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June Story Chat: “The Backpack” by Aimer Boyz

If you love to read short stories, you will enjoy Story Chat. For links to all of the stories bookmark the Story Chat Y2 Page. Comments are closed after 30 days because of scammers. If you have comments on other stories, you can make them on this current post.

Something to Think About

  • What theme or themes did “The Backpack” have?
  • Describe a time in your life when someone was in your house that you didn’t invite. How did you handle the situation?
  • What famous story or character does Ben remind you of? How about Mark?
  • What questions did you ask yourself as you read “The Backpack”?

“The Backpack” by Aimer Boyz

Benjamin was more interested in his fish tank than the adults having coffee with his parents. He didn’t know them, or their son, Josh and he wasn’t good with strangers. It took him a bit of time to warm up to people. He wasn’t like Mark. His brother would talk to anyone. 

Ben didn’t pay much attention as Mark and Josh exchanged vital statistics like age, grade, and video game scores. He watched his aquatic frogs race each other up the side of the glass tank, only turning from their underwater competition when his brother tore out of the room. Seconds later, Mark was back, his new backpack slung over one shoulder. 

“It’s got eleven pockets,” Mark said, dropping his backpack to the floor, and squatting down in front of it. “See, two on each side,” he said, turning the bag to display the silver mesh pockets. 

Ben had already seen Mark’s bag, they’d picked out new backpacks together on a getting-ready-for-school shopping trip that morning, but he wandered over to watch the show & tell.  

“One in front,” Mark said, sliding the technicoloured zipper on the front pocket open, “and one in back.” He slipped a hand into the envelope-style pocket on the backside of the bag. It was empty. All the pockets were empty, as was the backpack. School didn’t start for another week. 

“Five inside.” Mark continued his demonstration, unzipping the backpack so that Josh could see the interior. “That’s eleven. Ben’s has nine.” Mark looked up at Josh, a big smile on his face.

Ben’s backpack was black with a blue shark on the front. Lots of scary white teeth. He thought about getting it from his room and showing it to Josh, but Josh wasn’t smiling. He was smirking. Ben stayed right where he was. 

Josh laughed and pointed at Mark’s bag. “You have a girl’s bag.”

Mark’s smile fell off his face, a chipped and broken thing. His eyes as empty as his backpack, Mark zipped the bag closed and stood, his prized bag cradled in his arms. 

“That’s so gay,” Josh added, still laughing.

Ben examined the bag in his brother’s arms. It was white with gold and silver stars all over it. The metal zipper on the front shimmered in a rainbow of metallic colours. Ben didn’t see what made it a girl’s bag. He liked stars too, but he liked sharks better. And bags couldn’t be gay. He might only be six years old, but Ben knew that things weren’t gay, people were. Like his aunt Lena and her wife, Carol. They were gay. 

Ben turned his attention to the jeering Josh. Older than Ben, older even than Mark, Josh had never been in their house before. He wasn’t a friend of theirs and Ben decided he didn’t want him to be. “That’s not nice,” he said, moving to stand at Mark’s side. 

His brother could be annoying sometimes. Most of the time. He thought he knew everything, and when their mom wasn’t around, he called Ben stupid. He poked at Ben’s arm in the car and stole his French fries when he wasn’t looking. Plus, he was way faster on his rollerblades than Ben was. But Mark helped Ben with his reading. He drew pictures of Ben’s favourite fish for Ben to tape to his bedroom wall. He helped Ben tie blankets to their bunkbeds to turn them into a fort. 

Mark was his brother and Josh didn’t get to laugh at him. 

Ben stepped between the two older boys—and yelled, “MOM!”

Contact Aimer Boyz

Please take some time to check out Aimer’s link.

105 replies »

  1. I really enjoyed the story. Such a great glimpse of childhood, the challenge little kids face as well as how cruel they can be to each other, and heroic. Most of all, I loved the way it showed the complex relationship between siblings and how love is often the grounding connection despite all the squabbling. It also demonstrates how social biases are picked up by young children (from other kids, from media, and from parents). And how those biases become a platform for bullying. Great story.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I agree. It is hard to get back into the minds of children because we can’t substitute what life was like in our childhood, but have to know what it is like for children today even though relationships among siblings have the same heartstrings attached as they always have.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Great discussion, I must say. I read through the comments last night until I was too tired to give my own input.
    From the beginning of the story, I saw straight away that Ben is a shy little boy who doesn’t feel comfortable around strangers. Unlike his brother.
    Mark and Josh seem to be getting on fine until the backpack comes out. Josh is jealous of the backpack, and insulted it and Mark. Remember too, that Mark also insulted Ben’s backpack as he demonstrated all the zippers; “That’s eleven, Ben’s has nine.” Ben didn’t seem to notice this, and even considered getting it to show Josh. Then he seemed more concerned that his brother’s smile had been wiped off his face by Josh’s remarks.

