Amid the construction Tuesday, Owen and Gary discuss what makes a man. What is bravery. Gary says a soldier in war. Owen says someone who does what is needed to keep his loved ones safe. Both are right, and both say essentially the same thing but frame their argument in terms of their own experience.
Gary speaks from his time in Afghanistan. Owen speaks from his time raising two girls on his own. Their point is how does a man handle a difficult situation. They are in one right now. Phelan is enjoying working them mercilessly and goading them about their inability to do anything about it. Gary keeps wanting to do something; take a jab at him, go to the police and confess, call Phelan’s bluff. Owen is playing the game with Phelan. Yessir, no sir, will that be all sir? Grovel or crawl, and smile. Owen tries to keep his patience with both Phelan’s gloating and Gary’s temper. Gary keeps his fists to himself only by Owen physically restraining him.
Owen gives Gary, and us, a bit more of his story. When his wife left him, he wanted to just drive into a wall. But she had also left their kids. He had to take care of them, so what he wanted no longer could matter. It was good to hear more about his pre-Windass life. It’s an Owen we don’t know that much about: middle of the night baby feedings, consoling a heartbroken eight-year-old. Mothering and fathering them to adulthood.
Owen tells Gary that he is now the one responsible for that grown-up eight-year-old as well as a baby, so what he would like to do about, or to, Phelan doesn’t matter. He needs to suck it up and do whatever it takes to keep Phelan happy and, more importantly, quiet. That, he says, is what a man, a brave man, does – whatever is necessary to protect those who rely on you.
Gary doesn’t extend his argument to a discussion of what a soldier does in a case where his own actions result in a messy situation. But he knows that it is the same as what Owen is saying – whatever is necessary to protect his fellow soldiers. I’m sure he knows too that the point of military training is to learn to not jeopardize the safety of anyone by acting before thinking.