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I sat across the table from Les. We regarded each other with solemn expressions, each putting on our best poker face.

Desperation had brought me here. I was hard-up for cash, willing to part with one of my rarest and most prized possessions.

Like me, Les is in his mid-twenties. We grew up together, but we couldn’t have looked less alike. Les is tall, stout, with a full head of hair. You can tell it wasn’t so long ago he was playing on the high school football team. Me, I’m wiry, short and balding, and still look like a geek.

That day I was decked out in my customary jeans and a t-shirt; Les, just getting home from the office, wore a suit and tie.

As much as this sacrifice I was about to make would pain me, I had come to his house to conduct the transaction.

I took the item from my knapsack, and–with no small amount of hesitation–pushed it across the table.

“There he is,” I said. “Han Solo, with the small head, in mint package.”

Les regarded it appraisingly. Then he reached into a box on the chair next to his and pulled out two figures, likewise still on their original cardboard backings.

“Dan,” he said, “I’ve got a first Luke Skywalker here, and Jedi series Boba Fett. Both of ’em, straight across. That’s a helluva trade.”

“No can do, Les,” I replied. “The only reason I’m parting with him is because I need the money. Three hundred bucks. That’s almost half the current price guide value.”

Les regarded me for a moment, then cracked a smile. “You’re right. It’s a deal I can’t pass up. I just hope Kate doesn’t freak!”

Kate is Les’s wife. She generally tolerates his collecting, since he makes good money and can afford the hobby.

“A toast?” he asked. “I’m gonna pour a scotch to celebrate the new acquisition.”

“Sure,” I said. “I could use one too.”

I followed him into the kitchen, and we lingered there a few minutes, caught up in a heated debate over whether Leonardo DiCaprio or Matt Damon would have made a better Anakin Skywalker.

When we wandered back into the dining room, we weren’t prepared for the sight awaiting us.
Les froze. I bumped into him and nearly spilled my scotch.

Les could not even utter a word for a moment. He merely stood gaping. His six-year-old son was sitting at the table, clutching Han in one hand, Boba Fett and Luke in the other. Their packages were ripped open on the table. Tommy’s cheerful expression quickly melted when he looked up and saw his daddy’s face.

“Go to your room,” Les said, strangely calm.

He only had to say it once. Tommy dropped the collectibles like they were hot coals and scampered down the hall. Before he reached his bedroom door, he had burst into tears.

Shoulders slumped, Les slowly walked to the table and collapsed into the chair. He looked like a Wall Street investor who’d just learned the market crashed.

I took my seat across from him, saying nothing. I just shook my head and sipped my scotch.

After a few tense moments, Les looked up at me, frowning.

“Y’know,” he said, “maybe we ought to call the deal off. We never officially shook on it.”

I laughed, weakly. I couldn’t tell if he was serious or not. He’d always been good at dead-panning, but maybe he’d really flipped out over this. Were we going to get into a dispute over something his kid did?

Les stared intently at me for several ticks of the wall clock.

Then he picked up Han Solo.

“Give me back the money,” he said in a menacing voice, “or I will freeze Han in carbonite.” He dangled Han over his glass, then he began lowering the figure into the scotch.

I watched my old friend in bewilderment. I was really wondering if he’d gone off the deep end.

On a whim, I snatched up Luke Skywalker and exclaimed, “Unhand him, emissary of the Dark Side!”

Les grabbed Boba Fett. “Not until I collect the bounty on his head from Jabba. No whiny Jedi wannabe is going to stop me!”

Then they clashed, those 3.75-inch-tall action figures. We provided the crude sounds of lightsabers and laser guns. I almost knocked over Les’s scotch.

Suddenly Les stopped. He was staring over my shoulder. I swiveled in my chair.

Tommy stood in the hallway, observing us with bemusement.

“Go back to your room, Tommy,” Les said, “and bring out some of your new Star Wars figures.”

Tommy spun around and dashed away on his errand.

“You mean you don’t want to open up some more of your first series figures?” I asked.

“Very funny. Hey, by the way, if that isn’t enough to get you by until next week, just let me know. I can float you some cash. I’m, uh, also now in the market for a mint Luke and Jedi Boba Fett.”