    I’ve heard children say, ‘that’s so gay’, but here it means girly. They’re not encouraged to say it because it’s not nice regardless. Just like ‘that’s crappy’ or ‘that’s for babies’. These are all words they use to put each other down.

    I think that sometimes we underestimate what goes on in a child’s mind. They think a lot. They weigh things up. They see and hear and take in so much more than what we think they do.

    I didn’t question the fact that Ben understood the meaning of gay, because in today’s world it’s an open discussion and I would assume that many children understand what it means.
    It’s only since 2015 that same sex marriage was made legal here in Ireland, which is not that long ago. Since then nearly every family I know has a sibling, cousin, aunt, uncle, or family friend in a same sex marriage. My youngest child is only eleven and I don’t think we ever had an in-depth conversation about the gay community. It feels like she has understood from a very young age that couples of the same sex can be together. And she has understood the word gay from a young age. We see it on television all the time. It crops up in conversation. Compared to my adult children…they were probably eleven when they asked, ‘What does gay mean?’

    One of my daughters was terribly shy when she was Ben’s age. My son was more like Mark; outgoing and would mix with anyone. My daughter would not have stood up to Mark as a six-year-old. My son most definitely would have. He would have been very hurt by Josh’s behaviour and he would have told him to have manners. I’ve seen him doing it.
    That’s just my experience of how two different children might handle a bully. But this is a story and like children, all stories are different and as Story Chat has proved yet again, readers read stories differently. And that’s ok.
    For this reason, this story might have worked better for me if Mark had been the shy child and Ben was the more confident one on the sideline.

    Actually, this reminds me of my husbands twin nieces. They’re grown up now but when they were children, they fought and fell out with each other so much. But…dare anyone else be mean to either one. They 100% stood up for each other at all times. As thick as two thieves! I think a lot of siblings are like this to be honest.

    I visualised the parents being close by, same room or like my house; double doors connecting the kitchen and living room. When a child calls ‘Mom’, her response depends on the tone of voice and how loud the child calls. My perception of Ben calling ‘mom’ was in a tone that said, ‘I want you here now, it’s important’.
    I don’t always answer straight away to ‘mam’. But if it’s called out loud in an urgent tone, I’ll respond immediately. It’s impossible to monitor your children 24/7.
    I remember kids from school who weren’t always nice as pie. But they learned and matured, and grew up to be fine citizens.
    Bullying can be a complex subject and this story just highlights one aspect of it.

    Many stories where a child is the hero/heroine, has parts in it where we think, ‘Nah….a child would never say/do that.’ Stories are just that…stories. To convey a message. And I think Aimer did just that with this one and made it an enjoyable read also.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Gloria, as usual, you have provided a thoughtful and indepth summary, not only of the story but of the remarks. I may nominate you to write all the Story Chat Summaries! Fabulous job.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Hi, Gloria;

      Thanks for your comments and insight. A few things you mentioned struck home with me…
      1. Children are different and would respond differently in this situation.
      2. Children growing up now have a much better grasp of what gay means, and what it doesn’t. BTW, being of Irish heritage myself I was thrilled when Ireland legalized same-sex marriage. Éirinn go Brách!
      3. There are many examples in books and movies where a child hero/heroine acts in a manner we think unlikely. That’s part of the magic of fiction.

      I especially like your “enjoyable read” comment. Thank you for that 🙂

      Liked by 3 people

  3. woof… well… i read the story and then the comments and… was there some heat or some heat? Aimer, you’ve managed to get to some tender places with what, ostensibly seems like a simple commonplace story. That speaks volumes for the way you’ve pulled us readers into the room, alongside those three boys.
    Initially I thought Ben was maybe awkward because of something like autism making him ‘not goo with strangers’ and sticking to his fish tank. That idea faded as he engaged with the conversation between the other two but didn’t completely go until Ben got stuck in at the end and even then I wondered if, perhaps, his willingness to confront the older boy might have something to do with how he viewed the situation differently to the others, making him less scared than another child might have been. Ben remains something of an enigma to me.
    I was entertained by the debate about Ben’s level of awareness around the gayness of the bag and his aunt and wife. I don’t spend much time with children of this age, but what I have observed is some are far more aware and understanding of issues than others and than adults often believe them capable of being. My point is, I suppose that this sort of awareness does not stretch one’s credulity so far as to make it unbelievable so even if it is unusual it is entirely fair within the context of this story. I can’t remember who said it, but initially I thought the use of ‘gay’ was meaning lame. Maybe that is no longer au courant as children’s slang but it was ubiquitous ten years ago. That could – in another version of this story – have been an interesting misunderstanding between an aware albeit literal Ben and the others.
    And then there was the debate around supervision and parenting. I rather felt that generated a lot of heat and not much light and didn’t seem relevant to the story. In one interpretation, Josh’s comments about the bag came out unexpectedly. Even with adults in the room, unless they were actively listening to what had been, up to that moment. an entirely harmless conversation, they would not have seen the contretemps that was to emerge from Josh’s comments. And then it kicked off in seconds before Ben steps in and calls for a referee. Or these boys could have been left to their own devices and at risk of the most egregious of bullying. The point is we don’t know and we don’t need to know to be able to enjoy this story.
    That said, the chat – these comments – is a grand place to the extrapolate and debate everything that emerges.
    And while Ben clearly feels the 999 0r 911 call was appropriate, it may be a significant over reaction. Josh may have backed off when confronted with these two brothers siding with each other; he may be the one who feels bullied.
    All in all, a neat piece of fiction, Aimer and one with a lot to digest.
    Keep up the good work Marsha.

