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Drabble: Learning

Drabble: Learning
Author: NightRider
Fandom: The OC
Rating: PG
Summary: Despite all he knows, there's many things Ryan's got left to learn.
A/N: Thanks to brandywine421 for her assistance and musical motivation.

There were a lot of things Ryan knew how to do. He knew how to make breakfast. He knew how to get vomit out of cheap carpet. He knew how to roll a joint. He knew how to pour concrete to make a foundation for a house. He knew how to drive a car. He knew how to wash his own clothes. He knew how to hide a broken arm for months.

There were a lot of things Ryan didn’t know how to do. He didn’t know how to properly set a table. He didn’t know how to tie a tie. He didn’t know how to plan a charity event. He didn’t know how to surf. He didn’t know how to make idle conversation around the dinner table. He didn’t know how to use chopsticks.

“Thanks for setting the table, kid,” Sandy commented as he walked into the kitchen and saw Ryan awkwardly standing next to the table with a cluster of silverware in his hand. “I really appreciate all your help.”

There were many things Ryan didn’t know how to do, but he was learning. And for once in his life, he wasn’t afraid of the consequences if he didn’t get it right the first time.




Feb. 17th, 2008 05:49 am (UTC)
First of all, love the icon. So appropriate considering the tie. Sometimes they're just a mystery... And he didn't hesitate to keep trying with that dreaded accessory either, did he?

I love the example of the idle conversation around the dinner table. It resonates for all you don't say. I immediately think of the Atwood HoT, with anyone who dared attempt a quasi-charade of a 'meal' trying to be nonchalant despite the pins and needles- anyone but Frank, A.J. and whatever Neanderthals roamed in between. "Hiding in Plain Sight 101 and Hoping for Something Edible" doesn't correlate to dining in Casa Cohen.

Setting the table is so symbolic for having the proper tools- for once- and knowing how and when to use them. Not dreading the consequences and relaxing enough to maybe make a mistake? Priceless. Imagine getting a second chance- and being able to attempt it- and not as a trap to dig the hole deeper...
Feb. 17th, 2008 03:18 pm (UTC)
I'm getting better at using the appropriate icon. :) I pulled that one out of the bunch that brandywine421 made for me.

I figured the Atwoods didn't even bother to eat dinner together. I got the vision of every man for themself and God for them all.

Dude, I still don't know how to properly set a dinner table. Silverware placement confuses the hell out of me.

Thanks for the kind review. I appreciate it!
Feb. 17th, 2008 05:55 pm (UTC)
I, on the other hand, am just too lazy to rotate icons- other than Chrismukkah, that is. brandy was very generous to give you a stable of studs, and I really do like this one. I'm not even sure how to describe his experession, but it never fails to draw me in.

Family dinners for the Atwoods? No way, Jose. I figure Dawn of the Living Dead would help some hamburger into a pile of something and start the open bar for herself and felonious!Frank back in the day. Trey got next dibbs and Ryan would get any scraps. (Dawn probably smoked- and more than tobacco cigarettes- during her pregnancy, probably drank heavily and gave the poor woobie some version of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome symptoms and then deprived him of nourishment outside the womb in terms of food and emotional sustenance too. Good going!)

I could see some old plastic TV tray tables strategicially placed so Frank, A.J. and the intermittent "flavors" could wander in from a packy run to the barcalounger to refuel for more drinking. Maybe there was mostly plastic "silverware" too.

Trey would have scrounged wherever by about age nine or so, but Ryan would have been trapped. Hopefully, at that stage, Trey's hatred hadn't blossomed yet and any jealousy was tempered by his ego as the still looked up to big brother who could do all the things Ryan was still in awe of. By the time Ryan was old enough to have options and not be completely vunlerable, Frank would have been gone, the revolving door would have started, Dawn would have been on her descent to rock bottom and "all day on the couch parties" with no thought to childcare, and Trey would have been a fleeting presence. That would have left Ryan hoping for a handout from the Diaz family when he could- and at the mercy of school lunches. Any food consumed in the Atwood HoT probably would have been in quiet- if not near secret, especially if someone was lucky enough to hoard something and not have it ripped away.

I think mealtime would have been filled with opportunities for culture shock to be in full-force for Ryan, starting with his supposed "last supper" in "The Model Home" with enough corn for the 'hood. He covered it well, but he was beyond polite when he seemed overwhelmed by the sheer amount, variety and quality of food. Then there was the way the family interacted- and that was despite the tension he knew he brought to the table- literally. Just about every meal after that for some time would have been a new learning opportunity for Ryan, from the exchanges between the Cohens to the unfamiliar items on the table in seemingly limitless quantities. I wonder if he ever got used to a stocked kitchen or if he always marveled at it...

