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Jonathon Kane

A One Hundred–Piece Jigsaw
Puzzle of Arthur My Grandfather

1. Arthur my grandfather declares that he will live to be one hundred years old, precisely.

2. Arthur my grandfather, on first appearing at the front door, noted our resemblance. “Just physical I’m praying,” I replied, and he smiled, crookedly, like I’ve been known to smile.

3. Arthur my grandfather says that he has always wanted to see Australia, ever since he turned seventy-nine, last week.

4. Arthur my grandfather arrived on my doorstep only with whatever could be carried inside a department store shopping bag.

5. Arthur my grandfather says that Thomas Traherne has been asking for me.

6. Arthur my grandfather quotes a next-door neighbour back at home who said of him that he always seemed more interested in the phases of the moon than the raising of children.

7. Arthur my grandfather says that the “capitalist constant consumer fix” is fueled by alcohol, caffeine, and sugar, all of which are addictive.

8. Arthur my grandfather says that I got lucky and have no idea of true hardships, really.

9. Arthur my grandfather recalls when we last saw each other, when I was seven years old, and I was taken back to the visit, which lasted for the duration of a pot of tea, in a small crowded kitchen with the scent of boiled pig, butter, whiskey, and a cologne I forever afterwards always associated with absence.

10. Arthur my grandfather says that prices should be slashed for rail travel to get more people out of polluting, planet-destroying cars, before calling for a taxi to take him to the nearest pub.

11. Arthur my grandfather, as an exhibit of his self-discipline, and because of the biblical serpent, only drinks on days that contain the letter S.

12. Arthur my grandfather says that one of my uncles always aspired to write, but gave it away for cosy domesticity, cryptic crosswords, and copious pre-dusk pints of ale.

13. Arthur my grandfather says that the word anxiety is so prevalent these days to describe a psychological condition because it contains the letter X, and drug companies love the letter X because it denotes clinical expertise.

14. Arthur my grandfather says that I will never know him as I have always wished to know him.

15. Arthur my grandfather, after another disappointing encounter today, says he has yet to eavesdrop on a conversation in this country that is anything other than ba

16. Arthur my grandfather says that I can do better, without specifying at what exactly.

17. Arthur my grandfather says that the only redeeming quality of the steak he ate in a hotel restaurant was that it reminded him of a beloved pair of boots from when he was seventeen.

18. Arthur my grandfather says that we have a long line of ineptitude when it comes to activities in the kitchen, when even loaves of bread have been known to flee from us when we approach them with a knife looking to make toast, but that my seafood stew could have perhaps commenced an ending to the curse.

19. Arthur my grandfather says that it is very likely that I keep trying to write because of a wound that has never fully closed over.

20. Arthur my grandfather, between espresso sips, wants to know what that “heinous anus,” the USA’s president, is up to lately.

21. Arthur my grandfather wonders aloud at what precise moment the nerds took over, when algorithms became more important than pheromones when it came to trying to find a lover.

22. Arthur my grandfather wants to know why I wish to hear about our family’s past when there are so many pretty women’s bottoms to follow down the street.

23. Arthur my grandfather, rumor has it, sired a number of children with women in his hometown who were married to other men.

24. Arthur my grandfather would like to know why I fail to refer to him as “My Pa,” or “Art,” when meeting other people. Arthur my grandfather and I, since his arrival, have met three other people, one of whom has been a somewhat irate police officer.

25. Arthur my grandfather, between bites of a bacon sandwich, says that the “consigliere of Satan” is the one who started encouraging us all to record ourselves endlessly.

26. Arthur my grandfather tries telling me about some ancient Roman incident while I hang out the laundry to the sound of morning commuting lorries; something to do with decadence, I think, and how stuffing some poor slaughtered creature inside a larger one can lead to a society with a glut of cooking shows; and all I’m thinking is: Toga, toga, toga.

27. Arthur my grandfather says that it very quickly became a sorry state of affairs when we started looking for leadership from self-serving vessels in suits and ties.

28. Arthur my grandfather wants a list of ten things I think I know about him, learned from my father, the man between us, and I can think of only two, for I only heard the two.

29. Arthur my grandfather says the sole two things I know about him are the sole two things in his life for which he still feels a little sorrow and shame. No one speaks for ages. Then he says he has a problem with the phrase “a person of colour,” which he deems racist language “entirely devoid of colour.”

