As John and Frank were talking, John referred to some of his childhood incidents. One of the ones John described was the occasion when he and his brother got into a fist fight in the kitchen. The parents were not home to intervene. John’s memory of the event didn’t include all the details, not even the cause of the fight in the first place. But, he did remember the fact that he had beat up on his younger brother pretty badly.
Frank listened with attention. His emotions were intensely involved, but John was unable to capture the pain Frank was experiencing. According to John’s accounting of the kitchen fight, the younger brother got what he deserved.
But Frank’s mind was going a different direction. He wasn’t thinking about the brother “getting what he deserved.” No, Frank was caught up in the emotional turmoil of a young boy who was basically defenseless, with no parents around to protect him or to settle the matter in a peaceful way. Frank’s intense imagination was leading him to be saying silently to himself, “How can John be so calloused as he brags about what he did to his brother? How can John recall the episode with anything less than deep remorse? How can he be proud of beating up a defenseless youngster? How can he not have tears in his eyes and a catch in his throat as he recalls what he did to little Timmy?”
Frank wondered how he should respond to John. He wondered if he should mention the book he was reading. It was about brothers, brothers who on more than one occasion had fights. But, Frank just listened, doing his best to not indicate approval for what John had done to Timmy. He could only keep quiet, swallowing he own pain, as he remembered having done the same thing to his younger brother many years ago. He didn’t want to talk about it. His brother died before Frank had ever had the courage to ask forgiveness. Frank was still living without ever hearing his younger brother say, “I forgive you, Franky.” So, Frank, with a sadness that John never noticed, simply kept the conversation going with questions that kept John talking about himself.
Later that night, as on some other nights, Frank fell asleep with tears on his cheeks, a sore throat, and a pain in his heart.