The people of the town wanted to attract more tourism because tourism drives growth and growth is the thing.
At a meeting around this topic, one of the townspeople said, “I don’t understand why we don’t attract more tourism.”
“That’s what this meeting is about, dummy,” someone else said.
A pretty persuasive person at the meeting said, “Personally, I think it’s Rodney.”
At this point, everyone looked at Rodney.
It has to be said that Rodney was somewhat ugly. For instance, his face sported one eye that was much lower than the other and two huge nostrils that everyone joked would be great places to shelter during the next violent storm.
“Goddamn, Rodney is ugly,” someone said, rather redundantly.
Certainly, momentum was now moving in the direction of kicking Rodney out of town, but then someone said, “Don’t we have to be careful considering the last person we kicked out of town was one of God’s prophets?”
“This is true,” someone else said. “And now God is hella mad at us. Given the violent storms previously mentioned, not to mention the nasty tick infestation.”
“Personally,” someone else argued, “I think kicking Rodney out of town will put us back into God’s good graces because what if God likes it when you kick the right person out of town?”
And that is how it was decided.
Rodney himself was in attendance to this particular meeting and they tried to put it to him as nicely as possible, which they did by making a series of questions—“Rodney? Do you think if we? Kicked you out of town? For the sake of the town? You would understand?”
“Obviously,” he began, but someone stopped him—“I’m not sure it would make us feel good to hear you disagree with us, if that is what you’re up to.”
“Haven’t I lived here my whole life?” Rodney pleaded.
“Rodney,” someone said, “many of us have lived here our whole lives. What is your point?”
“But we’re not deciding to kick any of you out of town,” Rodney said.
“Oh, that is your point.”
Rodney continued, “It feels like I’m being made a scapegoat for the other problems of the town, such as the tick infestation and the river that runs black most days. Aren’t these bigger deals in terms of our tourism deficit?”
“That is exactly right!” someone exclaimed. “You are being made the scapegoat! These other problems you mention, hopefully they will be resolved when you go away!”
Then, someone in the meeting bellowed, “I think these negotiations have gone on long enough! It’s time you go!”
Everyone looked around to see who had bellowed and they saw that it was the very strongest guy in town.
This strong guy said, “Did everyone hear me!”
Everyone agreed that they had heard him.
“Now let’s take action!” he bellowed, his huge neck pulsing and bulging like it was about to give birth.
People cheered as the strong guy lumbered up behind Rodney and put him in a headlock.
“Please,” Rodney whispered, “take your hands off me.”
“No way, Jose, or whatever your name is,” the strong guy said.
Another guy, a guy with handcuffs— “Yes, I always have a pair of handcuffs on me, just in case”—came around and put these handcuffs on Rodney’s wrists.
Then the two of them brought Rodney outside, where there was waiting a cart pulled by two big gray horses.
“Why are we doing this with a cart and horses when we have perfectly suitable motorized vehicles?” someone asked.
“I don’t know,” someone else replied. “I guess the cart and horses feel appropriate given the old school nature of what we’re up to?”
After they put Rodney into the back of the cart, they began to clop along to the outskirts of town.
There were probably twenty or thirty people following the cart at first, but more gathered behind as they went through some of the town’s neighborhoods.
People wanted to know what they were up to—why was Rodney in the back of the cart?
The strong guy explained, “We’re of this belief that Rodney is a big problem and so we’re bringing him to the outskirts of town with the hope that he will disintegrate.”
Someone said, “Let’s be clear, he is not going to disintegrate when we get him to the outskirts of town. Rather, our hope is that by expelling Rodney, tourism will improve, and maybe this awful tick problem.”
“Gosh,” a man who had just come of out of his house said, “it would be great if this tick problem was solved by kicking Rodney out of town.”
Then he picked a tick from his face that everyone until then had thought was just a mole.
“Gross,” someone said. “That’s just gross.”
As they carted Rodney to the outskirts of town, he went on pleading with them not to do what they were going to do—“I know I am not one of God’s prophets, but aren’t we all God’s children? That’s what he says, at least. And you don’t want to be risking God’s wrath by expelling me from town, I would think.”