30. Arthur my grandfather says as a race we are trying to tap our way through a global fog.

31. Arthur my grandfather wants me to know that of the 5.5 million Soviet POWs during the Second World War, 3.2 million didn’t survive. “Something was starting to go irrevocably wrong in the world,” he says. “The Black v White racial bullshit thing is a distraction. The problem is the distribution of power. Getting us fighting among ourselves keeps everyone busy and distracted.”

32. Arthur my grandfather says I should consider myself fortunate my father fled the homeland so that I grew up elsewhere because otherwise within such large families generation after generation in such close quarters “things can tend to get a tad incestuous,” and I’m quite convinced he didn’t mean literally.

33. Arthur my grandfather says he perhaps should have become a monk (as my own father was once intending) and so maybe there wouldn’t have been such romantic mayhem in his life, “populated by pleasure and pain, prick and pussy,” and what seemed to him to be an “unnecessary plethora of paternity tests.”

34. Arthur my grandfather says that were it not for the horrors of slavery the genius of Miles Davis and John Coltrane may never have appeared.

35. Arthur my grandfather wants me to know that the USA has fought a number of wars since 1945 against various non-Caucasian poor people around the globe, “a matchup akin to you going up one v one with LeBron James. Still, the Vietcong taught them a thing or two, and those Taliban fellas also seemed awfully determined to succeed.’

36. Arthur my grandfather says that racism “simply put, is a form of stupidity. But there have at least been some good jokes come out of it. Here’s one: What do you call a . . .”

37. Arthur my grandfather tells me the names of all the places he has visited where he has met a local who’s referred to their home area as “God’s country;” and once finished he wants to know: “But isn’t everywhere, even the shitholes?”

38. Arthur my grandfather says that if I live long enough, the memory of those who were once alive will disappear. “And only a very few people, if you are fortunate, will preserve your memory once you’re gone.”

39. Arthur my grandfather doesn’t rate the educational standards of the world because of the kind of society he has witnessed throughout his life.

40. Arthur my grandfather says that some of us (pointing at me) have lost a connection with our ancestors because we no longer know their language, before adding: “So maybe that’s why you write: as an attempt to summon the spirits that keep knocking on the edges of your noggin, hoping to be embodied, somehow, if only briefly.”

41. Arthur my grandfather adores pistachios, intensely dislikes lotteries (which he calls “the stupid tax”), and would prefer not to speak about, he says, the sort of things that need no speaking about, which could be “ancient history,” “none of your bloody business,” and “quite common actually when you scratch beneath the surface of many families.”

42. Arthur my grandfather reads aloud over my shoulder the note I finish making by cutting out letters from old magazine headlines and sticking them in place upon a rose coloured piece of card: “Some lying pieces of shit work in this police station. You know who you are. And so do we. Watch yourselves.”

43. Arthur my grandfather says the meaning of words seem to change over time. “Take the word village,” he says. “Here in this country it tends to denote a shopping centre nearby to one’s suburban block.” He was born in a village, he adds, free from any corporate logo.

44. Arthur my grandfather, while turning over a record, tells me that during the one other time we met, when I was seven years old, I had this to say about jazz: “It moves around everywhere while staying in the same place.” He remembers the day clearly, he says.

45. Arthur my grandfather says that he tries to look at whatever is going on inside of him and around him as if it were happening to someone else.

46. Arthur my grandfather, while contemplating a sink of dirty dishes, declares that: “All of my higher loves have forever resided in the realm of the unattained.”

47. Arthur my grandfather envies my ability to put one foot in front of the other without the expectation of any encroaching pain.

48. Arthur my grandfather doesn’t remember much about my father’s upbringing, only that he was doted on by his sisters, and that he tended to cry often, or at least when his parents were in the same room together, which would soon be stopping entirely, except for a brief visit at Christmas “when you would give my dad the gift of an orange, which quickly became peel falling on the street corner.”

49. Arthur my grandfather was quite content, for some years, to wear a beard, until suddenly one day he noticed more and more men were wearing them, and so he cut off all the whiskers except for the moustache, which he now felt, entirely through his own efforts, he could also bring back into fashion.

50. Arthur my grandfather deems himself an aristocrat because he believes in “the ancestral memory preserved in blood.”

51. Arthur my grandfather says that I have no home in space, and possibly time, and so that I should “learn at least to make some peace with it.”

52. Arthur my grandfather has no regrets about falling in love with a woman other than his wife, only to say it would have been a lot easier for everyone if the woman in question had been someone other than his wife’s sister.

