A Novel Written and Copyrighted By Timothy E. Miller
http://timotheus.synthasite.com


Prologue

Colorado is California’s second coming.

Most Americans see Colorado as the home of The Rocky Mountains.  Songs, poems, travel books, and ski passes feature the state’s mounds as if they’re some piece of heaven plunked down between the Great Plains and the remnants of the Wild West.  But any Coloradoan will tell you the not-so-purple-mountain-majesty part makes up the unimportant half of the state.

A no man’s land, once made up of semi-arid forests and plateaus, lies between the Colorado’s eastern horticultural regions and the Front Range.  This purgatory is home for the Vena Cava of Colorado Commerce known as Interstate 25.  It also houses Colorado’s two mutant hearts: Denver and Colorado Springs.

Urban sprawl and decay have sent affluent people running from each city’s ground zero.   Like the rings of atomic force that once annihilated Hiroshima and Nagasaki, a suburban blight now lays waste to all the open space between Colorado’s two main towns. 

Here.  Covenant controlled communities trample forests while carrying pastel siding standards and Xeriscaped banners.  3,000 square-foot behemoths munch down history with three-car garage maws.  Corporate warehouses and strip malls make war on the countryside with a weapon called capitalism.  Here, the backwards California migration subverts differences and homogenizes small communities until each town dresses business casual—even on days off.

All grandiose metaphors aside, Rampart Rock is one of these purgatorial places.  It lies twenty-five miles south of Denver, and twenty-five miles north of Colorado Springs on I-25.  That makes it a prime staging point for the Colorado rich man’s suburban fallout.

Wind blasted bluffs and plateaus once edged Rampart Rock’s landscape.  But demolition crews and graters have taken care of those aberrations.

The Rock itself, after which drunken prospectors named the town, is a plateau.  Rest assured though.  It’s safe from developers for a couple reasons.  One, it’s the town icon.  Two, it’s the residence of Rampart Rock’s most important citizen:

Bartholomew Middleton McDonovan III.

It’s a normal summer morning in Rampart Rock.  The rising sun shines westward on a patchwork of mansions and bumpy prairie.  Roads serve as stitching for the flesh of this mutated land.  The buzz from a plane circling skyward augments the swooshing sounds of passing traffic on I-25.

Young kids dance around daycare center play lots while their parents amble north or south to work in their SUV’s.  Young adults either sleep off last night’s party, or skulk to their jobs at Gigantor-Marts.  Poor people build, landscape, and clean up after rich folks, who pay them as little as possible.

Right now.  Bartholomew Middleton McDonovan III is none of the above.  But he might be looking down on all this—if he cared.

That plane buzzing skyward.  Well.  That sky boat belongs to Mr. McDonovan.  He’s inside it right now.  Come and see.  Come and see.
   

The voice of Mr. McDonovan’s pilot squelches from an intercom in the planes cabin.  “Sir.  We’re at 14,000 feet.”

Mr. McDonovan presses the call back button and answers in a confident, yet confused baritone.  “Alright.  Keep her steady then.”  He sets his Scotch highball in the cup-ended armrest of his leather chair and stands up to look around.

Ordinarily, the interior of a Sky van looks like a hollow tin can.  People use these types of planes for hauling cargo and skydivers.  So they don’t usually need much adornment.

Mr. McDonovan stopped settling for the usual a long time ago.

The inside of Mr. McDonovan’s Sky van has white carpet, flat stone paneling, a full bar, three leather couches, a dining table, and a mahogany desk with all the trimmings.  But Mr. McDonovan knows all this.  He’s just taking it all in because he can’t figure out how or why he’s here.

He looks down at his three-piece suit and pats himself down to make sure it’s real.  Usually, when he takes this particular plane, he wears his standard issue United States Parachute Association jumpsuit and helmet.

“And where the hell is…” He feels his back for his parachute pack.

It’s there.  But it’s empty.  So he touches his goggles, his weedy eyebrows and his sagging jowls to make sure he’s awake.  “Sure enough,” he says.  “Those feel real.  So, why are you on this plane Bart?”

Mr. McDonovan can remember creating his fast food empire in 1955.  He can recall the death of his children in 1992.  But he doesn’t know what happened ten minutes ago.

Tapping one hand’s fingers on his desk, Mr. McDonovan reaches for his Scotch with the other.  Just now he notices a letter from himself on the desk, written ten minutes ago.

The pilot’s voice comes from the intercom again.  “Ready when you are sir.”

Mr. McDonovan ignores the pilot and picks his letter up.  It says, “According to previous letters to me, who is now you, you are now a U.S.P.A. certified skydiver.  You made your 200th instructor guided jump last week.  You can fly alone.  You have a plan.  Our former us hypnotized you so you’d be able to make your BIGGEST BUSINESS RISK EVER without having to think about it.”

Reading the last four words on the letter turns Mr. McDonovan into a zombie.  He walks to the back of his cozy cabin in the sky and opens a hatch, which leads to the storage area at the back of the plane.  His customized Sky van contains a small side door near the tail, which he jumps out of regularly.

Without stopping to think, Mr. McDonovan pops the sealed door open.  He doesn’t really need to jump because the difference in air pressure sucks him out into the morning sky.

For a few seconds, Mr. McDonovan tumbles.  “Oh-shit-I’m-falling-and there’s-nothing-to-hold-onto,” he screams.  No one hears him as a jumble of prairie, mountains, and sky rolls across his eyes.  After a couple thousand feet, he says, “Calm down Bart.”

A stream of perfect clarity passes through his thoughts.  For a reason Mr. McDonovan can’t reason out, the gaps in his ten-minute memory fill up with memories.  He arches his back and throws out his limbs.   His belly becomes the bottom of an aerodynamic bowl.  The line between earth and sky levels out.  As always, Mr. McDonovan is firmly in control.

This isn’t a copout, thinks Mr. McDonovan.  This isn’t suicide.  This is the biggest business risk ever. 

Life is a business.  What is this, but another great McDonovan business venture?

Mr. McDonovan always believed in survival of the fittest.  Once, in a newspaper interview, he said, “This is a dog-murder-dog business.  I’ll kill the bastards.  I’ll devour ‘em anyway I can.  That’s business.” 

Now.  The business of Mr. McDonovan’s life has suddenly gone bankrupt.  Because of his memory loss, he knows he’s not fit to be king of the capitalist jungle anymore.  Still.  He’s always frowned on suicide—even when it seems honorable and merciful. 

King James’s God writes in the bible that killing yourself is a desecration of the bodily temple.  Mr. McDonovan believes in King James’s God.  He knows that any conventional suicide method would be a successful merger with hell.   Falling, falling, falling, he thinks, Stop thinking about hell.  There’s a chance I could survive.

