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Cud Flashes In the Pan
This month’s theme-
Love and Lust:
It’s So Unusual, Part 1
Cyndi Lauper is more than just a 1980s pop icon. She is a feminist icon who has also championed such causes as gay rights, and she has never been afraid to tackle controversial topics—or to tell real stories of the terrible consequences that can happen to women as a result of the laws we have. Consider her song “Sally’s Pigeons” from 1993, which told the real story of how her childhood friend got pregnant as a teenager and died as a result of a back-alley abortion. This sort of thing should NEVER happen in this country, but if we keep bowing to religious pressure they sure as hell will keep happening.
So it’s time for another Cud Flashes with stories inspired by song titles. This month will feature four dystopian stories with four more coming in March. Unlike some of the dystopian fiction I’ve written on The Cud, these stories are frighteningly possible in the near future as far-right conservatism works to roll back the rights and equal status of women. I usually do “Love and Lust” as the underlying theme in February; seven of these stories fit that, but one does not. All speak to the dangers of what might come.
“Girls Just Want to Have Fun”
By David M. Fitzpatrick
Ellie had gone out to a dance club with several of her girlfriends because they all just wanted to have fun, but after she met the guy she got so wrapped up in talking to him amidst the blaring music and the flashing lights that her friends left without her. He bought her a drink and sweet-talked her until she couldn’t resist him, but she tried to act cool and collected, but she really was swooning. The more she squirmed in her seat, the better it felt, and the wetter she got… and the more she squirmed.
When he led her by the hand to the dance floor, her mind was diverted from how turned on she was, and she just had a blast. They jumped up and down and grabbed hands and spun—a challenge given the clingy minidress she was wearing—and she was having the time of her life. She hadn’t expected the DJ to play a slow song, but as soon as it started they mystery man pulled Ellie in close and held her. They began to rock back and forth, her head on his shoulder, relishing in his strong arms around her. It wasn’t long before they were both daring to run fingers too close to buttocks, and she finally made the bold move of fully cupping one of his ass cheeks in her hand. He responded by grabbing both of hers.
He could only guess how wet she was, but she didn’t need to guess how hard he was getting. She could tell that he wore boxers, because his erection poked straight out and jabbed into her crotch. She’d wanted to go out and just have a little fun, and she sure as heck was having it. It was exciting.
That’s when he whispered in her ear, “Want to step out back?”
Ellie nodded, and he pulled away, using one hand to grab hers and the other to adjust his tent. She let him lead her off the dance floor and to the back corridor. He led her past the bathrooms and around a corner to a service hallway that was mostly dark, where he abruptly backed her up against the wall and passionately kissed her. She returned the kiss even as he reached down and unzipped. Suddenly he had pushed her clingy dress up around her waist, exposing her, and pulled her panties aside. With his hand, he guided his erection toward her eager wet hole.
“Here?” she whispered in surprise.
He stopped, the head of his penis right at her entrance. “Do you want to?” he whispered back.
She realized that she didn’t even know his name. She’d never done anything like this before. She’d never had sex on the first date, and never had sex with some nameless man. The excitement in that moment outweighed the shame. She was on the pill, so she was going to have fun, all right.
“Yes,” she breathed.
He kissed her again, and then slowly eased into her. She relaxed, parted her thighs, and let him slide in. He was thick and hung, and she gasped as he seemed to take forever to bury himself deep inside her.
It was sheer ecstasy. Ellie had never been so filled up during a sexual encounter, and never more excited—and he was only just completing one long, slow, first thrust. But suddenly he pulled out and backed suddenly away, across the hallway to the opposite wall, tucking his penis back into his pants and zipping back up. Ellie stared in surprise.
“What’s wrong?” she said.
He reached over to flip on the hall light, and then he reached into his shirt and pulled out something hanging off a chain around his neck. It was a badge.
“I’m Detective Pearson,” he announced. “You’re under arrest for promiscuity.”
She felt the color drain from her face. “What?” she cried.
“The promiscuity laws are very clear,” he said. “An unmarried woman having sex is in violation.”
“How the hell can I be arrested but you can’t?” she said. “You stuck your dick in me!”
“Promiscuity laws don’t apply to men. Turn around and put your hands behind your back.”
Numb, she did as she was told. She knew about those stupid, unfair laws, but didn’t think anyone actually enforced them.
