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It's Not Coole to Be a Woman Anymore
“I never liked Virginia Slims,” I say to New Ham.
“I think they're just fine,” he replies.
“They're too long and heavy,” I complain.
New Ham takes a long drag off a cigarette and I close my eyes, letting the smoke seize my bare legs. New Ham and I spend most of our mornings and afternoons in each other's company, fighting off the dust that comes crawling in with the California heat. His family comes from money, but he doesn’t know it.
“Do you know how the idea of selectionism was born?” New Ham asks.
“Can’t say I do,” I answer.
Seemingly aroused by my ignorance, New Ham shifts from his slouched posture to an upright position.
“A man down in Georgia had this big farm with all sorts of things. Chickens, cows, horses, verbena, poor women, hungry women, blind women- anything you could think of.”
“Hmm,” I remark.
“He had a family too: three kids and a wife called Jenny. One night, Jenny drank all his moonshine.”
“She shot up all the women, verbena, and chickens, leaving only one cow and one horse,”
New Ham examines his cigarette as if it contains the rest of the story.
“This is why women shouldn’t drink,” I chime in.
“The family’s gotta eat, so he had two options: kill the horse or kill the cow.”
“Which did he choose?”
“Neither, he shot his wife.”
New Ham takes a pause, perhaps waiting for my reaction, but he’s all too consumed by the stray dog dizzily making its way up the dirt road.
“That’s a good story, New Ham. A really good story, but there’s no truth to it.”
“What makes you say that?”
“If the wife shot up the farm she wouldn’t have left the cow and the horse,” I say.
“You’re saying women don’t like meat?” inquires New Ham.
“I’m saying she would have shot the cow and the horse the same way she shot the chickens and the verbena!”
“What’s your point, Virginia?”
“Jenny wouldn’t have shot the women,” I proclaim.
“Course she would have. They posed a threat.”
“They were blind, poor, and hungry” I defend.
“They were women, Virgina.”
“That’s all it takes?” I ask, angry by New Ham’s old-fashioned disposition.
New Ham stares at the sky, forgets to shield his eyes, and cowers from the blazing sun.
“Why shoot the verbena and the chickens? Why only leave one cow and one horse?” I persist.
“It was winter. She knew her family had to eat,” New Ham replies.
“Did Jenny see it coming? Sh*t, she must have known that her husband was a mean son of a b*tch, but did she know she would be shot dead just like those other women?”
“I don’t know Virginia. It's just a story.”
“I think it’s real. I think a woman called Jenny caught March Madness, drank all her husband’s moonshine, shot all the women—blind, poor, and hungry—and left her family with two meaty animals to get through the rest of winter.”
“Mhm,” replies New Ham.
New Ham rises from the porch, lets his cigarette crush under the pressure of his boot, and walks down the dirt road. I envy New Ham for his drunken, nonsensical tales. Only a man of a certain stature can carry himself through a story like that, still drunk off the previous night’s whiskey. I knew it would be some time before I saw him again, but instead of leaping from my chair and making a fool of myself, I watched New Ham’s hips move rhythmically with the morning horseflies as his hands greeted the stray dog.