I Haven’t Had to Make Small Talk in a Long Time and Honestly I’m a Little Nervous About Saying the Wrong Thing Or Rambling Too Much Like My Grandfather Did When He Came Back From a Trip To Australia Where He Met His Illegitimate Son For the First Time Whose Mother Was a Prostitute He Visited During World War II

It’s so crazy to finally be back in an office without wearing a mask, right? It probably feels as surreal as it did for my grandfather when he learned he had a son from an Australian prostitute named Barbara he spent just one night with during the war. 

I never got the full story from him. “Where were you stationed? Were you on a boat or a base or what?” He ignored those questions like he couldn’t hear me and gave me all the juicy details about his one night of intimacy with Barbara—the positions, how much they both screamed, the seafood they ate off each other’s bodies afterwards—instead of telling me what it was like to be 18 and in a foreign country for the first time.

Boy, he loves to talk about Barbara. He described the heat between their two bodies with every possible metaphor, his eyes rolling back in his head as he pantomimed their movements. His Navy friends visited different prostitutes every night, he said, but that one night with Barbara was so magical, it ruined him. Well, then he tugged at his crotch and said, “I don’t mean ‘ruined me’ like that; it all still works just fine and I’ll prove it with gusto to any meatball who comes asking,” but he reiterated that he couldn’t visit another prostitute after Barbara because the exhilarating bond they shared was better than any of the psychedelic drugs he experimented with while he was in the South Pacific.

I asked him about the Battle of Borneo or Brisbane or whatever—I think those are real things he mentioned before—and he said the action he saw in the trenches was nothing compared to the action he saw in Barbara’s trench. He laughed for an uncomfortable amount of time and made me high-five him twice. Then he winked and said he was part of Operation Python, making that hand gesture for intercourse where you put your index finger through a space between your other index finger and thumb. Whoops, I’m doing the hand gesture for masturbating—I meant to do the other one. Ah, there it is.

Sorry, is that gross? I’m just telling you what my grandfather told me because I can’t stop talking and that reminded me about how much he rambled after he came home from his trip last winter where he first met his son Julian. It was cool, they got along really well. My grandfather even said he wished he’d stayed after the war and started a family with Barbara instead of coming back stateside and being disappointed in his lifeless courtship with my dead-fish-in-bed grandmother that led to a string of lackluster children who did nothing to bring them closer together. He compared my grandmother’s sex organs to a pile of campfire ash and spat on the ground.

He looked wistful for a moment, then went right back into talking about Barbara and how they got tattoos of each other’s genitals next to their real genitals before they said goodbye. No, it’s true—he showed me pictures of them. What a wild night that must have been. He can really go on and on about that stuff.

Sorry, yeah, we can start orientation now. First days can be so nerve-racking, but I’m happy to be here and ready to get to work.

Andy Spain is a video editor and motion graphics designer living in Durham, NC, with his wife and four children. His writing has appeared in McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, X-R-A-Y Literary Magazine, Heavy Feather Review, and Emerge Literary Journal. His debut novel Cash Grab is forthcoming from Humorist Books in 2021.

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