Favorite Animals

Submitted for Contest #76 in response to: Write a story told exclusively through dialogue.... view prompt

14 comments

Jan 10, 2021

American Coming of Age Fiction

“Hey, Daddy?”

“Yeah, buddy?”

“Are we almost at the cementry?”

“Cemetery. We’ll be there soon, I hope. There’s just a lot of traffic.”

“I don’t want to go there. I'm not ready.”

“…”

“Because it’s going to be too sad.”

“I know, buddy. I don’t want to go either. But sometimes we have to do things we don’t want to do and that make us sad.”

“…”

“…”

"..."

“Hey, Daddy?”

“Yeah, buddy?”

“Can you look at me for a second?”

“Not right now. I’m trying to merge.”

“What’s merge mean?”

“I’m trying to get over.”

“…”

“You gonna’ let me in? No? Thanks a lot, guy.”

“…”

“…”

“Hey, Daddy?”

“...”

“What’s your favorite animal?”

“I don’t know. Can we talk about that later?”

“…”

“...”

“...”

“Okay. Hmm. Let me think. I’ll say an elephant.”

“Oh, that’s a good one. They’re really big. And they’re smart too. They remember how to find water in the desert.”

“…”

“Mine’s a tiger. Know why?”

“Why?”

“Because they’re so tough. And because they have razor sharp teeth. And because they’re so good at sneaking up on prey.”

“That’s neat, buddy.”

“Hey, Daddy.”

“…”

“Did you know there’s a type of jellyfish that never dies?”

“Every living thing dies.”

“Not the jellyfish I’m talking about. It just gets rid of its dead parts and grows new ones. It can live forever. I saw it on TV.”

“…”

“Unless a shark or something eats it. If that happens, it dies. Definitely.”

“I suppose it would.”

“…”

“That’s tragic.”

“What is?”

“That it could live forever. That it could witness the rest of time. But then a shark comes along and snap, it’s gone.”

“I mean, what’s tragic?”

“Sad. It means really sad.”

“Oh. Yeah, it is tragic.”

“...”

“…”

“Come on people! What’s the hold up? I cannot be late.”

“…”

“…”

“Hey, Daddy?”

“Not right now, buddy.”

“…”

“…”

“Hey, Daddy?”

“What is it?”

“Is heaven real?”

“I don’t know. Maybe. I’m not sure.”

“Grandma says it is. She says that’s where Grandpa is now.”

“I hope Grandma is right.”

“She says it’s in the sky.”

“…”

“She says Grandpa can see us from there. Is she right?”

“It’s complicated, buddy. I haven’t figured it out yet.”

“I bet it’s so high up. Even higher than outer space. Does he need a telescope to see us?”

“Probably. Or maybe they give everyone Lasik.”

“What’s Lasik?”

“Nothing, buddy. Never mind.”

“Oh.”

“…”

“…”

“Okay. It looks like it might be clearing up ahead.”

“…”

“…”

“Hey, Daddy?”

“Yeah, buddy?”

“Do you think we can live forever, like the jellyfish?”

“No.”

“Except if it gets eaten by a shark. Then it dies.”

“…”

“Does that mean you’re going to die?”

“Yeah, it does. But not for a long time.”

“Oh.”

“…”

“Like when?”

“I hope not until you’re all grown up.”

“Oh.”

“…”

“Is that a long time from now?”

“Yes.”

“…”

“Will you go to heaven when you do?”

“Maybe. I hope so.”

“Me too. I hope so too.”

“…”

“And will Grandpa be there?”

“I hope so.”

“Me too. I hope so too.”

“…”

“I changed my mind. My favorite animal is a musk ox.”

“…”

“Want to know why?”

“Can you tell me later? I need to drive right now, buddy. And I’m anxious that we’re not going to get there in time.”

“Because it has a super hard head. Its skull is six inches thick. I learned that in my nature book.”

“That’s really neat, buddy.”

“Yeah. And they can even scare away Arctic wolves. So they’re pretty tough.”

“…”

“It’s okay when the Arctic wolf eats them though. Because wolves need to eat too.”

"That's true."

“...”

“...”

“Hey, Daddy?”

“Yeah, buddy?”

“Am I going to die one day?”

“…”

“…”

“…”

“Why are you not answering me?”

“Yes. You are.”

“…”

“…”

“I’m scared about that.”

“You don’t need to be scared.”

“Why not?”

“Because…”

“…”

“Because you have your whole life to live. You’re going to have a lot of adventures and see so many things. Maybe you’ll even have your own kids one day. Let’s think about that right now.”

“And see lots of animals?”

“I bet you will.”

“Oh, okay.”

“…”

“And because I’ll go to heaven?”

“Maybe.”

“And because you’ll be there and because Grandpa will be there?”

“Maybe, buddy.”

“Can we go there now?”

“Where?”

“To heaven”

“I don’t think so.”

“Why not?”

“Because I don’t know the way. And because we’re stuck in traffic.”

“Oh.”

“…”

“Hey, Daddy?”

“Buddy, can we do a little bit of quiet time?”

“…”

“…”

“Will Grandpa come to our house for Thanksgiving this year?”

“No, buddy. He won’t.”

“Why not?”

“Because Grandpa died. Remember?”

“Oh, yeah.”

“…”

“But why can’t he come to Thanksgiving?”

“That’s just how it works. We’re not going to see him again. That’s what happens when someone dies.”

“But he can see us, right?”

“…”

“From heaven. Like Grandma said.”

“I hope so.”

“I bet we can’t visit him either. Because heaven is so high up. It’s higher than outer space.”

“I think you’re right.”

