Part 2 of 2. For the first part of this serial, read last week’s post.
Rodrigo’s twins spent many evenings in the bedroom they shared talking about what they would do after graduation. Pepe had responded to his mother’s sudden departure and the subsequent detachment of his father from anything resembling parenthood by pouring himself into his schoolwork. His grades spiked upward in middle school and never returned to earth. By his senior year, he was one of the top 3 students in his class and had his sights set with laser-like focus on Yale, where he hoped to get into the acclaimed drama school so that he could follow in the footsteps of his favorite actor, David Duchovny, and pursue his dream of bringing the X-Files to Broadway.
His brother, Francois, on the other hand, had elected to spend most of high school carefully cultivating a planned indifference to anything academic. Every afternoon involved a trip to the home of a member of the senior class’s stoner community, smoking cheap pot, and eating heretofore inconceivable amounts of chips and other snacks while watching YouTube. However, even cheap cannabis came at a cost, and given his pervasive appetite for it, Francois found himself spending ever more time at the vet’s, making sure that he had enough cash on hand for his extracurricular activities.
Francois dimly understood that staying at home with his father after high school might prove antithetical to his pot-smoking, cash-making existence. He had observed Rodrigo making frequent trips into the backyard at odd hours to bury small boxes filled with something that Francois couldn’t identify. (In fact, Rodrigo was hiding the cash from his side job as a computer hacker, a fact Francois might have learned if he wasn’t perpetually baked and so infrequently home.) When he had asked Rodrigo why there were now 40 tiny grave sites in the backyard, his father had pushed him against the wall, both hands twisting the fabric of his tee shirt, whispering intensely about “others are listening” and how he “couldn’t be too careful.” In his chronically-impaired state, Francois couldn’t piece together the source of his father’s angst, but concluded that (a) the miniature cemetery in the backyard was something best kept to himself, and (b) he needed to shut down the gaming business at the vet’s office.
Rodrigo, meanwhile, found himself spending even more time than normal avoiding his kids, desperate to avoid any discussion about their post-high-school educational plans, or to even talk within the confines of his house, which he had become increasingly convinced was bugged. On the odd night when he did make it back for dinner, the conversation invariably turned combative as Pepe shoved glossy pamphlets in front of him showing the resplendent Yale campus. Rodrigo at first simply ignored the literature, shoveling food into his mouth to avoid having to respond. But as Pepe employed increasingly brazen efforts to secure his father’s Ivy League approval – including hiring single-engine airplanes to buzz the house on weekends pulling banners that read, “Yale + Pep? Yep!”, and the more veiled, “Light and Truth and Pepe in the Bloom of Youth” while Rodrigo dug new money holes in the backyard – Rodrigo’s patience wore thin. Early rebuffs focused on Rodrigo’s assessment that New Haven was “a dump,” and later moved to blunt denials: “Save the money on the banners and ride that plane to a State school, Flyboy.” All of this occurred on top of a curious – to the boys – and sudden prediliction of their father to suddenly and always turn the house’s stereo system on at frighteningly loud volumes whenever any conversation started.
Francois watched the increasingly toxic interactions between his brother and father, (a) yearning for a limitless supply of weed, and (b) staying silent about the future, congratulating himself on the fact that random drug testing wasn’t part of the screening process at Crazy Clyde’s Tri-County Car Lot, and calculating how much per day he would need to make on a junkyard full of rusting Chevys to support his need for nachos and cannabis.
* * *
At Chez Francesca, Millie and Jillie’s mom continued to fill 3-ring binders full of data about Juilliard and U.C. Santa Cruz. Millie’s passion for Juilliard had been replaced with a pervasive ennui. As the only pan flute-playing candidate applying to Julliard – and indeed, perhaps to any college in the United States – she had concluded that Francesca’s mania, which had now broadened beyond simple data collection into the drafting of Millie’s personal statement, left her little need to actively engage in the process. In fact, Millie’s primary purpose, as she read draft 14 of “her” essay to Julliard, was to remove any accidental references by Francesca to herself, rather than to Millie. (Early versions had included multiple statements about “Millie’s” status as a widow, and how her husband’s life had been claimed by a massive pile of excrement. While Millie briefly toyed with the idea of leaving it in the personal statement, she decided to make the necessary edits, as she knew how much her mother wanted her to get into Julliard.
Jillie, meanwhile, continued to post solid grades while wanting only to attend “that banana slug school.” A quick scan of binder 3 of 11 with the U.C. Santa Cruz data had led her, correctly, to conclude that her acceptance there was a foregone conclusion. With her near-term academic future all but assured, Jillie disappeared for hours after school, surfacing with Doritos orange flavoring at the corners of her lips, often wearing a jacket that Millie quietly observed came from “Frenchy,” the seemingly parentless kid who talked relentlessly about used cars and reeked of pot.
