Reductio Ad Absurdum [1]

by Reese Simmons


     Charles Jackson stumbled home late.  All night he and his fellow employees sat around, laughing, eyeing women, gulping beer, wine and other, more potent, social lubricants, while occasionally discussing the importance of children—or better—the importance of having a boy. 

     “Trust me, I’m no chauvinist or anything like that, but when it comes down to leaving your Legacy,” said Lewis Catrell, a tall, dark-skinned, handsome young man of twenty-four, “you wanna leave it to a man, a young strong prince, with a big set of balls,” he finished, pounding his protruding chest as the group fell into violent, drunken laughter.

     “Yeah,” another, darker skinned man roared, leaning back in his seat, “I just hope he has big feet!”   Once again the group lost restraint.

     “Hey, another round!” Charles yelled with a brown-eyed stare, waving his hand for a waitress, “on me, the big boss man!  Potato chip King of the South!  Imma teach you brothers how to drink!”

     It was a great evening for Charles, but something that one of the younger guys had casually mentioned attached itself to the core of his inebriated psyche as he staggered his way home: ‘your son is your legacy, without a son, there is nothing to substantiate your existence.’   The statement tapped in on a vital nerve; it made him itch.  Pushing forty, his thick black hair streaking with gray, his joints stiffening with each passing day, Charles desperately wanted a boy of his own.  ‘What if I suddenly die tomorrow,’ he thought, wiggling his key into the copper coated lock on his front door.

     When he stepped inside his well kept home, he immediately felt overwhelmed by a sense of lifelessness; the thought of his inevitable demise began to take hold of him.  He thought of how nothing would cease once he was gone, how over time he would be forgotten, how his life up until this moment had gone too fast. He began to calculate his time. He tried to shake the numbers from his head.  The monotonous tick of that Virgin Mary wall clock his wife Carol won at the church raffle seemed to increase with his every step. All he could smell were cleansers, air fresheners and furniture polish.  Carol was fast asleep, and though they seldom indulged in any sort of passionate coition, tonight she would be awakened.  Tonight, Charles was determined to create his legacy, to bring life into the deadness of his dark home.

     He tiptoed into the quiet bedroom with a powerful swell in his pajamas, charged with a fevered determination, consumed with purpose. Carol was indeed awakened, and reluctantly accepted his advances in an unconscious stupor: ‘what’s gotten into you Charles?’  She whispered. 

     “No,” he whispered back, “what’s gotten into you Carol?”

     For Charles, Carol’s lack of enthusiasm mattered very little; she was a vessel.  The intercourse was beyond enjoyment; he gave it his all, the injection containing strength, intelligence, beauty, power!  His release was passionate, loud, meaningful, sadistic, exhausting, and immediately afterwards—his being secured in the warm loins of his woman, the itch in his brain having finally been soothed—he fell into a deep, narcissistic slumber full of scattered images of what would soon be, his future.

Eight years later.

     “That’s my boy! Look at him, that’s my boy!”

     Seven year old Charles Jr. is running barefoot through the neatly trimmed back lawn in a joyous frenzy, smiling and giggling, curious and passionate, inspecting behind every shrub and bush, the late afternoon blaze bouncing off his thick black hair; his parents watch from the kitchen table with wonder and happiness gleaming from their glistening brown eyes. 

     “That’s my boy,” Charles whispers, pointing to himself with his thumb. He has developed an obsession with the utterance of this phrase. Carol smiles at him, her cheeks are stretching from ear to ear.  “He’s got such a good complexion, doesn’t he Carol?”

     “Bronze,” Carol responds with pride, thinking: it’s my complexion.

     “I love his eyes.  Where did he get those black eyes?”  Charles adds, knowing that they are the deep dark eyes characteristic of the Jackson clan.  He was one of the few who didn’t have those eyes.  For years it troubled him, but now seeing that he has passed this trait onto his boy gives him renewed confidence.

     “Yeah, he’ll be a lady killer, that’s for sure.  Look at him, he’s so inquisitive,” Carol adds, watching young Charles slip his head in between two shrub clusters.

     “Your child is you, he is your legacy.  And I’m gonna make sure my legacy is great.  What we have here my dear is a descendant of an African king.  My people have been waitin’ for a man like this.  He’s special, I know it.  That’s why I’m gonna teach him his history, he’s gonna understand what it means to be black in this racist country.”  Charles takes on a posture of intense seriousness, gesturing with his fist.  “This country has a history of exploiting us, our children, our women.  The police are beating us in the streets!  I’m gonna teach him all of that. I want him to be a leader, a great black leader, a world changer.  Lord knows he’s got the qualities.  Shit, he’s my boy.”

