mare’s nest, noun, unpunctuated: mares nest; noun: mare’s nest;
plural noun: mare’s nests
1 1. a complex and difficult situation; a muddle.”your desk is
usually a mare’s nest”
2 2. an illusory discovery.”the mare’s nest of perfect safety”
©2017 Kenneth Harper Finton
THE MARE’S NEST
“When I’m good, I’m very good, but when I’m bad, I’m better.”
The child and the boy that Adam used to be was so foreign to him now. Looking over pages that he wrote years ago, Adam barely recognized his former self as the person who wrote them.
Adam came from a conservative and opinionated small town in rural Ohio. Those who lived in his little town often claimed it was God’s country. Adam supposed that it might good for the spirit to be content and proud of your community. God’s country seemed to be a stretch, though. So many wonderful spots in the world better fit that description.
Life seemed to be so much more idyllic and simple then. Yet, it seems to Adam that this is never the case. Faded memories—the exclusive warm selections of chosen recollections—gives the illusion that daily life was richer in the past than in the present. This is the mare’s nest. We are born in illusion and live most of our lives in a delusional fantasy with the blessings and approval of those who surround us.
Religion and conservative politics were the mainstays of community belief when Adam was being raised. He was brought up to believe in things that were not real.
Adam had a problem with beliefs. To suspend rational thought and dive into the unproven waters of belief was much easier when Adam was a child. He wrote:
The Child With Thoughts of Green
I was a child with thoughts of green,
raised in Bible belts serene.
I felt fear for an angry God,
and hoped that He would change my lot.
I spent my childhood building things,
running down the banks of streams,
writing poems beneath the trees,
mapping trails and fantasies.
We lived next to an orphan’s home.
It felt like living Ektachrome.
The older boys who worked the barn,
loved to try to make me cry.
I did not cry, not for my life,
(at least while others were close by).
One day they tossed me in with Ben,
a big old bull that they kept penned.
He loomed before me mountain large.,
and pawed the ground before he charged.
How quick I jumped that six-foot stall.
I ripped my pants, but that was all
Again at school I had to fight,
since I was young and small in size.
I sometimes fought with my best friends,
who never won, but learned to bend.
A bully stalked me after school,
I had to play by no man’s rules.
When he attacked I was alone,
and crowned that bastard with a stone,
so soon, they learned to let me be,
this wiry runt had arms teeth
with feet that lashed beyond their arms.
They left to do some other harm.
Summer skies were blue and fresh.
Winter days were cold and damp.
I read my books and wondered why
this God of Love could hate sometimes.
Adam’s parents were good to him. They did everything they were supposed to do with a minimum of complaint and resentment. They were neither rich nor poor, neither too conservative nor too liberal.
These were the days when a mother was expected to stay home and raise the children and the father was expected to bring in a paycheck and support the family. Yet, even then, the very ground of these expectations was trembling.
World War II had shown women that they could manage without a man in charge. The experience of hundreds of thousands of years had proven to be false. The seeds of personal independence had taken root in even the most dependent of women. A new world was being born before Adam’s eyes. Only a very few seemed to realize that this was so.
Social taboos confuse men and women alike. A natural curiosity about the difference between men and woman develops early in life.
Adam remembered when he was four and took the train from Ohio to Colorado to visit his grandmother. He had little experience with the female sex. His curiosity got the best of him. His grandmother lived next to a family that had a daughter Adam’s age. She was deliciously blonde, wore a taffeta dress and smelled of Ivory Soap.
Adams’s play was often defined by guns and cowboys, trains and fortifications. Society wanted him to grow up to be a good soldier. He was trained to defend his family and national interests while little Susie played with dolls and tea parties. It was the normal thing.
Adam had no idea who thought it up, but one warm afternoon they decided to explore one another’s bodies. Adam had no sister, so he was very curious to see what lay beneath that taffeta dress. “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours,” he said.
She was every bit as curious as Adam. They went behind the shade of a weeping willow and she quickly pulled up her dress. She wore white panties that were different from Adam’s jockey shorts. She eagerly pulled her panties down and Adam saw a vagina for the first time in his young life. How wonderful it looked to him—almost puffy and so very different from what he possessed. She took her hands and pulled the labial folds apart so that Adam could see the inside. He could see little curds of a cheese-like substance.
“I get that, too,” he said. “Let me see,” she replied.
His penis quickly grew stiffer and larger. He pulled down his pants and showed her what he meant. Adam had never been circumcised, so he pulled back the foreskin and exposed the same little white curds that she had proudly displayed. “Do you want to touch it?” she asked.
“Well, you either do or you don’t,” she said.
“Yeah, I guess I do,” he said.
“Then go ahead. Touch me. I like it when I rub it right here. You can try, if you want.”
Adam took his index finger and rubbed her there. It felt very good and he had a tight feeling come into his groin, the same feeling he had when he climbed a rope.
