Todd’s mother disappeared when he was three.
Todd’s father tried to always be there for him. He did everything he could to love Todd and keep him safe. “Never cross the street without a grown-up around,” he said. “Always eat your vegetables.” “Be a good boy.” “Don’t take candy from strangers.” “Be nice to everyone.” “If somebody’s hurting you, or touches you down here, hurt them and then run away.” “Always respect women and girls.” “Make sure you’re always in bed by ten.” “You’re too young to drive a car.” “It’s okay to be seen as weird.” “Don’t watch TV shows meant for grown-ups.”
Excellent advice for a young man, that.
Todd’s father died in a tragic video gaming accident when Todd was ten. Todd found himself in foster care. His foster parents were, well, lenient. They told Todd he could do whatever he wanted and stay up as late as he wanted. But children need boundaries. So late one night, he hopped on his foster parents’ computer and typed up as many of the things his father had told him to do as best as he could remember them and printed them out. The sound of the printer startled him, but his foster parents didn’t wake up. He folded it up and kept it with him all the time.
. . .
“Have you noticed Todd?” asked Jen.
“He’s a little weird, but he seems nice,” said Tara. “I can’t put my finger on what’s weird about him, though.”
“I’ve been watching him.”
“Did you ever notice that he’s 30 but he never crosses the street alone?”
“Seriously. Even if the walk sign is on. Last week he went home early and was out at the crosswalk for ten minutes. He didn’t cross until someone else was there. He walked after they did.”
“That is weird.”
“And he always has vegetables in his lunch box.”
“That’s not so weird. Maybe he just wants to be healthy.”
“And he never works late like everybody else. He always leaves right at 8 if we’re staying late.”
“Maybe the guy likes to sleep. Gosh, Jen. Don’t be weird.”
Jen had a moment of inspiration. “You should date him.”
“Well, he’s always nice, he’s always respectful of us, and I already have a boyfriend, and one of us has to date him so we can find out what else is weird about him.”
“Now you’re being weird.”
. . .
Todd had never been on a date before.
Tara picked him up. “I’m not old enough to drive,” he’d said with a smile and a wink. He’d noticed everyone looked at him strangely when he said, “No, seriously, I’m really not,” so he learned to just go with it.
“You want a Tic-Tac?” Tara asked.
He debated it. He didn’t know Tara very well, but she worked with him, so he guessed she wasn’t exactly a stranger. “Sure.”
In spite of Toddity, the date went well. So did the next one, and the one after that, and the dozen after that. “Don’t ever sleep with anybody you’re not married to” was something Todd’s dad, in his infinite wisdom, thought might be useful for a ten-year-old boy to know. It was in the print-out, so Todd obeyed.
On a beautiful spring day, Todd and Tara were married in a little white chapel. Jen was one of the bridesmaids.
Because of the TV rule, I don’t think Todd knew that the honeymoon was supposed to involve a lot of touching, and the rules didn’t have any exceptions, so he punched her in the face.
He didn’t do it to be mean; he did it to be obedient.
Todd was a good boy.