“My Flamboyant Grandson” Summary by George Saunders

My Flamboyant Grandson Summary by George Saunders
“My Flamboyant Grandson” Summary

“My Flamboyant Grandson” is a short story by George Saunders from his 2006 collection In Persuasion Nation. It’s about a man who takes his showtune-loving grandson to see a musical in the city. The commercial bureaucracy and the mandatory advertising laws make it hard to get there on time. Here’s a summary of “My Flamboyant Grandson”.

“My Flamboyant Grandson” Summary

A man, Mr. Petrillo, takes his young grandson, Teddy, to New York to see a musical. The boy lives with his grandparents; his mother is somewhere else and his father is unknown. The grandson loves singing and dancing to show tunes and especially loves the songs from his favorite CD, Babar Sings!

The grandfather has some reservations about Teddy’s leanings, but he’s prayed for a spirit of acceptance and love. Teddy gets teased not only by his peers at school, but by some of the adults as well.

One day, Mr. Petrillo realized he should expose his grandson to the best singing and dancing. He called 1-800-CULTURE and got a Promissory Voucher for a show. On Teddy’s birthday, they go to the city.

Inside the Eisner Theater, they’re stopped by an attendant who informs them a Promissory Voucher is insufficient for a show—they also need Proof of Purchases from six sponsors and then they can get the tickets on Forty-fourth and Broadway. They can’t be late.

Undeterred, they start up Broadway. The Everly Readers in the sidewalk reads the Everly Strips in their shoes, producing a barrage of targeted advertising on the many screens and audio-only messages that get beamed directly at them. When Gene Kelly appears in one of the grandfather’s ads, he wants to show Teddy, but realizes Teddy doesn’t see the same thing. He’s seeing Babar and an ad for Nintendo.

When they get their tickets, it’s ten minutes to show time. Mr. Petrillo’s feet are swollen, which means they’ll soon start bleeding if he doesn’t rest them and take off his shoes. He takes them off and leans against a wall while the ads continue running all around.

“My Flamboyant Grandson” Summary, Cont’d

Not wanting to disappoint Teddy, he leads them, carrying his shoes, to the theater. They make good time until they’re stopped by a Citizen Helper who points out to the grandfather that carrying his shoes renders the Everly Strips inoperative and he’s missing out on his Preferences. Mr. Petrillo explains the situation with his feet. The Citizen Helper can empathize but insists he put the shoes back on.

Mr. Petrillo snaps a bit and he’s warned about getting written up. He tries to bribe the Citizen Helper. He takes out his pad and starts writing him up, which is going to take a half hour after which the grandfather will have to go to the Active Complaints Center and watch a corrective video.

He begs to be allowed to make the show, saying they’ve seen plenty of advertising, but that’s not his call to make. Seeing the scared look in Teddy’s eyes, the grandfather makes a quick decision, knocking the pad out the Citizen Helper’s hand and running off with Teddy.

The Citizen Helper hesitates between picking up the pad and pursuing. When he does chase them, a passerby trips him. They make it to the theater just in time and take their seats, and watch the production of Babar Sings!

Everything changes for Teddy. He joins the play at school and wants to be an actor. He starts wearing a scarf and loses his timidity. He doesn’t cry anymore and is eager to go to school.

My Flamboyant Grandson Summary George Saunders
“My Flamboyant Grandson” Summary, Cont’d

Within a week, Mr. Petrillo gets a letter about his infraction. He can pay a thousand dollar fine or return to the scene with his shoes on and retrace his steps, under the supervision of the Citizen Helper, thus consuming the ads he missed. Mr. Petrillo doesn’t think this is what America is about—people should be able to have different views.

He goes because it’s cheaper than the fine. The Citizen Helper is pleased with his change of heart. With each ad, he comments on how amazing and useful this form of advertising is. Mr. Petrillo agrees, thinking of the money he’s saving that can be used for dance classes.

As Mr. Petrillo writes this down, it’s nearly midnight and Teddy is upstairs dancing. He thinks Teddy looks like a bird. He watches the same musicals over and over.

At the mall, Teddy suddenly bursts into a performance, crashing into a group of people. He’s unique, his clothing is increasingly like plumage and he has no friends. Still, Mr. Petrillo believes that something beautiful could come from Teddy.

I hope this “My Flamboyant Grandson” summary was helpful.