    Liked by 3 people

    • It has been a hot month! I expected the story to stimulate a bit of discussion, but I never expected the degree of passion that came out. Must be the weather! It’s interesting that you thought Ben might have over-reacted. who knows what he’s seen happen in the past. Kids who wear their emotions on their sleeves generally invite bullies, and when Mark’s face fell, Ben had probably seen things go south quickly. We can’t know that. I think he made the right call, personally. Obviously, Mark wasn’t going to deal with it himself, and little Ben might have felt like a fish out of water when it came to Josh. He hadn’t discovered his own power yet. Thanks for the great comment, Geoff. Story Chat lives by a thread – of comments. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

    • Hi, Geoff;

      Thank you for saying I’ve managed to pull the readers into the room with the boys. It’s something all writers try to do and I appreciate the compliment.

      I had not pictured Ben as having any social issues, but it certainly could read that way.

      I’ve noticed the same thing. Children pick up clues and make deductions that often surprise us.

      Yes, ‘gay’ was used to mean lame when my kids were in high school. I don’t know if it still is, I hope not, as I find it insulting to the queer community.

      The Backpack is my first attempt at writing a short story and I’m learning a lot from feedback like yours. Thanks for taking the time to comment 🙂

      Liked by 3 people

          • Good summary. I’ll probably use that quote in my summary, LOL. It was pretty bumpy, I would say. I’m sure you expected a bit of a ride when you read some of the other Chats. It’s good to know what sets off readers, whether good or bad. You can’t know that usually because like one of the chatters said, it’s hard to be honest, and this is pretty honest. When I review books of indie writers, for example, I finally quit doing it because I was doing it to be helpful in promoting their books, and not because I necessarily would have chosen that book. I finally told one author that I wouldn’t review her book because she had never visited my site and she only contacted me to ask me to write a review for her. Her books were okay, but not stunning, but I never said that and that bothered me.

            Liked by 3 people

          • Everyone has their triggers. My story seems to have touched on a few that I didn’t expect, but that’s part of the fun of writing. You never know where your words will take your readers.

            Liked by 3 people

          • I was a little surprised, too, but passions drive us as humans. Everyone was arguing basically for the same thing-kids to be safe. Just different ways of getting there.

            Liked by 2 people

  4. In the words of another blogger who recently called one of my dark, edgy stories ‘sweet’, this is a sweet story showing a loving bond between two brothers. Sure, Mark could be a pain sometimes, but isn’t that always the case between an older and younger sibling?

    I had to read the story twice, and I have to add that I wasn’t put off by not knowing the layout of the room the boys were in. Sometimes, authors can give too much description that takes the shine off the story they’re writing. As readers, we don’t need to know all the ins and outs and should be allowed to make our own minds up. I always enjoy it when an author allows me to build up a picture rather than being bombarded with too much information.

    I love the fact that Ben knew that aunt Lena and her wife, Carol were gay. As a gay man, I knew at a young age that I was gay, although I was probably a couple of years older than Ben. But when I was young, there was hardly any talk or education about gay life. Any discussion about gay people was always horrible, so when I knew I was gay, you can imagine how that made me feel.

    And I agree with Gary about how children were once allowed to be alone all day. That was the way it was when I was growing up. I’d see my parents at breakfast, and then not again until the evening because I was out playing with my friends. And as Aimer points out in one of her comments, things are different for children now, although the parents of Ben, Mark and Josh were in the house with the boys. I don’t see anything wrong with that.

    Aimer – you’ve shared a delightful story with us. It took me back to how my younger sister would protect me against some of the bullies who would call me horrible names just because most of my friends were girls. So, for me, your story is very true to life.

    I hope we see you back at Story Chat.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Hi, Hugh;

      I absolutely agree about too much description, it should provided on a “Need to Know” basis.

      Yes, kids are growing up in a different world than we did. Ben would know his aunts are gay. It’s not something we hide anymore, at least, not in my family anyway. Not when my daughter and her wife will be celebrating their 15th wedding anniversary this year, and have two children 🙂

      Glad your sister was on your side against the bullies. We can all use a “Ben” in our lives 🙂

      Liked by 3 people

    • Life is dark, edgy, and sweet, isn’t it Hugh? I wish we could erase all the bad parts like bullying, wars, inhumanity to man (meaning humans) but so far it’s been beyond all of us to be able to do so. Even God hasn’t intervened and wiped out all the imperfect people – oops I mean me. But there are bright spots in all of this – your sister, Ben, friends who care, a new world of more tolerence. Life gives us plenty of smiles. I’m glad you referred Aimer to Story Chat, and I think she’s done a great job with this one.

