The family continued driving for a while.  Shelley tried to tell a ghost story for the passengers but none were too interested.  The children in the backseat were admiring the make-up job of Robert DeNiro in “Frankenstein” and the Grandmother was dozing in and out.  William was busy looking at the animals on the side of the road and so, eventually, Shelley gave up on her ghost story.

As the family continued on their drive they crossed into the state of Nebraska.  William honked the horn in excitement and the Grandmother grumpily awoke to tell him to not honk the horn unless it was an emergency.  He honked it once more out of spite and then let the old woman fall back asleep.

A little further into the state, William saw a sign for a Shepherd’s museum and called for everyone’s attention.  “Alright, gang, listen up,” he called back into the van louder than was necessary.  “We’re going to make a slight detour here to see some sheep.”

“What’s so great about sheep,” asked Shelley.

“What’s so great about sheep?  What’s so great about sheep?”  William couldn’t believe what he was hearing.  “Are you kidding me?”

“Nope.”  Shelley was not amused.  “I’m as serious as a car crash.”

“Car crashes aren’t that serious,” added Alexie from the back seat.  “Not with airbags and seatbelts.”

“Look, we’re going to go in there and get back in touch with nature,” said William.  “Beautiful, pastoral, gorgeous, virginal nature.  Now, if anyone has a problem with that you can stay in the van.”

“Do they have any peacocks?” Asked the Grandmother.

William shook his head and put the car back in drive.  As they headed down the dirt road the Grandmother shifted her weight in the backseat.  She was tired and ready for a bathroom break and as she eased back to get more comfortable she accidentally tipped over her Louis Vuitton case.  Her dog, named Coleridge, leapt from her bag stoned out of its tiny mind on Valium. 

The moment it cleared the edge of the carrying case it hurtled into the front seat and began barking furiously.  In it’s own Valium-addled consciousness, Coleridge perceived a threat in every direction and it dug its teeth into Shelley’s arm.  She screamed and threw her Venti Chai Latte with whip and skim milk, directly into William’s face and, in pain, he twisted the wheel all the way around and the van pitched into the air and made a spectacular crash-landing on its side.

The airbags deployed and slammed into William and Shelley’s faces in the front seat and the close-up of DeNiro on the TV screens exploded into a million pieces as the car rolled over onto its roof in a ditch near the side of the road.

One by one, the family staggered out onto the road.  Alexie and Walt crawled out first, grinning. “That was just like in ‘The Fast and the Furious’,” Walt cried out, pumping his fists wildly with adrenaline. 

William crawled out, with poodle fur and blood matting on his face.  His wife followed shortly with bits of dog teeth still stuck in her arm.  “Damn it.”  Said William.  “We almost had that car paid off, too.  Now our insurance is going to go through the roof.  Oh, has anyone seen my Mom?”

“I’m right here, Billy.”  The Grandma hoarsely cried out.  She was kneeling next to the car.  “Thank God we’re all okay.”  Then she held out her hands and whistled.  “Here Coleridge.  Here boy!”

Disgustedly, William said, “The dog died.” 

His teeth were clattering together as he realized the gravity of the situation.  His red Husker jersey was soaked with his own crimson blood and he was beginning to feel like he may have been legitimately injured in the wreck.

“Does anyone have a cell phone?”  Asked Shelley.  She pulled her own out of her pocket and quickly saw that it was smashed beyond repair.

“I have my I-Phone,” said Walt holding his piece of technology aloft.  “But it doesn’t look like I’m getting any signal.”  William quickly snatched the phone and checked it himself.  Irritated, he handed it back to his son and told him to keep trying.  Right as he was about to  start off limping down the road in search of the nearest gas station of paved road, William saw a trail of dust coming up over the hill.

As the car crested the top of the hill, the family began waving wildly like those in need of assistance often do even when it’s readily apparent that they’re in need of a hand.  The car slowed to a stop and 3 men got out of the car.  The first, exiting from the drivers side was an older looking man, with slicked back hair and horn rim glasses that had once again become a popular look.  The other two were average enough looking, though one sported a thick beard.

“Help us!” Cried both the children in unison.  Shouting even though the man was little more than 15 feet away.

“What’s up, ya’ll,” he said pleasantly enough.  “Looks like you all went Demo Derby on yourselves, huh?”

“The car rolled literally a thousand times.”  The Grandmother didn’t see why the stranger was so nonchalant.

