(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Reed Landers is the ordinary son in an extraordinary family of geniuses. Looking back from the perspective of adulthood, Reed narrates the story of his family and several key incidents in the summer of 1966. Reed’s father is Duncan Landers, a National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) scientist who has changed his last name from Lrsdysksz to Landers to accommodate the public relations department at the agency. Reed’s mother is Gloria Rainstrap, a poet and social activist who spends most of her time traveling around the country and giving poetry readings and speeches on behalf of migrant workers and other disadvantaged groups.

Life at the family home in suburban Houston, Texas, reflects the idiosyncrasies of a household of geniuses, each of whom is preoccupied with his or her own intellectual pursuits. Duncan works at a drafting board in the front hallway of the house, and Gloria is constantly on the road trying to advance social causes. The family survives on a diet of sardines and crackers in a house that lacks a telephone, television, or automobile. The daughter leaves home to study chemistry at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology but later joins her mother’s social crusading. Meantime, Reed waits for the spark of the family’s genius to strike him.

In the summer of 1966, when he is seventeen, Reed is finally freed from the expectation of following in the inspired footsteps of his parents and sister when his little brother Garrett manifests the signs of genius. Reed realizes that the family’s genius has passed him by and pursues a more normal life. Reed buys a car, a green Plymouth Fury III, and goes to work doing odd jobs at the San Jacinto Resort Motel. His best friend, Jeff Schreckenbah, works next door at Alfredo’s American Café. He starts buying fashionable clothes for himself and living the life of a...

(The entire section is 759 words.)