Demands©Averyell A. KesslerWords, it seems, are in trouble. For a writer, this is especially painful. Words are the tools of my trade. They inhabit my daily work and whisper to me at night. I’ve had a lifelong romance with books of all sorts, the classics, of course, some edgy, some boring, and a few without merit except as a momentary diversion. Words are essential for life and learning. Hello law books moldering on the bottom shelf in my writing room. Now words, both written and spoken, are under suspicion, lying naked under the microscope of timid modern thought and seemingly able to produce as much pain as a swift kick in the britches. Surprise, this is not new. It’s been that way since Socrates drank hemlock.Although the word police have not yet invaded my writing room or erased my thoughts, they are circling and ready to pounce. I see them at work every day, cobbling together a vacillating list of unacceptable words and dissecting a fresh batch of no-nos. (Poor pronouns, they must be really suffering, adverbs have already bitten the dust). Recently, one of my least favorites is gaining popularity- demand. It’s the new mantra of The Society for the Protection of Green Beans, as well as National Carbuncle Association and Sutaso, a short form for Snuggle up to a Screech Owl. The green bean people, aka beanie’s, have presented a list of demands to a group of random six-year-olds as well as Vegetarians United. The Carbuncles demand official recognition from the CDC. The screech owl people are still figuring out how to snuggle up to owls without scaring the living daylights out of the poor creatures.Seems like I’ll have to make peace with ‘demand’ because it’s everywhere. Anyone who’s grown up in the south is familiar with this word and all its possibilities. For me, demand was a Mama rule that must not be broken, ever, under any circumstances. First and foremost was thou shall not talk, giggle, or fidget in church. Fidget wasn’t precisely defined, but I understood. I learned the church rule early in life. I also learned that sometimes rules must be broken. It happened on an ordinary Sunday in April in a densely populated Presbyterian church on North State Street.According to the hands on my Mickey Mouse watch, it’s 11:52 and Dr. Miller is still holding forth. He’s wound up tighter that the mainspring of a double bell alarm clock and shows no signs of stopping. I see my father sitting in the last row of the choir loft, his head bobbing like a fishing pole cork at high tide. His eye lashes flutter against his cheeks. A lady in front of my pew, shifts and adjusts a purple dawn camelia pinned to her sweater in hopes that the sermon will zoom to a rapid conclusion. Her husband is catatonic. Mama, however, is statue still. I tap her hand and point to my watch. She shakes her head slowly and fires a warning shot with her eyes. Sit still or else. I lose the battle when I see my friend sitting nearby. Our eyes lock. She stifles a giggle and sticks out her tongue. I become a howler monkey, my shoulders shiver as I fight for self-control. Mama captures my arm in a vice grip. Quiet, she hisses. Sit still.Dr. Miller is still strapped into a prime seat on the yakery-yak express. His words are velvet to his ears, bouncing off the ceiling as he booms out, “There are three main points here. The first is……………..” Mickey is now displaying 12: 10. I am becoming desperate. Surely Daddy’s stomach is rumbling too.I stop laughing as soon as I see it, a single wasp circling the camelia lady’s stout neck. It is silent and lethal; no one except me seems to hear the whirr of its tiny wings. I press myself against the back in the pew and watch as it settles on the camelia and burrows into its golden center.“The second point is………….” Dr. Miller rattles on, covering the congregation in a heavy blanket of thick fog. Camelia lady is desperate also. She fingers the flower on her shoulder then stretches her neck and fluffs her hair. The wasp abandons his home in the camelia and crawls onto a wide expanse of her raw flesh. I am entranced as it teeters on six spindly legs inspecting the territory before it disappears below her collar. Suddenly, she senses something amiss. She leans forward and tugs at her shoulder pads. Nothing. She whispers to her husband. He unzips her collar and looks inside. More whispering. Camelia lady is now in a hurricane of panic.“Do something!” she whispers. She bares her teeth, her eyes flame. When he reaches inside her dress, it’s a step too far. The wasp attacks. Her chin rises to the ceiling. “Owwww! It’s a wasp!” she shouts, yowling like a solitary wolf on a snowy night. She leaps from her pew and runs down a side aisle. A doctor rouses himself from oblivion and follows her. I hear shouting and scuffling in the entrance foyer. A soft murmur rises in the congregation. Is this wasp one of many? An entire nest, perhaps? An outbreak of feverish scratching follows as folks preen and inspect their clothing. Dr. Miller has the good sense to hop off his glory train and dismiss the congregation. As he flees through a side door, the organist launches into a robust run for your life tune. Every door in the sanctuary is wide open. Families gather their children and rush outside to safety. It’s over at last.“That poor lady,” Mama says as we leave the church. “I hope she’s alright.“I saw it on her neck,” I say. “But she didn’t know it was there.”“Why didn’t you say something?” Mama asks.“I’m not supposed to talk in church,” I explain.“Sometimes rules don’t apply and you must speak up,” Mama says. “especially if something bad is happening.”“I will from now on,” I answer. “Especially if it’s bad.”Good advice Mama. So, must we all. It’s important.