“Twice, actually,” said the man with the glasses.  “We got it on our digital camera. Prolly gonna post that to Youtube, to be honest.”  He turned to one of his compatriots and said, “See if there’s anything valuable in the car, Fyodor.”

“What’chu gonna do with that ak-47, mister?  I’ve seen those on TV before,” said Alexie, not knowing thatak-47s are generally only good for one thing.

“Why don’t you all sit down next to one another,” said the man with the glasses.  “Kids with big mouths and long hair make me antsy.  You wouldn’t like me when I’m antsy.”  He turned to his other compatriot and asked, “What do ‘ya think Wally, any chance the car runs?”

The other man turned and surveyed the car.  He slowly walked around it.  William started to his feet, nervousness overtaking his usual sense of calm. “Now listen, we’re in some serious trouble.  We were just on our way out to Tintern farms and–“

Suddenly the Grandma leapt to her feet.  “Why. . .I know you.  I’ve seen you on 60 minutes with that Walters woman.  You’re the Underground Man!”

“That’d be correct,” he said, smiling at her and running a hand through his slick hair.  “And for the record, Barbara isn’t nearly as nice as she appears on camera.”

From up on the hill, Wally called down to the Underground Man.  “Hey, man, this car is shot.  I’ve seen it all the time at the old insurance offices.   This one’s done for.”

“See, folks,” said the Underground man, “Wally here used to work in the insurance business and he says that ya’ll aren’t going anywhere just yet. Looks like your car is shot to shit.  Can I tell you something?  Just between you and me. . . it would’ve been better, though, for you not to recognize me.”

William turned and said something entirely un-romantic. 

In fact, it was rather lude.

The Grandmother began whispering to herself as Fyodor led Walt, Alexie and William towards the edge of the cornfield.  They went into the field and shortly thereafter, there was silence.

The Underground Man seemed to get a wistful, almost bittersweet look on his face.  “I used to live underground, you know.  That’s where I got my name.  And I was a misanthrope.  You know what that is, ma’am?” He didn’t wait for an answer but continued, “and I used to sit underground for days at a stretch and rage against society.  I would rage against the machine.  Why this one time there was a cop that bumped in’ta me and I thought about taking him out for 3 weeks straight.  Eventually I did too.  Been on the lam ever since.”

The sound of a gun rang out from within the cornfield.  A red Husker jersey was tossed from the cornfield and landed in a heap.  Shelley let forth a howl of sadness.  The Grandmother started to worry that perhaps her son wasn’t going to be coming back from the cornfield.  She began to alternate between praying and mumbling gibberish.  

The Underground man started pacing and looking at the cornfield.  Suddenly the old woman looked at him, cocked her head sideways and said in a faraway voice, “Why, you’re my son. You’re one of my babies.”

The Underground Man recoiled as if shot. 

“Wait. . .is your name Flannery?”

“Yes,” She said, still in a dream-like state.  “Last name’s O’Connor.  Why ‘ya askin’?”

“Not of the O’Connors from outside Atlanta Georgia?  It couldn’t be.”

“One and the same.  Where’s this going?”  She asked.

“Why, I am one of your babies.  You remember that couple you donated your eggs to for in-vitro fertilization because they were ‘good people?’  They’re my parents.  What a completely insane, Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker kind of moment, right?”  He smiled.

“Well if that isn’t just the most romantic thing,”  She mused.  “This is absolutely–”

Another gunshot rang out from the woods and the Underground Man whirled and sprinted for the street screaming, “that wasn’t an ak-47, Wally!  They’ve found me!  Goodbye, Mom!”

At that moment, William and his two sons emerged shirtless holding the tech nine that they secretly had kept in Walt’s leg in one hand and the I-phone in the other.  “You look like Rambo, Dad,” cried Alexie as his shirtless father picked up his bloody Husker jersey and tied it around the wound in his head he’d sustained in struggling with their assailant in the cornfield.

 As the Underground Man and Wally leapt into their Toyota and sped down the road, gravel shooting up behind the car, their gas pedal jammed in what was later a factory-recalled malfunction and they crashed into an oncoming sheep truck doing eighty-five miles per hour.

Moments before their very post-modern crash, the Underground Man dialed On-Star in the vehicle and was heard complaining about there being no joy in life.  Little Alexie took a photo of the accident, tweeted it, and became an internet sensation.


  1. madhat says:

    Honestly, this ending made me laugh. (as far fetched as it was – the twists were fun)

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