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the sleep of reason

by Michael Swanwick

with illustrations by
Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes


48. [Plate 20]
The Morning After

Well, last night was fun, but this morning is today. Time to douche, do the laundry, shake out the featherbed, and sweep under the couch for dust-bunnies. Oh, and those men who were feeling so good about themselves eight hours ago? They've got to go too.

"Shoo! Shoo!" the witches cry. "No breakfast for the likes of you! Take your pants with you — you can put them on outside the door."

"But we love you!" the men plead.

"Tell that to your fiancé," the witches reply. "If that's what she still is."

And, weeping, the men leave. If they're not sadder and wiser, at least they're sadder. Not that the witches care much, one way or another. They're practical women, they have things to do. There are wars to be encouraged, courts to be corrupted, governments to be set one against another. Compared to such matters, what importance is the disillusionment of a handful of men? Less than nothing.

Intelligent women can disagree, of course. Those putative fiancés, for example. They may well take their errant lovers back in. Women do foolish things. They let themselves be ruled by their hearts. They gaze deep into those soulful brown eyes. They never have a gun close at hand when they really need one.

So uptown and downtown and over by the sanitary landfill, men are earnestly saying, "Oh, baby, you know how much I love you!" and, "She meant nothing to me, I swear!" and, "I was drunk and I couldn't get it up — that's God's own truth!" None of it lies, exactly, for in the cold, harsh light of sobriety, they believe every word of it. And women are frowning and fuming and stamping their little feet in fury, because they secretly know that eventually they're going to end up having to pretend to believe every filthy word. Because this sorry excuse for a man was so hard to get in the first place, and all the others are not one bit better.

Meanwhile, their housework done, the witches are enjoying a cup of tea. The house sparkles, and there are fresh scones with butter. Delicately, they dab at the corners of their mouths with napkins that are crisp and white. Do their thoughts flit lightly over the events of last night? Certainly they look pensive.

At last one clears her throat. "Let's say we get hold of that thermonuclear device…" she begins.


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This is the 48th of 80 stories by Michael Swanwick written to accompany Francisco Goya's Los Caprichos. For a listing of the most recently available stories, go to The Sleep of Reason.

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