Archive for May 2004

And Then There Was Owen, Chapter 5: The Trap

May 31, 2004

And Then There Was Owen
A Parody of A Prayer for Owen Meany
By James Smyth, Adam Passarelli, Julianne Ellis, Miriam Miller, and Lili Xu

Chapter 5: The Trap
By Lili Xu

School systems these days don’t care about anything. They are ridiculously lenient because going out and caring about the wellbeing of their students causes more trouble than it’s worth. The faculty’s there to make their lowly five-digit salaries, not because they love teaching or making kids’ minds into disciplined machines.

I remember the old days when Dean Randal would take the meter stick and beat the snoozes out of us if we ever slept in class. He certainly had his strong beliefs and thoughts. They were like rocks that stood in the way of understanding, blocking his way from forming relationships with his students. People either hated him or loved him. Owen sure didn’t love him.

These days, however, there is no such thing as hate anymore. And along with the dispersion of hate, love also disappeared from the minds of the apathetic present generation. Deans don’t even bother to be systematic about checking up on the morality of their schools. As long as the school functions, and some half-assed attempts are made, nothing more needs to be done. This lack of motivation and fear of leadership gives me piloerections; the pathetic unmoving culture of today really scared me.

Even Hester’s songs – people like them for their rebellious nature, but do they truly understand? Can they relate to that strong emotion of hate and love at the same time? Not at all. They are completely brainwashed by the heavy metal in the background. It’s like a wave to them – an easy wave that they can ride and present to be a part of some drastic movement when they’re really not a part of anything.

Life today makes me wish for the old days. But what good did Randal’s sincerity do for him? His demise was one no one would ever want. Perhaps that’s why people these days are more careful about being emotional. Is it because they don’t want to experience the same consequences as people like Randal?

You see, Owen’s eccentricity disturbed Randal like flies do spiders. Randal became adroit at making invisible sticky webs to catch his meal in, hoping to drain his prey of spirit and confidence. I believe he didn’t have any of those characteristics himself and needed to feed off those of others. Maybe it was because he was new and needed to prove his authority. But as much as he got better at making these traps, Owen was even better at avoiding them. It was a fun game of cat and mouse, like those cartoons Tom and Jerry, Sylvester and Tweety. For some reason, the cat has the bigger claws, but the mouse always seems to have the quicker wit.

During those days at Gravesend, students had a different parking lot than the faculty. It would seem fair, even practical to practice such segregation had the student parking lot not been a mile away from the actual school and the faculty parking lot conveniently in front of the main entrance.

Owen Meany had issues with this rule, and he would always try to exempt himself from it.

“IT’S EASY FOR PEOPLE LIKE YOU TO WALK A MILE, BUT TRY WALKING A MILE IN MY SHOES,” he would explain to me on our way to school. For every step of my long legs, he galloped at a cut time of two steps, trotting along like a horse, carrying his message and pride. I guess what he wanted more than anything was justice and to fulfill his destiny, although he hadn’t told me his dreams during those days yet.

“I HAVE A REASON, JOHNNY. SHORTNESS GETS REALLY ANNOYING SOMETIMES, BUT I KNOW THERE’S A PRACTICAL REASON FOR IT. PEOPLE WHO DON’T SEE ME FOR WHO I REALLY I AM WILL GET IT COMING TO THEM SOMEDAY. GOD FIXES IT ALL, YOU’LL SEE.”

If there were any people who didn’t like Owen, though, there were relatively few of them. Sometimes, other faculty members would lend their parking passes to Owen, or Owen himself would fabricate fake passes with his editorship at the newspaper. “I DON’T KNOW HOW IT HAPPENED…” he would tell me. “ONE MINUTE I’M WRITING AN ARTICLE FOR THE PAPER, AND THE NEXT MINUTE THERE WOULD BE A PASS IN MY HAND. I HAVE SOME SORT OF DISEASE, I SWEAR. IT’S WEIRD…I DON’T KNOW HOW TO EXPLAIN IT. YOU WOULDN’T UNDERSTAND IT, JOHNNY. I’LL TELL YOU WHEN THE TIME IS RIGHT. YOU DON’T GET THOSE DREAMS…”

I felt sorry for Owen because soon Randal found out. But it wasn’t even that. Someone was making fake identification cards, too, and Randal automatically put the blame on Owen because most people knew he faked parking passes.

“I DIDN’T DO ANYTHING WITH IDS.” Owen told me. “BUT I GUESS SOMEONE HAS TO TAKE THE BLAME, RIGHT? THOUGH GOD ALWAYS PUNISHES WRONGFUL ACCUSERS SOME TIME OR ANOTHER, SO I WON’T HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT ANYTHING.” He had the sort of sadness in his eyes that made me want to reach out and put my hand on his shoulder.

I don’t know what to think about my sexuality. Owen always said that I had trouble putting my affection out physically. In fact, the only person I could comfortably hug and kiss without shrinking up into a lanky stick was my mother. So that moment when I put my hand on Owen’s shoulder, I felt confidence and sureness drift through my blood. He looked at me with those gray eyes of his and said, “IT’S OKAY, JOHNNY. I’LL ALWAYS TAKE CARE OF YOU EVEN IF PEOPLE ARE PERSECUTING ME. THAT’S WHAT FRIENDS ARE FOR, ANYWAYS, RIGHT?”

