“Don’t talk that shit, boy. Sayin’ you never got no childhood. I was working when I was seven years old. Long hours. I didn’t go to school but every once in a while. But you gonna bitch about three hours after school.”
“Dad. I get it. I know what you went through, but we ain’t starvin’. If you didn’t work, y’all went hungry. We ain’t never out of food. House is damn near paid for. I never minded so much before, but I’m in High School now.”
“And you ain’t man enough to get your dick twisted on your day off? Hell, you ain’t no bird dog, boy.”
“It’s not about girls, Pop. I just want to keep my grades up and be on the team. Coach has seen what I can do, and he said with hard work on the court and in the classroom…”
“He said what? You could be a cheerleader?”
“No, Pop. I can throw a football on a line. 70 yards every time. If my grades stay OK, Coach said I’d be looking at scholarships. Nothing too fancy, but state schools for sure.”
“Alright, so you got that arm. What you need the coach for?”
“To learn, Pops. To play with a team. To get better and develop my passes. Learn routes and get used to throwing in shoulder pads…”
“Boy, you know I could throw just as good as you, and what did that mean? Jack shit. That’s what it meant.”
“Pops, please. Please try to understand.”
“What, I’m just a dumb hick who can’t understand plain talk? That it?”
“No Pops, I just want to…”
“What? Say thanks for this house and the food you eat? You thankful for having an old man that taught you to work?”
“No nothing, cheerleader. You drop this now before I lose my temper.”
The slap came from way over in Alabama, and it practically spun him around. He tasted blood and could feel it rising in his cheek. A slap from Pops hurt worse than a punch. Quite a trick.
Derrick tried to speak, but it was cut short with the rifle-clap of a slap on the other cheek. For a minute he stood there, willing himself not to cry, but he knew it was coming, so he bolted out the back door. There was no fixing this. There would be no football. He couldn’t buck the old man, as much as he wanted to.
He ran until he was tired, and he ended up by the little creek. He fished there, but it was hard fishing. The water rushed by, and he always figured it wanted to get past his house as fast as it could. Especially since Mama died.
He threw a stick in the water and watched it tumble. And he made a promise, out loud, to the stream and the sky and the fish and his mother up in heaven.
“Let me be a better man,” he said. Don’t make me work my boy so hard. Or push him because I never got to play. Don’t let a game break my son’s heart. Just let me be a bigger man. Please.”
The ‘please’ came out in a long sob. He knew he couldn’t leave his old man. Even if he hated him. Not since Mama died. She wouldn’t have wanted that for him. But he knew that once he turned 18, he was going to be a walk-on, and he was going to try his best. And he would visit his father only occasionally and hope they talked about the weather.
The sun was falling, but he didn’t mind. Work would come soon enough.
Heartbreaking, the generational differences and also similarities that come to pass.ReplyDelete
I know that let me be better prayer. Prayed it myself about both parents.
Yes, it was a wrenching scene. I loved how the dialogue depicted the inherent obstacles in how they communicate or should I say, don't. I also loved the prayer. I've heard many wish only to be better parents then their own.Delete
A heartfelt pushback against toxic masculinity. It takes generations, it seems. Beautiful writing.Delete
A talk with a 2021 high school graduate.ReplyDelete
If you're doing the 'College Thing' for ANYONE but YOURSELF, they won't be the best years of your life. College is not for everyone and with the number of graduates seeking work, the job market is flooded and they're having to settle for low paying jobs pushing out the less educated from their job market niche.
The parental push for a four year college education is engendering a shortage of workers in the plumbing, auto mechanic, repair, and electrical fields. Have you seen what electricians & plumbers charge? Get a car fixed lately? That's a damn good living. As far as I'm concerned, the guy/gal who stops shit from backing up into my bathtub? He/she can charge whatever they want and I'll gladly pay it!
Some people enjoy working with their hands and receive great satisfaction laboring in fields that require that. Maybe a Tech School would be a better choice for you. I tested out of HS in my first semester of 11th grade—CHSPE, California's slightly harder version of a GED. Living on my own at 17 I didn't have the desire, nor could I afford four years of college, I needed a job right away to support myself.
After 8 years of entry level jobs I figured out how i wanted to spend my working career. I started classes at a cheap Community College studying Comp Sci at night. Two years later I had enough schooling to get an entry level Tech job and work my way up in the department. I self-taught myself many popular office software suites and operating systems. When contract Tech Support came to handle some of our more exotic systems, I was tasked with reading the manuals and supervising the contactors so we could bring those tasks in-house. 10 years later I left that company with the title of Administrator, Management Information Systems to raise children and relocate to another state.
