Oscy Gets a Life

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In response to yesterday’s Father’s Day is Coming; My Father’s Night is Here, I’ve been getting some of the kindest emails and comments ever. So I definitely appreciate that.

I don’t know if this is the sort of thing you guys would be interested in, but about three years ago on this blog I published a short story type … thing, that I wrote maybe twenty years ago now, when I was going through this great stage of … trying to write in a new way, basically. Anyway, in this story I tried to capture a bit of the same sort of emotional content I dealt with in yesterday’s post. Only about nine people read this the first time I published it (and to those nine, if you’re still around: this version has been tweaked a bit, and has a new ending), so I thought I’d now run it here again. Thank you.

Oscy Gets a Life

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 heard a voice inside his 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 much 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?” his mom repeated. “How’s that again?” Her hearing was fine, though.

“Say, son,” said Oscy’s dad, “that’s a terrific 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 anything, 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?”

“Yes, Father.”

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 gave him much to consider. 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 ice man living in a crystal palace in the side of a huge 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 finch flittering through in the braches above, Oscy heard the front door of his ex-house slam shut. He rolled onto his stomach to look out over the edge of his tree house. He 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 cement spray-painted green.

Which had much to do with 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 a little closer to the edge of the tree house. He thought he might call out something, 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’s that now?”

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, flickering movie, one of those really old ones where everyone is supposed to be so funny.

Similarly: The Story of My Life

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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. John is a pastor ordained by The Progressive Christian Alliance. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. And don't forget to sign up for his mucho awesome monthly newsletter.

  • Angie

    Wow …. This makes me want to cry. What a way with words you have.

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

      This feels like a weird thing to say, but thank you.

  • Kim de Geus

    Spectacular writing. This is the kind of macabre story that makes me shift uncomfortably in my seat. Not always my favorite because I'm such a Pollianna type, but I can certainly appreciate brilliant writing when I see it. "Fatty" as a nickname for "Fatima". That's too funny!

  • Allyson

    Sad and lovely.

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

    Thanks for this kind response. I went through a period of about six, seven months, way back when, when I wrote a lot of these kinds of stories. Maybe I'll start publishing up here, maybe on days when I don't have anything else to say, or whatever. Honestly, I didn't think anyone would really … get them, if you see what I mean. They're so … weird, I know. But if anyone here likes 'em, I got a million of 'em.

    • Allyson

      I say keep 'em coming.

  • Tanager

    Bittersweet and though-provoking. When you want to read it over a couple of times and then want to think about it for a while, it's worth reading. When you can see it in your head, it's even better :-) Thanks for sharing!

  • Tanager

    Uh, "thought-provoking" was what I mean to type. More coffee, anyone?

  • Don Whitt

    Nice – there's that visceral thing about being 15-18 years old and you want to get the hell outta dodge, family-wise, but you're sad because a component of that is seeing your parents through a new lens of adulthood. It's unsettling – you question everything that's preceded that moment. It hurts. It's "growing up". Nice.

  • Zoomer

    A perfect expression of alienation.

  • http://davehambo.wordpress.com davehambo

    Hello there, I have wandered here from tagsurfer of short fiction at wordpress, a subject we share an interest in. Heavy duty stuff, sir; but beautifully crafted. Best to you and yours, dave

  • http://www.sheppardministries.com Greta Sheppard

    Oscy resurrected chapters of my own life!

    Like Don Witt said: "..you wanted to get out'a Dodge…" Couldn't take certain abuses no more. I knew I had to get somewhere else and I 'fled Dodge' as it were, when I was 15.

    John, you couldn't write these kinds of stories if you hadn't experienced the awesome 'tree house' for yourself. Keep writing true to life stories.. they bring healing…..it's a hurtin' world out there!


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