“Promiscuity laws protect women from making bad decisions,” Pearson lectured her as he snapped handcuffs on her wrists. “They protect you from diseases, from pregnancy, from the desire to get abortions, and much more.”
“Why the hell do men get away with it?” she hissed through clenched teeth.
“Men are different,” he said with a chuckle as he spun her back around to face him. “We’re wired to try to get sex. And men aren’t the ones who get pregnant and have abortions.”
He leaned in then, pushing her back against the wall, and he whispered in her ear, “I’m only allowed to slide it in once, to establish that sex takes place during a sting. And of all the women I’ve tried, you’re one of the finest pussies out there. You really need to be protected from yourself.”
He jammed his hand between her legs and squeezed her vulva, rubbing his fingers on her, and that only capped the objectification and humiliation. Now, she felt nothing but revulsion and shame.
By David M. Fitzpatrick
“All American women have the right to vote,” the registrar said to Susan Fuller. “Why would you claim that they don’t?”
“That’s not what I said,” Susan said, fighting to keep from shouting in anger. Behind her, a long line of people waiting to register had been murmuring, but now they had quieted, probably to listen to the argument that was brewing.
The registrar regarded her through the counter window at city hall. “That’s what I heard.”
“Then you weren’t listening,” Susan said. “I said American women don’t have EQUAL votes.”
“Come now, Miss Fuller,” he said, sounding like a father talking down to a child who simply didn’t know better. “We give the same tests to all potential voters, regardless of gender. How you perform decides your score.”
“The IQ tests favor men,” she said, fuming. “Ever since the law changed how boys and girls are educated in schools, men score higher. The voting law favors the men.”
Behind her, the waiting crowd murmured louder in apparent agreement. The registrar glared at everyone in general before turning his glare squarely on Susan.
“I didn’t make the rules or the tests, Miss Fuller. The government did with the Fair and Balanced Voting Act. And your IQ test came out just fine, Miss Fuller—you scored only a few points lower than the male average. What hurts you more are other things—the fact that you’re an unmarried lesbian docks you several points, and your genetic testing shows a fairly brief American presence in your lineage.”
“So I score lower than men because the public-education system had me spending more time on the so-called female-studies track, while the boys did the male-studies track,” Susan said. “Then I lose points because of my sexual preference, on the trumped-up charge that it’s less likely that I can contribute to American population growth, and because I’m not married, which supposedly results in less family stability. And to top it off, my ancestors didn’t come here early enough?”
The people in the crowd were talking excitedly amongst themselves now. This wasn’t new information, but to have someone challenging this like Susan was—it was unthinkable.
The registrar sighed and removed his glasses, furrowing his brow at her. “I’m not here to argue this, Miss Fuller. I’ve done my duty by administering the tests, and your final Voting Quotient is a solid ninety-two. You can either choose to have your vote counted as ninety-two percent of a vote, or you can chose to not vote at all.”
Susan felt herself shaking. She wanted to reach over the counter and throttle the smug bastard, but she was already on the edge of criminal charges as it was. She knew how the fucked-up system worked. She knew that the schooling focused on strengthening men’s IQ scores and reducing women’s, no matter how much the right-wing bastards said it was all about giving women the proper skills they needed to build a traditional American family. She knew that all those years where half of her academic classes focused on things like housekeeping, cooking, sewing, and childcare, while the boys had a much stronger focus on things like language, mathematics, and science. And now Voting Quotients were stacked in favor of male voters and to the detriment of female voters.
She willed herself to remain in control, and through clenched teeth she told the registrar what she thought. “This is unfair, egregious, and horrifying. I don’t care what Congress decided.”
The crowd behind her erupted in applause and cheers, emboldened by someone speaking out about something they all agreed on. The registrar came to his feet, planting his hands on the counter and leaning towards the glass. “Look, lady, I can’t make this any clearer. Women have their proper places in society, and men have theirs. You’re able to vote at all thanks to American heroes like Charles Badreau. So now you have a choice: Are you going to vote? Are you going to not vote and leave peacefully? Or am I going to call the police and have you arrested?”
When he said it like that, it was an easy choice.