“Of course, Owen,” I said. Ours was a friendship beyond any type of relationship. I think I always took Owen for granted. He was always there at his house, at the baseball field, at the graveyard. He had been my friend ever since I could remember, and he had given up so much to be with me at Gravesend.

“So what are you going to do about the suspension? You know Randal probably plans to suspend you.”

“DON’T WORRY ABOUT IT.” With reassurance, Owen put his hand on mine, and I could feel a kind of safety net come over me, much like when my mother wold take me into her bosom and comfort me with kisses on my forehead. I now understood why people wanted to touch Owen so much – because he was simply so untouchable. He was so unique that anything he said could change your life around and change your whole faith and outlook on life from gray shades to millions of colors. I didn’t worry about it, and the next day I was very surprised. It’s a tradition to always have a meeting in the auditorium every morning, and that one particular morning, we got to the auditorium to discover Randal’s car smack in the middle of the stage.

It wasn’t vandalized, but it…very pink. Apparently, someone had donated it to the Girl Scouts to be their official tour car, and they were painting it pink in the spirit of Girl Scouts. They were planning to auction it for profit for their organization.

Randal was furious. There was no doubt in his mind that Owen had concocted this scheme, but there was also no way he could prove it. Later, when I asked Owen, he said “NEVER UNDERESTIMATE THE STRENGTH OF GIRL SCOUTS.” And I laughed along with him and his half-hissing half-cracking voice that my grandmother so hated.

It never occurred to me that that incident wasn’t the only one Owen had planned. That night, Owen called my house pretty late, apologizing first for the lateness of course.

“IT’S MIGHTY IMPORTANT,” he whispered shrilly. “CAN YOU COME TO THE GARDEN WHERE THE MARY MAGDALENE STATUE IS?” I told him I could meet him there for sure, and I was out on my way.

When we went by the main street, Owen explained that he wanted me to have one last look at Mary before he disfigured her and put that, too, on the auditorium as a symbol of how God-lacking and harlot-like today’s society was. “I’M GOING TO CUT OFF THE HEAD, THE FEET, AND THE BREASTS TO SHOW MAN’S CRUELTY TO PEOPLE,” he said. “I WAS ALSO GOING TO CUT OFF THE ARMS, BUT NATURE BEAT ME TO IT.” I said I wasn’t so sure, but if that’s what he wanted, then I would go look at it one last time.

We saw the frogs by Mary’s feet and the black widow that had built a nest on top of the rumpled skirts of Mary’s crotch. Even in the moonlight and from a far distance, I could see the web’s glittery shiny surface, invisible to insects.

“What a weird place to make a web,” I had mentioned once to Owen.

“HOW IS IT WEIRD? ISN’T THE CROTCH THE FIRST PLACE THAT ANIMALS AIM FOR IN A FEMALE? WHO’S TO SAY THAT INSECTS WOULDN’T WANT TO REPOSE THERE?” Owen answered in his matter of fact way.

We were about to make our way toward Mary when we heard footsteps coming from far away.

“God damn that Meany,” it was cursing.

The voice seemed extremely familiar. The figure stopped in front of Mary Magdalene’s statue and kicked it with his feet, sending the frogs leaping up everywhere. He punched it with his bare knuckles until a part of her nose chipped off. He stared at it for a long time and mumbled a couple of words to himself, mostly condemning Owen and his actions of defilement.

It was Randal.

“What’s he–?” I began asking.

Owen hushed me pretty quickly. “I HAVE NO IDEA. JUST WATCH, I SUPPOSE?”

The scene that greeted us registered in my mind for a very long time. I don’t know if it was more shocking or disturbing. Randal rudely grabbed hold of his belt and unzipped his pants and proceeded to shove his doink at the Mary Magdalene. At the same time, he proceeded to scream with iniquities and anger, shoving and cursing, pushing himself into the gray, unmoving statue of Mary.

“Holy…” I began-

“…Christ,” Owen finished for me. All we could do was stand in the bushes and stare at Randal’s obscene act of desecration. The moonlight shone on the silver eeriness of Mary blocked in some parts by Randal’s dark clothes.

It wasn’t until later that I realized the silver cobwebs of the black widow had also been present at the scene, unmoving, waiting patiently for its prey. Once again, Randal was caught in his own trap.

A few days later, the town mourned for the “strange and mysterious” death of Randal.

“YOU KNOW WHAT HAPPENED, RIGHT?” Owen asked me somberly at his funeral reception. I nodded – what else could I do? It was so grotesque, improbably – yet, what other way was there?

Owen didn’t destroy Mary as he had originally planned to. He thought it was fated. “ALL IN GOD’S PLAN, OF COURSE,” he told me. “THE BLACK WIDOW SAVED HER, YOU KNOW.”

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And Then There Was Owen, Chapter 4: The Armadillo

May 30, 2004

And Then There Was Owen
A Parody of A Prayer for Owen Meany
By James Smyth, Adam Passarelli, Julianne Ellis, Miriam Miller, and Lili Xu

Chapter 4: The Armadillo
By Miriam Miller

“I met a man today on the train,” my mother said calmly between mouthfuls of green beans and potatoes.

