Though he was found not guilty, the man was deemed unfit for civilized society and sentenced to a lifetime in Wichita. “Like the Glen Campbell song?” the man asked, the chain links of his shackles tinkling hopefully.
“No,” the judge said and pounded the gavel.
The boy’s mother said she’d kill herself before she’d eat McDonald’s again. Quit being so cynical, her husband said. As a stipulation of their divorce, she was permanently relocated to Wichita.
The man and the boy’s mother met in a church and married there a short time later. Neither believed in god, however, not before Wichita and not now. The two ate under fluorescent lights in strip mall restaurants and watched TV shows that presupposed their laughter. They fornicated Wednesday evenings and went to the grocery store Saturday mornings.
Both wept into their pillows each night when they assumed the other was asleep. The boy’s mother thought often of the boy, but it was better for him never to know Wichita. The man set a sunset photograph as the desktop background on the computer in his cubicle. He told himself Wichita had always been there, he had always been Wichita. It was easier this way.
When they grew bored and older, they sought self-improvement at the local university. They enrolled in classes and after one semester emerged so stupid that thick pearls of drool dribbled perpetually from their lips. They could always find their car in parking lots by following the sun-drying ropes of saliva.
The boy’s mother died on the linoleum floor of a McDonald’s bathroom. The boy had long forgotten her. In his grief the man went insane, commit- ted a most contemptible act, and was sentenced to death, although the jury found him guilty of nothing but Wichita.