53. Arthur my grandfather recalls once visiting an aquarium where the eyes of fishes were all full of tears.

54. Arthur my grandfather believes that he comes from, on his mother’s side, a long line of layabouts, where excessive ambition was forever deemed ugly and unbecoming, and a stain on the simple yet wonderful fact of existence. “Why ruin such beauty,” he wanted to know, “with ceaseless striving, for it only hastens the grave six feet under, long before your final breath is close to arriving.”

55. Arthur my grandfather believes that if we only knew more about the undocumented years of Jesus between the ages of twelve and thirty, revelations regarding our own puny existence could arise.

56. Arthur my grandfather never as a young man thought he would live to see a future where people would pose to take photos of themselves in the mirror, adding that if he ever sees me do such a thing he will immediately exclude me from his nonexistent last will and testament.

57. Arthur my grandfather this morning woke from a dream in which he was a successful mathematician living in California, who spent his weekends climbing trees, and then, after asking me to switch on the kettle, he wanted to know when I was going to start doing something with my life rather than sitting cross-legged gazing at my navel, cooking vegetables, and scribbling nonsense stuff for no one, in the middle of nowhere.

58. Arthur my grandfather, between bottles of wine, tries to fathom, using as many words as possible, which are rapidly spoken and laden with expletives, how certain members of a religion can express outrage at a cartoon of their founder but remain notably silent when it comes to the mass internment of their fellow believers in concentration camps.

59. Arthur my grandfather shuffles down the hall in boxer shorts and a tatty vest, asks directions to the nearest box of aspirin and then instructs me to find a task in life that can bring me some honor and pride, while I put the finishing touches to an experimental chickpea dish to go with the fried potatoes and mushrooms, as a large drop of rain on the nearby windowpane breaks and falls down the glass.

60. Arthur my grandfather informs me this afternoon, between bottles of wine, that I have the demeanor of a holy fool who looks to have finally accepted within him a never-fulfilled yearning.

61. Arthur my grandfather recalls the sole occasion he played hide-and-seek with his children and their friends, way back when, the night after the summer solstice, where he remained hidden till the following midmorning, passed out behind some wild raspberry bushes, missing but not missed.

62. Arthur my grandfather makes a circle of stones in the backyard and lights a fire and stares into the flames all evening without saying a word, till I tell him good night, and he replies, “I can’t remember my mother’s face anymore.”

63. Arthur my grandfather has a couple of photographs in his wallet with more creases in them than his face.

64. Arthur my grandfather says it is not too late for me to become a priest of sorts, “since you’re close to living like one anyway,” and that I might through such a route be of better service to the world, rather than continue on with the “scribbling of mind drunk chatterings,” before asking whether I have in the house a working toaster, butter, bread.

65. Arthur my grandfather says that my “supposedly natural” reclusive tendencies of late are a polar opposite to him at the same age, “growing vegetables and watching clouds and birds in the early morning sky,” far from the grand stage of countless desires and ill-advised adventures, instead “surrounded by silent trees and a flatulent dog, getting around in an old car that coughs and croaks on the best of days.”

66. Arthur my grandfather mentions a cousin of mine I’ve never met before who on first learning of the word paedophile thought it was the name of a man: Peter File.

67. Arthur my grandfather doesn’t say a word for days and then for some reason informs me that I give the very strong impression of someone who loves a plant more for the root than the flower.

68. Arthur my grandfather speaks about a “life-changing meal” he ate at the age of forty, which led to an uninterrupted eighteen-month search for a similar experience, “but to no avail,” which resulted in a stint of homelessness. He’s happy with bread and butter now.

69. Arthur my grandfather, watching as some soil is turned over for a new garden bed, says I lately have the look of someone who is always on the cusp of an avalanche of tears.

70. Arthur my grandfather wants to know how I am able to keep walking around, in severe isolation, with so much physical distance from the steps and echoes of my ancestors, but he doesn’t wait for an answer, opting instead to rapidly change the subject to the approaching rain and another earlier planted tree, soon to receive a soaking.

71. Arthur my grandfather tells me how, one winter’s night, years ago now, he stood on the side of a bridge, over the river in his hometown, waiting to fall. An unexpected force, however, pushed him away from the edge, “because it wasn’t up to me to decide how my story would end. A process of sacred drifting first had to bring me to you as an old man.”

72. Arthur my grandfather says that if the big boys of the USA and China continually refuse to recognize the International Criminal Court, then their representatives should be snubbed at cocktail parties until the situation is remedied, and wait staff should be instructed to never top up their drinks. “That’s all the news I’ve got for today.”

73. Arthur my grandfather says that he may have made a massive mistake in believing he would one day discover the kind of love he once encountered in a dream.

