"In Front of a TV"
by Andrew Duncan Worthington
Tony McCardy, a successful NASCAR driver, had recently killed another man with a go-cart he was driving in a derby upstate. The race was semi-professional; McCardy didn’t expect to receive much or any money from it. He was doing it because he loved driving. That was what he loved. The news footage showed him driving his cart as he collides with the other man’s cart. The other man was actually a kid, Jack Testa, who then got out of his cart and started waving around as other carts were going full-speed around the track. His cart was billowing smoke, seeming like it might explode. As the cart with McCardy came back around the track, the kid Testa started waving more excessively, walking towards the area McCardy’s cart was headed. As McCardy passed, the kid flew in the air and hit the track wall, falling to the ground like a crab apple from a crab apple tree. Motionless, he just lay there. Later it was revealed he died shortly after impact. McCardy was currently being questioned by police. The only comment from either party was from the police sheriff saying, “We have no reason to believe foul play was at work, but we are reserving all judgement until we have all the facts. Obviously, the investigation is ongoing.”
“Sounds like an opinion to me,” said John, my boyfriend.
We had come to his family’s house. His family was into NASCAR, which is why we were watching NASCAR, something he and I never would have watched on our own.
“What?” I asked.
“It seems like them saying “no foul was at work” is them making an opinion,” he said.
“When did they say that?” I asked.
“Just now,” he said.
I looked outside at the morning. A cloudy, even slightly chilly spring day can make anything feel boring. You get such a rush when there is nice day. One of those days where it feels like the world is saying, “You know you’re OK today. Come out today. Come out and play. Let’s fuck. Let’s do it 500 times. You heard what I said?” Those are the days I look forward to in the spring. I still look forward to them in the spring. As far back as I can remember, it was better to be going out in a lighter jacket than it was to be told I was good at a school subject or doing a good job around the house or told that I was cool. It was more exciting to me to have beautiful weather than almost anything else. I kind of kept staring outside and then staring at the TV. John’s dad switched the TV to Hair Rocking Bad Motherf***ing Headbangers. It’s odd to think how many more males like metal than females, but then if you think about it enough—as I just did—then you realize that there are a lot of things like that, like NASCAR. It wasn’t a coincidence that men were in charge of the TV.
“You ready to go?” asked John’s mom sort of indiscriminately, but mostly it felt like she was saying it to John’s dad.
We all looked, and I said, “Yes” and John said, “Yeah” and after a pause of a few seconds while he pulled his eyes away from the TV, John’s dad said, “OK.”
Several minutes later, we had the same group interaction, and a minute or two later we left.
The amount of highways cutting through the amount of trees in New Jersey is great, almost like a mid-sized city forever, endless.
“Do you know much about this place?” asked John’s mom.
“Where?” I asked.
“The place we are going. The art park.”
“Oh, yeah. Well, I know what John told me.”
“Yeah, it’s pretty interesting,” said John’s mom. “It’s kind of cool.” She kept looking at John as if she wanted him to confirm this to me, but he was reading on his phone.
“What are you reading?” I asked.
“Oh, just an article,” he said. I saw the article was from Jacobin, a leftist/Marxist magazine.
“Is it pretty good?” I asked.
“What?” he said. “Yeah, it’s good.”
“How long do we have to stay here?” asked John’s younger brother Tyler.
“We haven’t even got there yet, Tyler,” said his mom.
Tyler sighed and looked at his phone. John was looking at his phone. His mom was looking at her phone now, too. I looked at my phone. According to the Internet, the town we were driving past on the highway had a population of a little over 20,000 people. The temperature was 52 degrees, which seemed optimistic on the part of the highly advanced technology that was forecasting for me. It also said that there was a 50/50 chance of rain in 3 hours. If 50/50 odds were the best it could get me for that, then why trust it? What if it was a hurricane, and it reported, “25% chance your house will be demolished and you will lose a lot of your sense of humor because of it.” That wouldn’t be funny, I thought, laughing.
