He beat his toddler son a lot when the boy arrived with super low grades on his report card. But when he found out what they meant, his world crumbled and he bitterly regretted it. It was a day like any other. Wagner, the tireless Mason, returned from work carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders. His sweaty shirt clung to his skin, marked by dust and sun. The constant noise of the jackhammers and concrete mixers still echoed in his ears, even after leaving the construction site.
On that particular day, everything seemed to have gone wrong in construction: a delay in the cement delivery, an accident with one of the helpers, an error in the project that caused the demolition of a newly built wall. Upon arriving home, the first thing he did was open the fridge, hoping to find something to appease his ravenous hunger. But when he opened the door, his heart sank. The empty shelves reflected the harshness of his reality. He was supposed to go to the market after work, but because of the day’s chaos, he ended up forgetting it. “Ah, pain. Everything goes wrong in this house,” he grumbled, punching the air in frustration.
His wife worked at night, taking care of an old lady, so she couldn’t do the groceries either. In the midst of his irritation, his son’s school bus pulled up, interrupting his bitter thoughts. He had called his friend, the school bus driver, begging to pick up his boy from school as he was going to be late due to work. Little Arthur, just six years old, ran in with a backpack almost the size of his body, swaying from side to side with each step. The little boy’s joy contrasted with his father’s dark mood. Arthur ran and hugged Wagner’s legs, babbling excitedly about his day.
The man replied dryly, “Yeah, that’s great, son. Now go take a shower. I’m going to make you a peanut butter sandwich with jelly.” “Daddy,” asked the little boy, with his innocent eyes shining, “no, we’re out of jelly. It’s just going to be with peanut butter. I didn’t buy it. Now go take your shower, come on.” While Wagner turned around to prepare the simple meal, Arthur began to insist that his father take a look at the paper he brought from school.
The Mason, already exhausted, was reluctant but finally took the paper from his son’s hands. But when he saw his son’s grades, a feeling of fury took over him. All grades were five, average, mediocre. He couldn’t believe that his son was just average. “Are you crazy, brat? What crap grade is that?” exploded the man, looking at his son with anger. “But Daddy,” began Arthur, but was interrupted. “No, no, no, don’t interrupt me. You don’t answer me, boy,” yelled the father, already taking off his slipper to teach the boy a lesson.
“No, Daddy, it’s not that,” the boy tried to explain himself, but it was in vain. Wagner slapped his son and sent him to his room. “Go to your room, Arthur. No sandwich for you. You’re grounded. I want you to stick your face in your books, understand? I don’t want to see you getting a five ever again,” he shouted, while the little boy went to the room with tears running down his face. And he continued, “Do you have any idea how hard I work for you to show me a crap grade like that? I’m not killing myself to raise a mediocre child.”
The silence in the small apartment lingered, only to be broken by the muffled sobs of a little boy in his room and the grinding of teeth of an enraged father. Poor man, poor boy. Wagner was a simple man with a noble soul and calloused hands, the son of toil and sweat. Unlike the image that formed there, he loved his son intensely. He was rigorous, it is true, but always with the intention of guiding little Arthur towards a better future, different from his own. He himself had never gone beyond high school; he became a bricklayer like his father and grandfather before him. His life was marked by the dryness of the cement, the smell of the dough, and the rough texture of the bricks. He was a man defined by the effort and weariness that always seemed to build up.
He saw in the little boy the chance to change the family’s destiny, the chance to break the cycle of deprivation. It wasn’t unusual that after an exhausting day, he would pick Arthur up, look into his eyes, and say in an exhausted but firm voice, “Do you want to have a nice fancy house and have a profession that pays well, son? Well, so you have to study. Look at your father. I didn’t study, and that’s what I have today.”
Arthur was a sweet, innocent boy and looked up to his father in a way only a son could. He didn’t fully understand the dynamics of life, but he knew he wanted to be strong and brave like Wagner. Sometimes, when he saw a toy he liked, like the Spider-Man, for example, and he asked his father to buy it, with his little eyes shining, the man would explain to him, “You see why you have to study, go to college and everything? Because when you want to buy something, you’ll have money. I can’t buy you this toy, but one day you’ll be able to buy it for your son.” And Arthur, ever understanding, never threw a tantrum. Instead, he was inspired by the strength from his father and focused on his studies. He always got good grades, but like any kid, he had his ups and downs.
