Ross McMeekin discusses fatherhood’s con-artistry while discussing his story What Happens (to be read as a voiceover).
1.Would you rather be Best Dad in the World or the lead singer of ACDC (but you don’t die, of course)?
Iâ€™d guess the Best Dad in the World would have to be some sort of hero, maybe a guy who takes a bullet for his family or pays the ultimate sacrifice in some other dramatic way. I admire that guy, but if given a choice Iâ€™d rather be the pretty decent dad who misses a piano recital or two and says the wrong thing every once in a while but loves his kids and lives to see them grow up. So give me Bon Scott and the no death addendum.
2.The fight between parents and their children is an ancient thing. Do you think it’s unhealthy on both sides for these fights to not happen? Or could such a family ever exist and thrive?
If families that never fight exist â€“ and I donâ€™t think they do â€“ they would probably be creepy in a Stepford Wives sort of way. I think every family fights, but there are a lot of different ways to fight, a lot of different tactics, some healthier than others.
3. It’s so sad, the grandfather dies before his granddaughter’s conception. Do you feel like the father is mad about this? Like the use of his embellished death story as a moral lesson for the daughter is also a subconscious expression of anger toward the grandfather?
4. Are teenagers using the black lipstick getup? Is goth or emo still popular with angstyÂ youth?
I donâ€™t know. I imagine being a teenager these days is pretty different than in the 90s when I grew up, before we made the Internet our own. Back then, I think there were more distinct movements, and those movements stuck around longer. Styles and cultural movements â€“ past and present â€“ are so much more accessible and ever-present for us these days that Iâ€™d guess teenagers have a lot more options to mash up. Those who could afford it might go goth one day and emo the next and pull out a cowboy hat and big shiny belt buckle for hump day or something. But Iâ€™m imagining. That might not be the case at all.
5) What kind of job do you see the father as having?
I see him in sales or marketing, based upon how he takes a narrative and uses it to get the outcome he desires. Right now Iâ€™m in the middle of Ken Keseyâ€™s One Flew over the Cuckooâ€™s Nest, and at one point in story McMurphy tells the floor, â€œThe secret of being a top-notch con man is being able to know what the mark wants, and how to make him think heâ€™s getting it. I learned that when I worked a season on a skills wheel in the carnival. You fe-e-el the sucker over with your eyes when he comes and you say, â€˜Now hereâ€™s a bird that needs to feel tough.â€™ So every time he snaps at you for taking him you quake in your boots, scared to death, and tell him, â€˜Please, sir. No trouble. The next roll is on the house, sir.â€™ So the both of you are getting what you want.â€ I donâ€™t think the father is a con, but I think heâ€™s got a bit of McMurphy in him.
6. If this were a movie instead of a story, would you express the truth of the grandfather’s story through flashback or voiceover, or do you think you’d have to leave that part out?
I like the style of voiceover that Ron Howard uses in Arrested Development, where heâ€™s constantly correcting the lies of his characters and filling in the parts they choose to omit in a funny, deadpan voice. But it probably would be more true to the tenor of the story if it flashed back to the scene as it really happened while the father told the altered version to his daughter, so the viewer could do the work of figuring out the contrast between the two, and what his alteration of the story means to the larger narrative.