“What is the Cure for Meanness?” by Brock Clarke.
Bryan is the child of some pretty unhappy people and as a result, he’s pretty screwed up, too. When his father, the bastard, leaves Bryan’s mother for his girlfriend Julie, he does so in the most insensitive way, but it prompts Bryan to consider what he might do in order to be NOT like his father, but everything he tries is destined to fail: the lilac bush, the pound pit-bull, the strange man with the upbeat nickname. Until finally the father returns, and this seems like it will be the mother’s sweetest revenge.
This is a clever story that depends mostly, but not entirely, on the tough-yet-vulnerable voice of teenage Bryan, who wants to sympathize with his mother even though she drives him nuts, just like she drove Bryan’s father nuts. Bryan struggles with this and also with his ambivalence toward his father, whose return is the story’s nice twist.
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