To ensure he had a chance of survival, Mr. McDonovan researched skydiving “accidents,” in which people had lived.  He calculated the average death rate of those accidents at about 99.425%.  He wrote letters to his self so he’d remember the chance of success was about half a percentage point.

Secretly, Mr. McDonovan sees surviving as failure, and dying as success.  But, because he wants to go to heaven, because he never wants to show the world he doesn’t have the balls to live life to a natural end, Mr. McDonovan looked for ways to step down suicidally from his spot as chairman of The McDonovan Limited Liability Corporation. 

Skydiving is Mr. McDonovan’s way out of life, and into heaven.  He’s exploited rule technicalities all his life to ensure his business’s success.  Now, half a percentage point chance of survival will be the technicality, which allows him to rise to paradise (even though he’s falling).

“Down is my way up,” Mr. McDonovan mouths at sky.  His words are lost on the roaring wind.  He spots Rampart Rock’s bitten pound cake shape directly below.  He puts his arms at his side and closes his legs, making a McMissle™.  His forehead becomes a warhead, streaming downward toward The Rock.

Free falling at roughly 250 miles per hour, Mr. McDonovan never really feels his body crashing into his home.  Instead, all his senses short out.

Thoughts and feelings remain.  Mr. McDonovan remembers his life and legacy like a series of television commercials.


Part I: Fissures

Chapter 1: The McDonovan Legacy

The McDonovan’s came to America from Scotland in the eighteenth century.  Mr. McDonovan remembers how his father said the family belonged to some big clan of heathens.  Unfortunately, Mr. McDonovan doesn't remember much else.

My family was poor, and hard working, Mr. McDonovan thinks inside his darkness.  They were eager to become citizens and pursue the American Dream.

Mr. McDonovan’s thoughts fast-forward through the times and instances that don’t quite fit into how he views his family. 

He sees himself as a child in the streets of Pittsburgh.  His father, Bartholomew Middleton McDonovan II, managed a steel mil sixteen hours a day in the early 19th century.  His mother hand-washed laundry and kneaded dough in the kitchen.  She was just like Cinderella, he thinks.

Bart II was no prince.  So, rather than ruin his delusional family mythology, Mr. McDonovan fast-forwards through the parts of his past where his father beat him or his mother. 

My family built the legacy.  Mr. McDonovan pleads to the black that surrounds him.  He thinks something may be wrong.  He should have passed through the pearly gates by now.  So he explains further.  They gave me the motivation and drive to work my way to the top and grind out an empire.   He hopes the fact that he built a huge corporation out of nothing may somehow matter to God and heaven.   Even though all the people he screwed over to make McDovovan's, Inc. flash before his eyes, he pretends not to see them.

Who'll be the heir to my empire now? He wonders like a child plugging his ears and singing to ward off a horrible scream.   Mr. McDonovan never had a wife.  But he   had many girlfriends over the years.  I only loved my secretary Judy Vanderberg, he tells the darkness.  Sweet, sweet Judy.  I should've said goodbye to you. 

Mr. McDonovan fathered five bastards, who died seventeen years ago in a tragic yachting accident.  Their names were Serendipity, Gloria, David, Abel, and John.

Guilt socks Mr. McDonovan in the gut when he thinks about his children.  It was my fault, he says to the ether.  They were godless, immoral, and decadent.  And look what became of them.  God.  I am so sorry for that.  Had I known.  Had I seen what my lack of attention did to them, I would’ve changed my ways.  I would’ve given away my success just to save them.

Mr. McDonovan's children were spoiled aristocrats, who knew they wouldn’t have to work for anything.  While their father was forging his empire, they were out experimenting with evil things like independence, liberalism, drugs, sex, feminism, and petty crime.  Early on, Mr. McDonovan hoped that his leniency would make up for his never being around.

He was right.  Kinda.  All the kids loved their “Pops”—even if they didn’t really know him.  They also loved things like cocaine and whores, which his money bought for them.  He had no idea what they were doing with his cash.  But now he figures their Godlessness and lack of work ethic were his fault.

Mr. McDonovan does not turn his eyes from the scene of his children dying inside this nothing-scape.

His daughter Serendipity wanted to be close to her siblings.  So she always thought of ways to bring them together.  As the oldest child, she commanded the most respect from her brothers and sisters.  She also had all the best hookups for pure pills and powders.  So, with a little Serendipitous nudge, the McDonovan kids all decided to go down to Lake Havasu for spring break get together back in 1992.

Abel, the second oldest McDonovan child, loved boats.  He wanted to be a sailor because he held sacred a memory of his Pops showing him how to make paper boats when he was seven.  Abel held onto that memory as he drove his father’s yacht “Food, Friends, and Fun” around Lake Havasu back in ‘92. 

For three days, the rest of the McDonovans exposed themselves, whored around, and snorted anything in sight like sorority sisters on a Friday night.  Abel himself binged on coke and booze, hoping to balance his highs and lows while operating “Food, friends, and Fun.”  And Abel's plan pretty much worked until his family got in the way.

Food, Friends, and Fun was a purple and yellow McDonovan Corporation, customized 5280 model Boatline yacht.  It dwarfed every other boat on Lake Havasu. 

Long before the McDonovan’s went to Lake Havasu for spring break, expert boat wreckers took test model 5280’s out on the high seas and drove them straight into hurricanes.  The testers even rode their 5280's into the highest breakers on the turbulent Baring Sea.  Not once did a 5280 sink.  However, if the 70’s and 80’s taught America anything, it’s that a coked-up rich kid can wreck just about anything.

On the third day of spring break madness, Abel scooted the McDonovan tub around the lake surprisingly well, despite his condition.  He felt particularly in control because he’d traded his customary golf visor to a stripper for an airplane copilot’s hat earlier that day.  He mistook the airplane insignia on the front of the cap for a sideways anchor.  So he thought his lid made him some kind of official captain.

Abel searched for his reflection in the window to admire his new rank quite often.  During one of his relatively clear-minded moments, he accidentally caught a glimpse of Serendipity and their younger sister Gloria lying butt-naked on the Food, Friends, and Fun's deck.  Of course, the girls had been there for hours.  But Abel only saw them then because he’d just snorted a mound of coke that counteracted his booze buzz. 

“Only one way to solve that clear-mindedness,” Abel said to himself.  He took one hand off the boat’s tiller and reached for his bottle of Crown Royale, which was no longer near the throttle shifter to his right.  Just then, his goofball brother John, who was the second to the youngest McDonovan before Gloria, jumped in front of the windshield and stuck his tongue out as he mooned a boat of women passing a few yards away.

