Here is a flash fiction I wrote a few years ago. It is set in a time of social upheaval that I just missed participating in–the riots at Harvard. But they remained legendary. The germ of the story was told to me by someone a few years older. Let’s never forget that it’s good to be even a reluctant hero and that love is always around the corner.
“Shelley is greater than Keats,” David insisted to his friend Walker, who was by now only pretending to pay attention to this grad school argument. They’d each taken a solid hit of windowpane acid that was starting to kick in.
“Keats,” Walker muttered, wondering if he really should have also swallowed the lude just to take the edge off.
“Unacknowledged legislator and all that…” but David was starting to drift.
“Bright star…I hold it towards you…” Walker was also losing interest. He leaned back in the bean bag chair just before the floor turned to spiders and wondered if he would ever truly love.
He looked ok, he knew that, handsome, gray eyes, black hair. He saw how they looked at him, his Thursday tutees–the chesty Jewish girl who loved Neruda, the skinny red-headed gay guy headed for a Tony.
Of course he didn’t flirt back. He was the tutor.
Twelve hours later, there were no longer scorpions on the ceiling and if he closed his eyes he no longer saw flaming auras on his hands and feet. The good part of the trip was over too. Walker rinsed his mouth, washed his face, and struggled into the light of day–late afternoon April.
There was something terribly wrong with Harvard Square, but he couldn’t place it, until he realized…silence. No cars, no horns, no panhandlers, no pedestrians, no…students.
He caught the whiff of tear gas just as he saw the shadow of the cop’s stick aim for his skull.
He jerked, ducked, and took off running, even though the baton had connected with his ear, a pain worse than anything he had ever experienced. It was bleeding copiously.
And he ran, as if he were in prime condition rather than an occasional ping pong player.
At last, a corner, an alley, and heavenly sight, Passim’s Cafe. The door barred. Two Pre-Raphaelite girls standing guard, one on each side of the espresso machine, ready to face down the pigs.
Of course, they rushed to let him in. He never did know the name of the taller beautiful one.
The sweet-faced brown haired girl was named Laurel, but he didn’t know that yet.
Nor that in six months they’d be engaged and she’d give him a life time of devotion, competent children, the interest of her career, and half the profits from a small but productive farm in Nebraska.
He slid to the floor, bleeding, and his head landed in her lap. He looked up at her.
“Who is the greater poet, Shelley or Keats?” he asked.
“Keats,” she said. “I’m a botany major but I’m going for Keats.”
“Good,” he said as he blacked-out in her arms.