Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The Two Heroes of Thompsonville

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The Two Heroes of Thompsonville

from the book: Life Will Get You in the End:
Short stories by David Satterlee

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Another fable of conservative values. What happens if a culture takes the idea of naming kids after both of their parents and makes it a hard-and-fast tradition?

Life Will Get You in the End:
Short Stories by David Satterlee

The Two Heroes of Thompsonville

Thompsonville was nowhere. It was a town of modest size and not completely isolated, but mostly self-sufficient with its own traditions and community standards. The railroads had passed it by during the great expansion. The express highways had passed it by as well. It was too hilly for a canal – it was too flat for a reservoir. 

No native son ever grew up to be a governor or general. No one ever started a museum of tiny carved furniture or old farm implements. It was just a nice out-of-the-way place to live. As a matter of fact, it was a nice place to grow old and die if you didn’t wander off in search of something-or-other first.

Labith didn’t just wander off. He hit the road with a vengeance. He had loved his childhood sweetheart, Roatrine for as long as he could remember. They had played together as babies, studied together in school and, in the course of time, come to know each other very, very well. 

How could Roatrine refuse to marry him now? Why would she
invent such a trivial excuse to cut off their friendship? Her parents, Robance and Rosatrine, weren’t the problem; they had always liked him and had given their enthusiastic approval when Labith had asked to formally court their daughter.

Labith was inconsolable. He wandered the hills and found no comfort. He immersed himself in the labor of clearing a new field and found no distraction. Roatrine possessed his heart and haunted his mind. Her ready smile and quick wit filled his thoughts while her silken skin and flowing hair filled his dreams. His mother, Salabith, advised him to be patient and he was. His father, Robance, eventually encouraged him to renew his affections with gifts and sweet words and he did. But, nothing he could think of could change his true love’s mind. “Do you love me?” “Yes.” “Will you marry me?” “I’m sorry, No!”

Some people would have eventually given up and resigned themselves to their fate. But for Labith, there was nothing else to do but keep on seeking. He couldn’t stand the pain of always seeing his beloved around town each day. He couldn’t not always watch for her either. Who else walked with such grace and poise? Who else shared his joys and values? Only Roatrine. 

And so, Labith, filled with the urgency of intolerable desperation, left. He left his family and his friends and his community. He left their traditions and … well, he left the life he knew behind.

It is truly a big world and Labith, stunned to the core of his soul, traveled. He met people. He read books. He questioned authority. Labith pondered the nature of reality and law and truth. Assailed by ideas and forces that were new to him he found himself, in many ways, even more desperate and alienated than before he left. 

But, being a man of courage and character, he transcended his previous limits and views. His transformation brought freedom of thought and action. He now knew what he had to do.

People in Thompsonville welcomed Labith back, but watched him with unabashed curiosity. Naturally, he sought out his beloved Roatrine straight away. They walked down by the water path and sat under their favorite tree and they talked. 

Labith told her where he had gone and what he had learned. He told her how much he loved her and that he still wanted to raise a family with her. Labith told her that if they had a girl, it wouldn’t have to be named Latrine but that they could call her Becky or Marge or something else. “Oh!” said Roatrine, “What a good idea! This changes everything!”

I hadn’t been writing for a while following a move to our dream home in the woods of Western North Carolina. It was time to get into harness. It was exercise time. 

I sat down with no agenda and no plot; just the intent to write a short story. My fingers typed “Thompsonville.” Okay, that’s a start. I started describing the town. Then a character jumped in and so did his angst. 

In the middle of it all, I remembered recently talking to a customer service representative on the telephone. Her name was Latrina. I had pointed it out to my wife: “What parents would name their daughter “Latrina?” We were aware that it has become popular to name children using parts of their parent’s names. Now, what if it were a fixed, immutable, unchallenged tradition in this town?

You DID notice that the names were a conjugation of the first part of the father’s name and the last part of the mother’s name. Curiously, the name of the town is built using a different set of rules.

I have deliberately used pairs of thoughts and pairs of adjectives in the structure of this story. It was intended to be a reflection of how all the names were composed of two parts.