This is a chapter from William Penrod’s unpublished novel A Beer Drinker’s Story: The Mama’s Boy.

The title character is a social misfit from Hammond, Indiana, who dreams of writing a novel that will bring him fame and fortune. Unable to find a job, he takes up residence in an abandoned railway station, gets arrested for stealing lunch buckets, and is thrown in the city jail. In his cell, his fantasies take over and he is visited by celebrities who have taken an unusual interest in his plight. (He also tries repeatedly to reach God, but only gets as far as His answering service, the Fiery Finger.)

— Andrew Snee


And now I know that He wants me to try to write a book again and that this time I’ll succeed.

When I talked to Him and asked what He thought about me trying to write a book when I got out and what my chances of success would be, the Fiery Finger appeared and wrote His answer on the wall of my cell:


Then Orson Welles appeared and made me aware of the four videos that I could watch if and when I needed, in his words, “juicing up” while I was writing my book.


“You can play these any time you want,” Orson Welles said when he appeared.

He was there to introduce the four videos, and when he appeared I told him how much I’d always liked him.

“I always thought you were great,” I said.

“Thank you,” Orson Welles said.

“I was sorry when you died,” I said.

“I wasn’t exactly thrilled by that particular event myself, dear boy,” he said, “and my passing so near to the noon-time lunch hour only served to treble my sorrow.”

“You were always so talented,” I said.

“I know,” he said.

“A lot more talented than everybody else,” I said.

“I know,” he said.

“A lot more talented than I could ever be,” I said.

“I know,” he said.


“Here,” Orson Welles said, introducing the first video, “we have a little something called The Admirers.

“It’s really quite popular, and not very long either. Sometimes just a peek at it can keep a writer going with a nice head of steam for quite a while. . . .

“Of course, some of the videos have been altered slightly to conform to the needs of the viewer. . . .

“Watch the screen carefully, but listen also. That’s important. Listen to what the players say.”

“OK,” I said.

I watched the screen and listened. The excited players appeared in groups and said:

“He wrote the book when he got out of jail.”


“It really tells it like it is.”


“I’m gonna read it.”

“Me too.”

“I’ve already read it twice.”

“Me too.”

“I like it better every time I read it.”

“Me too.”

“Everybody wants to read it.”

“That’s for sure.”

“I tried to buy another copy but the bookstore was sold out.”

“All the bookstores are sold out.”

“They sell out all their copies as fast as they get ’em in.”

“It’s already sold more copies than any book there ever was, and it’s gonna sell even more!”

“That’s for sure!”

“He’s already made millions off it.”

“He deserves it.”

“He’s paid his dues.”

“That’s for sure.”

“He’s got a lot of women after him now.”

“That’s for sure.”

“He can have any woman he wants now.”

“That’s for sure.”

“He can handle ’em all, too.”

“That’s for sure.”

“I’ll bet he’s gettin’ plenty now.”

“That’s for sure.”

“Ha ha.”

“Ha ha.”

“I’d sure like to meet him.”

“Me too.”

“I’d shake his hand.”

“Me too.”


“What did you think of that one?” Orson Welles asked when the first video had ended.

“It was nice,” I said.

“I thought you’d like it,” he said.

“Most do. . . .

“Hardly ever fails. . . .”


“This one, The Morning after the Night Before, is an old standard,” Orson Welles said, introducing the second video. “I believe the dinner party in question takes place on the Palm Beach estate of a Walter Annenberg.”

“I heard he’s got a nice place,” I said.

“You heard right,” he said.

“Does this mean Walter Annenberg will invite me to his estate when I finish writing the book?” I asked.

“You can count on it,” he said.

“Will there be other places?” I asked.

“Lots of them,” he said.

“What about Hyannis Port?” I asked.

“That’ll be one of your first stops,” he said.

“Gee,” I said.

In the second video the players excitedly reported all the shocking things I’d said and done at that dinner party. I’d caused an electric current of alarm to sweep through Palm Beach society and elsewhere:

“He was simply outrageous!”

“He arrived in a battered old pickup truck.”

“He was wearing grease-stained work pants and an old, torn workingman’s shirt.”

“It was obvious that he hadn’t shaved or bathed for days.”

Several days.”

“He was crude.”

“He insisted on drinking beer from a can all through dinner.”

“He complained that they’d put too much silverware at his place setting.”

“He made disgusting noises while he was eating.”

“He ate with his fingers.”

“He drank the water from his finger bowl.”

“He poured catsup on the beef Wellington.”

“He doused the peaches flambé with a pitcher of water and complained that the vichyssoise was cold.”

“For dessert he demanded a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich.”

“He wiped his hands on the tablecloth.”

“He blew his nose in a dinner napkin.”

