Johnny America


Your Own Kind of Famous


illustration of Oxycontin pills

It was like when he’d won the spelling bee in the first grade. He’d heard from his girl­friend whose broth­er worked for the news­pa­per that they were go­ing to print it up in the pa­pers. She said, “Check the newspaper’s home­page. It’s al­ready there.” Clark­ston rushed in­to his par­ents’ home with­out both­er­ing to knock, swing­ing open the front door on­to the liv­ing room, where his moth­er, in curlers, was watch­ing TV. When she saw him, she screamed, and her legs flexed and near­ly knocked her out of the re­clin­er. “What do you think you’re do­ing?” she said.

“Mind your biz, Ma­ma,” Clark­ston said with a giggle.

His fa­ther stomped in­to the liv­ing room and said, “I al­most had a heart at­tack. What’s with the racket?”

“I need a so­da,” Clark­ston said. “You got a Coke?” He was al­ready open­ing the re­frig­er­a­tor door and kneel­ing to look in the drawers.

“We got some RCs in the bot­tom,” Clarkston’s fa­ther said.

The boy— though he wasn’t a boy any­more, but twen­ty-two years old — grabbed the so­da can and start­ed to­ward the home com­put­er, sit­u­at­ed on a small desk in the liv­ing room, next to the en­ter­tain­ment cen­ter. Clark­ston popped his so­da top and took a swig and placed the can atop the com­put­er tow­er and said, “I’m go­ing to give you all a sneak pre­view of to­mor­row. All the best news fit to print.”

“We’ve got to go to bed,” Clarkston’s moth­er said. “Your fa­ther had a colonoscopy this morn­ing. He’s not feel­ing well. We don’t need this kind of excitement.”

Clark­ston turned to­ward his fa­ther. “Look, here it is.”

The old man took his eye­glass­es out of his shirt pock­et and put them on and leaned over his son’s shoul­der. He couldn’t stand to read it all. Clark­ston Krutz of Mur­ray, Ken­tucky. Pulled over. Drug charges. “Bag­gy” of Oxy­con­tin pills. Ar­rest­ed for in­tent to dis­trib­ute. Charge low­ered to pos­ses­sion. “I don’t know what I’m sup­posed to get out of this,” the old man said.

“Don’t you see?” Clark­ston said. “It means I’m my own kind of famous.”

The old man and his son no longer seemed to speak the same lan­guage. And yet the young man spoke so con­fi­dent­ly. He smiled at his fa­ther. The smile re­mind­ed the old man of how the boy used to be, maybe still was, clever and en­ter­pris­ing. The young man’s moth­er wasn’t lis­ten­ing. She was watch­ing a ro­man­tic movie on TV. Clark­ston had set up Net­flix for them. He looked in­to his father’s eyes and thought he could dis­cern a twin­kle that sig­ni­fied a kind of pride, the same as when he won the first-grade spelling bee. Af­ter the school win, he didn’t go to State Fi­nals. Slept in. That dis­ap­point­ed the folks. Dis­ap­point­ed every­body. He wouldn’t make the same mis­take again.

Filed under Fiction on October 6th, 2023

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