74. Arthur my grandfather says, after an afternoon reading, that we have epigenetics and the collective cultural trauma of the Great Famine to thank for our svelte figures.

75. Arthur my grandfather suggests that we write a screenplay together, where the protagonist travels to Australia in search of a missing person, and the only available clue is an unidentifiable place whose name has an abundance of vowels. “We should soon start scouting locations,” he says.

76. Arthur my grandfather never expected to be spending some of his final days in view of peeling trees and brittle, baked cliffs.

77. Arthur my grandfather says we are, as a whole, a docile and “carefully managed citizenry,” damned to forever pursue and increase our levels of consumption via “the manipulation of needs through the various means of advertising.”

78. Arthur my grandfather says I have the kind of face which is always deserving of the truth, and then he says not a word for the rest of the day.

79. Arthur my grandfather can’t at all recommend the cafe (“less than mediocre with aspirations to middling”) but some light that came in through the window and rested on his fork was “utterly sublime, I’ll have you know.”

80. Arthur my grandfather believes one of the things we most have in common is that we have always been destined to be exiles in the world, that “even in our sweetest hours” we will all the same forever experience the piteous homesickness for a lost native land, which may not even any longer exist.

81. Arthur my grandfather has a tendency on occasion to appear ageless, and he says that if that’s the case it’s probably because of an ongoing reluctance to ever speak too much about the past.

82. Arthur my grandfather has learned to look at every dawn now as if it’s one of his last.

83. Arthur my grandfather, after reading a story about a recent shark attack, says that he very seriously doubts whether any shark has ever taken a bite out of a vegan, “preferring instead people who partake especially of pork but also other land-based creatures, and so that’s why I won’t go into the ocean.”

84. Arthur my grandfather believes we are most ourselves when in close contact with our extreme disorientations.

85. Arthur my grandfather, on hearing the phone ring repeatedly, says, “You best answer it, it might be God.”

86. Arthur my grandfather reads from a piece of paper a horoscope he says he has made for me: “What weeps inside of you, unseen, are your heroic possibilities. You want to climb to the top of the mountain, and because you put it off for the day, you suffer instead.” Later I look: the piece of paper is blank.

87. Arthur my grandfather says there is always the chance of course that he is already dead and is currently stationed in a waiting room in a distant corner of the world, with a ticket for the afterlife, in the company of a grandson who maybe doesn’t even exist. He adds that he hasn’t been sleeping too well lately. “I’ve also been eating too much cheese. You should have cut me off sooner, nonexistent grandson. The end is nigh.”

88. Arthur my grandfather believes politics would be far more interesting if it wasn’t populated by politicians.

89. Arthur my grandfather says he has been waiting for a true teacher all of his life, but has so far only come across the world.

90. Arthur my grandfather says that our current society favors locking our elders away because the wisdom in history is not useful to the ongoing charade of perpetual economic growth. “Also their demeanor shows they finally know they’ve been played for fools from the start.”

91. Arthur my grandfather opens his arms as if reading a very large newspaper. “Says here silence makes an experience go further.”

92. Arthur my grandfather says that what he remembers most about his father is a solitary kiss on the forehead.

93. Arthur my grandfather sits quietly beside me on a clear half-moon night as we watch one unidentifiable shadow after another flit across our field of vision, avoiding yet also demanding our attention.

94. Arthur my grandfather reveals a regret by unbuttoning his shirt to show a tattoo of a multi-limbed deity sitting all over his chest, that no one has ever seen “except for loves and now you, grandson, loves and now you.” “Grabby Gabi,” he called the god.

95. Arthur my grandfather expels a rapid expletive-laden rant expressing his undeniable discontent with protesters demonstrating their disgust of slavery while wearing sneakers “made by corporate slaves” and recording their exploits on “little machines put together by other corporate slaves” in places out of sight.

96. Arthur my grandfather, after being questioned again about our shared ancestry, says that if we are not careful we shall lose all our energy to memory.

97. Arthur my grandfather has a dream in which the patch of skin between his left forefinger and thumb gets repeatedly bitten by a rooster. He had been visiting a long-ago love named Josie, who’d recently moved in with her new fella to a farm, 123 km away, precisely.

98. Arthur my grandfather, after a light breakfast, informs me that he would like to try his hand at writing a ghost story, “kind of like you’ve done, but set in a hotel,” before touching the tips of my fingers with an almost transparent hand.

99. Arthur my grandfather imagines a lost language in which he would be able to say all of the things he cannot say in this language, before kissing me gently on the forehead.

Jonathon Kane currently lives at the foot of a flattop mountain in Australia, as the result of a dare.

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