* * *
“The arrest of a disgruntled voter today has sparked a nationwide backlash,” said the news anchor. “Susan Fuller, age thirty-four, was arrested today in Orlando, Florida on charges of creating a public disturbance at a polling place. Fuller was reportedly upset that her vote only counted as ninety-two percent out of a possible one-hundred percent of a full vote and complained that men’s votes were routinely worth more. Despite her arrest, Fuller’s angry protest, recorded and uploaded by over a dozen people who were present, sparked nationwide protests, the likes of which haven’t been seen since the Fair and Balanced Voting Act first became law. Millions of people, including many men, are marching in the streets in nearly a hundred American cities. We’ll be following this and bringing you more later.
“In related news, the presidential race is close at this hour. Charles Badreau, whose career in Congress was instrumental in establishing the Fair and Balanced Voting Act nearly twenty years ago, is currently leading James Goodman by a slim margin—which appears to be due to the difference in value of male versus female votes. Our statistical analysis shows that if each vote were counted as 100% of a vote, Goodman would be leading Badreau by nearly ten percentage points nationwide…”
“Change of Heart”
By David M. Fitzpatrick
Victoria Timms sat at the oak conference-room table, still wearing her black pea coat. She didn’t expect to be here long enough to bother removing it, after all. Her lawyer was beside her, and Michael and his lawyer sat across from them. Michael was looking at her as if she were diseased and contagious.
“The contract is iron-clad,” said Michael’s lawyer, a fat man with a double chin and a really expensive suit. Welch, his name was. His briefcase was open and there seemed to be reams of paper spread out on the table before him. “Your client has no case.”
“We’re hoping that your client might see his way to some leniency,” said her lawyer, a guy named Kaufman who wasn’t as fat but wore just as expensive a suit. “That he might just let this one go, and let both of them move on with their lives.”
Welch guffawed, throwing his hands up and gesturing at the piles of paperwork. “Why would my client throw away the dowry your client was supposed to bring to their marriage?”
“Since the marriage never took place—”
Welch waved him off. “My point exactly. The prenup was an agreement to marry, and Miss Timms violated that. She can’t just walk away and decide to not marry him.”
“I can, and I did,” Victoria said. Her small voice was a contrast to the boisterous lawyers, who looked at her in surprise. She squeezed her clutch purse so tightly that she thought her fingers might rip through it. She was nervous and frustrated—and she knew how hopeless this was—but she had to try.
“You can’t without consequences, Miss Timms,” Welch snapped. “That’s what the prenup was for, in part. You promised to marry Mr. Griffith and you have changed your mind. Now, we could be suing to force the marriage to happen, and we’d probably win, but we’re taking the high road here and only going for the dowry.”
“You were supposed to love me,” Victoria said to Michael, who met her eyes for the first time. “That was the agreement. If I’d known that all that mattered to you was the dowry, I’d never have signed that prenup.”
“And we feel that that could give us a win at trial,” Kaufman interjected. “Victoria signed that prenup in good faith, but your client’s ongoing infidelities, coupled with several witnesses who will testify that he told them that he never loved her and was only marrying her for the dowry, means that we might prevail.”
Welch sighed and began gathering up his papers, stuffing them into his briefcase. “Then I guess we’ll find out in court.”
“Michael, please,” Victoria pleaded, and her ex-fiancé regarded her with an icy glare. “The dowry is all I have. Without it, I’ll probably never have enough to legally marry. Can’t you just let this go?”
“Let this go?” Michael echoed, bewildered. “You whine about my other women, you whine about not being loved, but what about me? You embarrassed me! You humiliated me!” He came to his feet, pounding the table and yelling now. “My friends, my family—everyone sees that! They see that all that mattered to you was hurting me and taking the dowry away—something legally and rightfully mine. So no, I can’t just let this go.”
She felt her eyes watering as he planted his hands on the table and leaned over until his face was just inches from hers. “So if you ever do manage to land another man, maybe you’ll learn from this,” he hissed. “You’ll learn to respect him as a woman should and not destroy his character before the world.”
He spun on his feet, almost knocking over his chair as he headed for the door, and he slammed it behind him. Victoria felt the tears overflow her eyes and begin streaming down her cheeks.
“So we’re done here,” Welch said. “Counselor, there are only three ways out of this. The first is that you surrender the dowry. The second is that you fight us in court and quite likely lose anyway. And if you do fight, then we WILL force the marriage, and that will just make your client miserable.”
“What’s the third way?” Victoria said, wiping the tears from her eyes on her coat.
He stood, snapping his briefcase closed, and smiled. “Your lawyer can explain that to you.”