It was a Thursday evening, and she had just returned home from her weekly voice lessons in Boston. Grandmother, Lydia, my mother, Owen, and I were sitting at the table eating our dinner at the time of this sudden announcement.

“A man!” Grandma gasped as she remembered the last time Mother had met a man on the train. Mimicking grandmother, Lydia put her hands to her mouth in horror. I looked at Owen, who appeared to be deep in thought. Owen was gripping his fork tightly, and he was slowly but deliberately raking his fork across his steak and shredding it until it was not only unappetizing but unidentifiable as well.

I watched these reactions in wonder, not knowing quite what to think of my mother’s declaration of extreme like for a man I had yet to meet.

“Yes,” mother said, “I met a man. No, he is not Johnny’s father. And I am not going to have a child with this man. He is just a man I met on the train. A man I like.”

“Will you see him again?” asked Grandmother. “What is his name? Where is he from? Is he from a respectable family?” I could imagine Grandmother’s heart beginning to pound at a ridiculous rate as she thought of the possibility that this man may not have an impressive family history.

“He teaches drama,” said Mother. “He attended Harvard. He is trying to get a job at Gravesend Academy. His name is Daniel Needham.”

“HARVARD,” snorted Owen under his breath with bits of potatoes flying out of his mouth and nose.

Mother, knowing of Owen’s immeasurable crush on her, gave him an apologetic look. “Owen, honey, I…”

At that moment, the doorbell rang, and everyone jumped. Owen, who usually was quick to jump up from his chair and answer the door, once again began to rake his fork back and forth across his dinner. Grandmother, generally not one to ignore bad manners, was so caught up in Mother’s situation that she appeared to not even notice Owen’s current disregard for dinner table etiquette.

“Well I believe that’s him!” cried mother, leaping up from the table. Grandmother and Lydia, still in shock, stared after her as she skipped to the door.

She opened the door, and in walked a man who looked nothing like any of my mother’s previous boyfriends. Instead of the tall, dark, and handsome types we were accustomed to meeting on rare occasions, this man was tall and thin with red hair and glasses.

What stuck out most to Owen and me was the medium-sized cardboard box he carried with him. As polite introductions were made to Lydia and Grandmother, I couldn’t help but stare at the box and wonder about its contents. My mother’s past boyfriends had always brought me gifts that were so characterless that I could not even force myself to express false gratitude for them, but these gifts were ordinarily wrapped in bright colored paper or decorated boxes.

This box that Dan Needham carried, which was undoubtedly a gift for me, was not fancied up at all. It gave me some hope as to what I would find when I opened it.

“This is Owen,” my mother said to Dan.

“Well, I’ve heard quite a lot about you, young man,” Dan said as he extended his hand.

Owen reluctantly switched his fork to his left hand and remained seated as he shook Dan’s hand with his right hand and continued to mutilate his dinner with his left hand.

“And this,” said my mother, “Is my son Johnny.”

“Johnny!” Dan shook my hand so hard I felt that it was in danger of breaking away from the rest of my arm. “It sure is nice to meet you!” he said. This drew cautious smiles from my Grandmother and Lydia.

“I wanted to know if you could do me a favor,” he said. He then held the box out to me. “Could you and Owen watch over this while I talk to the adults?” he asked. I noticed Owen had finally stopped playing with his food and was showing interest in the bland cardboard box.

“Sure!” I said, and before he could change his mind about trusting Owen and I with this thing that I was now sure was of greatest importance, I yanked Owen out of his chair and dragged him and the box into the living room.

I set the box in the middle of the floor, and Owen and I retreated to opposite ends of the room. With the box in between us, we sat and stared at each other.

Suddenly, the doorbell rang. “Johnny, honey! Could you please get the door?” my mother shouted from the next room. I looked at Owen and tried to decide whether or not I could trust him with the temptation that lay in front of him. I went over to the box, carefully removed the tape and opened the cardboard flaps so I could so what was inside, but Owen could not. It had spikes and a long face and was very much dead if it had ever been living at all. At the time, the word armadillo did not come to me, because I had never seen such an animal and did not recognize this stuffed object.

“Owen,” I said, “I am going to see who is that the door. Do not open the box.”

“I DON’T EVEN CARE WHAT’S IN THE BOX,” Owen said. “I’D BET ANYTHING IT’S SOME STUPID KIDDIE PUZZLE LIKE ALL THE OTHERS HAVE BROUGHT. I’M JUST NOT INTERESTED.”

I can’t say that I believed him, but what was I to do? I rushed to the door to see who was there. I gave directions to the man at the door who was looking for Fruit Street and had been given directions to Front Street instead. I shut the door and rushed back to the living room.

Owen and the box were gone.

“OWEN!” I shouted. No reply.

I went into the room Grandmother, Lydia, my mother, and Dan were in. “Where’s Owen?” I asked.

“Oh, he poked his head in to tell us he was going home,” said Grandmother. “I think he went out the back door.”

Without a word, I ran out of the room, across the living room, and out the back door. I could not imagine why Owen had taken the box, especially if he had looked inside first and noticed that it was just a silly stuffed animal, but nevertheless it did not belong to me, and it was essential that I find it.

I ran all the way to Owen’s house. I was out of breath by the time I got there. For some reason, I was not surprised when Owen’s parents told me that Owen was not at home.

