“Asshole” by Kyla Martin

   Leonard Bishop was the kind of man who throughout his life was commonly referred to as an asshole. This terminology was, in their opinions, well-deserved, and Leonard bore its implications as a badge of honor, smirking whenever someone threw the retort at him (“You’re such an ass!”) and stormed from the scene. It gave him a delightful pleasure to be called an asshole, he enjoyed the double-edged sword the other wielded whenever spouting such profanities. He enjoyed the conflict that came with the word and the stories born from it.

   The first time Leonard Bishop had achieved the title of asshole was in middle school. It was either seventh or eighth grade. When asked he could never remember which, and Tina Winter had been the first to grant him the title. He’d been sitting with her at lunch, milk cartons open and fruit rolls being bartered for puddings, when he reached across the table to trade his own snack for another’s, and his arm tipped Tina’s milk into her lap.

   “Leonard! You’re such a— such a— You’re an asshole!” She’d exclaimed, leaping from the cafeteria table and dabbing a napkin against her skirt.

   “Tina! We do not use that kind of language!” One of the teacher’s had proclaimed, wrapping a hand around Tina’s wrist—back in the time when that didn’t call for a lawsuit—and tugging her towards the principal’s office. Leonard had called out a few apologies, but they fell on deaf ears, and for the remainder of the year Tina and her friends ridiculed him. She was never taken to the principal’s office for that, though. “Asshole” was a word worthy of punishment. “Nasty,” “ugly,” and “stupid” were words not needing the teacher’s time to address.

   Over the next few years that word was tossed around a few times, though never in a situation that stuck with Leonard, as had been the case with Tina Winter. The next time he remembered an event leading to his being called an ass was in high school, this year he remembered. It was eleventh grade, just after Christmas break had ended.

   He’d been dating a girl named Evelyn Mae, she had curly red hair and her teeth where perfectly straight thanks to several years in braces. She’d been mocked for those braces in middle school at the same time Leonard had been mocked for spilling that milk, and the two had become friends over their mutual ridicule. At some point the friendship turned into something more, and for three years they held hands in the hallway, shared kisses between class, and spent the weekends watching movies or walking around town. For three years they lived in the simple bliss of a high school romance. They were always reprimanded for their public displays of affection, but always deemed it worthwhile.

   And then Leonard Bishop’s best friend saw Evelyn Mae making out with a blonde haired, blue-eyed football player behind the bleachers. “Why won’t you just hear me out, Len?!” She shouted when confronted. “You won’t even give me a chance to tell you what happened! You won’t even listen to me! You’re such an asshole!” She’d spun on her heel and stormed out, curly red hair billowing.

   After that the blonde haired, blue-eyed football player decided Evelyn Mae needed to be avenged. Suddenly Leonard’s high school life became that year of middle school all over again. Only this time it wasn’t words that hurt him, but the various beatings of the football team. On a few occasions a teacher would see and blow a whistle, tell them to stop, but then the same teacher would carry on, and five minutes later the battle resumed. Leonard Bishop and Evelyn Mae were not allowed to hold hands in the hallway(that was a trip straight to detention) but Leonard Bishop and the football team were allowed to be wrapped in a fight that left Leonard bloodied and broken, without so much as a threat of a detention slip.

   The summer of his freshman year of college, Leonard found himself a job. He worked at a local clothing store, usually at the front register, or sometimes stocking. On one of the occasions he was working the register, a man came blustering in, storming towards Leonard’s register. “My wife bought this shirt here three days ago. It’s not the right size for my daughter and  my wife says you won’t refund her her money?!”

   “Sir, she bought this shirt while a sale was going on. We’re not allowed to refund—”

   “Nonsense! I want my twelve dollars back!”

   “Sir, I’m sorry, I can’t—”

   “Oh I see what this is. An operation run by assholes, just like you!” He’d jutted a fat finger in Leonard’s direction before throwing the shirt atop the check-out table and rushing back out the door, mustache quivering.

   Apparently the man with the mustache remembered the name on Leonard Bishop’s name tag, and filed a complaint with the company. Three days later, when the complaint was accessible on common internet sites, the manager “had no choice but to fire him because customer named him online, and proceeded to call him an asshole. It was bad for business.”

   Leonard Bishop was called an asshole at least three times while driving. Once he had stopped an elderly lady across the street, and while he was waiting, the man behind him laid on the horn. “Get moving, asshole!” He shouted, flipping Leonard the bird for good measure, as he slammed on the horn once again.

   That had been the first time. The second time he had been on the highway, merging, when someone shifted from the passing lane to the driving lane without turning on their blinker. That had almost caused an accident, but luckily the only harm to come from the encounter was another proclamation of Leonard’s being an asshole.

   The third time he hadn’t exactly been driving. He’d parked while snow covered the ground, and had off the next two days. Staying true to his preference to be alone, he had kept from driving anywhere. When he finally walked out to his car on the third day, the snow had melted, and he was parked over the line. There was a note left on the front windshield on a white piece of paper that someone had actually taken the time to laminate. The note read, “Nice parking job, Asshole!” Leonard still had the note. He liked to look at it when he needed a laugh. When he needed a reason to remember why he was such an asshole.

   There are occasions in which Leonard had been called an asshole that he never cared to recall to mind, and he’d long since lost count of the amount of times the profanity had been tossed about. It always came with small bouts of conflict, like when he accidentally bumped into the woman at the grocery store, and it almost always left without apology. Still, he found himself enjoying the word, enjoying what it entailed. Sure he was the asshole, but the world continued to do nothing about it, other than make frequent use of the adjective. Leonard Bishop was the kind of man that throughout his life was commonly referred to as an asshole. Leonard Bishop was also the kind of man who found a great deal of irony and humor in such a word.

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