Percy called his son Jeremy into the den and asked him to please sit down on the couch. So Jeremy sat at the edge of the comfortable though threadbare sofa. He sat at the very edge, signaling his unease. Percy was already on his favorite swivel easy chair beside it—Pop’s Chair, as it was usually—which gave him the ability to sink down low or spin to the left if he felt the need to look away. And indeed, he might have to look away; after all, this was The Talk, the one he had been dreading since Jeremy graduated high school a few weeks ago.
“Okay, son,” Percy began. “You did well in school. You had many hobbies and activities. You’ve made us proud—your mother and I. And now you say you don’t want to go to college. I want to tell you that it’s fine, Jeremy.”
“You don’t mind?” the strapping young man asked, backing up ever so slightly so that his torso was more fully relaxed on the couch.
“I don’t mind as long as you have a plan for yourself,” Percy explained. “There have been plenty of young men and young women over the years who for one reason or another decided not to go to college. I realize it’s not for everyone. I do. Certainly it can save a lot of money. Time, too—if you jump into something worthwhile without having to wait four, six or eight years for a degree.”
Jeremy was now fully inclined on the couch cushion, which sank down lower than normal because of his solid, exceedingly muscular frame. His broad right arm, up on the armrest, almost involuntarily rocked slightly back and forth, not in fear or anxiety, but because of the growing confidence he was being given from this little chat with his father—‘The Talk’ that he had anticipated for weeks. Jeremy smiled, too. But Percy did not see his son’s smile, because he was glancing instead at his own lap, searching for the next words to say.
“But here the thing, Jeremy,” Percy continued. “What you seem to want to jump into isn’t quite what your mother and I had in mind as the safest or, frankly, even the sanest thing in the world.” Percy finally looked up at his son. “Pottery? You want to be a potter? In a little one-man pottery shack? Up in the mountains somewhere? You really think there’s a future in that? Especially for someone like you?”
Jeremy took in a breath, slowly, to give himself an opportunity to search for the best reply.
“Pop, the way I look at it,” he began, “is that we only have one life. So we might as well live it the way that really makes us happy. And as long as I’m not hurting anyone, what does it matter that I want to open my own little pottery studio up in the mountains? I mean, I swear to God I won’t ask you or mom for money. Ever. I’ll build my existence around whatever money I’m able to earn. I’ll live within my means, and I’ll make sure my means are frugal, but smart. Believe me. I’m intelligent. And strong. I’ll make it work out somehow. Who knows—I may even give you mom some cute little grandchildren some day.”
On one hand, Percy was enormously proud of the way his son addressed his concern and how he was attempting so maturely to make a compelling case for himself. On the other hand, he was still unable to rationalize just how anyone could see the wisdom in owning a tiny pottery studio.
“Yes, Jeremy,” Percy said, “you are smart. And certainly strong. The strongest kid I’ve ever known. Not a kid anymore—the strongest young man I’ve ever known. Or that anyone’s ever known, for that matter. And I think that’s the thing that bothers me most.”
“And your abilities, yes. I have to believe that you were given that strength and those abilities for a reason other than making clay pots—”
“—And vases and ornaments and birdbaths and sundials...” Jeremy quickly added; he wanted his father to know that it was far more than just pots he would create in his mountain studio.
“I know. I know,” Percy said. “I get that, Jeremy. I do. I admit to being ignorant about the whole pottery thing. The little one-person studio idea. The mountains. All that. But I’m not ignorant about how much help people need. Our country, too. We’re in awful shape, son. Crime. Disasters. You name it. It’s a mess! And with your gifts... well... like I say, maybe you gifts are for a reason that has nothing to do with pottery. Do you see what I’m saying? Listen, I know I’m a hell of a lot more religious than you, but maybe this is one time when you should consider that there is a God, and that God has a specific plan for everyone. Including you.”
“Pop,” Jeremy said softly, “I never asked to see Maura naked by being able to look right through the door of the locker room at the pool before we started dating. I never asked to be able to open the locked steel door of the old Wilson warehouse when Maura and I wanted to make out on our first date. I never asked to want to try real Chinese food so badly that I discovered a way to fly from here to China in less than five minutes. I never asked to accidentally put my finger in the way of a table saw in shop class without getting a scratch. The only thing I did ask for, pop, was a pottery wheel, because that’s what makes me happy. That’s what I enjoy. That’s what I’ve always wanted to do. Ever since I can remember.”
Once again, Percy was quite impressed with the skilled oratory of his son, if still not convinced that he was making a wise career choice. But Jeremy was indeed an adult, not only in his eyes and his wife’s, but also in the eyes of the law. What’s more, Jeremy was bright, kind, moral—and Percy realized that he should be allowed to make up his own mind. So on the spot, right there in the easy chair, Percy decided to let it go. That little silver capsule that he and his wife had found him in eighteen years ago could easily remain hidden for the rest of eternity. It was buried so deep in the ground behind the backyard shed that no one would ever find it. In fact, Jeremy himself dug that hole just by staring at the ground and making some kind of laser beam come out of his eyes. Jeremy was only two-and-a-half feet tall at the time.
“Okay, son,” Percy said. “You’re right. You’re absolutely right. It’s fine. I want you to do what you want to do. It’s your life. I’ll even help you find this little place up in the mountains, if you want.”
“I’d like that, pop,” Jeremy said, reclining once more. He breathed deeply and sighed.
Percy smiled, too. But then he stood up, said goodnight to his son, went into his bedroom, closed the door, and prayed for America.