From Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul IV

My Father’s Truth

My father says that when he was a little boy, he saw a French farm wife chop off a chicken’s head. Dad says the chicken ran around for a while before the farm wife picked it up. He says that the air that day was sweating, and the chicken looked as if it were sweating, too. My dad says that a plucked chicken looks like a harried banker—all thin and scrawny and miserable.

When my dad was in his late teens, he saw the race riots in Chicago. He says that he and a black friend of his climbed on top of a roof to watch the people protest. He saw men pushing cars over, men punching each other, men screaming like shrews. He saw white and black men glare at each other, ashamed of their own fear and each despising the other for it. He says they tried to kill each other in the dank Chicago streets. My dad tells me that fighting people are sly snakes, and he warns me to stay away from them. He says that when a man is in the company of snakes, sooner or later he will get poison spit in his eye.

My dad was twenty-three when he went to Thailand. He says that the children there try to sell the GIs pencils at an equivalent of five American dollars. Most GIs buy the pencils because the children look as if they’re starving and could use the five dollars. He says that he would visit orphanages and that all the children went barefoot. He would bring crackers with him, and the children would line up perfectly and hold out their cupped hands for a cracker.

My dad is no longer a little boy in France. He doesn’t live in Chicago, either. And he never went back to Thailand to buy five-dollar pencils. My dad teaches art to children, who mostly don’t appreciate it. He can’t tell them about the orphans in Thailand with no shoes. He can’t tell them about the fear he had when the rioting scarred the streets. All he can tell them about is Picasso or Rembrandt. But he can tell me what he knows to be true. And I can remember.

I probably won’t become a harried banker, and I might even see Chicago’s streets. Maybe I’ll end up in Thailand buying a five-dollar pencil from a barefoot girl. Either way, I’ll at least have some truths to go by, and my father will have done his job well.

Rianna Ouellette

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