Fiction: Orville Baumgardner and Killing Mozart
By James Hanna
“Dear ladies of Mothers for Life, thank you for inviting me to speak here today. Yes, as a member of the Indiana State Assembly, I voted to outlaw abortion, but I consider my support of this overdue bill to be the absolute least I could do. That so token a gesture has prompted you to invite me here today is a tribute not to my vote so much as your boundless charity. So I stand before you hat-in-hand, like a hobo at a feast, but I shall endeavor with my every breath to make myself worthy of you.
“Now then, before I begin, may I say a bit more about myself? I have lived my entire life in the beloved Hoosier state. As a youth, I exhibited no talents aside from an aptitude for chess, and I blush to confess that I sometimes procured a racy magazine. Still, I managed to graduate from Butler University with a bachelor’s degree in economics, after which, I challenged the Democratic incumbent in House District 54. To my amazement, I won the seat in a landslide, not because I had new ideas, but because I had the good sense not to express any ideas at all. Does God not have a plan for each of us? I would hold that to be true, and so I reject any notion that mere mortals should chart our course. Throughout the thirty years I spent as a Republican Congressman, I did not read a single bill that came across my desk. Instead, I voted with my colleagues who had the good sense to obstruct them, and I spent the rest of my time reading books and expanding my intellect. Good ladies, I have read over two hundred books and can quote from every one which is why I cannot empower the drivel of less-cultivated men. But ladies, I do support your crusade to shelter the unborn, and I hope, as I speak to you today, that I might provide an observation or two that may further your campaign. Ah, ladies, I am an old voyeur, but by joining your brave cause, I hope you will find it in your hearts to consider me a brother. If I may borrow from Henry the Fifth, I offer this quote to you. ‘For he today that sheds his blood with me, shall be my brother be he ne’er so vile.’
“Now then, let us discuss the riddle of when a life begins, for it is upon such speculations that all arguments are formed. Does it begin when a fetus loses its tail and becomes more tyke than tadpole, or does it start when a fellow says to a lady, ‘Ma’am, may I buy you a drink?’ I see that some of you are laughing, and that does you great credit, dear ladies. Yes, the fanatical Left is calling you zealots and cranks, but how can that be true when there is such humor in your souls? I daresay that if you can laugh at a joke as patently feeble as mine, you are hardly the battleaxes your critics make you out to be.
“‘So when does life begin?’ some still ask. Is this not the most foolish of questions? Is it not like asking how many angels might dance on the head of a pin? Rather than speculate endlessly about God’s unfathomable plan, would it not be better to simply get out of his way? If folks were to practice abstinence, as I have done all my life, the question as to when life begins would divide this country no more. Ah, gentle ladies, please do not gasp at my puritanical confession. I suspect my restraint is not so much due to the steeliness of my soul as it is to the rather conspicuous fact that I look like Mister Magoo. Still, I have set a standard, regardless of circumstance, and I hold that the country would be better off if others were abstinent too.
“Now then, let us pierce the polemics of the overly-promiscuous Left. They hint that God is a spendthrift, that He seeds life without self-control, that if given free rein, He would choke the planet with an overabundance of life. But does the Parable of the Sower only apply to what is cast upon thorns and rocks? Do millions of God’s tiny swimmers not perish in whirlpools and locks? May I remind you that for each teeny Mark Phelps who penetrates the ovum, there are tens of millions of flounderers who end up in Davy Jones’ chest? So I would argue that those few brave paddlers who fulfill their destinies ought not to be sucked down the vortex that claims their less resolute kin. Ladies, I weep when I think of the seed I have cast upon treacherous waters—the sad but inevitable crime I commit in exchange for my gentleman’s time. So let us celebrate life when it overcomes herculean odds and not snub the Lord for enabling such a tiny percentage to thrive.
“So what else do the naysayers use to support their callous claim that the miracle of conception ought to be further tamed? Ah, they say that no child should be birthed who cannot live in prosperity—that it is better to inhabit a fathomless void than to live in poverty. But has anyone asked the unborn what they think about such a conceit? Have they asked these wee souls if they wish to set conditions to their fate? Since their voices will always be silent, an answer might be found in The Odyssey, which I believe is the most revealing of poems. When Odysseus confronts great Achilles in the land of wandering shades, he believes him to be the blessed monarch of all departed souls. And how does Achilles respond to so sightless a compliment? What value does this warrior place on his shadowy retreat? ‘No winning words about death,’ is what this specter says. ‘It is better to be a slave on earth than king of the breathless dead.’ So there you have it, ladies. If the void is a preferable lair, why are so many wee souls lining up to enter this world uninsured?
“When one lays bare their arrogance, the Leftists grow desperate indeed. ‘What if a child is the product of incest or rape?’ they demand. Ah gentle ladies, what can I say? Perhaps I might be swayed were not for the fact that God lays his plans in the most mysterious ways. Is a child to be held responsible for his progenitor’s misdeeds? Are toddlers sired in darkness without something to offer the world? If I may borrow again from the Bard, I give to you this quote from Friar Lawrence, a clergyman in Romeo and Juliet: ‘For naught so vile upon this world doth live, but to this earth some special good doth give.’ Ladies, a child’s loving smile is sufficient to honor this sentiment, but what if that child should grow up to be Mozart? Is that not too a predicament? I have spent many hours listening to Mozart’s concertos and operas, and each time I swoon with gratitude to be given this undeserved gift. Who am I to merit Mozart? I have asked myself this countless times. Am I not an old faker, a lecher, and the commonest of men? And yet God has given me Mozart and wants nothing in return except that I not interfere with the mysteries by which such gifts are born. Kind ladies, if there is the slightest chance that I might pluck such a gift from the world, I would flail myself with a cat o’ nine tails then hurl my torn body to wolves. So, ladies, remember to offer your critics a riddle they cannot undo: Can we truly negate our scoundrels without murdering Mozart too?
“Ah, I see that my time is up. Do not bruise your palms with applause, dear ladies, or hoist me shoulder-high—your kind invitation has already lifted the eagle in my heart. My sisters, I’m sure you have places to go and duties to attend, but if any of you have questions, I’ll be at the back of the room.”
James Hanna is a retired probation officer and a former fiction editor. His books have appeared in over thirty journals including Sixfold, Crack the Spine, and The Literary Review. He is also a former contributor to A Thin Slice of Anxiety. James’ books, all of which have won awards, are available on Amazon.