An American Tragedy

An American Tragedy

by

Edward Reed

If Curtis Lee had told his story in reverse someone might have listened sooner. But being only five years old going on six, he didn’t quite know how to order things when he pushed through the screened door and into grandparent’s house eyes filled with fear.

On Sunday afternoons his grandparents’ house always overflowed with family; aunt’s, uncles, cousins, all there and all hungry for fried chicken, potato salad, grandma’s banana pudding, and sweet ice tea.

Everyone always showed up at grandma’s house right after church on Sunday, even those who didn’t go to church, which was everyone but Curtis’s grandma.

No one noticed the terror filled face of the little red hair boy who ran from room to room and person to person stuttering and stammering. His cousin Nancy was busy playing Candy Catch in the front room when Curtis passed through. Delighted that the little brat hadn’t interrupted her game, she announced to her everyone in the room she was on a new level. No one heard. Everyone was busy doing their own thing, some chattering with faraway friends on Twittergram and others playing FortCraft or some other game on their, ‘celery,’ phones.

Curtis didn’t have any success in the kitchen either. He knew better than to even try being heard there; no matter how big his tears were or how dark his freckles were becoming as his face paled even more. With his aunts and mom watching reruns of Star Idol, and his grandma watching her favorite T.V. preacher, the one with nice hair and only needing a thousand dollars, no one heard little Curtis. No one heard them tell of what had him so shaken. However, he did manage to get out a little of his story before he was chased out of the room.

After hearing him mumble something about the kid down the street driving the family, car the women folk tuned him out and pointed to the door.

The Snipes kids down the street were always doing something. They were the Snipes, what could you expect? And this wasn’t the first time Curtis tattled on their miscreant behavior. He told on Birther Snipes when she set the school on fire and he told on Badger Snipes for what he had done with the neighborhood cats and the lawnmower. No one listened then either; but this was different. This was bad, terrible bad.

This time it was Neil A. who was up to no good. He was not much older than Curtis or much taller either, which made him driving the family station wagon even more impossible. Even though he couldn’t see over the dashboard, he hadn’t let it stop him. The Snipes are a determined lot, especially Neil A. who figured since he could work the radio, turn the key and throw the old car in into gear, he was qualified to drive it.

The fact that he drank a good portion of his grandma’s cough syrup, didn’t help his driving skills, either. Not being able to drive, never occurred to Neil A. until he had taken out the dogwoods in the front yard and some of the hedges which separated the Snipes from the rest of the world. By then, it was too late. Not knowing what to do, he kept going.

No one heard what Neil A. hit next with the Snipe’s family wagon not even those in the living room who were closest to the Curtis’s grandma’s white picket fence. The living room boasted the big screen TV, and where most of the rest of the family gathered to watch the big game, occasionally flipping over to see who was winning the stock car race.

Even when Curtis stood in front of the shiny screen and told them what Neil A. had done, no one heard him, not even his father. Curtis’s father was answering a text to Curtis’s mother. She was fixing his father’s plate, and wanted to know if he wanted the potato salad with onions or without.

With the game only starting, and most of the people on the big screen just sitting around in their colorful outfits waiting for some lady in a cat suit finish singing about, “the land of the free and the home of the brave,” no one was put off by Curtis standing there thrashing his arms and screaming. Some even listened and laughed, as Curtis told about little Neil A. driving the big hulking car across the hedges. But that was as far as Curtis got with his story, before either the checkered flag or the kickoff happened on the big screen behind him, and he was chased out of yet another room.

Almost out rooms and people to tell, Curtis tried his grandpa next, who always hid in the den on Sunday afternoons. It was the only room in the house, where he could toggle between Clown News Network and FIX News without ginning up a family feud.

Busy listening to the pretty woman with big blonde hair and the man who looked like he was trying out a Halloween costume, Curtis’s grandpa didn’t listen either. Old and tired, he didn’t chase Curtis away; he only shushed him when Curtis tried to tell him about Neil A. driving across the backyard and into the garden that the old man loved so much.

Over the chicken lot, through the grapevine and right into the garden Neil A. drove the rusty old clunker which smoked liked a chimney and rattled like a snake as it hurtled past Curtis’s grandpa’s house.

Corn- head high, tomatoes vines loaded with tomatoes, and his grandpa’s okra all were laid to waste by the chrome bumper and slick tires of the of the Snipesmobile.

That wasn’t the worst of the though, not the part that turned Neil A.’s driving misadventure into a tragedy; a nightmare, like no other that any of the non-listeners would ever know.

No one heard when Curtis tried to tell of how seven of his cousins were playing hide-and-go-seek in his grandpa’s corn, and tomatoes, and okra. No one heard that at all, only Curtis as he tried over and over, pushing aside his tears and his pain with each stuttered word.

It is impossible to say who was first to hear Curtis’s pleas as Sunday afternoon waned into Sunday night. It is even more impossible, to say when they heard Curtis. Most likely though, it was during a checkered flag, a half time show, an infomercial or when a battery in one of their ‘celery,’ devices died.

Even Curtis himself, couldn’t say who or when he got someone’s attention, only that he finally had. And this made him cry even more, when he took his place on his grandmas’s porch swing and prayed, knowing the screams and wails he heard spilling though the screen door, weren’t coming from the televisions.

This is a work of fiction. Any similarity to real characters and or institutions, living or dead is purely coincidental.

Copyright 2019 Edward Reed