“He picked his teeth with a matchstick.”

“He belched.”

“He farted.”

“He pissed in one of the potted palms.”

“He patted the maid on the ass.”

“He goosed the butler.”

“He picked his nose.”

“He scratched his private parts.”

“He bragged about the size of his erections.”

“He asked Oral R——— if he had ever prayed for a good piece of ass.”

“He told Walter C——— that he wouldn’t trust him if he was standing on a stack of Bibles.”

“He asked Lee I——— how long it took him to roll back the mileage on a car.”

“He asked F. Lee B——— how long it took him to catch an ambulance.”

“He asked Teddy K——— if he was still doing the Chappaquiddick crawl.”

“He asked Newt G——— if he had any extra food stamps.”

“He ended up in the library . . . having his way with Princess C———.”

“And her sister, Princess S——— . . . ”

“And A———, their brother . . .”


“Well,” Orson Welles said when the second video had ended, “what did you think?”

“I’m not sure,” I said.

“What’s the problem?” he said.

“Could I ever act like that?” I said.

“You never know,” he said.

“I don’t understand,” I said.

“Sudden success,” he said, “can and often does release that madness . . . that lies just below the surface in us all. . . .”

“Why does it do that?”

“It’s a heady ambrosia, my boy, that should never be swallowed whole . . . but always sipped warily. . . .”

“I promise I’ll always sip it warily.”

“Good idea, my boy.”


The Fan Letter,” Orson Welles said, introducing the third video, “can and often does provide some of the most unique experiences of a writer’s career.

“Admittedly, most fan letters border on the insipid, but the occasional missive cries out for some response . . . or actual involvement . . . and in the process fuels those fires on which we are so very dependent. . . .

“Take a look at this one.”

The third video showed a beautiful blond woman writing a fan letter to me, which she narrated in voice-over:

I have just finished reading your wonderful book and feel as if at last there is somebody I can talk to.

But first a few words about myself.

I am an attractive widow, well provided for by my late husband, and I spend much of my time working for various charitable organizations in our small town.

Needless to say, I enjoy a spotless reputation among the townspeople and have always been held in the highest regard by friends and neighbors.

I share a comfortable home with my teenage stepson, a strapping, well-mannered young man who is an outstanding athlete and an honor student.

Every morning, when I wake him up to go to school, I see his prick, stiff and hard, underneath the covers.

It’s all I’ve been able to think about lately.

My stepson is shy and retiring, but lately I’ve been making sure that he sees me in the skimpiest attire at least several times a day in order to entice him.

Yesterday, I walked into the bathroom completely nude while he was showering, and I stood there for several minutes, pretending shock and embarrassment at finding him there.

He sure got a good look!

You see, I have an outstanding figure, having worked as a Las Vegas showgirl before marrying my late husband.

Now I’m torn between desire for my stepson and the tenets of my strict Christian faith, which have always served me so well in the past.

You are the only one I can turn to.

Please help me.



“What would you do about a letter like that?” Orson Welles asked when the third video had ended.

“I guess I’d get involved,” I said.


“I don’t know.”

“Would you write her a letter?”

“I don’t know.”

“Would you telephone her?”

“I don’t know.”

“Well, just what would you do?”

“Maybe I’d go and talk to her.”

“Just talk?”

“I guess.”

“How good of you to sacrifice your valuable time in order to take a more direct involvement in such matters.”


The Honors,” Orson Welles said, introducing the fourth video, “has a greater appeal than most care to admit.

“First, a caution:

“Too much exposure to this one can and often does cause permanent damage, leaving the poor writer trapped forever in a misty, solitary land of delusion. . . .”

The fourth video began by showing a statue of me being dedicated in Hammond Park while excited onlookers commented:

“They’re putting up another statue of him.”

“It’s made outta beer cans.”

“That’s a clever idea.”

“They’re gonna put up one of them beer-can statues of him in every neighborhood in Hammond.”

“The mayor has declared his birthday a city holiday.”

“The governor is gonna make it a state holiday.”

“The White House ought to make it a national holiday.”

“He deserves it,” the off-screen voice of an ardent admirer said.

“That’s right,” another off-screen admirer agreed.

“They’ve renamed the street he used to live on.”

“They’ve named it after him.”

“They’ve made the house where he used to live into a museum.”

“They’re gonna keep everything just the way it was the day he left there for the last time.”

That’s good to know.”

“It sure is.”

“His socks are still on the floor where he dropped them that last day.”

“The bowl of Cheerios he was eatin’ that last morning is still sittin’ on the kitchen table.”

“The dirty towel he wiped his hands on that last day is still on the chair where he left it.”

“That’s nice.”

“It sure is.”

“Visitors can buy little gold statues of him writing his book and drinking beer.”

