Inspired by the music video for “Simple Song” by The Shins.
The Garrisons were no ordinary family. It seemed odd to even call them one. Sure, they lived in the same house, shared many of the same genes, and even ate the same evening meal. Still, they lacked one of the primary characteristics of any family: communication. Thus, they lacked that all-important sense of community. They also lacked the building blocks of any good household, the communal watching of “The Walking Dead” every Saturday night.
The Father, Bill, was the beloved Town Mayor. He was known for his larger than life public personality, but at home he was a man of few words. His wife, Thelma, was one of the State’s top lawyers. There was no arguing with her, ever. Their only son, Luke, was captain of Princeton’s illustrious debating team. He was as smart as they get, and he knew it. The eldest daughter, Penelope, already had three school science fairs to her name by sixteen. However, she wanted at least two more to feel content. The Garrisons also had another child, Rosie. Rosie was considerably less likely to be discussed at one of Thelma’s dinner parties. That is because Rosie was innately different to the rest of the family, so much so, that her siblings would often mock her for being “adopted”. This was, of course, a lie.
At eight years of age, Rosie was always full of questions and would constantly ask her family for answers to the many questions to life she brewed up inside her on an hourly basis. For instance, Rosie may as: “How come the sky’s blue?”
One of the family might reply: “Due to the reflection of the sea.”
This would then be followed up with: “Why is the sea blue?”
Eventually, they would tire of such questions and would finally result to telling her “Because it is,” and leave the room. Rosie’s questions were very rarely answered.
Outside of Rosie’s frequent questioning, the Garrison family hardly ever spoke to one another. Perhaps they had no need to ask questions like Rosie did. After all, that’s what the internet id for, isn’t it? For whatever reason, they could not get on with one another. Not even to the extent of saying “Good morning”.
Breakfast was usually taken in silence, something which Rosie hated but could do little about. Only in times of utmost necessity, did the Garrisons speak to each other. Times like passing a bowl of stuffing at Christmas dinner or the television remote. At breakfast, there was nothing which needed to be passed. Their family habits were something totally unknown to the tight-knit town of East Strange, a town who only saw them for the intellectual powerhouse they were. They saw the neatly trimmed lawn, the unmissable duo of deluxe-edition Mercedes out the front and the unused yet pristine swimming pool (which could just be seen over the almost intentionally low gate). Even the most welcoming of welcome mats greeted guests at the door. The townsfolk saw their success but never heard the silence.
On one eventful summer morning, the Garrisons had to do away with their morning routine and do something they hardly knew how to do anymore, speak to one another.
The small radio played from the kitchen counter, behind the table where the family sat munching their morning meal. It was the local station, the one they had always listened to. The usual host’s voice solely occupied the air like it would on any other morning.
“In other news, local man Vance Garrison passed away yesterday evening.” Bill briefly looked up from his morning newspaper and coughed awkwardly before returning to it moments later. His father’s death was no longer a shock to him nor the family, they received the call informing them of his death twenty-four hours earlier. Vance had been sick in the hospital for roughly three years so his death didn’t faze him too much and neither did the radio announcement. Still, Rosie started to cry again. “Why would they talk about Grandad?” she asked teary-eyed but the family shushed her as the radio presenter continued with the seemingly non-newsworthy bulletin.
“Last week Vance called in to tell us about his condition. He was aware he didn’t have long left so he came to us with one of the strangest requests we’ve ever had on this show, and we’ve had our fair share of them during my time here. Anyway, Vance told us he had no idea who to hand his will over to as he drifted from the people closest to him towards the end of his life. And so… he has given US here at KBG Radio, the full extent of his will. All to hand out to one lucky recipient on today’s show. All you gotta do, is answer one simple question to win. The prize, you ask? A whopping one million dollars. Yeah, you heard me, ONE-MILLION-DOLLARS. The full prize will go to the first caller who phones in with the correct answer to this question set out by the late Vance Garrison himself.” The presenter coughed and waited a few seconds to build suspense.
“What was my favourite thing in life? If a winner is not found within the hour, the full prize will be given to the Tree Mount Hospital where the late Mr. Garrison was admitted.”
The Garrisons stopped eating. One by one they looked at one another in disbelief at the news. Rosie covered her ears as the others broke into a bout of cursing.
“Holy Fucking Shit. Since when was Grandad a millionaire?” asked Luke.
“I honestly had no clue.” Bill looked flustered and somewhat constipated. If you looked closely you could almost witness his very soul leave his body as he was gripped by the serenity of newfound worth for his father, his net worth that is.
“Not only was he a millionaire, but the miserable old geezer didn’t leave us a single penny unless we answer that stupid question of his,” said Thelma with her characteristic charm and eloquence.
“Think. We all need to just shut up and think.” This time it was Lily to take control of the dialogue and situation. “Someone’s going to take that prize away from us if we don’t think of the answer soon.”
Once more the family sat in silence. Entranced in their thoughts and stretching their minds for memories of their grandfather they’d already forgotten.
“He loved horsies, we should try horsies!” shouted Rosie amid the silence. “Oh and whiskey, I remember he’d always ask for it in the hospital but they’d never let him have it…” Her enthusiasm was quickly extinguished by the gust of air coming from the sighs of her temperamental kin.
“Go to your room Rosie, you can come back in an hour,” instructed Bill, as calmly as he could.
“But I wanna help win the prize Daddy! That’s not fair! Please, I remember that he used to love horsies so much he’d put money on them. I don’t know how the money stayed on them but he really did love his horsies,” pleaded Rosie, to no avail.
“Go to your room.”
“Go to your room, right now young lady.”
With Rosie out of the room, the family returned to their trance-like state. Occasionally one of them would put forth an idea, only for it to be rejected by the rest. The radio station stayed on full volume. Miley Cyrus’ “Party In The U.S.A” played eerily as the wait to find the winner loomed over the room and town alike. Suddenly Miley’s voice was silenced and the family knew exactly what that meant. Not only had they missed one of the greatest chorus’ in the history of man, but they’d now lost a million dollars on top of that. Every one of them let out an audible cry that even the neighbours might’ve heard had they been listening. Bill even slammed his fist on the table, hurting himself in the process. It was too late. For once, they had lost. After the cries came a subsequent silence as everyone waited to see who had stolen the prize from them, the rightful recipients. The presenters voiced boomed at them through the deafeningly loud radio, no one dared lower it.
“Hold the lines! Stop calling in, because we have someone on our line right now with the right answer! And if things weren’t crazy enough, our winner has opted to give the full prize to the Tree Mount Hospital. I for one, didn’t see that a gesture of tremendous goodwill coming but it’s something I’m sure the late Vance would have appreciated immensely. And so, it gives me great honour to reveal the mystery caller who cracked the million-dollar question.”
The presenter paused.
“Rosie, can you please tell our listeners the answer… I’m sure they’d all love to hear it.”