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"Lord of the Edge," short story excerpt

Sunday 8/6/23

He practices his comedy routine in his head, which contains words he dare not say aloud, but then again, if he got on a stage and commenced with his material, he wouldn’t have to use many words at all to register as a firebrand, and comics are supposed to be edgy.


He was certain that nobody could do it in less words than he.


“Say this about slavery,” he’d start, and then hold the note, because that would be the joke in its entirety and it only took the beginning of a sentence that didn’t get finished.


That’s the thing about people that is both good and bad, he reasons. They fill in the blanks.


Sometimes they don’t know the blanks are there and they fall into them like they’re holes and that is how they get filled up.


He volunteers at a shelter for abused peoples, a strange word in his estimation like wherefrom and pulchritude, but they’re just weird and it’s more like “peoples” is off.


“The indigenous peoples of the South American continent.” Also, very United Nations. No one would say the peoples of the NHL.


“Hey,” he muses. “That could be a good one.”


He fancies himself the Lord of the Edge. Rarely does he say what he thinks, and rarer still does he say what he’s come up with, but if he did, life might break differently.


He’d have to have courage, though. There’s a timing to courage. Courage is all about the right situation, he determines, and place.


Occasionally the victims at the shelter are men. They’re not always small. Some are large. They look formidable. He wants to say to them, “Where’s your pride? Surely you can handle your wife?”


He doesn’t know it’s a wife who has caused the duress. Details are scant. It’s forbidden to make inquiries beyond those of “Can I get you another blanket?” Volunteers aren’t to press or judge. They’re to help with healing. Healing may include sanctuary in its incipiency. Everything is in the guidebook that anchored the orientation which is a requirement for all volunteers.


A wisp of a man sat on the edge of a cot. Now he was the kind of guy whose wife might be able to beat him up, the Lord of the Edge reasons.


“Here, puss puss,” he jokes to himself, as in pussy, via the circuitous feline-based route.


Or it could have been a boyfriend, in which case it would have been very easy.


The man whose bed this was for the night (or longer if he needed it) wrote in a notebook, prompting the Lord of the Edge to ask him if he was journaling. He’d tried some journaling himself, not that he volunteered the information.


The wisp of a man could have been a massive individual on the inside, but this was outside stuff exclusively. He had a fat lip. A shiner was starting to blacken under an eye.


“I’m writing a poem,” the man answered.


“Oh,” came the response, which in tone was a translation of what had just been thought, and that was, “Figures,” with a soupcon of “Of course you are.”


There was a woman who also volunteered, and she was beautiful and kind. She had peace at her core, because she’d known pain in her body and her heart, and it’d gone into her soul.


The gentlest people are those who have been hurt the most, did not give in to breakage, and instead replenish stores of fundamental goodness with what they create from within and what they won’t allow to be taken from them from without.


It is they who know what others need. And also what certain deeds do. And certain words. Internally-speaking, where repairs are the most challenging. Just as it is they who most look out for the insides of others.


* from Become Your Own Superhero: Intrepid Exceptions to Modern Fiction



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