Man No Face and the Prince by Lindsey Bertomen
Someone had taught him to kneel in the center of a canoe over the keel when paddling alone. He read this somewhere, but it didn't make sense until he tried to paddle to The Hidden Lagoon on a windy day.
The Lagoon, named by his older brothers and sisters, was really a forested area that was flooded by lake water when beavers built a dam at one of the streams that fed the lake. One could slalom through the trees over crystal-clear water. A single push with paddle was enough to send the craft silently over submerged turtles and leopard frogs frozen as the shadow passed over them. One day, Boy Paddling inched underneath a bobcat lounging on an uprooted tree. The cat was startled that its omnipotent ears failed to locate the canoe. It attempted to appear nonchalant as if it expected Boy Paddling.
Boy Paddling portaged over the beaver dam and began to negotiate the kilometer or so across the open lake to the country club where he had put in. He was a few meters from the dam when he realized that a heading towards the shore was impossible. He had to run parallel to it because the wind kept turning his bow. He was trying to go across the lake but the wind kept pushing him back to The Hidden Lagoon. He found the only alternative was to zigzag across the lake. First he bore into the wind, then he crossed toward shore.
Twice he was pushed onto shore through cattails and lake weed. The second time he heard an odd noise in the cattail humps. It sounded like cry of a pig. Boy Paddling knew the lake shore in eastern Connecticut was far from any pig farm. He was intensely curious but when he cocked his head around, the canoe followed. It forced him to face forward and paddle with all his might. When he cleared the shore the second time there was no looking for the source of the sound.
Boy Paddling was late. As he walked up to the van he noticed that his siblings were are sitting down inside. He knew the heat inside the van would be intense. This was evidence they were sitting there involuntarily. He walked around to the front of the vehicle. Before he had time to react, his father stepped out from the corner of the van and punched him squarely in the left temple. Boy Paddling fell backwards, hitting his other temple on the side of the van.
Knowing that being on the ground was for kicking, Boy Paddling sprang up quickly, holding both sides of his head. He noiselessly boarded the vehicle and endured the ride home to Central New York State. Boy Paddling rationalized that the trip to The Hidden Lagoon was worth whatever was dealt to him.
Young Man Waiting was not terribly excited about going to a new high school near New York City. The school was five times larger than any school he had ever seen. He was painfully aware of his naïveté when a senior walked up to him and put his index finger just below Young Man Waiting's sternum.
" What are you staring at?"
" You", Young Man Waiting replied innocently. The answer hung in the air for moment. Young Man Waiting realized his blunder but could not stuff his reply back into his mouth nor could he respectfully lower his eyes. He had already purchased the service that was due to him. Prince, whose name Young Man Waiting later came to learn, grabbed him around the neck and threw him on the ground. He held Young Man Waiting's face into the filthy soil of the baseball field. Prince's Associates made squealing noises as Young Man Waiting's nose bled freely into the soil around third-base.
Seven years later, Young Man Waiting contemplated his situation. Although jobless, he wasn't exactly homeless. After all, he still had his car and a little food. However, Young Man Waiting could not logically see any promise in the future given his current situation. He placed a sign of his car and sold it to the first bidder. With the roof over his head gone, Young Man Waiting became Man No Face. Man No Face used the money from the sale of his car for a plane ticket to California.
Man No Face worked. First, he did odd jobs. He found he enjoyed military service. He carried this newfound discipline to all of the other work he did. Man No Face invested. He invested his time, invested his education and chose his employment wisely. Man No Face had no desire to have to paddle into the wind again. Experience had taught him how to put into shore where and when he dictated, not when he had to. Man No Face created a persona that belonged to no other.
Prince approached Man No Face. Prince was the same person Man No Face had met 20 years before when he was Young Man Waiting. Prince had not changed. He did not recognize Man No Face.
Prince, in the form of Man No Face's supervisor, theorized that he could bully him because of their position in life. First, he attempted to show that he was superior to Man No Face by pointing out the subordinates mistakes as he went. Man No Face recognized his mistakes as learning processes. Because of this, he was unable to acknowledge Prince's efforts for what they were. By this time Man No Face had seen his world in a different light. His world was no longer against him. Man No Face was enjoying his surroundings. He recognized each day as a new day. When Prince revealed his weakness to Man No Face, the subordinate simply sidestepped without correcting the error.