Okay, I’m Back! But Just For This One!

Here’s a short story I’ve lately been goofing around with. It’s called:

Fathers, Sons

Once upon a time there was a little boy named Oscy McGee. Oscy thought his parents were geeks. He didn’t want to think that –but there it was.

“Hey, Os!” said his dad, nudging him. “What say you and I go down to the roller skating rink, and watch the babes strappin’ on their skates? Huh? Huh? Whadda’ya say, big guy?”

“Gee, Dad,” said Oscy. “Do you really think that’s an appropriate thing to be asking your eight-year-old son?”

“Oh, Oscy,” said Oscy’s mom, Fatima, setting down some delicious baked goods on the dining room table. “Don’t be such a stick in the mud. Here. Cram a cupcake down your face.”

“But, Mom,” said Oscy. “Mmmmpphhrumph.”

One Sunday morning Oscy woke up in his completely-decorated-in-houndstooth bedroom, and felt a voice inside him saying, “OSCY, IF YOU SPEND ONE MORE NIGHT IN THIS HOUSE, YOU’RE GOING TO GO INSANE. GO LIVE IN THE TREE HOUSE IN YOUR BACKYARD.”

“Wow,” thought Oscy, “I knew I should have made Dad build a better floor in that tree house. Oh, well. I’m outta here.”

At the family breakfast table that morning, Oscy said, “Mom, Dad, sorry, but it looks like I’ll be moving outside into the tree house to live.”

“What?” said Oscy’s mom, plopping a giant scoop of oatmeal into the bowl of Oscy’s dad. “I didn’t hear you, dear.”

“I said I’m gonna be moving out of the house to go live in the tree house in the backyard, Mom.”

“What?” she repeated. “How’s that again?” Her hearing was fine, though.

“Say, son,” said Oscy’s dad, “that’s a grand idea! The tree house! You can live in the tree house! It’s outside! The tree house is outside! If you move out there, that’s where you’ll be! Yep! Pass the sugar and those little fried things, will ya’, Fatty?” (That was his nickname for his wife.)

It didn’t take Oscy long to pack: A pair of shoes, a navy blue bandana or two, a box of delicious Juicy Fruit gum.

“Well, bye, Mom,” he said.

“Huh? What?”

“See ya’ around, Dad.”

“Adios, son,” said his dad. “And listen: If ya’ ever get into any trouble or anythin, you’re gonna need your old man to bail ya’ out, aren’t ya?”

“Yeah, Dad.”

Oscy’s dad put his arm around his shoulder. “Aren’t ya’, boy?” he said, squeezing.

“Yeah, Dad.”

“Aren’t ya’?”

“Yeah, Dad.”

He squeezed harder. “Aren’t ya?”

“Yeah, Dad.”

His dad released Oscy. “And don’t you forget it, either, ya’ little knucklehead.”

“I won’t, Dad. Good-bye, now.”

Oscy loved living in the tree house among the branches, leaves, birds, and ants, whose regimental approach to life caused him such wonder. At night he would crawl under a stack of old blankets and look up through the leaves at the stars. When he slept, he usually dreamed he was a giant iceman living in a crystal palace in the side of a mountain in the North Pole. Whenever Giant Ice Oscy wanted something, he had merely to point and will it, and it was done.

Early one Saturday morning, while lying on his back in his tree house watching a flittering finch in the braches above, Oscy heard the front door of his ex-house slam shut. He rolled on his stomach to look out over the edge of his tree house, and saw his father walking from the house to the garage. Dressed in his “weekend grubbies,” as he called them, his dad was clearly planning to do some yard work. He hauled open the garage door and began gathering the tools for the job: hedge clippers, power mower, electric grass trimmer, branch pulverizer. He set them all on the driveway.

Then he stood with his hands on his hips, contentedly surveying the grounds around him. “Yep,” he said. “Yard work. That’ll do ‘er.”

The problem, though, was that there wasn’t any yard to work on at all. Except for Oscy’s tree, the entire McGee “yard” consisted of nothing but spray-painted green cement.

Which, of course, explained why the McGee yard care equipment was in such pristine condition.

