Alexander the Great Fool appears in the book Walden and Hyde (and Other Short Stories) available on www.xenohemlock.com/walden-and-hyde.
Cover design photography by Marco Tierro.
Copyright © by Xeno Hemlock.
All Rights Reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced in any form by any means without the express permission of the author except for brief quotations embodied in reviews and articles or by permission in writing from the author.
I hope you remember. It’s me your eldest, your dear Alexander Paisley born on that cold afternoon of November in our small and dingy shelter.
In an old memory that’s crystal clear, your and Mother’s voices called me “dear.” A lullaby she sang, then you spoke my name. Laughter erupted in our tickling game. Rich we were not but poor as dirt. You couldn’t buy me more than four shirts. But we were happy. I remember. We were happy. We were a family.
Out of timbers you fashioned little me a crib. Mother, out of used clothes, constructed me a bib. From the leftovers you made horses and cars, airplanes and sharks, and a big bear and a big ark. And you were happy because I was happy.
One fair Saturday when I was three, up on your shoulders you mightily put me. Right next to the river, we took a stroll and stopped by a house elegant and tall. Tall trees. Strong walls. Bright windows. Proud roof. A pearly white mansion against the burning sky, impenetrable and rustproof.
Someday, you said, we’d be walking in a place like that. Someday, you said, we’d be sleeping in a place like that. Someday, you said, we’d be eating in a place like that. Someday, you said, we’d be living in a place like that. No more creaking door. No more hardwood. No more empty stove. No more leaking roof. To rise to heaven, one must be great. To ascend to greatness is a road that’s not straight. But I’d get there, you said, Father. Someday, you said. Someday. And I was only three.
Three more Paisley children, Arthur, Alyssa, and Adrian, completed our family. You carried them up on your shoulders too. You brought them to the elegant mansion too. You promised them too, someday, someday, someday...
Someday we’d get there but until then, our Mother, dear Vanessa, must do the laundry of the wicked people who screamed in her face and tramped the clothes washed by Mother dear. Someday we’d get there but until then dear Arthur must wear his worn-out shoes yearly in school that caused calluses on the soles of Arthur dear. Someday we’d get there but until then dear Alyssa must endure the hair-pulling of the spoiled brat girls in our neighborhood who didn’t like Alyssa dear. Someday we’d get there but until then dear Adrian must cry every night because we couldn’t buy the medicine for our ill Adrian dear. Someday we’d get there but until then, our Father, dear Greg, must beg his employer to not withhold his money, rightfully earned with sweat and tears by Father dear. I could no longer wait for someday.
In the company of my friends who talked like me, who thought like me, and who felt like me, we declared battle against the invisible prison they called school. Rules were balls and chains for the fearful, clueless sheep. They branded my friends and me as sinful. We robbed the principal’s office, the bakery, the pawn shop, and the tailoring shop.
Words you told me when you found out, I shouldn’t have heard. But I did.
Oh, Father, I still clearly remember when your stubborn, rebellious, and dear Alexander in the middle of that cold night of November abandoned your warm and full shelter.
With my friends, I ventured to the promising land of the city called Cinnabar, busy and grand. Goodbye to Verona. Hello new place. The promise of someday there I could chase.
Father, you should’ve been there and Mother too, seen the lights, the towers, and the planes that flew. The city celebrated its new renegades. With a boom box it called to us, “Don’t be afraid.”
No diploma. No schooling. No detractors. No family. Dear Alexander made it, a proud Paisley. Sleeping by day, waiting tables by night. What once was my bleak existence became a promising life. I could finally buy food and clothes for myself. It began, someday, that someday.
Then I met him. That man. Fancy clothing. He smiled. Gave me a tip. Asked for my name. After duty, we met again. A drink, he bought me, or two, or three. Told me a story of wealth, of celebrity. He worked with stars who drove fast cars. If I wanted, he could help me. Make everything easy.
He brought me to his friend who took photographs of men. Showed me the money if I worked for him. Made me sign papers with the devil’s ink.
They took photographs of me clothed and unclothed, sometimes by myself, sometimes with other men. I starred in films that you must never ever see, kissed the lips of many men, and exposed my flesh for all to see. I felt sick to my stomach and to somewhere deep inside myself. I’d shower to endlessly scrub my skin.
But then I got used to it, even tricked myself to love the sensations I felt when we pretended to make love. Everybody loved me, no room to hate.
A star in my own right, Alexander the Great.
Behind the scenes, men clamored for my attention. They dined me, clothed me, and even took me on vacations. I got used to it, my body not mine anymore. It was the price for that someday.
One night on the television I saw dear Arthur, semi-famous now. He’d always been bright. A renowned educator and commander of charity, he made you proud, elevated our family.
I said I’d never return to our family again. No longer your son, so innocent then. Now imprints of hands are all over my body. My soul’s vilified. The city defiled me.
Then it arrived, the harbinger of doom, a strange feeling on my organ those men loved to groom. My harem learned of it, and so did my scouts. From our circle of pleasure, they kicked me out. Alexander the Great, from the sky he had fallen. The gifts they bestowed me miraculously got stolen. The city that loved me cared for me no more and I found myself sleeping on an empty warehouse’s floor.
I went to a church to ask for forgiveness and salvation from my life that turned to a mess. A woman holding a holy rosary knelt next to me and inquired about my misery. With her angelic face, I unabashedly shared the reason for my weeping.
She said a prayer. “Have you heard of the story of the prodigal son who returned to his father after his sinning was done? Dear Alexander, it’s never too late, for the path to greatness is never straight.”
What wouldn’t I do to sleep again in my crib? What wouldn’t I do to wipe my tears with my bib?
Oh, Father, would you still remember? It’s me your eldest, your dear Alexander returning to Verona in the solemn November straight to our strange shelter.
Dear Father, when the door opened I couldn’t remember your face having that man’s dimples even when you were younger. Speechless at first, next I stuttered as I wondered what became of our shelter.
“The Paisleys have left many years ago,” he said. “But there’s two six feet below. Not here. You have a paper? I’ll draw you a sketch to find the tombstones where their names were etched.”
Dear sister, sweet Alyssa, how I missed your face! You were the first to go with the Angel of Grace.
Dear Father, forgive me. Please forgive my sins. Today is the day my new life begins. The someday I dream about is of us reunited. Reunited we’ll be right after I’m dead.
Alexander the Great Fool