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On Ugliness

In Arts & Letters, Creative Writing, Essays, Writing on February 21, 2012 at 8:18 pm

Allen Mendenhall

The following essay originally appeared here at The Legendary (July 2010).

I am, at this writing, looking over a spider’s corpse, the little thing having spooked me into murder. It hurried across my papers at an alarming speed for so small a creature and then halted suddenly when I flinched and pushed my chair back from the desk. At this the miniature monster reared himself aloft, his front legs and chelicerae raised and ready for attack, his size strangely exaggerated. “This is ugly,” I gasped to no one in particular.

I’ve heard that spiders have thousands of eyes so it’s no wonder that the thing supposed me threatening. Heck, I was threatening, whether I was one or a thousand. I reached for my newspaper and, foregoing reflection, swatted the brittle beast over and over until its yellow guts, an oozy snot-like substance, spattered all over an otherwise unblemished copy of Charles Frazier’s Cold Mountain. “Ugh,” I sighed, relieved and rubbing my sticky hands together, “that was ugly.”

Sometimes I short-circuit reflection, especially when, as then, an unusual thing startles me or otherwise makes me want to tell somebody something. What do I mean? I’m not sure exactly. I think I mean to say I’m a talker. It’s a terrible habit, this talking. And a nervous one too. Although Freud might disagree, today’s psychologists suggest that babble is a sign of egomania or a warped sense of prerogative. Folks back home simply refer to this as “diarrhea of the mouth.”

What a yucky, demented feeling I get when at dinner parties people glance around the room while I’m talking to them. They’re hoping, I know, that somebody will pass by and relieve them of their duties. “Oh, say, have you met Jonathan?” they’ll interject, grabbing poor Jonathan by the arm and stationing him in front of me. “Jonathan also went to law school. Y’all have something in common.”

I might have been relating the story of my religious conversion or of my struggle with cancer but my now-retreating listener wouldn’t even know. Why? Because I’ve chattered him out of caring. Now I’m standing there staring at an obviously uncomfortable Jonathan whose eyes scan the room for the nearest and next substitute. He seems ugly to me, and I to him. Read the rest of this entry »

On Ugliness

In Arts & Letters, Creative Writing on July 21, 2010 at 9:49 am

My essay, “On Ugliness,” appears in issue 19 of The Legendary.  View the essay here.

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