“Hi yourself. Give your mother a kiss.”
“So how was your day Ma?”
“Not so bad, sweetie. Yourself? What’ve you been up to?”
“Same old same old. We finalized that merger with another office that I’ve been talking about. It’s sure to make a good profit.”
“I’m glad. I’m really proud of you, you know. You’ve really made something of yourself.”
“Thanks Ma. That means a lot to me.”
“And since we’re on the subject of success. . .”
“Ugh. Please don’t say what I think you’re about to say.”
“You know me so well. Your brother called today, and we had a nice long talk.”
“I’m sure you did.”
“And our conversation was about. . . “
“I think I can guess. About how I’m mean and cruel and hard-hearted to him because I won’t hand him any more money.”
“Yes, that’s the gist of it. How can you not help your brother out? Don’t you love him?”
“Of course I do. It’s just that you and I have different definitions of love. I happen to think that handing him money is not love.”
“How could you look at him in need and not do anything? Aren’t you going to do anything for him?”
“I’m not sure what I’m going to do, but I do know this: The last thing that will help him is to hand him more money.”
“But he’s been through so much in his life.”
“No, he hasn’t. He’s made so many bad choices in life, and he’s borne the consequences of them. I’m successful because I’ve tried—really imperfectly—to follow our Father’s Rules. He hasn’t even tried, and it shows.”
“Now, son, you know you’re not perfect either. . .”
“I know I’m not perfect. I’ve done some horrible things in my day, made some really bad choices, and I’ve even hurt some people on occasion. But I’ve been open and honest about my faults, and when I’ve done wrong I’ve tried to make it right. But. . . Mom, when are we going to stop pretending?”
“What do you mean?”
“I think my question applies to a lot of things. First off, when are we going to stop pretending that there’s no difference between a Kultur boy who tries to follow the Father’s Rules versus a Kultur boy who doesn’t, who makes absolutely no effort?”
“Well, I never. . . !”
“And when are we going to stop pretending that the achievements of one Kultur are the same as another’s?”
“But. . . !”
“I mean, I’m really glad that Lester’s finally graduated from High School—at 26 years of age. I really am. And I try not to make a big deal about what I’ve accomplished. I really do. I know that I had a lot of help from our Father. I know that too.”
At this point the woman just stared at her son.
“But to pretend that my achievements—graduating from High School at 16, graduating from Medical School, surgeon at 24—to pretend that that’s the equivalent of getting your GED at age 26 is, well, a lie.”
“And to keep pretending that the bad condition he’s in right now has absolutely nothing to do with choices he’s made—like they’re a meteor that fell out of the sky on top of him, that’s a lie too.”
Boy, if looks could kill, he’d be lying on the floor in a pool of blood right now. . .
“And finally, I’m getting really tired of pretending that his household and mine are equivalents to each other. Since we're talking about phone calls, I should mention that just the other day I got ANOTHER call from ANOTHER kid of his, wanting to come to live with me! When he catches one of his own kids sneaking out of his house to come live in mine, do you know what he does to them? Do you?!”
He returned his mother’s stare, and anyone watching this could easily tell that he was keeping his temper under control. “He BEATS them. He STARVES them. And if one of them actually makes it over to my house, he punishes his remaining kids even MORE.”
“As near as I can tell, all these lies are out there for one purpose: To make my brother feel better about himself. I understand why people do that. But to keep up these pretty lies is not helping him, and it’s KILLING his kids.”
For a moment he looked like he was struggling not to say something really offensive, something that would royally tick off his mother who was staring daggers at him. And then he finally let it out: “And Mom, I love you, but you don’t believe any of this nonsense any more than I do.”
“How dare you say that?! I LOVE Lester!”
“I’m sure you do. But I can’t help noticing that you’re choosing to live here with ME, in MY house, instead of with him. You can talk all you want about how one Kultur is as good as any other, but you voted with your feet, and your feet don’t lie. You chose to live here with me instead of anywhere else in the whole world, including with my brother.”
“Look, I’m not forcing anyone to live here. If someone wants to go, I don’t post any guards to stop them. I love you and everyone who lives here with all my heart and soul, but if someone wants to live somewhere else, I’m not going to put up a barbed-wire fence to keep them here.”
“Are you saying you want ME to move out?! Just because I’ve said some things you don’t want to hear?!”
“Of course not. I don’t want you to leave. Like I said, I love you and everyone else here. But you asked me why I wasn’t going to be giving my brother any more money. Now you know.”
“If you don’t help out your brother, so help me, I’ll. . .I’ll. . .”
“Move out? Leave me? We both know you’re not going to do that. For all your talk, you love living here just like everybody else, and you’re not fool enough to leave and live with my brother in order to make your point. Are you?”
With that, she turned on her heels and stormed out.
He watched her with a sad look on his face. He knew that after a while she’d calm down, come down to supper, and pretend that their conversation had never happened.
That he could live with. But in general, pretending bothered him. And he’d finally gotten tired of it.
In case you haven’t read the first part and are really confused, read Part One here.