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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Black Sheep of the Family (10/03/13)

TITLE: Father's Coat Tails
By Pam Ford Davis
10/09/13


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Charles couldn’t care less what others think about him.

It’s no one’s business what I do!

He swaggers into a saloon and up to the bar; sensing the accusing stares of the barmaid, he becomes belligerent. Pounding the marble bar top, he bellows.

“I want service! Pour whiskey and leave the bottle!”

“Master Charles, the owner told me nut’ to serve you till’ ya pay yer’ bill.”

“How dare you doubt my credit?”

“Sorry, sir; I have me orders.”

“Who needs your watered down spirits? Once I spread the word nobody will darken your door!”

Teetering, he pushes through the swinging doors and makes his way out into the nearly deserted street. Reaching deep into his trouser pockets for paper money, he comes up empty. The brisk Massachusetts fall winds make the jaunt difficult. He does not have cab fare, so resigns himself to making the trek back to the Harvard campus afoot. Tramping through mud up to his ankles, he maps out his course.

Arriving at the dorm exhausted, he enters the lobby. Students are chatting on leather couches and slouching in overstuffed chairs. The housemother turns up her nose at him, reaches into the mail receptacle and retrieves a business envelope. With icy hands, she palms it to him saying, “The dean expects you in his office tomorrow morning at 9:00 sharp. Do not disappoint him.”

Charles glares at her silently. Taking the envelope, he begins tracking mud up the wooden spiral staircase to his room. Passing several classmates, he ignores them and they tolerate him. Once in his room, he steps out of his mud soaked shoes, collapses on the bed and unintentionally rumples the letter still in his grasp. Charles props himself up against the cold brass headboard and begins tearing open the envelope. He recognizes the handwriting. Father has never written before…

“Son, I have postponed this communication far too long. Your sainted mother and I have given you every opportunity to make something of yourself; yet, you delight in being the black sheep of the family. You have disgraced the family name and the Harvard tradition. I have cut off all further credit to you for outside frivolity. I will continue in the sending of the tuition payment as long as the faculty will put up with you. You are no longer welcome at home unless you return sober.”

The letter was signed simply, Father.

Charles crumples it up and throws it across the cluttered room.

Disgraced the family name, my, my…Brother John would never do that!

John could do no wrong. Like their father, he had a keen interest in law and politics. He cut his teeth on law books and his peers respected him and sought out his advice.

Let him hang onto Father’s coat tails! See if I care! Drink… there has to be a bottle stashed somewhere.

Charles enters his clothes closet and frantically searches an upper shelf to no avail. Making his way to a back corner on the floor, he yanks a pewter snifter from a boot. Hoisting it to his mouth, he relishes the swig. It takes the edge off his headache and heightens his defiant attitude.

Black sheep of the family… Well, that’s all right with me! I’ve pulled the wool over Father’s eyes for years, mother’s and my teachers too. I used his name to get into all the right places. Let him disown me; see if I care!

Charles did manage to earn a sheepskin and open a law practice; yet, he wasted a great deal of his life and died of alcoholism. His brother of integrity, President John Quincy Adams invested his in the United States of America. Our citizens remember John Quincy as our sixth president, a statesman of notoriety, who also served as a senator, congressional representative and Secretary of State.

*Creative nonfiction/Research: Wikipedia.com, Weirdworm.com


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This article has been read 118 times
Member Comments
Member Date
CD Swanson 10/10/13
Excellent story with a great historical overview. I enjoyed it and the message it carried.

Thanks. God bless~
Dannie Hawley 10/10/13
what an interesting article. You've done a great job keeping me hooked, and I certainly didn't see the ending coming. right on topic, sadly for the President's brother. Informative and entertaining. Thanks!
Noel Mitaxa 10/11/13
Very descriptive and detailed build-up to a regrettable close.
Laura Hawbaker 10/11/13
Very interesting and well written. Kept me reading trying to figure out who it was about. I enjoy historical fiction.
Ellen Carr 10/12/13
A well-written account of this true story. I had a feeling it was about a real person, but was hoping that he's make good. But, true to life, there aren't always happy endings. Well done!
Virginia Bliss 10/13/13
Wonderful historical piece. An excellent fit to the topic too.
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 10/17/13
Congratulations on ranking 18th overall!