An American Tragedy

Kathy and Bob Martin and their two adorable children, Tommy and Jenny, lived in Commercial Village, where all those people you see in commercials live. They lived there until budget cuts forced them to leave and set up housekeeping in Oak Acres, Illinois.

The adjustment was rough. Bob was unaccustomed to doing any real work; he was used to going to his office, having a humorous tussle with the copy machine, and then hanging around the water cooler comparing notes on health insurance. Having to actually prepare reports, deal with neurotic coworkers and be generally unappreciated and unvalued was exhausting. He was so exhausted that his ever-important golf game suffered.
Kathy found that actually cleaning house was a lot more work than simply spritzing a miracle cleaner onto something and giving it a quick wipe. Doing that in Oak Acres didn’t magically erase all the dirt. She had to scrub and scrub and scrub, and the “fresh pine and lemon scent” suddenly seemed noxious. She was also distressed that sometimes when she flipped pancakes they tore apart in the middle, and she was more shocked than she should have been to find that flipping them by giving the skillet a toss no longer worked.
Their Oak Acres carpet, touted as “stain-proof” didn’t live up to expectations. The very first day in the new house, little Tommy, as was his custom, dumped a bottle of Chocolatina syrup (which, incidentally, tasted not the least bit like real chocolate) onto the living room carpet. The carpet did not seize up like their Commercial Village carpet, forcing the syrup into a neat little blob that could be easily picked up, leaving no trace behind. It took some hard scrubbing and the rental of a steamer (which was fiendishly hard to operate) before the carpet was even superficially clean.
Both kids suddenly seemed to lose a lot of their charm. When they caught colds, which they seemed to do approximately two days after they’d gotten over the last cold, they didn’t just have a few cute sniffles. Their noses leaked copious amounts of variously colored slime unlike anything Bob and Kathy had ever seen before, and they learned to whine and talk back. Their backtalk wasn’t even witty as it used to be.
The Martins’ dog, Rocky, had changed too. He got into everything, forgot how to talk and dance, and there was more. Bob and Kathy scoured the supermarket (which was crowded with cranky customers and incompetent employees) and bought the most expensive gourmet dog food they could find. It was billed as “A luscious feast of free-range chicken, wild rice, Gruyere cheese and a touch of organic watercress.” It sounded so appetizing that Kathy and Bob made half-jokes about eating it themselves some night. Rocky ate it up with gusto and the Martins were proud of themselves, until later that night when they found out via an angry phone call that Rocky had knocked over the neighbors’ garbage cans and eaten the disastrous remains of a Hamburger Helper casserole.
It went on and on like that. Repair people didn’t arrive cheerfully on the doorstep thirty seconds after an appliance quit. Bob’s miserable work days were not brightened by the antics of a talking camel. When Kathy got a job for herself (for they found that a family of four plus a dog simply could not live comfortably on Bob’s salary alone) she didn’t get to drink huge foamy coffee drinks at her desk, her lipstick did smear, and her nylons ran like crazy. Their car mechanic turned out to have served multiple prison terms for vandalism and fraud, both of which he happily practiced on their temperamental car. Their cereal didn’t stay crisply afloat in the milk when they took a break from breakfast to watch a beautiful sunrise; it turned to mush. The kids refused to eat anything not brightly colored and/or coated with sugar or salt, and their table manners were nonexistent. All their toys ran on batteries, and those batteries either ran down after two minutes or never seemed to die. The louder and more annoying the toy, the longer the batteries lasted. Tommy’s Space Warriors Assault Vehicle has had the same batteries for six months of daily use and it’s still going strong.
Worst of all, Kathy and Bob found out the hard way that nobody cared about their medical complaints. They couldn’t just go into a store and strike up a friendly conversation with the overworked pharmacist about their constipation. Kathy didn’t make any BFF’s trading girl-talk in the feminine hygiene aisle. And nothing ostracized Bob from his fellow office workers faster than a water-cooler revelation about his dry scalp.
The Martins have entered the world of Reality, and it isn’t agreeing with them.


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