(*Author’s Note: This is a short story that I wrote for my English Capstone class at UNL this past semester.  It’s a parody of the Flannery O’Connor short story “A Good Man is Hard to Find.”  Each character is a famous writer and has some of the traits of these writers.  Alexie= Sherman Alexie, Shelley= Mary Shelley, Billy= William Wordsworth etc.  I know that’s a helluva long explanation, but bear with me.)

The grandmother didn’t want to go to Nebraska.  She wanted to visit some of her old schoolmates down in Georgia and she was doing her damndest to nag her son, William, to death on the point.  She prattled on, proudly waving a copy of the USA Today as if it was a flag storming an enemy beach.  She slapped it down on the fake wooden kitchen table and pointed at the headlines splashed across the front page.

“Now just take a look, Billy,” she crowed.  “The newspaper says that the Underground Man has broke free of Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary and is heading north.  Probably for Fargo, if I had my guess.  We can’t go takin’ our lil’ ones out onto an interstate full of murderin’ maniacs, now can we?  Why that‘d be darn near grotesque.”

William didn’t look up from his computer.  He was busy with important things.  He hurriedly logged on to his Twitter account, checked his Facebook, made sure that he had his fantasy football lineup prepped and ready for action and, finally, he made sure that he updated his Google Buzz info so that all of his officemates would know that not only was he out of town, but that he was having a “kick-ass time on the road.”  His mouse flew over the pages and his fingers hammered across his keys.  Only after he furiously spun out text and images did he allow himself to turn and respond to his mother.

“Flannery–“ he began, but was quickly cut off.

“You know I like it better when you call me mother, Billy.”  His mother seemed to have an aversion to her own name, much preferring titles and formality.

“Sorry,” William mumbled, properly chastened by her wilting gaze.

“Mother, you know that we need to get out into the country; to see real people, and to experience real life.  Meet some salt of the earth people and you’ll see what we’ve been missing.”

William’s wife, Shelley, had been doing her best to ignore this little spat.  She pretended to be busy in the kitchen, tidying up the unused utensils and spacing out the expensive blender, margarita-machine and the wine rack.  She never let their arguments get to her.  In fact, she was used to them and just counted them as the usual fair.  She knew that, as a woman, her life entailed taking care of her far-superior male counterpart and making sure that his every need was tended to.  But, she still thought her husband could stand to grow some balls when it came to standing up to his mother.  Personally, she thought to herself as she absently ran her dishrag over the counter, I think the old woman is a wretch.

The two children were in the living room exercising.  They leapt back and forth, whirling about on the living room floor with practiced precision.  The sweat dripped down on their faces as they strove to battle back their inevitable childhood obesity.  Finally they took a much-needed break. “Dance Dance Revolution” for Nintendo Wii is, after all, a grueling sport.   Little Alexie, a stout young boy with long black hair that his parents were constantly asking him to cut, wandered over to his father’s side and joined in the conversation.

“I think that the Underground Man is funny.  Where’d he come from anyways, the sewers?  That’d be real sweet!  Just like the Ninja Turtles.”  He laughed at the idea of a murdering sociopath being played by Corey Feldman wearing a massive puppet-head like in his favorite movie.

The grandmother was horrified.  “That’s funny to you? My goodness!”

She quickly made the sign of the cross and pointed at the big man upstairs.  “We need to cancel cable at once, William.  This boy’s sense of humor is sick.  What is funny about living in a sewer, anyway? Only those shiftless, disgusting homeless people do that.  Most of them are just drunken natives anyway.  What would you do if a man like that got a hold of you?!?”

“I’d give him the STFU move.  Just like Jon Cena from Worldwide Wrestling Experience.  That’s what I’d do.”  Alexie waved his hands wildly in front of his face, imitating his favorite fake wrestler than promptly dove onto the couch, wildly screaming something about a beatdown on villains.

