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A Father's Wish

by Vil


I sat down, smiling as I looked at my family-- my wife, my four beautiful daughters, and our only son. The dim light of the electric fireplace made their skin seem to tan, flicker and burn as the flames moved.

"Well, River," I said, "out with it. Who is the lucky girl?"

I was so excited-- finally, my son was going to get married. He was almost twenty-eight, and I thought he'd already waited too long. But now, it was the best news I could've recieved. At long last, I could pass on the engagement ring my mother gave me to my son.

"That's just it, Dad," he said quietly. "He's... he's not a girl."

The smile fell from my lips. "What?" I asked quietly, shifting in my chair.

"He's not a girl," River repeated quietly. He moved a few dirty-blonde out of his face."

"Girls," Maybelline said, "why don't you four step out for a minute?"

"Mother," Margaret, the eldest, began.

Maybelline hardened her eyes and motioned for them to leave. They each obeyed, albeit Margaret lingered for a moment or two. After they had passed through the dark wooden doors, I looked up at my son.

"River, you know that I support you in just about everything you do," I said quietly. "You know I fought for gay rights every day in the Oval Office and that I still fight for them in the Senate."

"Yeah, Dad, I know," he huffed. His blue eyes flashed darkly as he looked away. "But let me guess-- it would look bad on your career and all that crap."

"That's not why your father's upset dear," my wife said kindly, placing a hand on his shoulder. She looked at me and shrugged with one shoulder, raking a hand through her dusty brown hair. "Go on, Richard. Tell him."

I closed my eyes and prayed silently for a moment. Please, God, I thought, make this easy. I opened my eyes and looked up at them both. Standing, I moved towards the neatly-arranged bookshelves, reaching for a small box-- my mother's jewelry box.

"I can't give you the ring, River. I want an heir."

The words were out in the open now. Maybelline rubbed River's back, but he shrugged her off. "What's that supposed to mean?"

"It means that I want a grandson with my last name," I said quietly. "I don't want my bloodline to die."

"It wouldn't die!" River scoffed. "You have four daughters and six grandkids already!"

"He wants a grandkid with our last name," my wife said quietly. "Your father just doesn't want the name to go extinct in the male line on this side of the family. His brothers nearly destroyed everything your father had worked for, and he wants to be sure that there's always an Atwood man around to do what needs to be done."

"You're both crazy!" River hissed at us. Maybelline moved to my side, nervously glancing between us. "You'd stop me from getting married-- for that?"

"I can't stop you," I said quietly. "But I can withhold this ring and my blessing."

River shook his head. "Why?"

"Because I have worked far too hard for far too long to not have just one thing from my children: a blood heir." I ran a hand over the back of my neck, trying to figure out how to explain it. "I love you, River, I really do," I said. "But if this is the one thing I ask of you, please do it. Life for you has been easy because your grandmother and your mother and I scrimped and saved to change how college worked in America. You have everything you could want for-- clean air, cheap schooling,the right to be heard-- because we made it happen." I looked at him tearfully. "Please just do this one thing for me."

River shook his head.

'No. Not if it means giving up the man I love."

"What about a surrogate?" Maybelline asked quietly. "Would you approve of a surrogate?"

"I... I'd have to talk to Avery," he answered. "But even if he said yes, why would I do it? Just to make Dad happy?"

"Because you would love a child with all of your heart," my wife answered. "Since you were little, you've wanted four boys and one little girl. You'd talk to my mother and your father's mother about it all of the time."

"I'll think about it," River grunted. "But I want the ring."

"I want an heir," I answered quietly. "Promise me an heir... and you can have the ring."

"Then we're at an impasse?" he asked.

"I guess we are."

"I'll talk to him about it. If he doesn't want kids, that's all there is to it," River answered.

"Fine," I said. "And if he does, you can have the ring."

"Good," my son said, "because you aren't invited to the wedding. Goodbye, Dad."

I shook my head as he stormed out of the room. "He'll come around, Maybelline," I said quietly.

"For your sake, I hope so," she replied, kissing my forehead. "If you're lucky, you may just have an heir..."

