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For Real Now
A boy of about ten cruises past a series of catholic townhomes on his new bike, leaving other little boys staring with longing eyes. He skids to a stop in front of a drug store, steals a quick glance at the diffident crowd forming behind him, and sets his bike down on the pavement. He lets the glossy cobalt paint reflect the sun’s rays and strokes the pristine texture of his handlebars before strolling into the store and out of sight.
He walks up and down the aisles, picking out bags of rainbow-streaked candy; meanwhile, the boys outside gather in a circle around the impressive spectacle. After handing the cashier the money, the boy sticks a piece of bubblegum in his mouth and walks out to the gathering. The others part for him and he rides off to the playground.
Later when he comes home, the boy is crying. His neighbors heard his sobs all across the street, despite the fact that he is in the capacious home that sits off to the side, like a nearby island, the only one in town not directly side by side with another home.
The next day, he’s out again on a bike, this time in an even more polished paint, a brilliant red. Once again, the other boys are filled with envy. Fighting tears during the whole ride and concentrating more than usual on his handlebars, he does not let his bloated eyes float toward the faces of his neighbors.
Once more does the boy come home again without a bike, and yet again does he come in a hurricane of tears. Finally, he has learned his lesson, and unfortunately, for him, his parents have, too.
“Son, we’re going fishing tomorrow.”
The boy wails in utter resentment, another shower of tears dripping from his chin, and lets out imploring cries.
It’s Sunday afternoon, and the boy obediently follows his father out to the Cadillac, his mother eyeing him and making sure from underneath the entrance arch that her son is obeying his father.
“Father, where are we going?” he asks.
“Private West Lake, and speak not unless you have been spoken to,” his father replies.
To the boy’s surprise, the lake resembles nothing of its prestigious name. The lake is enveloped by a wide range of plains and is full of moss and busy, minuscule insects. He lets out a muted groan.
His father pulls up his sleeves and walks around a huge boulder. He pushes against something, and, suddenly, a blue boat appears on the other side of the rock.
“Son, give me a hand here.”
“Yes, Father. I’m coming.” The boy reluctantly reaches the area in which his father pulled the boat from and sees the scratched paint, uneven wood planks, and a thick sheet of moss at the bottom of the boat’s hull. He is not impressed.
“Well, isn’t this just wonderful, Son? I used to come out here as a boy with my father and just have a grand old time.”
After a brief lesson on how to set up a fishing rod, the boy begins to actually enjoy himself. Never before has his father given him such a privilege.
Suddenly, a violent tug sends the fishing rod in midair, but the boy’s father luckily catches it before it is lost. His father, though he has a great wealth, has the stature of a hardworking blacksmith. With his burly arms, he reels the fish in. A murky fish coated with moss lands inside the boat. The boy is wide-eyed, and he’s at the edge of the boat, as far away as possible from the creature.
His father holds the fish down and then carefully lifts it. He hands it to his son, who is now curious and perhaps willing to give in to this new experience.
The boy runs his hand across the fish’s mossy surface. He likes it. For the first time in his life, he admires something unattractive. The boy gently squeezes the fish, and a number of thoughts dart through his mind. He smiles a wide grin of a ten-year-old kid.
As the father and son drive home, they are both pleased with the outcome of the experience.
“Son, would you like another bicycle? I believe I saw a radiant emerald one at the store the other night.”
“No, Father,” he pauses, and suddenly a brilliant idea pops into his mind. “Would a puppy be okay?”
His father looks at him with a surprised expression and ponders the idea of a new pet. He finally gives in and says, “Then let us drive into downtown.”
They park and walk on the pavement, stopping every now and then at a pet store. Though the storeowners present the pair with a number of excited, over-friendly puppies, the father sees that his son is not satisfied, and they leave with a polite thank-you.
Soon, they are at the end of the street. Neither of them says anything, until they round the corner and encounter an adoption center. The sign reads: “MATT’S PETS! ADOPT SOME PETS TODAY!”
This time, the father follows the son into the building. The boy practically runs through the cages until he skids to a halt. There, lying in front of him is a sad-looking puppy with an overgrown bundle of filthy fur on her back. Her right front leg displays a cast, while her back left leg is not even present. The puppy stares up at the boy and manages a bashful woof.
“Father, this is the one.”
Later on, the Cadillac finally rolls onto the driveway of the capacious house, and the boy slides out of the passenger seat with a newly groomed but crippled puppy. He is wearing the biggest smile in town for two reasons.
One, he has a new puppy.
Two, both his bikes are leaning against the curb in front of his house.