“But why do my brothers get to wear shorts and no shirt at all? Why do I have to cover up neck to ankles in all this heat and sunshine?” asks the daughter of the family.
“Because…” says the long-suffering father. “Women must be decent. At all times. You do not wish to become a harlot, do you?”
“Dad! I’m nine years old! Not a woman! Wearing shorts is not going to turn me into a harlot!!”
“She’s right, you know,” says one of her brothers. The one who is always in trouble with their father.
“Thank you!” says the girl to her brother.
“I will thank you to be quiet!” shouts the father. “Do you want your sister to become a whore??!!”
“A child wearing shorts is not a whore!!” shouts the son.
“Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee!!” shouts the father.
Father and son stare at each other.
Finally the son says: “The way things are around here, I may not want my days to be long upon the land,” and walks away.
“Come back here!!!” yells the father, but the son does not turn around.
The daughter goes indoors, where it’s cooler.
“Oh, sweet Jesus,” says the father. “I am only trying to raise them right!” He looks towards the sky, and asks for the ten thousandth time: “Why did you have to take my wife away from us? She would’ve known what to do with these children!”
“It’s Okay, Dad,” says one of his other sons. “We understand what you’re trying to do.”
“And how much you’re struggling,” says another one.
“But they don’t…” says the father, looking towards the house.
“Maybe someday they will,” says the oldest of his sons. The one who no longer lives at his childhood home. The one who has a house of his own. “Or maybe they never will. That’s up to them. But if I might suggest…” he hesitates, and then goes on: “Mom always used to say ‘a little bit of kindness goes a long way’.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” says the father, upset. “You saying I wasn’t kind to her when she lived?!”
“That’s not at all what I was saying,” says the eldest son. “You know… Nevermind. I’m heading back to my own home now. Best of luck to you and all the rest of your children.”
And the oldest son goes to his truck, gets inside it, and drives away.
Distracted by thought of worry over his youngest brother and his only sister, he fails to hit the breaks when he really, really should.
The father will be asking again: “Why?!”