Yankee Pot Roast


If Checkpoint Were Based on Conversations I’ve Had with My Grandparents

Jeff Barnosky

grandfather: You don’t like ham.

me: That’s not true. I like ham.

grandfather: Well, what am I going to do with all this ham I bought if you don’t like ham? Why are you so picky anyway? I bet you wouldn’t even kill Hitler if you had the chance.

me: Are there rolls? Like kaiser or something?

grandfather: This is because your mother never made you sit at the table for dinner. You know how much money I’ve lost on your meals that you didn’t eat because you were so goddamn picky and only wanted McDonald’s when we were on the turnpike and they only had Roy Rogers. Let’s say you had a chance to kill Hitler at a Roy Rogers and you were whining like a baby because you didn’t believe in murder on an empty stomach. You’d be whining that you cannot sacrifice another human’s life in retribution for killing millions. What if that was Hitler before he started the Final Solution? What if you could have saved millions and millions of lives? Goddamnit, what’s wrong with your damn sandwich.

me: Spicy mustard? Don’t you have yellow?

grandfather: On a ham sandwich? You might as well piss on it.

me: So you don’t have any? Or you just don’t want me to have any based on the fact that you think it is immoral for someone to eat something that seems putrid to you. What you are doing is, in fact, arguing that all tastes are absolute and that any differences in taste are actually violations of some sort of culinary morality.

grandfather: Why are you making that face?

me: This is chicken.

grandfather: Jesus Christ, who doesn’t like chicken?

me: I like chicken.

grandmother: Jane isn’t very welcoming.

me: Jane has cancer.

grandmother: I go over there to see her and she never says anything. I ask her, for example, what she thought of the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand and she just sort of mumbled.

me: Jane has cancer.

grandmother: She knows that I don’t drive, so she knows that I have to get your pain-in-the-ass grandfather away from the televised reports of the assassination of Sparky Anderson by those bastards in Cleveland. And then when I’m there, all she can do is mumble “Single bullet my ass, single bullet my ass.”

me: Jane has CANCER!!

grandmother: We all have problems.

grandmother: If I were president of the United States, they would shoot me.

me: Who would shoot you?

grandmother: Somebody would see how miserable I was, how broken down, blind and miserable I was, and they would shoot me.

me: I’m not sure I understand your logic.

grandmother: All I’m saying is that if they saw a poor, decrepit old woman in such misery, they would assassinate her to be kind.

me: It doesn’t sound kind, to have a bullet hit your friend in the shoulder and turn around, IN MIDAIR MIND YOU, and shatter your skull.

grandmother: Don’t get me started on that. I assume if they were going to put an old woman, who raised a family and has fallen apart and now just wants to meet Jesus and rest, out of her misery, they would probably have a second gunman on small patch of grass sometimes known as a knoll.

me: I’m not sure that would be feasible. Let’s look at the tape again.

grandmother: What tape? What are you talking about? Don’t ever get old.

grandfather: They killed that one guy that one time.

me: Do you mean Martin Luther King?

grandfather: No, the other one.

me: Jesus Christ.

grandfather: No. The other one. With the number or something.

me: Malcolm X.

grandfather: Yeah, that one. He said “Kill whitey.”

me: That’s not what he said.

grandfather: Well, he said something like it. Got them all riled up.

me: Them? Them meaning who? I really don’t want to have this conversation again. Or ever for that matter. Did you see the Eagles game?

grandfather: No. I saw that Passion. Whew boy. I’m not even going to talk about what the-you-know-whos did to Jesus.

me: Please don’t. Please don’t talk about it.

grandfather: Let me just say this. They killed him.

me: Jesus Christ.

grandfather: Damn straight.

grandmother: Why don’t you ever wear the leather jacket we bought you?

me: Because I’m no longer in the 8th grade. I would look funny going to grad school wearing the jacket you bought me in the 8th grade.

grandmother: You looked like John-John in it.

me: I looked like John-Boy in it.

grandmother: Do you remember when you were four and your cousin Steve died because those guys he owed money to broke his legs and he got a staph infection?

me: No.

grandmother: Well, we were standing outside of the funeral home waiting for your pain-in-the-ass uncle to get the car and the hearse drove by. I tried to get you to salute like John-John did, but you had no idea what I was doing and when I tried to put your hand up by your forehead you poked yourself in the eye.

me: I do remember that. I thought you were trying to beat me up.

grandmother: You’re no John-John.