----------

Author's Note:

This in no way reflects my views regarding the LGBTQ+ community; I myself am a heteroflexible.


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Mon Sep 21, 2020 1:35 am
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Tuckster wrote a review...



Hi there Vil! I'm back to leave you with another review today (this is my last review to get my maroon username, you should feel honored). Let's dive into it!

Overall, I liked the honest dialogue and politics behind this story. It definitely showcased some of your strengths as a writer, and it was clear that you put a good amount of thought into the backstories and motivations of each of the characters. It also had a touch of eccentricity, which doesn't surprise me considering your writing style and some of your other projects. It was, on the whole, a well-written story that appropriately twisted emotions.

Something that surprised me was, considering how generally open-minded the family's views are, nobody acknowledged what, to me, is the obvious solution: adopt a child and have him take the name of River's family. I had a hard time emphasizing with the father's position, especially since heirs don't have particular relevance in today's culture. It seemed like nobody was willing to make compromises or see outside-of-the-box, which is particularly interesting considering River's father seems to be relatively progressive, considering his support of the LGBTQ+ community. While I feel kind of weird suggesting this, I wonder if your story would work better and have less apparent contradictions if River's father was a flat-out homophobe.

Second, I was anticipating this story to be written from the perspective of the son, rather than the father. While I don't have any issues with how you decided to take it, I will note that I had to re-read the first part of the story to make sure I was following it. Because you approach it somewhat unconventionally, it wouldn't hurt to make the perspective a little bit clearer in the beginning of the story just to prevent that potential confusion down the road for the reader.

Overall, this was a well-written story that highlighted some of your familiar strengths in writing -- like politics, dialogue, and well-developed characters. Some areas for improvement are to consider the potential plot hole that none of the characters considered adoption or other ways to start a family and maintain the family name, and to clarify your perspective to prevent confusion. If you have any questions or concerns about this review, please feel free to reach out. I'll see you around!

Best,
Tuck




Vil says...


Yay! Maroon!

I will admit that the POV is a bit weird and I do intend to revise this. (I've also been thinking about making this a bigger story, but we'll see if that happens-- working n quite a few projects atm.)

I intentionally did not include adoption. Richard (the father) wants a blood heir because, in my mind, he is a liberal in a family of traditional conservatives that want to keep family traits (wealth, social status, power) in the family. That's something I need to flesh out a bit better here.

Thanks for your review!



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Fri Sep 18, 2020 9:18 pm
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Wolfical wrote a review...



Hey Vil!

I applaud your decision of creating this story from the POV of the father. I was expecting the son's POV when I first read the description, which follows the framework of most LGBTQ+ family dramas these days, where the ostracized victim in the story is the one who identifies as queer. But you focused on the father instead, which I think is insightful and effective! Of course, it's still easy to sympathize with River, but it's also a lot easier to sympathize with the other side, especially when Richard is so calm about it and the son is not.

Despite his old-fashioned stubbornness about wanting an heir, it's refreshing to see a father character who has progressive views about gay rights. He's disheartened to learn that his son is marrying a man, but not for the reasons I'd normally immediately expect.

My main critique about this story is the parents' reaction. It feels unrealistic. To some extent, that could be the point. I was expecting a different story, one where the parents freak out and the son feels trapped and misunderstood, and you delivered something else. Nevertheless, the transition between the father's excited thoughts about his son's marriage to his immediate quietness and calmness about his son's words felt awkward and unrealistic to me. As the sisters are leaving, I was expecting the father's mind to be reeling as he grappled with the new information. Although they are present in other parts of the story, his inner thoughts are missing from this critical point. Maybe the father already had a feeling that his son was gay. Maybe a while ago River had told him he was bi. If either of those things were true (and were expressed through the father's thoughts), I would find his reaction much more believable.

Because the father is remarkably calm, I'm also thinking he might be an unreliable narrator. Maybe as he's looking back and retelling this moment (when his son first revealed his sexuality to him), he naturally describes himself in a very favorable way. He may have felt some inner turmoil but believed he kept it under cover well.

