After reading Cormac McCarthy's The Road and manfully resisting the urge to kill myself, I felt a parody was in order.
First there was The Road, then there was...
The rain rapped down endlessly on the stinking plastic tarp, neither getting stronger nor stopping. The man lay in the cold endless dawn wishing he was dead, but then cursed himself for thinking such cheerful thoughts and instead lay imagining himself cutting his eyelids off with the serrated rainrusted lid of a tin can. Eventually he turned to the boy, wrapped up in his filthy blanket, bedraggled blond hair coated in the tiny carcasses of dead lice. The man watched as one last straggler hauled itself to the edge of a tuft of hair, hesitated and then threw itself off. It twitched once on the icy tarmac and then lay still. Merciful God. Even the lice are giving up.
Im really tired papa.
They ate the last of the dog food out of a dented can, waiting for the rain to stop. It didn’t. Eventually the man put the boy in the empty cart and draped the tarp over him and set off down the road. The front right wheel of the cart dangling uselessly and causing it to oversteer to the right. The man stopped and thought. Then he asked the boy to get out the cart and walk, before strapping the cart to his back and continuing down the road.
The solemn sun circled above the ashen rainclouds, wandering around the earth like a chemotherapy patient around a cancer ward in a blackout. They walked through sodden drifts of ash, mixed in with unidentifiable bones and trash, while the boy played with a broken yoyo by throwing it up in the air and catching it again.
Are we there yet?
The place where we’re going.
Why are we going there.
Because I want you to see the ocean and it was getting too cold at home.
But its cold now.
It was colder at home.
But it wasnt cold in the good place.
No it wasnt.
So why did we leave. There was plenty of food there, and beds, coffee, lighters. Now I am starving.
Me too. Because we would have been found.
Why didn’t we just move the stuff out of the shelter and into one room of the house? We could have covered the shelter again, nobody would have seen us. We could have searched the town. Maybe there was a hospital or a pharmacy where we could have found some medicine for you.
Since when do you communicate in multiple sentences?
Don’t be angry papa.
I’m not angry.
We could have stayed there and eaten all the food and rested until you were better and then left when we had just enough stuff left to put in the cart.
I’m getting angry.
What’s by the ocean anyway?
I don’t know.
Well at least we have a plan.
Who said that. You? Or me?
I don’t know – this kind of dialogue can get complicated. I think I’m the boy and you’re the man, so I guess you said it. You’re the man. Why don’t we have names?
Because theres no God, if there was he'd hate us and the world is cruel cruel cruel.
They nighted beneath a burnt tree. The boy scouted around and found two desiccated twinkies lying in a pile of trash. They saved one and toasted the remaining one over the fire on a burnt piece of branch until the cream foamed out of the twinkie and the sponge cake turned dark brown. The man fed it to the boy with a broken fork.
Its really good papa.
Here have a tinned peach to wash it down.
Where did you get that?
I dont know we always seem to have some tinned peaches left.
In the morning they tramped back onto the road. The rain had turned to sleet, mixed with ash and bits of old snow. They passed a crashed Boeing 747, its innards hanging into the road. A broken wing pointed hopelessly at the sky. A mess of oxygen masks, pillaged luggage and burnt tortured bodies twined around its aluminum skeleton.
I’m really scared papa.
I said wait here.
No I am really scared papa.
Wait here or I am selling you as a catamite to the next band of cannibals we see on the road.
I fucking said Okay.
The man dug around the inside of the plane working his way methodically from the tail down to the cockpit. He found a Gameboy in the knapsack of a tiny backpack with a burnt teddy bear hanging off it on a rusted keychain. In a luggage compartment he found a felt fedora. He put it on his head and moved forward. In the cockpit he found the pilots still sitting there. Flight caps perched on the caramel brown of their skulls. In the lap of one a thesaurus, swollen by damp, the print still barely legible.
The man put the thesaurus in his pocket and rifled through the cockpit. He found three cans of peaches a Zippo lighter and a samurai sword. The man climbed down out of the plane to show the boy what he’d found. The boy was gone and an icy hand clutched at the mans heart.
He found the boy standing on the top of the rise overlooking the plane. His back to the man, staring down at the field beyond. The boy was jumping up and down in fear. His eyes wide. Clapping his hands and pointing.
How did you know?
The boy pointed again. The man turned his head and looked. He didn’t think he’d ever be okay again. On the savage ashed plain beneath the rise, hidden from the road, a field of stakes. On the top of each a head, covered in matted golden fur, leatherlike tongue lolling out over rotted teeth. Each head never to bark in joyous welcome again.
Golden Retriever puppies.
The boy started crying.
I want a puppy.
The puppies are dead. Im so sorry.
Why papa why?
Because this is just going to keep on getting unimaginably worse until the writer gets a Pulitzer prize just to make him stop.
So the man picked up the boy and turned away from the field of dead puppies.
Look what I found. A thesaurus.
Can we eat it papa?
The man crouched down in the sodden ash and flipped the thesaurus open, ruffling through the pages.
What are you doing papa? Im really hungry.
The man pointed at a page of the thesaurus.
You're very hungry. Veritably hungry. Absolutely, bloody, clearly, decisively, determinedly, distinctly, downright, emphatically, flat out, for a fact, in spades, no holds barred, no ifs ands or buts, no mistake, no strings attached, positively, straight out, strongly, terribly, terrifically, unequivocally, unmistakably, fucking hungry.
In the laudanum evening the two located the trolley. The man labouriously strapped it to his back and they moved into the firescarred woods looking for shelter from the wet, cold, sepulcher dark.
"To act on the belief that we possess the knowledge and the power which enable us to shape the processes of society entirely to our liking, knowledge which in fact we do not possess, is likely to make us do much harm. The recognition of the insuperable limits to his knowledge ought indeed to teach the student of society a lesson in humility, which should guard him against becoming an accomplice in men’s fatal striving to control society—a striving which makes him not only a tyrant over his fellows, but which may well make him the destroyer of a civilization which no brain has designed but which has grown from the free efforts of millions of individuals." Friedrich Hayek