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21st Century Problems: The Surrogate Father (#8) (Louis Toliver Jr)


“The problem is that I work too much,” I vented to FishEater2013 while playing PS3 online. “Yeah that’s some bullshit,” the 12 year-old responded. “I know what you mean. My mom always wants me to take out the trash.” I didn’t really think taking out the trash was comparable to having 5 jobs but the kid was making an effort to connect. It was progress. “If you had to quit one of my jobs, which one would you let go…..” it dawned on me I still didn’t know this kid’s name. I asked, “What’s your real name?” “Ben,” He replied. “Well, Ben…I’m Trey. Now, which job would you get rid of?” I asked again. “The disaster relief job sounds the worse…but teaching does too. Can you quit two?” I could hear him chewing gum in a way that normally would annoy me. But we bonded so I could tolerate him doing it. Some time passed and it was getting close to my bedtime but not Ben’s because I don’t think his parents paid him much attention. “I’m getting tired, buddy,” I yawned. “Hey Trey?” there was a certain tone of vulnerability in Ben’s voice I had never heard before. “Yeah?” I was curious. “We’re supposed to invite a parent to school for parent appreciation. I figured since we were friends you could go. I don’t want to ask my Dad. He won’t go anyway.” I was completely taken back by the fact this boy wanted me to go to his school for parents’ day. “Uh, Ben, we’ve only know each other for a month or so playing online video games and I’ve never met you and it’d probably be against the law if I did.” There was a long silence. “Yeah, yeah, I know. I just figured I’d asked.” I could tell Ben was a lonely boy. I could tell his feelings were hurt. “Alright, bud, be ready for another round of games tomorrow, okay?” It was the best I could do to calm the awkwardness. “Okay,” Ben replied and then we were disconnected from game play. I thought about this for a long time restless in bed as I finished some yogurt I brought home from YoguLand.

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