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Be A Man

Be A Man

A Story by Eric
"

Dream, and in your dreams coyotes eat their young, children learn to ride bikes without fathers to run behind, and God is a woman caught shaving her legs in the Fountain of Youth.

"

Begin the conversation by baring your throat, a sign of submission. Lower your eyes. Hide your contempt. Think bunny thoughts, mouse thoughts, and small, furry critter thoughts so he doesn’t feel threatened. Let him know he can devour you in one bloodless gulp. This is the way to keep your job.

 
He visits your cubicle. Wonder who taught you to tuck your tail, to piddle, to say “please” and “thank you” so often. Like a boy-band fan, sigh and faint at his feet. Effuse.
 
No doubt he changes his own spark plugs, bucks broncos, eats rattlesnakes. He shakes my hand as if to say, “Be a man.” I squeeze harder, think of football and fishing but alas, I am no more a man than before. I know this because I use the word “alas.” 
 
When his three hundred dollar pin striped suit walks away, do not cry. Face your computer and pretend to type memos; duijkdf, dfjfd; df;jkfda; fdl;j. 
 
Understand that my boss hates me. He’s never said so, I just know, which is yet another reason he hates me. He’ll say, “Join us for a beer after work.” He means, “Be a man.” I decline to join the boys, for beer that is.
 
To him I’m the office un-man. I watch Audrey Hepburn movies, hum show tunes, and use the word “fabulous.”          
 
Watch the clock; 4:26, 4:32, 4:37, 4:41, 4:49. Go.
                        
Head toward your car. My boss yells across the parking lot, “Blah, blah, blah.” To which I smile and say, “You have a blah, blah, blah too.” 
 
Your car smells like Kentucky Fried Chicken. Drive through the drive through at Kentucky Fried Chicken on your way home. Hum the Patti Griffin song on the radio, and then get embarrassed when the attendant opens the window.   
 
He says (nose pierced): “Here are your chicken strips.”
 
I say, (red faced): “I didn’t order chicken strips.”
 
He says (eyebrow raised): “Yes you did, b***h.”
 
I say (eyes wide): “No I didn’t, sir.”
 
He says (with disdain): “You’re not a man.”
 
He doesn’t really say that but that’s what I hear. 
 
I say: “Thank you.”
 
Pull into traffic. Smile apologetically at the soccer mom who raises her “f**k you” flag. Her horn says, “BE A MAN!”
 
Eat your chicken strips and end the day at 9:45; go to bed. Lie awake feeling like an alien in your own life, a spork in a knife drawer. Loathe yourself in general. And in detail. 
 
Dream, and in your dreams coyotes eat their young, children learn to ride bikes without fathers to run behind, and God is a woman caught shaving her legs in the Fountain of Youth. Wake twisted and frozen on the tundra of air-conditioned sheets. 
 
Its 6:30 A.M. Continue to stare at the digital numbers on your alarm clock until you realize you will not go to work today. Call in sick.
 
“Get better,” the receptionist chirps.
 
“Be a man.” Is what you hear.
 
Hang up and cry like a little girl.
 
“Be a man,” you whisper.
 

© 2009 Eric


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Featured Review

Very poignant. Wonderful imagery in this piece.

My main issue with it is that the writing shifts back and forth between first and second person structures. It starts out as second person--"Begin the conversation by baring _your_ throat--which suggests to the reader that we're reading general advice about life, or about whatever the subject turns out to be. But then later the writing shifts to first-person--He shakes _my_ hand as if to say, "Be a man." _I_ squeeze harder--which forces your readers to stop for a moment, while they mentally re-analyze everything that has come before in this new, first-person context. It's jarring.

The wording drifts in and out of first and second person several times. The single thing you could do to best improve this piece is to pick one and stick with it. IMHO, first-person is the stronger choice.

