Ignoring Spielberg’s Munich

by Thomas Lee Joseph Smith


Greater Liberty Missionary United Tabernacle Church of God
110 No. Health-Exemption Avenue
Birdsong, South Dakota

Dear Pastor O’Brien,

I hate to bother you once again, but I really do need some advice. It’s about little Eric, my six-year old. You remember Eric, he’s just a little kid. He looks like a miniature Ricky Martin with blond hair.

He’s the little boy who walks about with his hands behind him and calls you Mr. Christian and says things like, “Now that we’re underway again, Mr. Christian, we must find a way to make these wretched men forget Tahiti and take care of all these breadfruit trees. We have to put all those naked women out of our thoughts.” He talks like that. Sometimes he talks like that.

If you remember, the last time you saw Eric, about six weeks ago, he had a little silver tooth. One of his front teeth was broke off and we had to have it repaired at the dentist and you teased him about it as we were leaving church.

Anyway, this whole problem is about the movies he watches when he’s with his father. Just like ‘Squid and Whale’ Eric gets shuttled back and forth between my house and the apartment where his father is staying.

Me and Eric Sr. have been separated for about a year. You probably remember trying to help me with my husband; we came in for counseling about a dozen times. My husband was the one who kept trying to get you to bet on the Celtics and I’m sorry about all that church money you lost.

Anyway... Eric Sr. lets little Eric Jr. watch almost anything he wants. They go to Blockbuster together and Eric Sr. picks out something, and then Eric Jr. gets to pick out something. The first couple of times he was picking out things I might supply because he didn’t know Eric Sr. was so permissive. First, little Eric watched old Andy Griffith episodes and Telletubbies episodes until little Eric caught on to his father’s attitude and then little Eric started in on the new releases.

That’s even how he lost his tooth. Little Eric stays with his dad all weekend and then he spends the rest of the week with me... and it hasn’t been easy. The attitude of the weekend just spills over into the week and it plays hell on my nerves because I still have the baby all week long.

Jessica is three now and I don’t let her go to Eric’s apartment because he hasn’t baby-proofed the place and because he hasn’t asked to have the baby, so when Eric Jr. comes back it’s always a big adjustment.

Well, one week, the boy keeps asking me if we can buy a coconut, and I showed him we had some coconut already, but it was shredded coconut and he wanted a full one... with the husk and all... and so I bought one and then I was putting away the rest of the groceries when I heard a big thud and a loud scream and I ran in to where the kids were and Eric was on the floor with blood streaming out of his mouth and he was saying, “Wilson... Wilson... I’ll save you!” only I didn’t know what he was talking about at first, I thought he was naming the villain who’d hurt him.

While we were at the dentist he admitted he’d knocked out his own tooth using Jessica’s skate and the coconut. So, Eric Sr. promised he’d be more careful about what he allowed our son to pick up at the rental place... but it wasn’t over, not by a long shot.

Then we had that whole Hillary Swank episode, where Eric put on shorts and big red mittens and Jessica and me were on the floor playing with her dolls and Eric came in the room like he was throwing jabs and hooks and stuff and he walked a few paces off and looked back carefully measuring the distance and then he let himself fall straight back and hit himself on the edge of the plastic chair, the one next to the one Jessica was in.

I was almost there in time to catch him... but not quite... and he smacked his neck against the edge and it’s a good thing the chair was one of those cheap plastic things because it actually cushioned him as he fell... lowered him to the floor, with the plastic legs spreading out like Bambi’s legs when she first tried walking with Thumper on that ice.

But just because he wasn’t hurt, didn’t mean I was away from the drama. For the next three days Eric wouldn’t move his arms or legs. He just lay on the couch and every time I came in the room he’d say, “You have to pull the plug, Boss. I can’t take it no more.” And I’d say “Eric, Jessica and me are going to the park, are you sure you don’t want to come?” And then his little eyes would fill with tears and he’d ask what it felt like to play out in the sunshine.

And so I’d end up carrying him across my shoulder while I pushed Jessica in the stroller. When we got to the park I’d lay him on the bottom of the sliding board and when he thought I wasn’t looking he’d use his legs to push up a little and then slide down all of two feet and so finally... one day... I couldn’t take it any more, so I came in and pretended to give him a shot, putting my son out of his misery.

And he sighed and turned his head away from me, and he let himself sink down into the cushions and relax all over. Then he held his breath for a very long time. I covered him with a sheet and lowered my head and left the room. I even had real tears in my eyes. Later the little monster came bouncing into the kitchen and pretended he didn’t know what I was talking about when I told him ghosts don’t eat warm oatmeal cookies. I didn’t have credits to roll. I made cookies knowing the smell would bring him out of the theater.

I tried once more to make Eric’s father become just a little bit concerned about what our child was seeing. I told him there were good moral movies to go see and why didn’t he let Eric see... well... like... “The Point of the Spear” or the “Chronicles of Narnia.” And he promised he’d steer little Eric to a better portion of the shelves next time they went for entertainment, only...

Sunday night when he brought the boy home I forgot to ask what film they’d seen. This one must have been a doozey. This one must have taken a while to distill into action... because it wasn’t till very late on a Friday that I had that little feeling parents get when the house is just a little too quiet.

I was on a step ladder in the hall watering the hanging plants by the balcony, expecting a mad rush of tricycle and a fall, when I heard Little Jessica say her first words, actually shout her first words would be more accurate. I think she said, “Give them Barabbas!” and I practically jumped down off the steps and ran to the kid’s room....

And there was Eric with a dish towel on his shoulders and a spaghetti pot on his head and his poor sister was huddled in the corner and she had on the hair band she hated because she said it was too pointy and Eric had his arms full of foam noodles, those brightly colored floaty things that kids play with while they go swimming. Eric must have had eight or nine of them in his arms and by twisting his whole body he was beating the big soft pile of them against his sister.

“What are you doing?” I was mad and so maybe I screamed.

He dropped his foam and turned in my direction and gave me a salute. “Scourging the prisoner.” he said.

I spared the rod... but not by much... and then I called and was told Mel Gibson’s movie had been seen, which I kind of already knew...

Anyway...

Pastor...

Besides just keeping Eric away from everything... what can I do? Things are defiantly tense around here. I can’t get Jessica near the pool (we have swim class twice a week). I can’t get my husband to cooperate and if I understand right Broke Back Mountain will be out on DVD soon... I just don’t know how to raise this kid. Will you give me some much needed guidance?’’

Signed, Little Eric is driving me mad

* * *

Mrs. Eric Darcy
261 Sunset Blvd.
Santa Monica CA

Dear Eric’s mom.

I can understand what you are going through, but I’m not sure how much help I can give. I have my own problems... I’m still trying to get over that scene in the movie, “Love me or Leave Me” where James Cagney forces himself on Doris Day. If it matters at all...

I think you have nothing to fear with that Broke Back Mountain movie. As we all know, God (nature) assigns us our sexual identities; we have no say in the matter.

As far as your being separated from your husband... it must get lonely for you. As you know, I don’t live far from your house. Maybe we could take a walk some evening. Just thinking about you has my senses tingling. Maybe we could walk down this alley I know. Maybe you’d let me put on red pajamas and then hang upside down from a fire escape and kiss you.

Your friend.


Copyright © 2006 by Thomas Lee Joseph Smith

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