Ned doesn't understand why he would be thinking about his father while also thinking about his current life situation, but as the mind has a habit, strings of thoughts are related. Ned starts to devise plans for improving his current situation in terms of his apartment, his career and his love life. But, like a dog that doesn't obey its master, life has a way of doing what it wants, no matter how it affects you.
Here is an excerpt from Mental Exercises, to be published on March 1, 2013:
The evening reminded him of a warm January night he had spent with his father a few years ago. He was home visiting his parents during his senior year of college. Ned was studying for a business degree and the course load was becoming very difficult as he neared the end. Statistics was never anyone's favorite subject, but for some reason, Ned enjoyed it and was very good at it. But as the course become more advanced and started to deal with stochastic calculus Ned became very challenged. In fact, he was thinking that his grade might come in too low to get a good job. What had bothered Ned the most was that he would disappoint his father. His father had been very supportive and he’d made it to every basketball and baseball game Ned played in high school. He made sure Ned could go to a college with a good reputation, paid for his tuition, and was always encouraging him to learn a practical business skill – which would increase Ned's chances at landing a decent introductory level job. He knew once Ned had achieved these goals, it was then up to Ned how far he would go. But what if he couldn't even get out of school with a decent grade? All the work his father had done to position Ned would be wasted. That night, a couple of years ago, while on a walk, Ned felt that he should share his school problems with his father..“Uh, Dad,” Ned began as they walked the dog down a snowy road.His dad did not respond, but kept his eye on the dog.“Dad, I thought I should tell you that, well, things are pretty crazy at school...”“JINGLES!” his father yelled as the dog spent too much time sniffing around a garbage can. The dog left the smell of chicken, moldy pizza and table scraps and moved on down the road. Ned watched the spaniel for a while and then spoke again.“My statistics class is really stress-...”“STAY OUTTA THERE!” his father yelled as the dog bounded into a swampy area off the road.Again, Ned watched Jingles who came up to him with her tongue hanging out of her big grin. As Ned bent over to pet her, the dog took off down the road again. Ned walked on, following his father and the dog. They walked up a small rise, and as they were nearing the house, Ned felt that he had one more chance to talk to his dad before they were home, before his mom would interrupt and try to feed them.“Dad, I...”“Don't make me pick up your crap!” his father yelled at Jingles as she squatted in a neighbor’s yard. Jingles, looking sheepishly, deposited her package on the neighbor’s lawn. “For cripes sake, can't you get anything right? Stupid dog,” Ned's father muttered.