“They can buy little gold books and little gold beer cans with his name on them.”

“They can buy gold chains and put the little gold books and the little gold beer cans on them.”

“That’s nice.”

“It sure is.”

“Ziggie’s . . . that place where he used to go . . . put up a memorial to him, too.”

“They got the place where he used to sit roped off so nobody can sit there.”

“The glass he was drinkin’ out of . . . even the dime he was tryin’ to move with the power of his mind . . . they’re still right there.”

“That’s nice.”

“It sure is.”

“And now a lot of other places are trying to claim that he used to go in there and do things.”

“That’s terrible!”

“It sure is!”

“They should be stopped!”

“They will be stopped!”

“The Hammond Committee for Historical Accuracy is going to put up plaques that will show everybody which places he really went to.”

“They’ll show where he went to school.”

“They’ll show where he ate lunch.”

“They’ll show where he caught the city bus.”

“They’ll show where he really stopped and had a beer.”

“That’s a good idea.”

“It sure is.”

“And the Committee is going to put up plaques tracing the path of Ralph Ordinary, the hero of his wonderful book, The New Man Cometh Forth, and telling some of the amazing things he did.”

“That’s a good idea.”

“It sure is.”

“They’re going to put up a plaque on the city bus that Ralph Ordinary was supposed to be riding the day he suddenly realized, after years of trying, that he was finally able to use the power of his mind to make things happen.”

“That’s a good idea.”

“It sure is.”

“And they’re going to display a disintegrated radio like the one that kid in the book was playing on that fateful day.”

“Everybody was asking him to turn it down, but the kid wouldn’t do it, so Ralph Ordinary made it disintegrate with the power of his mind.”

“That was a great scene.”

“It sure was.”

“What about later on?”

“When they all got together and hired that lawyer, Pam Aclu, and took Ralph Ordinary to court for making the radio disintegrate?”

“That was really great!”

“It sure was!”

“Pam Aclu said it was everybody’s right to play their radios as loud as they wanted, but then Ralph Ordinary started using the power of his mind to make Pam Aclu want to have sex with him.”

“And she did, too!”

“Right there in the courtroom!”

“Everybody was cheerin’!”

“Even the judge cheered!”

“When Ralph Ordinary finished screwing her, Pam Aclu quit being a lawyer and became one of Ralph Ordinary’s followers!”

“Ralph Ordinary could really satisfy a woman!”

“That’s the way he got a lot of his followers.”

“Now a lot of phonies are saying that they had sex with the author just the way he described it in the book.”

“Some of them are even writing books about it.”

“That’s terrible!”

“It sure is!”

“They’re trying to cheapen a great literary work!”

“Probably the greatest of all time!”


“They should be stopped!”

“History will record that his book was indeed a great work of art . . . and that, down through the ages, it alone will survive the test of time . . . while all other efforts by lesser men will wither and perish unnoticed.”

“Ain’t that somethin’?”

“It sure is!”

“It will also be noted by future historians that his work was the driving force that moved man into a new era . . . and that the Ordinarys, as they shall be known forevermore, were at last able to control their destinies, their futures, and were able, finally, to eschew all outside manipulation. . . .”

“That’s the truth!”

“It sure is!”

“His book brought death to all the false gods they had worshiped all those years.”

“It freed them!”

“That’s for sure!”

“His creation, Ralph Ordinary, brought about a new dawn for man . . . showed him the way . . . gave him the new beginning that he needed in order to survive . . . a new beginning that literally changed the face of the planet . . . set a bright new course for all future civilizations . . .”

“He really did change things!”

“He sure did!”

“We owe him a lot!”

“That’s for sure!”

“Everybody owes him a lot!”

“That’s for sure!”


“Well,” Orson Welles said when the fourth video had ended, “what did you think?”

“It was . . . OK . . . I guess,” I said.

“You guess it was OK? . . . Didn’t you watch it?”


“Didn’t it affect you at all?”

“I guess . . . I just wasn’t . . . paying attention.”

“You weren’t paying attention?”

“I guess not.”

“That’s most unusual.”

“It is?”

“Yes, very unusual.”

“What does it mean?”

“It means you’re very strong.”

“It does?”

“Yes, you’ve become very strong.”

“Are you sure?”

“Oh, yes.”

“Will that change things for me?”


“What will it change?”

“Well . . . from now on, you’ll be able to call on that great inner strength . . . that creative power inside you that has been built up and made stronger through your own struggle . . . and will no longer wish for or need outside stimulation. . . .”


“You shouldn’t have any trouble writing that book now.”

“I hope not.”

“Of course, if and when you ever do have trouble, the videos will always be available to you.”

The Sun has previously published two excerpts of Penrod’s novel: “getting to know HIM” and “The Renewal.”