mr mathers

Smith College Ambulance Unit.  7/27/1917

“First row, left to right: Miss Mather, Mrs. Hawes, in charge of the unit; Dr. Tallant, Dr. Maud Kelly. Second row, left to right: Miss M.l Rooke, Miss R. Johnson, Miss Mary Ashley, Miss Hague, Miss Marjorie Carr, Miss Catherine Hooper, Miss Millicent Lewis, Miss Marie Wolfs, Miss Elizabeth M. Dana. Third row, left to right: Miss Marion Bennett, Miss Anne Chapin, Miss Elizabeth Bliss, Miss Alice Leavens, Miss Margaret Woods, Miss Ruth Gaines. 

The Smith College Unit was one of the first of the Women’s College units to organize for service in France.”

File Unit: Colleges and Universities - Smith College, 1917 - 1918Series: American Unofficial Collection of World War I Photographs, 1917 - 1918Record Group 165: Records of the War Department General and Special Staffs, 1860 - 1952


Uncover more World War I Centennial Resources at the National Archives

ELVIS PRESLEY’S POPULARITY WAS LARGELY FUELED BY THE FACT THAT ROCK AND ROLL WAS AN AWESOME GENRE OF WHAT WAS KNOWN AT THE TIME AS “BLACK MUSIC,” AND RACIST WHITE AUDIENCES WERE UNWILLING TO LISTEN TO BLACK PERFORMERS, BUT WHEN A WHITE PERFORMER BEGAN SINGING MUSIC HE COPIED FROM BLACK PEOPLE, MANY WHITE AUDIENCES SUDDENLY FOUND THEMSELVES COMFORTABLE WITH THE IDEA OF LISTENING TO ROCK AND ROLL AS LONG AS THE PERFORMER WAS WHITE. 

THIS IS ALSO ONE OF THE MAIN REASONS EMINEM AND MACKLEMORE BECAME SO POPULAR SO FAST. WHILE NOT ALL THEIR FANS ARE RACIST, A GREAT DEAL OF THE REASON THEY RECEIVED SUCH WIDESPREAD MEDIA ATTENTION IS BECAUSE THE WHITE SUPREMACIST MEDIA IS MORE COMFORTABLE PRESENTING RAP AND HIP-HOP WITH A WHITE FACE. 

WHILE THIS IS NOT INTENDED TO SLIGHT THE TALENTS OF MR. PRESLEY, MR. MATHERS, OR MR. LEMORE, THEY ARE ALL RATHER GOOD AT WHAT THEY DO, BUT THEY HAVE ALL BENEFITTED FROM A SOCIOLOGICAL PHENOMENON IN WHICH THE CONTRIBUTIONS OF PEOPLE OF COLOR ONLY GET MAINSTREAM VALIDATION WHEN THEY ARE SOLD BY A WHITE PERSON. 

Remembrance

I wrote this short fic last year for Remembrance Day.  I meant to post it yesterday on Armistice Day, and then thought about posting it tomorrow on Remembrance Sunday…and decided instead to split the difference.


The screaming became louder.

Eileen didn’t flinch. Severus stood in the bedroom doorway, his desperate calls drowned out by the ever-increasing volume of the radio. With her left hand wrapped in a rag, his mother continued dusting the already pristine windowsill, and the constant flick of her unsteady right hand caused the Crystals’ singing to be so loud, the neighbours would’ve sworn on the holy book that those young American starlets were performing in the Snapes’ front bedroom.

Blood beat slack in Severus’ ears as he raced down the wooden stairs.  Three steps from the end, he gripped onto the door frame in a smooth, well-practised move, and his momentum caused his scrawny build to fly across the kitchen, his ill-fitting shirt billowing comically in his wake.  He landed heavily at the outside door, grabbed last night’s discarded newspaper from the worktop and hastily tore the sheets into uneven pieces as he headed out into the rain soaked yard.  

