“When I reached out to shake his hand, I looked to see what I grabbed onto because there was nothing there!” That exclamation, punctuating a conversation about adverse working conditions, partially inspired this week’s update to “The Story.” What would motivate Mr. Ebersole (right) to provide paternal guidance toward John (left)? It certainly wouldn’t be that as the resident English teacher, he saw potential in the hard working kid. There had to be something more…
Spoiler Warning Scale: Minor (background character building as worldbuilding)
Let’s start with more context to that introductory quote.
That conversation reminded me of the harder work that’s out there. It’s easy to lose fingers or limbs around heavy machinery. Perhaps in the sanctity of modern society, we’re not used to meeting people with missing fingers or limbs? While I’ve only met a few people with such physical impairments, I can relate with the stories of alienation and aggression I’ve heard in watching or reading other people’s stories.
I thought about Mr. Ebersole might need prosthetics.
As a causal biography, he was born in Germany (or narratively-obscured equivalent) and grew up working hard labor work. He probably had some ambitions to establish a better life, move to America for opportunities, and start a family; the usual. His plans are derailed by his machining accident in the summer before starting his university, leaving him with the need for a prosthetic hook hand or something similar.
This photo just happened to obscure the particulars…
In this scene, Mr. Ebersole gifts John with The Art of War. John carries the book with him, and rereads it constantly, well after meeting Trishna in person. The scene might be one of their first interactions and takes place after John is called into Mr. Ebersole’s office. He begins mentoring John because he sees that John has potential as a writer and they have a shared life experience.
I imagine Mr. Ebersole as a gruff, seemingly abrasive person.
Gruff only because he might have lived a hard life without much to show for it. In the current narrative I have in mind, John is kicked out of his house for something or another, and sleeps out in the woods behind the school for a day or two. Mr. Ebersole takes notice and takes him in temporarily. His apartment is a humble one-bedroom, so John sleeps on the couch for a few days.
No wife, no kids. Only a meager salary and eventual retirement.
Mr. Ebersole takes that in stride and does what he wants, when he wants. Since reading is his hobby, he doesn’t need much more than his apartment to store his books. That leaning toward simplicity is among the lessons that John learns under his tutelage. While John probably wouldn’t have taken to a life of crime, it’s certainly possible that he would have found an escape through cheating the system.
Mr. Ebersole saved John from a worse life.
The last time John changes his surname, to celebrate, it’s to Ebersole.