“When you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.”
“Where is he?”
“At the table.”
“What the fuck is going on?”
“He’s being a stubborn little asshole,” Lindsay stated. It was clear that she was at her wit’s end with her son.
“Just like his father,” Melanie tossed in from where she stood at the top of the stairs.
“I wondered where the fuck you were. Can’t you handle your son?” Brian asked in his most obnoxious tone.
“Oh I could handle him, if someone would let me.” Melanie glared at her wife.
“I will not have you punish Gus physically,” Lindsay stated with a glare that outdid her wife’s.
“Physically?” Brian asked, his eyebrow arching upward. He didn’t like the sound of that.
“Sometimes it’s necessary,” Melanie stated emphatically.
“No it’s not!” Brian snapped.
“Let’s not fight about this,” Lindsay said. “See if you can get him to eat his broccoli,” she told Brian.
Brian shuddered. Fucking broccoli! He hated it too. At least Gus came by his aversion to the green trees honestly. “Make yourselves scarce,” Brian ordered as he headed to the kitchen of the small townhouse that Melanie and Lindsay were renting since their return from Canada.
He heard Lindsay going up the stairs, all the while arguing with Melanie about how they should handle their son. No wonder Gus was having problems, and Brian wasn’t sure that not eating his vegetables was the biggest problem.
He stopped in the doorway and looked at his son who was seated at the small table in the kitchen. A plate with several spears of unappetizing looking broccoli sat in front of the boy. No wonder the kid didn’t want to eat it. It was surely cold by now. It would make anyone throw up.
“Hey, sonny boy,” Brian said softly.
Gus perked up and looked at his father. He started to get up from the table to run to his father, but then he apparently thought better of that and slumped back into his chair. He looked so forlorn that Brian wanted to do nothing other than hug his son and tell him that his mothers were idiots for making such a big deal out of fucking broccoli. But like a good father Brian bit his tongue and sat down in the chair next to Gus.
“Don’t I get a hello?” Brian asked. Gus shrugged. “Hm, so it’s like that, is it?”
“I’m not apposed to talk or move or nothin’,” six year old Gus said belligerently.
“And why is that?”
“Cause I wouldn’t eat … that!” Gus said defiantly. “I hate broccoli!”
“Why are you saying that, Daddy?” Gus asked as he studied his father’s face.
“There are some vegetables I don’t like either,” Brian said. “One of them is broccoli.”
“Really?” Gus asked in amazement.
“Did your mommy make you eat it?”
Brian shook his head. “I ate it because I didn’t want to make a fuss,” Brian said slowly. ‘And I didn’t want to get my ass whipped,’ Brian thought to himself. There was no way that Melanie was whipping his son.
“But…” Gus began. “I really hate it.”
“So I see.”
“Can you ask mommy and mama if I can go to my room instead of sitting here?” Gus asked.
Brian shook his head again. “You refused to eat your dinner?”
“Only the brockli.”
“Then I understand you yelled at your mothers when they told you that you had to eat it. Is that right?”
“And then you threw a piece of broccoli across the kitchen.”
“And then you said a curse word.”
Gus looked down at the table. “You say it sometimes,” he muttered.
“That doesn’t make it right.”
“I was mad,” Gus stated.
“I understand that, but there’s a lesson here that you need to learn.”
“A lesson?” Gus asked looking up at his father.
“When you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.”
“What do you think would have happened if you refused to eat your broccoli, but you didn’t yell at your mothers?”
“I don’t know,” Gus mumbled.
“They would have tried to talk you into eating it,” Brian informed his son.
“And then you yelled at them.”
“Here’s something you could try next time.”
“What?” Gus asked as his father got up from the table. Brian picked up the plate of broccoli and walked to the other side of the kitchen. Gus hoped his father was going to dump the plate of green stuff into the garbage.
Brian opened the fridge door and studied the contents. He pulled something out and set the plate on the counter. He opened a drawer and got a knife.
“What are you doing, Daddy?”
Brian used the knife to shave off pieces of cheese from the block he had found in the fridge. They fell on top of the broccoli. Then he placed the cold broccoli in the fridge and heated it for a minute. He brought the plate over to Gus.
“Try some.” Gus shook his head. “I’ll eat half if you eat the rest,” Brian said.
“Really?” Gus asked hopefully.
“Really.” Brian found a fork for himself. He took the first bite, and chewed carefully. He really detested broccoli, but he concentrated on the flavor of the cheese. “Not bad,” he said.
Gus took a small piece of green tree covered in cheese and nibbled on it. “It’s not so bad now, Daddy.”
“See,” Brian said with a smirk.
The two continued to pick away at the broccoli until it was gone. Brian smiled as he thought about sticking it to Melanie that he could get Gus to eat broccoli and she couldn’t. Then he remembered that he was trying to be a good father.
“So, did you learn your lesson, sonny boy?” Brian asked.
“I still don’t understand about digging a hole,” Gus said with a frown.
“The more you opposed your mothers, the worse the punishment. Stop making matters worse, and use your head to find a better solution.”
Gus stared at his father. He liked it when his daddy talked to him in adult words. He sort of understood what his father was trying to tell him. “Will my mommies let me have cheese on my broccoli from now on?” he asked.
“If you ask them politely, and you apologize for yelling and saying a bad word, do you think they will?”
Gus nodded, then a smile quivered at the corners of his mouth. “Daddy, can I get a puppy?”
“A puppy? Where did that come from?”
“I’m using my head to find a better slution,” Gus said proudly.
“How do you figure that?”
“If I really hate something, I could feed it to the dog.”
Brian chuckled before he could stop himself. “I wouldn’t ask for a puppy any time soon,” he warned. “You’ll just be digging a bigger hole for yourself.”
“Oh,” Gus said. He wished he was as smart as his daddy. “Will you tell my mommies about the cheese?”
“Sure, sonny boy. And you can also put peanut butter on celery to make it taste better.”
“Yep. There’s lots of ways to make vegetables better.”
“You’re so smart,” Gus said as he slid off his chair and hugged his father hard.
“Glad you think so, sonny boy. Maybe there are a few things I can teach you.”
“There’s lots, Daddy. I love you.”
“I love you too, sonny boy,” Brian said as he hugged the little boy. Something he had dreaded having to do had turned out to be a wonderful bonding moment between father and son. Brian hoped there would be many more now that his son was back in Pittsburgh.
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