Of Course

Prompt: Memory

Hello Wednesday,

Here’s a random memory:

When I was backpacking in Europe, my travel companion and I borrowed/ leased a really terrible car (a lemon of a VW Beetle) for the latter part of our journey. While in Greece, we had to surrender the thing to a garage for some necessary repairs, and this set us back financially. We arranged to have some money sent to Zurich, and to reach the city economically we took on two paying passengers, Richard and Brian.

The car was mechanically sound by now, but a wreck nonetheless. The driver’s side door had been struck by a motorcyclist and could no longer be opened. The driver’s seat had come off its rails so needed a person in the rear seat to brace their knees against it for stability so the driver wouldn’t be flung backward. The passenger side door wouldn’t securely close, so once we were all seated inside it was tied shut by a length of twine. The gas gauge and reserve tank did not function and we were constantly running out of gas in the middle of nowhere (once in the country on the opening day of hunting season– scary). The heater was constantly blasting, and the windshield wipers didn’t work at all.

Brian lasted as far as Rome, where he bolted in horror never to be seen again. Richard persisted. He was a sentimental, horny fellow from Rhode Island, USA, who once, at our request, drew a map of Canada that looked like a pizza. He was a bit of a health nut, and kept a biscuit tin of vitamins and supplements, plus aspirin and other OTC remedies that he had simply emptied out of their bottles into the tin. It was a colourful if daunting melange of meds of different sizes and shapes, but Richard could confidently identify each one.

This was fine until we reached the Swiss border. We were selected, perhaps because of our rather scruffy appearance, to have our luggage searched. They also took apart the poor beleaguered VW Beetle. And of course they found Richard’s stash of unlabelled pills.

The put the car back together (without fixing anything, alas) and cheerfully told my friend and I we could carry on, but Richard and his biscuit tin were suspect and he would be detained at least overnight. Richard was aghast and panicked. “Wait for me,” he pleaded as he was marched away, perhaps fearing he would rot away in a foreign jail cell without anyone ever knowing. “Of course!” we called out to him.

We spent a comfortable night at the border town on the Swiss side and in the morning packed up the car, excited to be so close to our destination. We weren’t sure where Richard was, and in any case, much to my eternal shame, we didn’t really care. I suppose we were naively optimistic about his fate as well as hungry (close to literally) for the cash that awaited us in Zurich. So we got in the car and drove around the town, looking for the directional sign to get us on the road to Zurich.

Purely by accident we came across Richard meandering down a sidewalk with his backpack. He waved ecstatically and climbed in with great relief. “I knew you wouldn’t desert me,” he said in gratitude.

“Of course not!” we said.

May I now present a few of my favourite cartoons relating to the prompt, memory, the first of which I don’t totally understand?

cartoon memory refresh

cartoon bad memory

cartoon watering can

Happy memories!




Prompt: Yellow

I got a chest x-ray, and the next day took it to a room empty of reading material, including posters on the wall, where I sat alone for almost two hours. The room was painted a whitish yellow. If you have ever wondered what it would be like to be thrown in jail in an empty room and suffer from lack of stimulation of any kind, this would not actually show you. It was bad, but only lasted two hours. Still, it’s like sipping sour milk. You don’t need to drink the whole glass to know it is vile.

Then a doctor, recommended for such examinations, asked me to undress and to put on a green paper robe which opened at the back. He told me to touch my toes. He had me lie down, and he lifted the hem of the paper robe so he could look at my genitals. He was conducting, he said, an inspection to see if there were any visible signs of disease.

Personally, I think the doctor was a pervert. His voice was too level, too pandering, too apologetic. He knew he was being a pervert. He liked to gaze upon people’s genitals under the guise of a necessary medical procedure which purported to eliminate those with sexually transmitted diseases from being granted permission.

Previously, I’d submitted my fingerprints for distribution to civil, state, national, and international authorities, filled out detailed forms tracing my every move and activity for the whole of my life, and been interviewed extensively by indifferent men and women.

Many people were friendly and helpful. Others, like the doctor, took advantage of people in vulnerable situations.

Now, this was what I experienced when I wanted to live in the United States. I passed inspection. My genitals were worthy of trust. I am white and had an income. And I would be comfortable if I was returned to my Canadian homeland.

