About Red Tales

Here's an evolving electronic collection of short prose pieces, with a poem contributed occasionally. Brevity guides. Although sometimes a piece will run to 900 words, most pieces are much shorter. Here one may find erotica, flash fiction, brief observations, and modest improvisations. Another rule is that each piece must have something to do with"red"; at least the word has to appear in each piece functionally. . . . All pieces are numbered and titled, so there's a de facto table of contents running down the rail below, under "Labels" (scroll down a bit). Browse for titles that look interesting, if you like. Thank you for stopping by. Look for some red today, tonight.

"Flaming June," by Frederick Lord Leighton

"Flaming June," by Frederick Lord Leighton

Friday, March 13, 2009

64. Barbarian At The Gate

I'm a barbarian, and over there's the gate. It is red. Actually, I'm from a small town outside Barbar.

There's an old man having coffee at a table near the gate. He offers. I sit.

"So--what's the gate to?" I ask.

"It's to civilization, of course," he says. "What are you--some kind of barbarian?"

I order coffee and pastry. He talks. "They're in there falling apart--greed, lying, a state-mania for control, horrific weaponry, economic injustice, bovine media, and an odd blend of incompetence and arrogance."

"I'll be darned," I say. "How's it going to turn out, in your opinion?"

"You should know the answer to that already. Don't they teach history anymore in Barbar?"

"You're a Barbarian, too?!" I ask.

"Born and raised," he says. Then we heard shouting from inside the gate.

"They're in there blaming us for their problems. They're using a sophisticated lingo of hate, fear, and xenophobia."

"How trite," I observe. "However, technically, we are Barbarians at the gate."

"You couldn't pay me enough to go in there," he says. I name a figure. "I might reconsider," he says.

"Merely a thought experiment," I say. I pay for us both and leave a robust gratuity. The server comes over, and I ask, "Is there a bookstore around here?" The server looks at us and sneers and says something most barbarous to us. Nonetheless, I let the gratuity lie as it is. The server leaves.

The old man says, "Civility is often a blade that power unsheathes and waves in the air."

"Is that so?" I say. He's not an easy person with whom to converse. We part company, but we both go in directions away from the gate.

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