October 2011


The National Organization for Marriage, or NOM, is an outspoken and effective leader in the debate of marriage equality
and I would like to offer my response to their ‘Marriage Talking Points.’
My effort here is to create a dialogue with NOM and others who would deny equal marriage rights for all Americans and
to spark ideas that others who support equality might find useful for their discussions.
I am writing from the perspective of a straight, Christian ally who seeks equal standing under law for all people.

NOM writes:
Gays and Lesbians have a right to live as they choose,
they don’t have the right to redefine marriage for all of us.”
I respond:
All people are guaranteed “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” in America. Let’s start from there.
I would add that there is a loaded word in that statement: “choose.” Let us remember that we know that sexual attraction is not a choice. While lifelong commitment in marriage is a ‘choice’ we can listen to many people’s experiences (straight and gay) that they often cite being “drawn together” or “made for each other” or that “God drew us into relationship.” There are deep levels of loving relationship that are so overwhelming, it isn’t the type of choice like choosing what TV show to watch.
I would add that the second part of that statement pretty much overrides and nullifies the first part. Marriage is a giant part of a person’s life and happiness. Marriage is considered by many a ‘sacrament’ and is probably one of their most memorable and important days of their life. To say to someone: “You are free to do whatever you want in terms of life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness….except the biggest part of your life, liberty and happiness.” makes the whole sentiment ring pretty hollow. I think we can all see eye to eye that love is real, love is amazing, and marriage can be a person’s and a couple’s most central relationship and facet of their being.
And importantly: equality advocates and social justice seekers don’t expect you to change your definition of marriage. You can have any definition that you currently have. If you believe that divorce is not permissible for you and your partner, you can keep believing that. If you think that sex before marriage is not permissible for you and your partner, you can believe that and act on it. There are many divergent beliefs about marriage and different ‘definitions.’ We can all get along. Some believe it is not permissible to use birth control. That’s cool.
The bottom line I’m getting to is that no one I know in the equality-camp expects to change any one else’s mind about what marriage should be. Sure, I will grant that we will speak about how love and trust and family and commitment are, that’s true. But if you believe being gay is wrong or a sin–that is between you and God. No amount of arguing will change that. And you can raise your children to believe whatever you see fit. We only want equality under law.

NOM writes:
“Marriage is between a husband and wife. The people of [this state] do not want marriage to be anything but that. We do not want government or judges changing that definition for us today or our children tomorrow.”
I respond:
Marriage has certainly changed throughout our nation’s short history hasn’t it? We don’t need to get into details like 1967’s Loving v. Virginia decision or anything else. We just need to accept the broad stroke idea: Our nation has grown over time to better and better protect all people under law. The government and judges and people’s voting have all swayed towards less discrimination, and more equality under law. The legal definitions of many facets of our lives have changed: when a person is an ‘adult’, who can vote, who is a citizen, who can marry, when a person is legally drunk, what can be sold on Sundays, etc.
Importantly, despite the legal changes over time, this doesn’t prevent many people from keeping their own values and morals.

NOM writes:
We need a marriage amendment to settle the gay marriage issue once and for all, so we don’t have it in our face every day for the next ten years.
I respond:
This statement is pretty heavy. It sounds like equality for all people is hard on you and “in your face every day.” Wow. If this issue is affecting you this much, imagine if you will the lives of those who want to get married and can’t. What will their next ten years be like? What about the next ten years of their children? I can guarantee you that their inability to marry their loved one is important to them and I dare say even more pressing to them than it is on your life. There are well over 1,200 marriage benefits that these families cannot access including: ability to make medical decisions for an ill or end of life partner, access to partner’s coverage under Social Security and Medicare, joint adoption, bereavement leave, ability to sponsor partner’s immigration, etc. These are basic issues of compassion. Imagine yourself in their shoes.