      Liked by 3 people

  5. Hi Marsha, I thought this was a good story. I have seen this sort of thing happen between kids and I have seen siblings standing up for each other. A child of six would call mom, that was the correct reaction. Kids can be very hurtful by laughing at a prized possession without necessarily meaning to inflict the hurt they do. Kids aren’t tactful or kind to each other.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Hi Aimer,
    I don’t think we’ve met but welcome to Marsha’s Story Chat. I hope you find it as useful and fun as I have.
    Your story depicted yet another version of the kind of taunting many of us had to put up with from those who seemed to have had early career counseling as an up-and-coming bully. Josh is a jerk with no empathy filters and instead seems to be driven to attack even new friends. I knew a few of these guys when growing up and your story brought those memories back afresh.
    Benjamin was content enough at the fish tank without engaging the stranger, while bother Mark was anxious to engage and even anxious to impress. Since we’re talking about school backpacks, this paints the boys as younger, grammar school ages, so yes, this feels authentic.
    Great setup. I think I have a clear image of the room and suspect that Josh may be the oldest.
    A point of confusion, Benjamin was content to fiddle with the fish tank while Mark engaged. Benjamin had already seen his brother’s new backpack so what changed that caught Benjamin’s attention and drew him to the pending encounter?
    Anyway, you got him to the next scene where Josh attacks, but I think this would have worked without moving Benjamin. You already had him close enough to see and hear what unfolded.
    Josh’s “You have a girl’s bag,” would have indeed been painful to Mark as he was clearly angling for respect and approval from this new guy. I did not recognize your phrase, “… smile fell off his face, a chipped and broken thing.” Perhaps this is a phrase used outside my experience but is sounds odd to describe a smile as being chipped and broken like it was pottery.
    The Huge attack was next. “That’s so gay, would have been answered with flying fists, food or furniture when I was that age, but this is a new culture and with Ben’s thought process, I was left wondering if I imagined the boys’ ages correctly. If I were rethinking this story, I’d be tempted to nail down the ages for the readers.
    These days, what is the intended impact of this remark? Our kids are being drilled to accept “Gay” as being okay. So – I likely dropped into over-think mode on this scene. One possibility would be that it’s just another young boy remark meant to be as shocking as possible, but really means little beyond “shocking to most adults.” Other possibilities seem handy, but then Ben’s interpretation is really the only one that matters.
    He re-evaluates the attributes of the backpack and still liked it. He was mature and composed enough to realize that literally, that things weren’t gay, people were. Hm, now I think I really missed his age. Perhaps he is just the shy oldest and most mature.
    Then nope – Josh is declared older than Ben. Okay.
    And then we’re told that Josh is now recognized as no good as a possible friend.
    The pivot point of the story is the next scene. Ben moves to stand with Mark. You make great use of the age-old rule that I get to taunt and torment my siblings but other than our parents, no one else gets to do that.
    I don’t know that you even needed to remind anyone. They’re brothers and of course they annoy each other. It’s how normal kids are wired. But this paragraph was fun anyway because you both remind us of how Mark annoys Ben but also does normal nice things too – all familiar, warm and fuzzy.
    Your second to last line, Josh did more than laugh at Mark, He attacked him. That line needs to be stronger that just “laugh”.
    Your final line is classic – but I’m not sure I buy it. This feels like the type of scene that young boys would want to sort out for themselves. Either that or I think the story would benefit from something stronger or more surprising. Could Ben respond with something else that puts Josh back into his place as a guest? Could they abandon Josh to amuse himself for the rest of his parents’ visit? Did you decided that a black eye was over the top for who you want these characters to be – because some boys – even today would respond with strength to make their message clear?
    The gay issue being mentioned, complicates this story. You sure got the shock value from it, but I’m not sure Ben was distinguished enough to have credibly stayed so cool and measured in his response.
    Finally, I’d love to hear more from Benjamin, either his words or his thoughts rather than read about him from the narrator.
    This was a great image Aimer. You had some fun with a familiar dynamics and shocking behavior.
    Tell Marsha that she should invite you back again sometime soon.

