“Sources Agree Rock Swoon Has No Past” by Barry Hannah. This short short was published in the June 2000 issue of Harper’s from a reading Hannah gave in 1986 at the Sigma Tao Delta Society at the University of Mississippi. The story appeared in Hannah’s 1988 novel Hey Jack!:
“Pa. Is it really true the old eat their young?”
“Couldn’t rightly say, son. I’m a mid man. Feels like I’m walking on ice meself. Go on down to the barn, ask Grandpa.”
Grandpa’s down there in the back shadows, some loose bales around his old brogies. Seems to be humming and eating, pulling a nail out of a rotten piece of board with a pair of pliers.
“Is it true, Grandpa?”
“Wyoming’s not my home . . .”
“Yer nuts, Grandpa.”
Sings, “Ate ol’ Granny in a choo-choo car”
Kid goes to the hut to see Grandpa’s father. Withered beyond longevity, a tiny man in dwarf’s overalls, deeply addicted to codeine and Valium, fears colored people; occasionally makes scratching protests on his old violin, which has become too large for him. Every disease has had its success with him. Now he’s bare;u a scab demanding infrequent nutrients. Bald as a beige croquet ball, he rolls his own.
They’ve fixed him up a mike with a cord into an ancient Silvertone amplifying box. Even his snores can be heard, slightly, out in the yard.
“Double Gramps, is it true that the old eat their young?”
“God damn, I’m old!” blasts over the kid, feedback piercing too. The old man faints, recovers, goes into a codeine wither.
“But my question. Please, Double Gramps.”
Almost accidentally, the old man fits bow to fiddle and scrawls out the grand trio of “Stars and Stripes Forever.” Endlessly. It goes on the entire afternoon, amplifier picking up a prouder stroke here and there, screeching.
The kid grows up, a rock star, aging at twenty-three. He’s already eating the young by the thousands when the second though hits him.