Gran’s appearance at home was manageable. Teeth
or no teeth, she still was, after all, the same beloved
matriarch who made us dinner after school and gave Paul
(that’s the dog) his daily anti-seizure medication
which kept him from foaming at the mouth and falling down
the stairs. The same good woman who migrated from Jamaica
in 1980 (or thereabouts )to look after me and my sisters
while my parents worked multiple jobs so that one day
we could move out of the tiny rented split-level with
the stained orange carpet.
That said, nobody was really thrilled
about the condition of Gran’s teeth in public, especially
me, and especially at the Catholic church we attended
I hated that Church. It was affiliated
with my high school and as a result, many of my schoolmates
would see when my family would arrive at Mass in my father’s
company car which featured large cockroach decals and
the words PCO PEST CONTROL emblazoned on the doors.
We would all pile out of the car
and sometimes Gran would have a Food City plastic bag
on her head to protect it from the snow or the rain. Like
many of my poorer classmates, I wore my school uniform
to church which really pissed me off since it was probably
the only time where I actually had to wear the entire
uniform without violating the school dress code in some
It was an oppressive getup which
consisted of a burgundy pullover, gray slacks, a white
shirt and a tie that made me want to kill someone. On
Sundays I was forced to wear the usually optional but
always hideous burgundy blazer.
blazer had a crest sewn onto the left pocket that featured
the face of some Jesuit bastard who was no doubt scalped
and burned at the stake for feeling-up everyone's girl-children
and giving the Native Indians Gonnereah and Smallpox.
Now, although me and my sisters
hated church, it never really instilled dread in us until
the first Sunday after Paul chewed up Gran’s dentures.
You see, we had actually become used to the idea of seeing
good ol’ Gran with her mash mouth when it suddenly
struck us that she was still going to church with us even
if she looked like she’d survived a land mine.
I remember hinting to my father
at how horrified I was but I also knew that I would go
straight to hell for revealing my fears since it would
be instantly construed as shame and therefore indicative
of my ungratefulness and traitorous disloyalty to a woman
who loved us all.
So, we went to church and even though I begged Jesus Christ
to make Gran cover her face with her winter scarf when
howling out hymns like ‘They’ll know we are
Christians by our love!”, my Lord showed me no such
I remember going over excuses in
my head as all my classmates stared at her and her four
caught up praises to the Lord.
I’ll tell them she’s
the maid - I remember thinking as Gran belted out verse
two of ‘Ave’ Maria’- but then, if we
could afford a maid, how the hell would I explain why
we were still driving around in a truck covered in cockroaches?
On Monday , the first person I
saw was James Ciccolini , who, as luck would have it,
was respected by all as the most offensive human being
on the planet since his step-father had molested him and
he was bitter about an electrocution scar he had received
after pushing an electric lawn mower over its own cord.
-“Hey Rickards!, he bellowed
predictably as I made my way to my locker to rid myself
of the imitation Michael Jackson ‘Beat-it’
jacket my parents had bought at Zellers.
- ‘Was that your grandmother in church yesterday?’
For the next six or seven months
(with the exception of one merciful Sunday when Gran had
the flu), the ritual continued. The worst part of it was
when something bad had happened during the week; like
the time my parents spent all their savings on a defective
vending machine which dispensed gallons of free coffee
to factory workers in a seedy part of town.
When disasters like that occurred,
Gran would start to cry while singing hymns with her four
teeth. It was then that I realised that God was probably
a lot like James Ciccolini.
-‘Here you go Gran,’I
once dared while nudging her with her scarf, ‘why
don’t you put this on?”
Just when I had grown accustomed
to having an ugly grandmother, things took a welcome turn
for the better. My father got promoted to supervisor at
the Pest Control company and as soon as he had the money,
he took Gran to the dentist and got her some new teeth.
It all came as a
wonderful surprise one bright June day as Gran walked
through the front door of the tiny split-level with her
brand-new set of dentures. My father, who had told us
nothing, ran to his electric organ and started to play
something unrecognizable over a pre-programmed Bossanova
beat while Gran danced and smiled and flooded the room
with an intense reflected sunlight that warmed us all
and curled the leaves of my mothers houseplants.