Abel yelled, “Get the fuck out of my way John.  I can’t see.”  A glug-glug sound inside the cabin distracted Abel.  He looked over to see his brother David next to him slugging down the last of the Crown Royale.

John still stood in front of the windshield. 

As McDonovan middle children, David and Abel were the closest siblings.  They’d spent many a high school night together whining about the mutual lack of direction in their lives. 

After David had drained the rest of the Crown Royale, he regurgitated an epiphany to Able.   “You know,” David said, pointing at John with the bottle.  “We all look alike.”

John had taken up residence in front of the windshield.  Not that it mattered.  Abel wasn’t paying attention.  Instead, he was checking David and John for resemblance.  All three brothers had Mr. McDonovan's angled forehead and bushy eyebrows.  Their eyes were deeply set in their faces like his too.  But none of them had Mr. McDonovan’s blue eyes and red hair.

“No shit, dumbass.” Abel said.  He held up the bottle of Crown Royal David had slugged.  “You drank all the booze,” he said.  “I’m coming down, and it's your fault.  Go get some more.  And bring some blow too.”

“Blow” meant cocaine. 

Meanwhile, John pressed his naked nipples against the cabin windshield and said, “I love you brothers.”  He licked the window right in front of Abel’s face.

“Move,” Abel shouted.  He couldn't see where he was steering the yacht.  Luckily, Food, Friends, and Fun were headed to an boat-less part of the lake.

David liked proclaim his brotherly love for anyone in the room when he was completely sloshed.  Since David had reached drunkenness long ago, and his actual brothers were right next to him, he tackled Abel with a bear hug.  Abel hit the Port side of the cabin like a sack of beets. 

 “I love you,” David told Abel.  “You’re my brother.”

Abel used the tiller to pull himself and David back up.  By that time, Food, Friends, and Fun had veered so far to port that Serendipity and Gloria, who were both passed out, had fallen off the boat deck into the lake. 

The sisters had no chance of waking up.  They drowned instantly.

The sharp swerve caused by David's attack of brotherly love also sent John flying one story down to the deck, where coroners later said he’d sustained a broken femur and three cracked ribs. 

However, the fall hadn't killed David.

Food, Friends, and Fun wasn't heading toward open water anymore.  After Abel had pulled himself up with the tiller, he saw the yacht was heading toward a nearby fueling dock, where Sports Pixilated Magazine was shooting photos for its Bikini Issue.  

Abel yanked the wheel starboard to avoid the dock.  Somehow, this coke-enhanced move sent Food, Friends, and Fun skidding, like a water skier into SP the fueling dock.

Food, Friends, and Fun flopped onto its side like a dying whale.  The yacht's purple underbelly struck the fuel pumps and it burst into flame.  Abel, David, and John flew into the water, unconscious, and drowned.  The McDonovan brothers’ carcasses then floated to the lake’s surface, where the burning boat flame-broiled their meat to perfection.

No one was there to hear the last, strange question spill from Abel’s lips before he crashed through the cabin windshield.  But Mr. McDonovan hears it now.  To no one in particular, Abel said, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

The estimated worth of the drowned McDonovans and their corporate yacht was roughly 300 million dollars.  The yacht fire also grilled four tender and juicy Sports Pixilated models.  Together, considering outstanding contracts and TV cameo appearances, these diva's lives equaled about 50 million dollars. 

Two soundmen, one boom mic holder, a model fanner, and a refueling clerk also died as a result of the Food, Folks, and Fun crash.  Their net worth was about 30,000 dollars.

Because of the rich people who’d died in the accident, and because of the 5280 yacht’s “unsinkable” reputation up to that point, the media called the “Food, Friends, and Fun” the “Titanic of Lake Havasu.”

As a side note, the director of the movie about the Titanic, which came out a few years later, called the incident his “inspiration.”

Watching all this on the viewing screen inside his sleep-seeming death, Mr. McDonovan almost laughs, but he weeps instead.  His sighs sound suspiciously like suppressed chuckles.


After a good, long cry, Mr. McDonovan thinks, Thank God for my grandchildren.
And grandchildren he has. 

None of Mr. McDonovan’s five children wasted much time with meaningful relationships.  For the most part, they screwed multiple partners without protection.  Abstinence was a dirty word among them.  And both David and Serendipity occasionally enjoyed partners of the same gender. 

Some Americans think of Mr. McDonovan as a God of free market enterprise.  In his autobiography, Mr. McDonovan wrote, “My restaurants were temples.  My franchisees were priests. Customers were worshippers at the altar of capitalistic success.  It was our religion.”

Mr. McDonovan never meant to cast himself as God in that scenario.  The people of the United States Republic view him that way though.  That said, the second generation of this Fast Food God’s progeny goes like this:

Serendipity holds the record among the McDonovan children for staying married the longest.  She entered holy matrimony with a designer drug dealer named Ulrich Vasenstaag for two years.  They begat two daughters named Virginia and Lilith, before separating due to mutual preference for same sex relationships.  Ulrich is still alive, but nowhere to be found.

David married a hooker named Violet while in Las Vegas for a week.  They begat a girl named Tamora in the city of sin.  Afterward, David went back home.  Violet went back to turning tricks.

Generally, Violet was a conscientious whore.  Rest assured.  She made sure David paid alimony and acknowledged their child.  Shortly after the McDonovan tragedy, one of Violet’s regular clients accidentally choked her during their weekly bondage session. 

The casino owner (whose name will not be mentioned due to possible mafia repercussions) who killed Violet, thought her use of the international “I’m choking” sign meant she wanted it harder.  In her lightheaded-ness, Violet forgot to use she and the casino Mafioso’s mutually agreed upon thumbs up sign, which meant, “stop.”

The goofball McDonovan John knocked up a smart honors student named Elizabeth.  He went out with her because she did his homework at the University of Colorado. 

In a surprising bout of responsibility, John married Liz when he found out she was pregnant with a boy genius they later named Aaron.  John and Liz divorced six weeks after Aaron’s birth.

Liz is still kicking.  She teaches Archaeology at Berkley.

Abel didn’t have any kids.  His spunk had no sperm.  Plus, he had AIDS.

Abel found out about his disease a few months before the fateful trip to Lake Havasu.
His plan was to drink and snort himself to death.  Unfortunately, he took the rest of his siblings with him. 

Mr. McDonovan neither sees, nor knows much about his kid’s personal life.  He only understands they were bad.  Real bad.

Mr. McDonovan stares at his own personal slide show of grandkid memories.  He acknowledges the pictures of Aaron, Tamora, Virginia, and (reluctantly) Lilith.  Unfortunately, the ugly mug of Gloria’s illegitimate child Bart keeps ruining the reel.