Here, the screams were loudest of all.  Severus was surprised that the neighbours hadn’t come out to investigate, especially that nosey old bat at number 9.  Mrs Mathers might have been old and riddled with arthritis, but she always had an uncanny knack of witnessing everything you wished could stay behind closed doors. He swiped at his left ear, remembering how his mother had clipped him around the head last night, and how Mrs Mathers had seemingly sprinted to the fence to get the best view possible.

But tonight, it appeared she wasn’t interested.  He raised himself on his tiptoes, using his arms to leverage himself up onto the fence, striving to peer through next door’s window – but he was thwarted by the thick condensation on the kitchen window.  A frown crossed his brow; even someone as young as Severus knew how bad steam was for a house.  His mother would never set a cauldron to boil unless the windows - never the door, lest the neighbours would see - were cracked open.

The rain started up again, drizzle quickly turning into a downpour, and Severus turned his attention back to the now damp paper he was clutching in his hands.  Black ink ran across his pale skin, smearing across his palms.  The screaming was reverberating in his ears, and he felt as if had a lump of coal from the bunker wedged in his throat.  He was barely able to swallow as his tiny fingers pressed heavily on the cold metal latch.

The privy door swung open, revealing the source of the noise.  

Severus had seen his father naked before, of course.  Every Friday night, Tobias would heave the tin bath before the fire, and would soap up before donning a clean shirt and heading to meet the lads at the pub. Eileen would be next, with Severus bathing last.  To say he hated bath night would be an understatement of the highest order – by the time it was his turn, the water was cold and grey, and he felt dirtier when he got out than when he got in.  It was always late when he finished, so his hair wasn’t given enough time to dry before he was sent to bed, and he hated how his pillow would stay damp throughout the night.

This was different. This wasn’t bath night.  This wasn’t his father jovially preparing for a night full of ale.  Tobias was leaning heavily against the whitewashed brick wall, dressed only in his dingy underwear.  His broad shoulders and a blurred tattoo were the only things hinting at the man he’d been before poverty had dragged him down.  Now he was lean and undernourished, all gangly limbs and pale skin. His fists were raw from beating the wall; his face streaked with tears and fury.

“Get. Out.”


This disagreement was nothing new.  Severus had heard the argument a million times before, and could practically whisper along as each parent taunted the other.  She’d wail at him to be a man – to pull himself together.  He’d sneer, the wrinkles on his craggy face deepening. He’d peer down his large hooked nose, and in a dangerously low hiss, he’d mock her for hiding away at her posh school, playing her ridiculous games whilst the rest of the country pitched in and did their bit.

It was always worse in November.

Darkness would fall by half four, and fireworks would erupt with an ear splitting boom shortly afterwards. Tobias would pace and scowl like a skittish, feral creature.  He’d stalk through the house, clutching his ash tray in one hand, his cigarette in the other.  By the end of the night, he’d retreat outside, and a trail of fag ends from the house to the privy would litter the yard.  

Then, that Sunday would come around.  Eileen would refuse to go, telling him that this year, she was putting her foot down, and she was no longer going to be part of his misery.  Tobias would beat her until she relented.

And so, once a year, they would all bathe on Sunday morning instead of Friday night, and dress in their finest and pin red paper flowers to their breasts.  Once a year, Tobias would put his money into a collecting tin instead of behind the bar.  And once a year, Tobias would stand in the outhouse and scream until his throat was hoarse, and saltwater streaked his cheeks.


Some days, they’d gripe and grumble, slam doors and sulk in separate rooms.  Other days, their sniping and bickering would escalate into a full scale fight, complete with shattered crockery and purple bruises.  

As their voices got louder, the more genteel neighbours banged their windows shut.  Airing dirty laundry in the street was commonplace, so no-one would take Tobias and Eileen to task, but it was well known down Spinner’s End that nobody ran a Punch and Judy show quite like the Snapes.  

Mrs Mathers left her window wide open.

Severus slammed his bedroom door, and his wand quivering, he added layer upon layer of charms on the lock, Ministry be damned.  He sank down onto his sagging bed, rested his head against the pillow and closed his eyes.

