A Father and Son Choose Sides
by J. B. Hogan
“Father,” the son said, the tone of his voice indicating a question or commentary to come.
“Yes, son,” the father answered.
The son was a younger man, of average height and weight, with pleasant Semitic features and a kind countenance. His dark hair was long and curly and it hung down to his shoulders after the old manner.
The father was clearly of a different age: his hoary beard covered a face that could readily transform from kind to angrily vengeful and back in a flash. He was not satisfied with the fluctuations in the human condition and was alternately pleased and greatly annoyed by it.
“Father,” the son said, “it is difficult for me to choose.”
“As it should be,” the father’s deep voice rumbled, “as it should be.”
“Don’t we view all men as equal?” the son asked.
“A commonly held notion,” the father replied.
“Why do we have to choose one over the other?”
“Because they want, no, insist that we do.”
“But this seems like such a trivial thing to worry about.”
“We have to go along with it.”
“Father,” the son kept up his questioning to the patient parent, “what about the drowning people there in Indonesia? They had a horrible tsunami. The poor people suffer all the time.”
“It can’t be helped.”
“And Rwanda,” the son went on, “shouldn’t we intervene and stop all the killing. I don’t think ethnic cleansing is okay under any circumstances, is it?”
“That,” the father explained calmly, “would interfere with their free will.”
“There are millions starving — all over the world,” the son added.
“Yes, of course,” the father agreed.
“But...” the son began.
“But we have to pick a winner here,” the father reiterated. “Try to concentrate.”
“How can I choose,” the son questioned, “when there are sixty to seventy on each side?”
“Most of them don’t really believe,” the father said, “ignore those.”
“Oh,” the son said, “but there are still quite a few.”
“No one said it was an easy task,” the father declared. “If it comes out uneven, choose the side with the most on it.”
“Sure,” the son smiled, “that makes it a lot easier.”
“You have to have to some criteria,” the father said. “Let’s hurry along. Have you made another choice?”
“You know, father,” the son said thoughtfully, “why do we care about the outcome of these events? We are expending our energy on semi-literate, self-centered prima donnas when there are many, many good, decent and needy people down there.”
“Well, for heaven’s sake,” the father acted incredulous. “I thought that was your bag, caring about that kind of person. You were always such a softy, such a sucker for those types. It’s your goody two-shoes nature.”
“I don’t know if that was...” the son started to say.
“Son,” the father broke in, “use some omniscience for a change will you? Nothing is more important down there than that loud-mouthed, hotdog of a wide receiver making his catch. Get the hang of it. Don’t you see the beauty, the absolute perfection of his ego?
“The other ten players on his team didn’t matter. It’s only about him. He doesn’t care about the offensive line blocking for him, and he doesn’t care about his fellow receivers or even the quarterback himself — the one who threw him the ball. It’s all about wide-receiver boy. Can’t you see that? The Holocaust, the siege of Leningrad, the reign of terror in France, the killing fields of Cambodia — none of this holds a candle to the wants and needs of wide-receiver boy.”
“Wow,” the son said, after his father’s long speech, “I didn’t realize.”
“But now you’re beginning to?” the father asked.
“And I’m starting to think that we are at the mercy of these... people,” the son replied.
“That’s one in a row,” the father said with a smile for his son.
“You mean...?” the son began.
“Uh-huh,” the father said, nodding his great, white head.
“You mean we exist only to satisfy whimsical desires of completely egocentric humans?” the son asked, shaking his smaller, darker mane. In the place where the two were, a semi-circle of light seemed to hover above the son’s head.
“Basically,” the father shrugged.
“Then that means,” the son continued the logic, “that we are actually secondary to them.”
“Bingo,” the father smiled again. He was very proud of his boy.
“And that we then...” the son began to add.
“Careful,” warned the father.
“We don’t really exist except to them?”
“I’m sorry, son.”
“Then my sacrifice was...” the son started to suggest.
“For nothing,” the father completed the sentence.
“It was all for nothing. And we’re just their invention.”
“Well, then,” the son said, not without some petulance, “I don’t want to pick any of them.”
“It could be a tie,” the father said, tilting his head to one side in thought.
“Yeah,” the son said enthusiastically.
“Except,” the father said, pointing downward, “see that big running back? He just stuck one finger in the air for us. He’s thanking us.”
“He just scored a touchdown.”
“Oh. But did he do that touchdown on his own?”
“You’re a little out of date,” the father laughed. “I guess you missed the ‘me’ generation and all that.”
“I guess so.”
“Whatever. This guy scored a touchdown but he could only do it because his ten other teammates helped him.”
“He doesn’t realize that?”
“They never seem to.”
“Okay, fine,” the son sighed, “but why are we supposed to ignore all the problems of the world in order to choose one set of these people over another?”
“It’s our job,” the father said matter of factly. “It’s the only thing we really do.”
“Really?” the son questioned. “Our only real function?”
“Sure,” the father explained, “everything else runs on its own. You know, laws of nature, the ‘I Am That I Am’ stuff, that overgod thing that the Romans talked about.”
“Don’t mention the Romans to me, please, father,” the son said, grimacing.
“Oops, sorry,” the father said. “My bad. Well, anyway, except for these games, we just stay out of the way and let circumstances dictate the outcome.”
“Hmnh,” the son grunted.
“What’s wrong?” the father asked.
“I don’t feel so good, father,” the son answered. “I don’t feel very worthwhile.”
“Well, you might as well get used to it,” the father said. “Eternity is a long time.”
“Eternity,” the son repeated.
“Or at least as long as this species lasts.”
“You mean they won’t last forever?”
“Not even close.”
“What a relief,” the son said, taking a really deep breath.
“Yeah, well,” the father said, “if you don’t mind disappearing with them.”
“Seems like it would be a blessing to me,” the son said.
“In the meantime,” the father said, “make a choice. There’s a game going on down there.”
“I feel better now, father,” the son said. “Now that I know that it won’t last so long after all.”
“Me, too,” the father said, smiling. “Now who you taking?”
“Alright,” the son said, “I’ll take... uh, Alabama.”
“Good choice,” the father exulted, “I’ll go that way, too. I always liked that coach they used to have. You know, the one with the plaid hat on all the time.”
“Maybe that was before my time,” the son said.
“Yeah,” the father said, nodding his big head up and down, “maybe it was. Maybe it was.”
Copyright © 2006 by J. B. Hogan