I tried so hard to make him see sense, but Cecil refused to listen to my good advice. In the end, I had to be very fierce with him for his own good. I arranged for extra tuition and every evening I inspected his exercise books to make sure he was concentrating on his studies.
He did study hard, a pious boy, but still, when I went into his room, I found small drawings scattered all over his youthful chamber. It was difficult for me to hide my anger. After everything I had told him he was still painting like a messianic madman. My only son! Here I was making money so that he could have a good life, but all he wanted to do was paint like an absent-minded simpleton. He told me that he wanted to share his feelings with the world because they are so strong. I tried to control myself but he was so obstinate. I called Cecil into our living room and said,
“I have noticed you are still painting, even after I forbade you to!
Cecil just looked at the ground in silence.
“Cecil, I am talking to you.”
I could feel my anger rising.
“Why are you disobeying your father?” I asked angrily.
“Dad, you say we should follow our talents. Painting is my talent.” Cecil answered.
“Talent? You think painting is talent? You should follow a talent that will bring you a good life. You are not going to have a good life through painting. I have already told you. You should become a lawyer.”
“I don’t want to be a lawyer.” Cecil replies.
“Listen to me, Cecil. You know nothing about life. Without a good education and a good career these days, you are nothing, do you hear me?” I shouted at him. Cecil said nothing again. In the end I was so angry that I unbuckled my leather belt and started whipping him, yelling,
“Today I will teach you a lesson you will never forget. Obey your father, respect your father and follow you father’s advice. Otherwise you are nothing. I will not let my son be a nothing, never, never, never.”
Cecil just stood there and said nothing. He just flinched every time I hit him but he did not cry out at all. I felt my blood beginning to circulate faster; I started trembling with incorrigible anger, and begun whipping my recalcitrant son harder and harder until Cecil’s mother came out of somewhere and started screaming,
“Help, everyone help, he is killing my son.”
She grabbed my arm and tried to stop me, screaming at the top of her voice. I stopped. Cecil still said nothing. I recovered my breath and waved the belt buckle in his face,
“Now let that be a lesson to you,” I said, trembling and breathing hard. “If I see you painting one more picture that will be the end between you and me.” Cecil walked out.
My heart was pounding in my chest as if it feared that my soul wanted to carve its way out and run off out the front door. I looked at my wife, and she looked back at me as if she did not recognize me. We looked at each other in the half-light of the setting sun, searching for words that did not exist. For the first time, I realized that I was growing old.
After that particular encounter with Cecil, I never really saw my baby boy painting again. In fact, I hardly saw Cecil at all. Oh yes, he greeted me in the morning with the customary ‘Morning Pa’ but that was all. Whenever I came home in the evenings, Cecil was never to be seen. If I asked his mother, she replied, “He is doing his homework.”
“He is doing his homework.”
And if I tried to insist that he come out of his room, she still repeated, “He is doing his homework. Isn’t that what you wanted?”