“You’ve done this to him! You’ve made him into a freak!  Flouncing around in those dresses-”

“-robes!”

“-waving that useless stick!”

“Useless?”  Her tone was dangerous, and Tobias paused.  "So you’d rather he was like you, eh?  All fists and fury with no brains to speak of?!“

"At least then he’d be a man!”

Severus pulled his thin pillow over his head, and pressed it firmly against his ears.

“And what sort of man stands in the toilet, screaming so loudly that the cows can hear you over the river? What sort of a man is that, Tobias Snape?!”

Block it out.

“The sort of man who wasn’t afraid to look them Jerries in the eye when he pulled the trigger!”

Her laugh was bitter. “I know exactly what sort of man you are. And I dare say your son knows as well. No wonder he’d rather follow in my family’s footsteps than follow his idiot father. Your proudest achievement is how many men you murdered in the war, and you can’t even do that right. You’re a shell!”

“Says the woman who turned tail and ran away.”

Silence.

“Not so chatty now, are you, Leen?  Where would you be without me, you ungrateful bitch?  Where would you both be?  Think Daddy would even look at you with that half breed mongrel in tow?”  Tobias laughed loudly. “And don’t you think I didn’t see your bag shrunken down, ready to leave.  If it wasn’t for that useless brat upstairs, we wouldn’t be here now, would we?”

Severus’ shields slipped and he lowered the pillow, his long slender fingers covering his open mouth.

“And don’t you tell me that you didn’t know about my Sarah.”

Silence.

“It was all arranged, Leen!  You were running back to Daddy, and I was going to have someone normal.  A proper wife and family!”

Block them out.

“But you got scared.  You thought he’d slam the door in your face, and then where would you be?  No father, no husband, nobody.”

Block. Them. Out.

“So you got yourself knocked up with that useless streak of shite, and now we’re stuck, for better, for worse.”

Silence.

“You’re weak, Eileen Prince, and your fairy son is just the same.  No honour, no guts!  You wouldn’t last five minutes in the real world – in battle, in a war – and neither would he.  You’ve ruined us both with your freakish ways!”

BLOCK. THEM. OUT.

Severus’ chest heaved, and blood poured from his nose.  His hand fell limp, causing his wand to spill to the floor with a clatter.


Severus stood in his teaching robes, aiming curse after curse at the dingy outhouse and burnt it to the ground.  If the neighbours thought it was odd that he’d had his own private bonfire in his tiny back yard instead of joining the rest of the street at the rec with their toffees and fireworks, nobody dared speak up.

In fact, nobody dared say much at all to the mysterious, dark, imposing figure he’d become.  The older neighbours remembered the dirty, scrawny, awkward boy he’d once been, but it was hard to reconcile the cowed youth with the scowling man who stalked down the high street with a permanent look of disdain etched across his features.

They’d heard from his father how Severus had won a scholarship as a kid, and had been shipped off to some fancy school in the wilds of Scotland.  Tobias told all who would listen that his son was a teacher there now – a housemaster, no less – and was some sort of prodigy when it came to chemistry, or physics, or something scientific anyway.  Tobias could never quite remember.

It didn’t stop him extolling Severus’ virtues in the pub.  His job long gone, and his wife dearly departed, Tobias was a permanent fixture at the bar, proudly regaling all with tales about his son’s success. His son, apparently, rang once a week to keep his father in the loop – although the neighbours knew better. They knew Tobias’ landline had been cut off for non-payment many years before.

When Tobias had died, Severus’ return had taken the neighbours by surprise.  He wouldn’t be seen for months, and then he’d suddenly appear – although nobody could remember seeing him walking from the station, or jumping off the bus from town.  As soon as they were used to him being around, he’d suddenly vanish.  

Then, one Easter, all changed – and Severus became a permanent fixture in Spinner’s End.  Tobias and Eileen had persevered with their tin bath arrangement long past the days when it was decent, but Severus wasn’t prepared to strip down and wash before the fire.  His hatred of baths was deeply engrained, he opted for installing a shower.