We were all elated but noone was
more thrilled than Gran , who, overjoyed at no longer
looking like the witch from Snow White , was now grinning
so widely that I’m sure she could feel her earlobes
with the corners of her mouth.
The following day my father announced
that we were all going to an amusement park that had recently
opened on the outskirts of suburbia. Needless to say,
me and my sisters were overjoyed. First new teeth for
Gran and now this?! It was almost enough to make us forget
the last 6 months of church and the fucked-up coffee machine
and Paul’s epilepsy and James Ciccolini and the
fact that we had to push the car to get it to start.
After a quick breakfast we were
on our way; singing and eating potato chips (even Gran)
and asking my father about rat killin’ and occasionally
begging my mother not to have Paul put to sleep because
he had shit-up the house again the night before.
When we got to the amusement park
my parents bought everyone blue ice-cream and let my sisters
make a weird karoke video of themselves singing Whitney
-‘The technology is fantastic
isn’t it’, said my father in front of the
dozen or so screens that flickered with images of waterfalls
and psychedelic patterns floating oddly behind my sisters
as they did their best to dance and disguise their still
distinctive St. Andrew accents.
Meanwhile, I couldn’t wait
to go on the roller coaster. The big rickety one that
looked a little unsafe. I was, after all, a thrill seeking
sort who took great pleasure in scaring the shit out of
myself. I had been on a roller coaster only once before
but it was nothing like the apparatus before us now. Indeed
, this was an entirely different machine than the depressing
‘bullshit-mobile’ that I’d spent two
dollars to ride one overcast day last summer in the Zellers
-‘That one! That one!’,
I begged my father when he stopped to buy more of the
blue ice cream for Gran and my chubby little sister, ‘lets
go on that now!” Happily he complied, and after
standing in line for an hour and twenty minutes, we were
finally being buckled into our seats.
And then, something peculiar happened.
-‘Sit beside Peter-Dean,
Mums’, said my father.
-‘What?!’, I said, ‘Gran can’t
come on this. She’ll die!
-‘Shut up’, he said, ‘you think Gran
is the first old person to ride on a roller coaster? Why
do you always have to spoil things?'
My head became hot and prickly
as I watched my obviously crazy grandmother climb slowly
into the adjacent seat.
-‘Shut up!’, said my father.
As soon as the madman took his
seat beside my mother two rows ahead , I turned to Gran
and whispered: ‘ Gran, you sure you want to come?!’
You might get hurt. This ride is fast.’
-I’ll be fine ‘, she cooed confidently through
her new polident smile, ‘I’m only 75 you know?’
And then, just as suddenly as Paul
could slip into a grand mal and pitch down the stairs
of the tiny split level–the retaining bar locked
and the roller coaster hissed and jolted forward.
I was paralysed with fear, but
after climbing for what seemed like two miles into the
sky, I soon became distracted and a little giddy as my
blood thinned out from the increasing altitude and decreasing
availability of oxygen.
And yet, as frightening as the
whole scenario was to me , nobody else seemed to notice
the impending danger. Not my father. Not my mother or
sisters. Not the polite neo-Nazi who buckled us all into
place back down at sea level and especially not Gran.
In fact, she was grinning wider than ever with her new
teeth and still eating the blue ice-cream that I thought
tasted like mint-flavoured Colgate.
Eventually, the train reached the
top of the gargantuan hill and paused for a few moments
as gravity took over where the pulleys and chains left
off. But, of course, the pause ended and within moments
I felt my scrotum become inverted into my body cavity
as the train plunged downwards into hell.
Up ahead I could make out the shaky
image of my father with his arms stretched inexplicably
upward as my mother screamed just a little louder than
everyone else. My sisters squealed with delight and for
a few more moments I actually found myself caught up in
the sheer thrill of being hurled into an abyss with 30
or 40 white people and my family–that is, until
I felt a cold , wet sensation on my left shoulder.
