eat, and my mother would find herself, unable
to submit to such willfulness—and such idiocy.
and unable to for my own good. she is only asking me to do something for my own good—and
still i say no Wouldn’t she give me the food out
of her own mouth, don’t i know that by now?
But i don’t want the food from her mouth.
i don’t even want the food from my plate—
that’s the point.
please! a child with my potential! My ac-
complishments! My future!—all the gifts God
has lavished upon me, of beauty, of brains, am
i to be allowed to think i can just starve myself
to death for no good reason in the world?
do i want people to look down on a skinny
little boy all my life, or to look up to a man?
do i want to be pushed around and made
fun of, do i want to be skin and bones that peo-
ple can knock over with a sneeze, or do i want
to command respect?
Which do i want to be when i grow up,
weak or strong, a success or a failure, a man or
i just don’t want to eat, i answer.
so my mother sits down in a chair beside
me with a long bread knife in her hand. it is
made of stainless steel, and has little sawlike
teeth. Which do i want to be, weak or strong, a
man or a mouse?
doctor, why, why oh why oh why oh why
does a mother pull a knife on her own son? i
am six, seven years old, how do i know she really
wouldn’t use it? What am i supposed to do, try
bluffing her out, at seven? i have no complicated
sense of strategy, for christ’s sake—i probably
don’t even weigh sixty pounds yet. someone
waves a knife in my direction, i believe there
is an intention lurking somewhere to draw my
blood. Only why What can she possibly be
thinking in her brain how crazy can she possibly be? suppose she had let me win—what
would have been lost? Why a knife, why the
threat of murder, why is such total and annihilating victory necessary—when only the day before she set down her iron on the ironing board
and applauded as i stormed around the kitchen
rehearsing my role as christopher columbus in
the third-grade production of Land Ho! i am
“Polo Party,” Paul Butler, patriarch of one of America’s foremost polo families, with his son, daughter,