I will so teach you how to set a table. We always had a formal dinner starting with a soup and salad course through desert. I won't even charge you!

Thanks again for this- and as much as it works on the most obvious level, it's the layers that have the deeper meaning in terms of proper appearances, tools, settings and environments. If only each one were as simple as a basic table...

And this damn reply is longer than the drabble!
Feb. 17th, 2008 07:27 pm (UTC)
Oh, plastic silverware! I didn't even think about that! You're probably right though. I shall have to ponder that later.

I was trying to go for layers in this little drabble. Obviously the vomit on the cheap carpet didn't belong to Ryan. We can thank sweet mother for that one. Rolling a joint? I was envisioning Trey and his buddies too drunk to get it right and teaching young Ryan how to do it for them.

A fully stocked fridge? No, I doubt he ever got used to that small miracle. Also, the beauty of sampling more exotic foods. I had an idea for another drabble. Something as simple as being able to afford to go to McDonald's. Sure, the food is horrid, but to a child, McDonald's is the best thing going. :) When my nephews and niece were down visiting, I had plans to take them to some nicer restaurants. Nope, they wanted to go to McDonald's because my sister can't afford to take them there. It really is the little things that we take for granted.

I will so teach you how to set a table. We always had a formal dinner starting with a soup and salad course through desert. I won't even charge you!

YAY! To be honest, my family never ate together. We just went into the kitchen to get our food and disappeared again. We only ate together on holidays and special occasions. :)

Thanks again for the thoughtful comments!
Feb. 17th, 2008 08:25 pm (UTC)
Hee. It was either plastic silverware that Dawn lifted from her various waitress jobs when she helped herself to the take out stash, or what they'd managed to accumulate- but rarely through away as disposable. Not that anyone other than Ryan washed anything. The poor kid must have lived in filth until he was old enough for his obsessive compulsive side to defiantly emerge out of pure rebellion and self-preservation. Yuck!

You just know Ryan learned how to clean up putrid and stained cheap carpeting so a landlord, Frank, or any one of the enraged and abusive bullies would have one less non-reason to vent using Ryan as their personal punching bag. And it was the child cleaning up after the adult- or adults... or older brother.

I can see Trey showing Ryan how to roll a joint and putting child labor to use. Tom Sawyer to the end. Then again, I can see Dawn doing the same, especially when she was already hung over or high- and whining and pleading for "her baby" to do as she said. Let the preschooler play with matches- although he was probably more careful and responsible than anyone else in the HoT.

Ah, the McDonalds mystique. Is it marketing and the Happy Meal toys? The allure of forbidden fruit? Peer pressure? Subliminal messages bombarded at light frequency speed? Do kids really like the taste? Is it the awesome playgrounds? The feeling that they're being catered to? Whatever. But it's true. Up there with Mac-n-Cheese. But even a "value" like fast food would have been a luxury for Ryan. I can't even imagine how he felt watching the "M's" of the world just flaunt and waste so much disposable income. We only got a glimpse in "The Model Home" at the diner when he refused a handout, despite having nothing, and when Seth was buying him (almost literally too) lobster lunches at The Crab Shack. Ryan was more comfortable as a worker than a customer. You should definitely follow your Mcmuses. To go from never knowing where his next meal was coming from- and maybe not even being revolted by the juvie food (had he be allowed to eat it and not attacked repeatedly- hee), to the excess of the Cohens had to be mind boggling. And I'm betting he didn't just refrain from mentioning anything negative about Kirsten's cooking attempts out of insecurity or politeness. Her worst attempts had to trump anything Dawn ever tried on a rare sober day. Why else would a young boy have learned to cook- and clean and...

We had dinner together every night except Friday and Saturday. It was pretty much when we saw the 'rents since they wandered in before the 11:00 news. Dinner with Ted Koppel- quality time and current events to boot!

Special occasions meant a meal before nine or ten. Very cool!

Now, are you maximizing your "you" time?

I do wish we'd seen Ryan eating Thai for the first time, even some of the Chinese dishes he might never have even heard of. Then there's sushi. And, suddenly, in early S2... chopsticks! Even swordfish would have been something so foreign to his palate.