by SS Hampton Sr.
In an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Sir Patrick Stewart) paraphrased a monologue from Shakespeare’s Hamlet when engaged in a verbal dispute with the character Q (John de Lancie).
I offer a portion of the original monologue from Hamlet, Act II, Scene 2, though not with a male centrist point of view as prevailed in Shakespeare’s time:
“What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason, how infinite in faculty! In form and moving how express and admirable! In action how like an Angel! In apprehension how like a god! The beauty of the world!”
Truer words were never spoken.
However, I also see beauty in the lines and fierce strength of military equipment, in the natural ebb and flow of mountainous landscapes, the flat yet rugged desert (the desert might be pushing it a little after 16 years in the Southwest and Kuwait/Iraq) or the solitary expanse of the grassy plains. I am fascinated by the reshaping of drifting clouds – wind sculptures I call them (and yes, sculpting is something I would like to try someday).
But, add a woman to these subjects and something miraculous can result.
Sometimes a woman or a photograph of a woman, much like a Muse, inspires me to write. It may be her overall, perhaps striking Gothic appearance (Burning, 2002), the intense color of her eyes (Ice (Inspired by Erica), 2004), or simply who she is (Carnivale Promised (Inspired by Cydney), 2002).
In my decades of photographing – yes, I am kind of up there in years – I have been fortunate to work with a number of women. Though only three would be considered as a Muse due to working with them frequently, any one of these women could be viewed as a Muse because in one way or another they inspired my photography and writing.
Yes, I freely admit that I am biased. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Burt and Rachel Markham are ordinary small business owners of a seed & feed store in a small Kansas farming and ranching community. Many years before, as young university graduates eagerly anticipating exciting overseas employment, a lifetime in Kansas was the furthest thing from their minds, particularly Rachel who was raised overseas and dreamed of going back.
By July 2013 their twin 18-year old daughters, having graduated high school several months before, go east to attend a university. Burt and Rachel settle into their new life of an empty house and a predictable and unchanging routine that threatens to stretch far into the future.
One summer evening Burt has an idea—but will Rachel accept the idea? If she does, will the idea add new excitement to their marriage, or destroy it?
She stood and grasped his hand. “It’s a little windy out, but it looks like there’s only a slight drizzle. We won’t get too wet walking home.”
Burt glanced at the steaming dancers again and smiled. “It’s been a long time since we walked in the rain.”
“It has been,” she said and leaned against him.
“I always liked walking in the rain. A light rain that is. A slight drizzle is better.” They stepped into the cool twilight. “Anyway, when your blouse is soaked your nipples really stand out.”
“Oh God,” Rachel giggled. Silent lightning lit the wet road as if showing the way home.
Burt slipped his arms around her and kissed her cheek.
“Hi,” he whispered in her ear. She responded with a little sigh and reached back to place her hands on his hips.
The greeting was their signal when in public that one or the other was horny. They began whispering “hi” to each other shortly after they became lovers; now they also whispered it after he slipped into her or when she seated herself on him and they were looking into each other’s eyes.
The storms passed and the humid summer heat returned. The feed store remained busy. The trains rumbled past Four Corners, past their home, as they had done for the past two decades. Burt always thought that the late night train whistle that echoed across the moonlit prairie was one of the loneliest sounds he ever heard.
One night during their dinner walk they passed by the dark school. Rachel paused and stared at the small wooden building. Twinkling fireflies floated through the schoolyard.
“Are you going to volunteer this year?” he asked. Classes would start in a few days.
She was silent for a few moments before shaking her head. “No. I enjoyed being a volunteer teacher’s aide, but with the girls gone…” Her voice trailed into silence. “It wouldn’t be the same.”
Burt brushed her long hair away from her face. “What about soccer?”
“They asked me and I said I’d help on special occasions, like the end of season awards banquet.” She folded her arms around herself as if she were cold, though a warm breeze blew across the moonlit prairie. “But otherwise, no.”
“It wouldn’t be the same?”
“Jah, jah,” she whispered.
“Well, okay. I mean, there’s been a big change in our lives, but it doesn’t have to mean cutting most ties.”
When they returned to the farmhouse Rachel announced she was going for a swim. She poured a glass of Sauvignon Blanc for herself and picked up a CD player. She usually listened to classical music, waltzes, and operas when floating in the pool. There was a chakra wind chime hanging near the pool for the times when she felt like floating in near silence except for the chimes and the sound of the prairie wind.
A few moments later Burt followed with beer in hand. Maggie trotted behind him, rawhide bone in her jaws. Classical music floated through the night; fireflies played hide and seek among the neatly trimmed hedges along the perimeter of the yard. Others drifted in and out of the nearby cornfield, while the insects of the night droned on in disharmony.
He saw Rachel drop a dark robe to her feet. In the silvery light of the moon her nude fleshy form had a ghostly white sheen to it. She glanced over her shoulder, flashed a lusty smile at him, and dove into the pool. He stood by the edge of the pool and watched her gliding beneath the sparkling moonlit water. Then she surfaced, rolled and floated on her back with closed eyes. A pair of fireflies circled above her face.
It was the second time she was skinny dipping. It was like she was shedding the older, busy exterior of motherhood so that her younger carefree personality could reassert itself.
He sipped his beer and watched her face with Bettie Page bangs plastered to her forehead, surrounded by a fan of long hair and the glimmering water. She looked so content.
A thought was born.
A surprising thought.
A thought he never entertained before about his wife of 21 years—and the mother of his children. He walked unsteadily to a wooden chair with thick cushions and sat down heavily. He gulped his beer. A warm breeze flowed through the night; the trees rustled and the field of corn swayed like watery currents. Fireflies sailed past him.
“Dammit,” Burt whispered to himself in disbelief…disbelief and excitement. And trepidation. What would her reaction be? What would she say? Could he even find a way to suggest it?
He returned to the poolside. Her eyes were open. Moonlit water droplets on her beautiful face sparkled like tiny diamonds.
The thought wouldn’t let go. It took root…
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Hampton has had two solo photographic exhibitions and curated a multi-media exhibit. His writings have appeared as stand-alone stories and in anthologies from Dark Opus Press, Edge Science Fiction & Fantasy, Melange Books, Musa Publishing, MuseItUp Publishing, Ravenous Romance, and in Horror Bound Magazine, The Harrow, and River Walk Journal, among others.
He graduated from the College of Southern Nevada with an Associate of Applied Science Degree in Photography – Commercial Photography Emphasis. He has been studying at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas with in a double major in Art and English. However, he is presently spending a cold, rainy Spring 2017 semester studying at a university in southwestern France in the shadow of the Pyrenees Mountains.
Hampton can be found at:
Dark Opus Press - Edge Science Fiction & Fantasy Publishing - Melange Books - MuseItUp Publishing - Goodreads Author Page - Amazon Author Page - Amazon UK