Friday, February 15, 2013


Here is another of my short stories, this time from my collection "Confessions of a Jewish Activist and other stories."

Lance Barstow was the best quarterback in College.  He was tall and blond and the girls swooned over him.  When he was decked out in his football togs he was the ideal American male.  After each game the team would repair to the tavern and drink themselves silly on beer.  Then Lance and some of the boys would take their pick-ups and go out somewhere and have sex.  It was the routine.  The girls were all blonde and beautiful and easy and Lance called them “holes with hair.”
            But, after a time it became too routine, none of the girls that hung around with the team were really attractive to him.  He wanted a greater challenge, he secretly yearned for a smoldering, dark, passionate woman.
            Occasionally Lance would glance into the coffee shops and bars that lined the main avenue outside the school.  In there he saw a different form of life, as if on another planet.  Men and women sitting around talking, discussing books, ideas, politics, art and philosophy.  Lance was not well informed on any of these subjects, but he was no dummy.  However, he knew that if he entered any one of these places and sat down and tried to enter into the conversation he would be laughed at.  The standing of the best quarterback in such a milieu would be as nothing, just as if some intellectual had tried to enter into his own little life-stream.
            On one such occasion, when he looked through the glass wonderingly at the different life forms before him he noticed a young woman.  She was dark and attractive and she was obviously arguing passionately for a belief that she held.  He was entranced by her as if by a being from another planet.  She must be either Italian or Jewish, he thought, how exotic.  Right then and there he decided to change his life, to leave the boring round of drinking yourself silly and screwing another in a long line of exchangeable bimbos, for a more exciting and meaningful life of discussion, argument, and then passionate sex.
            He started to frequent the library, not to pick up girls, but to learn the rudiments of the subject.  He wanted a girl who would want him not just for his looks and for his body, but for him.  How could he ensure this, since he was so well known on campus, he realized the only way was to use a disguise.  In going thru the books about art and philosophy he came upon a picture of the painter and sculptor Giacometti.  He was a stooped man with curly dark hair, carrying a pile of long papers under his arm, as if about to show his work.  He wore a tweedy jacket and had on glasses and looked distracted.  The archetypical intellectual.
            Lance went to the theater store and found himself a suitable wig.  He bought a tweed jacket that was just a little small in a second hand clothes store.  Then he rolled up a towel and sewed it across the back inside so that when he wore it it made him look a little hunched over.  With a pair of horned rim glasses and some papers under his arm the transformation was near complete. 
            Now all he had to do was to learn something about art and philosophy and politics and poetry and …. The thought made him feel sick.  But, he had made a resolution to change his life, so he persisted.  He started to drop into classes, and if challenged he would tell the teacher that he just wanted to get a taste of the subject.   Gradually he began to build up confidence.  He learnt who Picasso and Stravinsky were, and he could even distinguish between materialists and humanists.  He decided after some preparation he was ready for his first foray, his first experience of a different way of life.
            He walked into the arty coffee bar as if he were himself elsewhere, thinking of the solution to a major problem.  He sat absent-mindedly at a table and spread his papers untidily before him.  While drinking a cup of coffee he looked at them and at noone in particular.  Then he caught sight of her, she entered with a group and they sat nearby.  They engaged in fierce discussion of abstruse topics that hardly meant anything to him.  But, he decided to take the plunge.  At an opportune moment he leant over and said “but the difference between them is entirely arbitrary.”  He had heard that this sentence would stop any silly intellectual argument and indeed it did.  There was a pause in the conversation, a silence during which each of them viewed the intrusive stranger. 
            Having passed their scrutiny, the conversation continued, but now in a subtle way it included him.  One of the men turned to him and said, "I don’t believe I’ve had the pleasure…” and held out his hand.  Lance replied, “Oh, yes, sorry, my name is Giacometti,” and he shook the proffered hand.  Someone else asked “any relation?”  Lance had the foresight to reply, “oh, yes, distant cousin.”  As he replied he managed to catch the eye of the young woman he had admired.  He stared at her for a moment and then asked “and what is your name?”
(Copyright  © Jack Cohen)


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