    Liked by 2 people

    • You just did tell me, Gary. LOL. I’m right here. I love all the comments flying around in this chat. As a teacher, it’s gotten me going, too! I like your idea of them sorting it out for themselves. Ben could have just said, “Mark, come on, let’s go. We can play with your xyz toy. See ya, Josh.” We could all rewrite the story like we did Charli’s story. That was eye-opening. Thanks for this amazing analysis.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Hi, Gary;
      Thanks for that comprehensive review. So many points to consider, where do I start?
      First off, yes, I could have been clearer about the boys ages, and I should have been.
      Second, yes, I didn’t think of it but you’re right, Ben was close enough that I didn’t have to move him nearer the action. Nice catch 🙂
      LOL! No wonder you haven’t heard the “chipped and broken” smile description before, I made it up. Works for me, but I’m odd like that 🙂
      You’re right, Josh did more than laugh at Mark. I’m not sure a six-year-old Ben would have seen that as attack though. He just knew Josh was being mean and had made Mark feel bad. And while, some kids might respond to that with flying fists, you guessed correctly, I didn’t want to go there 🙂
      The MOM! ending was the first thing that came to mind, but yes, there are many other ways Ben could have responded.
      Thanks for taking the time to dissect the story, Gary. You gave me some pointers for the next time 🙂

      Liked by 3 people

    • Hi, Prior;
      You made some good points. Thanks. If I revisit this story, I’ll be more clear about both Josh’s age, (a year older than Mark) and the layout of the house, (open concept, family room off the kitchen where the parents could see the kids while they were chatting over coffee.)

      Liked by 2 people

      • I don’t know why tour same
        comment keeps appearing but thanks for your reply –
        And I just wrote Marsha that I also wish there was a little
        Note before your website link – warning us about your adult themed genre –
        because I didn’t realize you wrote MM romance (which I did not even know what it was and it seems like soft porn to me -) and I think a warning would have been added before the site link
        – and now I understand your pseudo name with the “amier = love boyz”

        Liked by 3 people

          • Doug, what I found is what I found the first time. She participates in challenges like Wordless Wednesday. The blurb about her says “I like Dippin’Dots and Netflix, Star Trek and James Bond, and all things Vampire 🙂 I write M/M romance and blog about whatever pops into my head.” I didn’t know what M/M was, so glossed over it instead of checking it out. But if you scroll through her blog, you find Wordless Wednesday challenge and other similar posts. Her story on Story Chat is not M/M romance but is about bullying which, as a teacher, I think is an important topic. Thanks for checking, Doug.

            Liked by 3 people

          • There is so much to say about bullying, and it is a growing problem with social media coming into play as well. A kid like Josh if he carries those feelings of hatred and prejudice (against anything) could grow into a teen who decides to take action on his hatred. I think bullying is about learning from your own actions. This event was well-nipped at the bud by a little kid named Ben. Go Ben!

            Liked by 2 people

        • Sorry, the multiple answers were my fault. I clicked the wrong reply button.
          LOL! Yes, now, you understand my pseudo name 🙂

          Liked by 3 people

  7. The story had two parts for me.
    The first section had me in the setting and I could almost hear the zippers as they unzipped and the details were vivid – could feel
    That enthusiasm of the child showing the backpack.

    The second part of the study (in my view of it) unfolded right at the part this was said: “You have a girl’s bag.”

    What followed was not as clear as the first half – and It went from good descriptions and realistic to them feeling “stretched” so the author could deliver a subtle message or raise awareness about the “homosexual topic”
    And side note here – I don’t think such a young child would ponder so literal like that…. and the colloquial use of “gay” is more like “lame” and not stylish!
    That part seemed like an agenda:

    “but Ben knew that things weren’t gay, people were.”

    Perhaps five and six year olds are now learning about same sex relationships (depending on the family) and I know when Katie Perry’s “kissed a girl” song was out – our soccer friends had three little girls under 7 and they always reacted silly when that song was on! I don’t think they understood “gay”
    Or the homosexual behavior – but they knew it was Risqué and all that.
    But I don’t think Ben would have taken this so literal and that pulled from the story

    The nice part was the way Aimer led us into a child taking a stand! josh would not be allowed to belittle And Ben took a stand –

    The last three paragraphs were Tricky to read because there were so many he, ben, mark, he, etc. But once I dissected those parts I understood the author was trying to show the relationship between Ben and Mark and then let us feel that “umph” when Mark stood up to Ben, um I mean Josh!

    Please note I really enjoyed the credence to the story and as mentioned – the first half was delightful and so clear!
    But the other thing that had me puzzled was why a much older child (much older than both) who had never been in their house before was allowed to be with the boys unsupervised?

    Am I correct? The child at the end called for “Mom,” which means she was not supervising properly – and I know a lot of parents have minimal supervision (even on the judge Judy show there were cases where Judy had to tell a parent that “no, you are not watching your child if they are outside in front of the house and you are in the couch inside”

    But if josh was older and not a friend yet – why in the room with two younger boys.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Prior, just when I was nodding in agreement regarding your comments about the second part of the story, I came to a screeching halt at the intrusion of Helicopter Parenting 101. Give Mum a break and let the kids learn that the world is not always filled with niceness and fairness.

      Liked by 5 people

      • Helicopter is one thing and adequate supervision is another thing.
        Parents can properly supervise without helicoptering and without smothering
        And these aren’t even teens here!

        I have more to say but a big problem in our culture is half ass supervision and too quick to allow sleepovers!