“We think we are doing the right thing,” someone said. “And usually it is enough to think that one is doing the right thing. After all, if there is not an objective reality, which I think we can all agree there is not, then how can one ever be sure one is doing the right thing, or the wrong thing? It’s a real crapshoot, I think we can all agree. Do you know what I mean?”
“No,” Rodney said.
“But I bet other people understand what I’m trying to say.”
No one else said anything.
When they finally arrived to the outskirts of town the strong guy lifted Rodney down from the cart and then the man who had put the handcuffs on his wrists removed them.
Rodney rubbed his wrists.
“You are not rubbing your wrists because the handcuffs were too tight?” this man said.
“Because I made sure not to put them on too tight. I thought I did not put them on too tight. I would hate for you to go into your exile thinking, wow, that guy was a real jerk for putting those handcuffs on too tight.”
Rodney said, “My wrists are fine, please don’t worry.”
Someone passed Rodney a red sack of stuff.
He looked inside—there were granola bars, a blank DVD, sunglasses.
“The sunglasses are for how sunny it gets out here,” someone said.
“It really is like a desert now,” someone else observed about the outskirts of town. “I guess I hadn’t realized how desert-y it had become. Should I be worried?”
“No,” someone else said. “Because if it can become desert-y so easily don’t you think it can become something else just as easily?”
Rodney put the sunglasses on, looked around. “Where do I go?”
“There’s another town, uh, that way, I think,” someone said, pointing in a direction.
But no town could be seen in the direction this person was pointing.
“Or, no, that way,” this same person said, now pointing in a different direction.
But no town could be seen in this direction either, not even a road, just a flat unending landscape interrupted here and there by tiny clusters of helpless-looking trees.
Rodney shook his head— “Aren’t I being really equa-, equa-, what is the word?”
“Yeah,” Rodney said. “Aren’t I being really equanimous about all of this?”
Everyone agreed that he was being quite equanimous, although some people later admitted that they did not know what the word meant.
If Rodney had had a wife or a girlfriend or a husband or a boyfriend or someone who really loved him, maybe that person would have spoken up for him at this point.
Or, earlier—probably that person would have spoken up for him earlier.
But Rodney did not really have someone like that in his life.
“Now, go,” the strong guy said, so Rodney began to go.
He walked slowly towards the horizon, turning his head back a couple times hoping someone would tell him all of this had been a big joke.
But no one said anything.
People had intended to watch Rodney walk all the way to the horizon, but Rodney was walking pretty slowly and the horizon seemed farther away than people had supposed.
“I did not realize the horizon was so far away,” someone said. “Has the distance of the horizon increased or something?”
“I think the distance of the horizon is the same,” someone else said. “It’s just that Rodney is slow as hell.”
“Another reason to have booted him from town.”
When Rodney still had not made much progress, people began to drift away.
“I have to get home for dinner,” someone said. “After all, I have loved ones.”
“I have loved ones too,” another person said.
“I don’t have loved ones, but that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy dinner,” someone else said.
So that when Rodney finally did reach the horizon, there was no one to see it, no one watching over Rodney, with the exception of a lone gray rabbit, who half considered Rodney as it gnawed furiously at the brown root of something.
The thing is, with Rodney gone, tourism did increase, and the tourists were explicit about why they had finally come—it was Rodney’s absence, they said, because he had been somewhat ugly and all of that.
Tourism didn’t increase to the point where all of the town’s fortunes were changed—the river still went black most days, the tick infestation persisted—but the results were enough that the town’s people felt they had done the right thing with Rodney.
Perhaps most surprisingly, Rodney’s exile had no consequences from God.
In fact, the town received word from one of God’s representatives that not only would there be no consequences for Rodney’s expulsion, but that all was forgiven for their previous expulsion of one of God’s prophets.
“Wouldn’t you know it?” one of the townspeople responded upon hearing this news.
Thus, the people thought they had learned a good lesson from the episode, which was that sometimes it does work to make a scapegoat of someone.
You just have to make sure it’s the right person.