Simpson was still hoping to fill the gap, still looking around for common ground, and, not finding any, he created some by visiting the zoo (one of the pastor’s few outside interests, according to John, the janitor) and came to the table that evening full of it.
“Father, I didn’t know they let those big turtles run around loose.”
“Tortoises, Father. Harmless.”
“Tortoises. But people shouldn’t write stuff on their shells.”
“Do it here, in the pews.”
That had been it for the zoo.
On his next afternoon off, Simpson visited the Museum of Natural History (one of the pastor’s few outside interests, according to John) and came to the table that evening full of it.
“Father, how about that big moose by the front door!”
“Elk, Father. Megaceros Hibernicus.”
“Elk. Those crazy antlers! Wouldn’t want to run into him!”
That had been it for the Museum of Natural History.
—from “One of Them,” which can be found in The Stories of J. F. Powers. We think this might be what William H. Pritchard means in his review of Suitable Accommodations when he calls Powers’ humor “dry wit with all the wet squeezed out of it.”
On a totally unrelated note: what if, in an alternate literary universe, Powers’ eager-to-please Simpson went to the turtle tank, not the tortoise exhibit, and schemed to free the turtles a lá William and Neaera from Turtle Diary and forgot his petty parish house social angst entirely? NYRB fan fiction writers,* go!
*NYRB fan fiction writers may or may not exist…yet.