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Heinie Manush Tries for Third
By Joseph Connolly
Two days before Thanksgiving, Duffy went to the mall to buy socks. He liked
the stretchy black ones with gold toes. His wife, May, who died the previous
spring, had tried for nearly fifty years to get him to buy something else,
like white ones with little stripes around the top for the summertime, or
argyles for winter. But Duffy wouldnt be persuaded, and even on the
hottest summer days, when May succeeded in getting him into a pair of Bermuda
shorts, he sat there on the back porch in his dress shoes with his black
socks pulled up almost to his knees.
His mission accomplished, a six-month supply of gold-toed black socks in
a plastic Sears bag dangling from his right hand, Duffy found himself in
a computer store. His son, Jack, who was always doing things that baffled
him, had bought him a computer for his birthday. Duffy remembered the day,
barely three weeks after May died. Hed stood in the living room and
watched Jack carrying the boxes up the walk.
Whats this? Duffy asked when Jack had all the boxes inside.
Its your birthday present.
Duffy looked down at the boxes, then looked at his son.
What am I going to do with a computer? he said.
Jack reeled off a list of activities: he could do his taxes, balance his
checkbook, write letters, play games.
Games? Duffy said. Your teenager plays games with computers
when he should be out in the sun. Duffys grandson, a pasty,
bug-eyed boy of thirteen, was rarely seen without an electronic device of
some kind beeping or wailing in his hands. Duffy had taken to calling the
boy your teenager or that teenager. His real name
was John Duffy the Third.
So dont play games, Jack said. Its got a
spreadsheet program on it. Itll help you with your taxes.
You should return it, Duffy said. Get your money back.
Dad, Jack said. Then they just stood there, looking at each
other. They hadnt even said hello and they were in a standoff.
It had been pretty much that way, Duffy knew, for more than thirty years,
ever since Duffy first realized that his son had ideas of his own. Duffy
went to the kitchen and read the newspaper while Jack lugged the boxes up
the stairs and assembled the computer in Duffys den. Later, Duffy
allowed Jack to give him some rudimentary lessons. The machine was impressive,
no doubt about it. Duffy just couldnt see how it could ever fit into
A clerk, a boy not much older than Duffys grandson, approached him.
Can I help you, sir? He looked doubtful.
Just browsing, Duffy said. He stood in the middle of the store
and glanced around warily, like a man who has accidentally wandered into
a bad neighborhood. On the shelves were hundreds of devices Duffy would
never understand, tools of a strange religion. Working computers were arranged
on a shelf along one wall. Other computers displayed bizarre shifting patterns
of color. Duffy was about to turn and go when he spotted a sign that said
Games. He decided to see what kind of game a person could play
on a computer.
To read the rest of this story, click
here to order a copy of the Summer 1999 issue.
JOSEPH CONNOLLY is a Bloomington, Illinis, native and St. Louis Cardinals
fan. He now lives near Boston, where he is foced to make do with American
© 1999 Joseph Connolly
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