The Prodigal Parents

The Prodigal Parents

by Sinclair Lewis
     
 

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In the darkness of the country road after midnight the car was
speeding, but the three young men jammed together in the one seat
did not worry. They were exhilarated by the violence of the
speeches they had heard at the strikers' mass meeting in the
factory town of Cathay. When the car skidded slightly on a turn
and the left-hand wheels crunched

Overview

In the darkness of the country road after midnight the car was
speeding, but the three young men jammed together in the one seat
did not worry. They were exhilarated by the violence of the
speeches they had heard at the strikers' mass meeting in the
factory town of Cathay. When the car skidded slightly on a turn
and the left-hand wheels crunched on the gravelled shoulder, the
driver yelped, 'Hey, whoa-up!' But she did not whoa-up.

They were not drunk, except with high spirits. They had had a few
bottles of beer, but what intoxicated them was the drama of thick-
necked, bright-eyed strike leaders denouncing the tyranny of the
bosses, the press, the taxpayers and all other oppressors. Two of
the young men were juniors in Truxon College, and as they
considered themselves to have been frequently and ludicrously
misjudged by their own bosses, their parents and professors, they
would (they told themselves) have stayed on in Cathay, joined the
picket line, brave with bricks and pick handles, and probably have
been gloriously killed, had it not been for a critically important
fraternity dance at Truxon next evening.

As a substitute for thus entering the martyrs' profession, they now
howled a song which stated that Labour was a Mighty Giant which was
going to smash all its foemen immediately.

The third young man did not sing with them. He was a radical
agitator; his name was Eugene Silga; he was slim and taut, with
skin the colour of a cigar; and he had had quite enough singing in
Cathay County Jail, a month ago. When the students stopped for
breath, he protested, in the easy voice of a professional speaker,
'You seem to think it's going to be a cinch to overthrow the
exploiting capitalist class--your own class, remember, you cursed
sons of aristocrats. It's not! It'll take a lot more than singing
to make Wall Street apologize to the Proletariat and go crawl in a
hole.'

'Hurray! Wall Street in a hole! Lez go dig the hole!' bawled the
driver.

This driver was a tall, wide young man, with wavy hair of red gold,
a Norse god with eyes like the Baltic Sea in summer, and a face
handsome as a magazine cover and stupid as a domesticated carp.
His name was Howard Cornplow, and he was an adept in football, in
golf, and in finding reasons why, at any particular recitation
hour, he knew nothing whatever about the epistemology of Plato's
Meno. He did know a great deal about the crawl stroke, however,
which may have been just as well.

Howard Cornplow was a hearty young man, and he loved to argue.
Accelerating a little, occasionally looking away from the road
toward the agitator Silga, who sat in the dimness over beside the
right-hand door, he shouted, 'Oh, rats, Gene! Don't you think if
all us educated guys gang up on our folks, they'll snap out of
their fool ex-up-expropriating attitude?'

'I do not!'

'Now look here. You take my dad. Old Fred. I can argue him down
till he skips out and slams the door.'

As Howard continued, it was revealed that this 'dad', motor dealer
in the city of Sachem Falls, N.Y., was an acceptable fellow, and
that he was chronically overcome by his son's eloquence. Just to
clarify it, Howard gave samples of the eloquence, and during the
spirited recital he forgot that he was driving an automobile, and
at sixty-five miles an hour.

The other student, Guy Staybridge, scrawny, big-nosed, spectacled,
eager, wailed, 'Hey, watch what you're doing, will you, young
Cornplow?'

'Don't you worry. I'm a careful driver,' clucked the Norse god, as
he happily developed his theme that, in order to be converted to
loving communism, the stuffy, prosperous, middle-class merchants
like Fred Cornplow needed nothing more than friendly tips from such
up-to-date examples of the Youth Movement as Howard Cornplow,
Eugene Silga, and Guy Staybridge, with a few explanations about how
the economic system really worked.

The car swayed on an abrupt turning. Howard kept it snugly to the
right. But this was an S-curve, and as Howard looked away from the
road towards Eugene, accelerating a little in his triumphant high
spirits, the car, in a hundredth of a second, in a madness of speed
that had nothing to do with time by the watch, bolted across the
ditch, bounded on turf, twisted--crushing the three young men
closer together--half swung around, grazed a birch tree, smashed a
fender and a headlight and half the hood, and came up short, while
the huddle of three were jerked sidewise, then hurled toward the
windshield.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
2940013693531
Publisher:
WDS Publishing
Publication date:
01/20/2012
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Sales rank:
513,672
File size:
201 KB

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