Wagner II was never able to attend parent meetings at the school; the work on the site always seemed more urgent. He entrusted these tasks to his wife, Joyce, a woman of unshakable faith and a generous heart. She didn’t have an academic background like her husband, but she had the gift of care and worked as a caregiver for the elderly on a rotating basis, one day in, one day out. The life of that family was difficult; however, they never lost hope. Their love for each other sustained them, and their faith that Arthur would become a successful man was the driving force behind them all.
So, the next day, a quiet dawn caressed the small masonry apartment, contrasting with the heavy mood that had settled since the night before. Despite the serene setting, an unsettling sensation hovered over the family home, like a dense mist of something unresolved. The little boy woke up that morning with a maturity imposed by circumstances. He dressed himself, packed his backpack, and sat down at the kitchen table, with his eyes downcast and still.
Wagner, in turn, was also awake, although his heavy eyes revealed a sleepless night. As the thought swirled in his mind, full of remorse and regret, with a guilty stomach, the man called his son for breakfast. The silence was palpable, heavy as a burden but necessary. Wagner wasn’t proud of his attitude last night, but he knew that feeding the guilt wouldn’t solve anything. “I need to be more to him than my father was to me,” he reflected, holding his cup of coffee in his calloused hands.
On the table, there was fresh bread, ham, peanut butter, jelly, and a glass of chocolate milk for the boy. All the things from the Mason’s trip to the bakery before Arthur woke up. He wanted to make up somehow for the sandwich the little boy didn’t have the night before. Although it was a simple gesture, it carried significant weight for both of them. Wagner tried to bring up the subject, but the words seemed to choke in his throat. “Look, do you want jelly? I bought it for you,” he said in an almost whispered tone. The little one just nodded, still silent, looking at the plate.
After breakfast, the father took his son to school. The ride was silent, just the sound of the old, crumbling car filling the void between them. At the school gate, the father looked at Arthur, with the boy’s eyes reflecting the morning sunlight. “Sorry, big boy,” he said, trying to mask the emotion in his voice. But Daddy just wants you to study hard, okay? To get good grades, okay?”
Arthur just nodded, looking at him with those eyes full of understanding. He entered the school, leaving Wagner with his thoughts and silent promises. After leaving his son at school and returning home, the man saw Joyce return from work. The woman, tired but always smiling, brought an aura of tranquility that seemed to ease her husband’s worries. She smiled, approached him, and asked, “Hi, love, how was work?”
The woman looked at him tired but with a slight smile on her face. “It was tiring,” she began, taking off her coat and hanging it on the kitchen chair. “Dona Leona had food poisoning, I think she ate something that she shouldn’t have. I spent the night taking care of her.” The husband felt a tightness in his chest. Despite his frustrations and stress, he couldn’t help but feel a little guilty about his wife’s tiredness. “Wow, that sucks, but she’s going to be fine, right?” he asked, worried.
“Only time will tell, but she’s strong. Also, Rosa, the other caregiver, will take care of her today. Don’t worry,” Joyce replied with a serenity that calmed Wagner’s heart. But then she changed her tone, suddenly becoming excited. “But what about it? What about yesterday?” the wife asked, with a twinkle in her eyes. The man frowned, confused. “It was a normal day, only that Arthur arrived with his school report card,” he said casually.
“Joy smiled even more, and what do you think? He was so happy and excited to show you,” she exclaimed, clearly excited by the news. “What do you mean? Didn’t you see his grades? He got a five in everything, just average. I was very angry, you know. I’m not raising a mediocre son. This kid has to know the value of studying, that’s the only way he’ll be someone in life. That’s why I hit him and grounded him,” confessed the Mason, with a shadow of regret hovering in his voice.
Joyce seemed to be in shock. “What, Wagner? Are you crazy? Did you see what was written on the card? It was for you,” she said, almost not believing what she was hearing. He felt a lump forming in his throat. “What do you mean? It was his school grades,” he asked, confused. “No, love, ah, you didn’t even read it,” the caregiver got up, irritated, mumbling about how her husband was always so absent, even when he was present.
“You never pay attention to anything, damn it.” “What the hell was written there?” he asked, the confusion on his face turning to despair. “It was a Father’s Day card, grading you as a father, Wagner shouted.” Joyce, and the words hit her husband like a punch in the stomach. With wide eyes, the Mason ran around the house in search of the card, which he had carelessly dropped somewhere. When he found it, his heart ached as he read the words written by his own son.
