• Spartan Considerations

“Somebody’s knockin’. Should I let him in?”

As Terri Gibbs majestic voice was echoing around my home office, surely enough, there was a knock, nay, more like a tapping, a tapping at my chamber door.

Upon lurching over to the door and flinging it open I saw there, as slouched as one can be while still standing, my old mentor, nemesis, and erstwhile confidant: Slats MacCune.

“Merry Christmas!” he bellowed. Lowering his voice every so slightly, he smiled and said, “I got you this tree.” He motioned behind him at the green shrub forlornly shirking its tree-ly duties on my living room floor.

“I don’t know what to say Slats.” I paused for a second. “Let’s start with: how did you get a key to my house?”

He replied, one part indignation to two parts bemusement, “Well isn’t that gratitude for ‘ya. I went to great lengths to acquire this conifer most fair.”

I looked at it closer. “This is from my neighbor’s yard, innit?” From the hedge?”

“So, it’s true, you are getting paranoid. I was hearing stories…” Slats stopped when he saw me peering out the window, looking at the new gap in my neighbor’s natural privacy screen. “Well, like they say good fences…”

“It’s a hedge, Slats. And this is Columbia, there are HOAs here you know.”

He flopped onto my davenport without acknowledging the disapproving glares I was firing off in his direction.

“Speaking of, what’s new on the local scene?” he asked, seemingly genuinely interested.

I replied cautiously, suspicious at this newfound earnestness in his voice. As an Xer, the generation that perfected both irony and nostalgia, I was wondering why this Boomer, dripping pine needles on my sofa, would care.

I shrugged. “Taking a bit of a respite there. Looking to focus more on the national scene. I want to direct my anger more productively.”

He looked up, with an expression both wan and wry, “I hear you. I’ve been sending out a bunch of rage-filled emails of late. And, get this, people are actually getting pissed off at me for it!”

“Say it ain’t so, Slats.”

He continued, “Oh yeah. And for the favor of letting them know how wrong they are and how questionable their parentage is, they are giving me a bunch of guff!”

“A damn shame.”

Slats was glancing about the room, looking for any shiny red object that could amuse him for a few minutes. Remembering that I was standing there, in my own house, and that we were having a conversation, he quickly re-focused to make it appear as though he was at least trying to pay attention.

“So yeah, let me tell you Jason, there was a time when people would kill to receive one of my letters of reprobation. It used to be a sign that they made it. A badge of honor! Why, I don’t know how many times one of these fortunate recipients would come up to me…”

“…at a bar?”

“Sh. Don’t interrupt. Yeah, a bar. And they would say, tears bursting across their cheeks, ‘Slats,’ they would say ‘Slats, I didn’t think people were noticing my efforts. That I was really getting something done, making a difference in the community you know. Head down, toiling in silence. And then I got your note calling me a…’ and they would pull out the letter or print-out, Jason, sometimes the paper was practically dust it had been folded and unfolded so many times…”

“…you called them a…”

“Yeah, they would read, 'calling me a pusillanimous dirtbag whose only saving grace was a well-honed penchant for saying the perfectly stupid thing at the perfectly worst time.’ Let me tell you, once they had that confirmation in their grubby little hands, they knew something.”

“What did they know?”

“That they arrived. They were at least worthy of contempt. And they appreciated my noticing their efforts, as communicated in my own, what do you call it…”


“Yes, that’s it,” he pointed. That’s the word inimitable fashion.”

Slats paused again, before looking back up. His eyes were a little cloudy, betraying something more than a simple lapse in focus, perhaps even a hint of fear as he briefly struggled to concentrate on the conversation taking place in his old friend’s living room.



“Two questions for you.”

“Yes, Slats?”

He desperately tried to slap the devilish grin back onto his own face but could only do so after a couple halting attempts failed.

“How much of what I just said to you is actually true and how much do you think I believe is actually true?”

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