“It was a cheap gunshot noise the child made when he tossed the stone up on the tin-roofed shed, not artillery or anything apocalyptic yet, just a nice, good, gunfight-starting shot, and immediately the common rocks in the rock pile the child was standing on were jealous, he could feel them jealous under his feet.” – Mark Richard, Gentlemen’s Agreement
This story is about a boy who throws rocks. His father is a firefighter, and when he comes home to a broken windshield in the family car, the boy is punished. The father is a rough man, tough and seasoned from years fighting fires, and the boy has the sort of fearful respect for his father that most little boys are born with.
He swears to never throw another rock, so long as he lives. Except, of course, this is a story about a boy who throws rocks.
Mark Richard writes a very entertaining piece, taking us through the thought process of a little boy as he justifies his actions. As the tale unfolds, and the boy gets into a situation that requires some urgent assistance while throwing rocks behind the shed, we feel the stress of not knowing how the father will react once he finds out what the boy has done.
Eventually, the boy and his father find themselves behind the shed. The boy awaits his punishment, the same punishment that is promised to him in the earlier stages of the story. Yet, while this story is about a boy who throws rocks, it is also about a father and his only son.
As the story concludes, Mark Richard subtly peels away the layers of a strict, no-nonsense father and perfectly depicts the unspoken understandings that happen between a growing boy and his father.
“Gentleman’s Agreement” was published in the Anchor Book of New American Short Stories, edited by Ben Marcus.