Is Texadelphia a real town? I wasn’t sure, so I Googled it. Turns out it’s a restaurant chain in Texas. Well, it’s a real town to me now; Pia Z. Ehrhardt convinced me. The father in her “Famous Fathers” is the mayor of Texadelphia, but the story isn’t really about him. As in most of Ehrhardt’s stories, this one’s about the women—or the girls, rather, and the lengths to which they go to get attention from their famous fathers (and oblivious mothers).
One of the girls, Katie, has a relationship with her famous father’s driver, Larry. Even though he is many years her senior and they carry on an affair, Larry acts as her Mr. Knightley, attempting to take the high road and show Katie the error of her ways. Clearly Larry’s on shaky moral ground, and this is where Ehrhardt dazzles—drawing out the humor in an otherwise ugly situation. Once the humor’s on the table, Ehrhardt leaves us aching for her wounded characters—they exist for our delight, but we also share their pain.
These daughters of famous fathers are floundering. They are grasping and gasping. They are drowning in a lack of attention. They are acting out. As Katie tells us at the end, “I think ahead to a time when the reasons for what I’m doing will be true.” Don’t we all?