S h o r t   F i c t i o n  /  E s s a y s


Steve

Part 1: The Snappy Thinker

(Written when Steve was 8)


Steve is the kid in the middle: the one for whom being replaced as the baby twice was once too often; the kid not old enough to go out with the older two and who seems to only get in the way of his two younger brothers.  The child who, when he would occasionally escape from our country home at the age of two, would never go for anywhere sensible like the orchard or across the driveway to his grandparents' house, but would inevitably head for the creek bank or the middle of the road.  Well, except for the one instance when I discovered him perched atop of my parents' second-story roof.  These days he seems to ride out in front of a car every time he leaves the driveway on his bicycle--without looking first, of course.  He's the one who protests, 'Yes, I'm listening!' while he looks through you, consciously focusing all his effort on blocking you out.

I have spent time wondering why me?  What did I do to deserve this kid I rarely seem to get through to?  And then, finally--miraculously--we have something in common.  One day he comes and surprises me by asking me to read him some of what I've been writing.  So I read him a psychological sketch where a character with a overdose of bravado paces around a cabin on a tirade about what he plans to do to two other characters.  "He's scared," Steve says matter-of-factly, picking up immediately on the man's nuances.  I read him a description of something yellow spilling down between two spring hills like sauce draining off ice cream.  Before I'm halfway through Steve smiles.  "Mustard flowers!" he says triumphantly.  He picks up on little details the older two miss even on the second reading, when they know they're looking for something.  (Years later I discover that on his first grade listening comprehension test, he scored at the eighth-grade level.)

I'm amazed.  He smiles when I tell him how good he is at analysis.  Coming closer, he says in a confidential tone, "Mom, you know I'm really a snappy thinker."  Finally, some common ground.  I remind myself of this when he smears Chapstick on the wall or slices his new pants with his Swiss Army knife.  I try to work with him and remember that at night he'll come to me and say, "Mom, read me something you've written."

Other parts of Steve's saga:

Steve 2 (fifteen years later)

A Fall Arrested

 

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