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‘Hugging’
Wejumpka by Rick Bass from In These Loyal Mountains, pages 77-86, Mariner Books, NY, 1995


In this brief sketch of a boy coming of age, the author narrates from the perspective of a younger friend of an older father. Wejumpka was an Indian name that the little boy selected when playing a naming game in a Boy Scout troop. As with so many modern parents, Wejumpka’s mother and father were ever more concerned with their own relationship, until it went sour and they divorced, and then devoted themselves to their own activities to the exclusion of their only son, her hungered for approval and familial attachment, to the point where he became an compulsive hugger.

As a little boy this was cute. But as he came into youth as a high school student and gregariously and innocently hugged classmates and teachers, he was named a menace and censured. The story peaks right about the age of 16-17, when the narrator takes Wejumpka on a summer outing, which provides the boy one last chance to gain approval from his now wastrel father. The bitterness of divorce for children, focuses on the plight of a lone boy, who at one comic stage gets to compare notes with another son of a broken family as to how they gained revenge upon their parents.

In this passively touching tale, Rick Bass indicts the 250-million members of a race who threw away the continent their ancestors conquered, for no better reason than they found it necessary to discard their children in order to experience more pleasure and less responsibility.

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