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The Kindness of Strangers

Story by Otis Brown (Read author interview) September 16, 2005

Art by Marty D. Ison

He was a sadist when he said, “You ought to switch off that t.v. Then you’d get something accomplished.” He said this after sleeping all day. After years of these things I knew he was a sadist. All he needed was an opportunity and he would be a monster.

As we listened to the Rolling Stones singing on the radio, he said, “They shouldn’t criticize the President. It isn’t right.”

“Those people in the paper just think he’s a complete asshole, that’s all.”

“It shouldn’t be allowed is all I’m saying,” he said, angry, sadistically, not even needing an opportunity sometimes to be a potential monster.

“I told Nancy I wanted to be her lover and she turned me down,” I told him.

“It hurts them to have sex when they get older. They don’t want to.”

He hasn’t seen a woman in twenty years. We listened to the Rolling Stones some more. He is still angry. For years.

“What did you do today?” I asked him. I already knew the answer, however.

“I slept all day,” he said.

“Well, if you go and go, you’ve got to rest sometime,” I replied.

“I’ll beat your ass! I’ll punch your lights out!” he said.

He is a monster if he has half a chance. “I’m sorry I pissed you off,” I told him.

“I’m going to go hunting this year,” he said.
He has a closet full of rifles and shotguns, one big reason I don’t like to piss him off.

“My car needs insulation so it doesn’t vibrate,” I said.

“Insulation is for wires, for electricity.”

“I have insulated boots. My living room is insulated for sound, for the noise. You don’t know what you’re talking about.”

I can feel the violence in his mind. I wonder if all sadists think this way.

“My hemorrhoids are acting up. Does Jesus cure hemorrhoids?” I said.

“I don’t go to church but I study the Bible. That preacher on t.v. can cure disease.”

“How come you never see them cure hemorrhoids on t.v.?” I asked.

“I don’t see how you can eat that Al-Bran. It tastes like card board.”

He is always constipated, like me, and he never studies the Bible.

“It’s that psychiatric medicine. It makes me constipated.” We are both mental patients and take psychiatric medicine. We get a disability check. Like Blanche Dubois said in A Streetcar Named Desire “We depend on the kindness of strangers.” When he gets the opportunity to be a monster, he will be found not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect.

“I think Nancy likes women better than I do, and I like them a lot.” I said. He is still pissed about my remark on him sleeping all day.

I told him, “I asked God for wisdom the other day.” He is interested. “I asked him for the wisdom to know whether there is a God or not. He answered me.”

“Well,” he said, “did he tell you there is a God?”

“He told me there is no God! That’s the wisdom he gave me, like I asked. I am wise now.”

“I study the Bible, I just don’t go to church,” he lied. Thinking about God usually gives him a headache and makes him confused.

“Are you taking your rifles with you when you go hunting?” I asked. He likes it when I mention his rifles and hunting.

“He said there is no God?” he asked me. He is confused. He will get a headache. “That’s the wisdom?”

We sit there a minute.

“I think God tries to make me forget to take my medicine.” He is confused about God.

“I do what’s required,” he said. “I love doing what’s required.”

“But, after all, you are only doing what’s required. And that’s not enough, is it?” I said. He is still pissed about my remark on him
sleeping all day, however. God making him forget to take his psychiatric medicine is an opportunity. He will be a monster. I wonder how long it has been since he took his medicine.

“There is no God,” I said. “I asked him and he told me.” He is really confused now. It would help if he took his Stellazine. I think about telling him this. I don’t want to give him an opportunity. He is still angry. As usual. For years. He is, after all, a sadist, isn’t he? I think. I don’t tell him any of this. Not even about the Stellazine.

“I really like Nancy,” I told him. “It hurts her to do it. She doesn’t want to.” I said.

“No,” he said. “They never do.”

He is required to say that. He wants to do what’s required. That’s not enough is it? I want to tell him. Am I required to tell him about the Stellazine? I wonder. I never want to do what’s required, unlike him. I, also, am not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect. I am angry too. We are both monsters, I think. I know this. He knows this. We depend on the kindness of strangers. I am as angry as him now. Nothing happens. We will sit and listen to the Rolling Stones for another twenty years. I laugh at this. He laughs. We look at each other and both of us laugh at this.

About the Author

After many years as an Army paratrooper and a U.S. Marine during the Vietnam war, the military concluded Otis Brown could no longer be trusted with a loaded gun. He then went to several colleges and universities, and was committed many times to various mental institutions. Literature found him and he was finally rescued by it. He now spends his time writing plays and short stories until this day.

About the Artist

A native of Ohio, Marty D. Ison lives with his wife transplanted in the sands of the Gulf of Mexico. He studied fine arts at Saint Petersburg College. In addition to the visual arts, he writes poetry, short stories, and novels. See more of Ison’s work here.

This story appeared in Issue Ten of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Ten

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