Skip to main content

The Great Colonial Hope: A Short Story.

You and me are in a lot of trouble, mister. A lot of trouble. Most of all you. No one was supposed to be here. Now, here you are, and I’m here, too. You can see me and I can see you. That means someone is going to get hurt, and I know it’s not me. Stop whining. That’s the point of the gag. No talking, no sound. Shut up. I’ll hit you again. Harder this time. Good. Now you’re listening. That’s better. It must be hard for you to keep quiet, eh, Mister Baby Boomer? You aren't used to listening, are you? No, you've been talking your whole life, and everyone has always been listening to you and your dreams, and hopes, and memories. So many memories. My whole life has been one long look into your rearview mirror, while you barf out whatever thought, new or old, comes into your self-obsessed know-it-all navel-gazing brain, knowing that there’ll always be someone there to listen. Not this time. This time you’re going to have to listen to me. Maybe if you really listen, I won’t kill you. Do you think you can do that? To save your own fucking life? I guess we’re going to find out, eh? Killing wasn't part of the plan, but I’m warming up to it. It’s growing on me. A bit of vandalism. Maybe a fire. Nothing too serious. Nothing too dangerous. That was the plan. Breaking stuff. No one hurt. I’m not afraid to tell you that I’m freaking out a little bit here, but there’s also some other part of me that’s calm, that’s quietly figuring things out, working away in the background, deciding what to do with you. Turning this problem into an opportunity. I never saw myself as a killer, but I've been thinking all kinds of new things about myself these days. I can break things. No problem with that. Killing, that’s something different. Something new. Now that you've turned up where you weren't supposed to be, maybe new is exactly what’s needed. Now that I’m forced to ask myself in a real way about killing, to look you right in the eye, and ask myself if I can do it, really do it. You know what? I’m learning something about myself looking into your scared-as-shit-about-to-cry eyes. I’m finding out that I think I can do it. I've read Fanon. Wretched of the Earth. Not in the French, of course. No big surprise there. Born and raised in Ottawa. Great Grandfather was so French he could barely write English. He fought in three wars for this goddamn country, and I can’t read his language. Grew up watching French pornos every Saturday night, but I don’t speak his language. I guess that’s why they've got translations, eh? Do you know the book I’m talking about? It’s in the Rage Against the Machine album art. Come on, Mr. Baby Boomer, you must know. I’m sure you’re cool enough to know about Rage. Always up on what the kids are doing. They went to Woodstock, didn’t they? Another fucking rerun. My whole life I've been watching your reruns. It’s time for something new. Like Fanon says, the only thing the colonizer can hear, or see, or taste is violence. That’d be new. You listening. Maybe that’ll make you listen. Cut through the reruns. A little bit of the ultraviolence.