Gloria was the only McDonovan child with enough sense to have a baby out of wedlock.  She had a one-night stand with a caddy named Zeke, whom she’d met at The Rampart Pines Country Club.  Zeke was a drunk.  And Gloria wouldn’t wed the guy—despite her father’s demands.

Gloria named her child Bartholomew Middleton McDonovan IV, hoping that this might somehow soften her father’s resolve to reject her.  But, when she presented the baby to Mr. McDonovan after she got out of the hospital, the old man furrowed the juniper hedges above his brow and said, “That’s no grandchild of mine.”  Under his breath, he muttered “illegitimate bastard.”

By that time, Mr. McDonovan had become an Evangelist.  He’d just reached the status of Corporate Deity as well.  And adoring public eyes secretly probed his private life in search of ungodly human flaws. So he banished Gloria and little, innocent Bart from the Holy Kingdom of McDonovan.

Mr. McDonovan forgot—or refused to remember—that every, single one of his children was born out of wedlock.  To him, Gloria's situation was different.  He expected more Godly behavior of his kids—when he happened to be looking.

Bart’s baby face keeps mucking up Mr. McDonovan’s memories.  So Mr. McDonovan yells at his darkness, “He’s not a McDonovan.  Get him out of here.  Or turn this goddamned memory off.  Where the hell am I?  Where are the pearly gates?  Or…”  Mr. McDonovan gulps and stutters.  “Where is the fire and brimstone at least?”

No One, or No Thing answers.  Instead, the picture tube inside Mr. McDonovan’s unconsciousness flickers on.  He smells frozen French fries sizzling in beef fat.  He hears the ding of the patented McDonovan Microwave—which employees call “Cue” around customers.

The old man remembers The McDonovan Rules.

Mr. McDonovan’s grandchildren always called him Granpappy.  At first, he hated the name.  Now, he wants to dream of his self with that name a little longer before…whatever comes next.

If the abyss could nod, it would.  But it doesn’t.  Nonetheless, Mr. McDonovan is Granpappy for now.

After The McDonovan children died, Granpappy made a strict set of rules for his grandchildren so that they might carry on the McDonovan Legacy with dignity and pride when he was gone.  He strictly enforces those rules, even today.

Chapter 2: The McDonovan Commandments

Granpappy came unto his grandchildren, not on Mt. Sinai, but just west of Devil’s Head Peak. 

Imagine a bunch of stones that look like a big pile of intestines on top of a mountain.  That’s the Devil’s metaphorical mounded Melon for you.  If you stand on Rampart Rock and look out at the front-range, Devil’s Head is the mountain your eyes keep trying to avoid. 

Granpappy took each of his grandchildren on a six-mile hike to the top of the peak to tell them his rules.

And Granpappy said unto the progeny of his progeny on their seventh birthdays, “These are the rules.  If you break any of them, I’ll throw you out on the street.  Everyone will know you as the outcast McDonovan, who failed.  Here are my requirements…”  Granpappy counted his commandments out on manicured fingers:

1.    No matter what, you must keep McDonovan as your last name.
2.    You have to live inside Rampart Rock Mansion with your grandfather.
3.    The McDonovan Corporation is mine.  In time, its profits will be yours.  But you cannot be involved, in any way, with McDonovan’s or its franchises until I die.
4.    Do whatever you can to uphold the public’s good image of the McDonovan Family and its company.
5.    No drinking, drugs, sex, rock and roll, or that shit they call Hip Hop.
6.    Anyone you might want as a friend, or mate must first go through my own personal screening process.  People belonging to a lower class need not apply.
7.    Work hard at school, and whatever else you choose to do.  I will require proof of your work ethic.
8.    McDonovan’s can’t be gay.
9.    By birthright and existence as a McDonovan, you forfeit liberalism.
10.    Go to church every Sunday.

On their seventh birthday, each McDonovan grandchild looked east across the bumpy plains from the top of Devil’s Head.  Granpappy made two giant moose antlers with the fingers he’d used to count out his rules.   On their separate trips, Aaron, Virginia, and Tamora laughed at Granpappy and his funny moose head before he slapped them hard across the face.

“Now, remember that kid,” he’d say.  “I love you.  But you have to obey my rules.  I mean it.”  Each grandchild reacted to Granpappy’s lesson in his or her unique way.

Virginia sobbed and curled up in a fetal position.  She refused to move until Granpappy bribed her back down the mountain with the promise of two Soft Serve McDonovan’s Ice Cream Cones.

Tamora gave her grandfather a horrified look and ran into the wilderness.  A forest ranger found her drinking out of a stream near The Old Irishman trail head ten miles away that afternoon.  The ranger gave Tamora over to The Rampart Rock Police, who in turn brought her, growling and biting,  back to the mansion.

For her trouble, she got a parasite called Giardia and chronic diarrhea for the next month (Do not drink the fresh, clear mountain stream water you see on beer commercials. Diseased mammals poop in there for Christ’s sake). 

Aaron took his slap like a man before two betraying tears streamed down his face.  He sulked and told Granpappy, “I hate you.  I’ll get you back,” all the way down the mountainside.  But, so far, he hasn’t followed through with his threat.

Lilith is the youngest of the McDonovan grandkids.  Her seventh birthday went a little differently.

Granpappy gave her his speech and the moose ears.  However, Lily didn't laugh like her cousins.  She just stared at her grandfather like he was crazy.  Granpappy waited for Lily to smile so he could shock her with the slap.  Instead, she just said, “Granpappy.  I love you.  But I don’t like your rules.”

Much as it hurt him, Granpappy knew he had to finish with a slap to make Lily remember his commandments.  Lily had an independent streak Granpappy usually embraced as “entrepreneurial spirit.”  But up on Devil’s head, her independence became a problem.

The other grandchildren had told Lily what to expect on her seventh birthday.  So she knew what her grandfather was going to do after his rule recitation.  As Granpappy’s hundred-dollar hand flew toward her cheek, she backed up a little.  It flew past her nose, fanning a faint smell of cigar smoke and Giant MacD’s Special Sauce.

Lily giggled as Granpappy lost his balance.  He threw his arms out to save himself from stumbling.  His legs splayed open in a cowpoke stance, leaving his pills exposed.  Lily sighted in her grandfather’s crotch and punted his balls all the way up his butt crack.

The sag in Granpappy’s shorts saved him some pain.  But the blow paralyzed him anyway.  Feeling the urge to puke and piss blood at the same time, he fell over.

Lily sighed.  “You’re so dramatic Granpappy,” she said.