When he was gone, she turned to Mr. Kaufman. “What was he talking about?”
“Your death,” Kaufman said. “If you were to die, the prenup is null and void since you never married. Your heirs would inherit the dowry. But that, obviously, isn’t the solution.”
* * *
Marilyn Timms returned home in her black dress, her purse on her shoulder and the program in her hand. It was a folded page with a photo of Victoria’s smiling face on the front, and the poem Invictus by William Ernest Henley beneath it. The dates of her life showed her death at just twenty-five years old.
Victoria poked her head into the kitchen from the living room. “So how was my funeral?”
“Oh, as lovely as you’d expect,” Mrs. Timms replied with a smile.
They retired to the living room and sat together on the couch.
“I’m sorry to drag you in on this,” Victoria said. “Faking my death, moving to another state… I know this isn’t easy for you.”
“I don’t mind, sweetheart,” she said, putting her arm around the girl and hugging her close. “I just feel bad that you had to give up your life.”
“Daddy worked hard for that dowry. There was no way that lying, cheating bastard was getting it. And I shouldn’t have to actually die in order to reclaim my life. How the hell did this happen?”
“Politics,” her mother said, stroking her hair. “Years of politics trying to subjugate women and return us to the way it was thousands of years ago. Requirements for prenuptial agreements, requirements for dowries, requirements for punishment when we violate those…”
“What about requirements for mutual love and mutual respect?” Victoria said. “Why can’t there be requirements for that?”
Mrs. Timms laughed, but it was a sarcastic, humorless laugh. “Because marriage is about contracts designed to benefit men, sweetie, and we’re just the women.”
By David M. Fitzpatrick
Katharine Eberhart sat in the waiting room at the Department of Women’s Services for two hours. There must have been three dozen other appointments there; many of the women had children with them, so it was noisy and chaotic. It was a long, boring wait, and an uncomfortable one considering how ill she felt, but she had no choice. She really needed this appointment.
One by one, the women were called. Kathy considered how different they all were, yet how equal. There were short women and tall women, skinny women and fat women, women of all races and ethnic backgrounds. And of course there were women of all ages—some younger than Kathy, as young as eighteen, and some as old as Kathy’s grandmother. But they were all women, and they all had to go through this process from time to time.
She thought that her turn would never come, but finally a woman in a white blouse and a long, flowered skirt poked her head out the door and called out her name. Kathy grabbed her purse and jacket and hurried through the door. The friendly woman talked about the nice weather and complimented Kathy on her new dress—a light blue with white patterns on it—as she led her through twisting corridors, past offices with open doors where female clients met with male counselors. Finally they were at Kathy’s counselor’s office, where a balding man worked at his computer.
“Come in, Mrs. Eberhart,” he said, waving her in with a hand as Kathy’s guide departed. “I’m just reviewing your case.”
Kathy took a seat on the other side of his desk and waited respectfully until he finished what he was doing. Then he spun in his chair to face her. “All right, sorry about that. I think I’m up to speed. So this counseling session is being video-recorded, both to serve as an official record and to be made available on publicly accessible Internet sites for anyone researching your background. Do you understand and agree to this?”
Of course, if she disagreed to anything, the counseling would end and she wouldn’t get her medical procedure approved, so Kathy said, “Yes, sir.” She really didn’t feel well. She could feel the discomfort in her lower abdomen.
“My name is Luke Matthews. I’m a certified counselor of Women’s Services at the DWS. You are Katharine Eberhart, and you need approval for a medical procedure. As I’m sure you know, I need notarized documents. Do you have them with you?”
“Yes, sir,” Kathy said again, fishing them out of her purse. She unfolded the stack and handed them to the counselor. He took them and began leafing through them.
“Everything looks in order,” he said. “All notarized, all properly signed… you understand that the law requires me to have you swear to the authenticity on the record, correct?”
“All right, raise your right hand.”
“Mrs. Eberhart, I’m going to go through these documents and name them. If you swear to the authenticity of each one, just say, ‘I swear.’ So… notarized letter from your doctor?”
He flipped to the next one. “A notarized letter from the Department of Health?”
On to the next. “A notarized letter from your local elected representative?”
“A notarized letter from your brother, who has done so because your father and grandfathers are all passed?”
“And finally, the most important one of all, a notarized letter from your husband?”
