BUT WILL YOU RESPECT ME IN THE MORNING?
In a blow to lounge lechers everywhere, the state of Ohio passed a law making seduction unlawful. Covering any man over 18, it prohibited sex, consensual or not, with a woman of any age if the woman were being taught or instructed by the man. It covered all subject matter, leaving a lot of room for interpretation. Other states jumped on the anti-seduction bandwagon. In Virginia, he’d better not try to engineer an “illicit connexion with any unmarried female of previous chaste character” using the promise of marriage. In Georgia, he couldn’t “seduce a virtuous unmarried female and induce her to yield to his lustful embraces.” In some jurisdictions, however, a woman could not press charges on her own behalf; only the father could do so based on his property interests in his daughters’ chastity.
Naturally, such laws were enforced with varying degrees of fervor. An unfortunate man trapped by the law in New York was headed for certain conviction until he proposed to his victim during the trial. Just to make certain, he didn’t back out, the judge brought in a minister and had the ceremony performed then and there.
A court in Michigan, on the other hand, went out of its way to favor the accused male. On three charges of seduction, two were thrown out because the woman was no longer virtuous after the first seduction. The other was tossed when the court ruled that her claim that they had sex in a buggy was physically impossible.
Sick in de Stomach, Part 1: Albert’s Lament
“Albert, you’re not sick,” said Peaches, handing a mug of strong tea to the man lying on the chaise lounge wearing an oversized nightshirt that made him look much frailer than he actually was. Peaches, who would not reveal the source of her nickname, had by default fallen into a grudging guardianship of the cantankerous old Frenchman. “You’re just imagining these things because you know you should be up on your feet being a human being.”
“We have no aspirin,” answered Albert. “Are we a third world country that we have no aspirin? How can a civilized people have no aspirin?”
“Because no one has been to Guadeloupe for two weeks. We’re running out of things.”
“It is because this island has no pharmacy,” said Albert. “It is the twenty-first century. How can an island be without a pharmacy?”
“You always said pharmacies are a plague of civilization,” said Peaches. “That easy access to medicine creates sick people, people dependent on medicine. That’s what you said.”
“I was a well man when I said that. Now I need a pharmacy because I need aspirin because I am a sick man. Is that so difficult to understand? Please speak, don’t nod; my vision is blurred.”
“That’s because you’re a cross-eyed old fool,” Peaches said warmly.
“Perhaps I am, perhaps I am,” Albert almost whispered. “And I’m a burden. But please don’t think ill of me. I may only be a burden for another day or two. The tea is very nice. I appreciate your bringing it to me. Would you recite for me, please, the tiger poem you love so much? I’d like to hear it once more.”
Peaches was dumbstruck. Albert had always criticized her love of poetry, particularly British poetry, and now he was requesting a recital. Maybe he was dying after all. What other reason could he have? He needed a pretty thought to take him to heaven. Peaches couldn’t deny such a request, even if he were dreaming his illnesses, so she recited in a very serious poetic voice: “Tiger, tiger, burning bright, in the jungle late at night . . . uh . . . afraid of nothing but where they bury.” She paused, then grinned and said: “For this tiger is fearful of the cemetery.” Peaches had, of course, ad-libbed the final two lines, but they were quite good, capturing the spirit, if not the exact wording, of the original. She repeated it once again, giving more emphasis to the dramatic elements she had created, then sat smiling with satisfaction, waiting for Albert to voice his appreciation.
“I think the dog is probably rabid,” said Albert.
“Why do you say that?”
“He bit me.”
“It’s a she,” Peaches corrected.
“It is my understanding that rabies is found equally among the two sexes of the species.”
“Yes, but she doesn’t have rabies,” said Peaches. “She just doesn’t like you.”
“We would be able to find out for certain if there were a veterinarian on this island,” Albert lamented. “But of course there isn’t. There are probably a thousand veterinarians in Paris. But not here. We don’t even have a doctor. This is no place to live. In France, there are specialists. If I have a heart attack here, I have no chance. If disease sweeps the island, we’ll all die.”
“But you said that doctors were worse than disease,” Peaches reminded him. “You said the only difference between a medical doctor and a witch doctor was their makeup.”
“I have said a great many things in my life.”
“And now they’re coming back to haunt you.”
“Situations change,” said Albert, sighing. “I hope you’ll excuse me now. Conversation has made me weak. I must rest.”
Sick in de Stomach is one of the 15 stories from Calypso, Stories of the Caribbean, available as an ebook or in a print edition with real pages and everything.