NOM writes:
Do we want to teach the next generation that one-half of humanity—either mothers or fathers—are dispensable, unimportant? Children are confused enough right now with sexual messages. Let’s not confuse them further.
I respond:
I work with youth now and have for many years. I have encountered a number who currently have two mothers or two fathers. I also know adults who have grown up with gay parents. I can only speak from their feedback and how I have interacted with them but not once have I seen anyone say that some people are “dispensable or unimportant.” Everyone has the capacity to be an effective, positive parent if they want to be. My message and the messaging I’ve heard from other equality advocates is never that anyone “is dispensable or unimportant.” No! Anyone who loves children and is willing to commit to the hardships of parenting should be applauded for their love and encouraged and supported. I firmly believe that not only are loving parental roles important, but so are other adults in children’s lives. Everyone is important! We all have a role to play in protecting and respecting our young ones.
But who is really getting the treatment of being “dispensable and unimportant?” Maybe people who are being singled out to be incapable of adopting, incapable of being legally married? Maybe our children are more confused by inequality in society. It would appear from many surveys that our younger generations are more accepting of LGBTQ folks than ever before. What do they think of having two sets of rules to play by: in word we laud equality and liberty but in deed we discriminate? That’s confusing to me!

NOM writes:
Marriage as the union of husband and wife isn’t new; it’s not taking away anyone’s rights. It’s common sense.
I respond:
Marriage as it has been commonly practiced and understood in the US for the last couple of decades is exactly that: just a couple of decades old. So it is a bit new. That we have ‘no fault’ divorce, that women are not considered property, that married women have sexual rights to not be raped and assaulted by their husbands, that people of ‘different races’ can legally marry, etc. Yes, it is pretty new. And it isn’t universal. There are many different cultural perspectives and expectations about marriage. Is it okay to marry a first cousin? Is it okay to marry a teenager?
What I’m getting at is that the way marriage has been approached in mainstream America for the last couple of decades is not a ‘given,’ is not ‘ancient’, is not ‘universal.’
I would argue that to deny someone the benefits of marriage (remember, there’s over 1,200 legal benefits!) because of the sex they were born would be to deny them equal access. This is a form of sexual discrimination, and it is not equality under law. We can see the provisions given to us by judges and government that protect freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of privacy, protection from sexual discrimination. This is the ‘common sense’ to which we appeal.

Closing Comments:
I respect the right of religion and freedom of conscience. However you want to believe the ‘ideal’ family looks like and however you want to define marriage for yourself and for your children and with your religious community, you can do so. However, without evidence that society or individuals are harmed by having two mothers or two fathers, there is no legal basis to discriminate against a group of people or an individual.
This is an issue of religious freedom. Many LGBTQ couples believe that God has blessed them with their relationship and has blessed them and led them to be married. Their churches and their clergy bless them. It is not the government’s place to tell them that their God, their church, and their clergy are wrong.

This is an issue of sexual discrimination. Imagine: it is because of how you are born that you cannot marry the person you love. Would we tell that to anyone else based on how they were born?

This is an issue of keeping government small and out of our private lives.
Will we have government officials assigned to supervise the sex of marriage applicants?  Do we want big government to research the medical histories of marriage applicants?

What about intersexed individuals? Who decides their ‘sex’ and potential to marry? What about transgendered individuals?

I for one promise to not use the ‘bigot’ card when discussing this issue. I do not know the heart of those who would oppose marriage equality. My first inclination and intention is to love. I want to meet everybody as a person of inherent dignity and worth and as an equal to be respected. I want to empathize with you in values we share and to listen to you carefully. I believe that the march towards greater justice is paved by patience and righteousness, not arguing and vitriol.
Much love and more love!

You can read NOM’s “Marriage Talking Points” at this link:
http://www.nationformarriage.org/site/c.omL2KeN0LzH/b.4475595/k.566A/Marriage_Talking_Points.htm

 

I made the mistake of using USSearch.com
Hey! It was three in the morning and someone called me twice from a strange number.
I was curious.
And USSearch.com loves to scam-prey on curiosity.

See, what they do is have a bunch of small print on their website.
So when you click to “search a number” you actually are getting signed up for a service
that they will be able to charge you for endlessly.
“That’s not cool.” you say. “Who’d want to unwittingly sign up for a weird monthly charge with some
stupid website?”
The answer is: no one.
But USSearch.com doesn’t need real customers. They just need people to make a mistake of using them,
and maybe not read the fine print.

