The Blessing of Bullshit
My grandparents had a negro lawn jockey they named Timmy. Timmy had bright red pants and a red lantern and thick red lips and a red scarf and cap that all matched. Timmy stood outside their front door. Sometimes when they’d come in or out of the house, they’d tap Timmy’s red lantern. They said it was for good luck.
After they died, my father got Timmy. By then, it was socially unacceptable to have Timmy outside – at least in a neighborhood like my father’s – so my father put Timmy in his garage.
I asked my father why he kept Timmy around. I imagined it must have been a sentimental thing – some kind of emotional attachment between my father and his parents that somehow worked its way through Timmy. That’s about all I could imagine that kept my father from discarded that shameful remnant of bygone days.
But my father said he still kept Timmy around for his good luck. He reminded me about tapping Timmy’s lantern, which I already knew.
I told my father, “You gotta be bullshitting me.”
“No,” he said.
“Then you really believe in Timmy’s power of cosmic persuasion?”
“Yes,” he said.
“Then you’re bullshitting yourself,” I said.
“Of course,” my father said. “Just don’t go saying it too loud or repeating it too much.”
“But why?” I asked. “You’re an intelligent man.”
“When your mother was dying, it was nice having Timmy around,” he said. “Was the same for my mother when my father died. And he’s a reminder of my parents. We shouldn’t ever forget where we come from. Who reared us. Who loved us. Who loved us enough to rear us.”
“Sometimes it might be better to forget,” I said.
“No. We can’t forget. Timmy’s luck is special to us. It’s something that’s run through our family, passed down from your grandparents to me. Then, someday, he’ll be yours. His luck is a blessing to this family.”
“I see. But other things have powers of cosmic persuasion too. Or offer some kind of cosmic insight. So why not a Ouija board or something like that? Why Timmy? Why not a rabbit’s foot?”
“No,” my father said. “We never kept a Ouija board in our household. Weren’t allowed.”
“All that stuff’s kind of silly, don’t you think? All that superstition about spirits. Plus, your grandmother thought it was evil. So outa respect, we never got one.”
“What about eating more pickled herring?”
“Herring only works for New Year’s Eve,” my father said.
“I think believing Timmy has some mystical power is silly,” I said.
“Some day you’ll need to believe in something,” my father said.
“We all need something,” I said.
“Yes,” my father said. “Even you. So you better hurry up and find yourself something before it’s too late. Of course, if I go first, then Timmy’s yours. Unless you want it now. You can put him to use for me when I get ill.”
“Timmy’s bullshit,” I said.
“Yes. But bullshit’s a blessing,” my father said. “No matter where it comes from.”
I didn’t have the heart to tell my father that if he passed before me, Timmy was headed directly for a hole in the ground, just like him.