     Born two months premature, they feared their son would never make it to see his first birthday.  But the child proved to be stronger than they thought: though still rather short for his age, he has gradually developed the distinct muscular outline of his father, and he has grown into an energetic young boy with an intellectual capacity far above average. Both parents swell with hope when they look upon their son, but each is affected differently.

     Prior to young Charles’ arrival, Carol had been afflicted with an acute sense of guilt; she had been subjected to eighteen years of rigorous Christian morality, and in a prolonged fit of teen rebellion, she committed some rather unholy acts of sheer passion, none of which were with her husband Charles, who married her secure with the notion that she was nothing but a ‘decent Christian lady.’  All through her adult life she felt sinful, and felt that her heightened guilt was somehow God’s punishment for those dirty acts.  She attributed all her misfortunes, no matter how minor or major, to her youthful indiscretions. She believed it to be the sole reason why she and Charles had been unsuccessful in all their attempts to conceive.  Gradually, as the years passed, she became obsessed with cleaning, instantly repulsed by dirt and disorder. The house had to be immaculate, the lawn had to be trimmed, the dishes had to be done.  Her entire life had been dedicated to the task of simply ridding the world of all traces of dirt. She cleaned so much that eventually not one spec of dust or debris could be found anywhere in the home; at length she moved her task to the air itself, purchasing a bevy of sprays that promised the ‘freshness of spring’.  She was just about to finance a state of the art air purifying system when, like a miracle, young Charles Jr. arrived; ever since, she has grown more relaxed, more in control of her trivial preoccupations. 

     Young Charles gives her a greater sense of worth; she is more concerned with actual life experience now, and many times she has looked upon young Charles and thought: ‘Charles, you are my Savior, finally God has forgiven me for my sins.’ 

     For Charles Jackson the boy evokes a different sort of affection: in his son, Jackson sees himself, fresh, reincarnated, and without the bum knee. He sees a lengthy list of brave hearted Jacksons twinkling in the young boy’s deep brown stare; for Jackson, glimpsing at his child with an optimistic grin, Charles Jr. is not simply a black boy from small town Florida; he is a Godsend, a glimmering asterisk in the black despair, the future of not just the Jacksons, of not just America, but of humanity itself.

     “He’s got your shoulders Charles,” Old Mr. Norton, the postal clerk says with a smile.

     “Yeah,” Charles answers, strolling by with his son on his shoulders, “got my brains too.” 


     A few days ago little Charles had a scuffle at the playground.  His father was discussing some would be figures with a potential investor, an investor whom he couldn’t stand—simply because he was a white, successful male—but had to have if he wanted statewide distribution of his potato chips.  Little Charles and the investor’s seven-year-old son were rolling around in the dust the entire conversation.

     “Alright break it up, break it up, you two.  Learn to get along with one another!” Charles shouts this, but the moment he glances at the two boys and sees that his son is getting the better of the investor’s kid, who is bigger and blonde, the words: That’s my boy, light up like neon in his mind.

     And to hear the boy speak:  “Daddy,” he says, emphatically and with excellent pronunciation,  “I think I’d like to take this ride with you.  Riding in cars is something I really enjoy.  Speed.  I like speed.” 

     On the road, when his dad beats a red light, the boy’s keenness manifests itself:

     “Amber,” he says nonchalantly from the back seat, pushing buttons on a handheld computer game.  “Signal, signal to designate your turn.  Daddy why don’t people signal when they’re turning?”  Charles looks back at his boy: those puffy cheeks, that innocence, the prettiness of his son’s face, brings a warm, tingly smile to his own face.

     Clarence Buber lives about ten houses down from the Jacksons, in a secluded Duplex a few yards from Doodle’s pond.  He inherited the home from his parents.  After they died two years ago, he simply never moved out.  Clarence is a rather solitary man, uneducated, disorderly, stubbornly resistant to change. He never shaves, and he seldom bathes.  His hair is a stringy brownish blonde mop. He’s been wearing the same mud-stained blue jeans for months, and he has not cleaned the house since his parents died.  He has never slept with a woman.  The sole object of his affection is his housemate: a twenty foot, albino Burmese python named Martina.  Martina is like a sister to Clarence, having been raised right alongside of him for twenty years.  She knows everything about Clarence, his deepest fears, his high school crushes, his dreams, and his most intimate desires.  Many times as a child he could be found curled up in bed with little Martina snuggled between his fingers, whispering his secrets to her as she flicked her tongue in curiosity.

