This is a short story about a man who learned too late how to feel empathy. This man’s name was Philip Bartusco


            When Philip turned 21 he was forced to register for the draft. Multiple times he’d tried to get out of this, but without a legitimate reason why he couldn’t join the military, he had no other choice. He ended up working at the Pearl Harbor Naval base.

            Once while on home leave his family, most of his extended family, and he were going to the beach on a bus for their yearly family reunion. Philip loved the beach because of all the water, fish, and sand, but he often made the other family members mad because he was really rude and wouldn’t do anything anyone wanted him to do. The reunion only lasted a day though, and at sunset the whole family piled back into the bus they had used to get to the beach. Because he had such a large family, it was easier to just rent a bus than to drive a bunch of other vehicles.

            On the way back to town, the bus lost control and drove through a building. Luckily, only the driver, Philip’s uncle, and three other family members were killed. When the bus hit the building, though, it also hit a beam supporting the balcony inside the building. The balcony, not having anything to support it, fell, crushing the bus and killing everyone in it… that is, except for Philip. The reason Philip survived the wreck was that at the time of the wreck he was in the back room, and the balcony didn’t hit that part of the bus. If he had been in the main part of the bus, he would’ve died like the rest of them.

            Finding a way to get out of the wrecked bus, Philip slowly limped down the street to a restaurant. Once inside, a man from behind the counter asked, “Sir, are you ok? You look like someone dropped a building on you.” To which Philip replies with, “No I’m fine, but do you have any sandwiches by chance? I’m starving.”


            Like I said, this isn’t his fault; Philip is what most people call a sociopath, which means he doesn’t have a conscience. So when his whole family got crushed by the balcony, he didn’t care; he didn’t want to care. This makes it hard to have friends. He also has the inability to love anyone. In the past he’s pretended to love people, but without empathy, those relationships didn’t last very long. When he was 17 years old, he tried dating a girl named Mary. That relationship worked out, until Mary found out what kind of person Philip was; he didn’t seem to care about her, if she ever fell while riding her bike or hurt herself cutting tomatoes or something like that, he wouldn’t even notice. Eventually she got tired of this and broke up with him; Philip, not knowing why she broke up with him, got depressed. He was so confused as to why she would break up with him. It didn’t really matter much though because Philip didn’t love her in the first place anyway, he was just pretending. About a month after breaking up with Mary he decided to try again, this time with a girl named Ruth. The same thing happened again, he didn’t seem to care if she got hurt. Except this time Ruth decided to address the situation to Philip.

            “Philip!” Ruth said jumping out of a chair, “I’m tired of you not caring about me, you act like I’m worthless to you, don’t you love me?” Philip, shocked at Ruth’s question just stood with his mouth open for a good minute.

            Getting tired of the silence, Ruth asked him again, “Philip, do you love me or am I just an inconvenience for you?”

            This time Philip responded, “What are you talking about? I haven’t done anything wrong.”

            “Yes you have, remember last week when we were on that hike?” Ruth said sitting back down. 

            “Yes, how could I forget it we walked for hours.” Philip replied.

            “Well obviously you don’t because on that hike I fell and sprained my ankle, remember that? No! Because who cares what happens to me! You just care about your self. You just kept walking and left me there to die.” She said, staring into Philips soul via his bright blue eyes.

            “So? I don’t see a problem with that. Philip fired back in an attempt to defend himself.

            “What’s your problem? I’m supposed to be the most important person in your life and you’ve been treating me like trash.” Ruth said.

            “I’m done talking to you, you aren’t making any sense.” Philip said, leaving the room.

So once again, Philip is single.


Back at the scene of the bus crash…

            “I don’t think you’re ok. You need to go to a hospital.” The man behind the counter said, picking up his phone, “Is there anyone you would like me to call, mom, dad, uncle?”

            “No, my whole family died about 15 minutes ago. Oh, and I really don’t have enough money to go to a hospital anyway.” Philip said, taking a seat at one of the tables set out in the restaurant.

            “Wait, what do you mean your whole family just died?” The man said, taking a step back.

            “Exactly what I said. They just got crushed by a building. I would’ve died too but I was out of the way so I’m fine, I just got a few cuts and bruises, anyway I’m quite hungry right now so if you have anything I could eat that would be greatly appreciated.”

            The man, not knowing how to respond to how calm Philip was being, just stayed quiet while Philip rambled on about how hungry he was, not even caring about his dead family. Finally Philip got his sandwich and he left the restaurant.

            Fire trucks had shown up at the building that the bus hit; fire fighters were searching desperately for survivors, but with no avail. Philip took one last look at the smoking bus, then walked down the road… never to return.


            Back on Pearl Harbor, aboard the USS Utah, Philip is staying to himself. Now this wasn’t uncommon of him… He would often stay to himself. He couldn’t talk to the rest of the crew if he wanted to, and he didn’t. They all hated him. Not because of the way he looked or how he dressed, but because of how he acted. He was a liar, a thief, and an all around horrible person. He was also the rudest person to ever walk the face of the earth. If they asked him to do something that he didn’t want to do, he wouldn’t just say, “No!” He would ramble on for at least a half an hour about why he didn’t have to do what ever task he was asked to do. And bugged the other crew members to the point where they would completely avoid Philip.

            Soon the captain of the Utah found out about the way Philip had been acting and decided to talk to him.

            “Petty officer Philip Bartusco, I’ve been hearing some complaints about how you’ve acting around the other petty officer. You’re rude, inconsiderate, and all around disrespectful to the crew. This kind of behavior will not be tolerated in the Navy.” The captain said to Philip.

            “Sir, it’s not my fault, I’m a sociopath, so I can’t feel empathy for others.”

            “I don’t care if your a psychopath on steroids, you will treat the crew of this ship with respect or you will have to face a court martial.” The captain yelled.

            “I’m sorry, but there is no way to change the way I am; and even if there was I wouldn’t. I like being a…”

            Before Philip could finish what was saying the famous attack on Pearl Harbor started. It was 7:48 am and the USS Utah was Imperial Japan’s first target.

            As soon as Philip heard the first torpedo coming toward the ship he dove to the floor. The captain, not being as quick, didn’t and got thrown against the wall behind him by the force of the torpedo blast. The captain survived the fall but was unconscious. The only other person that knew what had happened to the captain, was Philip. So, without any hesitation, Philip ran to the captain and took what ever he could find in his pockets. This consisted of keys, a wallet and a note to his wife. He took everything, the captain wasn’t going to need it because soon he would be dead anyway. Leaving the captains office, Philip searched the ship for more valuables.

            Confusion flooded the ship almost as much as the water; Japanese planes flew low to the ground and fired armor-piercing rounds an the ships, leaving huge gaps in them. Philip couldn’t find his way through out the ship with all the other petty officers running around, all thinking the same thing, “I’ve got to get off this ship!”

            The ship is now sinking faster. Philip pushes his way through the crowd till he finds him self at the edge of the ship. He looks down into the oily-black water and realizes that there’s no way he’s going to survive this. He wasn’t afraid, he couldn’t be afraid because sociopaths lack fear. But he still knew this was the end of his pathetic life.

            Thoughts filled his mind, thoughts about all the mistakes he had make in his life, thoughts about how selfish and mean he had been to everyone, thoughts about Mary and Ruth and his parents. And for the first and last time he actually felt empathy. Empathy for all the people that he had hurt in his life.

            The oil, seeping of the damaged ships caught fire, leaving a layer of flames across the ocean surface. The USS Utah sank faster into the ocean to the point where it could hardly be seen from the main land. As it sank, Philip stood, still as a tree on a calm winter night, as the flames around him engulfed his body.