Monday, May 07, 2007

GBA(s)FC (Growth) Entry #17

Are We Not Men?
by Kyklops

"Get that thumb out of your mouth right now, Joey," his mother is scolding him. "You're almost five, it's time you grew up." He liked sucking his thumb. It felt good. Eventually, though, he stopped.


He's in the principal's office. He's in trouble. "Joey, Nancy says you stuck gum in her hair and that several times you've punched her on the shoulder. Is this true?" "Yes, sir." "Well, son," the principal says, "that kind of childish behavior is unacceptable. You'll be going to junior high next year, so I think it's about time you grew up and started acting like a man." "Yes, sir, I'll try."


He has a black eye. His father is looking at him with a strange mixture of pity and disgust on his face. "For Christ's sake, Joe, you mean you didn't fight back?" "No, I didn't, Dad," he replies. His father thunders, "listen up, boy. No son of mine is going to be the high school punching bag. If you're going to be a man, you have to grow up and learn to fight like a man. You got that?" "Sure, Dad."


He's in court. He's in trouble. A few weeks ago he got drunk and took a baseball bat to a bunch of cars in a parking lot. He's done stuff like this before. The prosecutor is speaking. "...and so, your honor, we can see a clear pattern of alcohol abuse coupled with violent, anti-social behavior..." Later, after sentencing him to probation and community service, the judge looks right at him and says, "Joseph Ryan Johnson, this is your last chance in this court. It's time to grow up, young man, or the next time I see you you'll be going to prison. Do you understand me?" "Yes, sir. Thank you."


He's standing in the delivery room. His wife has just given birth to a baby boy. He's a father. He's overcome with joy, but later, as he's standing outside smoking a cigarette, his joy is replaced by terror. He's terrified of the responsibility that's just been delivered to him. He's talking out loud to himself. "Jesus H. Christ, Joey-boy, what are you gonna do now, eh? You can't fuck this one up, asshole. No siree. It's time to grow up, boy, and start acting like a man... whatever the fuck that means..."


He walks into the living room and sees his four-year-old boy on the sofa watching TV. The boy is sucking his thumb. A reprimand springs to his lips, but he stifles it. He pauses for a moment, and then joins his son on the sofa.

"Hey Tommy, whatcha watchin'?"

"Spiderman. But it's finished."

"Uh huh. Let's have a talk, OK Tommy?"

"OK, Daddy."

"You know how me and Mommy are always buggin' you about sucking your thumb?"


"I want to tell you a secret. When I was a little boy I sucked my thumb, too."

"... really...?"

"Yeah, really...."

"Why, Daddy?"

"Well, let's see..."


Beth said...

I'm a sucker for father/son stories. I really enjoyed this.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

This one made me smile.

There was suspense after the suspended sentence, wondering if the next time we saw Joey, he would be on death row.

But he redeemed himself and his own father, maybe all his ancestors, when his love for his son taught him that being a man is about gentleness and approval.

Well done.

Unknown said...

I like the way that the paragraphs were set out almost like verses and then when Joe changes you revert to prose. Cute story.

Anonymous said...

heart-warming. nice one.

Anonymous said...

A great exploration of breaking the chain. I enjoyed this.

Caroline said...

This one touched me.

briliantdonkey said...

I liked the snapshots in time. Very well done. I also like the "we can become our parents but don't HAVE to" message I got from it. I DID very much prefer your dialogue format near the end when he was talking to his son compared with the earlier formats in the first few paragraphs.


The Moon Topples said...

The Jury says...

"Each paragraph is like a verse that is locking the main character into a set of expectations. Finally when the Joe character chooses to be different, the form of the piece reverts to prose. I really like the way the form of the story also helps to move the narrative."

Rick said...

Thanks everyone for all of your positive and encouraging comments!

I'm a sucker for a father/son story, too. My wife laughs at me whenever "Field of Dreams" is on TV. The scene where the Kevin Costner-character's father asks if he wants to "have a catch" opens the floodgates every time. I get teary-eyed just thinking about it...

Thank you.
It's hard (in 500 words) to convey, but yeah, that's essentially what I was trying to show, and that his "redemption" comes from within, from his own self-awareness.

Although I think that you (and others) credit me with a bit too much technical know-how (thanks, though!), the formatting was intentional. In the "paragraphs" there was no *real* dialogue (until perhaps the last one, where the character talks to himself). Change happens when people start talking...

Thanks for your kind words.

Yes, that's what I was trying to express, and that (as I mentioned to HinSF) it has to come from within. Thanks!

Thanks, your kind words have touched me!

Brilliant Donkey,
Thanks for your comments! As I mentioned to Verillion, the formatting was very intentional, and it's easy for me to understand why you preferred the "dialogue".

To the kind Jury,
Thank you, indeed!