He knows a great deal about her too.  He knows her moods, he knows that she cannot even go one week without a meal, that after that seventh day she starts hissing and pressing her head against her bedroom door.  He knows that after eating, she does not even want her door opened for at least two days, but that as long these two conditions are consistently maintained, Martina is the most docile friend a man can have, even affectionate—well, that is until last week.  Apparently, two fifteen-pound piglets are no longer enough for her; her appetite has become unpredictable.  Usually after two piglets, she’s full.  But last week, two days after he had just fed her, he opened her bedroom door to nap with her, confident as usual, and before he knew it, in a flash, Martina had gotten a hold of his boot!  Had it not been so worn and without shoelaces—well, who can say, she may have tried to eat him.  But that’s highly unlikely; snakes generally know if prey is too large for them.  Prey taken in that is larger than the snake’s abdomen may well be regurgitated whole, a few days later.  Still, despite the improbability of Martina being able to digest him, Clarence hasn’t entered her room since the incident.  Everyday, however, Clarence hears that deep hissing sound drowning out his television. 

     “Shut up!  I just fed you Martina!” 

     Nowadays Martina never shuts up, she noisily pushes against her bedroom door and hisses all through the night, even into the morning when Clarence gets up, flicking her slippery tongue beneath the door at his bare feet.  Clarence knows what the problem is: Martina is a full grown, well fed, healthy adult python, that bedroom, which used to be his bedroom before his parents died, is too small for her.  She wants out. 

     The school has requested that her son take an IQ test, and Carol, strutting through the parking lot with young Charles clutching her hand tightly, cannot hold in her glee. ‘We have reason to believe that he is exceptionally gifted,’ they told her with eyes of concern.  ‘There are schools for children of his make, and if he scores what we suspect he will score, we can make arrangements for him to attend such a school, with your permission of course.’

     Charles scores a 170.  It is the highest score ever recorded for such a test, he is heralded as the most promising child in Bakersfield, Florida, and the local school board immediately arranges to have him sent to Clearview Academy for Gifted Children. The NAACP offers to pay half of the boy’s tuition. ‘We sincerely hope that you will allow us to monitor young Charles’ progress to adulthood, and please don’t hesitate to call us if you need any assistance.  Young boys like Charles are the future for Black people in this country.’ The Bakersfield Chronicle does a story on young Charles.  Bakersfield Sprouts Genius, is what the headline read.

     “That’s my boy!”

     Charles lifts and shakes his son in the air, smiling uncontrollably; a copy of the Chronicle is lying on the kitchen table.

     “Daddy can I go out in the yard and play?”

     Charles puts the boy down.

     “Sure, just before dinner, go out and play, have fun.  Be happy, my young genius.”   The boy takes off out of the kitchen, bangs through the back door, and sprints out onto the back lawn, jumping with exuberance.  Charles and Carol look on in admiration.

     “Oh, I just can’t take it,” Carol says holding her heart, “I knew he was smart, but I never thought he was a genius.”

     “Of course he’s a genius, look at his daddy.  I’m a self-made man.  It takes genius to do what I did, get where I am today.” Charles stands and glances at his reflection in the magnetic mirror on the refrigerator door.

     “But your father left you the house and when you sold it,”

     “Yes!” Charles interrupts, “But I made my own destiny. Started out with nothing, almost nothing and now look, people are buying my potato chips all over the county.  And the company is growing Carol. I always knew I’d make it though, there was always something in the back of my mind that said, ‘Charles, you are very special.  No matter how much the white man tries to keep you down, you’ll persevere because you’re special.’  And little Charles has that same spark, except he has more to work with.  In this country a young black man is a target, that’s how you weaken a people by killing off its healthy strong men.  A black man needs an edge, and little Charles has that edge.  I’m tellin’ you Carol, if we want this boy to become something big, a black leader, all we gotta do is provide him with a good home environment.”

     “Oh, I plan to,” Carol interrupts, “we owe it to the child.  My lord we could be dealing with the first black president!”


 “Oinnnnk, Oinnnnnnnk! Oinnnnnnk!”