Imagine a woman and a child who are not white, have no income, no home anymore, who are very likely to die by violence unless they can flee to a safe haven. They have no rights, no understanding of the kind of routines they might be subjected to, and in many cases have no advocate.

This woman and child endure a much more rigorous screening process than I did to reach the port of entry.

They are afraid, sometimes terrified by the process. I was inconvenienced. They live in constant, black dread that they might have to return to a place where they might be starved, raped, mutilated, or killed. I was bored. The pervert doctor only went so far with me, because I am white and anglo, yet I was still humiliated. But I was smiled at with sympathy sometimes, because I am a white person. Smiles are scarcer for them, yes, even for a small, frightened child.

There are millions of these women and children. They go through the process or they return to chaos. Now, in some places, they are being denied even the hope of escape. My experience was nothing. Their experience counts now.




Prompt: Privacy


“There is a problem.”

No, no there couldn’t be a problem. Danny had fixed everything. He and his wife Claire and new baby Zoe were about to start a new life, a new adventure.

The border guard stared at the computer screen, his face passive and blank, a clear message that none of this was personal and that he was interested in nothing but the characters on the screen, and not in Claire who had dark circles under her eyes from lack of sleep, or the baby who was finally sleeping soundly. Snoring a bit, in fact, in the carrier strapped around Danny’s torso. The computer screen said that Danny Jespers had a problem.

“You did not mention your criminal record on the entry card,” said the border guard.

“There is no criminal record,” said Danny, not too loudly as he did not want to wake the baby. Claire was across the room, slumped in one of a row of attached fibreglass chairs in front of a floor to ceiling window, looking out onto a cargo loading bay. Danny glanced at her and she smiled. I know, her eyes said, but we’re almost there.

The job was waiting. It wasn’t much of a job but it was a start, and it was on a farm which was how Clair and Danny wanted to live, once they got settled. Farming and livestock were all they knew. He’d shown the papers from Dr Deepak, the farm owner, stating that he had a legal job with accommodation waiting for Danny. It was all official, and all had been done by the book; or more accurately, according to the detailed and somewhat confusing rules on the provincial website. Danny had even talked to Dr Deepak on the phone. He was an actual doctor. And a farmer. And he needed experienced people to manage and maintain his vineyards and orchards.

“Armed robbery,” said the border guard. He looked up from the screen and gazed at Danny. “A serious offence, Mr Jespers.”

“No,” said Danny, “this is all a mistake.”

“You did not commit an armed robbery… five years ago?”

“No, well, I—“ Danny waved to Claire to come over. Claire brought over the old leather briefcase containing the battered laptop and all their important documents: birth certificates, copies of drivers’ licenses, wills, and bank statements. And a notarized document from Aaron and Sons, Attorneys at Law.

He hadn’t really been armed. His weapon was a toy gun he’d got from Walgreens. He’d covered it in a nylon stocking to hide its obvious lack of authenticity, and asked the clerk politely to empty the till. The till was rigged so that a certain number sequence silently alerted the police.

He wasn’t going to hurt anyone. He needed just a few dollars. He didn’t want much. He was young, stupid, and desperate. All that came out in court, his pro bono lawyer was actually extremely competent, and his sentence was light, only twenty-four months, of which he served half.

“Do you want me to take the baby?” asked Claire, as she handed him the briefcase.

“No, honey, don’t want to wake her.”

“No, we don’t,” Claire said. “I’m just going to find some water, be right back.” The border guard nodded, and turned to Danny.

Danny suddenly had a moment of realization. He froze, thinking of the dead eyes of the border guard, the folded document in his hand, the baby now heavy on his chest, Claire looking for water, an unanswered phone ringing somewhere, a memory of an icy cold morning and a breached calf, the face of Cyrus Aaron, a “son” of Aaron and Sons, his broad face and thick glasses, his reassuring manner.

There would be no new job, no new farm, no new life. Danny decided to show the guard the document anyway. It stated that his criminal record had been expunged. It had a seal on it, and signatures. He had paid 1600 US dollars to have his record legally erased so that he could move to Canada with his then-pregnant wife. They still owed money to her mother for the loan of the 1600 dollars.

Zoe sputtered awake and pooped in her diaper.