A Thought | Thomas E. Kennedy
The Funeral Director’s Wife | Grace Wells
Infidelity, Almost | Edward Mc Whinney
The Revolutionary | Amy Groshek
What Walt Whitman Said | Liz Prato
A Discourse on Time | Luke Evans
Plum Island | Andrew Coburn

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A Thought | Thomas E. Kennedy

	Standing among friends and acquaintances, each with a glass of wine, red or white,  nibbling hors d’oeuvres, sharing chit-chat with a valued woman colleague at a conference reception, Wilden found himself host to an impulse to strike her. No, not an impulse really – rather the semi-conscious flash of an image of him doing so. She was an agreeable upper-middle-aged woman, tall and pleasant with a face sad as a moose, just the sort of person you wouldn’t dream of harming, on the contrary, and she had just been speaking well of one of Wilden’s initiatives when it occurred to him how terrible it would be if he were suddenly to hit her, even just a little bit. Nothing violent, just a light tap of his knuckles into her teeth.
	How stunned she would be, followed by weeping, followed by fury, her mournful face turning fierce, then perhaps dissolving in tears again. How heartbreaking it would be.  No doubt others would come running then to assist and console her, peering angrily at him, appalled, some alpha male types rolling shoulders and glaring, dying to get their mits on him. All that he had worked for lost in the flash of a single act as foreign to himself as to its victim and spectators. 
	He would be hated, shunned, never trusted again, never forgiven, his sudden act of treachery never forgotten for it would surely be viewed as a chink in the armor of his identity through which his true hurtful nature had revealed itself, and that now would characterize him forever, even if he beat his breast in rueful agony, tore out his hair in grief, wept fasted prayed. His whole life would be changed, all achievement nullified, and why?
	Why would he harbor this fleeting unreason?  Why meditate its consequences?  Whence had this undesired interior scenario appeared?   He fended it off behind his smile as his eyes fell upon an attractive antique broach at his colleague’s fleshy throat.
	“Lovely pin, Agnethe.”
	“Why thank you,” she said. “It’s from the ethnographic museum shop. A reproduction of a Viking motif.”
	He nodded, sipped his wine.
	Surely, he thought, he would never do such a thing. Never. Yet it occurred to him that the fleet presage of such impulses had peeked into his consciousness occasionally for as long as he could remember. He recalled once being visited by a vision of plunging a hunting knife into the throat of his beloved younger brother whom he loved unconditionally. Also once, the image of striking the face of the woman he cherished, for no reason at all.  And the fear once in a while that he might cast the contents of a wine glass into someone’s face, or across the surface of a canvas at an art opening.
	And further, further back he recalled sitting on the front stoop of his childhood home with a group of neighborhood kids, including a boy he very much liked named Glen, from a few houses down, one lovely summer evening, and Wilden suddenly and without forethought or warning shoved Glen hard so he toppled off the edge of the stoop and plunged two or three feet to the grass beside it. The boy howled as though scalded, wept, and the others looked incredulously at Wilden. Glen was carried home, weeping, in the arms of one of the older boys. What had the others done or said?  Nothing he could remember, but there was a chill sense of bafflement over Wilden’s inexplicable behavior. He was a good-natured boy and no one quite believed that he had done this thing, and he hardly believed it himself, though he knew he had, and it had not been the only time, he remembered now.
	There had been another instance, at least one, with Johnnie Abu, a Hindu boy, the son of a diplomat who had moved into the neighborhood. Johnnie had been pushing Wilden on a swing in the park, one of the kiddie swings, like a little basket into which Wilden was strapped so he couldn’t fall out – which meant he could not have been more than three or four at the time. Johnnie Abu was standing in front of the swing, his face full of kindness for young Wilden, catching the swing as it came forward to him and giving another gentle shove to maintain the momentum, laughing merrily, pushing the swing a little higher, a little higher, saying, “Don’t be afraid, don’t be afraid, is it not fun?”  He had to step back and reach up to catch the swing as it swung higher than his face, and Johnnie told Wilden, “Now you must learn to keep it moving by pumping your legs. Pump!  Pump!”   It occurred to Wilden that if he lifted his feet at just the right moment, the fronts of both sneakers would strike Johnnie right in the teeth, and he did that.
	Johnnie cried out and blood lined the edges of his teeth. His hand leapt up to cover his mouth as Wilden’s swing slowly ceased swinging, and Wilden’s older brother came running and scolded him even as Johnnie offered comfort and defense, “No, no,” he said through his bleeding teeth, looking down at the blood that he caught in the cup of his palm, “This was merely an accident.”
	It was not an accident. Wilden had planned and carried out the attack with malice aforethought except that there had been no malice at all. It had been an act of pure idleness, or perhaps of objective experimentation, though he had no idea what the object of the experiment had been, whether it had been some manner of social enquiry or born of some distant unknown cruelty, or whether some foreign element of his spirit had dictated it, or whether something in him had reacted to Johnnie Abu’s “otherness,” or whether he simply had not yet been quite civilized.  He did not know.
	What he did recall was that no emotion, none he could recollect, accompanied any of these incidents, not anger nor excitement nor any particular meanness. Rather, it seemed to come of idle indifference, seemed even to be without volition, as though his feet had decided to take action, as thoughtlessly and unemotionally as a finger leaps to squash a minuscule spider – although he had planned it. Perhaps there had been some emotion that he could not remember. Perhaps there had been a reason beyond his ken, beyond his memory, some suppressed or repressed something or other, some Freudian construction built of Greek myth and post-Victorian sexual constraint. Or perhaps there was just a tiny wire out of place in his mental circuit.
	Or perhaps it was natural. Perhaps civilization was just not what it seemed to be. Perhaps we are all, or most of us, loaded pistols that for some reason at some point might cock and then, being cocked, might be squeezed or jolted and discharge, firing a tiny caliber bullet disguised as an accident.
	To the best of his memory, he had never done such a thing again, although such impulses still visited him occasionally, fleet as a tiny glimmering fish in the depth of a dark basin, only very occasionally seen. Perhaps there were more of them than he actually saw. And he did not understand them or himself. Sometimes he feared that perhaps his life as a civilized man was but a mask he had fashioned from years of observation, a mask he donned with profound guile so that he would resemble others, pass as one of the tribe, so that he might, to all around him, even himself, seem to have  become the mask by dint of sheer learned and willed control.
	Or were such speculations merely the result of some tiny nick in the grain of his wood, so to speak?  A meaningless small defect that reflected bizarre light at a certain angle, an optical illusion, a psychological illusion?  Or was the illusion, in fact, all the rest of him – the valued hardworking trusted colleague, the good citizen, loving mate and father?  Was he in truth a secret madman who might one day unexpectedly explode or quietly take up a weapon and slaughter a fellow human being, go postal, mow them down, then turn the weapon on himself, so that afterwards, amidst the bloody rubble of the dead and moaning bodies, people stood with terrified eyes, hands at throats, aghast?   Who would have ever thought that, of all people, Mr. Wilden would…
	A waitress in black livery proferred a tray of delicately assembled canapés between Wilden and Agnethe, and Wilden watched Agnethe’s thin lipsticked lips part with delight as she considered the offerings, shifting the wine glass to her left hand, her right hovering like a puffy claw over the flake of a goose’s liver displayed on a little square of toasted rye bread garnished with a sprig of greenery and a tiny cornichon, and she said, “Oh, dear, do you think I really should?”
	Wilden smiled down upon her bowed head. “Why not, Agnethe?” he said. “You only live once.”

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