“Yep,” said Oscy’s dad again. “Time to trim the ol’ yard up.” He rocked back on his heels, happy to think of getting some of that good soil under his nails, of shaping and perfecting the yard around his house. He never moved from that spot, though. He just stood there, rocking back and forth, patting his stomach and saying, “Yep. Yard work. That’ll do ‘er.”

Oscy wiggled closer to the edge of the tree house. He thought he might call something out, like-”Hey, Dad! It’s me! Oscy! I’m still out here! Remember how I moved out here to live and everything? Remember that?”

He tried to say that, or something like it. But when he opened his mouth, the only thing that came out was a weird little wheezing noise. Nothing. Still, though, his father cocked an ear, as if he’d actually heard something.

“What?” he said, peering off into the distance. “How’zat?”

Oscy tried once more to say something, but he knew it would be useless; like his mother, his father sometimes just couldn’t hear him. He slowly rolled onto his back again, and rested his clasped hands upon his chest. The rapid flickering of the sunlight through the leaves made him feel like he was in a silent movie, starring one of those Oldye Timey guys who was always supposed to be so funny. It was like he was in a movie that had begun to play a very, very long time ago, and that wouldn’t stop playing for a very long time to come.

About John Shore

John Shore (who, fwiw, is straight) is the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, and three other great books. He is founder of Unfundamentalist Christians (on Facebook here), and executive editor of the Unfundamentalist Christians group blog.  (In total John's two blogs receive some 250,000 views per month.) John is also co-founder of The NALT Christians Project, which was written about by TIME,  The Washington Post, and others. His website is JohnShore.com. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. Don't forget to sign up for his mucho-awesome newsletter.

  • Michelle

    Very sad, even more so because the parents don’t seem to have a clue that it’s sad. What comes next? You’ve caught my interest and got me hoping for Oscy to grow up quick and get away.

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    Yes. Yes, that WOULD be best, wouldn’t it?

  • http://savemenot.wordpress.com samanthamj

    I have no clue where this came from, or where you're going with this… but, it did catch my interest enough for me to read the whole thing… and if there was more… I'd keep reading.

    Very vivid characters… gotta love/hate the totally oblivious Dad. The yardwork, and spray painted yard, hammered home that he was totally out of touch. (In case the interactions with his son didn't quite prove it.)

    I did wonder how the tree managed to survive the rest of the yard's fate… but, I'm sure that was not relevant.

    =)

    ~smj

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    Yeah, this sort of weird, fable-like "fiction" stuff I do doesn't exactly lend itself to any kind of literal analysis. I mean, nobody REALLY has green cement for a lawn, with one live tree sticking through. It's all just … symbols, really. Anyway, thanks for reading, and commenting. I sure appreciate it.

  • http://DukeyDog Michael L. Duke

    This story reminds me of a friend of mine who was always goofing around without much parental guidance. He lived in the same town most of his life except for his stretch in the Air Force.

    Why he didn’t go somewhere else like I did? Well, maybe its because he was a “small towner’ and its always familiar in the small town.

    He worked for a local power plant on the Ohio River for 28 years then was retired because of Asbestos cancer which he’s paying for in his damaged body; I just found this out last night. I’ve not talked to the fellow for 30-odd years because we live in different states.

    I think last night may be the last time I ever hear from him. Bummer!

  • http://ricbooth.wordpress.com ric booth

    Sadly very comfortable. Content without love. Empty and unaware. Really phony. Absolutely absurd. Makes one wonder, how could anyone be satisfied with such an existence?

  • http://desiringlife.wordpress.com/ Luke

    John,

    Enjoyed looking around the site. I love your site subtitle. So true. And beautiful.

    Thanks.

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    Thanks very much, Luke. (And hey, Ric!)

  • Thomas Michalski

    There’s a story in the bible that is sort of like this isn’t it. Except in the end the kid comes back and there is another “Son” who takes his place shortly after he leaves?

    I dunno, don’t know what book(its the old testament, that much i know), but i thought it was a modern retelling, though i think the moral of the story is different here. It also reminds me, a little, of the story of Buddha, if you are at all familiar with it.

