[3:36] A: Now let me stop you right there, Gerald. Because I can see where you’re going and what you’re doing is asking the exact kind of question that I’m not going to answer. A question I couldn’t answer in the first place, Gerald, and even then, even if I had an answer right here in my hand I still wouldn’t give it to you since, to begin with, you’re asking me something that shouldn’t be asked. Here’s what I’m talking about. I’ve said it before and I want you to listen. I know that I’m here to answer your questions. I think people already see me as an open individual, as someone who believes in open discussions and foundationally also in a free exchange of ideas. But there’s a line that you’ve crossed that you don’t seem to see, and a saying about old dogs and letting them lie. I understand that I’m here to answer your questions, but there’s a decency here that I think you need to remember and so, out of respect for those people, I will leave it at that.
[4:43] There’s a time and a place for everything. In my line of work, I meet people. Lots of folks from everywhere: substitute teachers from Detroit, Michigan, third-shift machinists from northern Wyoming, paper mill workers and rest home assistants, window washers and x-ray technicians. Can I tell you something? I shook hands with Steve Achen from Kadoka, South Dakota; a 43-year-old fry cook who plays a clown who does magic on the weekends for kids’ parties. I sat down to breakfast with Mark Simmons from Wyola, no, Missoula, a third generation butcher with a mother named Misty who has terminal cancer of the kidneys.
[5:35] All of these people, Gerald. Each night they come home and they pull into their driveways. At night they’re tired and it’s a struggle to get by. They come home from work sitting in the driveway, waiting. And so say perhaps they have a young boy to take care of. The young boy goes to school; he has his homework spread out on the table in the kitchen. It’s about dinnertime and the television’s playing on top of the refrigerator. Mom is pouring water and pulling out plates. Dad is by the boy flipping channels from a ball game, to a game show, to a news show then look: there’s this interview and your hand is already raised. You take your pencil from your mouth and everyone is listening when bang.
[6:21] So. The mother looks up. The father looks up, he holds the remote. There’s a decency here that I want you to remember. A silence between them when the young boy puts down his pencil. He turns to his parents, looks up at his father. This boy says, “Dad,” and the father says, “Yes.” And then this boy goes on to repeat that question you sought fit to ask me just then. Gerald. Your question. Just as you said it. How easy for you to ask such a question.
[7:21] Now, suppose I have a question that I want you to answer: how is this man supposed to answer his boy? How could he even begin? Tomorrow that question will go on to school. That evening there’ll be another young boy with new questions for parents tired from work, more dinners and more silence.
[7:42] I wonder. How would Steve Achen answer your question? What would Mark Simmons do to your question? I like to think of myself as an open individual. Ask me anything, usually, and I will do my best to answer. But here is the difference and I want you to listen. Some people, decent people, understand that there’s a time and a place to ask certain questions. Sleeping dogs, Gerald. You’re asking me something that shouldn’t be asked and out of respect for those dogs, I will let them keep lying.
Well, yes. Obviously, I agree.
No. That’s something that I’ve never said.
Matthew was born in northern Michigan. His work has previously appeared in Unsaid, Everyday Genius, and SmokeLong Quarterly, among others. He is concerned primarily with fiction writing and running long distances. www.m-thompson.net