In Family Values
by Art Bushwald
Since I was in the neighborhood recently, I arranged to
stop by and visit Ward Barr, an old classmate who lives in
Fire-n-Brimstone, Florida, near the Georgia line. Ward has
a comfortable 50s-style three-bedroom home that he shares
with his current wife, June, and two sons from his first marriage,
Wally and Theodore. After exchanging pleasantries at the door,
we sat down in some overstuffed chairs in the living room.
"Before we get started, Art, ya wanna beer?" asked Ward.
"No thanks, I'm going to be driving again soon."
"Aw, c'mon, Art! One or two beers isn't gonna hurt your driving!
Just look at Dick and Dubya - they drank beer and drove all
"Well, if you put it that way, I guess I'll have one. What
kind do you have?"
"Lone Star," said Ward. "It's Dubya's favorite." He turned
to his wife. "June, get us a couple of brews."
After we were served our beers, Ward continued. "So how's
everything with you, Art?"
"Fine. And you?"
"Everything's fine with me. But I do worry about the moral
decay of this country. Kids today just don't have any family
"Seems to me our generation had its own little bout with
moral turpitude," I said. "Remember our class slogan?"
"You mean, 'Sex and drugs will get us to heaven 'cause we're
the class of '77!'? I still hope it's true," he said wistfully.
"Oh, those were the good old days. I rock 'n rolled all night
and partied every day, just like everyone else. But in those
days it was all right to commit youthful indiscretions. I'm
grown up now and realize that if we let our kids do what we
did, this country will go to hell in a handbasket. That's
why I vote Republican."
Just then, seventeen-year-old Wally Barr came into the room.
"Wally, I'd like you to meet an old high school classmate
of mine, Art Bushwald," said Ward as I stood up and offered
"Uh, whatever," said Wally, who had a tattoo on his forehead
and a ring through his nose. "Say, Dad, can I borrow the Cherokee
tonight? I wanna take Mary Ellen down to the Talahassee Mall."
"The Talahassee Mall? Why do you want to go way down there?"
"Well, gee Dad, Jebbie says it's a real neat place for guys
to hang out with their girls. Especially if they have Cherokees."
"Jebbie... you mean the governor's son?" asked June Barr.
"He's such a sweet boy, so morally upright. He and his brother
Georgie. And their dad, Governor Jeb. Did you know he wants
schools to teach abstinence? He's a real beacon of morality
for our kids."
"And don't forget that wife of his," added Ward. "What's
"It's either Katherine or Cynthia," said June.
"That's right, it's Cynthia," said Mr. Barr, snapping his
fingers. "I saw her on TV the other night. She's a real knockout.
I bet she saw plenty of action when she was younger."
Ward Barr then turned to his older son. "Here's twenty bucks
"Can I have ten bucks for the drug store, too? You know
me, Dad, I'm a good boy scout. I like to be prepared."
"OK, son, here's another ten. Have a good time with Mary
"Don't worry, I will," said Wally as he gave a suspicious
wink. As Wally was going out the door, in stumbled Ward's
fourteen-year-old son, Theodore, who for some reason was called
'Beave'. Beave was followed in by a rather unsavory looking
urchin who had two rings piercing his eyelids and a tie tack
stuck in his tongue. Both of them smelled like they had just
come from a Grateful Dead concert.
"Dad, can I borrow your site password?" mumbled Beave, quite
oblivious to my presence in the room. "I wanna show Larry
some of those really neat pictures on the Internet again."
"Password for which site?" asked Mr. Barr.
"To 'Triple Action Ladies,' Dad. Not those loser sites where
you can't see everything."
"OK, Beave," said Ward as he wrote something down on a piece
of paper and handed it to his son. Then he turned to me.
"As I was saying, this country is in a ruinous moral decline.
Like the Reverend Moon says, if we don't manage our love organs
properly, we're gonna be in deep sh..."
Just then the telephone rang. Mrs. Barr answered it.
"Dear, it's your second wife!" she shouted. "She wants to
know if you're ever going to start making those court-ordered
child support payments."
Ward grabbed the phone from June and started yelling into
the mouthpiece. "You hag! I'll start making payments when
hell freezes over!" Then he slammed the receiver down on the
hook, and came back over to me.
"Crazy witch! Keeps harping on me about those kids I had
with her. But I'm not with her any more so they aren't my
responsibility. Anyway, sorry for all the interruptions. I've
been very rude. I haven't even asked you what you've been
doing with yourself. You're married, aren't you? I mean, you're
not one of those funny boys, are you?"
"Well, some people say I'm 'funny', but not in the way you're
"Well, that's a relief," said the upstanding Mr. Barr. "It's
a good thing you aren't that kind of 'funny'. 'Cause if you
were, God would destroy you. Allen Trovillion said so. And
Jesus did too. It's right there in the Old Testament."
"That's funny," I said. "I always thought Jesus was from
the kindler, gentler New Testament."
"Shows how much you know," snorted Ward. "You really should
read your Bible. You could learn a thing or two about family