I walked back home, slowly, dreading the moment when I would have to tell Dan that Owen had taken the box that he had trusted me to watch over.

I returned home and shut the back door quietly. I slowly walked across the living room with my head down.

The cardboard box was sitting in the middle of the room exactly where I had left it before I answered the door.

“The box!” I cried. I looked for Owen, who was, of course, nowhere to be found. That was just like Owen, to make me look all over town for him and then leave the box right where it was to begin with.

At that moment, Dan walked into the room with my mother. “Well, Johnny!” he exclaimed. “You haven’t opened the box yet!” he chuckled. “I was sure it would be open by now! Let me help you with that.”

Dan removed a small knife from his pocket. I closed my eyes, waiting for Dan to notice that the tape had already been removed from the box. When I heard the sound of the knife cutting through layers of tape, I opened my eyes again. Owen had covered all his bases, making sure to reseal the box with the same kind of tape that Dan had used.

Dan slowly cut through the box as my mother and I watched. When he had finished cutting it open, he held the two flaps of the box together. “Go ahead and open it, Johnny,” he said. “It’s for you.”

I rolled my eyes as I turned away from him. This was almost as bad as the gifts my mother’s previous boyfriends had gotten me. The only thing that separated this gift from the others was its uniqueness. A stuffed armadillo, though impractical, is a very creative gift idea.

Dan stood behind me as I reached for the flaps of the cardboard box. I slowly pulled them apart…

And out leapt a giant armadillo, complete with a set of spiky, threatening teeth and razor-sharp claws.

“DAN!!!!!!!!!!” screamed my mother. “What on earth!!! It looks like a live armadillo!” At that point, the armadillo had already leapt over my head and was tearing its way through the house.

“They told me it was dead! It was supposed to be stuffed! How can that…?” cried Dan.

I couldn’t have been more shocked. I could remember the feel of the armadillo: still, cold, and quite dead.

Dan ran over to the door that separated the kitchen from the rest of the house. “Stay in there!” he yelled to Grandma and Lydia. “It looks like we have a live armadillo on the loose!”

At this point, no one could actually see the armadillo, but it had darted towards and no doubt up the stairs.

Dan immediately raced toward the scurrying noise coming from my mother’s bedroom. My mother and I huddled together in the corner of the living room. This armadillo did not seem to be in a very good mood, which was perhaps understandable considering he had recently been confined to a cardboard box. We were scared out of our minds.

“Kill him!” I screamed to Dan. I could at least feign bravery even if I did not feel it and was not acting upon it.

“Arghhhhhhh!” we heard Dan scream from upstairs.

Then we heard the struggle. Screams and grunts echoed off the walls. A loud clatter of things falling to the floor reverberated throughout the house. Violent armadillo noises filled the Wheelwright house on Front Street, and terror filled the hearts of those listening.

We huddled there listening to the brawl between man and beast. We were too scared to think or move. We couldn’t have done anything to help anyway.

“Oh, Johnny,” whimpered my mother. “What can we do?”

At that moment, another terrible armadillo growl reached our ears, and my mother began to sob.

My legs shook. I didn’t know what to do. I could hear Grandma and Lydia screaming from the next room.

All of a sudden, the noises stopped. There was no screaming, no grunting, no clashing, no frightening armadillo noises.

And then we heard a tiny armadillo moan of triumph float down the stairs toward us.

And we knew that Dan Needham had met an unfortunate death by armadillo.

And Then There Was Owen, Chapter 3: The Christmas Pageant

May 29, 2004

And Then There Was Owen
A Parody of A Prayer for Owen Meany
By James Smyth, Adam Passarelli, Julianne Ellis, Miriam Miller, and Lili Xu

Chapter 3: The Christmas Pageant
By Julianne Ellis

The Christmas of ’53 was one of the toughest Christmases in the history of our church. This holiday was not only my first away from Sawyer Depot and my first holiday without my mother; the annual pageant also led to an unfortunate turn of events for the former airplane stewardess Barb Wiggin.

During the Christmas break of ’53, I grew even closer to my grandmother and Owen – they were all I had left. Even in their company, however, I discovered that Christmas is a holiday that tortures the mourning hearts of those who have lost a loved one. Constant reminders flooded my mind with memories of the way my life used to be.

Owen reminded me that he believed it was fate that he had killed my mother. He kept saying he was sent for a purpose. “I THINK IT WAS YOUR MOTHER’S TIME TO GO. GOD MADE ME THE INSTRUMENT OF HIS WORKS. SOME DAY BOTH OF OUR TIMES WILL COME; YOUR MOTHER AND DAN’S TIMES JUST CAME SOONER THAN THE REST, AND IT’S BECAUSE OF ME. WE MAY NOT UNDERSTAND WHY, BUT THE ACCIDENT WAS MEANT TO BE,” Owen would tell me, but I still had trouble coming to terms with my loss.

While I knew he was sincerely sorry for the accident, his advice was hard to take because I didn’t believe it was part of God’s plan for my mother at all.

Owen and I spent most of Christmas Break together at Gravesend Academy with some visits to my grandmother’s house on 80 Front Street. I was grateful for his company – anything to keep my mind off my mother. Occasionally, Owen traveled back to the quarry to help his father engrave stones and to work on what he called his “SPECIAL PROJECT,” which he said he had to keep a secret. For the most part, we spent our days exploring the empty dorm rooms at the academy of the boys who were all enjoying Christmas break with their families and loved ones.

