Monday, October 29, 2012

Take a Shot

So I decided to do Finslippy's "The Practice of Writing." The sixth prompt was about the primitive parts of the brain where fear resides and how creating a habit can help bypass those "run for your life! " or "quit before you fail! " responses. "Talk about your relationship with fear. When have you overcome it; when have you let it win?"

Daniel was large. He was tall and heavy, catching the eye of the football coach, the basketball coach. He was quiet, too, and smiled very little. As he navigated the rough waters of middle school, he became dimly aware that some people found him intimidating.

Inside, though, he was not intimidating at all. He felt small, and afraid. His older brother was strong, and fast, and bold, and athletic. Jon held state records for speed; leaped onto moving freight trains just to see where he’d end up. He picked fights. Sometimes he won; sometimes he didn’t. Either one was fine with him. He once stitched up a gash in his own arm with his mother’s sewing needle and black thread, and laughed that he could see the muscle moving inside. He was a swashbuckler in a tale worth reading.

Daniel felt his brother’s disappointment in him. Jon challenged him to games of his own invention with hazy rules and hazier goals:

"You go over there, and I’ll go over here, and we’ll throw darts at each other. "


"You take this broomstick and hit me with it as hard as you can, then I’ll hit you with it, and we’ll keep taking turns until someone quits. "

Daniel wouldn’t play, so Jon found other games to play with him. He pinned him down and spit in his face. He yanked his pants down in front of a girl that it took Daniel weeks to work up the nerve to talk to. At each humiliation, Daniel knew that he was falling farther and farther into a hole, but still he thought that humiliated was better than beaten.

He spent his entire 8th grade year ducking a scrawny little blond kid, who inexplicably wanted to fight him behind the bleachers after school.

For this story to have resolution for us, we want Daniel to find his redemption. He must, of course, get into a fight. To let rage overcome him, rage at his brother, rage at his own cowardice, to let it boil over and launch himself heedlessly into a brawl. He needn’t win; he need only fight. Preferably, he knocks his brother into the dirt and they both walk away, arms about shoulders, laughing. But he never did. 25 years later, he has still has never thrown a punch or taken a shot to the face. He should, don’t you think? Just once, pick a fight in a bar and get it over with?

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