The Crazy Son-In-Law (Flash Fiction)

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Flash Fiction #145

“I’ve told you a thousand times that I didn’t slap my crazy son-in-law. It’s just a little pat on his head. Several people saw it and the rumor just started. It eventually evolves into something very untrue, which says I was so angry with him that I slapped him. I didn’t. It’s not true.” Lee says to his companion Mo, both sitting on a big bus for group tourists coming back from their upstate New York trip. All four of them–Lee, Lee’s wife, Mo, Mo’s wife– joined this group, which offered steep discount for four or more people sightseeing together. The trip took them to Niagara Fall first for two days, then coming back to tour Adirondack, Catskill Mountains, the Finger Lakes for two days. The event of the last day is touring West Point and shopping at Woodbury Common outlet mall before driving back to New Jersey.

“If I had slapped my son-in-law, which I didn’t, it would have been for the fact that he deserves it. Don’t you agree?” Lee added, staring at Mo forcefully, waiting for a response.

“Of course. I believe you. He is a little stubborn for sure.” Mo says.

“You have such a good son-in-law, who is a good provider with a good temper. However my son-in-law… Well…Don’t get me started on this topic.” Lee says while clearing his throat.

Lee’s son-in-law Ajin is supposed to be a math professor, but he argued with his colleagues, defied his department chair, conflicted with his cooperator on a research project. When it came to the time to decide on his tenure, he couldn’t get people to vote for him and was consequently fired. Ever since then, Ajin has been working in fast food joints during the day and working on his odd number research at night.

“I should not have allowed my daughter Dana to marry Ajin. However that was more than ten years ago. Ajin was not so bad tempered back then.” Lee says. Lee and his wife are currently living with their daughter Dana and their son-in-law Ajin. Mo and his wife are living with their daughter and son-in-law too. They all belong to the army of grandparents who got several months visas each year to travel to America to take care of their grandchildren, helping cut the kindergarten cost.

The tour bus finally reaches its destination, parking outside of H-Mart Korean grocery store, which is the place where they started their trip five days ago. Lee’s daughter Dana came to pick up the two old couples. She looks quite flustered.

“Dad, something happens to Ajin. Let’s drive home as quickly as possible. And Uncle Mo, please come too. I know you are a retired acupuncturist and you might have some ways to help Ajin.” Dana says. People call their parents’ friends uncle and aunt in the place where Dana grew up.

The four people got into the car and Dana drove as quickly as possible back home. Along the way, Lee and his wife can’t stop asking Dana questions. Mo and his wife join in their inquiry.

“Ajin is mad. Completely mad. He is not listening to anybody. He just laughs and cries and then laughs and cries again.” Dana tells four anxious people in the car.

“I’ve told you he’s crazy. I mean he’s a mathematician, but he’s happy to work in fast food joints to flip burgers. I mean don’t you think he’s crazy? And every night, he is working on his so-called research of some stupid numbers. In my opinion, he’s just wasting papers.” Lee claims.

“Oh, Dad, he was not really wasting papers. He thought he’s onto something–a breakthrough in number theory or something like that.” Dana says.

“That’s what he has been telling you and you believe it. I will never believe such a thing. I think he is wasting papers, wasting his time, and wasting his life. Such an irresponsible person. He doesn’t care if he plunges his family into poverty. He really deserves a slap if you don’t mind me saying so. Of course I didn’t slap him like what the rumor says although he really deserves it.” Lee says.

“Oh Dad, he is really onto something. He submitted his finding to a prestigious journal and he just got a call this morning to congratulate him. Then people are saying he is going to be nominated for a math award that’s almost like the highest one for mathematicians all over the world. That’s why he went mad. He hasn’t eaten anything or drunk anything for the whole day. He doesn’t even know he’s hungry or thirsty. And he laughs like a lunatic and cries like a baby.” Dana says.

“Oh, really? Oh, my goodness. Didn’t I say my son-in-law is a true mathematician?” Lee says to Mo, who’s sitting next to him in the car. “Didn’t I tell you how brilliant he is? I mean his craziness is just a sign of brilliance. I still remember it was me who insisted they got married 15 years ago. I just knew at the time that Ajin was going to be somebody. And now it proves that I was correct. Oh, sorry, I really shouldn’t call him Ajin anymore. I should call him Genius Ajin or Lord Ajin or Your Math Highness from now on.”

“Oh, Dad, what are we going to do? Oh, Uncle Mo, you are an acupuncturist, right? What are we going to do with Ajin. People are calling him to schedule a zoom interview and an in-person interview. If they know he becomes mad…” Dana is a little breathless. She is driving and talking and half crying at the same time.

(The second half of the story is here.)

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