Saturday, March 15, 2008

The Diarist

"That's a girl's diary," Davis said when he joined me at the S. S. Kresge lunch counter, where we'd agreed to meet, and where, having already ordered a glass of ice water, I now sat daubing a moistened paper napkin on the sticky blemish the price tag had left on the diary's plasticized cover. ... When Davis sat down I felt something heavy and immutable settling beside me. I dropped the diary back into its paper sack and heard it land with a heavy thump, as if its cover girl had herself just fallen from orbit.
"It's the only kind they've got," I told him.
I couldn't tell if Davis knew that I was lying. I started to add that Mrs. Tucker, my sixth-grade teacher, had once advised our class that we should all keep diaries, especially now that we were entering junior high, so we could look back one day at all the interesting things that happened in our lives. ...
"Sure," Davis said. "Like you've got something to write about."

In the short story The Diarist by Richard McCann, the eleven year old narrator struggles with what to write when he feels like he has so much inside himself to express. He is struggling to figure out why he feels so different from his older brother and his father. The three are preparing to leave for their annual August fishing trip when he buys the diary. He is not looking forward to the trip because he doesn't really enjoy the sporting activities. In addition, his mother will not be joining them this year.

Throughout the preparations, the travel, and the days spent at the old farmhouse, he reflects on how he is more his mother's child. He would rather be enjoying a vacation with her than fishing at the lake and eating ravioli with his father. He compares his preferences of activities to those of his brother's. And he dreams of somehow trying to reconnect with his father who seems to question his strange behaviors.

I knew what my wish would be, if one wish were granted me: Please let me seem, even if only for this hour, my father's son. I knew the time had come. I knew I had to please him.

After a turn of events begin to shed light on his struggle, he now finds that the awareness of his differences and secrets are really just beginning.

I hate you, I thought. I hate you, I hate you. In retrospect, I'm not sure who I was hating more right then, as I stood there --- my father, my mother, or myself. ... For the first time, I wanted to write something down, something true, even if I had no idea what words I'd one day use in doing so.

"The Diarist" by Richard McCann from The O. Henry Prize Stories 2007 edited by Laura Furman

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