Tuesday, November 28, 2023

What defines a man's character? (Very short fiction)

Jana was enjoying the vibe of the end-of-semester party. Jerry was one of her favorite grad-students and the party had a relaxed-and-mellow vibe.

Part of the attraction was the music. Lots of throw-back tunes from the Seventies. The last twenty minutes had been rhythm-and-blues and now Roberta Flack's rich voice quietly crooned through the speakers.

It was small as these kinds of parties went, only ten or fifteen people. Jana only knew a few of them since she was working very part-time. It was a wonderful venue for conversations, and for people watching.

The thought flitted through her mind that while we should not judge a book by its cover people nearly always announced their contents by the uniform they chose to wear.

Jerry was completely absorbed in a conversation with another grad-student. The student had very little body-fat and high cheekbones. Her hair was pulled back in a simple pony-tail. She was wearing flannel, jeans and wafflestompers. If Jana had to guess, she would guess Field Biology was her specialty.

The bogs around Asphodel were famous for their biological diversity. Jana harbored a suspicion that all bogs are diverse but the ones closest to Asphodel had been lovingly surveyed on a square-foot by square-foot grid so it was a matter of better records than of a unique amount of diversity.

A third student approached Jerry from the side and Jana heard him ask, "Hey Jerry, can I try one of your beers?" pointing at the cooler by Jerry's side.

"Sure. No sweat" Jerry responded.

Jana didn't recognize the label  and assumed it was some craft-brew from out-of-state. Many of the better craft-brews prohibited out-of-state sales which (intentionally) added to their mystique and allure.

The music switched to a song that Carly Simon had made famous. Jana didn't recognize the artist but the timing was slower and the lyrics more pensive than the original.

The singer was wistfully singing of "clouds in my coffee" as an undergrad (Jana wasn't sure how she could tell) who was as cute as a button walked up from behind Jerry and opened the cooler. The bottles must have clinked because Jerry said loudly enough to be heard everywhere in the room "PUT THEM BACK!"

The undergrad didn't even hesitate but said "I am just taking these two" as she turned and started to walk away from the cooler with a bottle in each hand.

"I don't fucking think so" Jerry growled, just loud enough for Jana and Miss Wafflestomper to hear as he turned and pursued the thief.

The room in the 1920's vintage bungalow that Jerry and his roommates rented in the student-ghetto was tiny. Jerry and cute-as-a-button arrived at her knot of friends at the same time.

"Put the beers back" Jerry demanded.

"But I just took these two" the undergrad blew him off. "And you are making a scene."

"Put them back" Jerry persisted.

"But I am thirsty" the girl insisted.

"I have water you can drink. Put them back" Jerry bored in.

By now, all of the other conversations had stopped and EVERYBODY was looking at Jerry and the girl.

With ill-grace, the girl thrust the beers into Jerry's hand. "You take your own damned beers back" little-miss-precious snarled.

Jerry didn't turn away. "When you want something that isn't yours you ASK, and it is customary to say "Please"."

"I am going to help you out" he said. "Do you want these beers?"

"Hell no. I wouldn't drink them if they were the last beers on earth" the girl spat.

"So you are not only a thief but a liar. You just said you were thirsty so were you lying then or are you lying now?"

The girl's eyes were flashing like lasers.

"You and your friends need to leave" Jerry said.

The girl grabbed the hand of the boy next to her and stormed out of the house. The boy looked as surprised as a newly landed fish flopping in the bottom of the boat.

Jerry came back and was about to resume his conversation with Miss Wafflestomper when Jana piped up. "You know that you probably made an enemy for life."

"Sorry you had to see that" Jerry said. "I certainly didn't invite her and I doubt that any of my roommates did, either."

Then Miss Wafflestomper impressed Jana. She said "A man's character is revealed by the quality of his enemies more than by the masses of men who tolerate him."

"That is wonderful" Jana said. "I don't recognize the quote. Who said that?"

The young lady blushed. "My dad said that."

Jana smiled and nodded and then said quietly to Jerry "This one is a keeper".

Jana had forgotten how acute young ears are. Miss Wafflestomper heard Jana's judgement and the tiniest trace of a smile formed on her face.


  1. Nice parable written there. Thank you !

  2. Well done ERJ.

    Sigh. A simpler, more clear time when societal norms could be enforced simply by the weight of an individual's words.

  3. Aye! Well done. Always a pleasure to read your posts as I crawl through my usual sites.

  4. Where the hell are these kinds of winnens???

    1. The ones like the undergrad are a dime-a-dozen.

      Miss Wafflestoppers are out there but you have to be discerning. They tend to keep a low profile. Otherwise, they become targets of their group-thinking sisters.

      For the younger crowd, home-schoolers and 4-H kids.

    2. If the sermon given by a young lady at our Youth Sunday is anything to go by, participants in FFA (Future Farmers of America) also have potential.

    3. +1 They are around and want to find someone but they are usually busy and are best met through family or mutual activities.
      As mentioned, they don't advertise and keep a low profile, often unintentionally as a side effect of being busy.

  5. Outstanding! Hemingway would approve.

  6. Nicely done, ERJ! One can but hope that it is a contemporary story and that Jerry and Miss Waffle Stomper have a long, rewarding and fruitful life together.
    Boat Guy


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