Christmas break also meant it was time for the annual Christmas pageant. Because we had always spent Christmas at Sawyer Depot, I never had the opportunity to participate in the pageant, which Barb Wiggin happened to direct.

Everything I had heard about the pageant was from Owen, who was biased because of his feelings toward the director. He always played the part of the announcing angel, which became on eof the reasons that contributed to his dislike for Barb Wiggin. Owen’s size, however, made him a prime candidate for the part because Barb Wiggin could easily hoist him in the air, where he would dangle by a rope for the entirety of the play waiting to recite his lines.

This year, however, Owen would not agree to play the announcing angel. It became obvious that this year Owen had a plan to take control of the pageant – it became Owen’s pageant. He insisted that Harold play the announcing angel. No one could understand why Owen made the heaviest kid, who also happened to be afraid of heights, play his traditional part.

Owen was a smart boy, so I couldn’t quite figure out why he did not seethe ludicrousness of the idea of having Harold, who was three times his size in width, dangle from the rope, a rope he would later refer to as “THE FATED ROPE,” thirty feet up in the air. No one questioned Owen, except for Barb Wiggin that is. She was the one who would be levying Harold into the air, which could be one of the contributing factors to Owen’s selection. We all soon recognized the obvious fact that Barb Wiggin was no longer tha authority figure of the pageant.

Owen owned the pageant.

Owen cast the rest of the parts. He made me Joseph, and he made himself the baby Jesus. He assigned the younger children to be the shepherds, donkeys, and turtledoves. I could see that Owen liked being in charge. It made him feel he was important. He felt like he was “GOD’S INSTRUMENT.”

After several hours of rehearsal and several hours of tension between Barb and Owen, the night of the pageant finally arrived along with what seemed like the whole town that had come to see the production. The lights dimmed down to signal the beginning of the production. Barb Wiggin took her cue to hoist Harold high into the air backstage, struggling the whole time, as the turtledoves clumsily flapped their wings to the song “O Come All Ye Faithful.”

One of the turtledoves tripped on his sheet that was supposed to resemble feathers. He fell into the child who wore the costume of the donkey’s rear end, who proceeded to fall into the donkey’s front end, who toppled into the shepherd, who fell flat on his face. Both donkey ends started to cry, and the shepherd’s nose started to bleed.

Backstage, I could see the airplane stewardess’s frazzled look – look we had all become accustomed to seeing. Owen glanced at Barb Wiggin and then fixed his eyes on Harold up above him and the rope that held him up. I assumed he was pondering how he should take control of the pageant. In an attempt to put forth a distraction, Barb Wiggin suddenly lowered Harold from the sky into the spotlight, using her entire weight ot keep the boy flying, and hissed, “Say your lines now.”

Harold’s eyes became glassy as he looked down at the children crying. He looked out over the audience, who began to stir with confusion. Owen, who knew the announcing angel’s lines like the back of his hand, started whispering loudly so that even the members in the back of the room could hear him. Harold, however, could not even focus enough on Owen to even begin to speak his lines. Barb Wiggin tied off the rope that held up Harold and went on stage to pick up and scold the fallen donkey and shepherd.

Owen stood up from the cradle where he lay and started to recite the announcing angel’s lines to the audience. When he was finished with the lines he knew by heart, he added his own testament at the end of the speech. Dressed in his swaddling clothes, he continued on, “I AM GOD’S INSTRUMENT. I HAVE COME WITH AN IMPORTANT JOB TO CARRY OUT. FORGIVE ME FOR YOU KNOW NOT WHAT I DO. I AM JUST AN INSTRUMENT TO CARRY OUT GOD’S PURPOSE.”

Barb Wiggin looked over at Owen furiously. She signaled backstage for the crew to cut the sound and lights. The entire stage went dark; the pageant was over. In Barb’s mind, Owen was the culprit, for no other reason except that she shared the mutual dislike between herself and “GOD’S INSTRUMENT.”

After the chaos subsided and the donkeys and shepherds were comforted by their parents, Barb came storming back to complain to Mr. Meany about Owen’s behavior; she said he deliberately ruined the pageant and disgraced the church with his addition of the lines in the announcing angel’s speech. She thought the bit at the end of the announcing angel’s lines was frightening for the audience. “No one claims that he is ‘GOD’S INSTRUMENT,’ she fumed with an imitation of Owen’s voice. Barb Wiggin continued to give Mr. Meany an earful and spoke words that I dare not repeat.

Owen, hearing the former pageant director complain, noticed Harold still was hanging from the ceiling since Barb Wiggin had tied the rope off. He walked over to the “FATED ROPE” and looked up at Harold hanging from the ceiling. He glanced over at Barb Wiggin talking to Mr. Meany on the stage. He looked at her with contempt in his eyes, and I couldn’t blame him. The former flight attendant had always hated Owen, and she wasn’t afraid to show it.

Owen brought his attention back to Harold swinging from on high. He called out, “BE NOT AFRAID. I WILL HELP YOU.” Quickly, Owen pulled from his swaddling clothes an army knife, and with a swift chop at the taut rope, Harold came plummeting to the ground.