“Uhhhhh.”  He groaned.  “I…I…”

“Sorry.  I’m going back down the mountain now.  I still love you Granpappy.”

Even after all that, Lily was Granpappy’s favorite until she was sixteen.  She never submitted to his slap, or his rules.  So she never really followed any of them.  He feels he forgave her too many times before he finally enforced his punishment.  He won’t admit that he feels sad when he thinks about her inside the darkness.  However, the seeming nothing seems to know anyway.

The punishment for breaking Granpappy’s rules is banishment from The McDonovan Kingdom, Family, and Inheritance, a.k.a. The McDonovan Dynasty.

Bart never got a chance to get backhanded on the mountaintop.  Granpappy has never even spoken to, let alone acknowledged him.

Aaron, Virginia, and Tamora break their grandfather’s rules daily.  Their attitude is: “It’s only breaking the rules if Granpappy catches you.” 

What Granpappy’s grandchildren don’t know is that he only has ten minutes of Random Access Memory before his brain reboots and dumps as much information as it can into his hard drive.  He has no backup disc or memory key.  They just think he’s way too naïve and focused on his business to notice what they do.

As for Lily, her transgressions continue.  She’s twenty years old now.  And, for four years, she’s been finding ways to annoy the hell out of her grandfather.  She’s long past breaking the silly McDonovan rules. 

Annoyance.  Frustration.  Regret.  These are Granpappy’s last thoughts inside the void before the theater outside his headlights up.

Chapter 3: Re-Cueing Mr. McDonovan

This is not a waking-up sequence.  It has nothing to do with dreams.  It’s not a rebirth either.  This is more of a sudden awareness, expressed best by Granpappy as he says:

“What the Full Tilt?”

Someone hit Granpappy’s reset button.  Like an old Nintendo Game, he has to start all over again because there’s no way to save anything that happened in the past few minutes.  He remembers everything up to the point where he hit the ground after jumping out of the plane.  But he can’t recall recalling the key moments of his life for the past few minutes.

Granpappy is sitting on his chair, behind his desk, inside the McDonovan mansion known as Rampart Rock. The Rock almost fell apart twenty years ago.  Granpappy saved this town icon on the condition that he could reinforce it’s hallowed structure by buying it, hollowing it out, and making his stronghold inside of it.
Soon, all rich men in the town wanted their castles on ridges and hills.  It became a way of showing their social status.  Poor people lived in flood plains at the bottoms of valleys in the run down parts of town.  The dwindling middle class lay in the pastel purgatories between the haves and have-nots.

Granpappy meant well by hollowing out Rampart Rock.  But even he misses the areas vast wilderness, ground way by contractors.  Now.  Every piece of land in town is fenced off, or posted with a sign that says, “Future Rampart Rock Community.”

Looking out the window, not remembering that he just spent a mysterious long time in darkness, Granpappy sighs.  “That’s progress for you,” he says.  “Can’t get in the way of it.  But, seriously...What the...”  Over, and over, he repeats those words.

He’s very confused right now.  He’s in a robe, behind his desk.  He hopes that skydiving without a parachute was a made up memory.  It was too vivid to be a dream.

A smooth Jazz version of “In the Hall of the Mountain King” plays in Granpappy's head.  Slowly.  It progresses into the old symphonic version, then goes faster and faster.  At the song’s crescendo, during two big symbol crashes, Granpappy thinks of the .5% survival rate for people without parachutes.

As per his usual memory loss, Granpappy shouldn’t remember this.  But he does.

“What the Fuck?”  He asks again.

Granpappy hardly swears.  He wouldn’t just keep saying “What the Fuck?” like this without a reason.  In fact, he’s looking out his office window, reading the spray painted phrase on a rooftop down in the old part of town the peasants call “The Valley.”

Despite it being summer, Granpappy feels a cool draft from above.  He looks up to see a piece of plastic covering a giant hole through five feet of rock above him.

This time, he says, “What the Fuck?” without reading the rooftop out his office window.  He turns to the doorway as his secretary, Mz. Judith Vanderberg, walks in.

She’s wearing a purple pastel tailored suit with a strategically cut V neckline and a short skirt to accentuate her well-aged figure.  As always, her hair is straight and better kept than any first lady’s.  Her eyes catch the light and shine it back to Granpappy as he looks at her.

Granpappy’s been checking her out for sixty years or so.  Still.  He loves to look, again and again.  He almost forgets his confusion as he watches her strut, heel-toe, into his den with a stately poise and grace.

Concern creases the more-obvious wrinkles below Mz. Vanderberg’s makeup.  There’s something deeper and darker, maybe fear, below her green stained glass eyes.  “You okay, Bart?” she asks.

Granpappy wonders how much she knows about his current mental state.  He wonders if she means generally “okay,” or “okay after falling 14,000 feet.”  To him, reality is a little unreal right now.  And he hopes he won’t lose everything during his next mental reset.

Granpappy squints behind glasses he doesn’t even know are on his face.  “What do you mean Judy?”

“Do you remember your condition?”

“That I can’t remember past ten minutes.  Yes.”  He grabs a pen and paper from his desk and scribbles a note to himself, racing to save the valuable bits of experience before his next reboot.

Judy looks relieved and amazed.  “That’s progress—remembering not remembering.”

Granpappy points his pen at her, then the ceiling.  “Or, by ‘alright,’ did you mean…”  He wants to say “…my skydiving accident.”  But he can’t because he doesn’t want to tell her that he tried to die.

“Huh?”

“Never mind,” he says.  “Look at what that little shit is up to this time.  He gestures behind him at the window and stops himself in the middle of saying “What the…” again.

With a curious, almost proud smile, Judy strides over to the cathedral-sized window.   As she looks out, she puts her hand over her mouth, trying not to laugh.

Granpappy glares at her incredulously.  “This is funny to you?”

Judy clears her throat.  “No sir.”  But the corners of her mouth rebel against her otherwise sober face.

Seeing this, Granpappy is ready to chew her out.  McDonovan's corporate lawyer walks in before he has the chance.

Jacob Dupont is the best business libel lawyer in the state of Colorado.  Everyone, including Granpappy and Mz. Vanderberg, knows it.  He’s dressed in all black, including his underwear (but only his wife knows that).  Granpappy has always been a stickler for grooming.  And he can never find a flaw in Dupont’s appearance until now.

He looks at Dupont  “Who the hell died?”  He glances back at Judy, just noticing her pastel purple suit.  “And who the hell told you it was Easter Sunday.”
Dupont pretends Granpappy didn’t say anything.  Judy just shrugs as if her boss doesn’t know what he’s talking about.  But Granpappy continues to glare, waiting for an answer.  “Well?” He asks.  “Why all black?  Did the lying lawyers and actor’s guild cast you as Hamlet?  I mean I know Judy’s just trying to be in-fashion.  But you…I mean…Johnny Cash died a while ago now…”

Dupont interrupts with an excuse.  “I…Uh…I read in Forbes that people take you more seriously if you dress in black.”