“Thanks, Les. I could maybe part with Luke. I’d rather do that than be in debt, you know…”

Tommy raced into the room with an armful of action figures, dumping them onto the table.

“Wow.” I picked up Admiral Ackbar and examined him. “These new figures are more detailed than ours were.”

For the next half-hour, the three of us played, until my cell phone rang: It was my wife, wondering where the hell I was at.

I put away the phone and gave Les a wry smile. “Sorry, guys, gotta go. I just got called home for dinner.”

Nicholas Ozment teaches English at Winona State University. This is his fifth story for Every Day Fiction.

GD Star Rating
THE ONLY DIFFERENCE BETWEEN MEN AND BOYS • by Nicholas Ozment, 4.0 out of 5 based on 80 ratings
Posted on July 21, 2008 in Literary, Stories

34 Responses to “THE ONLY DIFFERENCE BETWEEN MEN AND BOYS • by Nicholas Ozment”

  1. K.C. Ball Says:
    July 21st, 2008 at 12:58 am


    Very nice.


  2. Gerard Demayne Says:
    July 21st, 2008 at 3:32 am

    That was brilliant! It’d make a great short film and be reasonably easy to shoot. Something for funnyordie.com

  3. Gerard Demayne Says:
    July 21st, 2008 at 3:34 am

    Oh and this is just the sort of thing you might be able to get on the Digg front page. It’s geek-friendly.

  4. gay Says:
    July 21st, 2008 at 4:42 am

    Love this Nick! And glad it turned out well. I was holding my breath there for a minute.

  5. Patricia J. Hale Says:
    July 21st, 2008 at 5:12 am


  6. Erin Says:
    July 21st, 2008 at 6:26 am

    Hee! Cute. I’ve always thought it would be more fun to play with the toys instead of collect them. 😉

  7. Jason Stout Says:
    July 21st, 2008 at 8:22 am

    Great story – I actually have a “small head” Han at home, along with my other original 1977 Star Wars action figures. But they aren’t collectibles. They were thoroughly played with by me – and now are in my 6 year old’s collection. Thanks Nicholas for a great story that really hit home.

  8. Madeline Mora-Summonte Says:
    July 21st, 2008 at 8:36 am

    Hmm, I think I know these men…um, boys…um, men. :)

    Great job, Nick! Perfect for a Monday.

  9. MichaelEhart Says:
    July 21st, 2008 at 9:32 am

    Very nice, Nick! You know, in the circles I travel in, it is HeroClix figures, but the idea is the same :)

  10. M.Sherlock Says:
    July 21st, 2008 at 11:26 am

    Man i thought he was gonna go to town on that kid

  11. Rena Sherwood Says:
    July 21st, 2008 at 12:42 pm

    Proper job.

  12. Nicholas Ozment Says:
    July 22nd, 2008 at 12:20 pm

    Thanks for the kind remarks, everyone.

    Gerard, how does something get on the Digg front page?

  13. Jordan Lapp Says:
    July 22nd, 2008 at 12:25 pm

    Click on the title of your story. This will bring you to a page dedicated to your story. Above the star rating there’s a “share” button. Click it, and you will have a listing of social networking sites. Click Digg and follow the instructions. If enough people do this, you get on the front page.

    Our share button should be on every page. I think the server crash a while ago broke it for the front page.

  14. Richard Fay Says:
    July 22nd, 2008 at 4:58 pm

    My mother never bought me Star Wars toys. She said they were too expensive. I bet she never thought that they would become collector’s items. What a witch! (Yes, I’m still bitter about it.)

    Anyway, cute story. I almost expected some sort of murderous horror-story ending, but the ending was actually quite poignant. There was just enough emotion and background to make you care for the characters.

    Nice job!

  15. Steven Says:
    July 22nd, 2008 at 6:06 pm

    Loved the story.

  16. dj barber Says:
    July 23rd, 2008 at 6:04 am

    nice job.


  17. jennifer walmsley Says:
    July 24th, 2008 at 7:21 am

    Great story. Made me smile. Boys will be boys.


  18. Lise Andreasen Says:
    July 24th, 2008 at 3:36 pm


    Good story. Good conflict, some nice tension there, and a wonderful resolution.