They changed the name of this place, eh? When did they do that? It’s called the Museum of History now. That’s funny, huh? I remember when it was called the Museum of Man, back when it was over on Macleod. I loved that museum when I was kid. So spooky. The dinosaurs, the animals, and the low lights. Why was it so dark in there? It had a real distinct smell that this place doesn't have. Growing up, I think that’s what I thought history smelled like. I probably wouldn't have thought of it that way when I was a kid, but that’s how I remember it now. Wasn't there a big totem pole? You’d think I’d remember that, but I don’t. It must have been there. Where else would I have seen it? Weren't there tomahawks and deer skins and birch bark canoes? Big feathery headdresses? I can remember that the building was sinking. It was built on sand or something. Like Sandy Hill. I can’t remember any of the Indian stuff that must have been there. Funny how memory works like that. What you remember. It probably says more about who you are now than who you were then. That museum, when it came here, to Hull, they changed the name to the Museum of Civilization, and that I get. Man was too old school. But this switch, to history from civilization, there’s something up with that. Civilization, that’s a fact. That’s people, places, and things. That’s real. Hard. Once a civilization has been here, you can’t erase it. No matter how hard you try. There’s always fossils and things. Artifacts. People. History, that’s a trophy of war. A spoil. To the victors go the spoils, and one of them is history, right? The victors get to write history however they want. Good ol’ Stevie Harper must think history is something he and his tar sands buddies can rewrite. Like a press release. That’s why they changed the name. History is just a story. To be won and lost. Told and retold. Written and rewritten. To suit the needs of the victor. I don’t think I’d be here right now, if this place was still the Museum of Civilization. Civilization, I can respect. History, you can mess with. I understand that now. Personally. History can be won and lost. Written and rewritten. Destroyed. Taken away. Before you even know it. Turned into smoke. I've been thinking a lot about history these days. Do you ever think about history? Where you come from? Your roots? Like those heritage moments they used to have on TV. I bet you don’t. That’s why they put it on TV. Mixed in with commercials. To remind you, when you least suspect it. Because history is something other people have. They’re the ones with histories and stories and cultures. Not worrying about history, it’s a perk of being at the centre of everything. At the end of history. You don’t have to know or justify anything. Everyone else has to tell their story over and over again to justify breathing, to explain why they shouldn’t be screwed one more time. This is where we come from. This is why we’re here. This is who we are and who we were. This is what you did to us. This is the deal we made with you, so stop screwing with us. You don’t have a history because you don’t want to think about it. The truth would make you puke, if you really thought about it. Trust me. Are you listening? Mr. Jackass Boomer? Like your fucking life depends on it? Should I get a mirror? Would that make it easier for you? Seeing your own goddamn face reflected back at you. My face is pretty much like yours, isn’t it? Not too different. The difference runs deep though. So deep you can’t see it. I couldn't see it. Until I started thinking about history. It was all those Indian girls who got me thinking. Women too. In Winnipeg. Everywhere. Wasn't there some pig farmer out east who did it too. Or was that B.C.? It’s hard to keep track of them all. I could probably throw a dart at the map, and there’d be a story there, too. Not being told. Sea to shining sea. It’s happening. All around us. I never thought about it until I saw it on Twitter. I don’t know why it stuck this time. All those girls. Women and girls. Mothers and daughters. It reminded me. You wouldn’t know it to look at me. I’m white as sin, but not my mom. Not my Grandma. My Great Grandma, she was a full blooded squaw. Indian, I mean. Those girls reminded me that I’m not white like you. Yeah, I’m pretty white. I've got no history, but not in the way that you don’t have history. My history was taken from me. Schooled out of me and my ancestors, before I even had a chance to know it. That was the plan, wasn't it? The whole goddamned plan. Well, it worked. I don’t know anything about my history, and what I do know is wrong. My whole life I thought I was part Algonquin. Turns out that’s a name for a bunch of different tribes. It’s the name of one tribe, but it can also mean a bunch of them too because of the language. I looked on the internet because I was thinking about those girls. How I’m like them, but not like them. Even that one little piece of history I thought I had is gone. One internet search. One tiny scratch at the history I thought I knew, and it’s smoke. My Mom didn’t know about any of it. My Grandma never talked about it. That was the plan all along, right? I know that now because I found this history book. It’s funny how sometimes things find you when you need to find them. I can’t even remember what I was looking for at the library. It was probably some stupid movie. Instead, I found this history book. I had been thinking about those girls and my own family a lot, so maybe that’s why it stuck out in the search results. An Indigenous History of the United States, or something like that. Thanks to that book, I learned something else about myself. About my colonized self. The Scotch-Irish, who were the shock troops of the genocide. No one I know ever calls it that, but that’s what it was. Right from the start. These lands weren't empty. They had to clear them of the civilizations that were here. Who did they use? The Scotch-Irish. They got their start in Northern Ireland. They learned the tricks of the trade up there. How to clear people out, make room for others. Scalping too. That’s where it comes from. Not the Indians. When there was no more room for the Scotch-Irish, they shipped them west to the promised land to keep on clearing. Guess what? Funny coincidence. My father was Catholic Irish. Another funny coincidence. I don’t know anything about Ireland either. I only learned about the colonialism in Ireland in a history about the genocide here in North America. I knew about the bombs and the fighting. I've been to the pub in Belfast they blew up all the time. I didn’t know anything about the history. No, I do know something. A bunch of Irish were brought here more or less as slaves and died building that canal the tourists are skating on now. No wonder all we ever talked about growing up was leprechauns, shamrocks, and pots of gold. Are you putting the pieces together? Are you listening? French, Indian, Irish. Every part of me is colonized. I didn’t know anything about it, and what I know is wrong. Lies. Spoils. Born and raised in our nation’s capital, raised by parents and grandparents who had their history beaten out of them, who were so desperate to have a chance to get ahead, to join the winning tribe, they sure as hell weren't going to tell me anything about their history, even if they knew it. That was the plan, wasn't it? The goal. Me. Do you understand now why I’m here? In this fucking museum. Are you clueing in? No, wait, my Grandma did tell me one story. Now I know why it’s always stuck with me. She told me Indians always put one mistake in the stuff they make. On purpose. To remind themselves they aren't perfect. To avoid looking proud in front of the Great Spirit or whatever. She showed me once with this beaded bracelet she gave me. I probably just threw it away in some move not thinking about what it meant. Guess what? I’m the mistake you made in this great multicultural mosaic of ours. The plan worked. Here I am. The great colonial hope. No history. Filled with lies. Ash. Like there was nothing in here before even worth remembering. I’m Canada’s great colonial hope and I’m going to kill you.