He’d hired a Muggle builder, who’d huffed and moaned, and put his hands on his hips, telling a displeased Severus that it was the wrong decision.  The builder sat him down with a mug of overly sweet tea, and told him that all of the other houses in the street had built an extension in the yard, allowing them to keep the bedrooms intact.  When that didn’t convince Severus the builder patiently explained how many thousands he would lose off the property value if he forged ahead.

Severus didn’t care. He wasn’t looking to sell.  He wasn’t expecting to live.  So that night, he took great delight in destroying his parents’ bedroom to make space for the new shower.    

When the builder returned the next day, he was instantly horrified at the destruction, but then, to the neighbours’ amazement, he suddenly changed his attitude.  The grumbling stopped, and he was a lot more compliant.  He whistled as he worked, and the shower room was built.  Severus barely said a word, but the neighbours noted that a small smile now adorned the young man’s face.

His poky childhood bedroom was now ever so slightly bigger than the remnants of his parents’ bedroom, making his room the master bedroom by a hair’s breadth.  He didn’t stay in his house often, but he liked knowing it was there – liked knowing that he had somewhere to retreat to, in amongst the Muggles, where most wouldn’t think to find him.  Albus knew, of course, and Lucius – but the rest of the world didn’t have a clue where to find him, and that’s the way he liked it.

His joy was short-lived. A few weeks later, he returned from Hogwarts with a permanent houseguest in tow, forced to house Pettigrew on the Dark Lord’s orders.  Severus had been tempted to make the rat sleep outside in the yard; even tempted to rebuild the privy just to lock him in it.

He hadn’t.  He’d shown him to the newly modelled bedroom, but the rat still moaned.  He’d wailed that Severus didn’t take his status seriously, threatening him with the Dark Lord’s wrath.  Severus soon tired of his whining, and wordlessly flung open the door to his own bedroom. Seeing that the rooms were fairly evenly matched, Pettigrew had retreated.   After what felt like the world’s longest summer, Severus was relieved to return to the sanctuary of Hogwarts.

Ten months later, he returned to Spinner’s End.  This time, his guest was Draco.

The blond boy was startled, and unlike his father, lacked sufficient tact to school his shock.  Lucius had visited Severus often, and even Narcissa had graced him with her presence on rare occasion – but Draco had never stepped foot in the Muggle street where Severus had grown up.  It was the antithesis of Draco’s privileged childhood, where his every whim had been tended by an army of house elves.

When Severus had bustled the trembling boy into the living room, he’d been so focused on setting wave after wave of enchantments to prevent the Order – or Harry bloody Potter – from descending on them in the night, he’d forgotten that Draco had absolutely no idea how Muggles lived.  Least, how poor Muggles lived.  He’d forgotten in his desperate flight that in Draco’s eyes, he was a respected man - not an impoverished half-blood who’d dragged himself out of the gutter.

But Severus was weary, and couldn’t bring himself to care.  He’d completed his dreaded task, at great personal cost – and the boy was so grateful, and equally terrified, he wasn’t about to speak out of turn.  With leaden feet, Severus trod up the wooden stairs. Silently, he headed into the bathroom, stripped off his teaching robes and stepped into the shower.  The icy water pounded against him, and he let out an unreserved howl of agony.

For the first time in years, the neighbours slammed their windows shut.

And there, outside the bathroom door, Draco stood, blood beating slack in his ears. He felt as if he had a lump of coal wedged in his throat, and he was barely able to swallow as his trembling hand pushed against the bathroom door.

It swung open, revealing the source of the noise.

He’d seen his father naked before, of course.  But this was different.  For all their similarities, Severus and Lucius were two opposing creatures, and never had it been more apparent. He stood in shock at the sight of Severus leaning heavily against the white ceramic tiles - lean and undernourished, all gangly limbs and pale skin, his fists raw from beating the wall and his face streaked with tears and fury.