* * *
Igor Quince’s vision of a poison-ivy empire, misguided though it was, filled him with joy and passion. Over lunch with his pan flute-playing peer, Millie, she had pointed out to him that the only way he would learn to grow the finest poison ivy in the world was by attending a top-flight agricultural university. Bedazzled by Millie generally, and by the pan flute specifically, Igor concluded that she was right, and threw himself into the university application process with a vigor previously unseen in generations of Quinces
He spoke to local alumni from all the leading schools, networking his way into relevance at each. He flew – first class – to each of the top institutions, staying at them for a week and taking the student-led tours every day to demonstrate his commitment to 10 different programs (all the while wearing a tee shirt with a picture of an onion and the words, “Syn-propoanthial-S-oxide makes me cry” on it). Igor had also hired former admissions officers as consultants to help him more fully develop his interview skills, and secured the assistance of a Pulitzer-prize winning journalist and the previous year’s runner up for the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction to assist with his personal statement.
His parents didn’t begrudge the lad the $150,000 in pre-college expenses, though they didn’t profess to understand the need for them.
While Igor honed in on his target with manaical focus, Barbie’s “life plan” to party and ski while attending the University of Colorado had not resulted in a short-term commitment to academics. Her grades had slipped in the first half of senior year, leaving her struggling to stay in the top half of her class. She mocked Igor’s jet setting across the country in pursuit of the ideal agricultural program, pointedly observing in front of her parents that investing six figures before college to develop a poison ivy career represented a decidedly poor investment decision.
The Quinces, ever clueless, praised Igor’s “pioneering spirit” and suggested to Barbie that she should exhibit more of his “moxie.”
* * *
Pepe received his early-acceptance decision to Yale. He celebrated by digging up the ever-growing pile of boxes in the backyard late one afternoon while Rodrigo hid from authorities in a cheap motel and Francois slipped into his normal haze at a friend’s house. In an attempt to extract some leverage from his unsupportive father, Pepe had, in the end, resorted to surveilling his own house remotely, placing small cameras and recording devices throughout the interior and backyard to learn information that might prove useful in his quest for higher education. As he reviewed this data during his free 8th period at school, Pepe had discovered Rodrigo’s side business and what the tiny boxes in the backyard contained. He now carefully dug up a third of the cardboard coffins, replanted them to avoid detection, and made a $50,000 (cash) tuition payment to Yale.
Pepe received his ED acceptance from Texas A&M, and promptly took a group of classmates out to celebrate, including some people on the fringe of the Stoner Clique. There, he met Francois, smoked pot, and immediately changed his focus from poison ivy to cross breeding an extremely potent form of cannabis that he planned to sell for “medicinal purposes.”
* * *
Millie received an initial rejection from Juilliard. Her mother reviewed the 33,429 pages of previously-compiled data and concluded that Millie would still get in through the regular admissions process. After Francesca delivered her a 139-slide Power Point over the course of a Saturday afternoon to explain the situation, Millie shrugged, walked upstairs to her bedroom, and played the collected works of Zamfir. Loudly.
* * *
Millie received her final rejection from Juilliard. Francesca’s devastation led her to place a series of phone calls to the last known disposable cell phone number she had for Rodrigo, as she now believed that the data he had provided her perhaps wasn’t “the real stuff.”
Millie cursed herself for not being more involved in the admissions process and checked the pdf of the personal statement her mother had drafted for her in an effort to determine what could have gone wrong. She collapsed on the kitchen floor, dumbly staring at the screen as she read it, realizing for the first time that Francesca had mistakenly submitted the “widow/dung death” draft to Juilliard.
Jillie opened her acceptance letter to U.C. Santa Cruz. She gave her mom a quick hug and immediately rushed out the front door to give her “friend” back the jacket he had loaned her.
Barbie received a rejection letter from the University of Colorado. Her personal statement had said only, “My parents will donate the funds for a new library if you let me in. ;).” After recovering from the gales of hysterical laughter that had left them gasping for breath and dangerously close to releasing the contents of their bladders upon reading a personal statement that contained an emoticon, the University’s admissions officials drafted a unique rejection letter for Barbie. It read, simply, “Nope. :0. D’oh!”
With no parental guidance and, not coincidentally, no fall back plan, Barbie informed the Quinces she was taking a year off to “find herself.” Within months, she was fast friends with a smelly, VW-Beetle-driving woman she met while following the Grateful Dead around the country.
Francois dropped out of school with a month left before graduation and made $7,000 in his first 30 days selling used cars.
* * *
What does this have to do with prosthetics?
Rodrigo, Francesca, the Quinces = prosthetists
Pepe, Francois, Jillie, Millie, Igor, Barbie = amputees who need new prostheses
Yale, Juilliard, Texas A&M = high-tech, high-cost prosthetics that require special expertise to get approved/paid
U.C. Santa Cruz, University of Colorado = perfectly-fine but “old-tech” prosthetics that require no special expertise to get approved/paid
Crazy Clyde’s Tri-County Car Lot = Crazy Clyde’s Tri-County Car Lot
Which amputee(s) do you need to be if you want to always maximize your access to the broadest range of possible prosthetic solutions?