Bad Grades and a Wave of the Hand
A wave of the hand is acknowledgement; a sincere deed of caring is attentiveness. Choose thoughtfully. -L’albatro
Stevie showed me his report card on the way home. He got an A in Writing but C’s and D’s – mostly D’s – in everything else.
“So’s your dad gonna light your ass up tonight?”, I asked. I was kinda hoping his father would as Stevie was the biggest shithead in the neighborhood.
“Why’d he do that?”, Stevie asked.
It sort of upset me that, under the same circumstance, I’d be terrified of going home but Stevie, the spoiled asshole of the neighborhood, got to take it in stride.
“That’s not a very good report card,” I said. “My dad would be furious.”
“We’ll see,” Stevie said. “My dad don’t care too much about grades. I’ll just show my mom.”
I’d gotten a C in Social Studies. I knew my father wouldn’t be happy. He’d fail to notice, or at least appreciate, the A’s and B’s. Somehow, life just didn’t seem fair that Stevie the Twit seemed to come out on the rosy side of everything.
When Stevie got home his father wasn’t home from work yet. He gave his mother the report card.
“Wow. An A in penmanship. That’s great,” she said.
“Yeah, but C’s and D’s in everything else,” Stevie said. “Mrs. Pennington says that isn’t very good.”
In the notes, Mrs. Pennington even scribbled, “Stevie has great potential. He’s smart. He just needs to try harder.”
“So, did Mrs. Pennington say anything about your A in penmanship?”
“No,” Stevie said.
“Of course not,” Stevie’s mother said. “Your penmanship’s even better than hers. I can barely read her chicken-scratch.”
“The rest of the kids think I’m dumb,” Stevie said, and all this made his mother feel very sad and because of her genuine empathy, she fancied herself a fine, fine mother – a finer mother than her own who always saw her daughter’s glass as half empty.
“Tell you what Stevie, let’s go down to the five and dime and I’ll get you that doll you’ve had your eye on.”
“Really?”, Stevie asked with excitement.
“Yeah. A reward for that A in penmanship.”
“I hope they still have Frankenstein. Or maybe Spiderman.”
“Only one, Stevie. Your dad and I aren’t made of money.”
Stevie and his mom went down to the five and dime and Stevie got the glowing Frankenstein with the button in the back that, when you pushed it, the monster’s arms wrapped as if to crush whatever was inside them. I loved monsters and superheroes. I was bitterly jealous.
A few months later Stevie got another bad report card and I didn’t even bother to ask how his parents would react and Stevie was more concerned about how he might get into the Brantley girl’s pants than anything else. Last time he got Frankenstein, which made me hate him. This time he might get Spiderman, which would make me hate Stevie and my own father even more. And to top it all off, Stevie’d probably end up getting into the Brantley girl’s pants some day too.
And the grades and the rewards all made Stevie’s mother very happy, knowing Stevie loved her far more than she’d ever loved her own mother.
I never told my own father about any of this, because, just as Stevie’s mom strove to be his savior, my father would’ve been quick to point out his own heroism, something like, “The reason I never lavished you with gifts is because I never wanted you to turn out to be a spoiled brat like Stevie. I was willing to take the heat for being the mean parent in order for you to turn out right.”
But the honest truth is that he was too cheap and uncaring to buy gifts unless they were necessary, like Christmas and birthdays, which, even then, were bitter pills to swallow. And recognizing the reality of that, is it seeing the glass as half full, half empty or both?
A lot of folks seem to strive to be heroes but I don’t see many, including and especially myself. Most of us are neither hero nor villain, we’re just human which, I guess for many, just isn’t enough, so we prey on the vulnerability of the naive to build that flimsy legacy.
I heard Stevie turned out to be a piece of shit but I don’t know. But so long as he still admires his mother for her misguided doting and protection – disguised as love and caring- who, maybe now, like then, still shields him from the harsh realities of his shortcomings – then her life’s had plenty of meaning. And maybe Stevie remains nourished – an adult still suckling at her tit for the numbness her protection has always given him.