I looked up and saw Harold heading straight down in Barb Wiggin’s direction. He was about to land on her. Before I could muster a warning cry, Harold crushed the pastor’s wife to the floor. Immediately, Mr. Meany and I hurried to pull Harold, who had a cushioned landing, off the woman.

Owen just stared, and I saw the knife he held drop from his hand.

As it turned out, the doctors reported that Barb Wiggin was prone to heart attacks. The combination of Owen’s recitation and Harold’s plummet pushed her over the edge, and the latter knocked her unconscious. Barb was rushed to the hospital, but it was too late; the doctors could not save her. She died of a massive heart attack.

Owen felt so terrible about what he had done that he even made a special gravestone to place at her burial. The turnaround was so quick that I knew he had worked for hours on end. Despite Owen’s contempt for Barb Wiggin, he appeared to be greatly disturbed by her death.

First it was my mother, now the pastor’s wife. I felt sorry for Owen. I told Owen that maybe he was just accident-prone and that it could happen to anyone.

I knew, however, that becoming the instrument of two deaths doesn’t happen to everyone. It happened to Owen. I tried to convince Owen that it was probably just an unlucky turn of events, but he wouldn’t believe me. He insisted that it must be a part of some bigger plan.

It was a plan that we would soon find out.

And Then There Was Owen, Chapter 2: The Hit

May 28, 2004

And Then There Was Owen
A Parody of A Prayer for Owen Meany
By James Smyth, Adam Passarelli, Julianne Ellis, Miriam Miller, and Lili Xu

Chapter 2: The Hit
By Adam Passarelli

I remember the day quite well. Owen and I loved to play baseball. It was about the only time that Owen participated in any competition. We left like any other normal day. I went to Owen’s house to pick up his overly small body.

“HEY JOHN, IS YOUR MOTHER COMING TODAY?” Owen asked in his squeaky little voice.

“I believe so, Owen; stop drooling,” I responded. Owen’s eyes lit up in ecstasy. He had had a crush on my mother for as long as I could remember. I always caught him staring at her and being extra polite. “Anything for you, Mrs. Wheelwright,” I’d catch him saying. The bike ride to the game was noisy and rowdy. Owen and I had put baseball cards in our spokes to make more noise. I would hoot, and he would holler. We just loved to play baseball. Halfway down the street, Owen realized he had forgotten his beloved bat. It was an old aluminum bat that looked like it was used as a gang weapon rather than for its actual purpose.

“JOHN, WE HAVE TO GO BACK AND GET MY BAT. YOU KNOW I WON’T PLAY WELL UNLESS I HAVE IT.”

“Alright, we’ll get it. But hurry up. There’s some cute girls in the stands that I want to talk to.”

“JOHN, YOU DO KNOW THE ONLY REASON THOSE GIRLS TALK TO YOU IS BECAUSE THEY USE YOU TO TALK TO ME.”

“Whatever, hotshot, go get your stupid bat.”

We pedaled fast back to Owen’s house where we went inside and found the bat sitting next to a deathly urn. When Owen grabbed it, he had this awkward expression on his face. It was like he was picturing some great hit he was going to have. A smile crossed his face. It seemed odd, especially because Coach never let Owen swing.

“YOU SURE YOUR MOM’S GOING TO BE THERE, JOHN?” Owen said inquisitively.

“For the last time, yes, Owen, now hurry the hell up and let’s go.”

We finally made it to the field where lots of cars and bikes were parked. Saturday baseball games in Gravesend always attracted fairly large crowds. There were parents who loved to support their kid. There were those who tried to live vicariously through their kid, yelling and screaming at Johnny and Sammy that if they didn’t keep their eye on the ball they would never make it on the Yankees. And then there were those who showed up and didn’t even know their kid played baseball. Gravesend produced quite a few characters.

Owen and I walked up to the bleachers where the future love of my life was sitting. She had blonde hair, and her breasts were blossoming. She was easily the prettiest girl in school.

“Hey Steph, th-th-thanks for coming out to my game today,” I said timidly. She smiled at me. I saw her glance at Owen, and I thought for a second maybe Owen was right about her using me.

“You look cute in your uniform, John. Good luck,” she replied back. I blushed, not knowing what to say next. I thought for sure she thought I was completely ugly. She walked away to get a treat from the snack bar.

“Told ya she wanted me,” I smirked at Owen.

“YEAH RIGHT, SHE TOTALLY CHECKED ME OUT FIRST. IS THAT YOUR MOM COMING UP OVER THERE?” I glanced over to sure enough see my mother coming from her car. Owen started taking practice swings near the bleachers like he was swinging for the fences.

“Easy there slugger, with a swing like that you might actually get to hit something today. Anyways, Coach will never let you hit, so why practice?”

“I KNOW. I AM JUST PRACTICING. YOU NEVER KNOW WHEN IT’LL BE MY TIME.” My mom finally made her way up to us and gave me a hug first. She then bent down and gave Owen a kiss on the cheek.

“GOOD MORNING, MRS. WHEELWRIGHT,” Owen said in a devilish manner.

“Good morning to you, too, Owen. Are you going to hit a home run for me today?”

