This is a piece from our online issue, FALL OF MEN, inspired by the New York Review of Books.
CONTENT WARNING FOR FALL OF MEN : Despite the conclusions of the bad men falling in the end, some of these pieces may have sensitive or explicit content. (That said, it might be real cathartic to read a thing where the bad men get thrown into volcanoes or eaten by alligators. Either way, your mental health is really important to us. Take care of yourself!)
By Siân Griffiths
The idea seemed perfect: In a classic reversal of the old virgin sacrifice, we would collect bad men one by one and throw them into the volcano. As women, having always been the creators, we knew that birth, even re-birth, comes with blood and pain. We had found a way of wresting back the world and making it our own again. I envisioned myself dangling a devil by his toe, my fingers tips strong as pincers, my rage hotter than magma. His hair would burn first, licking upwards across the face. His body would vaporize before it had the opportunity to splash. What a cleansing this would be! Lava, from the Latin lavare, to wash. Like any good cook, I cleaned cast iron with fire, made it a fit place for the food that would feed my children. So too, the world. If we could do this for them, what wasn’t possible?
There must be art in the order, and so we debated where to start. I campaigned for Worst First. Toss in the old predator-in-chief and work on from there, clearing his cabinets and judicial system, cleaning the country like a closet. Others said this allowed for no climax, no rising tension, no drama. My system, being only practical, lacked pinache. I argued but I wouldn’t scream. Our discussions were so quiet that bad men mistook us as dormant, roofied and passive, just as they liked us, as we debated what to do.
I was outvoted. That’s the problem with living in a red state, and anger is the reddest state, driving every discussion and worldview. I have seen red. I have heard women’s stories in the dark corners of bars and I have heard them filtered through men’s bragging voices. Red is sometimes all I see.
We wanted to re-write sacrifice stories and recast them as our own, but they were insufficient for our ire. The stories protected and sheltered. In hindsight, we should have paid more attention, should have seen how a whine could translate to acquiescence and acquittal. We should have seen how the words “he’s a good man” overwrote the truth of actions, how the weight of men’s futures was impossibly heavy on the scales when stacked against the paltry weight of women’s futures. We should have seen how wives and mothers were weaponized against wives and mothers.
Regarding the Worst: If we removed his heart and took a taste, could we purify it? When it swam in the acid of our bellies, would its foulness burn away, or would it only embitter us?
We started in the middle. We started in the muddle. We parsed and parsed, trying to determine how much guilt each man should carry and whether he really deserved to burn. The second-guessing began early. We wanted to be fair, and in fairness, there are degrees to ugliness. We allowed for time, for degrees of guilt, for youth, for stupidity. Even so, there was so much to go around.
In Vulcan’s story, his mother rejected him, threw him off a cliff. When he failed to die, she settled for the volcano, leaving him to live his life therein. He built a forge and engineered a chair, a gift with hidden springs that clamped her down, trapping her for days. His father stepped in. He offered Venus, the most beautiful of all the goddesses, in exchange for his own wife’s freedom. Women were a currency, an object of trade. Women were subjects to the judgment of men. We wanted to forge something new from those coins. We wanted to heat history white hot, to hammer hate into… what?
How do you judge a judge, a comedian, an actor, a senator, a writer another comedian anotheractoraproducerapresidentshhhh? The stories bled, and so did we, scratching at each others’ eyes to make sure the lids were open. Don’t you see? Can’t you see? But so much time has passed and people grow and are you kink shaming and is exposure an assault and what exactly is an assault? We became experts in splitting hairs.
The volcano seethed, unsatiated. The Worst stood at his podium, smirking. He felt untouchable, in spite of all the times he had demanded touching, paid for touching, bragged about touching.
Our rage is molten-cored and stone-faced. The debates settle and cool. The bigger they are, I tell myself, but he’s not big. He’s not big at all.
Because we know how the best sex works, we will take our time. We’ve always been known for patience. It was some guy who said that revenge is a dish best served cold; our heat lasts. In a phallus-filled world, a volcano is the ultimate yonic symbol, endlessly hot and wet. We will slide him in like the world’s tiniest penis, and the joy we feel will have nothing to do with his size. No. Our joy will erupt with the incidiary heat with which he burns.
Siân Griffiths lives in Ogden, Utah, where she directs the graduate program in English at Weber State University. Her work has appeared in The Georgia Review, Cincinnati Review, American Short Fiction (online), Ninth Letter, Indiana Review, and The Rumpus, among other publications. Her debut novel, Borrowed Horses(New Rivers Press), was a semi-finalist for the 2014 VCU Cabell First Novelist Award. Currently, she reads fiction as part of the editorial team at Barrelhouse. For more information, please visit sbgriffiths.com