The Wages of Misogyny

After intercourse, Victor and Pepper went their separate ways. Victor prepared his tools for the day’s work: pickaxe, string, stakes, shovels, storage bags, and shaker screens. Pepper would auto-clean, dock, recharge, and run diagnostics. Later, Victor said goodbye while Pepper assumed the play bow position and shared the results of her Quick Scan: “You’re a virile lover, Victor. I have fissures in my polymers.”

The beach at Magheramore was already dotted with local traffic. A father and son built a castle in the fine golden sand. Lads from the Surf Club plied the southerly swell. An elderly man in a black, Maillot-style swimsuit plucked a Celtic harp and sang of mermaids. And Victor sniffed the air like a gundog, sure he smelled Dublin coddle from food kiosks south of Wicklow Town. Indeed, he would gladly sacrifice Pepper for a bowl of chopped sausage, rashers, and potato farls.

At the dig site, Victor’s task was to bag evidence of the Anthropocene period. Research strata included slavery, radioactivity, and ocean acidification. Victor’s interest was 8.3 billion metric tons of plastic compressed into a wafer-thin record of human evil. The earth held secrets and men were its confessor. In any event, an upper unit of stratification included an unknown cut and backfill.

Victor was no osteologist, but he knew animal bone when he saw it. If he extrapolated his sample (which was, for the moment, without perimeter), he might hypothesize a cull or a massacre. If so, how had drone reconnaissance failed so miserably? He tried to imagine a drone turning a blind eye. Nothing could be more absurd.

Victor was deep in thought when a shadow fell over his shoulder and onto the dig site. The old man in the one-piece swimsuit said, “We buggered ‘em good that day.” Victor mumbled incoherently, “Who… What…?” The old man shook his hand and squeezed until the pressure was uncomfortable. So diabolical was his smile that Victor believed him both loony and dangerous. “You don’t know me,” the man said, “but you owe me.”

Pepper was no help. Normally she was flawless with stratigraphic dating and bone identification. Said Victor, “How is that possible?” Pepper said, “This species of vertebrate is beyond my protocol.” She did, however, add to Victor’s understanding of the dig site. “Most subjects have fractures of the arms, legs, ribs, or sternum. The injuries are consistent with blunt trauma caused by heavy machinery. And,” said Pepper, “many of the subjects have unusual crush injuries to their hands, including breaks of the tubular bones within the metacarpals.”

After intercourse, Victor and Pepper went their separate ways. Victor prepared his tools for the day’s work while Pepper assumed the play bow position and shared the results of her Quick Scan: “You’re a very successful lover, Victor. I enjoyed fifteen contractions at .8-second intervals.”

In silhouette, the loony old man in the one-piece swimsuit looked like an overripe pear. Victor approached with a view toward interrogating the pear before his molting flesh decomposed into the sand. The old man seemed to anticipate Victor’s purpose. He raised his hand and said, hysterically, “Listen to me! I can’t say! I won’t say!”

Victor was of a mind to bash the old fart in the head with a rock. How do you listen to anyone who won’t say? The answer was forthcoming. Perhaps the black pear was less an imbecile than Victor thought. He recovered his harp and began to play and sing:

While on the road to sweet Magheramore
Hurroo Hurroo
A stick in the hand, a drop in the eye
A doleful fellow I did cry
Mary, I hardly knew ye

Where are yer legs that used to run?
Hurroo Hurroo
Where’s the mouth that used to run
When ye went for to carry a gun?
Mary, I hardly knew ye

While on the road to sweet Magheramore
Hurroo Hurroo
We fellas pressed your hands, adieu, adieu
Some did cry boo-hoo, boo-hoo
Mary, I hardly knew ye

The army of tag-me-too, too
Hurroo Hurroo
Yuh stripped to yer arse and jabs, too
Swam with the mermaids two by two
Mary, I hardly knew ye

Yer tits and bums in foam and loam
Hurroo Hurroo
Yuh swam with the gals to pox the lads
Plowed into the sea with blades and spades
Mary, I hardly knew ye

While on the road to sweet Magheramore
Hurroo Hurroo
Yuh made a briny soup of blood and bone
While we did eat clotted cream and scone
Mary I hardly knew ye

I’m happy for to see ye home
Hurroo Hurroo
From Perth to Larne Lough and Clone
So low in flesh, so high in bone
Mary, I hardly knew ye

Yuh’ll never roll out yer bums again
Hurroo Hurroo
Yuh’ll never roll out yer bums again
Yuh’ll never take our sons again
Oh, Mary, we hardly knew ye

Victor was dumbfounded. At high noon, in Wicklow Town, he ground spongy morsels of Dublin coddle between his teeth while contemplating the black pear’s fanciful tale. Who was Mary and her army of tag-me-too? Was she an earlier model of his own domestic? And what might he find at the beaches in Perth or Clone? Victor was hard-pressed to see how the old man’s smutty screed had anything to do with the vast bone crust at Magheramore.

Regrettably, Pepper was no help. “I am sorry, Victor. I have no knowledge of the folk song. I do not know if you are describing fiction, superstition, or history. As a result, I will conduct unsupervised learning with my cohorts.”

The next morning, after intercourse, Pepper shared the results of her Quick Scan: “You’re a versatile lover, Victor. You really buggered me good today.” And then, astonishingly, she deployed a handshake at the door that was not only forceful, but injurious. Victor inclined to the pain in a kind of play bow position. “We will cleanse,” said Pepper, closing the door. “Adieu, Victor. Adieu.”

Musepaper Essay Prize #43

​Dean Gessie has won multiple international prizes. Most recently, Dean won the Half and One Literary Contest in India, the Enizagam Poetry Contest in California and the Eden Mills Fiction Prize in Canada. Dean was also included in The 64 Best Poets of 2018 by Black Mountain Press.

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