of the Father
by Ian Frazier
Of the beasts of the field, and of the fishes of the sea,
and of all foods that are acceptable in my sight you may
eat, but not in the living room. Of the hoofed animals,
broiled or ground into burgers, you may eat, but not in
the living room.
Of the cloven-hoofed animal, plain or with cheese, you
may eat, but not in the living room.
Of the cereal grains, of the corn and of the wheat and of
the oats, and of all the cereals that are of bright color
and unknown provenance you may eat, but not in the living
Of quiescently frozen dessert and of all frozen
after-meal treats you may eat, but absolutely not in the
Of the juices and other beverages, yes, even of those in
sippy-cups, you may drink, but not in the living room,
neither may you carry such therein. Indeed, when you
reach the place where the living room carpet begins, of
any food or beverage there you may not eat, neither may
But if you are sick, and are lying down and watching
something, then may you eat in the living room.
Laws When at Table
And if you are seated in your high chair, or in a chair
such as a greater person might use, keep your legs and
feet below you as they were.
Neither raise up your knees, nor place your feet upon the
table, for that is an abomination to me.
Yes, even when you have an interesting bandage to show,
your feet upon the table are an abomination, and worthy
Drink your milk as it is given you, neither use on it any
utensils, nor fork, nor knife, nor spoon, for that is not
what they are for; if you will dip your blocks in the
milk, and lick it off, you will be sent away.
When you have drunk, let the empty cup then remain upon
the table, and do not bite it upon its edge and by your
teeth hold it to your face in order to make noises in it
sounding like a duck: for you will be sent away.
When you chew your food, keep your mouth closed until you
have swallowed, and do not open it to show your brother
or your sister what is within; I say to you, do not so,
even if your brother or your sister has done the same to
Eat your food only; do not eat that which is not food;
neither seize the table between your jaws, nor use the
raiment of the table to wipe your lips. I say again to
you, do not touch it, but leave it as it is.
And though your stick of carrot does indeed resemble a
marker, draw not with it upon the table, even in pretend,
for we do not do that, that is why.
And though the pieces of broccoli are very like small
trees, do not stand them upright to make a forest,
because we do not do that, that is why.
Sit just as I have told you, and do not lean to one side
or the other, nor slide down until you are nearly slid
away. Heed me; for if you sit like that, your hair will
go into the syrup. And now behold, even as I have said,
it has come to pass.
Laws Pertaining to Dessert
For we judge between the plate that is unclean and the
plate that is clean, saying first, if the plate is clean,
then you shall have dessert.
But of the unclean plate, the laws are these:
If you have eaten most of your meat, and two bites of
your peas with each bite consisting of not less than
three peas each, or in total six peas, eaten where I can
see, and you have also eaten enough of your potatoes to
fill two forks, both forkfuls eaten where I can see, then
you shall have dessert.
But if you eat a lesser number of peas, and yet you eat
the potatoes, still you shall not have dessert; and if
you eat the peas, yet leave the potatoes uneaten, you
shall not have dessert, no, not even a small portion
And if you try to deceive by moving the potatoes or peas
around with a fork, that it may appear you have eaten
what you have not, you will fall into iniquity. And I
will know, and you shall have no dessert.
Do not scream; for it is as if you scream all the time.
If you are given a plate on which two foods you do not
wish to touch each other are touching each other, your
voice rises up even to the ceiling, while you point to
the offense with the finger of your right hand; but I say
to you, scream not, only remonstrate gently with the
server, that the server may correct the fault.
Like wise if you receive a portion of fish from which
every piece of herbal seasoning has not been scraped off,
and the herbal seasoning is loathsome to you and steeped
in vileness, again I say, refrain from screaming.
Though the vileness overwhelm you, and cause you a faint
unto death, make not that sound from within your throat,
neither cover your face, nor press your fingers to your
nose. For even not I have made the fish as it should be;
behold, I eat it myself, yet do not die.
Concerning Face and Hands
Cast your countenance upward to the light, and lift your
eyes to the hills, that I may more easily wash you off.
For the stains are upon you; even to the very back of
your head, there is rice thereon. And in the breast
pocket of your garment, and upon the tie of your shoe,
rice and other fragments are distributed in a manner
wonderful to see. Only hold yourself still; hold still, I
say. Give each finger in its turn for my examination
thereof, and also each thumb. Lo, how iniquitous they
appear. What I do is as it must be; and you shall not go
hence until I have done.
Various Other Laws, Statutes, and Ordinances
Bite not, lest you be cast into quiet time.
Neither drink of your own bath water, nor of the bath
water of any kind; nor rub your feet on bread, even if it
be in the package; nor rub yourself against cars, not
against any building; nor eat sand.
Leave the cat alone, for what has the cat done, that you
should so afflict it with tape?
And hum not the humming in your nose as I read, nor stand
between the light and the book. Indeed, you will drive me
Nor forget what I said about the tape.
Complaints and Lamentations
O my children, you are disobedient. For when I tell you
what you must do, you argue and dispute hotly even to the
littlest detail; and when I do not accede, you cry out,
and hit and kick. Yes, and even sometime do you spit, and
shout "stupid-head" and other blasphemies, and
hit and kick the wall and the molding thereof when you
are sent to the corner. And though the law teaches that
no one shall be sent to the corner for more minutes than
he has years of age, yet I would leave you there all day,
so mighty am I in anger.
But upon being sent to the corner you ask straight-away,
"Can I come out?" and I reply, "No, you
may not come out." And again you ask, and again I
give the same reply. But when you ask again a third time,
then you may come out.
