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Fiction American

“Look,” Clive reiterated to his frazzled son and daughter-in-law, “he just needs a little discipline. All he ever does is play those video games. It’s no wonder he’s disobeying. He has no real-life structure. Let me take him to this conference this weekend and open his eyes a little. It can’t hurt. And it may turn his filthy attitude around.”

Twelve-year-old Ramsey’s parents frowned, wobbled their weary heads, but finally, reluctantly, agreed to Clive’s offer.

Ramsey, expectedly, refused the offer on principle. He didn’t believe in “some lame-ass fairytale cult,” and he wasn’t about to give up his gaming console.

But when his parents drew the line, promising to take his computers, monitors, and iPhone out of his room for the entire next week if he didn’t grace his grandpa with his presence on this 4-hour trip, Ramsey caved. What else could he do?

As they were leaving the house, Clive said, “This will be good. You’ll see.”

Ramsey’s eyes didn’t stray from his phone.

“Aw! No iPhones. We agreed,” Clive implored his son.

The boy’s father nodded and sighed. “Ramsey, that’s the deal. No gaming devices whatsoever for the weekend.”

“Dad! Not even a phone? That’s not fair. What am I going to do?”

“You’ll learn something about real life,” Clive said. “This ‘Hearing From God’ conference just might help you respect authority. Which will help you respect yourself.”

Ramsey rolled his eyes for the whole world to experience. “You can’t hear from something that doesn’t exist.”

Clive glowered. “That’s no attitude to have toward the Almighty. You’re lucky he doesn’t take more than your accursed phone away from you.” He snatched the phone from Ramseys’ hand and plopped it in his son’s palm.

“Dad!” Ramsey’s defiance suddenly turned victim.

His dad meekly shrugged.

“But what do I do in case of an emergency? What if I get lost?”

Raising an eyebrow, his dad looked at Clive.

“He won’t get lost. I won’t let him out of my sight.”

“Well, what if he gets old and dies of a heart attack?” Ramsey pleaded.

His dad scratched his head.

“The good Lord’s not done with me yet,” Clive said. “Look, you people forget what it’s like to rely on God instead of your confounded electronic contraptions. It’s time you trusted in God… in me. We know what we’re talking about.”

Ramsey crawled into the back seat, to the dismay of his grandpa. “It’s hard to carry a conversation with you back there,” Clive said. Ramsey didn’t budge.

“Okay, just let me get this GPS thing lined up.” Clive fiddled with the dash monitor. “Let’s see…” He looked at his notes. “…The Eternal Chapel. Okay, on 2331 Lost Drive.” He slowly transcribed his notes into the GPS system, like a bird pecking for elusive insects.

Ramsey shook his head, underwhelmed by his grandfather’s technical prowess. “Sounds like we’ll be lost forever.”

Concentrating on the task at hand, Clive frowned. “What?”

Ramsey rolled his eyes. “You know, you should set that up for voice recognition. It’d make it a lot easier. They’re making these systems more intuitive all the time.”

“Uh-huh. Well, I’m doing fine enough with this old-fashioned way, thank you very much.” After several minutes of painstakingly punching in the information, Clive stiffened with a jolt. “Oh, for crying out loud! I hate these things. Now I’ve got to start all over again. You’d think they could make ‘em where one button doesn’t wipe out your whole address.”

“Want me to do it for you?”

Clive paused. For only a moment. “No. I’m driving. I’ll put it in. If I can’t get it this time, I’ll use the map like the good-ole days.”

Ten minutes later, they were on their way.

Clive tried everything he could think of to get the boy to talk.

“How’s school?”

“Fine.”

“Have many friends?”

“Enough.”

“What do you like to do in your spare time?”

“Game.”

“Game?” Clive pondered that. “You know, I’m an advocate for the Game and Fish Commission. I hunt and fish for my game.” He smiled triumphantly.

“I don’t believe in guns.”

“Oh, come on. America was built on guns.”

“So was gang violence and Hitler’s army.”

