writing chapter 2.10
In a nearby basement surveillance center, somebody wrote up a report. Security footage showed a group of approximately 150 sitting on the floor in the hallway for almost two hours, collected around a central figure. Approximately 30 seconds of footage were considerably degraded, perhaps as a result of camera shake(?). Subsequent video segments apparently showed halo effects and a brief incendiary display, but may be due to an intermittent camera malfunction. Audio recordings were unrevealing due to high ambient noise. Wireless signal sniffing captured a surge in tweets and youtube uploads around the time of the alleged “levitation,” also concerning the rumored halo-type apparition and later brief incendiary display, both involving female central figure. Link
Meanwhile, in another part of town…
…a typical American family sat down to Sunday dinner. Dad was just home from work, and parked himself in front of the tube with a beer while Mom, also home from work, was busy dishing out microwaved food in the kitchen. Sis was still out, who knows where, and the youngest was in his room watching Youtube videos.
Mom put food on the coffee table and Dad yelled for the kids. Nathan came out of his room, and Dad found fault with his appearance and made him go wash his hands, then fussed at him for getting in the way of the TV. Mom sat down on the couch with an armful of condiments. Dad grabbed the catsup and the salt, and reached for the remote to turn up the volume.
The Dragoncon parade was being featured on the news, and Dad enjoyed making fun of all the costumed geeks marching down Peachtree Street.
Nathan had been following the con all weekend, and twisted in his seat wanting to be there. Dad thought it was all perverts and anarchists, and wouldn’t hear of his going. But he’d already had a word with Mom, and she’d said maybe they could sneak out and go together next year.
Dad grumbled about drug addicts and socialists, and wondered how many terrorists there were in the crowd, and Nathan pointed out the numbers of superheros and warriors, and insisted that every one of them was fighting for the American way.
Mom added, “Superman’s a good guy, and Batman, too, even if he’s violent. Even Ironman is patriotic…”
Dad dismissed them. “My dad was right. Comics are the gateway to delinquency, and we don’t glorify disobedience in this house. You’re too permissive,” he glared at his wife. “Stop encouraging him.”
“But Dad, it’s not like that,” Nathan protested. “They’re just fans.”
“I say they’re indulgent and entitled and don’t believe in discipline and hard work. They’re anti-American criminals in tights,” he insisted, and that was the end of the argument.
Fox News showed a group of costumed people floating in the air at Dragoncon, and speculated whether it was unscheduled performance art or spooky action-at-a-distance, evidence of a satanic cult. The filmclip was grainy and shaky, and Dad scoffed and pointed out wires and camera tricks while Nathan sat and stared, ignoring him, feeling a vibration coming from beneath the floor.
The reporter mentioned that fans were expected to spend 70 million dollars, and Dad was snarky about all those kids spending their parents’ hard earned money. The announcer said that police expected half a million visitors during the weekend, and Dad muttered darkly about how bad the traffic was already.
Then the ads were on, and Mom distracted Dad by asking him how his day went. He told Mom about his work, where Corporate was going thru another round of reorganization that might reach down to Retail this time. Dad was worried about his job, again, and Mom tried to assure him he would work there forever. Dad was always worried about his job, always worried about money and the bills. He and Mom fought over expenses all the time.
Nathan always tried to help by being extra thrifty – stealing cable and downloading illegal movies and software – partly to make up for his sister’s extravagant spending. Sis had an iPhone. Sis wore Abercrombie jeans with holes in them that cost 27 times more than his thriftstore pants. Sis took Dad’s credit card out of his wallet and carried it around in her back pocket. And she never got in trouble, while Nathan was always being scrutinized and questioned, always being grounded and losing privileges. It was classically unfair. But Daddy’s Precious Snowflake was eager to milk it.
Sis came in halfway thru dinner, reeking of cigarettes, which she wasn’t allowed to smoke. She pecked Dad on the cheek and sat down next to him, and he never noticed she’d been smoking, and never said a word about her being late to dinner. She picked up her plate and complained that the food was cold, looking at Mom, so Mom got up and reheated it while Sis snuggled in closer to Dad.
“Daddy,” she simpered, “I’ve got something to show you.” She beckoned him closer, then lifted the hem of her t-shirt to reveal a raw, freshly inked tattoo above her hip. Nathan cringed, anticipating Dad’s violent reaction, but the tattoo said ‘Daddy,’ and it just about melted Daddy’s heart. She showed him a tiny heart on one side, and a tiny rose on the other. “I’ll get it colored in when it heals,” she told him, frowning. “It really hurts.” She put a hand over the spot.
Daddy hugged her sympathetically and cooed babytalk at her. “I’ll tell your Mom to give you one of my pain pills,” he offered.
Nathan rolled his eyes. Tattoos were so against the rules – even temporary hair dye was against the rules – and here was Dad dipping into his stash for her, as if she didn’t already have access to it. He watched Mom bringing the plate back. Mom was angry, but said nothing as Sis talked Dad into giving her fifty dollars from his wallet.
Sis beamed at him and kissed the top of his head, then took her plate and sat on the floor in front of the TV, pecking at her food while vigorously texting.
Dad went back to criticizing the tube, finally cursing and pushing his plate away. He got Mom to get him another beer while she was up, and ground thru the channels looking for something to watch. He stopped at a Weather Channel special on Dragoncon, and started ranting about freaks and what’s wrong with America.
Fox News entertained him for awhile with the outrage du jour, and he had a good discussion with the announcers, and scored what he thought were some good points against the talking heads.
Mom hinted that he shouldn’t have given Sis so much money when the checking account was overdrawn, and Nathan was thinking that it might be nice if Dad gave Nathan something once in awhile. But Sis looked at Dad and blew up. “You never want me to have anything nice,” she accused her mother. “I work very hard around here.”
Dad patted her. “You deserve nice things, honey,” he said. “If your mother didn’t keep bouncing checks, I might be able to get you a car someday.” They both glared at Mom, who got up and went into the kitchen to do the dishes.
Dad and Sis turned on Nathan then.
“How about that, Nothin? If your sister got a car? You could wash it for her.”
“He doesn’t need a car,” Sis said. “But I really do.” She squeezed Dad’s arm. “Are you really going to buy me a car?”
“I’d like a bike,” Nathan said in a small voice. He really wanted a copy of Mists of Pandaria, but Dad’s rule was no games.
“You’re just going to have to steal a bike if you want one that bad,” Dad retorted. “I’m too busy paying off your mother’s debts to spare anything for you. At this rate, I’m just working to pay the interest. There’s nothing at all left over for me, and you greedy bastards just want more.”
Nathan retreated, leaving Sis to work on Dad about her cellphone bill. Dad called out, “Yeah, go to bed. I don’t want to look at you.”
Sis mouthed ‘Loser.’
Back in his room, Nathan pulled up the shaky video of the crowd levitating at Dragoncon. Interference sounded like a hum, and he thought he felt a vibration thru the phone. He was transfixed. Then he found a chatroom where people were discussing the day’s events, and stayed up until morning.
Stan Rotenhals, 49 year old white male, store manager AutoPartsPlus, resides East Cobb area, Atlanta, GA
Maryann Rotenhals, 43 year old white female, pharmacy clerk DrugEmporeum,
Cindy Rotenhals, 16 year old white female, student Wheeler High passing grades,
Nathan Rotenhals, 15 year old white male, student Wheeler High gifted track.