Wednesday, September 18, 2019

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JESUS BUILT MY HOTROD

In my family’s limited religious experience, born again Christians in that moment of a divine how-do-you-do are not necessarily all that ostentatious, at least not as much as you might expect given their belief in having just swapped spit with Christ himself. My grandfather quietly pulled into our driveway, parked, strolled to the back stairs, petted the dog, said some doggy-like things, climbed the stairs to the back door and knocked. Haircut and a shave, sir—two bits . We watched him from the front room picture window wondering why the hell he chose the back door. Nobody ever went to the back door. Before opening it, Ma said "Hello, Norm" through the door’s freshly cleaned window. It framed his head like an honorific portrait of any smiling grandpa, or any family godhead. "I have some news," he said dourly. "Oh no," she said and unlatched the chain. "No, it’s good news," he grinned. She opened the door. He took her hands in his. "I’ve found the Lord," he said. An uncomfortable pause parked between them. "Oh!" she feigned surprise, not sure how to take this in through the door. "He came to me and entered my heart and is with me," he said. "Well, then I guess the two of you are welcome to come in for coffee." Ma can be like that. Razor sharp. Haircut and a shave back at ya.

From that moment on, despite the well of compassion and Christian charity that theoretically deepened over the years, my grandparents both nursed a cuddly affection for Rottweillers. That was their new family, outside the church folk, and well beyond us and our burning atheistic ways. To accommodate this new family of hounds they bought themselves a nice baby-puke colored Mini Van. Good news in the front, bad news in the back. It always stank of wet dog and the back benchseat upholstery took on more of a hairshirt look. What’s more, the windows were really something out of this world: God’s wrath manifest, the stinking rain of wormwood, the real fear made flesh-colour. Manna from heaven has its run-off, and I suspect it looks something like a half-decade of Rottie spit and snot and goop and guck collected on a Mini Van window.

So legend has it my brothers were in the back once with our cousins, not exactly long-lost cousins, but very newly acquainted with us and our grandparents. The dogs were at home while my grandparents took my brothers and these cousins out for lunch. The kids in the back decided to play truth or dare, truth being the best way to get to know each other quickly and in the most interesting ways. I’m not sure what my brothers asked, but my cousins chose dare. "Okay, lick this square of the window," dared my brother, Mykol, and he scraped a neat little square outline in the most bubbly and primordial yellow patch. "No way," the cousins squealed. "Okay, ten bucks," my brothers offered. How much is ten bucks to a twelve year old? Apparently it’s enough that they did it, did it for ten bucks, and they licked that Mini-Van porthole clean. Gracious hosts my grandparents were, they took it for good clean fun. Welcome to the family van. Meet this side of your makers.

557 words August 10, 2001

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Ryan Knighton

Ryan Knighton lives in Vancouver, teaches at a college in North Vancouver, and peers at the world with a strange but distinctive focus. He just signed a whopping book contract based on a series of pieces that appeared on this site, and his publisher made us erase them.

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