“OH, I SURE WILL TRY. COACH DOESN’T WANT ME TO, BUT I MAY HAVE A FEW TRICKS UP MY SLEEVE TODAY.” My mother laughed and proceeded to talk to me about other events. I have always loved my mom and had so much respect for how compassionate she was. She had taken Owen in like a son. She went to all his functions and stood up for him when he was in need.

Owen and I jogged onto the field and started warming up. I started stretching my legs, and Owen stretched his tiny little body. I was so excited for the game today. I started getting a little anxious knowing that Steph was going to watch me today. I looked around and saw her in the stands. I gave her a friendly wave, and she waved back. I saw her giggling with a couple of her friends.

“Man, I really think she’s the one for me, Owen. I’ve never felt this way about a girl before. I mean she’s pretty, nice, an-an-and her boobs. Wow.”

“WELL, YOU BETTER START THINKING ABOUT THE GAME BECAUSE THERE IS NO WAY THAT WE WILL BE THE ONES KILLED OUT HERE TODAY.”

“You’re right. A slip-up like that could be costly.”

The game was about to start, and the opposing team took the field. The fans went nuts, and you could hear sporadic fatherly voices of “Do it for Daddy!” We scored a couple of runs in the first couple innings, and we went up early. Things took a turn for the worst when Josh Marley had a fly ball hit him in the head and bounce over the fence for a home run. Josh’s dad screamed at him so much for the screwed up play that he left the game bawling. I’m not sure what was hurt more, the poor kid’s head or Mr. Marley’s ego.

It came down to Owen in the bottom of the ninth with a runner on second, behind one run. No one expected Owen to do anything but walk and put another runner on base. He had that glimmer again in his eyes as he picked up the black bat. I saw him stare at his mom as he stood in the batter’s box. For one second, I saw pure evil in his eyes. He was trying to pump himself up to have the biggest hit of his short life.

“Let’s go now Owen, help us out.” Again, he just stood there and smiled.

“Ball One!” the umpire shouted. The pitcher then threw two more outside pitches. I regret my next action very much. I assumed Owen would get his fourth ball and take his base. I never could have imagined what would happen next. Steph was waving at me from the stands, and my eyes became fixated on her beauty. She started blowing me a kiss, and I found myself daydreaming about our love.

“Holy shit, he swung the bat!” I heard my coach scream. I turned my head and saw the black bat soaring through the air. The bad had slipped out of Owen’s hands and was now venturing toward the crowd.

My mother never saw it coming. She was talking to a neighbor when the death bad hit her square in the head. She immediately fell over, and the crowd gasped. People rushed over and started to scream for an ambulance. Owen just sat there motionless in the batter’s box. I almost caught what I thought was a smile, but he continued to stand there expressionless. He murmured something under his breath, but I couldn’t make out what he was saying.

I sat there motionless and stunned. I had just witnessed the death of my own mother. She was the most important person in my life, and now she was gone. I started to cry and hide my head. The ambulance came; I continued to sulk, and Owen smiled at home plate.

And Then There Was Owen, Chapter 1: The Monument Shop

May 27, 2004

And Then There Was Owen
A Parody of A Prayer for Owen Meany
By James Smyth, Adam Passarelli, Julianne Ellis, Miriam Miller, and Lili Xu

Chapter 1: The Monument Shop
By James Smyth

“I KNOW THREE THINGS. I KNOW HOW TO MAKE SPAGHETTI. I KNOW THAT YOUR MOTHER HAD NICE BREASTS. AND I KNOW THAT I WAS PUT ON EARTH FOR A REASON, AND WHAT I DO IS GOD’S WORK.”

“Yeah, that’s great, Owen.” I blew into my hands and rubbed my ears against my shoulders, first one and then the other. I shivered and blew little puffs of steam. The ant-like yellow dashes on the road marched under our truck one by one.

“YOU’RE NOT IMPRESSED.” He seemed to pity me. He always did.

“What the hell, Owen! Whoop-do-do, you can make spaghetti. Oh, geez, my mother had nice breasts. What’s your problem? Why do you still think about her all the time? Do you have a dead people fetish?”

“YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE MAD,” he said, hurt. “I’M NOT A NECROPHILIAC, EITHER. I JUST LIKE TO THINK ABOUT THE PAST. YOU JUST DON’T SEE THINGS AS CLEARLY AS I DO; YOU’RE A LITTLE MORE STUPID THAN ME, WELL, MAYBE A LOT, BUT THAT’S OKAY; I STILL LIKE YOU. HEY, HAVE YOU PORKED THAT GIRL STEPHANIE YET?”

I punched the dashboard. I felt plastic but not pain. I rubbed my hand to warm it up, but my cheeks were already hot with rage. Owen could be a real jerk sometimes.

We reached the quarry. The parking lot was close to us on the right side, but Owen would fly a hundred feet past it at this rate. I’d seen him make some crazy turns before, but this time, he’d slip on the ice that had coagulated on the asphalt and flip us over on our side. He cut me off before I even opened my mouth.

“DON’T BE AFRAID! WATCH THIS.” Then he jerked the steering wheel to the left.

The tires screamed like a fat diva; my stomach lurched; the world outside our window seemed to stretch out like a rubber band. Then it snapped back into place, and everything was quiet. I wiped the tears from my face and looked up, expecting to see the pearly gates of heaven and smell roses. The parking lot of the quarry and the odor of burnt rubber greeted me instead.