    I’m not 100 percent sure what the moral is here: maybe that we all take things for granted, or rather, how can we take things for granted when were not even aware of what we have; sometimes the things that seem the most natural and unquestionable to us are really artificial; humans are content to not question their delusions; there’s more to love than providing material possessions-it really leads me to ponder a plethora of questions-which is is effective in its own right, however, could we have a few more clues perhaps as to what the essence of this parabol is or am I complicating something that is supposed to be simple.

  • Thomas Michalski

    On an unrelated note, John, I just started(finally!) reading “The Elements of Style”. Wow! What a simple and effective little guide to composition and grammar. Why this is not mandatory reading for anyone in Middle School, High School, or College is beyond me.

    Get to the point-so simple and yet so elusive for so many writers.

    Oh thats right, No Child Left Behind (without having to take a standardized test that is dumbed down because if it isn’t School Districts lose their funding and ignoring the fact that in certain situations teachers have teach multiple classes in multiple subject areas for various reasons ).

    Sadly though, i really need to review my basic grammar skills. While i make the correct decisions 90% of the time, it’s still so infuriating to me that I cannot perfectly diagram a sentence. I mean I can, but remembering all of the terms, if ya know what I mean, and clearly identifying them. I need to improve that, and soon. Does “Comma Sense” do that; provide a crash course in terms of grammar?

    If it does, I’ll check it out, because all of my books from college assume that the person knows these things, and does not address them. It’s like for every new piece of information I learn, there’s something I lose.

    By the way, what are you reading lately? I need some new books.

    PS…If you want to delete this, as it has nothing to do with the posts, that fine. I Probably should have just emailed you.

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    Hey, Thomas. What an earnest, inquisitive person you seem to be! Thanks for writing.

    1. I have no idea what the “moral” of my story here might be. Something about the individual and inescapable nature of personal destiny, I suppose. You know: for me, it’s just art. These are experiments in the whole short story form, to be honest. As presumptuous as it sounds, I was looking for a whole NEW way to do short stories–and finally, in a burst, came to this style, which has (publishing-wise), served me very well. Not that I care–at least, not about these.

    2. If it’s any comfort, “Elements of Style” IS required reading in schools all over the country. And there’s sure nothing sad about reviewing/brushing up on basic grammar skills. It’s FANTASTIC you’re doing that. Talk about the gift bound to keep on giving. If you’re in control of what you write, life gets a LOT better. Being able to effectively communicate in print is a very powereful life tool to have. Good for you for understanding that. It’s becoming increasingly valuable in a decreasingly literate society, too. Sweet! Sort of!

    By the way, I can’t “diagram” a sentence. I actually hate that stuff. I just … can’t do it, don’t want to, never learned it, bores me to death. But, obviously, that’s just me. Which is irrelevant. So never mind.

    Yeah, Comma Sense has some grammar stuff in it, but only insofar as it applies to punctuation–which, of course, is quite far. The book’s basically two-in-one: The bulk of it explains the REASONING behind the proper usage of each punctuation mark–and then the back of it is just a hardcore, E-Z Lookup set of rules (with examples). So, it’s, like … theory AND application. It’s good like that. I know it, too, is being used in all kinds of schools.

    What am I reading lately? Well, let’s see. I’ve yet to stop reading (for years and years now) two books: “The Philosophy of Andy Warhol” and “A Confederacy of Dunces”–so I’m still reading those. I’m also reading a translation of The Bahagavad Gita that I love (and have been reading for some 20 years now). I just finished my second reading of the incredible “Rule of the Bone” by Russell Banks. I also just finished the last book Kurt Vonnegut wrote before he died, the very unjovial “A Man Without a Country.” I just started “Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism,” by John Shelby Spong. So … I don’t know. Like that. I’ve really lately been getting a LOT out of the Catholic classic, “Christ Among Us.”

    I’m not actually much of a reader. I mean, I know it sort of might SOUND like I am, but I’m … well, I don’t know. Maybe I am. I’m a really SLOPPY reader: I’m forever picking a book off my shelves, reading it for ten minutes, and then tripping over it for the next five months since I never picked it up off the floor where I dropped it. I tend to read the same books over and over again. Huckleberry Finn. Grapes of Wrath. “The Fixer,” by Bernard Malamud, is one of my all-time favorites.


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