Fine. I give up. There’s no such thing as trees.
You make the two-hour drive back to Marquette for the holiday. At dinner, grandpa asks, “Have you heard the truth about trees?” And you say, “What truth about trees?” And he says, “There’s no such thing as trees; the government replaced them with surveillance machines that look like elms and poplars, but they’re actually highly advanced reconnaissance systems put in place to monitor our thoughts.” And you say, “That’s ridiculous.” And he says, “That’s what they want you to believe.” And you say, “Not everything on the internet is true.” And he says, “That’s what they want you to believe.” And you say, “Not everything is a conspiracy.” And he says, “Just keep on swallowing what they’re feeding you, my dumb little child.” And you say, “I don’t have to listen to this bullshit.” And he says, “Spoken like a loyal pawn of the establishment!” Aunt Beatrice stabs the honey baked ham with her fork but doesn’t eat anything. Uncle Nathan pushes the mashed potatoes from one side of the plate to the other. Buddy asks, “Is it cool if I go check the score of the Packers’ game?” Everyone just stares at him. The dog whimpers under the table. Then grandpa says, “They’re probably listening to us right now.” Buddy says, “Who’s listening to us, the Packers?” Grandpa looks at your mom, and says, “You sure didn’t raise a very bright one here, did you?” And you leap to Buddy’s defense, like you always have, and say, “That is uncalled for, Grandpa. You need to apologize.” And mom says, “Let’s all just calm down a little.” And grandpa says, “How can I be calm when they’ve stolen my liberty?” And you say, “Who has stolen your liberty?” And he says, “Don’t even pretend you don’t know about Obama and what he’s doing to the trees.” And you say, “Obama isn’t even president anymore.” And he says, “That’s what they want you to believe.” And you say, “I’m going outside to smoke.” And mom says, “You’re not going anywhere. We’re not finished with dinner. Can we please just have one nice dinner together? Just one normal dinner as a normal family?” but you push away from the table and head for the door without even grabbing your coat. And grandpa says, “Let him go. The deep state has gotten to him. We’ll have to knock him out later if we want to extract the microchip.” And you close the door behind you, but not before hearing Aunt Bethany saying, “What the fuck?” and Uncle Joseph saying, “This family, I swear to God,” and mom saying, “I spent all day on this casserole,” and grandpa saying, “That’s what they want you to believe.” The door closes. It’s colder outside than you imagined.
Read this piece in its entirety here: http://leonliteraryreview.com/issue-5-matthew-olzmann/