Bad Animals

Bad Animals by Joel Yanofsky

Book: Bad Animals by Joel Yanofsky Read Free Book Online
Authors: Joel Yanofsky
he wants. He wants to tell me the same joke he’s been telling me ever since we started his homework a half hour ago. He wants me to play straight man, yet again: Abbott to his Costello. I also know I am not supposed to allow myself to be distracted again. Ignore bad behaviour, sweetheart, reinforce good behaviour. Still, there’s something about this request that sounds reasonable, disarming even, and causes a tiny flutter of happy-go-lucky obliviousness in my chest. This time, I can’t help thinking, maybe he’s going to initiate a conversation. Maybe, he wants to tell me a story, tell me what happened in school today or try to explain his own tangled emotions. Something I can make sense of. Something we can genuinely discuss. This also takes me back to his baby days. To my memories of a time that was pure anticipation. When I couldn’t wait to see what he might say or do next, when there were so many other ways—other than autism, I mean—to interpret his words and actions.
    â€œKnock-knock ...” he says. I’ve been suckered again.
    â€œNo more, Jonah. This is homework time. You know what you have to do.”
    All parents fight with their kids over homework. I’m aware of this, but the fight doesn’t inevitably turn into so much more, doesn’t escalate out of all proportion, so instead of looking at a crabby, procrastinating child you find yourself staring down everything he might have been, everything he might not be. The future is a thing of the past. It should be enough to say that you are a parent and like every other parent you get tired and fed up. You worry. You lose your temper. Everyone has something to cope with and this is what you have. So, go ahead, cope.
    â€œThink before you complain,” Joy Berry writes. “Complain only if complaining will help to change something that needs to be changed. If things cannot be changed accept them the way they are ...”
    â€œDaddy, knock-knock ...”
    Stay calm, now. Be patient. Cynthia’s instruction is so clearly audible in my head, I turn to the front door to see if she’s arrived home and I’ve failed to notice. Or if maybe I’ve read this plain-spoken directive in an advanced reviewer’s copy of Berry’s yet-to-be-published Let’s Talk About Impatience. Or Let’s Talk About Pessimism. Or maybe Let’s Talk About Fucking Up. In any case, it’s too late for advice now.
    â€œJonah, for God’s sake just read the damn book! This is for five-year-olds. You’re not trying. Damn it, why do you have to be ... like ... like this?”
    Tears accumulate in Jonah’s eyes, and it will take all the patience and hopefulness I can call on to get him back on track. While he bravely tries not to cry, I know what I should do: I should leave the room. Make yourself scarce, sweetheart, don’t make matters worse. Instead, all I can think is: It’s barely October and this is what we have in store for us — Read and Non-respond. For the next nine months.
    THE MORE I THINK ABOUT working with Jonah on the sequel to Bad Animals the more sense it makes, which is saying something around here, where making sense of things can be a full-time job. But writing has become one of the ways Jonah copes with stress. Some evenings, after he’s fallen asleep, I find notes scattered throughout the house. Scraps of paper turn up everywhere: in his books, in the bathroom cabinet, in our bed, once even in the refrigerator. They aren’t exactly stories; more like memos, negotiations, pleas, clues. Just this opening phrase, for example: “I’m so angry that________” You fill in the blank.
    Sometimes, the message is easy to decipher, as it is in Bad Animals. Other times, it can take a while to figure out what the accumulation of negatives adds up to: “I don’t think I won’t go to school no more. I don’t think school will be no fun.” Do the

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