Awful Thing

Monday, March 28, 2005

I've decided not to continue working on this story idea. I thought I had something, but while crumpling through multiple studies, I found nothing. I might return to it one day when I give it more thought.

“Tell me about the awful thing you did.”

Paul gazed back. “All of it?”

“That’s what was agreed.”

“He’s holding back. Shoot him!”

Paul gnawed on his cheek and nodded. “Where should I start?”

“Where you will. We are not rushed. Take your time and explore all of the details.”

“Don’t believe a word he says. Just look at his eyes, they ooze duplicity. Beat him with the noodle and get done with it!”

“I did everything for a reason.” Paul shifted in his chair and leaned slightly forward. “If we look at the reasons individually, I don’t think you’ll have any complaints. You’ll almost appreciate what happened.”

“We’re not here to judge you, Paul. We want to understand.”

“Judge him, goddamn it!”

Paul stroked the top of his shaved head. “That is as you say. But I wanted to warn you where I was going. I’ll start at the beginning, the precursors for my establishment of the business, and we’ll see where it goes from there.

“I returned home in 1965, to Brooklyn, after a three-year stint in the army. My father met me at the train station and handed me ten one-hundred dollar bills. After giving me the dough, he turned and walked away. I caught up with him and asked what the money was for. He said, ‘Paul, take that and what you earned in the army and make something of yourself. Don’t return home until you do.’ I asked about mother. ‘She’s fine and she understands. You can write but I don’t want to see you until you’ve made something of yourself. This is more than what my father gave me when he tossed me out.’ I stood watching him walk away, my green duffel bag dropped between my legs. I never saw my father after that incident.”

“Did he die before you made it big?”

“No. He lived a long time. My mother wrote me when he died and I wired her money to pay for the funeral, but I didn’t go. My childhood was much of the same. My mother was never strong enough to overcome my father’s wishes, and I learned little but the discipline the depression taught my father. When I married, I vowed to be a better father to my own kids.”

“We all had problems growing up. None of this can excuse what he did. Fry him!”

“Please, go on, Paul.”

Paul reached over and grabbed the glass of ice water from the metal table. He upturned the glass, catching the ice on his lips, until he swallowed all the water. “I hadn’t expected to be thrown out, and I spent all the money I earned in the army touring Europe. But I wasn’t a stranger to adversary, and I took the money and checked into a men’s hostel.

“This is more than just you relaying the facts, Paul. We want to know what you learned and what you thought at the different times of your life. As we said, we want to understand you in the context of your decisions and who you were.”

***

Cutting Board:

It was an unusual moment for us. We didn’t have relationships with our parents like today. My father grew up during the depression, and his attitude toward his children was the same as his attitude toward money. He didn’t talk about money but he treasured each dollar he made. My mother clipped coupons and searched for hours for deals.

I returned home after serving a three-year stint in the army. They stationed me in Germany

The army stationed me in Germany for three years after basic training. I stood in front of the Army Administration building and checked the credentials of visitors. It wasn’t a bad post. We mostly sat around, smoked, and talked about the girls we had back home, or the girls we met or pretended to meet in Germany. Once my enlistment was up, I planned to travel Europe, but things started getting in the way.

My father handed me ten one-hundred dollar bills when I turned twenty-two. In the three months after I returned from my army stint in Germany, I had made a pest of myself. I cruised around the neighborhood, lived at home and argued with my mother, stayed out all hours, and wrecked the Oldsmobile my father gave me.

At twenty-three, after finishing my stint in the army, my father gave me one-thousand dollars.

to start a business. He worked

I forgot about the cost and focused on receiv

It’s something nobody tells you when you’re young. Or, if they did tell you, it’s something you don’t listen to because you think you know better.

A few of us were successful, but to make it, to really make it as a businessman, you had to play tough. You’re probably thinking that I crossed a line, that I took that toughness to an extreme.”