After ten minutes, I called their service center and told the USSearch Guy I wanted out.
He told me I should hear more about the plan I just was scammed into.
I told him “No, I don’t want it. Just cancel me.”
He didn’t like that and told me more loudly that I should hear about the program.
“No. I don’t want it.”
He’s raising his voice now like a yell telling me I need to hear about the scam I’m in
and when I said “no” again he hung up.

Turns out I called back and spoke to a different fella and told him the nightmare I was in
and he canceled my scam.

Anyway, the bottom line is:
USSearch.com only wants to scam you.
The yelling may or may not be included.

Start a zine
Raise a cocker spaniel
Trip on smoked banana peels
Pour boiling hot herbal tea into a garden plot and wait for a gazebo to grow
Ignite a sunset
Propose to a garden gnome
Visit the elderly and make them my unwitting models for my “Waiting to Expire” website
Knit a child a sweater made from human hair
Dine among kittens
Take one deep breathe and fourteen little ones then drink three gluten free beers
Join a pottery class only to drop it because “glazing is so passe and its required!”
Recycle jokes I heard from Carlos Mencia as karma
Bury secrets in my closet
Amputate
Pull someone’s finger whether they want me to or not
Listen to the Beatles Rubber Soul album four times in a row in the dark
Watch Mystery Science Theater 3000 with the sound off with “Dark Side of The Moon” playing
Howl at a sunrise
Light a fire, run away
Put books I don’t want in a bookstore
Sing to the mailperson through the mailslot
Stand in the shower
Write the first sentence of a novel
Dance like people are watching when no one is
Eat ice cream soup
Nap until morning
Raise a family of ducks, cause a divorce and some delinquency
Fly a kite in a lightning storm with the string attached to an electric eel as justice
Fly paper airplanes into airport bathroom stalls
Go to the zoo and ask mournfully: “Who’s really in the cage? Really?”
Daydream, night terror, nocturnally emit, daywalk, moonwalk
Sit in a bathtub
Go window shopping for windows
Swim in a stranger’s eyes
Crank call a relative
Eat popcorn without butter to prove it can be done
Found a museum
Watch a little league game and talk loudly about how commercialized the sport is
Pick a peck of pickled peppers
Plant a tree, chop it down, call it a day
Write a letter to Santa, address it to myself, read it when it arrives and get busy making dolls
BBQ!
Watch “Scooby Doo” and really you know, like ‘feel it,’ man
Watch “Swingblade” as romance
Make a pizza and deliver it to a stranger’s house
Eat mac n’ cheese off a frisbee
Buy a parrot and teach it to say “I love you”–and really mean it this time
Play croquet with a flamingo
Play golf with a mango
Play possum at the library
Baby sit a chair
Prospect for gold in my friend’s house
Study my hand for an hour and think about Carl Sagan
Practice flesh origami
Play guitar with a pool cue
Look up ways to lance boils on the internet
Tell a librarian to lower their voice
Ruin a joke
Tape a note to a public bathroom’s toilet reading: “Carpe Diem”
Listen to punk for once in my life, goddammit
Solve the riddle of the Sphinx
Read the Bible backwards
Wash the ground around a parked car
Whistle a merry little tune
Make a scrapbook of my toenail clippings
Paint furniture!
Draw an insensitive cartoon, release it, then retract it with a poorly worded apology
Put a bandaid under my left eye
Go to a church and raise my hand to ask questions during the sermon
Offer a cemetery to volunteer as a Zombie Lookout
Eavesdrop on others
Ride the bus all day, nap off and on
Watch Judge Judy and learn a thing or two about real life, man
Befriend a fish
Bowl for fish
Fish for compliments
Gamble on a game of “Risk”
Collect comics that feature Wolverine because “I can identify with him.”
Cake!
Trace the outline of my face and features in the mirror, enter parallel universe
Sew some drapes, y’all!
Lift 12oz. weights
Donate blood
Play volleyball in jeans, then motorcycle away and make love in silhouette
Exorcise
Watch “Space Jam” in slow motion
Write the Wall Street Journal an Op-Ed piece about my opinions, feelings, fears
Deep fat fryer!
Hangout at the grocery store and supermarket shuffle with people in a hurry
Watch a cat give birth while smoking a clove cigarette and making critiques
Listen to AM radio
Eat the watermelon seeds at a watermelon seed spitting contest
Ghost ride the whip
Smile!
Make lists