        And funny you should bring up helicopter modes of parenting because I almost mentioned that I was not suggesting it – but the autonomy and free space that
        Children need comes from a lifestyle of being allowed to make choices and being respected – and this healthy autonomy augmented by adequate supervision – in contrast – helicopter parenting is too involved and pulls from development

        Liked by 3 people

        • I think the parenting question may be interested, but is well beyond the scope of the story and would need a lot more facts to become “discuss-able”.

          That is was about bullying, to me was clear and further, it was about one response to a bully, not with the quiet pandemic of what makes a bully.

          This was Benjamin’s story.

          Liked by 3 people

          • Thanks for your point –
            But because the author invited us into the world of these three children
            Because the author was clear to note the older child was a stranger – and older
            -and because children are MINORS- dependents that need Proper supervision
            Because of all that I stand my ground that it is always relevant to talk about parenting
            Especially when the child screamed for mom !
            Not discuss worthy?
            Really ? In my story I mention one sentence about breaking bad and that led to chats and someone emailing me that they started the series
            Not discuss-able? Really ?

            Well even if not a direct part of the story – as noted above – the entire story thread should have the overarching question of who is watching these children!

            It was Benjamin’s story but it was also highlighting the nuances of childhood and the interaction between siblings and a new kid to the house –

            I appreciate how the author had the child take a stand – even though not totally realistic because standing up to an older child is hard to do and over a backpack?

            Anyhow – as a reader of story chat – if something stands out to me – how can you say it is not discuss-able –
            Maybe in your humble opinion it is not – but as a reader I have my biased and subjective response and all parts of the story are open for discussion –
            Why it is called story chat!
            In addition
            The beauty of stories (as you know with your clever writing) is that the Main plot is not the only gem ! The main theme is not one flat offering – instead – writers give us snippets of this and that – each sentence and detail will mix with each reader differently!

            And maybe this is a topic of serious interest to me!

            Maybe because so much sexual abuse – that happens in three minutes – occurred from inadequate supervision –

            I don’t even need a reason to want to discuss the parental supervision because you know – the truth is that if these three kids were in the living room near the adults – many adults don’t pay attention to their chit chat

            It is always a cultural thing as to how parents react and how attentive they are and how and if they notice a beating out down spirit or subtle bullying

            But if I did need a reason for speaking up – in my humble opinion this story – Benjamin’s story? No – this is the reader’s story to raise awareness about not being careless with words and interceding in social situations when possible

            So this story is for adults and can maybe plant seeds about active parenting and also about not being so quick to use the term “gay” because maybe many in that marginalized group really want that to stop.

            Anyhow – anytime we talk about a topic – the gift of discussing it is that it leads to the onion layers

            So in your view this story was a single response to a bully ?
            In my view, it was two brothers – who had their own bouts of pecking order and bullying between them – they then experience a visitor that caused a brother to take action and stand up to the berating.
            I never said quiet pandemic of what makes a bully – but if that were to come up 🤍I think that would be a huge bonus of story chat! Huge bonus

            Liked by 2 people

          • Wow, Yvette, you are passionate. I’m not sure about what “a quiet pandemic of what makes a bully” means. This Story Chat is going to have an interesting summary! I told Aimer that I thought her story would really get people talking. Was that ever the understatement of the century! 🙂

            Liked by 2 people

          • Yes – and I get that he was trying to say that maybe it was extraneous but this is a place for such side trails – and perhaps it is not as extraneous as it at first seems – these are very young children.
            And while I have enjoyed the story and chat – very ready to take a break and come back after a pause….

            Liked by 2 people

    • Hi, Prior;
      You made some good points. Thanks. If I revisit this story, I’ll be more clear about both Josh’s age, (a year older than Mark) and the layout of the house, (open concept, family room off the kitchen where the parents could see the kids while they were chatting over coffee.)

      Liked by 2 people

    • Wow, this is an indepth analysis, Yvette. I guess I come from a different era, but I don’t remember parents in my day, either when I was a child or as a adult, being super involved whenever we played with kids – known or unknown outside or inside. So it did not seem weird that the parents were not in the room at all. We don’t know why Josh was in the room, possibly parents were meeting about something important. What they were doing was not the important part of the story.

      What I liked was that 1. Ben didn’t let the go on. 2. He did what we teach children in school to do – call an adult. Good for you, Ben!

      Liked by 3 people

      • I like your top two likes – even though children are not always told to tell an adult – I have been in a kindergarten class (private christian school) where the child came to the Teacher and was told not to “tattle” –
        I have many other examples – but there are mixed messages in society and many children don’t speak up – especially when young and not able to articulate that well –
        That is why we supervise – to prevent and to mediate so the burden doesn’t fall on the child.

