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The Most Negative Man in North America

Updated on January 10, 2012

(A related story is Please read.)

My step-dad was arguably the most negative man in North America. I say “was” not because he’s since deceased, but because he has mellowed considerably during the past fifteen years, perhaps largely aided by prescription pharmaceuticals. But back in his heyday, he could bring you down with the best of them. To Marvin, not only wasn’t the glass half full, or even half empty; the glass had been shattered and left on the floor for him to clean up. His go-to emotional state can best be described as quietly disgusted.

Now when I tell you this, it’s not a latent plea for pity. I’m actually glad Marvo was what he was. It provides stories to tell and funny memories. I’m not scarred by it and I don’t resent it. My first clue that Marvin (we never called him anything but his first name) wasn’t a beacon of positive energy came in the fourth grade when, for some reason, I decided to try to draw the skyline of Manhattan, which was included in my Health textbook from school. In pencil, I sketched the various towers and landmarks and after several hours, presented my work to the Marvinator.

Marv looked non-plussed by my admittedly pedestrian work, as if he had unexpectedly been handed a urine specimen. “It won’t win any awards,” he dourly proclaimed, snapping his newspaper shut and then open again in rapid fire succession. I stood there silently crestfallen. I had been “Marvinated” for the first time. It would not be the last.

The thing about Marvin was that he was virtually impossible to impress. I ran up to him upon hearing that Elvis Presley had died and breathlessly shared the shocking news. Marvin remained sanguine. He leisurely picked at his fingernails and then said, “Don’t run up to me and tell me when somebody dies. Everybody dies. Only run up to me and tell me if somebody just keeps on living and never dies.” Once again, I stood silently cowed. You couldn’t argue with logic like that.

One evening, my brother, sister and I were engrossed in an especially maudlin episode of Little House on the Prairie. We had invested fifty-five minutes in the episode, along with considerable emotional involvement, when Marvin came home from work, slammed the front door and summarily pulled the television set's plug out of the wall socket.

“If I want cancer and misery, I’ll go down to St. Francis Hospital,” he announced with some rancor, as the television set faded from blue to black. It was a masterstroke of negative energy. Three kids sat stunned, frozen, with our mouths open. We never found out how the episode ended, but a cow was about to have calves when Marvin pulled the plug on it.

Marvin asked me one Saturday afternoon what I was watching on television.

“Minnesota versus Iowa, college basketball,” I said.

“In every game, one team is bound to lose,” he proclaimed, grimly, dejectedly, as he slowly exited the room. It was a classic Marvinism.

He was a true master in the art form of negativity. In fact, I recall going to the Art Institute of Chicago one summer with the family and gawking at a huge portrait by Andy Warhol. It was a painting of a flower, actually, with many vibrant colors and the typical Warhol pop-art treatment. A very impressive sight up close.

Marvin stood there squinting through his tinted eyeglasses in apparent displeasure, arms crossed. He seemed pained, and then muttered “Uh-uh, mister,” and walked away from art forever.


I once pooped in the backyard. I know, I know. This wasn’t a wise or sanitary move. Marvin was bound to object mightily. I was looking at the stars on a warm spring night when nature called. It was so beautiful and serene outside that I decided if nature calls, why not just take care if it in nature. So I did. Then I resumed my star-gazing and forgot completely about my indiscretion.

The next morning, my mom said, “I think we had a bear in our backyard.” Apparently I had been consuming a lot of grains and she’d seen the defecation while gardening. It wasn’t likely that a bear had actually encroached (and crapped) on our property given that we lived in suburban Indianapolis and had a fenced yard.

“That was no bear,” I said nonchalantly, in between gulps of Fruit Loops.

Marvin pulled down his newspaper. This couldn’t end well.

“Let me get something straight,” he said, sotto voiced. “You took a dump in the backyard when there are two working toilets less than 25 feet away?”

“Yes,” I answered. “But the stars were so beautiful that I didn’t want to come inside.”

“I don’t give a good Goddamn if the moon was exploding while you were out there. Do your business inside from now on!” His voice was unusually animated. Marvin usually stayed calmly negative. My fecal transgression had nearly pushed him over the edge.

He got up and said with utter disdain, “I’m going back to bed.” It was 9 am. He had just gotten up, but couldn’t face a day that started with me shitting in the backyard.

“And I’ll tell you one more thing, mister,” he closed. “You’re not going to put that poop in my new garbage cans.”


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    • keithmitchell5 profile image

      keithmitchell5 6 years ago from Indianapolis

      Thanks, Sandra. Working on third installment of saga.

    • profile image

      Sandra 6 years ago

      This was priceless. Everyone should have to read this before interacting with you. It would save you from so many misunderstandings and wasted times.

    • keithmitchell5 profile image

      keithmitchell5 6 years ago from Indianapolis

      You really couldn't.

    • profile image

      #1MarvinFanFromCumberland 6 years ago

      You said it yourself man..... You couldn’t argue with logic like that.

    • keithmitchell5 profile image

      keithmitchell5 7 years ago from Indianapolis

      Thanks, April. I really like this story and am glad you did too. Look for "more Marvin" soon.

    • profile image

      April 7 years ago

      Laugh-out-loud Funny! :)

    • keithmitchell5 profile image

      keithmitchell5 8 years ago from Indianapolis

      Supermom in ny: Thank you very much. I had fun writing this. I've lived with these stories for decades and they still made me laugh. Glad you liked it. KM

    • supermom_in_ny profile image

      supermom_in_ny 8 years ago from NY

      I know someone that behaves like this. Sad. He will be a lonely man in his old age...

      Totally love your presentation. Not bitter or angry, sad content delivered with pure genius!

      Had to rate this one up!


    • keithmitchell5 profile image

      keithmitchell5 8 years ago from Indianapolis

      NinjaChickD/ aka Delaney. Happy Birthday and thank you. You?e my favorite reader. Love, dad.

    • profile image

      NinjaChickD 8 years ago

      Good job dad.its delaney.yes Marvo is crazy.

    • Dink96 profile image

      Dink96 8 years ago from Phoenix, AZ

      HYSTERICAL. I had a neighbor in my old 'hood like Marvin. She never saw good in any situation. Curious way to live life.

    • keithmitchell5 profile image

      keithmitchell5 8 years ago from Indianapolis

      Thanks, Emmo. See "Not My Brthers Keeper Keeper" for more.'

    • profile image

      Emmo 8 years ago

      This was well written with a cynical yet comical edge that has the potential for a wide variety of expanded work. I would love to see more.

    • profile image

      bobby beef 8 years ago

      I NEEDS more marvin

    • killerstang profile image

      killerstang 8 years ago

      This explains alot...specifically, the jumbo sized piles in my back yard.

    • ljulian profile image

      ljulian 8 years ago

      Funniest thing I have read in a while. You could sell it as a sitcom or a comic strip and "Marvinated" would become a household word. I appreciate his innate wisdom- if only he could use it for good...