’s hand wiping the snow from a license plate. We rejoice in June telling off Serena after Serena’s savage tactic in trying to make sure Offred knows her place and her only value. When Serena offers proof positive Offred’s child is yet alive and then threatening that child in bald terms if Offred doesn’t deliver the baby Serena so desperately needs to keep her high status.
I haven’t seen the second series yet. I hear it’s…grim. I hear it doesn’t go the way I want it to go…where Gilead gets overturned and it’s all happy ever after, of course.
I find I want my television to not reflect reality. At all. Because. It’s unbearable. It hurts. Because I am being made to feel just as helpless and corralled as Offred, Ofwarren and Ofglen.
Which is probably just me identifying too much with fictional characters created by a writer writing during the big bad Eighties.
Until I look at how others react to Handmaid’s Tale.
And it seems everyone else, oh tee hee, feels much as I do. That it’s a timely series that has arrived just when it needed to.
As All in the Family allowed American audiences to become a bit uncomfortable over accepted norms that were racist, sexist and usually pretty awful…so does the Handmaid’s Tale allow the audience to see what happens when you allow a religion to take over so completely and impose their set of rules and regulations. We can all agree such a society is bad.
And yet…in real life, people vote for the very thing they find off-putting, bad or evil in a television series.
Oh there are now a plethora of shitlaws that attempt to turn back time. To some time that never really existed, at that. That’s not new or prophetic or original at all.
We here in America have seen this attempt for, well, years now. When the Far Right embraced the Evangelicals way back during Jimmy Carter facing off against the juggernaut that was Ronald Reagan. The Family Values party, one of the more cynical names ever invented by smirking Jesus-shouters ever. In my humble opinion, at least.
The religious righties coldly stepped back, assessed both candidates and put their support with the divorced Hollywood jelly-brained bean, rather than the actual Christian who, to this day, practices his Christianity in open, gentle ways.
It’s about power, as it always was, and not any sort of love for a god or need to see people treated well, fairly and as equals under the law.
It’s about power and that’s what the Handmaid’s Tale gets so frighteningly right. I have to go watch puppies doing cute things now while I’m still allowed access to the internet. Small joke. Tiny one.
So, I’m working on a a sequel to a novel I just finished in December. Which might be coming out soon, I never know these days. How’s that for vague?? I have about twenty five thousand words for Alice. No idea where it’s going. But it seems to want to go and drag me along behind it. Hurry up hurry up! So that’s either a good sign or I’m going insane in the membrane. And then I look up and notice my country [the United States of Pre-Civil War II A’Brewin] seems to be exploding in all directions as hard and fast as possible, so I dive back into my scribbling foray and head off, again, to the shining city on the hill Eighties of Herr Reagan, Dirty Dancing and small town politics. Oh and ghosts, because I’m supposed to be writing about scary things but can’t seem to write anything scarier than the rapid decline of Not-Canada.
See what I mean? And you wonder why other people are defending this who had relatives who came here or who themselves are refugees or recent immigrants or…and then you realize people can justify anything if they try hard enough and want it to be true. Which gives you a case of the cold dead shivers. And makes you want to watch Pixar movies and just wait for the end of it all. So!! Ahem.
I’ll put a bit of Alice in Oregonlandia here, because I’m a shameless huckster now of my own writing, bwha ha ha, ahem, and you can judge me on a first draft effort. Yah?
“Because. Mr. Blue is visiting again.”
My stomach dropped, my skin went cold, I bit my lower lip so hard I nearly severed it. I tasted blood. “Are you shitting me? Why? He always loses when he takes on my mom. Always.” I knew he was about again, but it hadn’t yet been confirmed. That’s why I’d wanted to go to the house and see for myself. Maybe I should call off our Saturday Night Adventure.
“Maybe he wants his slick girlhog.” Mr. Peepers actually said to me. “Maybe he’s sitting there like a patient toad for a particular slick girlhog.” Those obsidian eyes regarded me moistly. The little gross thing actually did actually love me. And, I was not going to let Mr. Blue scare me. My mom had kicked his ass to the curb, twice now. Didn’t he know to stay away?
“Oh please, ” I replied, shooing him off my bed so I could sit. He went reluctantly, those little strange feet slapping down, slapping down. Lysette curled up into a little ball of arms and legs. “I’ve seen the horror movies, you freak. Don’t go in the house! And then they go into the house! This is real life, fruitcake. Real life. He’s afraid of girls. I’m supposed to ignore that, Peepers, old friend, ole pal?” I tried to sound tough, to sound smooth and tough and fearless. Because I did not want to go visit that burned down childhood home of mine now. At all. But pride. Pride, man, it’s a bitchkitty.
