Shortly after supper Gary’s father walked in the bed room and sat on the edge of the bed.
Gary stared at the ceiling.
“I want to make one thing certain from the outset,” Gary’s father said. “In this house no child will leave the table without first being excused. If you should live under my roof until you are thirty you are still my child. Even if I leave the table before your mother I asked to be excused. A family meal is a sacred occasion. Now what is wrong with you?”
“Nothing,” Gary said. “I’m just growing up. I don’t like being treated like a kid anymore.”
“What brought this all about?” Gary’s dad said.
“You get to a certain age and you start to figure things out for yourself,” Gary said.
“Tell me,” Gary’s father said. “What is the thing with the beret?”
“Kids wear caps,” Gary said.
“But you are a kid,” Gary’s father said, “a beret doesn’t change that. It doesn’t make you older or smarter. It just makes you look weird.”
“So you’re saying I’m weird?” Gary said.
“Well as of late you have been acting weird,” Gary’s father said. “Do you have new friends or did you see a movie or read a book? Because nobody wakes up one morning and says ‘I think today is the day I wear a beret and start acting like Salvador Dali”
“Whose that?” Gary said.
“Some weirdo artist who wears a beret,” Gary’s dad said. “I can’t even get you to lift a brush to paint the trim on the house.”
“You just can’t handle the fact I’ve got a mind of my own and I help plenty around here,” Gary said.
“You mow the grass,” Gary’s father said.
There was a moment of silence.
“That sound you here is what else you do,” Gary’s father said.
Gary turned away from his dad. Resentment simmered. The last few days he had done nothing but worry about his family. “If only they knew,” he thought, “but that is not the point. They should love me more and appreciate me just because I risk my life for them? They should love and respect me no matter what.”
“I’ll give you a few days to think things over,” Gary’s dad said, “and if there isn’t some sort of change I will have to make some changes.”
“What does that mean?” Gary said.
Gary’s dad stood and left the room.