F is for… [F]athers #AtoZChallenge

As we near the close of week one of the A to Z Challenge (and I’m still alive—yayyy!), it’s time for another brainstorming session! A prologue, two backstories, and two character sketches down, and I’ve come to discover a major theme in Prodigal Son* (*title a work in progress)…


Or, more specifically, the lack of fathers.

Tony and Gregory lose their father at the peak of their adolescence, at the age arguably when a young black boy needs his father the most.

The absence of good fathers, especially in the black community, has become an epidemic. No offence to single mothers, but young boys need their fathers. Training up men is something a woman just can’t do, and she shouldn’t have to. Nevertheless, many women have taken on that burden. Unfortunately, just as babies quickly pick up our not-so-glamorous habits, children learn from example, and with no father in the home, boys will learn how to be men from what that see in the media and on the streets.

As you can see below, these images are rarely positive.

The uprooting of black families is a destructive cycle that began in slavery and continues to this day, with the overcrowding of jails and prisons—more than half of that population being black men—the questionable killings of unarmed black men by police, the belittling of black men by law enforcement and government agencies, gang violence, drug infested streets (if you thought this heroin epidemic is a new thing, you never lived in Harlem in the 60’s & 70’s), rap music videos that degrade black women, the insensitive stereotypes that label black men as dangerous brutes, and black women as emasculating, oversexualized, welfare queens. I could go on, but I’ll stop right here and let this list take effect.

I use black men as a prime example of how black families are being uprooted because this novel will also have a strong Christian theme, as seen in Leslie’s character profile (and the interim title, Prodigal Son, alluding to the parable in the Gospel of Luke). In Christianity, the husband and father is said to be the priest of the home, in reference to 1 Corinthians 11:3 which says, “the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.” (Also see Joshua 24:15, which says, “as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”)

Back in the Garden of Eden, God’s command not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil originally came to Adam. He was supposed to relay that down to his wife (and slap that damn fruit out her hand). Likewise, in today’s Christian household, spiritual guidance would come to the man from Christ above (through the Holy Spirit) and trickle down to the rest of the family. That’s why the Bible says, “Wives, submit yourselves unto your husbands, as unto the Lord” (Ephesians 5:21). So, when the enemy comes to “steal, kill, and destroy” (John 10:10), he will attack the man, the head of the house, and subsequently everything else will fall out of whack.

Tony and Gregory are exceptions to the “deadbeat dad” syndrome. They didn’t lose their dad to gun violence. He’s not locked away in prison, and he’s not fathering another family. His death was purely natural (albeit sudden and severe), yet these are still two young black men now growing up in America without a father. Society wouldn’t look at them any differently. How will that realization resonate with them? How will they identify themselves?

It brings to mind that sense of double consciousness that W.E.B. DuBois explored in his The Souls of Black Folk, seeing oneself in a double identity—as you would view yourself, and as others would view you—and that difficult task of trying to reconcile the two.

In contrast, Detective Frank Maye, whose race hasn’t been revealed (and probably won’t be), loses his father much later in life. However, not knowing where he is or what happened to him leaves an open wound that is just as deep, and his ability to connect the similar traumas may be the key to finding Gregory.

Another theme this novel will likely explore is one that goes hand in hand with fathers: masculinity. What does it mean to be a man?

Gregory tries to answer this question as he goes off on his own, distancing himself from the (unintentional) coddling of his mother, Leslie. Unfortunately, with his father gone, good examples of men are short to come by, and things quickly start to spiral when he begins dating Tanisha, a parasitic woman who bounce from man to man, leeches off of Gregory to get what she wants, demeans him, cheats on him, and gets pregnant by another man. While her character may be veering toward the stereotypical, I can’t deny that there are women like her out there, and her behavior is what drives Gregory off the deep end. So for now she stays.