Mr. Peepers went to our closet. Lysette and I shared everything, after all. He gave me a look from those awful black eyes of his. Sometimes they had little orange dots in them, as if his eyes were on fire. “That’s what he wants, Missie Alice. He’ll come sniffing out the holes in this house now…JUST YOU WAIT.” The traveler laughed and laughed, slapped his droopy little potbelly and then stalked off into the closet. He had a nest in that house on Clark Boulevard. Where he kept a deck of cards, some socks and other things I made myself forget as soon as he told me. I just like cards, they’re small and slick and pretty, he had admitted one night. I’d wait until mom and my dad were well and truly asleep, not fighting or anything else…and then get up out of bed or off the couch. And play Old Maid with Mr. Peepers or hear stories from the little girls. Rosiecheeks had one story she told–a version of Little Red Riding Hood, where the little girl doesn’t win. The other little girl in that house liked to talk about her doll and the doll’s tongue would come out and try to touch my face. It became a game to not let that tongue touch me. Dirt, what she called herself as she didn’t remember her name at all, would just smile and smile as her doll’s head tried to lick my cheek. It’s not much fun over here, she would complain. It’s not much fun at all. Sometimes the little boys would show themselves, if they weren’t too busy stomping from the back door to mom’s room, over and over. They thought that so funny. Especially if they could get her to wake up and check on the noise.
But where do you go? I asked Rosiecheeks that once or twice. She didn’t know. Or she didn’t want to tell me. Or she couldn’t tell me. Then, to distract me, she’d go into her version of Little Red Riding Hood, where the little girl dies and no one comes to save her. The wolf licked her blood off the walls and Little Red Riding Hood watched this as she died. That’s where it ended. Every time. The story always started with: A bad little girl in a bright red cloak walked into the forest.
Why didn’t that little cloaked brat save herself? I never thought to ask that. A wolf is just a big dog. Pick up a stick, fight back.
So, today, January 21, 2017, women and men around the world marched. They marched against an orange little man who would be king. They marched against the rolling back of rights so already hard-won and hard-fought by our great-grandmothers, our grandmothers, our mothers. By our great-grandfathers, our grandfathers, our fathers. By people. People, rather like today, who stepped out and kept stepping, kept stepping.
There is a collective amnesia going on, as well. Why are all those women marching, some ask, with a laugh, a shrug. Women already have a bunch of rights. What rights are they losing? LOL, those dumb women, they should stop playing the victim card. They should calm down. Who knew there were so many ugly women unable to get a date on a Friday night? What about men’s rights? What about the pro-life women or the pre-born women?[Yes, I saw that written all over today and yesterday–” the rights of the pre-born women, what about those rights?” Sometimes I think I’m living in some absurd Beckett play or Orwell is playing mad prank on us from beyond the grave…]
And so many others eye-rolling and snorting at people marching against such a perceived threat to America, to the world. A man who has said, openly, that he grabs pussies, that he kisses women whether they want it or not. That Mexicans are rapists, that Muslims should be registered, that…oh there’s a list. Others have compiled very detailed and awful lists of what this orange man has said. Who then turned around and denied saying it or had his minions say he never said such and such. That this was what he actually meant. To not pay attention to his words, as Kellyanne Conway said, but to feel what he has in his heart. Something like that, some apologetic impossibility we’re supposed to swallow, swallow, swallow.
And the racists that came out of not really hiding at all. They’ve never really hidden, come on. Come on, America. They’ve squatted in plain sight, waiting for their moment. And with Queen Cheeto, they got it. David Duke celebrating openly and gleefully. Cheeto did not denounce him openly or viciously…if he did, it came far too late. Richard Spencer being punched, an openly open about it NeoNazi. Steve Bannon. Breitbart “News”. Oh fuck, there’s a list, a list of white supremacists with access to the POTUS. We’ve been invaded by Hyrda and people are celebrating MAGA by excluding nearly all the citizens in the USA…The White House site was suspiciously scrubbed of climate change information, LGTB rights pages, healthcare [ACA], civil rights…America First, which was the rallying cry of antisemite Nazi sympathizers right before WWII. Which Bannon, who wrote that Bane-esque speech KNEW VERY WELL. Stephen Miller helped. White males suddenly felt they had a voice again! I just…I just splutter between laughing and weeping, a sort of strangled coughing comes out.
