How to be Cruel


Nick, not that anyone's asked. Eighteen years.
People spit on him. Kick him. Tell him to get a goddamn job. Hold their breath as they pass.
Occasionally a kid'll toss a quarter his way, his parents wearing torn expressions: pride colored with embarrassment that their child saw what they did not; anger that their son has given away his bubblegum money, their money, money they actually worked for.
Or those those holier-than-thou bits, white turtlenecks neat beneath Christmas sweaters dancing with reindeer and jolly elves, even the big guy himself.
Not God, of course. Nobody wears a sweater knitted with a picture of God.
Nick laughs in spite of himself, in spite of the fact that he's sitting on a sleeping bag that hasn't been laundered in fourteen years. He pictures the face of God stretched across the chests of the men walking up to him, scripture dripping from their lips, promising what they cannot deliver.
College kids busy past, discussing Camus or Thoreau; Kierkegaard or Kafka, believing with all their minds that intelligence will protect them.
Not so, he wants to tell them. Not so.
A kid hands him a dollar. He's too smart to turn it down. He knows the parents believe that he'll spend it on dope.
The parents are wrong. He accepts the dollar without making eye contact with the kid. Parents like it when he cowers. Makes them feel a bit more important; like their money has been well-spent.
"Merry Christmas," the kid says and Nick gives the briefest of nods. He watches the family pass, thinks of his own family, gone eighteen years.
He looks for them every day. He knows he will not see them. He is not God.
"Here, Father."
He starts, looks up. A girl kneels before him; hands him a basket of food.
He does not recognize her. She is not his girl.
She's just a kid being respectful. Just a kid being kind before the world teaches her how to be cruel.
This was written for this week's Trifecta Writing Challenge.  The word was father.





















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Writing in the Margins, Bursting at the Seams: How to be Cruel

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

How to be Cruel


Nick, not that anyone's asked. Eighteen years.
People spit on him. Kick him. Tell him to get a goddamn job. Hold their breath as they pass.
Occasionally a kid'll toss a quarter his way, his parents wearing torn expressions: pride colored with embarrassment that their child saw what they did not; anger that their son has given away his bubblegum money, their money, money they actually worked for.
Or those those holier-than-thou bits, white turtlenecks neat beneath Christmas sweaters dancing with reindeer and jolly elves, even the big guy himself.
Not God, of course. Nobody wears a sweater knitted with a picture of God.
Nick laughs in spite of himself, in spite of the fact that he's sitting on a sleeping bag that hasn't been laundered in fourteen years. He pictures the face of God stretched across the chests of the men walking up to him, scripture dripping from their lips, promising what they cannot deliver.
College kids busy past, discussing Camus or Thoreau; Kierkegaard or Kafka, believing with all their minds that intelligence will protect them.
Not so, he wants to tell them. Not so.
A kid hands him a dollar. He's too smart to turn it down. He knows the parents believe that he'll spend it on dope.
The parents are wrong. He accepts the dollar without making eye contact with the kid. Parents like it when he cowers. Makes them feel a bit more important; like their money has been well-spent.
"Merry Christmas," the kid says and Nick gives the briefest of nods. He watches the family pass, thinks of his own family, gone eighteen years.
He looks for them every day. He knows he will not see them. He is not God.
"Here, Father."
He starts, looks up. A girl kneels before him; hands him a basket of food.
He does not recognize her. She is not his girl.
She's just a kid being respectful. Just a kid being kind before the world teaches her how to be cruel.
This was written for this week's Trifecta Writing Challenge.  The word was father.





















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15 Comments:

At December 24, 2013 at 4:45 PM , Blogger November Rain - k~ said...

Kelly, Your words belong on the top shelf of the best sellers list. Pick one, any one, and let this be my wish for your Christmas, that people find the light you shine inside the souls of those unknown, unheard, unaware with words, draped over the shoulders of those whose unwavering emotional existence provide you with enough humanity to write them into a place that will forever be.

You know I am a fan, but even so, you continue to amaze me, inspire me, and make me want to read your words, over and over again.

 
At December 24, 2013 at 10:08 PM , Blogger Yeshasvi Mahadev said...

Before the world teaches her how to be cruel... So true.
I love what you've done with the prompt. Your words make a really strong impact.

 
At December 25, 2013 at 10:43 AM , Blogger Ruby Manchanda said...

Awesome

 
At December 26, 2013 at 8:00 PM , OpenID momosapien said...

I am always astounded at how much you pack into your stories. So many layers of emotion and description. Beautiful.

 
At December 27, 2013 at 9:17 AM , Blogger Trifecta said...

This is brilliant: in a words way, a message way and a reading way. Loved it. Thanks for linking up and don't forget to vote!

 
At December 28, 2013 at 6:28 AM , Blogger Ivy said...

Excellent work. That last line--wow!

 
At December 28, 2013 at 1:59 PM , Anonymous injaynesworld said...

Love the cadence of this piece. I saw such a soul at a highway off-ramp last week. Gave him $20. Best money I spent all season. I was going to write about it, but not after reading this. :)

 
At December 29, 2013 at 4:35 PM , Blogger Kelly Garriott Waite said...

Thanks so much for your support, K!

 
At December 29, 2013 at 4:36 PM , Blogger Kelly Garriott Waite said...

Thanks for reading!

 
At December 29, 2013 at 4:36 PM , Blogger Kelly Garriott Waite said...

Thank you, Ruby. I enjoyed your piece this week!

 
At December 29, 2013 at 4:36 PM , Blogger Kelly Garriott Waite said...

Thanks so much, Momosapien! I appreciate your reading.

 
At December 29, 2013 at 4:36 PM , Blogger Kelly Garriott Waite said...

Thanks! Read and voted. On time this week.

 
At December 29, 2013 at 4:37 PM , Blogger Kelly Garriott Waite said...

Thanks, Ivy!

 
At December 29, 2013 at 4:37 PM , Blogger Kelly Garriott Waite said...

Thanks so much, Jayne. I think you ought to write your piece - Would love to read it, esp after what you wrote today.

 
At January 3, 2014 at 9:31 PM , Blogger Heather Johnson said...

Nicely done. I enjoyed this very much.

 

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