“I’d just text in an Amber alert,”  said Walt, walking in from his final round of techno-dance-exercise.  “My teachers at school showed me how.”

“You what?”  The Grandmother was confused.

Walt limped over, still adjusting to his new prosthetic leg.  His parents had already owed too much money on their 66′ Flat screen and their Lexus Convertible and had been forced to get the cheapest “leg package” for the young boy.  Wood was apparently the cheapest at the time and Walt claimed it made him look like an extra in “Pirates of the Caribbean.”  

He held up his shiny new I-Phone, which was the envy of all of his 4th grade counterparts, and made gigantic pantomiming motions while speaking slowly in an over-loud voice. “I’d. . .text. . .in. . .an. . . Amber Alert.  Did you know that according to my Google Maps: Perverts Edition app, we have 11 sex offenders in our neighborhood, Dad?  Isn’t that kind of a lot?”

The Grandmother seemed as though she was about to pass out from shock.  William, for his part, simply clicked on another E-trade account and nodded his head.  “Yeah, that seems like a bunch. No trick-or-treating in this neighborhood.  That’s for damn sure.   And, Mom, we’re still going.   They are having this sheep-herders convention in Grand Island that’s supposed to be amazing.”

Shelley came out of the kitchen and brought out breakfast.  She gave each of the boys two pop tarts, calcium pills, Flintstone vitamins, and a Ritalin smoothie each.

The following morning the Grandmother was in the Honda Hybrid Mini-Van first.  She had gotten out to the car as early as possible so that she could sneak in her miniature Yorkshire poodle in its Louis Vuitton carrying case.  She knew that William didn’t like paying the extra pet fee when the dog came along to their hotel rooms but she’d slipped it one of Shelley’s valiums just to make sure that it stayed calm long enough to get down the road a while before William inevitably discovered it.

She positioned herself in between Alexie and Walt and she gave them a toffee apiece.  She hoped the candy, or the Blue Ray HD Flat Screens playing “Pocahontas,” would keep them quiet.  As William climbed into the car she asked him if he had already mapped out their quest to such a dumpy state and, when he replied that of course he had already set up his GPS, she contented herself to lecturing him about how the days of good ‘ole map reading and ingenuity were all gone and washed up.

“Let’s go fast-forward through ‘Pocahontas’ as fast as we can so we can watch ‘Frankenstein’,” whispered Alexie to Walt.  The two young boys slapped a low-five around their Grandmother’s lap.  She overheard and shook her head disapprovingly.

“I wouldn’t talk about such a great Disney movie that way.  Why, I remember when I was a little girl and people had more respect for such great pieces of classic cinema.  I learned everything I know about Indians from ‘Pocahontas.’”

“I think that maybe your pre-conceived notions about Indians are way off.”  Little Alexie could be smart, sometimes, when he was still coming down off his extreme Ritalin high. “They’re not really too much like what you see in Disney movies, Grandma.”

“You boys need to learn some manners.  You both just think you’re so high an’ mighty.”  The Grandmother yelled to the front seat, “William! These boys have pretty high-falutin’ images of themselves.  They think they’re pretty special.”

William, who had been enjoying cool, soothing voice of Glenn Beck on tape in the front seat turned the volume down and shouted into the backseat. “Well, Flanner–.  Well, Mom, we teach them that they should be proud of who they are.  They’re individuals and that’s a very special thing.  Isn’t it, boys?”

Walt was the first one to pipe up.  “Yes it is, Daddy.  I celebrate myself.”

He practically shouted this last statement and added in another bold statement just for good measure.  “My soul is clean and pure.  That’s what it is.”

The father gleefully clapped his hands, thinking that perhaps his teaching had finally paid off.  He clapped and clapped, and even gave out a little whoop, until the van swerved a little off the road and hit the rumble strips, which loudly groaned under the tires and shocked everyone back to silence for a moment.

To Be Continued

  1. madhat says:

    Okay, I’m ready for the next part. Please continue.

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