I love the two movie adaptations of Portis’ 1968 book, so I sat down with his lovely True Grit recently
and ate it up in 6 hours.

It is one of the best reads I’ve had in a long time: it was emotionally compelling, I laughed out-loud, the writing is fresh, and the scenes burst with vitality and realism.

So here is my analysis of Charles Portis’ “True Grit”


The Central Theme of Justice 

The book was published in 1968, arguably the height of the Vietnam War during the Tet Offensive and one year after the Summer of Love.
The issues of justice, revenge, violence, righteousness, and Christianity’s continued value and importance in civic life were certainly all very much in the fore of the nation’s consciousness and are represented with humor and eloquence in “True Grit.”

The central theme of Justice lead to the supporting ideas in the book of Disillusionment, Loss, and Human Judgment versus Divine Judgment. Of course the character of Mattie and her narrative voice also reflect the central and supporting themes very well.

The introductory sentence of the book give the reader pause:
“People do not give it credence that a fourteen-year-old girl could leave home and go off in the wintertime to avenge her father’s blood but it did not seem so strange then, although I will say it did not happen every day (p. 11).”

Is this the statement of a noble character? Is it shameful that such a task was undertaken or is it our culture’s loss that this type of vengeance is now considered so unusual? Should we applaud the efforts of Mattie or do shiver with a horror? Is she a hero or is she a vigilante acting out in a game of life and death her own balance book of vengeance?  The answers are not easy. And that is in part what makes True Grit so attractive.

Mattie’s Own Sense of Justice, Rightness, Morality

Mattie’s character is a woman of ledger books, maths, and accounting. This fits well with her character’s black and white worldview. As a child she was in charge of her father’s books and as an adult she “loves her church and her bank” the latter of which she is the head. It appears that aside from the adventure undertaken in the course of the story, she has had little or no ‘real world experience.’ Her ideas of morality and justice align with the way a checkbook should balance at the end of the month: action receives due action.
This is the law of retribution: ‘eye for an eye’ or Lex Talionis meaning a punishment identical to the offense.
We can only guess what Mattie would say to Jesus’ pronouncement in Matthew 5:38-9 that rather than “eye for an eye…turn the other cheek.”

I am very interested in the distinctions between justice and revenge and Mattie’s character and narration strike at these issues throughout.
From page 75 in a conversation with LaBoeuf concerning Chaney’s crimes:
 “I want Chaney to pay for killing my father and not some Texas bird dog.”
“It will not be for the dog, it will be for the senator, and your father too. He will be just as dead that way, you see, and pay for all his crimes at once.”
“No, I do not see. That is not the way I look at it.”

And from page 97 talking with Rooster,
I said, “This man wants to take Chaney back to Texas. That is not what I want. That was not our agreement.”
Rooster said, “We will be getting him all the same. What you want is to have him caught and punished. We still mean to do that.”
“I want him to know he is being punished for killing my father. It is nothing to me how many dogs and fat men he killed in Texas.” 

Mattie’s character is defined by her exacting ideas of right and wrong.
Her interactions with the horse trader, while certainly comedic, do reveal how her idea of fairness is unwavering.
And this character trait may be called ‘stubborn’, ‘headstrong’, or ‘bullheaded’ but it is also a trait that is highly valued in society under the names of ‘integrity’, ‘true’, ‘stalwart.’
How we approach Mattie in a way ‘judges’ us too. The strength of True Grit and Mattie is that we are given a playful mirror to hold before us. It is not a mean-spirited mirror but like a funhouse mirror allows us to try on different views of ourselves and the world around us to better plumb who we are and who we want to be.