“What about in a rocket ship? Those go really high.”

“I don’t know if that’s how it works. Let’s ask Grandma when we see her.”

“Oh.”

“…”

“There’s a lot of stuff you don’t know.”

“That’s truer than you can imagine.”

“...”

“...”

“I miss Grandpa.”

“Me too, buddy.”

“I’m sad that he died.”

“Me too, buddy.”

“…”

“Oh, thank God. It’s clear up ahead. I think we'll just make it.”

“…”

“…”

“Hey, Daddy?”

“Yeah, buddy?”

“What’s God?”

“What?”

“Grandma said Grandpa is with God in heaven.”

“Is that right?”

“Yeah.”

“…”

“…”

“…”

“I’m hungry. Can I have a snack?”

“There’s a fruit bar for you in the bag next to your car seat.”

“Yeah, but I don’t like the blueberry ones. I want an apple one.”

“That’s what we have. I can’t give you something we don’t have.”

“You’re a mean daddy.”

“…”

“Fine. I’ll eat the blueberry, but I still think it’s yucky.”

“…”

“Hey, Daddy?”

“Yeah, buddy?”

“It’s okay if you cry. You can if you want to."

“...”

“I'm sorry I said you're a mean daddy.”

“...”

“I changed my mind again.”

“About what?”

“My favorite animal. If I could be any animal, I would be choose a condor.”

“…”

“Know why?”

“Why?”

“Because condors fly the highest of all the birds in the whole world.”

“Is that right?”

“Yeah. They fly super high. I bet they can fly to outer space.”

“…”

“I bet they can fly all the way to heaven.”

“…”

“…”

“That sounds nice, buddy. Maybe I would be a condor too.”

“Good. We’ll be condors together.”

“I like that."

“…”

“…”

“Hey, Daddy?"

"Yeah, buddy?"

"I’m ready to go to the cementry now.”


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14 comments

Mary Kate
08:21 Jan 13, 2021

A great story, as always! Tinged with a little sadness. The dialogue sounded realistic, in terms of parent and child. I also had the 'death' question from my 5 year old niece a while back...!

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David Gottfried
14:24 Jan 13, 2021

Thank you, Mary. That's very kind of of you to say. I've also been having this discussion with my kids (4 and 6). It's a complicated one. The dialogue flowed right out of me because it is exactly how my six-year-old talks!

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Cathryn V
06:16 Jan 13, 2021

Hi David, This story is so great, so understated and without melodramatics. It’s realistic in the way kids bounce around with conversation. I love the progression and the powerful life questions presented to Daddy by this child. And isn’t that exactly how it happens! Those difficult concepts and explanations we humans wrestle with. This is absolutely beautiful. My only suggestion is to look again at Daddy’s comments on the traffic. I’m not sure if there needs to be more or if it should vary to some other excuse as Daddy tries to avoid the ...

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David Gottfried
14:29 Jan 13, 2021

Thank you, Cathryn. I'm very flattered. I've been having lots of these conversations with my six-year-old, so this story flowed out pretty fluidly. My intent here is to have both the son and the father grappling with these big questions. Neither has any good answers. In some ways, the son is more self-assured and comfortable with it than the father is. The traffic discussion started as a device to set some context and have some element of the outside world coming into the conversation. I want to keep playing with it, though. There's somethin...

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Cathryn V
21:12 Jan 13, 2021

Sure, the traffic works in several ways and is perfect. Maybe add some details that bring the reader in a little more.

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The Girl
11:39 Jan 16, 2021

When I first saw the first and second"...", I thought it was awkward. But, once I began reading I understood the need. The silence and the pauses became characters themselves. I felt like a mute spectator in their car. Your story was that realistic. Fantastic job!

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David Gottfried
14:05 Jan 16, 2021

I’m glad I was able to bring you around. And thanks for reading! The multiple “...” I borrowed from David Foster Wallace, who uses the device really effectively, I think.

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Cathryn V
04:14 Jan 15, 2021

5 stars! The edits are poignant. I love this story. Send it to Guideposts or Readers Digest

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David Gottfried
13:28 Jan 15, 2021

Thank you, Cathryn. That's kind of you! I think this one is done. I'm going to read this one last time tonight and then finalize it.

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Heather Mc Quaid
20:53 Jan 13, 2021

Beautiful, sad, and authentic.

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David Gottfried
21:23 Jan 13, 2021

Thank you, Heather. That's a very kind compliment.

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Tom .
00:41 Jan 11, 2021

This is eerie. The linking of the start and the end is really unsettling. It makes me feel as if there is a preternatural element to it. Although if there is I feel it is too vague, it doesn't quite land. I wanted that twilight zone twist. The Daddy and Buddy is good differentiating the voices. The pauses in conversation, I believe don't work and think you should see how it looks without. Although without the breaks you might have to tweak the father's dialogue a little because as a huge block he could come off as repititive. Unless their is...

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David Gottfried
01:19 Jan 11, 2021

Thanks, Tom! I hope you mean eerie in a good way. I’m not sure I want a twist. I sort of just want it to be a father and son trying to process the death of a close family member, with each struggling to answer the unknowable. There’s some element of the traffic that is supposed to be spiritual as well. I need to figure that element out and bring it forward a bit more. Re: the formatting, I couldn’t figure out a better way to show that the speakers were pausing and considering and also that time was passing. Usually I would describe some elem...

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Tom .
01:27 Jan 11, 2021

Yes eerie in a good way. We got this prompt because January and February do a couple of dialogue only competitions. It only really works with two people in a closed space. Your set up is fine I opted for the confessional.

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