Sadism and the Man
A Short Story by Doug Dean
Written using the suggestion "Crusade"
Originally featured on 11-06-2009
As part of our series "The Words That Seem to Justify Anything"

There was a boy he was watching. Suspended from the air, the boy hung from a set of monkey bars, and he was furious.

The boy couldn’t see the man. He was facing the wrong way.

“Come over here and let me down!” cried the boy.

The man snickered.

“Just let go!” the man yelled back.

“No!” cried the boy.

The boy, about six years old, was up to his nose in a thick blue winter jacket and dangling below it were thin legs covered in dark Osh Kosh B’Gosh dungarees. He had very fair skin, tussled dirty blonde hair, and a pudgy face like a bulldog’s.

The man, about thirty-four years old, wished he had his camera. He wore his black winter coat, the one with the fake black fur on the collar, and a pair of jeans his wife had bought him at JC Penney’s. The man had shaggy dark brown hair that hung down from a part in the middle of his head and beard that made him look like a little like Al Pacino. He would’ve liked that: to be mistaken for Al Pacino.

“Dad!” yelled the boy.

“What?” the man snickered.

“Get me down from here! You got me up here, now get me down!”

“Just let go!”

“I can’t! I’ll get hurt! Come on, just come get me down!”

The snickering turned into full on laughing.

“Just let go!” the man managed over his own laughter.

“You’re gonna be in so much trouble! Let me down! Right now! Get me down!”

“I’m gonna be in trouble?” the man said chuckling, emphasizing the ‘I’m.’ “Just let go!”

The boy wriggled, kicking his legs in anger.

“I’m gonna tell Mom! I’m going to tell her all about this! How you just left me up here! You’re in so much trouble!”

The wind blew through the park, cutting itself on the collar of the suspended boy, filling his ears with sound.

“Let me down from here!” he yelled.

“Freddie! Just let go!”

 

***

 

Fred stared at his computer screen. Open was a composed email, the ‘Send’ button taunting him. He had been staring at it for twenty minutes while his co-workers were all at lunch.

 

Dear colleagues, friends and the HR dept.,

 

It is time to say goodbye.

 

I’ve spent the past 13 months talking to people about changing their lives in 13 months. After awhile, I got to thinking about what I’m going to do in life besides this.

 

I’m leaving to pursue a career in acting. I don’t know if it’ll be stage or film. I enjoyed working with all of you and especially the OGs from my training class. Hang in there, Ben and Jeff.

 

My early retirement party will be tonight at Chopsticks (28th and E. Burnside) from 8pm on. That’s right, Karaoke folks. Come down and I’ll let you put in a slip for whatever you want me to sing. Anything in the book!

 

I could’ve sat around here forever collecting a paycheck. But life is for living and you can only tread water for so long before you drown.

 

Keep my memory alive. I’m not truly dead if you choose to remember me (Kirk). Or better yet give me a call anytime to grab a beer (503) 459-4247 or just drop me a line to let me know how you’re doing to crazyfreddie@yahoo.com. Hope I see you tonight. I’m gonna open up with some U2 I think.

 

Sincerely,

Frederick Turner

 

Fred cupped his hand over the mouse, moved the little white arrow the ‘Send’ button. Behind the window for the mail program, he could see the window displaying his online banking account. The number displayed next to his Available Balance was the highest number of dollars Fred had ever had available to him in his twenty-nine years of living. He looked around at his cubicle walls. Pinned up were glossy stars with high numbers and his name written on them. He stopped breathing and felt his heart pounding on the inside of his chest. He sighed and removed his hand. He shuffled in his seat. He rubbed his hands together. He looked erratically at the other objects scattered around his desk. A picture caught his eye. He picked up the phone and dialed.

“Hello?” the man said.

“Hey, it’s me,” Fred said.

“Hey, what’s up?” the man said.

Fred took a deep breath.

“I think I’m about to quit,” Fred said.

“Oh, you’re doing that now?” the man said.

“Yep, I just gotta click send on this resignation letter,” said Fred.

“Well,” the man began. “you sure about this?”

“No, I mean, I’m as sure as I was when I started planning it, but this is like, it,” said Fred.

“Tough economy out there,” said the man. “Sure comes in handy to have money.”

Fred frowned at this.

“Look, I didn’t call you to tell me stuff like that. Are you crazy? What the hell kind of support is that?” Fred whispered.

He heard a disgruntled exhalation on the other end.

“Alright, I’m sorry, okay? I think I’m just nervous. This is, like the most money I’ve ever made, and I’m about to chuck it for god-knows what,” said Fred.

“Yeah. I mean, I guess you want to hear me say that I think you’re doing the right thing here, right? That’s probably what I’m supposed to do. But I don’t know, I mean, are you really any good as an actor?” said the man.

“Jesus!” said Fred.

“I don’t know, Freddie. Remember what I always used to say?” said the man.

“‘Show me the money?’” said Fred.

“Yep.” said the man.

“I have money,” said Fred. “I want something else. Money isn’t it. Remember what I used to say?”

“‘Fuck money’?” said the man.

“Yeah.” said Fred.

“Well, you remember what I used to say to that?” said the man.

“Yeah, I do. It’s been running through my head for the past half hour,” said Fred.

“Really,” said the man happily. “What was it?”

“You know what it was!” said Fred.

“Just say it.”

“You’re not helping me here,” said Fred.

A pause.

“Alright fine. ‘If you treat money with respect then money fucks you.’ Is that about right?” said Fred.

“Yep.” said the man.

“This isn’t really what I wanted, you know. I’m about to make a major fucking decision here,” said Fred.

“Eh.”

“What?”

“Yeah, I guess so. I don’t know. You’re a work horse Fred. You’ll have to work your whole life, just like me.”

“So?”

“So…I don’t know what my point was there,” said the man.

“Look, just give me some kernel of encouragement here,” said Fred. “Like you think this is a good move, or, fuck, might be a good move.”

“Well, I think you’re going to do it anyway, so I say ‘Go for it.’”

“Unbelievable!”

“Alright, look. You don’t need me to encourage you. What if I encourage you and it works out badly? Then you’ll blame me.”

“No I won’t.”

“Well, you might. Anyway, I’m being rude, I’ve gotta go back inside the restaurant here. Tell me what you decide.”

“Fine, goodbye,” said Fred. Then he turned and clicked the ‘Send’ button.

 

***

 

To the boy it had seemed like an hour that he’d been hanging there. He’d stopped yelling for help. His hands were numb, and he could feel his fingers loosening from the cold metal bar.

Then the man appeared in front of him.

“Great, you’re gonna get me down now?” said the boy, holding back tears.

“No,” said the man, holding back a smirk.

Then the man knelt so he was at eye level with the boy.

“Look, Freddie. Just let go already. I want you to see what happens. Trust me, you’ll laugh. You know I wouldn’t let you get hurt, right?”

“I’m losing my grip,” said the boy. “I’m gonna fall!”

“Then just let go,” said the man.

And Fred did. And he fell. About a foot and a half.

When his feet touched the ground he looked immediately at his father, surprised.

“See?” the man said, grinning widely. “See? Now let’s go.”

The boy put his hands in his pockets to warm them and they headed to the path. The man staring at the boy, the boy holding back an embarrassed smile.

Read More By Doug Dean

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