American Dream

You gotta be honest, the old man said. Have some kind of morals, he told his son. Can’t just go off and do whatever you want in this life. There are consequences, he lit a cigarette and inhaled slowly; blowing out gray smoke into the lit lampshade. The boy reached for the old man’s pack of Newports and had his hand slapped. You shouldn’t smoke, the father said. It’s bad for you. It’s killing me, he said. If it’s not too late don’t start. If you have started, quit, boy got up and walked over to the refrigerator. Hey, the old man whispered. Grab me one. The boy popped open two Old Styles and started to hand one to his dad then pulled it out of his hand. The boy continued this game. Damn it, pop said. Give me that beer, the young man smiled. Held the can up by his shoulder. Shook it a couple of times. Gave it to the old man, who grabbed it with both hands like a baby wanting a bottle.

You shouldn’t drink dad, boy said. Probably why you’re in the shape you’re in, he told him.

Mind your own business, the old man said. The son laughed. It’s a combination of things, he coughed into a rag. Stress throughout the years. Smoking too much. Your mom getting on my nerves. Just an unhealthy lifestyle. What did that German fellow say? That which does not kill me makes me stronger, they both laughed.

I think you messed up the quote dad.

No. That’s what he said. There’s a sign above the bar that says that. What was his name?

Nietzsche. Died of syphilis, the boy said.

Well, he said that.

It’s us, pop. He said, That which does not kill us makes us stronger. That’s the quote dad.

Us? Me ? What difference does one word make. You think you’re so smart. Why don’t you get a job you’re so smart. Always drinking my beer and eating my Pop Tarts, the old man said.

I’m not going to work for no $11 an hour. Or, even $15. Why should I? Work is what kills you. And for what? So you can pay a mortgage? Bills? Buy a car? That’s the American dream dad. Not mine.

Lower your voice. Your mother’s trying to sleep.


What’re you? Some kind of communist? Next thing I know you’ll be speaking Esperanto. Just listen to me, he said. Stop these shenanigans. Get a job and start your life. Move out of this trailer. I got $500 saved up that I’ll give you. You can start with that. Buy you some clothes and gas for the car. You can borrow that too. American dream? Yes. You can have it too.

We’ll see.

It’s a one time offer.

Now that’s truly American.

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