Mrs. Dupont loves to travel.
She has seen the pyramids of Egypt, the Eiffel Tower, and Red Square, and many of the rest of humanity’s most magnificent creations. She even has the photos.
The photos languish in albums on the bottom shelf of a bookcase in the back of her closet, behind her two formal gowns that had not been worn in a dozen years. Mrs. Dupont admits that this was not the ideal place for display; to anyone who asks, she sighs and says how she wishes they could be positioned more prominently, but she just can’t find the space in her tiny, tiny house.
In reality, the photos are hidden because they are irrelevant.
Mrs. Dupont does not travel to see the world. She travels to convince herself that she is better than it. Upon her return from Moscow, for example, she proudly displayed a number of shoddy Russian nesting dolls purchased from street vendors. When she had a visitor, she would exaggerate the difficulty of pulling the dolls apart and breathlessly declare, “I only bought them to show how awful the craftsmanship is over there.” At the Pyramids of Giza she purchased nothing; she used the fact that the northern part of the country was called “Lower Egypt” to demonstrate its people’s backwardness. But she adores her porcelain Eiffel Tower replica with one leg missing, or at least relating a well-practiced story of how it broke in transit despite being wrapped in three layers of paper and cushioned by four layers of cloth. (In fact, she had snapped the leg off herself, upon opening her suitcase and realizing that without some defect the piece wouldn’t have a proper backstory.)
There are business travelers, and eco-tourists, and family vacationers, and honeymooners, and even parents who travel to adopt a baby girl, but Mrs. Dupont is none of those. Mrs. Dupont is a Superiority Tourist, and proud of it.
More from The Clean Hippie Murders. This passage, obviously, focuses on Mrs. Dupont, semi-estranged mother to Heather, who is the intern to Jonas, who is the mayor, protagonist, and if not chief investigator of the eponymous murders, at least an interested kibitzer. Does that make everything clear? That’s okay; it doesn’t need to be yet.
Like Rebecca in Exile Issues, the Duponts are a lot of fun for me to write. I haven’t really started on the book in earnest, and it has only the vaguest framework of plotline, but four of the nine stories that I’m planning to work in include at least one of them.