A couple of tall, healthy, prosperous, fragrant young Canadians, one from Winnipeg, the other from Saskatoon, in my living room tonight defending the idea of the weekend and their God-given right to play a little club music on Friday night.
I calmly explained to them that their noise was unnatural, modern, immature, shallow. That it offended me like their man perfume offended me, like spoiled adolescent Toronto offended me, like their entire vulgar culture offended me.
“Basically,” I said, “you’re bothering me and my family profoundly, and you’re telling me you don’t give a shit.”
We agreed on a test. The boys hustled upstairs and summoned the thumping. “Still,” I texted.
Adjustments were supposedly made. “Still,” I texted again.
Returning, listening, the Saskatchewanian said: “See, the rain is louder! The cars are louder!” The Winnipegger chimed in, almost gleeful, with: “I’m breathing louder!”
When they left, pouting righteously, sallying off to curse the curmudgeons—to bitch, bluster, and forget as the young folk do—my Bulgarian wife, exhausted by the subject, exploded.
Like our new Instant Pot pressure cooker, she needed to vent a little, so I let her finish, then asked if she thought sending them that clip from Burn After Reading, the one where John Malkovich mentions the “legions of morons” he’s been fighting his “whole fucking life” before plugging Richard Jenkins’ character’s chest full of lead and splicing his brains with a carpenter’s axe, would be misinterpreted in a court of law.
“I knew it!” my wife said after we devoured the YouTube clip fifteen times in a row. “You want to brain somebody again! You do!”
No, they’d pay dearly in their own slow, dumb, insignificant way. This I knew. And this I explained. But what I was secretly contemplating at 9:02 p.m. in the dregs of November a handful of hours after their timeless visit were the quinces.
Persimmons? Check. Clementines? Check. Pomegranates? Check. But where, in this godforsaken city, were the goddamned quinces?
My sixteen-month-old loved a good baked quince—loved them, that is, last winter in France. This Canadian fall? Who knows? We had already been introduced to the iron baby will, treated to the hunger strikes for foods he formerly adored.
So when I finally succeed in tracking down the quinces, I thought with dread, we’ll be forced to conduct yet another futile test.
To buoy my spirits, I decided to peruse one of the books we borrowed from the Madison Avenue Library earlier in the day: Curious George. I couldn’t remember the story, was eager to rediscover it.
By page ten—the abduction page—I knew I was in trouble.
By the end, I blew:
“That shit-grinning, white-skinned, yellow-hatted, well-off, child-stealing, monkey-raping, zoo-dealing, colonialist sick son of an arrogant detestable pimp evil bitch! Fuck you! Fuck you! Fuuuuuuuuuck you!”
My wife, hair dripping all over the place, ran in from the bathroom. I held up the book—a handsome hardcover edition, the eighty-first printing—and said: “I need to incinerate this filth.”
“Where’d you stash the lighter fluid? Where’s my PEACE Zippo?”
“But didn’t you, with a clear and distinct dose of nostalgia in your voice, say that that book there is a beloved morsel of the North American child’s literary landscape?”
From the enormity of it all.
Kevin Tosca is the author of seven chapbooks. The most recent, The Hug, came out in July 2020 from Holy&intoxicated Publications (UK). His stories have been widely published in North America and Europe, in such magazines as Notre Dame Review, Redivider, The Frogmore Papers, Literary Orphans, and Litro. After living in France, Canada, Romania, and the United States, he now lives in Germany. Find him at kevintosca.com.