“And that is exactly why I don’t endorse education.  People shouldn’t read.  They should spend more time learning to work hard and earn their way in life.  I never got anything from reading…”

Sensing this tirade could last for hours, Judy says, “Bart.  We bill Dupont by the hour.  He has some business to go over with you.”

“Well, get on with it,” Granpappy says to Dupont.  “My time is worth more than yours you bloodsucker.”  He jots down a few more memory notes on his stationary.

Judy says, “Bart.  Quit picking on him.  We’re all here to help you.  I know it’s hard losing your memory, but…”

Shocked and scared, Granpappy stares at Dupont.  “So you know?”

Dupont says, “Of course.”  He places his briefcase on Granpappy’s desk and takes out a packet of papers.

Judy’s face gets pale.  Her voice takes on a pleading tone with Granpappy.  “You know why he’s here, don’t you?”

“Of course.  My memory.”  He thumps his temple with his pen.  “Remember?” 

Strange. Granpappy still recalls everything about his botched suicide attempt.

Judy says, “He wants you to sign those papers you drew up, giving control of the company to the primary stockholders.”

“What?”  Granpappy asks.  “I’m still capable of running this company.”

Judy looks away without answering and says, “What about your grandchildren?  They should have a say in what happens to McDonovan’s.  You don’t want them to end up like the Hiltons.”  She’s near frantic now.  Her hands move like dramatic, erratic, and way too emphatic cyclones.  “Bart.  I’m so sick of arguing about this.  And if you want me to stay on here and help you run this company…”

Dupont interrupts, “Mz. Vanderberg.  May Mr. McDonovan and I speak alone please?”
“Why?  So you can convince him to sign his soul away too?”

“No ma’am.  That’s not my intention.”  Dupont is young and somber.  Just now, he looks a little like Keanu Reeves trying to portray concern.  His hair is slicked to the side.  And he hasn’t seen much sun since he got out of law school.

A bout of tenderness relaxes Granpappy’s stone scowl.  He looks in Judy’s rainforest irises.  “I’m not going to do anything stupid Judy,” he says.  “Besides, Dupont's my lawyer.  And, from what I can remember, he’s a trustworthy guy.  Just give us a minute and come back in.”

Judy nods nervously.  “Alright.”  She struts out.  Even Dupont’s excessive knowledge of sexual harassment laws doesn’t stop him from watching her butt as she leaves.

Granpappy smiles.  “Now, now, Dupont.  That’s my girl.  You know that.  Get your own.”

Dupont swallows hard.  “Of course sir.  Uh.  Sorry.  But, anyway, all things considering, you still want to go through with this?”

“With what?  Where am I?”  He sees the rooftop outside his window again.  “What the Fuck?”

New game.  Someone hit the reset button inside Granpappy’s head.

Dupont lets out a tedious sigh.  He’s tired of explaining things to Granpappy two or three times during a single conversation.  “You were planning on signing over control of your company to the Prime Shareholders and leaving your grandchildren with direct control of profits for franchising fees, real estate, and your shares sir”

“Right.  I guess that makes sense.  Because I do not want them coming in here and mucking up my Empire.  They have no experience.”

“Yes, sir.  And seeing as you have already survived what you called “The Biggest Business Risk Ever” once.  We should sign those papers, and finalize your will and testament right now.”

“Wait.  You know about my jump?”  Despite his memory reset, the suicide attempt remains etched in the walls of his skull.

“I can’t talk about that Mr. McDonovan.”

“Bullshit.”

“No.  I’m under contract and libel for non-disclosure on anything related to your ‘personal business ventures.’”
“By whom?  Me?”

“I can’t disclose that sir.”

“Well, I haven’t really had time to think things over.  How did you know about my little venture anyway?”

Dupont points at the hole in the ceiling of Granpappy’s office.

“To hell with your contract for non-exposure.  You know more.  I know you do Dupont.  Tell me everything.  Why am I still here?”

“Are you going to sign the papers, or not sir?”

Granpappy waits a long time before answering.  Finally, he runs a hand through his hair plugs and says, “I’m not sure I want to sign them anymore.  Give me some time.  I haven’t decided if I want to take that ‘business risk’ again.” 

Granpappy sees Judy’s shadow outside his office, around the corner.  He knows she’s listening.  So, in a way, he’s under contract for non-disclosure too.

Dupont says, “I won’t waste anymore of your day then sir.  Call me if you decide to sign.”  The attorney packs up his briefcase and turns to leave.  He turns back with a curious look.  “Oh.  Can I ask you something else sir?”

“Fine.”  Granpappy growls impatiently.

“Do you remember everything about that ‘business risk’ sir—I mean all you went through—and your plans and everything?”

Granpappy points at Judy’s shadow peeking in from the half-closed door.  Dupont nods, knowing he shouldn’t say anymore.

Granpappy nods back.   “Of all the things I forget,” he says.  “Everything about that particular risk is abundantly clear.”

Dupont smiles in relief, as if he thought Granpappy’s memory should be that way.  “Have a good day sir,” he says.

Granpappy grunts in return.

As soon as Dupont leaves, Judy strides in.  She doesn’t even try to hide the fact she eavesdropped.  “Bart.  Don’t think that I don’t know what you mean by ‘Business Risk.’  You can’t try it again.  You won’t do it.”  She rushes up, hugs, and kisses her boss.

Granpappy accepts her gestures with limp sadness.  In a few moments, he knows he won’t remember that she knows he tried to kill himself.  In a few minutes, he won’t remember how good it feels to have his skin against hers.  His biggest temporary fear is that Judy and Dupont aren’t the only people, who know about him trying to die.  But he doesn’t have to worry about that for long.

Reset.

Together, Judy and Granpappy look out the big bay window behind his desk again.  He sees the roof spray-painted red.  He reads the words again, “What the Fuck?”

Chapter 4: McVeggie Melt, With a Side of Rebellion

Lilith Vanderberg bounces on the balls of her feet in front of a life-sized Buddha statue in the center of her garden.  Nine opponents, wearing black kimonos, surround her in a circle.  Some are men.  Some are women.  A ring shaped stone wall stands behind their backs.  Wild flowers line the top of the wall.

With her fists up, Lily says, “Come on, you pansies.” 

Her opponents charge.

