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Mark M Lichterman

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Elysium Fields 23: Coward
By Mark M Lichterman
Posted: Tuesday, September 06, 2011
Last edited: Tuesday, September 13, 2011
This short story is rated "R" by the Author.

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A nagging thought triggered by Clyde’s obscene gesture: Did I do enough? What did Marsha expect me to do? He thought, hit him?


“Mitchie, maybe we ought to head back to the blanket.”

“Yeah. I was wondering, though, Marsha, why didn’t you mention this, uh, Nate guy… this creep when I saw you, when I got to Lakeside that morning, or sometime within the last twenty-eight years?”

I kind of forget about it until Clyde tried to shove his dick in my face.  Also, it was something that I didn’t really want to remember. Besides, if I told you then, in Lakeside, you may not have wanted me to stay the rest of the summer alone. Also, on that day I was so excited to see you…


Elysium Fields 23: Coward  

Topanga Canyon, California

 Saturday, May 17, 1986

 5:06 PM


“Mitchie, we ought to head back to the blanket.”

A foggy thought playing through his mind…  

“Yeah, may as well.”

...The thread of the remembrance of a long ago conversation…

“We’ve been gone better than an hour,” he said, “and they’ll probably be wondering what happened to us.”

A nagging thought triggered by Clyde’s obscene gesture: Did I do enough? What did Marsha expect me to do? What should I have done? Did she want me to hit him?

Standing, taking Mitchell’s hand…

Taking Marsha’s hand, standing, walking through the naked field


What should I have done? Thinking about it, What should I have done, hit him? The remembrance coming to mind. The remembrance of a lengthy ‘heart to heart discussion’ about many things, but in this instance, now, the nagging thought materializing…


Chicago, Illinois

January 22, 1958


“The problem is, Mitchell, you don’t understand how I feel! You won’t even try to understand how I feel!”


Bull-shit! I do want to understand! Tell me.” Said sincerely, “Please!”


“Okay, I will. But this isn’t meant to start a fight!”


“I want to know. I really want to know! And if there’s anything I can do to change things,”—anything to live what he considered to be a normal life—“I promise you, Marsha, I’ll try!”


Hesitating a number of seconds, then, her floodgate of antagonism open, “I think you’re a coward!” Marsha said.


“Huh?” This, coming from someplace way out in left field, the words initially shocking more than hurting, “I’m a ‘coward’?”


“Yeah, Mitchell,” she said vehemently, “a coward! I really think that if we were out somewhere and if I were attacked you’d run away rather than stay and fight to protect me!”


Jesus, Marsha! How can you say this? How can you even…”


He remembered only two instances in his adult life when he’d been physically threatened: On his first evening in boot camp he’d been confronted by an anti-Semitic bully and, far from backing down, he’d actually bettered the man—leastways till his new, ill-fitting government-issue skivvies slipped from his hips and fell to his feet leaving him standing before the men of the barracks bare-assed. Then there was the episode in the ship’s office on the Halfmoon when Don Wilson had learned of his transfer to District Headquarters, and he sure as hell hadn’t backed down then either. But it was true that all of his life he would go out of his way to avoid a verbal or physical confrontation. But even if he were a coward—which, disregarding the two occurrences in the Coast Guard, Mitchell truly believed he might be—to his knowledge he’d never given Marsha any indication that he would ever leave her in any sort of a dangerous situation, so why should she…


Extremely upset over this, “Jesus, Marsha! How can you say that? How can you even think that?”


“For one thing; Ruby.”


“Ruby?” He thought a moment. “You think I should have gone to Little Rock with Ruby?”


“He’s your friend and he asked you to go.”


“Marsha, I’ve a family to support! You think I should have just taken off?”


“Yeah, Mitchell! In that case I did!


“And if I’d have gotten hurt or arrested? Were you ready to go to work to bring some money in?”


Evading the question, “I think you should have gone! But okay, I’ve other reasons to think you’re a coward.”


“Tell me, please!”


“You want me to tell you?”—he didn’t, really—“Okay! How’s about when we were parked at Montrose and that damned cop took you away and you left me alone?”


“Marsha, what could I do? He was a cop and he had a club and a gun. What was I supposed to do?”


“Something! You should have done something! And then, when he left you with his partner and you knew he was coming back to me…”


“Jesus, Marsha, I was locked in a squad car! There was no way for me to get out!”


Having discussed the incident, knowing what Mitchell said was true but not giving up, “Okay,” she said dubiously, “if you say so! But I still think you’d run away rather than stay to protect me if there was ever a problem.”


Why? Why would you think that?”


“Why do I think you’d run away? You’d run away for two reasons: One, because you are a coward! And two, you’d do it because you don’t really care about me!”


The words coming from the mouth of his wife were so unreal that to be sure this was not a bad dream, turning to his other side, he turned the light on. Sitting up, he blinked his eyes in the unaccustomed light. “My God, it’s not true , Marsha! I can’t believe that you’d really think that about me! You don’t have any reason to say that to me, Marsha!”


“Oh, but I do! If you loved me… If you weren’t such a coward you’d stand up to them and defend me to your parents!”


Fighting to keep his voice and temper down, “Oh, shit! That’s what this is about, huh?”


“No, that’s just part of it. But it’s true , Mitchell: you never defend me! I’m your wife and you never tell them that maybe, just maybe, I’m right and they’re wrong!”


Knowing Marsha was right about this, however, if she was allowed to say whatever she felt to hurt him, why shouldn’t he? “I’m sorry, Marsha, but most of the time I think you are wrong, and that some of the things you do I just can’t logically defend.”


The degree of her disgust showing in the tone of her voice: “You are so wrong! I am your wife! Nobody should ever be allowed to say anything bad about me in front of you! And if you let them—for any reason—it tells me that you’re a coward and don’t care enough about me to defend me!”


“Oh? And you? You always defend me to your mother?”


“Yes, Mitchell, I do!”


This was true . After they’d pulled their marriage together last June, Marsha had told Rhea that she refused to hear a bad word about her husband and that if she had anything negative to say about Mitchell she’d better keep it to herself.


Mitchell, of course, had no way of knowing this, and not wanting to admit that Marsha had the nerve to do what he hadn’t, “Yeah, I’m sure you defend me!” he said facetiously, then, “Okay,” ticking Marsha’s complaints off on his fingers, “so I can’t provide a decent living! I’m a lousy lover! I hate you and I’m a fuckin’ coward! Tell you what, Marsha,” his anger apparent, “next time someone looks at you cross-eyed, to prove I love you I’ll kick the shit out of them, or die trying! Okay? Anything else, Marsha?”


“I don’t want you to kick the shit out of anyone, Mitchell!”—although she’d love to see physical proof of his love for her, and if it called for him to get into a fight, even if he did get hurt… well… “And I certainly don’t want to you to die trying! I just want you to defend me!"


Elysium Fields

Topanga Canyon, California

 Saturday, May 17, 1986

 5:09 PM

Remembering their ‘heart to heart’: What should I have done? Mitchell thought, What did Marsha expect me to do, hit him?




©September 6, 2011 / Mark M. Lichterman

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Reviewed by Laura Fall 9/7/2011
A terrific story and enjoyable read as always my friend keep them coming indeed Laura
Reviewed by Rose Rideout 9/6/2011
Keep them coming Markie, They are G R E A T.

Your #1 Newfie Friend Hugs XOXOXO, Rose
Reviewed by Karen Lynn Vidra, The Texas Tornado 9/6/2011
Great story as always; well written!

(((HUGS))) and much love, your friend in Texas, Karen Lynn. :D

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Mark M Lichterman

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