Stuttering, by Louis Stevens

Originally posted 12/28/2015 at The Novel Approach


My dad used to stutter. I don’t remember him ever stuttering as he outgrew it in his mid-twenties, but the psychological scars of it remained with him, as it tends to do. Looking back, I suppose that is why he was so adamant to squash the stutter in me and my brothers and sister from a young age. I remember driving in the car with him alone, me seated in the back with my seatbelt tight and secure, and waving my hands in dramatic fashion as I regaled him with some awesome tale of something amazing.

I was getting into the story and became really animated, gesturing wildly and enjoying having my dad’s raptured attention. Boy, how I lived for those stolen glances in the rearview mirror and the smiles he’d give when I cracked him up. But then I stuttered. It was on a simple word, I am sure, but I repeated the consonant a few times. It might’ve been an S, now that I think of it. That rotten S always tried to trip me up growing up.

My dad’s expression changed instantly. No longer was he interested in my grand tale of fantastic exaggeration. He didn’t care what happened at the end of the story. His eyes grew bigger and he spoke in his deep chest voice and told me to cut it out. I rarely got the chest voice, so the few times it happened, I took notice.

From that day on I made a point of it to think of what I wanted to say before I started speaking. Like imagining what I needed to say and form the words in my mind. I still struggled some, growing up. But not nearly to the degree my dad had, or suffered the ridicule he had because of his stutter.

Maybe this is why I love this moment between Martin and Marty in Quillon’s Covert so much. It might be the way I would’ve liked my dad to help me deal with my squashed stutter. Or it’s just the intense intimacy of the scene. Either way, I hope you enjoy the excerpt, and get to enjoy the unconventional romance that the insanely talented Joseph Lance Tonlet and I came up with.

The irritation in his son’s demeanor quickly faded. And when his eyes met Martin’s, he could already see the apology in them.

“Duh-duh-dad, I duh-duh-didn’t mean…”

Normally there wouldn’t have been anything that would have kept Martin’s calming finger from his son’s stuttering lips. Today he stood firm as Marty broke off, trying to stifle the stammer on his own. Marty took a few steps, closing the distance between them, and hooked Martin’s hand into his. Before he understood what was happening, Marty brought Martin’s calloused index finger up to his own lips. Holding it there, he closed his eyes and stilled himself. When he opened them again, he stood close enough that Martin could see the gray flecks that gave his son’s eyes their extraordinary color.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it like that. I never meant to be disrespectful,” he said quietly against Martin’s finger.

There wasn’t a single question in Martin’s mind about his son’s sincerity. That, combined with what Marty had done with his finger, left Martin’s throat tight and his eyes tingling with emotion.

Marty released Martin’s hand, stepped around him, and, with some effort, managed to unhook the paddle from the wall.

Handing it to his dad, he said firmly, “Seventeen. If it’s okay with you, I’d like to get this over with, unless making me wait is part of the punishment. And, if it is, I accept that too.”

Martin never looked forward to delivering punishment. But what had just passed between them made this time even worse. No, he had no desire to prolong this. It was best to get it over with and enjoy the rest of their time together.

He nodded briefly. “Now is fine.”

Considering his son’s condition, his casts, he doubted Marty would be able to brace himself against the counter.

With a tilt of his head toward Marty’s arms, he asked, “Over my knee, or can you support yourself standing?”

Marty scrunched his eyebrows in thought. “Knee.”