Joyland

Toronto |

Commitme| Co| Commitment

by Ian Williams

edited by Kathryn Mockler

For example:

Do you lik me?

Check [ ] yes [ ] no

*

For example, afterwards, her brother used to write stories on their Commodore 64 and force her to read them. One was called Commitment.

Her comment was always the same: You don’t have to rape every character just to have a climax.

*

For example, when her brother’s Ethics professor asked the class for an example of ignorantia juris non excusat, ignorance of the law is no defense against liability, her brother put up his hand and said that it was possible to have HPV without knowing it or knowing it was possible, therefore possible to spread it without intending to spread it.

No, the Ethics professor said. That is not a correct example.

*

For example:

Check [X] yes [ ] no

but not rit now becuz I lik Brenda to

*

For example, after three semesters of sending her brother money for food, her mother visited and opened his closet and discovered eight pairs of blue jeans.

What have you been eating? she asked.

*

For example, at lunch, a man said that his six-year-old niece had a boyfriend. She had come home and announced it.

Another man, who had young daughters around the same age, said that he was stockpiling ammo for the day some horned-up boy rang the bell.

Then everyone took a sip of water.

She was the only woman at the table.

She said, I used to have boyfriends I never spoke to. I’d pass them a note, Do you like me? and they’d check yes. And I’d be like, I guess we’re going out now and we’d walk around the yard once during lunch then he’d go and play baseball.

A third man at the table said, We used to get married during recess. Once I got married and divorced in fifteen minutes. Yeah, she came back and was like, I don’t want to be married to you anymore. I want to marry Leo.

*

For example, her father ate in a cone of lamplight afterwards. He stopped believing in overhead light.

He prepared his dinners on a tartan placemat, one of the only things he owned in his furnished apartment, by spreading peanut butter on crackers, sometimes adding a dab of honey, and placing another cracker on top. He then scraped the whole cracker sandwich into his mouth.

*

For example, afterwards, her mother started taking them to a nondenominational church. It was the kind of church that allowed denim and drums. And because it was across from the mall, they could have lunch and frozen yogurt in the food court afterwards.

Her mother’s rule was that they sit together during church.

A family that prays together stays together, her mother said.

Little late, her brother said.

So they sat together. They sat together behind the Henstras, an undivorced family of straight teeth, evenly spaced children, and descending heights. The children neither cried nor slept during the service.

She gave them eight years. Her brother gave them five.

*

For example, the starlings that built a nest in the eavestrough over her bedroom window were themselves on the verge of divorce. She could tell from their voices.

*

For example, her mother became obsessed with oral hygiene afterwards. At home, they were expected to brush their teeth after every meal, to gargle with diluted Listerine before leaving the house. In public, in a food court for example, they were to take a little water and rinse discreetly at water fountains.

Her mother brushed her teeth until her gums bled. Then she had to brush the blood from her teeth.

*

For example, during a cold war, nine days, her father went upstairs during a commercial break and left his log in the toilet for her mother, who was upstairs folding all the clothes except his, to find.

But her brother found it.

*

For example, true to prediction, within a few months, the chicks split, the parents split, and hornets took over the nest.

*

For example, there was a time when no one in her family lived in the same city. Her brother was in Montreal, her mother was in Whitby, her father in Red Deer, and she was in Victoria living with the man before this man, a man she would not marry either.

*

For example, at a cousin’s wedding reception, her brother explained that if marriage was a construct then so was infidelity. He had never cheated, he explained. (His date was dancing with their father.) His relationships were interrupted by other relationships.

But for most people, her brother said, their relationships were interrupted by solitude (his date had returned) and their solitude by relationships.

*

For example, her father did it again during another cold war.

And she found it.

*

For example, she had already changed careers five times by her late thirties although the numbers predicted an average of seven career changes over a lifetime.

Her mother worked as a public school secretary in Whitby for 33 years. Her father had to move to Red Deer but had only one career as a field technician, three jobs, yes, but one career, two wives, two children, and a placemat.

*

For example, she once spent 45 seconds trying to spell commitment in the subject line of a message to a man she would not marry. That morning, she refused to use the auto-correct feature. She would recognize the word when she saw it.

Comit|

Comitment|

Co|

Comittme|

Comittee|

Co|

Cometm|

Commettment|

Co|

Commetme|

Commit|

Commitme|

Co|

Commitment |

*

For example, her father did not have a TV anymore.

He’s gone back to reading, she told her brother. Books. From the library.

That’s awful, her brother said.

*

For example, the first surprise was that her father wrote a letter to her mother. He hadn’t done that since she was 19 and said she preferred Bobby Richler. The second was the use of the word cute at the end of a sentence referencing his new wife at the time, his ex-wife-number-2 presently. But when her mother looked back she saw that the error was hers. That was the third. He had written acute.

*

For example, she became vegan after watching a documentary that included footage of farmers castrating a cow. One farmer used a device to band a green elastic ring around the cow’s scrotum while the other farmer explained that the elastic ring would cut off blood flow to the testes and cause them to fall off naturally and painlessly.

The device was called an elastrator but she heard emasculator.

*

For example, because her mother had never known her father to use the word acute, she surmised that he had a secret life where he rowed through his mind saying such words as acute, while pretending not to know them on land. It was a kind of unfaithfulness.

*

For example, her father explained that ex-wife-number-2 didn’t understand that he was an owl and she a lark.

I didn’t bother her, he said, when she was sawing logs during Letterman although I was frisky as hell. So you see (Dad, no, she said, seeing the end) why sex was a problem.

*

For example, the last time she called her brother was to tell him not to forget to call their mother for her birthday. Her brother said that he hadn’t forgotten, not this year, because his present girlfriend had the same birthday as their mother, but a different year, obviously.

Then he asked, How’s—?

Who?

The guy who’s old enough to be your father.

She could hear her brother’s television in the background.

Nobody believes in Freud anymore but damn, sis.

*

For example, her father asked her, Do you think you could get me a wheelchair?

But. She didn’t want to ask why. But, Dad, you can, can’t you, walk?

Still, he said.

That’s so—she searched for the word, sad, unnecessary, doomed—fatalistic.

It would help me get around. The apartment.

*

He cannot marry her. She will not marry him.

He cannot marry her because he is already married.

In fact, he is already married presently and was already married previously.

He cannot marry her because he has three children by his previous wife and two by his present wife and the expense of buying them tablets, leotards, contact lenses, car insurance, and mission trips to Guatemala means that he is frequently withdrawing from his TFSA.

She understands his reasons.

But I don’t understand, he says. Why won’t you marry me?

I’ve already told you, she says.

No, you gave me a whole bunch of examples of stuff that has nothing to do with us.

Well, that’s the best I can do right now.

Why won’t you marry me?

It’s a pointless question, don’t you think? Considering.

Why don’t you want to marry me?

It’s a bit narcissistic, no, to want me to want to marry you so badly. It’s narcissistic and needy.

Why don’t you want to—

You’re being really, really, really unsexy right now.

Why don’t you want to marry me?

For example—

No more examples.

Literally all my dad does is read John Grisham and eat cracker sandwiches.

And what? You think that will happen to us?

*

For example, her mother was never more her mother than when she was verclempt. Palm on her heart, lips between her teeth—this was the characteristic expression of her apocalypse.