        And not sure if the “amier boys” author is a parent – but it really can be an individual approach – especially for the under eight –

        Parents need a lot of grace and none are perfect – but active parenting can go a long way

        and as noted with Doug, I was not suggesting to helicopter (or over parent there)- but children need adults to be mindful and they need to be protected –
        They need supervision – especially under the age of eight – need to be protected From verbal abuse- from bullying

        And even if not a main part of the story – each part of this story was placed there for a reason and ending with the cry for help stood out to me.0

        Liked by 2 people

        • Having taught kindergarten, I agree, children get mixed messages. With a class of 20-25 five year olds a teacher doesn’t have time to hear the same person complaining that so and so stepped on a bug or that someone’s pencil noise bothered him or her during the test. But no teacher or parent would want a child to ignore another getting hurt. The story would have fallen apart entirely if the older brother could have handled the criticism or if the criticism had been of the younger child. The older brother could then have handled the problem more easily, even to take the younger brother and lead him out of the room leaving the guest standing looking dumbfounded. No mom needed. But because the younger brother was standing up for the older, it played out differently. It does make me wonder, though, if this sort of protection had been needed in the past, or if this was a first time. In a short story we don’t have all the time in the world to set the scene. I loved the cry for help because it was a bit of a surprise ending.

          Liked by 2 people

        • Hi, Prior;

          Since you’re wondering, I am a parent and a grandparent.
          I agree that children receive mixed messaging, being told not to tattle while also being told to find an adult for help. That’s a tricky divide for them to navigate.

          Liked by 3 people

          • It is, especially for the sensitive kid – like I was. I’ve told this story before but it bears repeating. I was the bad kind of tattle tale. Mom told the story of me crying and screaming for my mom so loud the neighbors came running to see if I was hurt. The neighbor boys were picking my crab apples. I learned the difference at that age – about 2-3. I remember getting into so much trouble, but I also remember my mom laughing about it for years.

            Liked by 1 person

          • Thanks for the comment reply and I did hope my delivery was kind – as a writer you know how “strong” our tone can accidentally come across – especially for some of us!
            And so as parent and grandparent – as having been a child – ha – you know the great variety that comes with raising children

            And your ant-bullying message had this “call to action” message that shows a beautiful heart of the author 🤍💛

            And as noted before – the first part with the backpack was just so well done – I can still see the child leaping and landing to show the backpack – 🎒🙂

            Wishing you a good day and thanks for investing your time and creative energy with this story.
            🙏☀️

            Liked by 3 people

          • It’s interesting how many different ideas we’ve had already, and we’re just getting started. Most of us agree that this story is about how to handle a bully. We probably will have as many answers to that question as how ever many people read this post. 🙂

            Liked by 2 people

          • I struggle with writing physical motion scenes like opening the backpack so I’m glad that part worked for you.
            Thanks.

            Liked by 3 people

  8. A sweet story about brotherly love and the casual verbal and physical violence of young boys including, ironically, Mark’s bullying of Ben. However I think there’s too much of an overlay of adult perceptions here and I found Ben’s 6-year-old ‘wisdom’ unconvincing.
    (Cue booing and hissing at me from afar.) 😉

    Liked by 3 people

    • Hi, Doug;

      It is hard to step into the mind of a six-year-old and I might have overdone Ben’s insight, but my grandsons experienced a very similar situation and reacted, like Mark and Ben, with hurt and confusion.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I agree, Aimer, that it’s hard to inhabit the mind of a six year old. All families are different but as a father, grandfather and great-grandfather that part just didn’t ring true for me. As for hurt and confusion, ultimately that’s something you’re never going to be able to protect them from; it goes with the childhood territory.

        Liked by 2 people

        • True, we can’t protect them from every scrape both physical and emotional. But we can be there with a band-aid 🙂

          Liked by 3 people

          • Good answer. As a young teacher, I had a hard time learning to deal with bullies. I had tried to help the one being bullied to cope with the problem since she had been in the same class with the principal’s daughter for six years and hadn’t overcome either her sensitivity or stopped the bullying. The bullier was smaller than the bullied one, too. The girl’s mother did not agree with the way I was handling the situation. I think there is a time and age in which children need to learn to cope with things that hurt their feelings. They need to make their own safe place because that is part of growing up. I was super sensitive and I did what the adults in my family taught me to get through my sensitivity rather than threatening the bully so that she would continue her bullying out of my sight and realm of authority. I don’t know what happened to the bully, but the other girl became a social studies teacher and we are still facebook friends.

            Liked by 2 people

      • Great response, Aimer. I think that good writers of children’s stories have to take their cues from children they know well. In my case, I wrote from my own memories into the mind of a ten-year-old, and my memories are too far in the past and not as reliable as observing and talking to a ten-year-old growing up now. That being said, a lot of fiction depends on the child working things out in an adult/child-like way to solve the problem they are faced with. To do this they often rely on adults, but they direct the adult to do what they need them to do. I love movies like that in which the child takes the lead.