6 years later, my skills still relevant as now everyone had a computer and could be a wiz if they wanted. Plus devices didn't become obsolete as quickly as they do now. I returned to working Tech. Entry level IT Support. Quickly advanced in the department through self teaching and shadowing the computerized phone system contractors—nobody in IT wanted ANYTHING to do with the antique PBX system. When I retired six years later, it was as the Network Administrator for a seven server phone/fax/email system with a 200 seat call center.
I made good money in IT, better as I advanced. Was always able to support myself, no college required.
Almost read like a PSA announcement for why we need to rethink education goals in this country, heck the world. Loved the strong beginning. No equivocation, just truth telling.Delete
That previous was a test. Lol. I agree with many of your points and I often wonder what life would be like if I had taken a different path. Definitely be making more moneyDelete
Think of the purest creature you’ve ever seen?ReplyDelete
Like, what, an ex or something?
Doesn’t have to be human.
So a deer, maybe?
Possibly. Where did you see this deer?
On the edge of a forest.
A buck, a doe, a faun?
What is she doing?
Showing me something.
How do you know?
Her tail is flicking, she’s kind of…
What? Kind of what?
This doe. Okay. What happens next?
I get out of my car and…
And I follow her. Into the trees.
Do you want to follow her?
Yes. I can smell her.
That deer scent?
No. Her sex scent. It’s pouring from her hindquarters like spores. I just…
I just… want her. Want to fuck her.
So then you woke up?
I don’t think it was a dream.
Uh, I feel awkward saying this, but I really hope for your sake it was.
It got worse.
I’m not sure I…
She turned back to look at me as I advanced, and her face was gone.
Smoothed like sand at the tideline. No face at all. And she was moaning.
With no mouth?
What did you do?
Turned around and ran, back toward the road. Night had fallen quickly.
I’m going to guess you got disoriented and missed the road.
No, actually. I did okay. Scrambled, found my car, and it even started, and I drove away.
You’re right; this wasn’t a dream.
I drove hard and I drove fast and I kept going, those woods closing in on all sides, and I saw the glow of a town up ahead, and as I left the wild places a shape appeared in my headlights, something dark.
And it was a person? A rescuer?
No. And please let me tell this. But no. It was a wolf, breathing hard, a pool of saliva gathered on the hard-top below its muzzle. Daring me to run it over.
And did you?
I felt desperate. I thought about it. I even stood on the gas pedal and revved and let out the clutch and lurched forward.
But before I could plow through it, I saw its face: featureless, plain, like pale-grey tundra, like the apparition of some other world’s fauna. Like some visceral ghost. Flesh rubbed out.
Did you run it down?
No. I couldn’t. It felt like something fragile, dreamed of by bit-part players in some obscure film.
I don’t understand.
Like something unremembered. Told to none.
Again, not following.
How do I explain? What it is to be alive, this terrible sacred gift.
Maybe that’s enough now. We should stop.
No. One last thought. A faceless woman in a yellow summer dress with skin the colour of deerskin rides a red bicycle along quiet lanes flanked by hedges of fuchsia, crickets sussurating, a lark rising in a helix spiral, a song of life. Nothing will ever come along to erase this. Not now. Not ever. This. Whatever comes, this, this has been stamped into the earth.
Dream? No dream? I was enthralled by this.Particularly loved the listener and their discomfort and the faceless component of what he saw.Delete
This is the weirdest Deer porn… lol.Delete
It’s super Evocative. I like the mystery, And the way it builds that lush final paragraph/stanza is awesome
Ironically, some of this came from a dream, although not the deer porn, lol. I think for the character it really happened, perhaps only because he believes it did.Delete
It was hard to believe that everything would change after tonight. That the last seventeen weeks leading up to it would become just a history they shared. A time they’d think about during the in-between times of work or play. Life gaps where wistful conjurings of past moments could make you feel...
Ruby leaned into the length of Josh, who was leaning against one of the stone columns that anchored the room.
What was it she felt? Euphoric? Secure? Safe? All of the above, maybe. And then, for real truth, she allowed her mind to drift to an internal confession. She hadn’t felt this kind of joyful peace with someone in a long, long time. Sure, her sister made her feel secure and sometimes even, safe. And her love for Sadie was like a boulder they both carried. Heavy, impenetrable. Ride or die barely described their relationship.
Josh adjusted himself against the column and Ruby mirrored his movement, leaning her shaved head against his shoulder. His locs, sturdy and thick, providing a soft purchase for her. Inhaling deep, she let the smell of the shea and rosemary oil she’d help him rub into each loc that morning wash over her. She loved that he had so much hair while she had none. She loved the feel of it when it traveled down her body, as he did. She sighed into a sense memory.