A helpful scene to create comparison of Mattie’s character lies in the letter from J Noble Daggett sending Mattie word of her father’s funeral. From page 78:
Needless to say, the whole community is shocked and grieved. Frank was a rich man in friends.

In this short statement, Mattie is contrasted with her father: a woman with money savvy and a ‘plumb line view’ of justice
and her father who apparently “laid up his treasures in heaven” as it were.

The Cost of Mattie’s View of Justice
Mattie’s rigorous dedication to her pursuit of justice/revenge comes with enormous cost.

The most obvious loss is the connection she has with her family. She misses her father’s funeral and is unable to support her
mother, sister, and brother during their grief. More likely, she is adding to everyone’s hurt, fear, and anxiety by following her (selfish?) ambition.

Like the proverbial loss of “a pound of flesh,” Mattie loses her arm as a consequence of the snake bite.
Perhaps as a foreshadowing, Lawyer Daggett writes in his letter to Mattie that she is her mother’s “strong right arm now.”

Mattie’s horse Blackie is also lost, as well as LaBoeuf being badly injured and of course Chaney and a number of his criminal cohorts losing their lives.

Later in Mattie’s life she is shown to be relatively alone. She looks after her aged mother (p. 221) and has continued correspondence with her brother Little Frank and sister Victoria. But aside from those relationships, we have no report of close ties to Mattie. Even Rooster does not return her letters:
Twice I wrote the stockmen’s association in San Antonio. The letters were not returned but neither were they answered.
(p. 220)

All this loss is due to Mattie’s character, which is by definition a tragic character.
When people point out that Mattie does not change through out the story or that she does not follow a traditional dramatic arc of change and transformation it is because she fits in the category of a tragic anti-hero. When a character or story is tragic, we can in retrospect see how their character’s traits will lead them and others to ruin.

I am not saying that Mattie is a negative character or is reprehensible. No. I will not stand in judgment of her in such simplistic terms. I feel that the strength of Portis’ writing is that we feel tension when we face Mattie head-on. We sympathize for her situation and we can understand her choices in light of the worldview she exposes to us through narration.

The Theme of Disillusionment
Mattie’s idea of justice leads her on her quest to see Chaney killed. But we never really have any sight of Mattie becoming satisfied or happier due to his demise.
This helps establish Portis’ inspection of the value of justice via violence and the differences between justice and revenge.

This feeling of ‘disillusionment’ permeates the story:
1. The horse trader Stonehill says at two different times that Fort Smith had been said to be the “Pittsburgh” and the “Philadelphia” of the midwest. He is thoroughly disillusioned.
2. The Wild Wild West Show had a similar disappointing effect. From page 223:
People grumbled about it when it was over, saying James did nothing more than wave his hat to the crowd, and that Younger did even less, it being a condition of his parole that he not exhibit himself. Little Frank took his two boys to see it and they enjoyed the horses.
This is the commentary of Portis upon the West of the public’s imagination. It is a meta-commentary upon the genre in which the novel resides. It is always a ‘chasing after the wind,’ a simulacrum of bygone imaginations.
3. The criminal band of Lucky Ned Pepper including Chaney is a wink to the reader’s expectations and further plays upon imagination, expectation, and disillusionment. We as readers and perhaps Mattie herself would like to know the antagonists are cruel masterminds but instead are faced with a group of men whose cognitive powers are questionable. Rather than Lex Luthor we have developmentally delayed and cognitively challenged and emotionally disturbed individuals. Can we or Mattie gloat over their defeat and death?

The Judgment of God and Humans
We have a clear portrayal of Mattie’s understanding of the Christian maxim “Do Unto Others” on page 111 after Mattie is brutalized by LaBoeuf:
I said, “Listen here, I have thought of something. This ‘stunt’ that you two pulled has given me an idea. When we locate Chaney a good plan will be for us to jump him from the brush and hit him on the head with sticks and knock him insensible…”
With Mattie just recovered from the surprise attack by the Texas Ranger, she is already hatching a plan to do likewise.
Compassion and sympathy have been removed from the equation. Gone is grace, and left is unrelenting Lex Talionis.