     Three pink piglets, enclosed in a large box that has a smiling rabbit and the words: take me to a better home, written on the side of it, are squealing in the back seat of Clarence’s eighty-four Chevy Celebrity.  He is on his way back from Hickman’s farm. This meal will be the last free meal Martina gets. Today, Clarence has decided to open her bedroom window and let her crawl to freedom.  After hours of drunken deliberation he concluded that, this is Florida, the climate conditions are ideal for her, far better than a captive environment.  There are small forests full of lush vegetation all over, and there’s Doodle’s pond, Gator’s creek, and there’s plenty of rain and sunshine, and dozens of large hollow trees and ditches for hiding.  Clarence lowers his head as he pulls up onto his front lawn; the thought of getting rid of Martina overwhelms him with sadness.  The pigs are going crazy in his back seat.

     “Don’t worry fellas, you’ll get there soon enough.”

     He figured he’d send her out with three piglets in her gut, that way if it takes her two months to adjust to her new surroundings, she won’t starve.  If they have to, Pythons can go months without eating. 

     As soon as Clarence enters his house with the biggest of the three pigs squealing and squirming beneath his armpits, Martina begins to hiss.  Her tongue is rapidly flickering underneath the door. The taste of warm piglet permeates the air.  To get the pig in there he must be quick and deliberate.  He bangs his body against the door first, a warning, to let Martina know that he is on his way in.  Then, holding the squealing pig by its hind leg, he opens the door and throws it in, all in one simultaneous action. It only takes Martina a few seconds to snatch up the pig, and start to constrict.  One squeal, and a few wiggles of the tail, is all the resistance the piglet can put up before it is slowly crushed.  With every breath the piglet exhales, Martina’s grip tightens; the pig is still warm when she starts to swallow it.  By the time Clarence comes back from outside with the next one, Martina’s head is upright, her entire mouth stretching from its joints, and the first piglet is gradually sliding lumpily down into her throat.

     The first one’s always the hardest one to get in there. Anything after the first one is easy, just as long as you get it in there while she’s still swallowing the first. This is the best time to throw in the second because she is too occupied to worry about another’s presence.  Pythons are most vulnerable when they are eating.  Clarence opens the door, and stands in awe at Martina’s muscular, massive body cascading from her huge head, which is still upright, almost touching the ceiling.  She stretches from one end of the room to the other, and this is with her tail coiled slightly.  The pig’s tiny feet slowly disappear, and Clarence flings the next one across the room. It lands on the carpet with a thump and Martina’s head instantly snaps toward the pig’s direction. Stiff, paralyzed in a childlike fright, the young piglet looks into Martina’s hungry eyes as if it were saying: ‘Uh oh, a monster!’  Clarence slowly backs out of the room.

     “Martina, you are a magnificent creature,” he says, headed for the kitchen to snatch up a beer.  He shakes his head, submerged in thought.  “It hurts my heart to see you go, hurts my heart.  First mom and dad and now you.  I can’t take all this hurt.  But I tell you whut, I tell you whut!”  Clarence is suddenly angry.  “I’d rather see you free than have them Zoo folks poking you with tongs and druggin’ you up, like some goddam tourist spectacle!  That’s fuckin’ for sure!”

     Later on that night, with a face covered with inebriated tears, Clarence does the unthinkable: he walks around back with a chair, places it underneath the window of Martina’s bedroom, mounts it, and slides her window up.  The moonlight strikes her face and she immediately awakes, jerking her head about, flickering her long black tongue.

     “There you go girl, the big bad world awaits.  Just remember, I only did this because I love you.”

     Three months later.

     Levi Strauss.  Carol is buttoning young Charles’ jeans; he’s being restless.  Today he’s being awarded a certificate of outstanding achievement.  The annual Clearview picnic.  Charles doesn’t want to go.  He takes off down the stairs while his mother is ironing his shirt.

     “Charles!”  Carol shakes her head and smiles.  “That boy, so high strung.” He shoots by his father, who is in the kitchen, arguing on the phone with the aforementioned investor, and out onto the grassy yard shirtless, and in his bare feet. 

     “I’m trying to tell you that it would be secure!  You can’t lose on this deal!”  Charles suspects that the investor is no longer interested because his son was beaten up by the smaller Charles.  “First you were interested, now all of a sudden you’re not!  Just like that!  Explain that to me!”  Charles is angry because, from his perspective, this man is playing games with his future, with the future of his family.  With the loss of this deal, much of what Charles has planned will slip away.  I see.  He wants me to fail, he wants me to be poor.  The Black man can’t have a hundred-thousand dollar house.  He can’t send his kids to good schools.  .

