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Another Allegory (by Jeff Holton)

I love the blog carnival. It introduces me to the writing of so many great folks here on the internets that I might have otherwise missed. I suppose this bi-monthly extravaganza has become Bridget Chumbley and Peter Pollock’s bloggy equivalent of Kevin Bacon. That’s how I first came across Jeff Holton…

Jeff Holton is an instructional designer in the San Francisco Bay Area. He works full time, teaches high school Sunday School, lives with his wife and two young children, and still somehow manages to find time to blog at Big Planet. Small World. Once publicly maligned by the religion editor of Newsweek, he still nonetheless spends far too much time identifying other people’s typos. He has never climbed Mt. Everest, and most likely never will. And he’s okay with that.

Jeff sent me a story that he wrote way back on November 30, 1993. An oldie, but a goody!

image courtesy of

A friend of Sigmund Freud once asked the psychoanalytical theorist if his almost constantly present cigar was a phallic symbol that somehow connected with a repressed oral fixation. Siggy responded, “Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.” Keep that in mind.

The lake shimmered seductively in the high summer sun.

He sat on the dock with his legs dangling over the side, his toes just dipping into the water below. He wiggled his feet a little, causing tiny ripples to emanate from the center of the disturbance. She sat next to him.

“My feet won’t reach,” she said, as she turned to him with a smile. “My legs are too short.”

He quickly turned to her and exclaimed, “Good!”

“Good?” She looked puzzled. “Why good?”

“Think about it,” he began. “What is this?”

She adopted a tone of voice that was slightly condescending as she stated the obvious. “It’s two people sitting on a dock just off the shore of a lake in the summertime.”

“No, no, no. I don’t mean that. I mean much more generally, what is this?” he asked again.

“Um…it’s a story?” she answered, seeking approval.

“Exactly. And what kind of story?”

“Um…fiction.” She thought for a moment and then added, “You know, you’re really ruining the suspension of disbelief by having the characters admit that they’re not real.”

“Just hang in there for a few minutes. You’ll get the point,” he said.

“How do you know?” she asked.

He responded with a wink, “I asked the author.”

“Anyway, getting back to my question,” she remembered, as the stream of consciousness returned to its origin, “why good?”

“Oh, yeah. Well, in fiction, what does water represent?”

“You’re sick!”

“Just answer the question, for the sake of the readers.”

“Alright,” she took a deep breath, not wanting to say this. “It represents repressed sexuality. It has Freudian overtones.”

“Precisely. So you see, you’re not supposed to be able to touch the water. Women in fiction represent purity and innocence.”

“Oh, and I suppose you’re playing the part of the typical macho male jerk?!”

“Not exactly, I–“

She shot to her feet, stood up, and exclaimed, “Alright Mr. Know- It-All! Let’s see how you respond to this!” Throwing aside all moral symbolism, she dove headfirst into the lake, and as she surfaced, reminded him that she didn’t know how to swim. “It’s freezing in here, and I’m going to drown,” she said calmly, “but realize that if you jump in to save me, the implications will be easily spotted by the educated reader.”

He looked up and down the length of the dock for any sort of life preserver, but there was none to be found. This was going to have to be an unprotected rescue. (Apparently, they often are when they are done in the heat of passion.) Being the archetypical hero, he bravely shook free of all convictions which hindered his necessary and heroic actions, and dove in headfirst in a magnificently graceful arc to save the young lady.

Later, as they lay on their backs on the dock drying off in the slowly sinking summer sun, she said, “I can’t believe you did that. I can’t believe you dove in headfirst and sacrificed all your morality and purity in such a foolish motion. Do you realize that the reader will never again be able to respect you as the protagonist of this story?”

“Honey?” he said, with a tone of voice that showed he was obviously quite annoyed with her.

“Yes, dear?” she said, bracing herself for an argument.

“Sometimes a lake is just a lake.”


To read more from Jeff Holton, visit him at Big Planet, Small World and follow him on the twitter at @JeffHolton.