“Son”, said Father, as he stroked his voluminous gray mustache in a manner he hoped provoked an air of gravity, “there comes a time in a boy’s life when he must give up the toys of childhood, and take up the yoke of the… ship of manhood. Do you follow me, Son?”

“No, Father, I don’t,” said Young James, who was, in fact, lying, since he followed Father precisely, but loved more than anything to watch the old fellow squirm.

“Well Son, visa vie the matter at hand, and taking all things into consideration, uh…” Father now harrumphed, as he paused to re-group. A new tact was clearly called for. But which tact? Father tried to think. It was not easy for Father to think, because so few thoughts made their way to his olde brain. But he knew enough not to open his mouth again until he had a thought. Think, thought Father. A warm scone with melting clotted cream and strawberry jam would be lovely. No! Wrong thought. A cigar and a brandy would be nice. No! Wrong again. Ah ha! Father’s eyes lit up, a gleam filled his demeanor, and imposing authority beamed from his voluminous gray mustache.

“How old are you, Son?” Father rumbled.

“I’ll be twenty-one in two weeks Father, we’re having a party, and I believe there will be a cake involved. Didn’t you get the memo?” Young James had a snippy edge that made father feel like he was three quarters of an idiot, which was his fear to begin with.

“Ah yes,” said Father, trying to keep his momentum going through his son’s fusillade, “quite so, yes, well Son, it is incumbent upon a strapping young buck, when he comes of a certain age, to choose himself a doe. Now, Mother has informed me that she’s brought around several excellent specimens of heavily moneyed breeding stock and you’ve had nary a sniff of them. In fact, according to Mother, she says you spend all your time with this young Randall Twickendale-Finch, Lord Twickendale-Finch’s young welp, and Mother tells me he’s a rude rake, a raspscallion, a scalliwag and a ne’erdowell, a randy young dandy who has tongues wagging all over town at his nefarious carryings-on, kissing young willowy rouged fellows in public I’m told, and worse even. Shocking scandals I’m told. According to Mother, the young wag can’t be so much as invited into polite society, and you, apparently, are half a step behind.” Father thumped his desk, warming to his task, putting his cockles and muscles into it, “Mother believes it’s time for you to take stock of yourself, put your nose to your bootstraps, pull yourself up by the grindstone, and bloody well get on with it. Is that clear, son?” Father arched his huge eyebrow bushes, and furrowed deep his massive brow, which generally had the effect of crumbling the knees on the one he was arching them at. He felt for a moment that he had made his case so convincingly that his triumph was imminent, and allowed himself to swell and puff ever so slightly.

“No, actually, I’m not quite following you, Pater, what exactly are you getting at?” slithered snidely out of the side of Young James’ mouth, popping Father’s balloon just as it was fully inflating.

Father could feel his bile rising as his whippersnapper of a son sideswiped him. As it rose in his belly, he reached for his brandy and belted down a snort to combat the acid cloud headed straight at his heart.

“Son, let’s not beat about the bush. Let’s not thrash any dead horses, nor look any gift horses in the mouth, or, for that matter, change horses in mid-stream. Of course, when a boy is young, and away at boarding school, eating with boys, sleeping with boys, bathing with boys, one can’t help but lead the boy’s life, as it were, with boys, among boys, the deep muscle massage, the hot steam bath, the hard young strapping flesh, so soft and supple, the throbbing, pulsating excitement of being a boy, the boyish thrust of a young rutting buck, what could be more natural than the love boys have for each other, the raw naked erupting excitement of ripe young boy flesh? But when a boy becomes a man, he leaves behind the ways of boyhood and take the bit in his mouth and runs with it. Do you catch my drift, Son?” Father was hoping this would end the matter, but he knew deep down it was wishful thinking.

“No I don’t, Father, but I find your instruction extremely educational, please continue, as I find myself confused, and in need of paternal guidance. Please, bestow upon me the benefit of your wisdom,” Young James cocked his face with such insouciant arrogance that a gas ball burst up from Father’s now officially buggered guts, and squeezed his chest tight, shot like a foul meteor past his heart, then exploded from him in a thunderous belch, which had become, over the years, Father’s calling card.

“Pardon,” said Father, with grim delicacy, chucking down a slug of bromide, waiting for the afterburners to extinguish themselves. “Well, damn it, Son, let me speak plainly. We’d all love to live the carefree life of the bachelor, but let’s be realistic, enough is enough. I’m telling you now, drop young Twickendale-Finch, find yourself a young filly and sire her. And if you do not, I shall cut you off cold, Son, not another bean, and do you know what that means? It means, putting it bluntly, getting a job, supplying your own living accommodations, clothing allowance, etceterahhhh, etceterahhhh, etceterahhhh.”

Father leaned in as he said it. He himself wasn’t sure if it was a bluff. He thought it might well be, but he certainly didn’t want to find out.

Young James searched his Father’s face. He wasn’t sure if it was a bluff. He thought it might well be, but he certainly didn’t want to find out. He weighed, sifted, and sighed. Finally a wan smile crept across his young but world-weary face.

“As you wish, Father,” he said, “Find me a filthy rich breeder and I shall fill her with my seed repeatedly until we’ll have a brood of horrible little monsters. But I am not giving up Twickendale-Finch. Is that clear? But I shall see to it that he becomes little seen and less heard. Do you understand?”

Father thought for a moment. A warm scone with melting clotted cream and strawberry jam sprang to mind, followed by a cigar and a brandy.

“Yes, son, I believe we have an understanding,” said Father.

And his bile was quieted.