My father was sometimes a painter in Virden, Manitoba.
Not the type of painter who could paint scenery, he painted buildings.
Mostly the insides of buildings.
One day I overheard him say he had been hired to repaint the inside of our town’s cafe which was the single spot in our area that had or could get anything a person could want.
– Nigger baby licorice. Check.
– Bubble Gum Cigars that looked like real cigars. Check.
– Little bit smaller than real cigarettes white candy / pink end cigs. Check.
Whatever You Want, You Can Have
No shit, that’s what George Chan, the owner of Virden Cafe said to me.
Look, he said, waiving his arm across the vast expanse of his behind the counter inventory.
Look, he said twice, the second time with a little more Chinese accent.
Anything you want while your father paints tonight. It’s yours…
Mine, George said.
He’s standing right there. I’m not making this up…
I look him in the eye.
George returns my gaze, smiles and waves again for emphasis across an almost unimaginable empire.
See Here? he implored, arm around my shoulders to control a giggling desire to dive directly into his shelf upon shelf of mirrored confection heaven.
I am mister Chan I am. In this land I make the rules, understand?
I nodded my head in semi-shock and was about to ask for the key to his drink cooler when dad hollered at me to start help bring stuff in.
Anyfuckingthing I want! I mused, grabbing the lightest painting supplies in the truck.
George said anyfuckingthing I want. He waived his hand.
Waived his hand like this world is YOURS!
So much to take in and some of it involving painting supplies. This brush, this tray, take the lids off those cans…
But jesus christ.
Did George really say what I think he said? (wish the old man woulda been there as a witness instead of being in such a panic to carry shit in)
Dad! Dad… Dad, George said I can have whatever I want while you were bringing stuff in.
I’ll have bacon and eggs! my uncle Glen hollered. Whose cooking?
We’re not starting with breakfast Glen! the old man growled, did you get those cans stirred?
Yeah, I’m doing that but George said…
Dammit Glen! Never mind the coffee! Start taping off those fixtures, the old man barked at his mostly volunteer brother-in-law as he headed back out to our old truck to bring in the ladders.
Not me. I was still mesmerized.
Anything you want… [all encompassing wave of hand]
Eye yie yie. Anything…?
Well, jawbreakers last too long and shoestring chips are too salty.
Nibs are just twizzlers cut up and those black carmels ain’t really tar.
And ahl be damned if pickled eggs are only good in threes
Because the forth one goes back in the jar.
Took all night to figure out how to pop the bottle tops
and connect straws to drink the drinks securely trapped in the wells of the
cold water cooler but George waved at heaven and said have all you want…
And thanks in part to George, I am.
I’m sampling, dampling and getting what I got.
And like my old friend I’m waving limitations free.
Yeah, we wave a boat loada limitations free.
Thank you, friend.