Storm in a Teacup
by KJ Hannah Greenberg
Sometimes, when not talking to herself, Helen attempted her homework. Other times, when talking to herself, Helen completed assignments. She read about contracts, procedure, and torts, and dreamed of the day when she would complete her last final. Meanwhile, there were papers to be written for academic credit and journal articles to be composed for her professors’ books.
She had thought to commit herself to a concentration in health law, but, month by month, that pursuit had lost its sparkle. Helen, consequently, had to decide among intellectual property law, personal and family law, property and estate law, constitutional law, labor and employment law, and corporate law. Sadly, her school allowed no student to declare themselves ‘generalists’.
The young woman picked a strip of color off of the nail of her right hand’s index finger. She had so many options and so little time.
To ease her choice, Helen siphoned a little from her bank account, which her well-to-do parents had designed as her ‘student loan’, and slogged, via a select gear on her new model Lexus GS, to Keene, New Hampshire, where she meant to indulge in a long weekend of leaf peeping and career contemplation. She maintained that girls needed inspiration.
As Helen sipped cappuccino and kicked furiously at the piles of maple and beech leaves that swirled around her patio seat, she thought about why she was a law student and about why she had decided to travel to Keene to muse. Per being a law student, she recalled a childhood event, which had occurred in her hometown of Weston. A neighbor, with whom she had shot hoops and had talked about non-Euclidean geometry, had announced to his parents that he wanted to be a policeman, or, at second best, a garbage collector. The lad was summarily trounced and sent to Helen’s alma mater, Concord Academy.
When that adolescent returned during holidays breaks, he seemed no more astute than he had when attending Weston High, where he had participated on the math team and had been an assistant editor of the French Club’s newsletter. In fact, he had forsaken his commitment to Riemannian space and his love for digital graphic design in exchange for a spot warming the bench on Concord Academy’s junior varsity wrestling team and for his pursuit of all of that school’s credits in dance.
In short, that neighbor had morphed, in Helen’s esteem, into yet another inductee into the mindless New England jet set. He refused to play flag football with her anymore and insisted that any time they shared be spent with her tutoring him in trigonometry. As such, the boy had become her lesson in the dangers institutional uniformity. Helen had had to transfer to Berkshire School senior year because of an incident involving green hair and a belly button piercing.
Per traveling to Keene, the town boasted a surplus of home-grown ultra-conservatives. Those fundamentalists seemed to itch for confrontations with visitors. Whereas Weston had its own surfeit of KKK members and of associates of The Daughters of the American Revolution, those activists, unlike Keene’s locals, stayed mostly hidden from the international media.
In Keene, no outsider doctrines were permitted to survive. ‘Live Free or Die’ was not, to those denizens, about tolerance, but about safeguarding their self-selected mores. The corresponding pejorative attitudes expressed in Keene’s librarians’ rhetoric, in Keene’s hardware managers’ greetings or lack thereof, and in Keene’s baristas’ encoded grunts and snuffs, were stimulating to someone like Helen, who was weighing whether to fight for civil rights or to work to uphold existent affairs.
She had thought that she had had the world figured out when she had refused to learn how to text, rejected wearing digital watches, and declined to chop off her hair. However, all that she had gleaned from those decisions was that it was foolhardy to: place herself outside of the loop of her classmates’ communications, have to daily wind her timepiece, and make her pinned up tresses the subject of gawps from other youths participating in Model UN.
Perhaps there were better ways to protest social indenture to convergent media, to make quick discoveries about time (cell phones were great clocks, but unfortunately had the tendency to link Helen to other mediated devices) and to learn about diplomacy and international relations. There certainly were better ways to cook potatoes than emptying most of the containers in a spice cabinet into a mash. Helen just didn’t know better options for spuds, either.
So, the fledgling law student began to disrobe. She was not a member of Femen or in any other way dedicated to “victory over patriarchy.” Patriarchy kept her well fed, well clothed, and fiduciarily endowed. In balance, extreme behavior, related to issues of sexism, might actually glean enough response for her to figure out just what type of student she wanted to be at the same time as granting her sufficient media notoriety to appropriate a summer clerking spot with one of the Associate Justices of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.
Helen loosened her scarf, then her parka, her sweater, her blouse, and finally her bra. Goose flesh covered her. She was less Amazon than spectacle. Passers-by sneered or looked away. Some enterprising teens took photos with their smart phones.
An entire forty minutes passed before one of Keene’s lieutenants arrested her for indecent exposure. By then, Helen was suffering from mild hypothermia. That kind police officer did not drive Helen to the station, but to Cheshire Medical Center for evaluation and treatment. Later, his department received a generous donation from a surgeon and his wife, whose home address was Weston, Massachusetts.
In the end, Helen opted for the corporate law track. Her attendance in the Model UN had accustomed her to Western business attire. Her childhood in Weston had accustomed her to life’s finer things. What’s more, a future in corporate law would enable her to buy tickets to watch her neighbor perform in Carnegie Hall.
◊ ◊ ◊
KJ Hannah Greenberg
KJ Hannah Greenberg, who only pretends at being indomitable, tramps across literary genres and giggles in her sleep. As well, she eats oatmeal and keeps company with a prickle of (sometimes rabid) imaginary hedgehogs. She’s been nominated four times for the Pushcart Prize in Literature, once for The Best of the Net, and helps out as an Associate Editor at Bewildering Stories. Her latest fiction collection is Cryptids (Bards & Sages Publishing, 2015).