Perhaps this is consistent with Mattie’s theology of God’s predestined punishment of unbelieving humanity.
From pages 114-5 describing the schism between the Cumberland and Presbyterian Church:
They broke with the Presbyterian Church because they did not believe a preacher needed a lot of formal education. That is all right but they are not sound on Election. They do not fully accept it. I confess it is a hard doctrine, running contrary to our earthly ideas of fair play, but I can see no way around it. Read I Corinthians 6″13 and II Timothy 1:9,10. Also I Peter 1:2,19,20 and Roman 11:7. There you have it. It was good for Paul and Silas and it is good enough for me. It is good enough for you too.
Is there any need to comment on how this longest and most detailed passage revealing Mattie’s theology is about God’s judgment of much of humanity to hell?

For all that is in this book that can lead to exciting conversation, it is also simply a great read. I loved it.
I invite comments, criticisms, and corrections!

 

Portis, Charles. True Grit (New York: The Overlook Press. 2010)

 

Here’s a video I enjoyed about Mattie and Feminism:

 

 

Saint Valentine’s Day is a very special day. Many people all over the world celebrate Saint Valentine’s Day. Big people, little people, old people, young people, pirates and gold prospectors all love the merry day. But not too many people know about origins of the holiday and the one who began it all.

This is the story of Saint Valentine.

There once was a very little boy who lived in a very little town. They were perfect for each other. The boy’s name was Steve and the town’s name was Valentine. Sometimes, people called the boy “Steve, you know, that kid from Valentine”. Steve was very shy which made the other little children feel uncomfortable around him and call him names like “Stink, the Ugly Kid”, or “Stink-Bomb-Ugly-Face”. This only made Steve even more shy. His mother would compensate for his state of social ineptitude by smothering him in maternal love and pastries. Before long, Steve had terrible blood pressure and an unhealthy attachment to his mother. Steve then left home at the tender age of thirty five to make a life for himself. “Goodbye mother, goodbye sweet, sweet pastries.” He said as he said goodbye to his mother and her pastries.

Steve went to the very big city that was by the ocean. Steve had always wanted to be close to the ocean ever since he first ate one of his mother’s homemade salt water taffies while school children chanted “Are you some horrific sea venturing creature?” over and over again. Steve wanted to get over being shy. Steve also wanted to be near the ocean. As a perfect solution, Steve joined the Navy. He looked very keen in his white dapper uniform.

Many times people would say to Steve, “You think you’re pretty hot stuff don’t you?” and he would give a little wink and a snappy salute and another little wink. His bunk mate on the boat would always say to Steve before a weekend pass at port, “Go have a great time, Rudolf Valentino.” And Steve would say, “My name is Steve for the thousandth time. But, strangely enough, I am from Valentine.” And then he’d give a little wink and a snappy salute and another little wink. While in the Navy, Steve formed three strong friendships: a seagull he saw once by an island, the picture of his mother that he had tattooed on his chest himself, and his pillow which he wet with bitter tears every night.

Finally, Steve shot himself in the foot with a harpoon to get out of the Navy. Steve returned to the big city by the ocean. Though his love for all things nautical had grown cold, he still enjoyed the briny smell and the memory of the seagull he’d seen. One day at a quiet out of the way bistro, Steve fell madly in love with an incredible little number called a “Frappie”. Steve admired the coffee based drink for its zing and its zip and was wild over its sass and attitude. It was at another not so quaint and not so out of the way bistro that Steve fell in love once again. This time it was with a woman named Candy. Steve approached her and asked for money.
“Get a job, you horrific sea venturing creature.” She said.
Steve liked her zing and zip.
Steve asked her what her name was:
“Candy.” She said.
Steve asked if that was because she ate a lot of candy:
“Actually, I can’t. I’ve got life-threatening diabetes. But thanks for bringing it up, puke face.” She said.
Steve liked her sass.
Steve asked her if she would marry him and she pretended to dry heave. Steve liked her attitude.