You're clearly very good at writing dialogue and at understanding the crossroads where family issues and political issues meet. Aside from what I already discussed, this conversation feels like something I could witness in a real-life family room. Great job!




Vil says...


Thanks, Wolfical! I'm glad you liked it.

Yeah, I need to add some more background to this soon enough. I'll probably revise it once or twice.



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Fri Sep 18, 2020 6:30 pm
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Hkumar wrote a review...



Hi Vil!

This story highlights one of the stigmas present in the society when it comes to same sex marriage. The pressure from the family and society that is put on such people. Parents always look forward towards having their grandchildren and with this expectation, when the time comes they do put pressure on their own married children. Your story also reflected the stereotype associated with considering a boy as the only actual heir of the family. Like River mentioned before, his Dad that already had grandchildren from his daughters but still he wanted an Heir from his son to carry on the family name.
Though I must say his dad and mom accepted his son's sexuality very calmly as opposed to what many parents actually do, who overreact and are not supportive of the LGBT community. But putting demand of surrogacy like this isn't appreciable unless both the concerned partners mutually agree for it.

Maybelline hardened her eyes and motioned for them to leave. The each obeyed, albeit Margaret lingered for a moment or two.

'They'

"You're both crazy!" River hissed at us. Maybelline moved to my side, nervously glancing between us. "You'd stop me from getting married-- for that?"

BBC don't work in the publishing center. You can just use the italics from the tool bar.

Doing such an emotional blackmailing does create a lot of pressure and stress on children. The ending suggests me that River's parents (his mom actually) had a belief that their son will agree or at least make his partner convinced for this surrogacy. The fear of losing his parents will definitely affect him but at the same time he can't force his partner to do something against their will.

Overall, this was a really nice piece and conveyed a serious issue prevalent in the mindset of this society. All the best for your future works.

Keep writing :D
Image




Vil says...


Thanks for your review!

Yeah, I kind forgot BBC didn't work XD



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Fri Sep 18, 2020 5:56 pm
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Stringbean wrote a review...



Hey Vil!

I think this piece showcases your writing style well. You've got the heirloom, the concern over bloodlines, a touch of politics, a focus on family members working through tensions-- all themes that anyone who's read much of your writing can easily associate with you. You've blended them nicely here, none of them overwhelming the story or seeming unbelievable to me.

There's not a lot of setting here, though I don't think you really need it. They're out home, likely in a study or something since there's the mention of bookshelves, but also a table. The setting itself isn't all that important, but I would like there to be just a touch more for clarity and fluidity. In particular, at the very beginning, you mention three daughters and a son, but until going on further, I have no frame of reference to make a guess at their ages, so saying there's three daughters and a son doesn't tell me a whole lot. Besides that, I think the only thing in this regard would be to mention what sort of room they're in-- that's just because I was picturing something like a kitchen until bookshelves were thrown in, and then that disrupted my focus on the story itself for a moment while I reoriented myself.

The conflict here takes shape quickly, and unfolds more intricately as the conversation continues. The conversation too, I'll note here, feels natural and believable-- definitely one of your general strong suits. By the end of the story, the conflict obviously isn't resolved, but the story still feels complete I'd say, because the father and son (and the wife, as a more side character) have made a clear shift in their relationship and it seems pretty clear how this is going to be in the future. I don't think the ultimate outcome of the son getting the ring or not matters so much to the story, because whether he does or doesn't, the shift has happened and getting the ring or not isn't likely to alter it much. In other words, the arc is there, whether the story ends happily or not. For a single scene and a story this short, I view that as a pretty clever accomplishment.

And just as a side note, while you know I love seeing all your Belecthorian-based stories and stuff, it's refreshing too to see something unrelated to your usual. I think it's always good to try branching out every now and then, which you have. So that's just something that makes this kind of cool.

-Stringbean




Vil says...


Thanks, Stringbean!




"In my contact with people I find that, as a rule, it is only the little, narrow people who live for themselves, who never read good books, who do not travel, who never open up their souls in a way to permit them to come into contact with other souls -- with the great outside world."
— Booker T. Washington, Up From Slavery