“See,” she said. “This is fun. Do you want to kiss it?”
“Not really,” he said. “Boys don’t kiss girls.”
“Yes, they do,” she said, “my Daddy does that to my Mom.”
“Well—what if I just touch it.”
“That’s okay, but I want to know what it feels like to be kissed down there.”
“How do you know your Dad does that?”
“I’ve seen them do it when they don’t know I can see them.”
“Oh,” I said. “My Dad doesn’t do that.”
“How do you know?” she said. “I bet he does. Then he takes his thing and he puts it into her and they wrestle around on the bed.”
“Why?” Adam asked.
“I don’t know,” she replied.
A voice from the house could be heard calling her name. “That’s my mother,” she said. “I gotta go.”
She pulled up her panties and ran off to the house. Adam had the feeling that he was in deep trouble. Something told him that he was not supposed to do that with her. Suddenly, he felt panicked.
He crawled up an apple tree as far as his limbs and legs could take him, Sure enough, within ten minutes his mother’s voice could be heard in the distance. “Get in here this moment,” she said. “Susie’s mother told me what you did.”
“What did I do?” he asked, knowing full well that I was in deep territory that he had never before explored.
“You damned well know what you did,” mother said. “You were bad.”
Adam was totally embarrassed. His head hung low. If he were a dog, he surely would have put his tail between his legs.
Though childhood lasted more than a dozen years, Adam’s recollections seem to reduce it to a few weeks. Almost all of it was learning and play and Adam loved both equally.
He had the best of many worlds. He lived on a couple of acres in the country, but his family was still close enough to ride his bike to town. Adam attended the city schools. He could ride his bike to visit friends and he could explore the creeks and wooded lands that surrounded his home. He felt so very much alive and so very happy to be.
Later, he would versify these feelings:
The Veils of Time
How often down these gravel roads my bike and I would roam.
Downhill like the lightning flash, up with winded moans …
Mapping streams and woods about me, finding spots where no one came.
Africa could be no stranger than the place in my dreamscape.
Ghosts of dead forgotten Indians, birch canoes and forest game,
hidden in the brambles forest, there beside the fields of grain.
Tadpoles swam among the minnows, dragonflies would dart and play.
Water bugs and prickly nettles, part of each midsummer’s day.
As it was in the beginning, so remain these things today,
in the places man’s forsaken, wilderness, ten feet away.
From a child’s imagination, pterodactyl seeks his prey.
Ages past still live forever when the veil of time is raised.
Adam was always in love. Girls were so pretty and different from the boys with whom he camped and hiked. Their skin was more clear, their hair so long and shining, their dresses rustling and clean smelling. Their grace seemed like music in motion.
Every day was a new adventure. Every person Adam met filled him with curiosity. Everything he learned about the land and customs around him filled with satisfaction. He has never experienced the like since.
In kindergarten, he met Mary with her striking long brown pigtails. Mary owned a pony. Even though she lived in town, she kept the pony in a shed back by the alley. Since cowboys and horses are inseparable and Adam was a young cowboy, she attracted him much as moths seek out the flame. Mary came to visit Adam often. When she could not come to see him, he rode to town on his bike to see her.
Mary and Adam never made experiments and explorations such as he had with his grandmother’s neighbor some years before. Neither the need, the desire or the curiosity ever arose. She made certain of that. Once when Adam had hitched a ride with her on the back of her bike, he reached up to hold onto the seat and she told him, “Watch where you put your hands.”
Her words, though, had the opposite effect. It called attention to her khaki-clad shorts that loosely held her shapely buttocks. Adam wanted to put his hands around her and hang on for life. To this day, Adam is left to wonder if that is what she wanted as well.
There was a television show in the afternoon in the 1950’s that featured people being married before the camera. The bride, dressed in white and lovely as a sunrise, came slowly walking down the aisle to her betrothed. Mary and Adam would secretly watch it and play out the parts in front of the TV. He would spend many a lonesome night snuggled with his pillow and dreaming that the long length of her lay warm beside him. Of her, Adam was later to write:
My Love, She Wore Gingham Dress
My love, she wore a gingham dress.
She wore her hair in braids.
Far too young for sweet caress,
our love was heaven made.
We spent a thousand idle hours
together in our dreams,
We wandered near the ancient oaks
and napped beside the stream.
I thought we might be married there,
and then, when time be lost,
side by side, eternally,
we’d rest beneath a cross.
But childhood washes from us all,
and dreams seek other fancies.
Soon she walked with someone else,
this lovely, freckled lassie.
Sure enough, I moved away
to seek some higher labor,
and to this day I’ve not returned
nor seen my long lost neighbors.
When finally this childish love
grew up and found some others,
I know when I lay down to rest,
they’re one with one another.
This is an excerpt from the forthcoming novel From Whence Cometh the Song.
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