My latest short story, posted at Liberty.me:
Life is good, mused Billy Rainbow as he ambled across the wooden bridge to Kresge College. Sprinkles of sunlight drifted down through the redwoods and he could taste the scent of spring in the air – woody and fresh, with a hint of the sea that lay just below campus.
Billy Rainbow had just taken some mushrooms. He had mixed them in peanut butter to eat them, and it left a funny taste in his mouth. It occurred to him that the one thing that could make his mouth taste better was chocolate. It also occurred to him that the best place to get chocolate on a sunny afternoon in Santa Cruz was Sluggo’s at Porter College. So off he went.
This particular afternoon Darcy Fortinbras sat at a small table in Sluggo’s with her friend and comrade Simon Fisk. Visually, they made an odd couple. Simon was tall, lanky and seemed underfed. He wore a faded Cesar Chavez t-shirt and threadbare blue jeans. He sat slumped in his chair as if he was taking a short break from his work in the fields, his legs dangling casually down from the chair. But the tightness around his eyes and the corners of his mouth suggested something other than farming on his mind.
Darcy was much shorter than Simon, squat almost, with a trim, muscular build. She had dark black hair (friends wondered if it was her natural color or whether she dyed it to match her black wardrobe) which she had had carefully clipped to create the impression of having been hacked at carelessly. She had a wide mouth and large dark eyes, around which she had drawn heavy black eyeliner.
Like Johnny Cash, Darcy Fortinbras had pledged to wear black every day of her life until all injustice had been scrubbed from the earth. For Darcy Fortinbras though, “Injustice” had quite a different meaning than it had had for Johnny Cash.
As they often did in the afternoons, Simon and Darcy were discussing this injustice and what they were going to do about it. Darcy was hunched over the table, a look of intense despair weighing her down. Simon leaned back into his chair, frowning deeply.
It was at this moment that Billy Rainbow walked into the cafe, stepped up to the counter and ordered himself a double-dipped mud-pie delight.
“You know,” said Simon glumly, “sometimes I think people are so consumed with greed and self-interest that the larger social structure doesn’t even matter. They’ll just continue grabbing and… and grasping… and…”
“…consuming…” Darcy filled in for him, nodding.
“…consuming, yes… oblivious to the fact that everything they consume is taken from the mouth of another.”
Darcy nodded some more.
“And yet…” Simon continued, gazing upward, “I wonder also whether I am just as guilty. Whether, as a white male, I even have the right to have my voice heard in a world where the less privileged have been silenced for so long.”
Darcy frowned, nodding a little more deeply.
Simon shook his head. “Every word I speak, every thought that I utter… is a word denied to someone else – perhaps someone more deserving. By what right do I claim even one iota of the world’s bandwidth from those who have no voice?”
Darcy reached out and clasped his hand in both of hers.
“Inequality is everywhere,” she said to him gently. “It’s like a virus, or… a fungus… or like that mold people find in their houses. Just when you’ve scraped away one layer and you think your work is done… there’s a deeper level to it. There’s always more. But we don’t shy away from it. You show great courage in confronting your own role in the systematic oppression of…”
“Sorry to eavesdrop,” Billy smiled widely at the couple at the table next to him.
Darcy looked up slowly from Simon’s hand, her eyes burning with all the rage she felt toward the world. A normal person, an unimpaired person, would have recognized the rage, would have immediately understood the message implicit in that stare: “The world is burning. I spend my every waking hour working to quench the inferno, to rectify the injustice that engulfs the world and you want to waste my time with idle chit chat?” A normal person would have slowly backed away.
But Billy Rainbow was no normal person. He was happy. Happy about the colors that were leaping out at him, shouting their names, colors he had never noticed before. Happy about the glimpses he was seeing of the people around him – little sparkling reflections of their childhoods, buried beneath decades of busy-ness, trying to fit in-ness and working to keep up-ness, glimpses that he could see now and that made him smile. “It’s always new,” he chuckled to himself. “Every time…”
You can read the rest here.