This afternoon, Maggie and I accompanied Julien to the doctor’s office for a follow-up appointment for the cold and ear infection he had last week. We were in one of the examination rooms, but the doctors were backed up on their appointments, so we had to wait for a while. Soon, Julien got restless. He kept walking to the door which was shut, and listening. “Is that the doctor?” he’d ask. When he heard the sound of a woman coughing outside in the hallway, he shouted out, “Are you all right?” Then he asked again, a little louder this time, “Are you all right?” When he got tired of listening at the door, he looked around the room. It was one of those small, bare examining rooms, so there wasn’t much there, just a sink, the examining table, a couple of chairs, a narrow counter where the doctor could set down a laptop, and some medical equipment. Then Julien looked up to the wall behind Maggie, where there was a magazine holder. He climbed up on a shelf that was on a level with Maggie’s chair, then reached up to pull out a magazine on which there was a picture of a deer. Julien likes animals, so he probably thought this would be something interesting to look at while were waiting for the doctor. He looked through it for less than a minute, then dropped it to the floor. I picked it up, but before I put it back on the rack I looked at it more closely. It was an issue of Field & Stream, and there was a big picture of a deer on the cover, which was what caught Julien’s eye. But the picture was the illustration for one of that issue’s featured stories, the title of which was “KILL A SUPER BUCK,” and I wondered what sort of person this story would attract. Who would see this issue in the supermarket, see the word “kill” in big blue letters, and be compelled to buy it? Who would bring this magazine home and on the way there daydream about the killing of things? Maggie pulled the magazine from my hands, read the title of the featured story, and said, “Yuck!” As she put it back up in the magazine rack, I felt good knowing that she and Julien would most likely grow up to be the sort of people who would rather ask a stranger over and over “Are you all right?” than take even the least amount of time to consider the killing of things. Which isn’t to say that if you were to push them down they wouldn’t push you back. And bring some friends with them, who also know what it’s like to be pushed down, over and over, and maybe never stop pushing until things start to change.
Photograph by Jose Padua.