“I swear.” She felt excitement brimming within her. She was so close to finally getting approval! She ignored the abdominal pressure.
“And all of these notarized letters attest to approval of you having this medical procedure?”
“All right, then,” said Counselor Matthews with a smile. He spun back to his computer, clicked around his screen a few times, and then spun back. “I’ve issued the approval for the procedure. I’m sure you can have it done today, if you’d like.”
“Thank you, Mr. Matthews,” she said, and she was elated.
She hurried back through the corridors. She couldn’t hardly wait to have it done. Now that she had all the proper documents—especially her husband’s permission—there was no reason to wait. As she hurried, suddenly an old woman with white hair stepped out of an office in front of her, and Kathy almost ran her over.
“So sorry!” the elderly woman said, her voice strong and raspy, as she tried to move aside. “I wasn’t looking.”
A male counselor, looking annoyed, exited behind the old woman and hurried off around the corner.
“I shouldn’t have been running,” Kathy said. “I’m just excited. I got my medical procedure approved.”
The women raised a wrinkled brow. “Got all the permissions you needed?”
“All of them.”
Kathy heard someone’s raised voice a few corridors away, even as the pain in her abdomen reminded her where she was headed. She placed her hand on her belly as if to soothe it.
“Husband must want you to have it done pretty badly, then. What does he want—bigger boobs?”
“Oh, no,” she said, feeling herself redden, and she gestured up at her big bosom. “We had that done three years ago. No, I just needed approval for a medical treatment. I was diagnosed with a big cancer tumor in my gut last month and I’ve been rushing around to get all the documents so that I can have it removed.”
The old woman regarded her with a stern face and pursed lips. “It’s a crying shame that you need all those permissions for something that could save your life, young lady.”
Kathy blinked in surprise. “Well, of course I do. It’s a medical procedure. I have to get those permissions to do anything to my body. You know that.”
In the distance, Kathy heard angry voices. There was some kind of commotion. The old lady looked over her shoulder, then turned back. She moved in close and hissed, “It isn’t right! My grandmother told stories of making her own decisions for her own body. But me, I’ve lived a long life running around getting all these men to say it was okay for me to fix a broken foot, to get a medical prescription, to even get pregnant. It’s time to end this madness!”
There was a thunder of running feet, and several security officers rounded the corner.
“Right there!” a counselor cried.
The officers descended fast, and Kathy stumbled back in surprise as the three big men grabbed the elderly lady.
“The counselors tell us that you got in here and started trouble again, Mrs. Delacorte,” one of them said as the other two wrenched the old woman’s arms up behind her back to cuff her. The woman cried out in pain.
“Women deserve the right to make decisions about their own bodies!” she howled.
“No, they don’t,” the officer said, and they began to haul her away. “The law is quite clear…”
Kathy stood in open-mouthed shock, and just before they dragged the struggling Mrs. Delacorte around the corner and out of sight, the old woman turned her head and locked eyes with Kathy.
“Is this fair?” the woman hollered in her gravelly voice. “Is any of it fair?”
And then she was gone, leaving Kathy stunned. Was the old woman crazy? Delusional? She had to be; why else would she want to return to the time of her grandmother, when women did as they pleased and had no ethical and moral checks on them? She shook her head and headed out of the DWS. She wouldn’t let this bizarre incident interrupt her from getting to the hospital and starting that life-saving treatment, that was for sure.
It was curious, though. The old woman was worried about what was “fair,” but “fair” was a basic legal term that meant was equitable between men. It was an entirely masculine word that could never be applied to women anymore than the word “uterus” could in any way be applied to a man.
A thought struck her: Mrs. Delacorte had been quite old, and she’d spoken of her grandmother. Maybe the word “fair” meant something different a long time ago.
She set the incident aside in her mind, at least for the moment. She had to get that tumor removed, and get treatment, before the cancer killed her. Then she’d look up the historical meanings of the word, because she had to admit one thing: If the word applied to women as it did to men, then the things she’d had to do to get permission for her treatment certainly wouldn’t have been fair at all.
She headed out of the DWS, but she realized then that there was no way to set the incident aside in her mind.
David M. Fitzpatrick is a fiction writer in Maine, USA. His many short stories have appeared in print magazines and anthologies around the world. He writes for a newspaper, writes fiction, edits anthologies, and teaches creative writing. Visit him at www.fitz42.net/writer to learn more.