Lily’s mind is usually empty at this point.  Ordinarily, she’s ready to give herself to the fight.  But, just before her opponents reach her, Lily sees the red letters painted on her rooftop.  So she gets a bit nostalgic.

She mule kicks the guy behind her in the nuts with one leg, hops, and foot sweeps him with the other.  At the same time, she dodges two hammer fists from the side and blocks an uppercut from the front.

Rolling over her disabled opponent, she thinks of her seventh birthday on Devil’s Head Peak with Bartholomew Middleton McDonovan III.  It was there she’d first realized how screwed up her grandfather’s ideals were.

Lily leaps to her feet and head butts a woman opponent in the forehead.  Knocked-out cold, the woman falls.

Lily broke just about all her grandfather’s rules.  She only thinks about the times when he caught her and punished her though.  He pretended to love her more than any of his other grandchildren for years.  He let her sleep on the couch in his den while he ran The McDonovan’s Corporation.  He gave her so many toys that she needed two rooms in Rampart Rock Mansion to hold them.

But she didn’t want toys.  She wanted unconditional love.

Granpappy’s secretary, Mz. Vanderberg, is Lily and Virginia’s grandmother.  She gave birth to Lily’s mother Serendipity.

Serendipity died when Lily was two.  When Lily was ten, she got curious about her dead mother.  She found out Serendipity was a sort of wannabe hippie.  At the time, she had no idea what “hippie” meant.  But she soon found out.

To make Lily a smart and independent woman, Mz. Vanderberg slipped her all kinds of literature on liberalism, environmentalism, veganism, feminism, Wicca-ism, and business-ism.

One day, Granpappy found all of Lily’s books.  He grounded her indefinitely and burned all her grandmother’s gifts in the fireplace.   Stoking the fire with a solid gold poker, her grandfather had told her, “I’ll be damned if any woman in my family has to work.” 

Lily didn't know that Granpappy was thinking of his mother at the time. 

“And I’ll be damned if any of my grandchildren will become some goddamned, godless, ungrateful, dirty, treehugging hippie.”

Granpappy made Lily watch him burn the books.  But she chose not to hear anything he said.  Instead, she thought of all the times they’d gone to the park or read stories together.

Lily had smiled.  The firelight had glimmered in the gloss of her eyes.

Granpappy couldn’t quite tell if her grin was for love or malice.  Maybe both.

The next day, Lily went to the library on her way to Rampart Rock Academy and got more books.  In those books, she discovered words like ‘patriarch’ and ‘women’s power.'  Soon after, Lily changed her last name to “Vanderberg.”

Lily’s name change was a violation of McDonovan commandment number 1.  Still.  Granpappy did not kick her out.  She was only twelve at the time.  And he consoled himself with the fact that she didn’t have the right to legally change her name until she was eighteen.  So, technically, she was still a McDonovan.

Speaking of kick.  Right now, thinking of Granpappy, Lily side kicks one of three remaining opponents.  The other kimono-ed people lie, splayed out, around the stone circle at the center of Lily’s garden.  Some groan.  Some are knocked the hell out.
Lily rebelled against her grandfather more and more as time went by.  When she was fifteen, she went into a McDonovan’s restaurant wearing tattered hemp clothes and dread locks.  By her clothes, the manager would never have guessed she was a McDonovan.  So, when Lily told the manager how to maximize efficiency inside Rampart Rock McDonovan’s restaurant #1, the guy offered her a job on the spot.

Lily wanted to work for her money.  She wanted to learn business.  So she took the job.

Ten months later, Granpappy came in and found his rich, affluent, yet scrubby-looking granddaughter working the front counter of the restaurant he owned.  Up to then, he failed to notice her violation of the third McDonovan commandment: ‘Thou shalt stay away from my business.’

Granpappy fired both the manager, and Lily.  She yelled the word fuck at him so many times it seemed to replace the filler words like “the” and “and” in her vocabulary.

Finally, the heartbroken and shocked Granpappy banished his favorite granddaughter.  Recalling the moment when Granpappy said, “You aren’t my granddaughter anymore,” Lily inadvertently dislocates her final standing opponent's shoulder.  She then flips him over her shoulder by the floating arm.

A sick popping and tearing sound ensues.

“Ahhhh” the middle-aged guy screams.

“Oh, Fred, I’m sorry.”  She pops his shoulder back in place and he screams again.

“Damn Lily.  Take it easy.  This was supposed to be a sparring match.”

As Lily left McDonovan’s restaurant #1 for the last time when she was sixteen, a guy opened the door for her.  She’d already been reaching for the door bar.  So, she fell out of the door instead.  That moment gave Lily an idea, which ultimately allowed her to launch her own corporation: “Lily Bo Unlimited.”

After falling out of the door, Lily realized she could use everyday movements to create an infallible fighting technique.  She eventually called her new martial art, “Lily Bo.”

Lily didn’t start her business with a lame, small town dojo like most martial artists.  Instead, she took her idea directly to Spruce County 8, the local public access channel.  With a small group of followers from other forms of martial arts, who helped her perfect Lily Bo, Lily went live on TV every Saturday morning for two months.

Soon, Lily began hosting her Lily Bo program on Network Fitness (a cable channel) and turned herself into a national phenomenon.  Lily Bo was a great way for housewives to keep in shape and learn to kick ass at the same time.  Plus, Lily believed her martial art taught a few women to shrug off the yoke of masculine oppression and realize their own power.  She loved that.

Even though Lily was making a lot of money, her corporation did very little to advance her sociopolitical agenda.  So, recently, Lily used the proceeds from Lily Bo Unlimited to form a radical, liberal movement called “What the Fuck?”  Most of the time, she and her followers just called it WTF?

Right now, Lily’s opponents, who are her best Lily Bo students, are all thinking “What the Fuck?” in one way or another.  Their wonder has nothing to do with their dedication to the organization of the same name.  Really.  They just want to know what they did to provoke injury during a friendly spar.

“Sorry,” Lily says to all of them.  “I have lots of pot, oxycontin, and mescaline if anybody needs something to ease the pain.  Nobody needs medical attention except Fred though?  Right?”

Getting up, her opponents nod.  And they really are okay.  Lily is tiny, but tough.

“Sorry,” Lily says again.  “I was just remembering something and got a little excited.”  She switches to lecture mode.  “That’s why you should clear your mind before a fight.”

Trent, the guy who got it in the nuts first, says, “Yeah.  No kidding.”  He uses the life-sized Buddha statue to pull himself to his feet.

Lily smiles the smile that broke a thousand guys’ (and possibly girls’) hearts over the years, including her grandfather’s.  “Thanks for helping me paint my roof,” she says to all of them.  “I have to take off for a bit.  You guys are welcome to stick around if you like.  I just have to say what’s up to my cousin Bart.  Make yourselves at home.”