What I saw next was something that
I have since pinpointed as a possible cause for my subsequent
fascination with firearms and a seemingly compulsive desire
to drive around the city in a rented turtle suit.
The first thing I noticed was the
spit. Copious amounts of spit that seemed almost non-liquid
in that it trailed behind my poor grandmother's head at
up to 4 feet without breaking up in the wind. Her eyes
were wide open but clearly not focusing as her head snapped
violently back and forth each time the coaster jerked
in a different direction.
In the panic I tried to grab her
head but the seatbelt was built in such a way that the
best I could do was to occasionally nudge her in the temple
with my elbow.
she whimpered through flapping lips as the coaster climbed
skywards into a loop that seemed to go on forever.
Up ahead , my father--still oblivious
to his involvement in what would most certainly be labelled
a homicide --was still shouting "wheeeeee",
albeit while clutching at his face in an effort to keep
his glasses from flying into space.
for Gran, however, the G-forces were too much for her
feeble arms which flailed ineffectively in the 90MPH winds
which were sucking the new teeth right out of her head.
" Use your lips Gran !!!",
I bawled as her dentures rattled to the front of her mouth
and made a gruesome whistling noise that reminded me of
a nightmare I once had in which a giant bird picked my
brains out after luring me into a cave by whistling that
Bravely, the old woman held on,
clutching desperatly to the dentures with every bit of
strength left in her 75-year-old lips. Clearly, she understood
the gravity of the situation and for that I loved her
even more and hoped she wouldn't die.
Down below I could see the young
aryan who was operating the ride. From a hundred feet
in the air I could make out his grin. He more than anyone
knew damn well that the old lady shouldn't have been on
that roller coaster. Only fucking crazy people and Jamaican
immigrants who don't know any better do shit like that
I thought bitterly to myself as more of the blue ice cream
melted in my armpit.
As the train slowed and approached
the station I began howling in an attempt to alert the
relevant medical authorities that there was an emergency
It was then that my father first
swung his head back and noticed that his mother was holding
onto her new teeth by using her chin to press them up
against her collarbone.
That's when things got crazy.
he screamed through his badly adjusted glases, "WHAT
THE DICKANCE IS GOING ON!!!?"
By now Gran was speaking in toungues--a
ghastly sight to behold made all the more frightful by
the fact that her eyeballs has no moisture on them and
she was hyperventilating.
" Suntee, Suntee, suntee Anaguntee",
she said, " Corn flakesshhhhh..thunderrrrr cage foo!!!"
When Gran spoke in toungues I would
always get very freaked out. The epileptic dog would usually
notice it first and start barking madly at Gran who often
accompanied her incantations with a weird sort dance-step
which reminded me of something I had seen in The Exorcist.
Once, after an argument with my
mother and a particularly jolting visit from the Holy
Ghost, I asked my father what had caused Gran to suddenly
throw three plates across the room while muttering the
words :"A-Ga ventipuss Roy!!!!" He looked up
from the law book he was highlighting with a yellow marker
and told me it was 'from God' but that I should probably
not tell anyone about it since God doesn't like people
talking about him behind his back.
After that, when Gran spoke in
toungues I would simply drop whatever I was doing and
bolt out of the nearest door--even if it was winter and
even if I had on no shoes.
The coaster screeched to a halt
and everyone looked at Gran. Her wavy shoulder length
hair was blown straight back and she was having trouble
blinking. In her hand she still held onto the empty cone
and on her lap sat the teeth
After my mother administered some
smelling salts, Gran stopped shaking and my father quickly
directed us to the PCO cockroach car.
-"We're leaving!?? Already?",
I protested mildly as he opened the trunk.
-"Shut up", he said,
" don't you see Gran isn't feeling well? You want
her to have a stroke and die?"
"I SAID SHUT UP!!!!, he repeated,
" if I hear another peep out of you I'll have that
damn dog of yours put to sleep!!! You think I was put
on this earth to clean DOG CRAP every morning of my life?!?!?!!?"
" KILL HIM THEN!!!!, I exploded
in rare defiance as my sisters burst into pleas for Paul's
life. That's when my mother turned around and scowled
Nobody said a word after that.