A few months ago, my Dad and I were at the dinner table and talking about an old friend of mine I’ve known since 2nd grade. “He’s a good boy,” my Dad said.
Of course he is. He just got engaged to his high school sweetheart, a very nice girl who’s finishing law school this year, and he’s halfway through med school himself.
Later in the conversation, I asked my Dad what he thought of the short story I’d just had published. The title of the piece is “War Heroes” – the first and only short story I’ve placed anywhere. It’s about the way different generations of Cuban exiles interact with each other. It’s mostly autobiographical, since both my parents are Cuban. I’m immensely proud of “War Heroes,” not just because I think it’s good, but because I think I was able to crystalize a part of the Cuban exile experience: the agony and joy of living in America while still dreaming of Cuba. I even considered the story something of an homage to my parents and the exiles.
My Dad didn’t like it. He told me it had upset my Mother because it has a curse word. The word is “fucking,” which in their estimation is utterly unacceptable, even though I didn’t even use it as a verb – just an adjective.
My Dad lectured me for awhile about not using bad words in my writing anymore. He repeated himself several times. And meanwhile, I had another thought: I want to be a good person, but a bad boy.