Martin Luther King Jr. Day

“Walt, get in here right this instant!”  The report card sat on his father’s desk next to a stack of legal briefs and pen holder with brass eagles.  “What is the meaning of this?”

It hadn’t been a sterling semester, at least not academically.  The fact that he’d had his first kiss (Margaret, cool) and drunk his first beer (Molson, warm) would not distract his father from the C in AP Bio and the two electives that he dropped back in October.  He’d need to get a 5 on the bio test for college credit and pull a couple of 21-credit semesters to graduate on time.

“This is not the performance I was expecting.  That school costs money,” said his father, drawing out the unnnh in “money.”

“I know, dad, it’s just that –”

“It’s just what?  Are you not intellectually capable of completing, what is it, ‘Shop Fundamentals’?  Baffled by the lathe, is it?”

“No, dad, it’s not the coursework –”

“Maybe public school would be a better match, better preparation for your upcoming career?  Which is what, exactly?”

“I’m not sure, dad.  We’ve been over this, I want to go undeclared for my first year –”

“Right, so you can find yourself and then need to go on to tens of thousands of dollars worth of grad school so you can have more than an English Lit degree.  It’s not like we’ll be getting financial aid,” said his father, gesturing at the office and the five-bedroom house around it.

They were both silent for a moment.  Walt put his hand on the door jamb, steadying himself.  He’d stood there a thousand times.  “I’ll try to do better next semester, dad.”

“Please do.”

Walt walked away.  His father took off his glasses and tossed them on the desk.  He rubbed his eyes and noticed the date on the desk-blotter calendar.  The number was in red.  “Huh,” he grunted, not entirely with conscious control.  He was thankful that there were brave men in the world.

–Steve Kilian

The Ghost of Nixon and Obama: A Dialogue

One Step Forward, Two Steps Banks


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