And Then There Was Owen, Chapter 5: The Trap

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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