     The meticulous young Charles hears something rustling behind a cluster of bushes. He creeps quietly over to the spot of the noise.  Suddenly things have gone quiet behind the bush.  Charles creeps closer, looking about in dead silence, his eyes gleaming with curiosity.  Closer he steps, slowly, very gradually, he pokes his head around the side of the cluster.


     Young Charles is caught up in Martina’s clutches.  His bones are crumbling fast.  Martina’s jaws are clamped down upon his head, his eyes are moving rapidly back and forth, his lips pushing out mute words.  One of his hands is free, and with his fingers he pulls at her lip.  The whites of his eyes are swelling.

     “Seventy percent!”  Charles Sr. is leaning his forehead against the wall, banging his fists, spitting into the telephone as he speaks.  “Allen that’s unreasonable!  I got a family to feed!  My boy’s going to this fancy school.  I got tuition to pay.”  Charles falls into a mode of inferiority.   “C’mon Mr. Shevler, you know how it is. You gotta son. You know how it is.  You got high school, a car at sixteen, college.  Allen, Mr. Shevler! C’mon work with me.  I thought we were friends!”

     Behind him, just outside, behind a cluster of rosebushes, young Charles’ tiny bronze feet slide down Martina’s upright, outstretched jaws.  Slowly, she slithers underneath the bush, dragging the lump in her belly like a sack of stones, and heads back to her hole down by Doodle’s pond.

     Carol walks by Charles Sr. with a starched shirt, and a pair of socks stuffed in some tiny loafers.  She steps out on the back porch and looks about.

     “Charles! Charles,” she shouts once more and then immediately begins to panic.  The blood is rushing to her skull as she steps out onto the lawn, looking frantically around.  “Charles!”  Tears form instantly.  “Charles,” she screams desperately, running around the yard.  Charles Sr. bursts through the back door.

     “What’s the matter!”  Carol falls to her knees. Her face is drenched.  Her eyes are swollen and red.

     “I can’t find my baby!”

     “Whut!  Charles!”  Charles Sr. runs frantically about, looking around.  “Charles!”  He runs into the house, loads his rifle and takes off.

     “Call the police,” he shouts to Carol as he disappears into the woods behind his house.

     Six weeks later.

     The house is solemn now.  Portraits of Jesus are everywhere.  The living room is filled with cards and letters wishing Charles Jr. a safe return.  They have a separate line for tips on young Charles’ whereabouts.  And the NAACP put up a ten thousand dollar reward for information leading to Charles’ return. Still, the house seems to lack life.  Charles and Carol can barely look each other in the eye.  They sleep in separate rooms now.

     Carol cries all day, and cleans incessantly.  Charles surfs the internet everyday looking for information, reading headlines, and researching the methods and motives of kidnapping. Neither parent has given up hope, but Charles has grown into a vengeful monster. I know my boy is still out there somewhere.  I know whoever took him, knew he would be a threat.  They were threatened by his strength, afraid that he would grow up and lead black people to victory over this white racist nation.  Oh, but Imma find you Charles.  Imma find ya.

     “Honey,” Carol whispers, breaking Charles from his thoughts, “there’s something really strange out on the far edge of our lawn.”

     “What is it,” Charles shouts, irritated, “Can’t you see I’m trying to work on finding our son.  Those fuckin’ bastards!  I hate em’ all!”

     “Please honey.  I think I found the button to the blue jeans he wore the day they took him.”

     “Whut!” Charles springs to his feet. “Why the hell you fuckin’ lolligagging for.  You should’ve said something sooner. fuckin’ women!  Let’s go, where is it, let me see!”

     She leads him out the back door, and they walk side by side to the far edge of their lawn, which leads back into the woods.  On the lawn lay an extraordinarily large and solid form of brown excrement.  A horsefly sops up its nutrients.

     “Whut the fuck is this?  A piece of shit!  You brought me out here to see a fuckin’ piece of shit?”

     “No,” Carol says, covering her mouth, “see that little gold thing, sticking out of it, I think that’s the button from our baby’s jeans.”  Charles bends and looks closer at the feces, which upon closer inspection has a blue tinge.  Charles twists his head, and finally he grabs a leaf, and uses it to retrieve the button.  He brushes away the excess, and reads the tiny words on the button.  Levi Strauss it says.  Charles stands slowly with a debilitated frown, his eyes focused on the excrement.  He looks at his wife, looks down at the thick brown substance, shakes his head and says in an almost inaudible whisper: ‘God, that’s my boy.’            

[1] A reduction to the absurd

Reductio Ad Absurdum by Reese Simmons

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