How the past informs the present
By Ben Robinson
My grandmother is a lover of men. She has been married five times. Three of those times, it was to someone named Bill. My dad’s name is Bill. Creepy.
Currently, she is married to a Bill. He has 20% of a stomach and a huge nose. Huge because when he was in the army, he got some polyps up there. A polyp is a row of beads. It kept him from breathing and stuff. You gotta breathe. Wise men once said, “You don’t breathe, you don’t live.” So he had to get those buggers taken out. So the army doctor reaches down into his nose and pulls out the polyps. The procedure permanently enlarged his nose. So he sits there on the Lazy Boy with his large belly – somehow bigger than his small television despite the fact that he only has 20% of his stomach intact – he sits there on the Lazy Boy, with his large nose, he sits there in front of the television, and when he’s awake, he talks about grandfatherly things.
Things like how things nowadays cost too much money. He bemoans the value of his house. “My house is worth $80,000! I wouldn’t give (sic) anyone $80,000 for my house!” Now keep in mind, this is a grandparent house, so it’s nothing fancy, but if this same house were sitting in Toronto, it would be worth at least $200,000. It’s got a decent front yard, a large backyard, two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a dining room, a spare room, a living room and a kitchen. It’s a good house. It ain’t got no internet (grrr) but one can’t complain when you are in grandma territory. Oh, by the way, did I mention the bomb shelter in the back yard? Alright, I’d make a joke about the absurdity of owning a bomb shelter, but bomb shelters are pretty cool.
He’s there on his Lazy Boy, watching the TV, and asks me if jobs are scarce in Canada. “No, not really…”, I edge. My mother comes to my defence.
“He doesn’t work because he has health problems…”
“Health problems!?” Then he remembers that I’ve been hospitalized five times for mental disturbances. “Well, jobs are scarce here. It’s the Mexicans. They’re taking all our jobs!”
My jaw drops. Did he actually say that? Do people actually say that outside of late-night television satires? I have encountered an endangered animal. The American Racist. I thought they had gone extinct, or were forced to live on the fringes of society. Perhaps I really do live in a bubble.
CNN comes on the TV. “Ack, that Barack Obama! I’m not voting. John McCain is just going to increase the price of gas and that Obama will get killed as soon as he’s elected.” Because he’s black. He’s not not voting for Obama because he’s black, but because he’ll be killed because he’s black. Sure, Grandpa. What’s the point? He’s just going to die anyway. In a way he’s standing up for the black man, because he’s keeping him from being killed. He’s keeping him safe.
The telephone rings. It’s his daughter, from another marriage. “What? Again?” His daughter doesn’t have a job, no doubt because the Mexicans took it. She needs more money to pay her bills. Apparently there’s not much of a social safety net in the United States. “Greatest nation on earth, I tell you those Japanese woke up a sleeping giant in WWII.” He’s mad as hell at his daughter for asking for more money. “What does she think I am? A bank? Geez, next time she calls her I’m going to tell her to put her mouth on a gun.” Oh yeah, that reminds me, I’m in America. Land of cheap guns.
While I am writing this, my grandmother just walked in to put some clothes away in this room. Can these Americans read my mind? Do they know what I am writing? By the time this is published I will be back in the safe arms of Canada. The safe arms of my girlfriend, where I will impregnate her with my half-American seed, and will raise big strong children who will leave Canada for France. 65 years from now, their children will come to Canada and post on their version of the internet (“Ah, grandpa Ben’s internet, what an antiquated notion”), about what a backward, perverse beast I am. Then they will ask to borrow $6.2 billion dollars to pay their cell phone bill, and I will fly into a dizzy rage because the Germans took all our jobs.