  19. Interview with Nicholas Ozment | Every Day Fiction Says:
    August 15th, 2008 at 12:01 am

    […] Ozment has tackled genre fiction, poetry, non-fiction, and even movie reviews! His story, “The Only Difference Between Men and Boys” aired on July 21st and was immediately recommended to several social networking sites. By […]

  20. Alice Says:
    August 25th, 2008 at 4:39 pm

    Nice job, Nick…but I kept waiting for some creepy being to come out of the shadows! :)

  21. Melissa K Says:
    December 1st, 2008 at 9:59 am

    Awesome story! I can imagine the sheer horror upon seeing classic Star Wars figures ripped from their packaging. You have a funny and engaging writing style – I’m looking forward to reading more of your stories.

  22. Matthew Roberts Says:
    December 11th, 2008 at 12:57 pm

    that is awesome great testament to your friend!!

  23. Kay Tee Says:
    December 14th, 2008 at 4:38 pm

    I know a few guys like that. Your story made me smile, thanks!

  24. The Only Difference Between Men and Boys « Air Theremin Says:
    December 18th, 2008 at 2:57 pm

    […] The Only Difference Between Men and Boys By Sebatinsky For your edification Nicholas Ozment explains. […]

  25. So Farewell, Then, Cadenza : Jonathan Pinnock’s Write Stuff Says:
    January 8th, 2009 at 7:48 am

    […] if it’s just another symptom of the move towards e-zines rather than paper ones. When a story on Every Day Fiction has clocked up in excess of 27000 hits as a result of a mention on StumbleUpon, you wonder if […]

  26. Nicholas Says:
    February 4th, 2009 at 9:49 pm

    Thanks for the comments!

  27. Darren Moore Says:
    February 15th, 2009 at 7:44 am

    Very well written Nick. This is Darren from Nova Scotia, Canada and after reading that, I wish I had never played with my figurines. I could be sitting on a fortune right now, lol. Well I guess when most of us were nine or ten years old we never really thought about the what our toys would be worth to us 30 years into the future. We only thought about what they would be worth to us at the time, and that was fun and enjoyment. We grew up in a time when our imaginations shaped our universes. Now everything is shaped for our children in the way of video games and movies. Great story Nick.

  28. Oakman Says:
    February 22nd, 2009 at 8:54 pm

    It saddens me to see what dorks you are.

  29. ???????? Says:
    June 21st, 2009 at 11:00 am

    ?? ? ??????, ??? ?????????, ???????? ?? ????????? ?????????? ????????????? ???? 😉

  30. Stef Says:
    September 26th, 2009 at 2:06 am

    This kind of made me think of when my 2 1/2 year old does something that is about to send me off the deep end when he actually had no way of knowing he was doing something wrong.
    It twanged on my heart strings to hear about Tommy running away, sobbing. I’m glad that part got resolved quickly and he got to come out and play. :)

  31. Toren Burgos Says:
    January 21st, 2011 at 9:56 am

    I smiled at Han being dumped in the scotch carbonite. Clever writing. I loved it.

  32. October’s Table of Contents | Every Day Fiction - The once a day flash fiction magazine. Says:
    October 1st, 2011 at 1:04 am

    […] in Every Day Fiction keep getting read long after their publication dates? For instance, “The Only Difference Between Men and Boys” by Nicholas Ozment was published on July 21, 2008 — it was read an average of six […]

  33. May’s Table of Contents | Every Day Fiction - The once a day flash fiction magazine. Says:
    May 4th, 2015 at 3:21 am

    […] We’d really hoped for something cosmic, maybe some space opera, for May the 4th… but since nothing quite like that came our way this month, we give you “Liver Oil” by Van Zeller, which at least has some of the atmosphere of a certain cantina. You could also check out a classic EDF story from back in 2008, “The Only Difference Between Men and Boys” by Nicholas Ozment… […]

  34. May’s Table of Contents | Every Day Fiction - The once a day flash fiction magazine. Says:
    May 4th, 2015 at 3:24 am

    […] May the 4th be with you… We’d really hoped for something cosmic, maybe some space opera, but since nothing quite like that came our way this month, we give you “Liver Oil” by Van Zeller, which at least has some of the atmosphere of a certain cantina. You could also check out a classic EDF story from back in 2008, “The Only Difference Between Men and Boys” by Nicholas Ozment… […]


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