        Liked by 2 people

    • Good point, Doug. I wrote a children’s story, and people said the same thing about my 10-year-old heroine. I think it is hard to evaluate what a 10 or 6 year old knows in the current age. The homosexual lifestyle, even if not in a child’s own family, is seen on television which may have gained understanding through the sitcom Modern Family and other television shows that are not monitored by the government. I think a six-year-old might have understanding but might not be able to verbalize it as Ben did.

      Liked by 2 people

    • no booing from my side Doug. When we were young, there were many days when we just didn’t see our parents and as grammar school kids, we ran around and did our best to stay alive and have some fun. This situation is much of the meat behind many of my stories and yep, there were times when we went too far with some ideas But bullies were then, as they are now, a reality that we may never be rid of. We all have to learn some degree of dealing with them and sometimes, disproportionate force can work wonders in reigning them in. As parents, we tried to avoid larger situations where bullies might present themselves. Avoiding them is a perfectly valid answer. We home schooled out kids partially because bullies are all but impossible to manage in public schools, making the good kids a captive audience for the bullies. Nope – not for my kids. We could do a better job ourselves.

      Liked by 3 people

      • I didn’t know that about your family, Gary. I started teaching in a private school and had something like 19 five year olds, maybe less. I don’t remember which class had 19. I didn’t have children, so no home schooling for me. I taught to enjoy the sensation of being a parent.

        Liked by 2 people

        • Yep they do.
          They did back then and still do today.

          But there is merit in learning how to deal with them, weighing them for any sign of value but then dismissing them, especially if given by a known bully.

          Learning how to strip someone’s words of the power to hurt or even upset me was a powerful lesson for me. If seen many adults who still suffer terribly for lack of knowing how to do it.

          Still Aimer’s point is very well taken. Also germane is that the same words spoken by someone who I should be able to trust cuts deeper than if spoken by someone I couldn’t care less about.

          This can be such a difficult dynamic to learn how to navigate.

          Liked by 4 people

          • “Also germane is that the same words spoken by someone who I should be able to trust cuts deeper than if spoken by someone I couldn’t care less about.”
            Absolutely true. It took me a while to learn not to sweat the things that came from people who weren’t integral to my life. Gosh, I would have saved myself a ton of angst if I’d figured that out sooner 🙂

            Liked by 4 people

          • That is another key point, Aimer. My response to Gary – not premeditated, but I think germane (I like that word.) I think Mom set this whole thing upand got the boys excited about it. Ben wasn’t keen on it from the start. He was more interested in his fish, but Mark, the more social boy lapped up all her enthusiasm – a new friend possibly. Someone he could share his purchase with, the anticipation built and built. Then the kid comes, he’s a jerk. Ben still doesn’t care, UNTIL he attacks Mark, then BAM. Let’s get the real culprit in here – “MOM!” Randy and I used to have to entertain my mom’s piano students in my room when more than one came at a time. We got really close to a couple of girls, but there was one boy I remember that I hated to have to spend a half hour a week with him. When things went sideways, it was Mom’s fault!

            Liked by 4 people

          • That’s a great story, Marsha.
            Parents get together, kids in tow, and the kids are just expected to get along. Usually, it works out, but kids have their own personalities and they don’t always mesh.

            Liked by 2 people

          • That’s what happend in our case, for sure. And in those days, we played outside until dark (about 10:00 pm in the summer). They had no idea who we were with or where in the neighborhood we might be. It was a different world.

            Liked by 2 people

          • I feel sorry for the kids today, they will never have the freedom to roam around on their own like we did. Different world.

            Liked by 2 people

          • Your point about trust is true, Gary, but neither boy had any reason to trust Josh at this point, so maybe his words should not have cut so deeply. He was a nobody to them, just a jerk. We don’t know what happened before he came over. Maybe Mom had said, “You are really going to like this kid (the trust issue) and I bet he’d love to see your new backpacks. (excitement and trust built up.) So the real letdown is that Mom was wrong about this kid and he didn’t want to see the backpacks and it was a set up because she wanted to see Josh’s parent or parents. Maybe even a date situation. So the real breach of trust here could have been with Mom. That would also explain the yell at the end.
            (Mom you had better get in here and fix this now! You are the reason this jerk is in our house and he’s not being nice. ) There’s just a lot we don’t know. But I don’t see any reason they would have trusted Josh.

            Liked by 2 people

  9. Quite right too!
    I liked that six-year-old Ben knew who to call for to sort things out. Ben seems to have a clued-up view of things all around. And he knows whose side he’s on.
    Maybe what Josh needs to sort him out is a brother?

    Liked by 3 people

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Marsha

Marsha

Hi, I'm Marsha Ingrao, a retired educator and wife of a retired realtor. My all-consuming hobby is blogging and it has changed my life. My friends live all over the world. In November 2020, we sold everything and retired to the mile-high desert of Prescott, AZ. We live less than five miles from the Granite Dells, four lakes, and hundreds of trails with our dog, Kalev, and two cats, Moji and Nutter Butter. Vince's sister came with us and lives close by. Every day is a new adventure.

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