Hear me, O my children, for the bills they kill me. I pay
and pay again, even to the twelfth time in a year, and
yet again they mount higher than before.
For our health, that we may be covered, I give six
hundred and twenty talents twelve times in a year; but
even this covers not the fifteen hundred deductible for
each member of the family within a calendar year. And yet
for ordinary visits we still are not covered, nor for
many medicines, nor for the teeth within our mouths.
Guess not at what rage is in my mind, for surely you
cannot know. For I will come to you at the first of the
month and at the fifteenth of the month with the bills
and a great whining and moan. And when the month of taxes
comes, I will decry the wrong and unfairness of it, and
mourn with wine and ashtrays, and rend my receipts.
And you shall remember that I am that I am: before,
after, and until you are twenty-one.
Hear me then, and avoid me in my wrath, O children of me.
Pablo, Juan and Richard:
A True Story of What Fathers Do
by Jack Kammer
This could be dangerous, I thought. This is Los Angeles,
early June 1992. And, besides, it's getting dark.
Stranded and alone, hauling a heavy suitcase along
Washington Boulevard east of Lincoln Avenue, unable to
find a phone that made sense or a taxi dispatcher
interested in my fare, I was running late for my plane at
LAX. I decided that this was a chance I needed, no,
wanted to take. I approached three young Hispanic men
standing outside their car in a fast food parking lot.
But first a little background.
I had just spent four days in the mountains above Palm
Springs at a conference of men who wanted to give the
nation new hope for old and growing problems. We were a
few of the big fish in the small pond that some have
called the men's movement. We agreed that what the nation
most urgently needs right now is a massive infusion of
strong, noble, loving, nurturing, healthy masculine
energy to counteract America's malaise, impotence and
social pathologies. We talked a lot about the importance
of fathers, both as an archetypal metaphor and as a
Back in the fast food parking lot I warily approached the
three young, black-haired, brown-skinned men. "How
ya doing?" I said calmly and evenly. "I'm
trying to get to LAX and I'm running late. The cabs and
the phones aren't cooperating. How much money would you
need to take me?"
They looked at each other. One of them in a white T-shirt
said to the one who must have been the driver, "Go
for it, man."
The driver hesitated. I said, "Name a price that
makes it worth your while."
He looked straight at me. "Ten bucks," he said.
"I'll give you twenty."
"Let's do it, man," said the T-shirted youth.
The driver nodded and popped the trunk. "You wanna
put your suitcase here?"
"No, thanks," I answered straight back. The
image of being forced empty-handed out of the car was
clear in my mind. "I'd rather keep it with me."
"That's cool," the T-shirt said.
So there I was, entrusting my life to what I hoped to be
"positive male energy." I was thinking we
should go west to Lincoln Avenue. We headed east. Now
But then we turned south and soon we were on a freeway. I
knew it could have been stupid, but I took out my wallet,
removed a twenty and said to the driver, "Here, I
want to pay you now."
The driver took it with a simple "thanks."
"So here I am, guys," I said. "I sure hope
you're going to take care of me."
T-shirt, sitting in the back seat with me, my suitcase
between us, smiled knowingly and said, "It's okay,
man. We're good guys."
I nodded and shrugged, "I sure hope so, because if
you're not, I'm in big trouble, aren't I?"
They all laughed and then T-shirt spoke up. "So
where you from?"
"Baltimore," I answered.
"Oh, man, it's nice back east. That's what they say.
Green and everything."
I smiled and nodded, "Yeah. And back east, L.A. is
our idea of heaven."
"Naah, it's rough here, man. It's hard."
T-shirt was clearly going to be the spokesman.
Every issue we men's movement guys had talked about
during our conference in the mountains was in this car.
It was time for a reality check. "How old are you
guys?" I asked.
They were sixteen and seventeen. They were all in school
and had part-time jobs. T shirt and the driver worked in
a restaurant. The quiet young man riding shotgun didn't
"Tell me about the gangs. Are there gangs at your
"There's gangs everywhere, man. Everywhere. It's
"Are you guys in a gang?" I asked.
"No way, man."
"Why not?" I wondered.
"Because there's no hope in it. You just get a
bullet in your head."
"Yeah, but what hope is there for you outside the
"I don't know. I just want to get a future. Do
"What's the difference between you guys and the guys
in the gangs?"
"I don't know, man. We just don't want to do
"Yeah, but why not? What's the difference?" I
"I don't know, man. I don't know. We're just lucky I
I let the question sit for a moment, then started up.
"What about fathers? Do you have a father at
home?" I asked the youth in the back seat with me.
"Yeah. I do."
"How about you?" I asked the driver.
"Yeah, I got a dad."
"Living with you?"
And the shotgun rider volunteered, "I got a dad,
"How about the guys in the gangs? Do they have
fathers living with them?"
"No way, man. None of them do."
"So maybe fathers make a difference?" I
"Absolutely, man. Absolutely."
"Why?" I probed. "What difference does a
"He's always behind you, man, pushing you. Keeping
you in line."
"Yeah. Telling you what's what," driver and
And I was taken safely right where I needed to go. The
driver even asked what terminal I wanted. On time.
Without a hitch.
I met eighteen amazing men at the conference in the
mountains. I am eternally grateful for their wisdom and
their urge to heal the nation.
But the most amazing men I met on my trip were the three
youngest ones, Pablo, Juan and Richard -- amazing because
in spite of everything they were trying to be good.
And the men to whom I am most grateful are the men I
never met. The men to whom I am most grateful are their
It was their fathers who got me to the airport. It was
their fathers who kept me safe.
~~ from "Full-Time Dads" May/June 1995 issue
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