Lastly, in future posts, we’ll take a look at Tony, Gregory’s older brother. His character is still one-dimensional at this point, as I’m not sure how significant a role he’ll play in the novel. For now, all we have of him is the flashback in yesterday’s post, where teenage Tony behaves apathetically toward the busy work of preparing for his father’s funeral. Maybe that uncaring attitude extends into his adulthood? We’ll see as the novel comes together.

Now, I already know what you’re thinking. Since tomorrow is “G,” you’re hoping to get a character sketch of Gregory, but I think I’ve been doing plenty of sketching of him throughout all these posts, so I may do something different for tomorrow. Stay tuned!



“Daddy’s always watching over you.” It would’ve been less creepy if I didn’t believe in ghosts.

Grandpa’s been watching me since I was nine. He’s like Santa, he doesn’t come until I fall asleep. I woke up one night to the familiar smell of cigars and butterscotch and discovered him standing at the foot of my bed, hands folded over his round belly. He wasn’t the jolly Grandpa I remembered; he stared at me, expressionless.

Now Daddy’s joined him. Every night, they stand by my bed and watch me sleep. It’s been quite difficult sneaking boys into my room.

word count: 99


moral_mondays_logoJoin Moral Mondays, a new weekly challenge to write a 100-word fable or story based on the moral/lesson provided in the prompt. This week’s moral is all about lessons from dad: no kissing on the first date.


Grant hesitates at the entrance. The chamber is filled with rows of chairs similar to church pews. From the back wall, men dressed in dull green jumpsuits file through a steel door.

“How do they keep them from running off?”

“They shoot,” Grant’s mother says flatly. She pushes him forward to follow the guard, who shoulders a rifle.

The guard sits them across from a middle-age man scratching his graying beard. Sunlight pours in from the window and reflects off his handcuffs.

Grant blinks several times to refocus his vision, then stares into the familiar dark brown eyes. “Hi, Dad.”

word count: 100


© J Hardy Carroll
© J Hardy Carroll

I’m back from a long hiatus with another Friday Fictioneers story. 

Friday Fictioneers challenges you to write a story in 100 words or less using the provided photo prompt as inspiration. Click the froggy icon to read other stories and add your own.

Father of the Year

2014-11-03-bw-beacham“He certainly had quite an attitude!”

The mechanic knocked on the front bumper of Dave’s pickup. “Can you blame him?”

“It was only a joke.” Dave smiled, lightly kicked the mechanic’s knee.

“I don’t know. That were my boy . . .” The mechanic lay back on the skateboard and rolled under the hood of the truck.

“The spray paint will come off. And the teeth are just cardboard.”

“You chased him five blocks!” The mechanic’s voice was muffled under the hood.

“I’d hardly call driving 1 mile an hour chasing.”

“And the way your motor pops and rattles, it already sounds like a goddamn monster’s roar.”

“So can you figure out what’s wrong with it?”

“Other than its driver being a somabitch?” The mechanic rolled from under the truck, his face smudged with oil. He tossed a gold Rolex watch at Dave’s feet.

“So that’s where it . . .”

“Looks like your boy knew it was you all along.”


SoCS: No Holds Barred Poetry Writing Challenge: Day 30

She still can’t open her eyes.
I cradle her pink, oval
face in my calloused, black hands.
Paint chips still on my jeans—
finishing a job when I got the call.
Mother extends a blessing hand from the bed,
pink band around her wrist.
Her scratchy voice says Rosa.
The little body cupped in my wide arms wiggles.
Her nose scrunches. Her lips quiver.
She opens her mouth and releases a shrill scream.
My first reaction to the birth of
my precious baby girl—
Her breath stinks.


And I am done with my poetry writing challenge! Yes, I have successfully written a new and original poem every day for 30 days (though I never quite confirmed that 30 days would be the goal). If you’d like to read previous poems for my No Holds Barred Poetry Writing Challenge, click the My Poetry tab on the navigation menu. This is also part of Stream of Consciousness Saturday and Love Is In Da Blog. Today’s prompt: relative/relativity.