One thought on “Demands©Averyell A. KesslerWords, it seems, are in trouble. For a writer, this is especially painful. Words are the tools of my trade. They inhabit my daily work and whisper to me at night. I’ve had a lifelong romance with books of all sorts, the classics, of course, some edgy, some boring, and a few without merit except as a momentary diversion. Words are essential for life and learning. Hello law books moldering on the bottom shelf in my writing room. Now words, both written and spoken, are under suspicion, lying naked under the microscope of timid modern thought and seemingly able to produce as much pain as a swift kick in the britches. Surprise, this is not new. It’s been that way since Socrates drank hemlock.Although the word police have not yet invaded my writing room or erased my thoughts, they are circling and ready to pounce. I see them at work every day, cobbling together a vacillating list of unacceptable words and dissecting a fresh batch of no-nos. (Poor pronouns, they must be really suffering, adverbs have already bitten the dust). Recently, one of my least favorites is gaining popularity- demand. It’s the new mantra of The Society for the Protection of Green Beans, as well as National Carbuncle Association and Sutaso, a short form for Snuggle up to a Screech Owl. The green bean people, aka beanie’s, have presented a list of demands to a group of random six-year-olds as well as Vegetarians United. The Carbuncles demand official recognition from the CDC. The screech owl people are still figuring out how to snuggle up to owls without scaring the living daylights out of the poor creatures.Seems like I’ll have to make peace with ‘demand’ because it’s everywhere. Anyone who’s grown up in the south is familiar with this word and all its possibilities. For me, demand was a Mama rule that must not be broken, ever, under any circumstances. First and foremost was thou shall not talk, giggle, or fidget in church. Fidget wasn’t precisely defined, but I understood. I learned the church rule early in life. I also learned that sometimes rules must be broken. It happened on an ordinary Sunday in April in a densely populated Presbyterian church on North State Street.According to the hands on my Mickey Mouse watch, it’s 11:52 and Dr. Miller is still holding forth. He’s wound up tighter that the mainspring of a double bell alarm clock and shows no signs of stopping. I see my father sitting in the last row of the choir loft, his head bobbing like a fishing pole cork at high tide. His eye lashes flutter against his cheeks. A lady in front of my pew, shifts and adjusts a purple dawn camelia pinned to her sweater in hopes that the sermon will zoom to a rapid conclusion. Her husband is catatonic. Mama, however, is statue still. I tap her hand and point to my watch. She shakes her head slowly and fires a warning shot with her eyes. Sit still or else. I lose the battle when I see my friend sitting nearby. Our eyes lock. She stifles a giggle and sticks out her tongue. I become a howler monkey, my shoulders shiver as I fight for self-control. Mama captures my arm in a vice grip. Quiet, she hisses. Sit still.Dr. Miller is still strapped into a prime seat on the yakery-yak express. His words are velvet to his ears, bouncing off the ceiling as he booms out, “There are three main points here. The first is……………..” Mickey is now displaying 12: 10. I am becoming desperate. Surely Daddy’s stomach is rumbling too.I stop laughing as soon as I see it, a single wasp circling the camelia lady’s stout neck. It is silent and lethal; no one except me seems to hear the whirr of its tiny wings. I press myself against the back in the pew and watch as it settles on the camelia and burrows into its golden center.“The second point is………….” Dr. Miller rattles on, covering the congregation in a heavy blanket of thick fog. Camelia lady is desperate also. She fingers the flower on her shoulder then stretches her neck and fluffs her hair. The wasp abandons his home in the camelia and crawls onto a wide expanse of her raw flesh. I am entranced as it teeters on six spindly legs inspecting the territory before it disappears below her collar. Suddenly, she senses something amiss. She leans forward and tugs at her shoulder pads. Nothing. She whispers to her husband. He unzips her collar and looks inside. More whispering. Camelia lady is now in a hurricane of panic.“Do something!” she whispers. She bares her teeth, her eyes flame. When he reaches inside her dress, it’s a step too far. The wasp attacks. Her chin rises to the ceiling. “Owwww! It’s a wasp!” she shouts, yowling like a solitary wolf on a snowy night. She leaps from her pew and runs down a side aisle. A doctor rouses himself from oblivion and follows her. I hear shouting and scuffling in the entrance foyer. A soft murmur rises in the congregation. Is this wasp one of many? An entire nest, perhaps? An outbreak of feverish scratching follows as folks preen and inspect their clothing. Dr. Miller has the good sense to hop off his glory train and dismiss the congregation. As he flees through a side door, the organist launches into a robust run for your life tune. Every door in the sanctuary is wide open. Families gather their children and rush outside to safety. It’s over at last.“That poor lady,” Mama says as we leave the church. “I hope she’s alright.“I saw it on her neck,” I say. “But she didn’t know it was there.”“Why didn’t you say something?” Mama asks.“I’m not supposed to talk in church,” I explain.“Sometimes rules don’t apply and you must speak up,” Mama says. “especially if something bad is happening.”“I will from now on,” I answer. “Especially if it’s bad.”Good advice Mama. So, must we all. It’s important.

  1. One of the funniest you have ever written! Your gift outstrips Lewis Grizzard. I don’t believe there is a JDN in Jackson now but surely there is a Clarion-Ledger. They would be wise to have you write a weekly column for them. Be bold, take your work to the Editor and let more people see your work. God bless you!

    Like

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