No. I’ll give you one chance. Not because I owe it to you. No one owes you anything. I’m giving you one chance because it’ll be cool to watch. People are going to want to watch this. Your kids especially. It’s finally clicked. While I've been here talking to you, pacing up and down, some part of me has figured out what I’m going to do. I know how to make the most of you. See this phone? There was a movie at a film festival made with one like this. This phone is connected to the internet bone, and the internet bone is connected to the YouTube bone, and the YouTube bone is connected to everything and everyone. I’m going to livestream what I've got planned for you. I came here tonight to destroy the history being written and rewritten in this building, but, now that I've found you, I’m doing something else. Something new. I’m going to make history. Tonight, I finally get to play a role. Don’t worry, you’re going to be the star. I’ll play the supporting role. The supporting role to end all supporting roles. I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s perfect. It’s like my whole life has been leading to this. I've never felt so sure about anything. I finally figured it out. I've got something better than bullet proof armour. White skin. White mask. White name. White armour. There isn’t a cop in this city that would put a bullet in me. I could walk up and down Parliament Hill with a gun, firing like Yosemite Sam, and they’d wait for me to put my gun down. Not a bullet fired. Because of this white skin that covers nothing, I’m no terrorist. Maybe they’ll put me in jail. Who cares? I've got no family, no history, no culture. I've got nothing to lose. You do. You have everything to lose. Are you ready for your close up? I hope so, because this is going viral. You know it is. Before Google figures out what’s happening, somebody will have downloaded it, and posted it somewhere else. This is going to the whole world. I want you to look into this camera, and convince me why I should let you live. Prove to me you've been listening. Convince me of that, and maybe I won’t kill you. What are you going to say, Mr. Baby Boomer? The spotlight is all yours. Again. Are you ready? I’m taking the gag off. Ready. Set. Go.


Support independent writing. Become a patron or sponsor.


Popular posts from this blog

Lifeboat: a very short story

To starboard, there was only sea: calm and reflective. To port, more of the same.

“How did we get here?” I asked.

“Best not to think about it, mate,” came the cheerful reply.

At the bow of the boat, three men were playing cards, gambling on a game of War. The man who had cheerily replied to my question reached for a mound of poker chips at the center of their makeshift table. Another man collected the cards. Another sipped coffee.

Beyond them, I saw only more sea.

It was hard to think, but my mouth carried on instinctively. “But, wouldn’t it help, help to get us out of here, if we knew how we got here?”

“Don’t worry about it, mate,” replied the cheerful man. He placed a large bet. Each player was dealt a card face down. “Things will take care of themselves. Join the game. There’s a place for you at the table.”

I looked aft instead.

Over the stern of the boat, the sea lay flat, still, and almost endless. At the horizon, directly behind us, dark clouds marked the space between sea a…

Tangelico: A Play In One Act

Jacob has the space booked. He is certain of it. He has proof, evidence, and memories.

Furthermore, there are rules, systems, and procedures designed to resolve this very kind of conflict.

Unfortunately, Jenna and Samantha won't leave him alone, won't let him get back to doing whatever he was doing -- and would be doing -- if they hadn't interrupted him.

An absurd, hilarious, and downright silly farce about the creative process, friendship, and memory.

Tangelico premiered at the 2007 Ottawa Fringe. It was directed by Dave Dawson. It starred Michael Showler, Samantha Mouchet, and Anne Wyman.

Read Tangelico.

Nmishoomis (My Grandfather)

I don’t know this place. I don’t like it.

My parents sent me here. They said, you’ll learn new things. Important things. For the future. A new language. New skills. It will be useful for us, your family. I told my parents, I want to learn from you and the old people like my brothers did. They shook their heads. The land is changing because of these people. Too quickly. We must adapt for the future. You’re our future. I don’t want to be the future, I said. I want to stay with you, my family. They shook their heads. The food will be better there, they said. You’ll see. My parents must not love me as much as my brothers.

It’s strange. I don’t know anyone here. At home, I knew everyone and everyone knew me. It’s strange to be a stranger in so many strangers’ eyes. We all look alike now too. They have cut our hair and dressed us in the same unfamiliar and uncomfortable clothes. We wouldn’t look alike, if we were on our own land and with our own families. I don’t understand why they wan…