Clive took a deep breath and exhaled loudly. “So, do you have a part-time job?”

“No.”

“I used to have a paper route after school. It taught me discipline. I had to show up every day and do my job whether I felt like it or not.” Clive looked back in his rearview mirror. Ramsey made no response. “You know, kids today don’t know what it is to work hard. You think you can just have your parents or someone do everything for you. But it’s working hard that makes you a man. You can’t rely on the government or taxpayers to do your bidding. You’ve got to earn your keep by the sweat of your brow and obey God’s Holy Word.”

“Grandpa, I’m tired. I think I’m going to get a little shuteye here.”

“Okay. Okay. Don’t let me get in the way of your beauty sleep.”

When it was time to stop for gas, Clive pulled over. Immediately, the navigation system informed him he needed to get back on the highway. “I know it, you fool thing,” Clive said. “I’m just getting gas. Dumb machines. They haven’t a clue what life’s about.”

Clive looked in the back seat. The boy was sound asleep. The stimulation of getting out and seeing the world is probably overwhelming the poor kid, thought Clive. After pumping the gas, he observed that his slumbering grandson had not moved an inch. He went inside to pay (because you can’t trust those computerized pumps).

Upon Clive’s return, Ramsey’s head had swiveled to the other side. But other than that, the kid was just as he’d left him, buckled and sleeping.

With a vigilant eye on his rearview mirror, Clive saw Ramsey awaken soon after they obeyed the GPS guide and got back on the road. “I got some beef jerky for you.” Clive proffered a package back to his grandson in the back seat.

“No thanks. I don’t believe in killing animals.”

“Don’t believe in killing animals? That’s why God put ‘em here.”

“My dog, Pootsy, would have something to say about that.”

Clive scowled. “Pootsy’s a pet.” He brought his offering back to the front seat and looked at the jerky, thinking of the boy’s little Boston terrier. He focused back on the road. “Man was meant to eat meat. It’s American.”

Ramsey shrugged. “Not me.”

“But you’re not old enough to make that decision. What do your parents say about all of this?”

“They’re okay with it as long as I have convictions about it.”

“Hmph. Convictions about the wrong thing is… wrong though. You want to be wrong?”

“From whose opinion?”

“From mine. And God’s.”

“I’m going to go with a solid yes.”

Clive ground his teeth and seethed. He wasn’t going to let this spoiled brat get under his skin.

After he cooled off some miles down the road, Clive said, “We’re almost there. You’re gonna love this speaker. He really tells it like it is. No pransey-footing around. Straight from the mouth of God.”

Ramsey said nothing. He looked out the window.

Clive said, “Let me tell you, Son, God will lead you where you need to go. Our job is to listen. Listen and go. Obedience is God’s path to righteousness. Get ready to see the Lord move and shake!”

Clive could hardly contain his excitement as he followed the GPS voice into a parking lot. His effervescent smile vanished when he stopped in front of a sign crudely displaying three topless dancers with alcoholic drinks and streamers tantalizing onlookers. “What the…”

“Are we here?” Ramsey chirped.

Clive blinked. Dumbfounded. “No, we’re not here. This is not the Everlasting Chapel. This is…” He looked around at the lude advertisements covering the windows, “…the den of Satan.” The GPS said, “You have arrived.” He looked down at his dash, which confirmed the trip’s end. “This confounded thing messed up.”

“These new systems don’t mess up like that, Grandpa. They go where they’re told.”

“But I didn’t put in this…” he looked at the establishment’s overhead sign again, “…Gentleman’s Playhouse. I put in the Everlasting Chapel. You saw me.”

“Yeah, but the technology today is going more and more toward conscious recognition. It probably knew where you really wanted to go.”

Clive’s wide eyes froze. He looked at his dashboard. Then back at the sign. His horrified gaze finally landed on his grandson. “Don’t tell your parents about this.” He lunged for the glove compartment, opened it, and retrieved a map. “We’re going to the ‘Hearing from God’ conference. As planned.”

Ramsey smiled in the back seat.

June 17, 2022 11:40

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