Tempers Fugit

14 Apr

Tempers Fugit

By L. Stewart Marsden


Through my years on this earth I have been amazed at the quick conflagration of emotion. All types of emotion. Anger, lust, sorrow — the merest spark sets them off as though each was pure ethanol. Sometimes there are no bystanders to get singed in the explosion. But sometimes there are.

My surprise is not only regarding others, but myself as well.

I remember when I was a Tweener — twelve or so. Acne-ravaged, hormone-driven, I was attending a Boy Scout Camporee. These were gatherings of hosts of Scout troops within a council to camp and show off and compete various skills. Campsites, fire building, cooking, lashing, signal flags, personal fitness. Rough and tumble hearty competition Lord Baden Powell looked down upon with great pride.

It was night, and dozens of troops were huddled about campfires that spit sparks into the chilled night air. I was restless, and was spying other troops in order to see how they were set up. One or two Scouts from my patrol — the Flaming Arrow patrol — trailed behind.

For no reason I veered through a campsite and through the actual campfire, stomping on the glowing oak and pine coals with my heavy-soled hiking boots.

“Hey!” yelled one shadowed scout from the unit. “What’re you doing?”

I carried a walking stick — a low-hanging branch snapped from one of many pines populating the camping area. The scout approached me from my backside. I gripped my stick and swung it around behind me, striking the kid in the face, slicing his cheek.

Blood immediately spurted. More scouts from the unit burst from tents to his aid and some ran at me. I took off into the shadows and darkness, my minions close behind. The shouts from the attacked unit fading as I dodged into the surrounding forest and headed back to my unit. I felt like a marauding Mohawk, my painted face and balded head infused with a warrior’s mentality.

I could not begin to tell you why I did what I did. I was both mortified and elated. My heart thumped a thousand times a second, and I felt such power surge through my pubescent body.

On my honor, I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law;
to help other people at all times; to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight.

No problem with the physically strong part. Especially with the element of a hidden weapon and utter surprise. I didn’t think about what God and my country thought about my actions. I was Presbyterian, and pretty much everything about God was preached in a vague Scottish brogue from the pulpit by Dr. Watts. Scout Law? A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent.

Twelve. Like the Twelve Commandments. Or was it ten? Okay, then two were extra. So I chose to drop kind and courteous. Worked for me.

If you have never felt the infusion of anger run throughout your body and mind, to release mind and control to the rage of a tsunami, you have not lived. You cannot understand the anger and lack of control — or rather the submission to the control of something so large and overpowering that to resist is pointless.

Have you?

Sure you have. You, the corporate executive. The tenured school teacher. The pious Sunday School teacher. You all have.

And if you were truly honest, you would admit to the exhilaration that abandonment results in.

The problem, of course, is the aftermath. The clean-up.

I took the woman I was head-over-heals in love with to a party. A house filled with people I sort of knew, but felt no real connection with. The music was loud, the rooms elbow-to-elbow crowded. The alcohol flowed generously. The cigarettes spewed noxious and delightful clouds of smoke which hung in the air.

My woman disappeared. I began to search for her, and climbed a staircase to the second floor, where I found her with several other party-goers who were sharing joints. Their eyes were half-lidded with content. A lava lamp pulsed and glowed from the corner of the room, beating out red-hued light onto the ceiling.

She looked at me and smiled, and extended a short snub of a joint to me and beckoned. “Come join us,” she urged, her brown eyes glazed and inviting.

But the invitation had the opposite effect on me, and I exploded in anger, left the room, descended the stairs and bolted from the house.

She followed.

“What’s wrong?”

I couldn’t say. Everything was wrong. This was not me! This was not her!

And I slapped her. Open-handed across her face. Hard.

And I left. Left her hurt. Left her alone. Abandoned her. The person who caused me heartaches during my Senior Dance at the school I attended when her mother drove her home. The woman who looked like Sophia Loren to me. Who played Bonnie to my Clyde. Who grabbed me in the back seat of my car one rainy afternoon and pleaded with her eyes to go further.

But I loved her. I could not see her as a sexual object. The Playboy monthly playmate who extended across a three-page color spread. Smiling. Promising. Tempting.

When you love someone, they are angelic. They are pure. They are perfect.

So at my advancing age I still wonder at those rivers of lava just beneath the surface. How they poke through a fissure in the crust of emotion — spew fire and bile that arcs and illumines the night air. What is that? Why is that?

Do you know what I’m talking about? Scratch the surface. Just a little. I believe you do.

Where does that stuff come from? Do you know?


Copyright © by Lawrence S. Marsden, 14 April, 2015

2 Responses to “Tempers Fugit”

  1. rennydiokno2015 April 14, 2015 at 10:03 pm #

    Reblogged this on rennydiokno.com.

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