Josh sighed too but for different reasons. She knew he wanted to say something. But this wasn’t the place. The lobby of the Ace hotel in Downtown Brooklyn was a study in aspirational coolness. Ruby and Josh looked the part and fit well into its backdrop. But at eleven p.m. on a Friday night, the place was also packed and loud. There wasn’t an empty seat anywhere, and even if there had been, a deep conversation like the one they needed to have, wouldn’t be possible.
A native New Yorker, Ruby had never heard of the place. It was new and therefore a novelty, especially after the drought of the pandemic. One of their co-workers on the project, Issac, had told them about it. A bi-racial graphic designer, originally from Crediton, a small suburb of South England, Issac looked like a browner, taller version of Rami Malik. His mastery of finding the right place to pick up interesting girls had been established early and often, during the short time they’d all been working together. Issac had attempted to ask Ruby out early on in the project, piercing her with his alluring self-possessed eyes, but he’d gotten friend zoned immediately.
She hadn’t set her sights on anyone, not even Josh. It was the first real job she’d had in ages. She wasn’t about to let her typical carnal urges fuck up this opportunity to do what she’d studied for. What her sister had sweated blood to pay for her to learn how to do.
“Do you want to leave?”
Josh spoke, his mouth against her forehead. His voice husky and low was barely discernible over the music.
“Do you?” She parried.
Josh pushed himself away from the column, gently disengaging from their physical closeness, so he could look down at her straight on. Avoiding his eyes, Ruby let her gaze move up to the top knot on his head, which sat like a capillaceous crown of ropes, giving him an air of majesty and strength. It made her a little woozy to stare up at it.
“I want us to talk. That ain’t happening here.”
“We could get a room.”
They turned away from each other to look at the hotel lobby done in understated sapwoods, leather couches, black cowhide chairs, and perfect ambient lighting.
“It’s probably pretty expensive.” Ruby murmured.
“We can afford it now that XS has their algorithm. But that’s not the real problem.”
Josh turned back to her. His eyes narrowed behind his glasses.
“I don’t know that we’d do much talking.”
The smile that her face broke into was out of her control. Normally it would have charmed him into kissing her. But Josh wasn’t having any. He was on a mission. A mission filled with choices to make. Options that Ruby didn’t want to have.
“We need to talk Ruby. We’ve got to make some decisions.”
She took his large hands then. Holding them both in hers, letting the weight of them warm her enough that it could almost hide how scared she felt.
“I know a place we could go. It’s not too far.”
“Good. Lead the way.”
His eagerness to get through the next phase in their impasse was palpable.
Taking a deep breath Ruby turned and led the way out.
The rain was light and manageable for the walk they had ahead of them.
One of many she hoped.
I really dig this. Complicated relationship is Really well portrayed. I love the boulder of love, and this: The lobby of the Ace hotel in Downtown Brooklyn was a study in aspirational coolness. I also think it’s a great mix of what we’re told and what we’re not toldDelete
Yes! So much happening here. I'm in awe of writers who do this, encapsulate the complexity of human relationships, as Dan says, and in such short order. All that aside, though, and all of it is true, my poet radar felt this short sentence especially strongly:Delete
"She sighed into a sense memory."
The fleas. The fleas. They're just too much for me. Some people don't believe me when I tell them, but there are swarms of fleas around me. Jumping and biting, gnawing on my core. I swat them away, flick them, spray my body with repellant, but it never seems to be enough. Sometimes I have short respites, momentary reliefs, but they are only flashes, glimpses of peace; once the distraction of having those little suckers on me is gone the itching kicks in, engulfing me. Distracted, that's a good way to put it. I never had this problem before. Well, that's not true, I just had it managed so much better. Every now and then I would have an infestation, moments, maybe days, of swarming fleas and so much lingering itching - but I could get rid of them, move on, allow me enough time for the bites to heal. Now, its constant - never-ending fleas, bites, itches, scratches - I scratch so bad that I open up my skin and I bleed. I keep thinking if I can just organize my room, if I didn't have so much stuff, if I could declutter my mind, maybe I could get rid of these fleas. These god damned fleas.ReplyDelete
Now I'm all itchy. 😉Super evocative imagery. Reminded me a little of Italo Calvino. I really Like The way the character is defined by the struggle. That's a cool characterization technique.Delete
Yeah, I hate myself for this, but it gets under your skin. A kind of body horror and existential angst combo. Panicky. Wow.Delete
Thank you for your engagement in my response. I appreciate the feedback.Delete
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