Amid the Green Corn: Part 2
by Cooper Young
First off, he hated that name, and with good reason. It’s a stupid name. A lot of our names were stupid right after the Bond; we’d just gotten the idea of concealing our original names so we could distinguish who had a preexisting connection to whom, and we named a lot of people some really dumb things. That’s the reason everyone who’s lived to be my age has had five or six names. It took us a while to find ones that weren’t asinine. I’m just going to call him Simon. That’s his Soulname, and I don’t think any of you will ever have the chance or the balls to try to use it against him. I don’t think he’d let you, anyway.
Second, he was my half-brother, and he was twelve years younger than me. We didn’t grow up together, and we really only became…not close, but closer than we were, after the Bond. We were each the only family the other had, so we stuck together.
Third, he wasn’t the hero Fire makes him out to be. He wasn’t our “strongest man”; he was a squirrely little guy who happened to walk with really weird posture on the rare occasion he was angry. A whole lot of people found him irritating. He was very intelligent, very well educated, a little childish, and kind of annoying–to men, anyway. He was bookish. Starry-eyed. A dreamer, but the kind of dreamer who doesn’t dream quietly, who wants to just share every thought in his head with everyone. That wasn’t his problem, though. His problem was his swagger.
Let me put it this way: imagine you had a neighbor who was exceptionally friendly and helpful. Too friendly. Too helpful. Just this weird, almost obsequious little guy who never made waves but clearly somehow thought he was better than you. That was it: there was this patronizing confidence behind every kind thing he did, and it made every man in this clan want to punch him in the neck when he offered to help them with something. He was a dreamer, and he was sorry for you that you weren’t.
Now imagine you found out that guy was sleeping with your woman.
And everyone else’s.
That was Simon.
He didn’t do it all at once, granted. It took him probably five to seven years, and I’m still not entirely sure he meant to do it. He didn’t wake up one day and decide he was going to wreck every relationship in a mile radius. He was kind and sensitive and fond of whiskey, and I guess things just went from there. It didn’t matter, though. An affair two years ago hurts the same as one last week.
It was a huge scandal when it all came out. One man found out–I think it was East On Horseback; do you see what I mean about names?– and the word got around. Well, then the weaver’s wife hears that he’s been with East On Horseback’s wife and she spits in his face one day in the square. She thought she was special. The women started talking and then the rest of the men and once they figured out the real scope of what he’d done, well, everybody got real worked up real fast. Everybody. The anger became communal, it became…unifying, I guess. People bonded. People forgave each other because they could all hate Simon together. Husbands and wives…”Oh, he tricked me! It’s just how he is with women. I can’t possibly be held responsible.” “Of course not, darling; of course not.” Pathetic, really.
That was about a week, ten days, before the war with the Rilikan started. I went to him that night, the night everything came crashing down and it became clear that bad things were going to happen to him, and I asked why the hell he’d done it. I mean, one woman–yeah, it wouldn’t be right, but it wouldn’t get him lynched. And it’s not like there were no single women, nice young women who didn’t have men who’d kick his ass. I asked him why he hadn’t gone for one of them. He laughed and he said he had. He’d had damn near every woman in this whole clan.
“Why?” I asked. It was the only thing I could ask. I was baffled by it; we all were. He was such a romantic, so desperately in love with all these high flung ideals of chivalry and manhood and courtly love. He was annoying, but we all thought he was harmless. For him to be lying with every woman in camp was so far out of character that we weren’t–that I wasn’t–sure any of us had every even met the real Simon.
And he sat there with his head still in his hands and he said “Because none of them are her.”
I say ‘her’ because I can’t for the life of me remember her name. She was some girl he’d met when he was young, years before the Bond. She loved him, he loved her, and a long story that I don’t remember later, they both ended up with different people. Very Catherine and Heathcliffe. That sort of thing. Oh for fuck’s sake, it was a book–forget it. Just…anyway, his wife died within months of the Bond, and he had no idea where the girl had gone. Probably dead too. I’d figured he was over it but, well, I guess you never know what makes somebody work until they don’t work anymore, you know?
That was it. He was lonely. He nearly destroyed this clan because he was lonely. Nobody knew it then, but a war that would last the rest of our lives and maybe yours was about to start just because one man had been lonely. I was so angry I could hardly think, but at the same time I was relieved. He was the romantic I knew. He was in love with love. He’d just gone about finding it in an assbackward way that was about to get him killed.
They came for him at dawn the next day.
Two weeks of this and I’ve yet to get to the story I actually intend to tell. Regardless, I’d rather not bore you by going on for too long at a time, and I’ll be damned if this isn’t a fine spot to stop. Next week: either you find out how a witch hunt turned into a war, or I write you an unrelated interlude just to keep you guessing. It’s a coin flip, really.