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Like Father, Like Son
by Jerry Guarino

The headmistress called the boy’s parents in for a conference to discuss a troubling incident she had just discovered. “Mr. and Mrs. Rook. Thank you for coming in. I’m sorry to say that Clay has been stealing money from classmates.”

“Stealing?” said Clay’s mother Amber. “We certainly taught him better than that.”

“Are you sure?” said the father. “Clayton was given very specific instructions for the school year, considering the fiasco of last semester. By the way, has everyone been compensated?”

“Yes, Mr. Rook. The settlement was quite satisfactory. The parents were more embarrassed than anything.”

“Call me Charles, please.”

Meanwhile, the school psychologist, Dr. Wilson, was examining Clay in his office. He began by asking him when he first learned how to manipulate people.

“My father helped me build a lemonade stand when I was five. First, we white washed it, and then we used yellow paint to write LEMONADE on the top, with the ‘E’ reversed of course. Pictures of lemons and a pitcher completed the simple graphics.”

“And how old were you when you had this lemonade stand?” said the psychologist.

“I was five. I believe my father was 43.”

“Master Clay, I don’t need to know how old your father was. Now tell me, why did you want a lemonade stand? You don’t need the money?”

“Father said it would be good practice.”

“Practice. For what?”

“Using people to make money. Father says you should always use people to get what you want.”

“That sounds like the cause of our present day problem, Master Clay. Our math teacher, Mr. Wood, says you were running a Ponzi scheme on your classmates.”

“And two staff members as well, doctor.”

“And how did running the lemonade stand prepare you?”

“We charged $3 for a small cup. Father said the people in Oak Park couldn’t resist a small boy’s pleas. I held a sign with a picture of a yellow pitcher of lemonade and the price, $3 next to it. People were meant to think that a whole pitcher was $3, and then when they asked for just a cup, I would oblige and ask for $3. They were too embarrassed to admit they had misinterpreted the cost and too wealthy to care.”

“Your father taught you this lesson at age five?” The psychologist was astonished at the prodigy in his office and the depth of depravity his father displayed in raising him this way.

“Father said it was time I put childish things away. I’m not sure what he meant at the time, but I suppose it had something to do with my proclivity to play, rather than work. He said playing was for the waifs in the city.”

Dr. Wilson, stunned for the moment, tried to fathom why his mother didn’t intervene. “What about your mother?”

“Oh, mother helped also. She wore a tight sweater and short skirt in order to distract the men while I pitched the lemonade, no pun intended. She was particularly effective at whispering in their ear, something I couldn’t hear, but it certainly made selling small cups of lemonade for $3 quite easy.”

The doctor shook his head and sighed. “I’m sorry your childhood was cut short. But I don’t think it’s too late. I’m going to speak with your parents about this and see if we can salvage some fun before it’s too late.”

“Mother and father may fight you on this one doctor. I am really quite content with my life at this point. I wouldn’t want to trouble you.”

“It’s no trouble, Master Clay. I can assure you. As a doctor and therapist, it is my duty to protect you from an unhealthy environment and work with your family to rectify the problem before it’s too late.”

“What problem, doctor?”

“I’m afraid you display all the signs of a narcissist and sociopathic personality disorder. Unchecked, this could lead to more serious consequences when you leave school.”

“I see. Will this require ongoing therapy?”

“I’m going to recommend at least three sessions a week, until we can work through the major issues. At least until I know you aren’t a danger to yourself or others.”

“I don’t think I’m a danger, doctor.”

“That’s what I’m afraid of. You can continue attending school and we can meet here on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. I’m also going to meet with your parents every Thursday.”

“If that’s what you recommend, doctor. Can we start next week? Today is my birthday and my parents are taking me out to the city tonight.”

“Of course.”

Then there was a knock on the door. The headmistress and Clay’s parents asked to come in. Dr. Wilson opened the door.

“Come in. We were just finishing. I’m very optimistic that we can put together a plan, a team approach, so that Clay can get a new direction with love and support from you both.”

“Thank you doctor,” said Charles. “Then we’ll be on our way. Clayton has a birthday party to attend in the city.”

“Come along Clayton,” said Amber. “It’s your special day. You only turn seven once, you know.”

“Yes, mother.”