As a child, Connor Dooley dreamed of becoming an Olympic Athlete. Simeon Toribio, to be exact. Why Simeon Toribio? Connor never said. He just spent his days in the backyard trying to jump over his mother’s tomato plants.
Physically, Connor never had much chance of convincing anyone he was Simeon Toribio. Simeon Toribio was a six-feet-tall Filipino Olympic high jump bronze medallist who died a month before man walked on the moon. Connor was an Irish kid with an abnormally low hairline and the physique and complexion of a soft-boiled egg. Connor’s father, Murray, believed the boy was faking a mental illness. This was the tactic Murray himself had used to avoid military service during the Vietnam War (Ireland was not officially involved in the war, but Murray was not taking any chances). The question that now plagued Murray was: What was Connor trying to avoid? He made a list of everything that might answer the question, and then, by process of elimination, concluded Connor was avoiding either his first Holy Communion or a haircut. If it was the former, Connor was likely demon-possessed; if it was the latter, he was likely homosexual. The remedy for both conditions was to be held underwater while a priest recited a prayer.
It was Connor’s mother, Celia, who correctly diagnosed his unusual behaviour. Connor was not trying to avoid something. Quite the opposite. He was trying to win the affections of a Filipino girl who lived in the next village. Celia suggested that instead of darkening his skin with coal and hurling himself into the vegetable garden, Connor might want to try simply talking to the girl. Murray, much relieved that his son was not a demoniac (although a little disappointed he would not get to see an exorcism), agreed.
The next day, Connor took the bus into town and went to the dry cleaners. It was owned by a couple he assumed were the parents of the young lass who had inspired his recent athletic identity theft. They were not her parents. They were not even Filipino. They were Sri Lankan. Connor introduced himself and then asked permission to date their daughter, using a phrase he had heard from one of the older boys at school. He did not realise (and probably neither did the older boy from school) how exceedingly filthy the phrase was. How would any parent react to hearing a boy imply such things about their non-existent daughter? The Sri Lankan couple just stared curiously at Connor’s narrow forehead. His hairline really was low. It started about an inch above his eyebrows. With his hairline so distracting, the Sri Lankans did not hear a word Connor said. They just nodded politely and then went about their work. Connor waited, but the couple soon told him not to wander around by himself, and that he should go home to his parents. He was crushed.
Connor never did speak to the young Filipina. The next year she and her family moved away. Perhaps it was for the best. The girl died young, and Connor turned out homosexual after all. Interestingly, he also won an Olympic bronze medal for high jump.
© 2021 MILES VENISON ALL RIGHTS RESERVED