Lastly, there's no arc in this piece. It is flat, even-tempered, throughout. The narrator starts and ends, emotionally, in exactly the same place. Yes, it's a short piece, but even so I think it would be more powerful to offer up some shred of hope at the end that the narrator has grown, changed, or advanced. Even just a tiny bit:

> "Get better," the receptionist chirps.
> "Be a man." Is what you hear.
> Hang up and cry like a little girl.
> Stop crying. Call back and quit.

That's just one idea, of course, but I think adding just a smidgeon of character arc will strengthen the story by leaving readers with a different imaginary outlook for the narrator. As is, all we can imagine is bleak misery in the guy's future. But if you change the emotional direction even just a little at the end, the reader can imagine a whole different life for the hapless fellow.

Posted 13 Years Ago


4 of 4 people found this review constructive.




Reviews

damn, Eric, I am nearly always left with nothing to say by the time I get through your work. You've said it all, and then some. You have all these highly complex characters dancing around in your brain, and when they step out on the page they are fully formed and stunning.

I'm glad you came back. I may start bugging you more often about publishing. You can't hide this stuff forever.

Posted 13 Years Ago


0 of 1 people found this review constructive.

... I remember this one. It's a favorite. It gets me in my gut and that guy at Kentucky fried chicken? I want to blow him a raspberry and sometimes I do.

Dream, and in your dreams coyotes eat their young, children learn to ride bikes without fathers to run behind, and God is a woman caught shaving her legs in the Fountain of Youth. Wake twisted and frozen on the tundra of air-conditioned sheets.... I'm in love with this paragraph.

Your words make me stronger today.

Posted 13 Years Ago


2 of 2 people found this review constructive.

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Neg
Very interesting, I like your style. Good work.

Posted 13 Years Ago


1 of 2 people found this review constructive.

Very inspiring. I love it. The writing was fantastic, and it all had meaning. I see some people ave already made suggestions, and mine would probably be the same, so I'm not gonna drone on that. But it has great imagery and detail, and was very well thought. Well done!

Posted 13 Years Ago


2 of 2 people found this review constructive.

Wow, this was incredible! I've never seen writing like this, you've definitely got style!

Posted 13 Years Ago


1 of 2 people found this review constructive.

Very poignant. Wonderful imagery in this piece.

My main issue with it is that the writing shifts back and forth between first and second person structures. It starts out as second person--"Begin the conversation by baring _your_ throat--which suggests to the reader that we're reading general advice about life, or about whatever the subject turns out to be. But then later the writing shifts to first-person--He shakes _my_ hand as if to say, "Be a man." _I_ squeeze harder--which forces your readers to stop for a moment, while they mentally re-analyze everything that has come before in this new, first-person context. It's jarring.

The wording drifts in and out of first and second person several times. The single thing you could do to best improve this piece is to pick one and stick with it. IMHO, first-person is the stronger choice.

Lastly, there's no arc in this piece. It is flat, even-tempered, throughout. The narrator starts and ends, emotionally, in exactly the same place. Yes, it's a short piece, but even so I think it would be more powerful to offer up some shred of hope at the end that the narrator has grown, changed, or advanced. Even just a tiny bit:

> "Get better," the receptionist chirps.
> "Be a man." Is what you hear.
> Hang up and cry like a little girl.
> Stop crying. Call back and quit.

That's just one idea, of course, but I think adding just a smidgeon of character arc will strengthen the story by leaving readers with a different imaginary outlook for the narrator. As is, all we can imagine is bleak misery in the guy's future. But if you change the emotional direction even just a little at the end, the reader can imagine a whole different life for the hapless fellow.

Posted 13 Years Ago


4 of 4 people found this review constructive.


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Added on June 19, 2009
Last Updated on June 19, 2009

Author

Eric
Eric

NY



About
I love my wife and children, New York City, unusual books, off-beat movies, meaningful music, broken people, unexpected friendships, sentences that begin with the word "and," used book shops, modern a.. more..

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