Dispatches

Caleb and Opa on Holiday

Norbert Ruebsaat

A story is not a lie.

BLT

Opa, is bacon good for you or bad for you?

Well, it’s kind of in the middle. It’s not really good for you, but it’s not too bad, either. If you don’t eat too much of it.

So it’s both—good and bad?

Yes.

Pause.

Is that middle for bacon closer to the bad side or to the good side, or is it exactly in the middle?

It’s exactly in the middle.

My mom thinks bacon is bad.

I know.

She’s a vegetarian.

Really?

When we have lunch and we’re having sandwiches or macaroni or something, she’ll eat a grapefruit.

Really? Just a grapefruit?

Or salad. Sometimes she’ll eat a salad this big. As big as a whole plate.

I see.

Pause.

Dad says, Don’t starve yourself. What’s your favourite food, Opa?

Well, I don’t know right now. I used to like eating wild meat, deer meat or grouse when I was a kid around here. Grouse was my favourite.

My dad’s gonna get a gun and go hunting.

Really?

Yup. You know, Opa, the only reason I ordered this bacon and lettuce and tomato sandwich is because of the bacon. But I’m eating the lettuce and tomatoes, too. See?

Yes, that’s good.

And the chips.

LIES

Opa, you know that sometimes people say things, well, indirectly? They don’t say everything that they mean?

Yup.

English people do that. Peter, at Oma’s, told me that. It’s not a lie. But it is a lie. Kind of.

I see.

They leave stuff out.

Yes. Pause. Are you thinking about that man in the big camper where we just stopped?

Yeah.

What about him?

When I asked him if he was going to camp here and he said, Well, no, I’m just going to park here for a while . . .

Pause.

Yeah? Do you think he was lying?

Yes.

You mean because of that sign that said no overnight camping?

Yes.

You think he’s going to camp there?

Yes. Well, maybe. I’m not sure.

Maybe he was just telling a story.

No. That wasn’t a story.

PENGUIN

Opa, you know what my hardest word to spell is?

No.

Penguin. The teacher told us all the animals in their different groups or families and we learned to spell the mammals and the reptiles and the amphibians and then came the birds.

I see.

And one of the birds, of course, is—

I get it.

Yeah, penguin.

Pause.

Well, how do you spell it?

P, E, N, G . . . W . . .

Nope.

What?

U.Peng-U?

No, pen-gu-in.

But that sound is two O’s.

I know. The U sound is sometimes spelled by two O’s.

There should be a W. Win.

I know.

What’s your hardest word to spell, Opa?

Neighbour.

How do you spell it?

N, E, I, G—

Oh my God!

H—

Wow!

B, O, U, R.

That’s hard.

I know. My teacher in grade 4 made me write it on the blackboard five hundred times so I would learn it.

Five hundred times?

Yup. Pause. Or it could have been just fifty.

STORY

So Caleb, what is the difference between a story and a lie?

When you tell something that didn’t happen, that’s not a lie, it’s a story. A story’s not a lie. A story can be something you make up, or it could be something that really happened. But it’s not lying.

I see.

But if you say a story is true when it’s actually made up, then you’re lying. And if you say something that’s not true, and you don’t tell people that it’s not true, that’s lying, too.

I agree.

And if you say something that’s true, and you tell people it’s not true, that’s a lie also.

SAYING THINGS

Opa, you know how people sometimes say they are not tired, and they are yawning when they say that?

Yes. Pause. Are you tired right now?

Kind of.

Caleb Martin-Ruebsaat lives with his parents in the Slocan Valley of B.C., and is working on his first comic book.

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Norbert Ruebsaat

Norbert Ruebsaat has written many articles for Geist. He lived in Vancouver and taught at Simon Fraser University.


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