The art park was in a large semi-rural piece of land, which reminded me of when I was a kid, when we would go to a Mennonite restaurant and there was a flea market nearby, with a gas station nearby but a little further down the road, not unlike this art park, which also had a gas station a little further down the road. The spot we pulled into in the art park parking lot had an antique car next to it.
“Wow,” I said.
“It’s fake,” said John.
“No, it’s not,” said John’s dad.
“No, it is,” said John.
We got out of the car and looked at it. It was not fake. There were gas drops under the exhaust pipe.
The tickets were bought, the park was busy, and as we entered, with each sculpture we passed, at least one of us said, “Oh, look.” Most of the sculptures were of white people, I noticed. Most of the people there were white people, too.
John and I walked away from his family a little and stood in front of statues, staring.
“Hello,” said John, to a man with a moustache, short top hat, and baby blue suit. The man didn’t respond, holding the same expression. The man stood there as we walked away. I slapped his butt. He still didn’t move. I knocked on his head. It was painted metal and made a slight echo.
“John,” said his mom, loudly.
“We’re over here,” John said.
The biggest sculpture was one of Marilyn Monroe. It stood significantly higher than most of the other sculptures. It was situated in a small lawn, away from trees, with a few other larger sculptures. Unlike the other sculptures, there was a crowd around Marilyn. I saw people standing under her and taking pictures. I walked up, stood where they stood, and saw that Marilyn had on underpants. Nothing was revealed. That’s good, I thought.
“Let’s go to the gazebo,” said John’s mom, pointing to somewhere nearby on the map.
We walked through woods and into the gazebo, which was actually a little house. We went inside and there were some cobwebs, but not much else, other than some chairs around a dining table seamlessly crafted into the floor with all the same materials. We sat there and it felt like we were a family sitting around a dining room table, except there was no dinner. Another family came in and our absent dinner was interrupted.
Using the map, we found the real gazebo, which was selling 12 dollar gin and vodka cocktails in 8-ounce cups, lemonade, Coke, bags of chips, that sort of stuff. I didn’t buy anything. John’s dad got a cocktail, his mom got a lemonade, Tyler got a Coke, and John got a bag of chips. The spicy kind that he liked but I didn’t like.
“How long do we have to be here?” said Tyler.
“There’s just few more things to see,” said his mom.
We walked past a sculpture on our way out of the gazebo area, passing a man standing against a tree.
“Shit, he’s not real,” I said.
This was the reaction we had to a lot of the sculptures, although less and less as we walked past more and more of them.
“What’s that?” I said.
“That’s the museum,” said John’s mom. “They have exhibitions there. Like temporary exhibits.”
Outside the museum there was a big cafe and bar area, with lots of people sitting around on small folding chairs around small tables, a lot of them with kids, who didn’t seem like they wanted to be there, with parents who didn’t seem like they wanted to be parents. The main exhibit in the museum was about an artist who used recurring motifs of collective despair and regeneration, focusing on 9/11 and its victims. It was a lot of American flags, or papers colored to look like American flags, some of them burned to varying degrees. I tried to imagine it have a large effect on me, which it didn’t, and which I couldn’t imagine, which made me feel bad, as if I was an unfeeling piece of shit. I thought, “What about all the innocent people we have killed in Afghanistan and Iraq” and then I thought, “That’s very morally short-sighted” and then I thought, “Fuck it, whatever.”
“Should we go?” said John.
“Yeah, I mean, is your family ready to go?” I asked.
“Yeah, I think so,” he said.
In our car, on the way out, we saw some workers, identified by their jeans and t-shirts and mop bucket with a mop sticking out, who were all black standing by a dumpster but they were fake. One of the fake workers held a fake cigarette. I thought about how I would like one right now, but I didn’t smoke in front of John’s family. As we drove away, I looked back at the fake workers, who didn’t look at me, because they couldn’t.
Andrew Duncan Worthington is a writer and teacher living in New York. He is the author of the novel Walls and has been published in Vice, Hobart, Word Riot, Mr. Beller's Neighborhood, and other publications. More at andrewduncanworthington.com and twitter.com/simplywortho.