Flipside: Family business

ruthie blum 88 (photo credit: )
ruthie blum 88
(photo credit: )
Doron flips the page back and starts at the top. It occurs to him that he has just read several paragraphs without absorbing a word. It is not that the material is beyond his grasp; he's tackled far more complicated stuff than this without blinking. Nor is the English particularly problematic; he spends hours every day surfing the Web, and watches American TV without even glancing at the subtitles. Other than to take note of how inaccurate they are, that is. Still, he is unable to get his brain and his mind to cooperate with one another. Not where the task at hand is concerned, at any rate. So, while his eyes continue to take in the text almost automatically, his thoughts are entirely elsewhere. Doron wishes he could attribute his inability to focus to the surrounding din: the garbage truck making its rounds just below his open window; a baby crying in the next apartment; a policeman's appeal, via megaphone, to a driver to pull over; a contractor belting out instructions to his workers in Hebrew-accented Arabic; the radio's beep-beep-beep of the on-the-hour news bulletin reporting on more Kassams in the South and another fatal car crash in the North. But he realizes deep down that doing so would be disingenuous, to say the least. As false as his father's latest ploy to get him to "buckle down," by telling him that whatever he chooses to do - or not to do - with his talents is "his own business." And just as he is acutely aware of what his father really means - namely, that he'd better get his act together and join his father's business - Doron also knows that noise has never hindered his capacity for concentration. On the contrary, he rarely does anything without the aid of loud music blasting through one set of speakers or headphones or another - bass drum to eardrum - precisely because it helps him "zero in." Or so he has persuaded himself. He's certainly never succeeded in convincing his father of the merits of such methodology. But then, the only thing Doron believes he and his father have ever had in common is mutual misunderstanding. Which is why he can't stand it when others comment on how alike they are. Especially when those "others" are members of the immediate family. Like his mother, for example, who makes him livid every time she insists that the sooner he accepts the fact that he is not only destined to follow in his father's footsteps but desperate to do so, the sooner he will be able to "stop mucking around" and get on with his life. The echo of her so-called wisdom causes Doron to clench his teeth and stub out his cigarette as though pounding it into submission. "I will not be pounded into submission," he recalls announcing last Shabbat, before storming away from the table where his two sisters and their husbands - each of whom would give his eye-teeth to be groomed as Papa's successor - were seated. And seething with envy. The kind born of coveting something that is being handed on a silver platter to someone else who doesn't want it at all. Or does he? DORON LEAVES his perch at the desk in the alcove he has converted into an office. Well, not so much a workroom as a place in which to study. The trust fund left to him by his grandfather has made it possible for Doron to "dabble," as his father refers to it, "in any academic discipline that strikes his fancy at a given moment." (Doron smiles at the irony. "Academic discipline" is not a term he himself would ever use to describe his own pattern of starting semesters at some institution of higher learning or other, only to drop out when the subject matter doesn't spark his interest.) His generous monthly stipend - more than most of his peers earn, even before taxes - has afforded him the luxury to become what his father considers a bum. A "poor little aging rich boy" who'd rather cultivate his attitude than his aptitude, so as not to have to apply - or, heaven forbid, exert - himself in any meaningful way. The trouble is that the only field in which he imagines he could have made a name for himself already has his name on it. His father's, that is. Opting for an alternative avenue, then, always seemed to Doron to be his only recourse. And it still does seem that way. Or does it? DORON HOLDS the binding of the book in the palm of his hand, leafs through it aimlessly with his thumb, then puts it aside. He will make his usual rounds of the blogs and talkbacks - he decides - and resume his other reading later. Or not, depending on his mood. And his drive, though boredom has pretty much done that side of him in. For now, at least. Hopefully not for good. Otherwise he's liable to be stuck in this situation forever. In a limbo of obstinacy on the one hand, and visions of grandeur on the other. Refusing to be guided in the shadows, yet waiting to shine - or rather outshine. How exhausting. And tiresome. What a waste. Which is just what his mother always says. And the very thing his father most fears: that his precious and precocious son will pan out to nothing. Procrastination makes perfect, after all. Oh, what a curse is a steady flow of funds for a grown man who doesn't know what he wants to be when he grows up. But, of course, Doron does know what he wants to be. He always has known. It's the growing-up part that's slipped him by and got him stumped. Shutting down the three windows he has open on his screen, Doron goes into Google and eBay to search for business suits. "First things first," he says, straightening his posture to prepare for a phone call to his father - the one he's been putting off making for years. [email protected]