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The International Writers Magazine: Growing Up Stories

Lucy, PC
• Martin Green
I was a little surprised when our ten-year old son Greg suddenly developed an interest in the environment shortly after entering the fifth grade.   “Dad, what are you doing?” he said to me after I’d tossed a couple of used batteries into the bin.   “Don’t you know that will poison the earth?  You have to put those in a special place at school.”


     “All right,” I said.   “By all means, take them to the school.”

     The next night at dinner Greg looked at his plate and said, “We’re not eating this, are we?”

     “What’s wrong?” asked my wife Sally.   “It’s fried chicken, one of your favorites.”

     “Don’t you know how they treat chickens?” demanded Greg.   “They cram them in those cages like, uh, um, well, chickens.   It’s animal cruelty.”

     “You never worried about how chickens were treated before,” said Sally.

     “Yeah, well, I do now.   It’s inhuman.  Or inhumane.   Anyway, it’s a crime the way we treat animals.   As a matter of fact, I think I’m going to become a vegan.”

     “A what?”

     “A vegan.   Someone who only eats vegetables.”

     “Well,” said Sally, “don’t expect me to change the way I cook just because you’ve gotten some strange ideas.”

     “They’re not strange,” said Gregg.   “I was just ignorant before.    I don’t want to eat chicken any more.   But as long as you cooked this I guess I’ll finish it.”

     After Greg stalked to his room, Sally asked, “What’s gotten into him?”

     “I don’t know.   Maybe it’s some class in school.”

     The mystery was solved the next day when Greg came home with a new girl in his class.   Her name was Lucy and her family had moved to Sacramento from San Francisco.   Her father, she immediately told us, was a Deputy Director of some State agency.  In other words, a bigwig.   I should mention that I’m a community college teacher, definitely not a bigwig.  Sally worked part-time as a teacher’s aide to supplement our income.

     Lucy was a pretty girl, with dark hair, a firm chin and piercing black eyes.   I could see why Greg was taken with her.   When Greg told her I taught at the community college, she at once asked if we had a Women’s Study program.   “No, we don’t” I told her.   “We have to have more practical courses.”

     “What’s more practical than informing your students about women’s role in society?   After centuries of male oppression, we’re finally coming into our own.”

     “True,” I said.   And she was a good example of that.   Somehow I suspected what her next question would be and, sure enough, she asked, “What about Black Studies?”

     “No, we don’t have that either, but we do have a lot of black, uh, African-American, students.”

     “Huh!” was her response to that.   “Greg told me you belong to a swim and tennis club.   Do you have any African-American members?”

     “Hmmm.   I think we do have a few.   It’s a neighborhood club and not too many African-Americans live around here.”

     “Housing discrimination,” she said triumphantly.

     I was glad when Greg interrupted this inquisition by telling Lucy he wanted to show her his room.   They went upstairs and I was left to wonder what Greg had gotten himself into.

     What it was became apparent in the next few weeks.   Greg put up posters in his room showing endangered whales, polar bears, tigers, wolves and many other species.  Almost every day after school he went with Lucy to some meeting or other to promote a worthy world-saving cause.  One afternoon he was in a protest organized by Lucy against the unhealthy lunches the school was serving.  On another occasion, he and Lucy joined a protest in front of city hall on behalf of the homeless.  When they weren’t doing all these things Greg was at Lucy’s house or she was at our house, plotting strategy, I suppose.

     One day I remarked to Greg that his girl friend Lucy was really into PC.

     “What’s PC?” he asked.

     “PC is for politically correct.   It’s something that’s swept over our society in the last, oh, maybe ten years.  It means you have to believe men oppress women, everyone oppresses black people, rich nations exploit poor ones, we’re polluting the earth and humans are destroying the animals, all the stuff that I’m sure Lucy has told you about.”

     “Yeah, she has.  She knows a lot. Anyway, she’s not my girlfriend.”

     “She’s not?   You’re together so much I thought she was.”

     “Yeah, I know.   We do all these things together, but she won’t say that she’s my girlfriend.   She says I have to prove myself more.   I don’t know what more I can do.”

     “I’m sorry to hear that,” I said.   “She’s a very pretty girl.   She’s also has some pretty decided views.”

     “Yeah,” said Greg.  “But I think I have an idea.”

     The next week Greg brought home someone else, an African-American boy named Bryant Clark.  He said Bryant was his new friend.  Bryant was a tall, handsome boy with a confident air.  His father taught, not at a mere community collage, but at UC Davis, where he was a department chair.   His mother was a lawyer.  Evidently, Greg had lured him to our house with the promise of showing him some new video games.  They went upstairs but were soon back down, with Bryant saying, “Those games suck.”

     “I’m sorry,” said Greg.   “Do you just want to hang out?”

     “No, I have better things to do.”

     “I’ll see you at school tomorrow.”

     “Maybe,” said Bryant.   “Maybe not.”   Then he was gone.

     “Your new friend didn’t seem too friendly,” I said.

     “Yeah.  He can be pretty snooty.   The only reason I asked him over here was to show Lucy I wasn’t a racist.”

     “Why should she think you’re a racist?”

     “I don’t know.  She says I still have to overcome my bourgeois, or something, upbringing.  Anyway, I invited Bryant over so maybe she’ll say we can officially be a couple.”   He sounded hopeful.

     But a few evenings later Greg came to dinner looking glum.   “What’s the matter?” I asked.

     “It’s Lucy,” said Sally.

     “You’re still not an official couple?”

     “Worse,” said Greg.   “I introduced her to Bryant, to show her, you know, how I’m not a racist, and now she’s with him all the time.”

     “Too bad,” I said.   “I know you really liked her.”

     “Yeah.”  Then he brightened up.  “But, you know, like you said, she had some pretty decided views.   And some of them were pretty far out.   Mom, do you think you can make fried chicken tomorrow night?”

     “So you’re no longer a vegan?”

     “No, I think I was just going through a phase.”

     Yes, I thought, a PC Lucy phase.   It was just as well he’d passed through that.   I just hoped the next phase wouldn’t be going to the other extreme.

© Martin Green December 2012

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