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Friday, May 10, 2013

Junior, Robert Laughlin

     Mantley was determined to bring up his son properly: that meant teaching him to obey parental authority. The early death of Mantley’s wife removed any restraining influence, and Mantley proceeded to treat Junior even worse than his many cringing employees. Junior wasn’t allowed a minute’s grace showing up for meals and chores; he had to earn straight A’s in his studies; he spent twenty hours a week doing things he disliked that would supposedly improve his mind or toughen his body; he was forbidden to do anything or see anyone Mantley disapproved of. A vigorous beating with a belt was Junior’s punishment for any failure or show of defiance, and Mantley always preceded each beating by saying, “I’m in charge, and this is for your own good.”

     Right after his high school graduation, Junior surprised Mantley by taking off for parts unknown. The free college education Mantley offered would have allowed him many ways to keep on directing Junior’s life, and Junior knew that. Mantley had nowhere to put his abundant energy and desire to exercise control but his company, whose bottom line flourished in inverse proportion to the affection his workers had for him. He wasn’t any better liked in the boardroom, and the directors were happy to give him a gold watch when he started showing signs of forgetfulness.

     It took Mantley almost a full minute to answer the door; his senile rages had long since driven out the live-in staff, and getting around a mansion in his walker was slow going. The man standing on the doorstep, immediately recognizable despite his receding hair and middle-age spread, was long-lost Junior. On either side of him was a man in a white uniform, and in his hand was a power of attorney signed by a friendly judge and a commitment order signed by two friendly psychiatrists. “I’m in charge, and this is for your own good,” said Junior.

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