I saw a woman post a very long, obviously copied and borrowed from somewhere else, screed on how real women don’t complain or march or speak out or cause problems or rumble or notice much at all, apparently. Because we already have all the rights, we women, so why are SOME WOMEN being so silly and saying we don’t when Queen Cheeto– I will never call that thing by its name, it’s childish, but hey– hasn’t even done anything yet and hey, he had a woman run his campaign and he…oh there was this indignant little list of how great Queen Cheeto was and how inclusive he was of women and so forth.
And my reaction to that? Mm. Yeah, except all those rights you listed– to have a job, your own bank account, work outside the home, go to school, earn your own money and buy stuff like houses and land and big ticket items, vote, have a voice in elections at all…ALL CAME FROM WOMEN AND MEN MARCHING, SPEAKING OUT AND TRYING TO CHANGE THINGS. Like, oh, they are now. In Los Angeles and Chicago and Portland and Boise and Seattle and Atlanta and New York City and Paris, France and London, England and…all over the world. As someone pointed out, they haven’t seen marches and outcries and such like this since the days of Vietnam. A lot of women seem really embarrassed by this attention other women are yanking toward us as a sex. That’s fine. But we need to remember that our present-day rights are very fragile and can be yanked away and will be yanked away if we are not vigilant. We take them for granted. We don’t remember that we’ve only been voting since 1920 or so. That it was illegal in the sixties to get birth control if you were single. That sexual harassment was okay until almost 1980. That a woman couldn’t have her own bank account, in her name only, until the mid to late seventies. That spousal rape was okay until the 1990’s. Look it up. Obtaining a divorce. Being allowed to keep working after getting married. Abortion rights. The right to have a say over your own body. Barriers in sports, in education, in male-dominated fields…all shattered by women willing to speak up, out and make a fool of themselves if they had to.
These things, banking, voting, birth control, abortion, career, education, holding public office, driving, and other things!! were all fought bitterly over [they still are] and if we little ole gals ain’t careful, will be rescinded as neatly and surgically as possible for ‘our own good’. So that women ‘are protected’. So that we women ‘are safe’. Oh the buzzwords and comforting chains offered!
Oh and it’s okay to march if we’re pretty or in some way acceptable, of course. [Note the language cast toward the marchers– ugly bitches, cunts, loud-mouthed twats, dykes, lesbos, professional victims, whiny bloodbags, must all be on the rag, etc. etc.] Language meant to demean, cut down, shame women for wanting anything other than what we’re told we should want. Or that we, allegedly, already have. [And that we should forget how hard-fought those earlier fights had to be to even get a foothold in the door, as it were. Not a few days, but hundreds of years, if not thousands, for women to be treated as human beings. Or…as men get treated without a second thought from anyone.]
I am so glad to see such an outcry. That our great republic is not dead yet nor is decency, compassion and outrage against injustices great or small. I am glad that passion still exists to try and change a wrong. Change is painful and comes at a cost. We’ve forgotten the cost our great-grandmothers and strangers alike paid so long ago. We don’t learn from history. We have to learn the same painful lessons over and over. Those rights we take for granted and get complacent about or ignorant as to just how and why we have those rights today…can be snatched away by pussy-grabbing king wannabes, by dead-eyed zealots who want their version of a murderous, awful god to be our god, too…and they’ll do it to Make America Great Again and make us thank them, on our knees, telling them how great they are, how great they are, how great, how great.
Loyalty was demanded by Queen of the Cheetos. Loyalty. Like I and other Americans are dogs, not citizens. Fuck you. That’s my answer. Because I live in a society that might wince at my use of a cuss word [ladies shouldn’t cuss, right?] but still appreciates a show of resistance.
It’s hot here. There are giant cockroaches. And geckos call for mates from my ceiling. Chickens wander by in the early morning cool, peer at me as I peer at them. Wasps buzz against the screened windows, but they seem oddly gentle, not the aggressive American wasps that like to sting and sting, then come back and sting you again. Black wasps that just mind their own beeswax. The road in front of my small pink house is rutted, rocky, a dirt road. A man parks his moto right in front of my door each night– a little three-wheeled vehicle that you can hire to take you from here to there for about ten ‘ limps ‘ as the teacher from Kansas calls Honduran money.
They have the same motos in Bangkok– called tuk-tuks.
Today I will try and buy some fruit, fresh veggies and rice. Possibly get some more dry erase markers for teaching. Practice my bad Spanish on the tolerant people who live here.
It’s quite peaceful here. There are military police everywhere, but that’s apparently common. They walk around in their camo and guns– giant machine gun-looking weapons hanging from straps over their chests. I am not used to seeing military personal walking around as if they are in a war zone.
The teachers at the school are all younger than I am. So I won’t go into that here. But I am old and well seasoned, like leftovers. And they are fresh and green, like a cup of flour not yet mixed into cookie dough.