In this episode, we learn how to apply the time honored heavy artillery of fatherhood: the stare, the look, the dadface. Also known as, the Hairy Eyeball.
Last night, the kid ratcheted his online kill ratio up into the stratosphere right up to the legally agreed-upon bed time. I had checked his grades online and they had improved, but I’d had a long day and didn’t check his assignments. Apparently, neither did he.
As he was going to bed last night he says this to me:
Kid: Dad, can you wake me up at 7:30 tomorrow?
Dad: So you can go online? I don’t think so.
Kid: No, no. It’s just, I hate rushing in the morning, you know, I hate just jumping into the shower then running out to school. I want a little time just to hang. With you.
Dad: Oh, progeny! Oh, wondrous offspring! Oh, son of mine, thy wisdom knows no bounds! The sun, it doth radiate from thy nether orifi! (Or something like that.)
This morning, after staying up all night making sure the girl was doing her sleep therapy, I hauled my noble carcass out of bed at the ungodly hour of 7:30, as requested by the boy. He shuts his door and I go make tea and I’m thinking, oh well, at least he’s interested in something.
I open his door to tell him he’s running out of shower time and instead of the harsh staccato of gunfire and the horrified screams the digital dead and dying, I get total silence. I peek around the door and there he is, bathed in the radium glow of his open laptop, writing a report. That little . . .
Dad: Is that homework?
Dad: It better not be.
Kid: Come on, dad! This is the first time this semester I didn’t do my homework.
Dad: So what? That doesn’t make it right.
So I go do my thing. He runs up the stairs a few minutes later.
Kid: Dad, print this right now!
I open the document, a book report, and start reading. Usually, five sentences into one of his reports, my teeth are ground down to nubs from the frustration and tedium of capitalizing names, respelling simple words, and changing there to they’re. But the time it starts out like this:
“The executioner works on Tuesdays.”
The first page sets the mood for this haunting work of historical fiction, which is based on the life of Helmuth Guddat Hubner, a member of the Hitler Youth and the title character of THE BOY WHO DARED. Susan Campbell Bartoletti has taken one episode from her Newberry Honor Book, HITLER YOUTH, and fleshed it out into a thought-provoking novel.
Wow! The kid’s getting good! He’s even got thought-provoking hyphenated. I scroll down, waiting for the telltale squiggly crimson underlines, but they’re not there. Instead, I’m reading perfectly spelled gems like this:
Life is not easy for his family or for the German people after losing the Great War (World War I). At school Helmuth learns how the Treaty of Versailles—the peace agreement that ended the Great War in 1918—has forced Germans to make costly reparations, which have led to unemployment, poverty and inflation. Even more, the treaty has caused shame and humiliation to the once proud and cultured German people, who gave the world Brahms, Beethoven and Bach.
Holy awesome, batman! This kid’s got some chops! I keep reading.
After seeing a classmate scorned and beaten up for being Jewish, and later watching a Jewish neighbor who served nobly in the Great War get hauled off by Nazi stormtroopers, Helmuth becomes disillusioned and vows to take action. But can one teenage boy stand up against the Nazis? If so, how and at what risk? THE BOY WHO DARED is a story about having the courage to act upon one’s beliefs, no matter one’s age or the risks and consequences involved. Bartoletti’s use of flashbacks builds the suspense, and her inclusion of numerous photos, along with a Third Reich timeline, complement the experience of reading this memorable novel.
Jesus Hat-trick Christ! I’m beaming. This is my “That’s my boy!” moment! I finally got … I … wait a minute. He not only used Chicago Manual of Style ALL CAPS for the title of the book in the body of the story; he not only used disillusionment; he used complement. With an E. Correctly! Crap, even my English professor got that one wrong sometimes.
It is at this point that I swivel slowly around in my desk chair, gaze into his highly suspicious face, and apply, generously, the hairy eyeball.
Dad: What’s disillusion mean?
Kid: I don’t know, hurry up!
Dad: Spell complement.
Kid: Duh, C-O-M-P-L-I-M-E-N-T
Dad: No, the other one.
Dad: Did you write this paper?
Dad: Did you?
Kid: [floor stare of shame; hardly speaking] No.
Dad: Did you read this book?
Kid: [Staring a shame-hole through the floor, hoping to escape; barely audible] No.
Dad: [furiously restraining a torrent of invectives. Voice full of malicious disappointment. Eyeball full of hair.] Get back down there and write a report on a book you’ve actually read.
He slinks down the stairs. I call the school to report him Tardy—only his second tardy of the semester—and go about my biz.
He comes back forty minutes later and turns in the following, which I present unabridged:
It all strarts when annamarie and ellen are racing home from school. Two men stop them. They are nazi soldiers. (this takes place during world war 2 in which nazi soldiers were targeting jews). Luckily they get away even though ellen is a jew.
That’s my boy.