“To the best daddy in the world, five out of five, full marks,” he read in a low voice, as if the paper itself could feel the weight of its guilt. Wagner held the card in his hands as if it were a fragile relic. He could feel the words written by his own son piercing his soul like sharp daggers. Time seemed to have stopped; every memory, every scene with his little Arthur replayed in his mind, clear as day, as if everything was happening in just a second.
He could see his little boy’s smiling face, his eyes shining with a light only a child could have. The first grade on the report card was like a punch in the gut and made the air feel heavier. “Score for when my dad plays with me: 5,” the words echoed in his mind like a whirlwind. He was so happy. “Is this why?” the man wondered, memories of the night before returning with overwhelming force.
The image of little Arthur urging him to look at his report card was branded in his mind. Wagner’s scream, a rough and cruel sound, seemed to resonate in the silent room. The little boy’s confused and sad expression, “I didn’t even let him explain,” he thought, and the tears started to run down his face. “Score for when he tells me bedtime stories: 5,” the sentence, simple and so significant, made that strong man sob like a little child. Arthur’s radiant smile as he finished each story, those precious moments they shared.
Time continued to stand still, as if the entire universe was waiting for Wagner to understand the magnitude of his mistake. “Score for how much time my dad spends with me, even though he’s tired from work: 5.” And he remembered the times his son would snuggle up next to him, even after a long day at the construction site, just to be close to him. But the memory that hurt the most, that really tore at his heart, was when he found himself hitting his little boy. Arthur’s expression of fear and confusion was enough to bring him to his knees.
“No,” whispered that poor man, poor father. Tears now flowed freely, like a river of remorse and pain. “Score for how much I love my father: 5.” Wagner’s heart seemed to be breaking, the simplicity of his little boy’s declaration of love even after what he had done was more than he could bear. He huddled on the floor, holding the report card as if it were his last shred of sanity. Tears flooded the paper, staining the words written by little Arthur, but the Mason didn’t care. All that mattered was the crushing pain in his chest, the realization of how far he had come, and his little boy’s unconditional love.
Joyce ran to her husband’s side, her face flooded with concern. He looked up at her, and his reddened, tear-filled eyes conveyed more remorse than any words could express. She could see the deep, raw pain in him, a feeling so intense it seemed shared by both of them. “I… I hit him, love,” said the man, his voice broken by crying.
“He went to sleep crying. I thought… what did I do?” His sobs drowned out the words, making them almost incomprehensible.
The remorse she felt was palpable, like a heavy veil covering the room. The wife looked into his eyes, feeling his anguish and the weight of guilt. She placed her hands on his shoulders, trying to convey some comfort. “We’ll fix this, honey. We’ll do it together, like always,” she said, her voice firm despite her emotion. They hugged, seeking comfort in each other. The cry of that poor, broken father gradually subsided, giving way to a new determination. He would correct his mistake, become the father he always wanted to be. He would not allow the innocent glow of his son to be overshadowed by the harshness of life, as happened to himself when his father treated him with contempt.
Inspired by this renewed determination, Joyce suggested that they prepare a surprise for their little boy. With a smile, Wagner agreed. They wiped away the tears and, together with new energy and positivity, went out to buy things and pick up Arthur from school. The little boy had his head down as he walked out of the preschool building, the sadness clearly visible on his little face. But seeing his parents so excited and smiling, a line of confusion formed on his forehead. “Why are you so happy?” he asked, a hint of curiosity in his voice.
Wagner bent down and opened his arms, enveloping little Arthur in a tight hug. “Big boy,” he started, a little embarrassed but moved, “I… I loved the Father’s Day card. Everything that happened yesterday, that was a big misunderstanding. And I have a surprise for you at home.” The boy’s eyes lit up with surprise and joy, immediately forgetting his initial sadness. Upon arriving home, he found a colorful cake, balloons scattered everywhere, and there was the Spider-Man toy he wanted so much.
Wagner knelt down in front of his little boy once more, holding his son’s small hands. “So sorry, Champion. I love you so much,” said the father, his eyes shining. The little one’s smile was pure and innocent, and he said something the man couldn’t imagine. “I love you too, Daddy. Even without all that, you’re still the best dad in the world.” Those words made Wagner’s heart warm even more, and joy and relief took over his expression.
Joyce, watching everything from the side, felt tears running down her cheeks. It was a simple scene but one of deep and sincere love. After cutting the cake and celebrating together, they spent the rest of the afternoon enjoying that family moment that, despite all the adversities, showed the true essence of love and unity. And so, the house was once again filled with laughter, happiness, and, above all, the love between a father and his son.