Their love blossomed over the next weekend and with Candy’s persistence, they soon married in a bistro that was near the bistro they had met in, but was more like the bistro Steve had met Frappies in. Steve and Candy soon had a large loving family.

Of their children, one they found in a basket left on the front porch, one they found in the oven and looked like a bun, one they found floating in a basket in the river, one was dropped down the chimney by a stork, and one just appeared levitating in their backyard and had no belly button.

“Looky here, Steve” Candy said, “We’ve got a whole week of kids!” This was because at that time there was five days in a week.
Steve said, “Let’s hope our huge and really loving family always stays just like it is and no one ever adds any days to the week so we can always say we’ve got a ‘week of kids’. We will always be together, in perfect, flawless matrimonial bliss. I love you Candy, more than any words a poet may pen. You are my life, Candy. I will love you forever.”

A week later, Candy left Steve for an out of work circus clown with a terrible, hacking cough.
“Why Candy? Why? Why?” Wailed Steve.
“I need a man who laughs at my jokes.” She said.
“Was that a joke?” Steve said.
“Nope.” She said.

Five days later, Steve’s children left him while they had told him they were going out to buy cigarettes. They left him a note on the kitchen table which read:

“Told you we were buying cigarettes. Partially true. We are, but we are never coming back. Please disregard every time we ever told you we loved you.

Yours truly, your children.
P.S. If you ever see Mom again, tell her we love her very, very much.”

For the next nine days, Steve’s whereabouts were unknown. Some said that he lived in a cave where he harbored a sick turtle with a low birth weight he called his “Precious.”

He later reappeared in Valentine only to find his mother had died the previous night in an attack of angina and four badgers and a bat. Steve felt very alone. Steve took to spending many lazy afternoons by Valentine’s river where in his eye one could almost see the reflection of the ocean. One day, a servant girl came to the river to wash her cruel master’s clothes. Her beauty was unparalleled and her hair the color of burning heather.
“Whatcha doin’?” Steve asked.
“Washing my cruel master’s clothes.” She said.
“Really?” Steve said, “That’d be cool.”
“Washing clothes in a river?” She asked.
“No, being a cruel master.” Steve said, watching her get a really tough stain out of a coon skin hat.
“Hey, that gives me an idea!” Steve said. “Whatcha say we get married?”
“Well…” She said, “you sure a different fellow aren’t you?”
Steve laughed and laughed. She stared at him silently.

Eight hours later the two were married in Valentine’s second oldest bistro which was not as nice as the other bistros, but served great scones. “They’re like big funny cookies.” Steve said.

Their marriage produced no children, nor did they have a home to call their own. Instead, they moved in with her cruel master who got along famously with Steve. As the two grew older, they only grew closer and could hardly be separated. When they played horseshoes, each would purposely miss each toss to save the other the terrible shame of losing. Also, each would lie if the other asked if they were getting fat. Apparently, in this matter she lied very well, for it was two months after their wedding night that Steve died of morbid obesity. It turned out that all the years of pastries and salt water taffy had weakened his metabolism and the scones were just too much for his belabored heart.

She was as faithful to him in death as she had been in life. She visited his grave everyday for the next three weeks of her life before finally being struck down in an attack of gout, a badger, a spider, a leprechaun, and a bat. In her last will and testament she requested that all of their meager belongings be given to Steve’s five children, should they ever be found.

All the townsfolk said of her in her passing, “That woman put up with him like a saint. The woman was a saint. A true saint!” Because of that, and coupled with the fact that no one knew her real name, she became known as Saint Valentine. Throughout the little town of Valentine all remembered her by celebrating the day Steve first met her by the river- January 21. However, through the years, two more days were added to the week, Tuesday and Friday, so the date is now correctly reckoned at February 14.

Children originally celebrated the holiday by leaving small wooden shoes by the fireplace, so that during the night “Saint Valentine” could throw the shoes into the fire to warm the house and the hearts of the young. Sadly, today the little town of Valentine is gone and the townsfolk have long passed away, but it is said that the story will forever be told as long as there is love.

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