“SEE? SEE? THIS IS GREAT! I KNEW IT! GOD’S PROTECTING US. I DON’T KNOW IF TWO WRONGS MAKE A RIGHT, BUT THREE LEFTS DO FOR SURE!

He parked in his usual spot in the far corner even though the lot was completely empty. “IT’S JUST RESPECT FOR ALL THE OTHER GUYS,” he’d told me once. “THEY’VE BEEN HERE LONGER THAN I’VE BEEN ALIVE. THEY’VE EARNED THOSE PARKING SPACES WITH SWEAT AND BLOOD AND FINGERS. I’M NOT TOUCHING THEM.”

“Owen, you’re nuts!” I’d retorted. “They’ll never know! They’ve never been here on weekends; they’ve never seen it, and they probably would let you park up front anyway! Who cares?”

“JOHN, I’M THINKING OF A NINE-LETTER WORD THAT SOUNDS LIKE ‘BARRISTER,’ AND IT’S WHAT YOU DO WHEN NO ONE’S WATCHING.”

Company loyalty was very important to Owen, but the only thing I got from it was a hundred-yard dash across an icy parking lot in the dead of winter. When I reached the doorknob of the shop, I shouted with joy and then howled with disappointment. My ears were burning; my flesh was dying, and the door was locked. The key-bearer was still fifty yards away, savoring every moment of this meaningless January day.

“THANKS FOR COMING, JOHNNY,” he said as he arrived. He got out his massive keychain and surveyed a dozen of them before he found the one he liked. “HEY, HERE WE GO.” The door swung open. I rushed into the lobby, jumped on the couch, and rolled up into a ball. Room temperature had never felt so perfect before.

Owen strode past me to the next door. “IT REALLY MEANS A LOT TO ME THAT YOU CAME, JOHNNY. I’VE GOT JUST A LITTLE BIT OF WORK TODAY, BUT I COULDN’T HAVE DONE IT ALONE. HEY, I’M GOING TO GO SET THINGS UP. COULD YOU WAIT HERE?” He closed the door behind him.

As my brain thawed, I thought about the late nights Owen had spent here making tombstones for the freshly deceased. It seemed like he’d been working twenty-four hours a day lately. Our town, Gravesend, was suffering from a case of unbelievably bad luck. Recently, my grandmother had found her servant Germaine hanging from a noose in the secret compartment of the basement. It was an apparent suicide, and we immediately traced it to Lydia’s death; a few days before, the cowardly mailman, Mr. Morrison, had run that old codger over after she and her wheelchair somehow ended up in the middle of the street.

That was also the end of it for our mailman. On a very dark night some days later, he was wandering in the middle of that street when Police Chief Pike, working on an anonymous tip that a dangerous man was prowling the streets carrying an “instrument of death,” accosted him; Mr. Morrison threatened Chief Pike with a letter opened which the chief successfully parried with a gunshot wound to the heart.

The circle of death didn’t stop there, either. Our transcendental English teacher, Mr. Early, had passed to the next level of being when he drowned in Walden Pond, and his now-transparent eyeball was making many of his students uncomfortable. Still more unbelievable was the death of Mr. Fish: our neighbor and amateur actor extraordinaire perished on Macduff’s blade when he tragically discovered it was not just a prop.

Every time one of our own died, Reverend Merrill presided over the funeral, and Owen produced the gravestone. Making them had become a rite of cleansing for him since he’d been at the scene of five incidents himself. Those deaths changed him greatly. Though he’d never laughed much before, it was an even rarer sight now, and he seemed to be in a state of perpetual contemplation of his own destiny. Whenever he seemed to be getting better, someone else would die, and he’d plunge into gloom again. When we were children, he asked me often about visiting my cousins at Sawyer Depot, but now he believed that he never would have the time, since he always had to come back to the monument shop to cut more gravestones.

Since Macbeth’s all-too-realistic death on the Gravesend stage, Owen had grown particularly fond of me. Mr. Fish had loved us both, and his death left me the dubious distinction of being Owen’s only living friend. He often told me now about how happy he was that I’d been with him through the hardship, the pain, and the many, many funerals. He’d been especially insistent that I come with him today; when I told him it was way too cold and way too early, he even promised to show me what was behind the mysterious curtain behind the diamond wheel. That closed the deal in a second. For years, Owen had kept me from seeing it; he had a million hackneyed excuses and had even tackled me when I facetiously grabbed the rope once. He once implied that he considered this secret more important than our friendship. Now, he was ready, and I was prepared for an amazing sight.

Whatever Owen was doing inside the shop, it was taking a long time. I didn’t mind. I had a lot to think about. How could so many people die so quickly, so violently, so accidentally? Owen said that it was God’s will, and trying to understand would be a Sisyphean task. I wasn’t sure. I never understood Owen’s “God thing.” He told me that the Lord spoke to him in dreams, but he never told me what He said, and I didn’t think it made much of a difference. If I thought about all the deaths that Owen and I had seen together, I might notice something that I hadn’t before. I could figure it out before Owen did. That would impress him.

Nothing seemed to be happening on the other side of the door. I stretched out on the couch and let my thoughts wander into the past.