By Bob Cowser Jr.
Jake has decided to move with his father to Alabama. Tonight. No time
Try to think of some positive images of stepfathers in literature, film,
even television. I dare you. I would have said Joe Gargery, the simple
blacksmith from Great Expectations, but he’s Pip’s brother-in-law,
I eventually deduce, not his stepfather. Mike Brady from “The Brady
Bunch” got on ridiculously well with his stepdaughters, but then that’s
not the half of what was make-believe about Robert Reed’s portrayal
of that character.
“It’s a thankless job,” the marriage counselor tells me, “practically
impossible. You simply can’t be his father and shouldn’t try to be his
“What then?” I ask him. “I don’t do thankless jobs, as a rule.”
I hound the boy about why we can’t get along better. Jake and I have
managed to string two or three good weeks together here and there, shooting
hoops with his buddy Jared or sneaking a late night pizza past his mother.
It lifts her spirits to see us this way, something Jake and I both want—we
do have a love for her in common. But I go back to chewing my late-night
cereal so loudly it wakes him from a deep sleep upstairs, and I can’t
understand why he’s had to befriend and bring home every delinquent
in the eighth grade. A bad day sets us back so far I despair of the
“Look,” he finally says, “It’s nothing you did. I just don’t like you.”
essays and reviews have appeared widely in American literary magazines.
His first book, Dream
Season: a Professor Joins America's Oldest Semi-Pro Football Team,
published in 2004 by the Atlantic Monthly Press, was a New York
Times Sunday Book Review Editor’s Choice. Cowser holds a Ph.D.
in creative writing from the University of Nebraska and is associate
professor of English at Saint Lawrence University in Canton, New York.
Jake, a US Marine, heads to Iraq in February.