Lily walks through her humble home to the backside of her front door.  It used to be a barn and she still paints the outside of it red.  The inside looks like an old Japanese dojo.  It has very little furniture, but lots of clutter.  Books, weapons, and sparring equipment make up most of the junk.  In fact, she stumbles on a boxing glove on her way out.

Anyone and everyone Lily knows comes and goes at her house.  The barn, which is really a big shack, has ten bedrooms.  One or more of her friends and students occupies any given room on any given night.  Before she leaves, she yells at anyone up the stairs to the right, who might be listening.

“Someone light some incense.  It smells like moth balls and burnt toast in here.”  She whips out her cell phone and highlights the name “Bart” on her Contacts list.  She gets a whiff of patchouli from her wrist as she hits send and puts the earpiece between two dreadlocks. 

“That’s better,” she sighs.

“Hey Lily.”  The voice on the other end is Colorado twangy.  That’s somewhere between Midwest Plain and Texas Drawl, with every other hard vowel carried on a little too long.

“’Sup cuz.  How you been?”

“Don’t know.  Been better I guess.  I wrote Mr. McDonovan again this month.

“Bart.  I told you to stop doing that.  Screw that old man.  Even if he did love you, he’d beat you over the head and smother you with it.  He’d give you a million dictator rules to follow because he’d want you to be his clone.”

“Now, Lily.  That’s you and him you’re talking about.  You know I don’t think the same as you.  I aint like you.”

“I know Bart.  But I love you anyway.  He’d only love you if you were exactly how he thought you should be.”

“I don’t know about all that Lily.  I…I…just wish he’d say hello…er write some time.  I mean, I know that my mother never marrying my dad was wrong and all…”

“No, Bart.  Your dad was a loser.  Your mom did the right thing by staying out of wedlock with him.”

Bart’s voice tightens with pride.  It loses some of its hick.  “Dad raised me alright.”

“No Bart.  He was a drunk.  You raised Him.  Not the other way around.”  Lily is walking the streets of Old Town Rampart Rock, gesticulating at the old houses lining the streets. A gazillion pine needles and leaves shimmer, sunlit, in the breeze.  Lily loves the trees.  But she’s not noticing any of this.  “I mean, for God’s sake,” she says.  “You started paying the mortgage on his trailer when you were fourteen.”

“Now, listen Lily.  I get enough of this from Tabby every time I bring him up.”

“Guess that means your wife and I can agree about something.”

“He’s my dad, and I still care for him in a way, no matter what either of you say.  And I’d like to get to know Mr. McDonovan too.  I mean…I know he thinks I just want the money.”

“You live in a trailer and manage at McDonovan’s.  Everyone knows you don’t care about the money Bart.”

“I just want to make good with what family I have left.  And I want to thank you especially for being there all the time and not judging me or nothing.”

“Yeah.  We’re both outcasts.  We had to stick together.”

“I like to think it’s more than that.  We’re bound as family.”

“Love, Bart.  That’s what it’s called.  I know you’re afraid to say it.”

“Sure.  We can call it that if you want.  But there’s one big difference between us when it comes to being outcasts.”
“Uh huh.”

“You chose to be an outcast.  Me.  I was born one.”  Bart’s voice cuts off.  Their connection dissipates.  Lily doesn’t know if he meant to end the conversation, or if she just dipped below the range of the nearest cell tower.  With all the plateaus and hills above downtown, it’s hard to get and keep a good signal.

Lily flips her cell phone closed, pockets it in her hemp pants, and heads to the grocery store to see if she can find some organic fruits and vegetables for dinner.

On her way, she looks over her shoulder at Rampart Rock a few times.  It rises up above the town against the backdrop of dark mountains and clear sky like an icon of everything enemy to her.   She hopes Granpappy can see the message on her rooftop.  Despite her tendency to love all things, she hates everything he is.

Three words pass through her mind as she walks past the old grain elevators and churches, which keep what is left of Rampart Rock’s soul inside of them.  Three words simultaneously express her feelings toward her grandfather, and society at large.  Three words fling themselves against the back of her teeth as her face tightens and she shakes her head.

Those three words.  Well.  They aren’t, “Where’s the Fudgesickle?”

Chapter 5: The Lap of McLuxury

Inside a room, inside his trailer, Bartholomew Middleton Mueller 0 hangs up what must be one of the last rotary phones in America.  He always talks about Mr. McDonovan with his cousin Lily.  Looking around the room, he thinks, Pretty odd that she called me while I was in here though.

The Mueller family trailer has five rooms.  Bart and his wife Tabby share a bedroom.  His kids sleep in another.  The dining, kitchen, and living space are all one big unit.  A combo bath and laundry room takes up a small space at one end of the trailer.  And, now that Tabby’s pregnant again, the McDonovan Homage Room wastes even more valuable space than it did in the past.

When Bart was a kid, his mother Gloria told him never to forget that he was a McDonovan.  She said he should find a way to gain his grandfather’s love and respect.  Then she died when Bart was eight years old, along with a bunch of aunts and uncles, whom Bart never knew.  By that time, Bart had become both a devout worshiper of the McDonovan family and its corporation.

Bart liked to think of his mother’s advice regarding his heritage as her last words.  Really.  She hadn’t said anything when she went to Lake Havasu with her brothers and sisters.  She’d just left Bart sitting next to his passed-out father on the couch inside this same trailer
Really.  Gloria’s last words were, “Sit still.  Your father will be up in a second.”

Bart waited for thousands of seconds for Buck to wake up.  In fact, he waited until the next morning for his father to regain consciousness.  And when Buck finally raised his long hair from the couch's back cushion, he told Bart to get his ass to school, took a swig from the whiskey flask in his grasp, and passed out again. 

It was Sunday.  So Bart couldn’t go to school.  Instead, the confused and scared little Bart watched the Purchase at Home Network until someone, who was not his mother, finally came home. 

The police knocked on the door three days later.  Buck had barely been conscience the whole time.  When the officer pounded on the door, Bart was watching a sapphire ring sparkle on the television screen.  That’s how he remembers his mother’s death: spinning, glittering blue—just $99 dollars if you called before bargain hour ended.

With a drunk father, who didn’t care and a dead mother, whose only legacy was her disparate family, Bart gripped the only sane-seeming idea that he could at the time, and focused on it completely.   Per his mother’s advice, little Bart worshiped his uncaring grandfather, and the Purple M McDonovan’s Logo in the hope that they might help him survive.

Now, after working for McDonovan’s for so long, Bart knows his dedication to McDonovan’s is stupid.  He