An illustration of a stork.

The Talk


[A FATHER sits with his young son, MATTHEW, on a bench in a park watching the sun go down over the horizon.]

FATHER: Matthew, it’s time we had the talk. You see son, in nature …

MATTHEW: I’m twelve dad. Don’t you think it’s a bit late? I know about the birds and the bees.

FATHER: Well, it’s just … I understand you learn certain things on social media and at school, but perhaps you don’t know everything.

MATTHEW: I know enough.

FATHER: Your mother asked me to talk to you. Just let me say what I’ve come here to say, okay? Don’t make this any more awkward. Then that will be it. You see … I’m not really sure how to put this, but … Well … Let me finish … Matthew, in nature …

MATTHEW: God dad.

FATHER: Let me finish. There are birds and there are bees. Now, the oriental stork is found in the lowland forests and wetlands of many Asian countries. It is a long-necked, long-legged bird …  Let me finish … The oriental stork is a large, white bird with black wing feathers. Let me finish … The oriental stork is a solitary bird except during the breeding season …

MATTHEW: Did you get this off Wikipedia?

FATHER: No. [PAUSE] In nature, there are …

MATTHEW: Oriental storks?

FATHER: And bees. There are nearly twenty thousand known species of bees in the world. They are found on every continent except Antarctica … Son, bees are important to birds because bees pollinate flowers, and well … We need flowers. Flowers are very important. But … It’s evolution. Biology. It’s completely natural … You see, birds too need flowers and we need birds. Everything in nature must work in tandem. Do you understand?

MATTHEW: I like birds.

FATHER: That’s very good to hear. But son, it’s important to like all animals.

MATTHEW: Yes, dad. Bees have sex. Birds have sex. Birds like bees and bees like birds and sometimes bees like other bees and some birds like goats. Everyone has sex. It’s good. It’s natural. Use condoms. I get it. I know.

FATHER: Matthew, in the age of Nicky Minaj and Tumblr I would be a little worried if you didn’t know about sex. But I’m afraid there are other things, much more complicated if you’d believe, that you must learn as a boy becoming a man. Son, you must learn certain things that social media and other people can’t ever tell you or don’t want to tell you. You must learn how the size of the universe is unfathomable and our place in it seeming insignificant, but you must learn still to love yourself within that same expanse. You must learn how a man cannot move mountains if he never learns to move his lips to speak of the simplicity of love. And you must learn that all animals have their place on Earth, and how we are all one with nature, and not separate from it, and how no single animal is lesser than another, and how we are all brothers. You must learn to listen to the wind even when it rambles insane, and to the call of mother nature even when she whispers so softly your ears only ring with the silence of it. And you must learn how the spirit moves through you and through all living things though you will never see it. And you must learn how humankind has been corrupted by greed. How men seek to replace bees with robots, and trees with money, and you must learn to keep your sanity in the midst of all this. Even when the last bee dies and the birds fall like a plague from the air. You must still learn to keep the bitterness out and peace and love in. For you must learn that the purpose of all things is to learn to love and be loved. For you are the universe. Like all living things. Like everything that ever was, is, and will be. Do you understand? [HE SEES THAT MATTHEW IS DUMBFOUNDED, JUST STARING AT HIM] Well, your mother was right. It’s too late. I should’ve had this talk with you when you were ten. But you see, my dad never had the talk with me. He only told me some bullshit about puberty! Can you believe!

[A moment. The two watch the sun disappearing behind the horizon.]

MATTHEW: What do they look like?

FATHER: Vaginas?

MATTHEW: Oriental storks.

FATHER: They’re critically endangered. But I’m told they’re beautiful, son. Like all birds. Beautiful.

MATTHEW: Beautiful?

FATHER: Beautiful.


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