Tuesday, or Was It Wednesday?—by Joshua Levy

One Tuesday—or was it Wednesday? —I visited my parents.

Written anything lately? asked my dad, during supper.

I had. I fetched my laptop from my car and read a short story about my brother’s recent engagement to them while we ate.

When I was done, my dad said it was very witty, great use of metaphor, but why hadn’t I told the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me God?

My dad’s a lawyer.

But, I said, it really happened. You were there!

I never said those things, said my mom. And I made butternut squash lasagna that day, not hummus or feta salad.

I felt accused. You uttered extremely similar things, I said. I can’t remember exact dialogue. But you’re right about the butternut squash lasagna. I’ll change that.

They looked at me sadly, my parents did.

I don’t think Menachem was wearing a fanny pack that day, added my dad.

The point, I said, is that the major facts are all true, if not the minor ones.

My dad stood up and went to the freezer, bent down behind the kitchen island, and resurfaced holding a tub of Neapolitan ice cream.

None for me, Ricky, said my mom.

Josh? asked my dad.

Sure, I said.

“My dad said it was very witty, great use of metaphor, but why hadn’t I told the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me God?”

He opened a cabinet next to the sink and grabbed two ceramic bowls. Each had a different colourful made-up bird painted on it. Or were they real bird species? My parents had bought them a decade earlier in Nova Scotia, while visiting my sister at university. Mind you, it could have been New Brunswick where they bought the bowls….

I wasn’t sure. The facts felt like slippery fish in my hands.

If you’re going to write non-fiction, offered my dad, while running a spoon under hot water, it should be 100 percent true.

I agree, said my mom. Don’t make anything up.

But, I said, I’m not. Memories change colours and shapes under different conditions.

Two scoops or three? asked my dad.

Different what? asked my mom.

Two, I said.

Different what? repeated my mom.

Conditions. Like the passage of time or evolving perspectives. That stuff.

My mom said, ah, I don’t buy it.

A fact’s a fact, Josh, said my dad, handing me an ice cream bowl.

One, two. I count two scoops in your bowl, declared my mom.

My dad nodded. That’s a fact, he said.

I sighed. I didn’t disagree with my parents. Facts are vital and I wanted them all.

But my story had been about shining a light on unverifiable, deeper truths: family relations, love, loneliness. Whether Menachem wore his fanny pack or not on that particular day was, in my opinion, such a minor fact that researching it could stifle the creative process.

“Memories change colours and shapes under different conditions.”

Another Tuesday—or was it Wednesday?—I visited my parents.

Written anything lately? asked my dad, during supper.

I had. I fetched my laptop from my car and read a factually bullet-proof story about Visiting Day during my first summer at sleepaway camp to them while we ate:

On Visiting Day, my parents came with my younger brother, Daniel. They brought me a bag of Archie and Spider-Man comics and some candy. My sister, Samantha, was probably also there, since she was less than a year old at the time.

The camp director made a speech to all parents and campers. The speech was almost certainly in English, since that was the only language he spoke. I think we then went to the waterfront and paddled in a canoe, but that could be a memory from the following summer.

I don’t remember if it was a sunny or rainy day, but I do remember the emptiness I felt when Visiting Day ended.

That’s a terrible story, said my dad.

Embellish a little, said my mom.


linkedinJoshua Levy splits his time between Montreal, Canada, and Lisbon, Portugal. He is grateful to the QWF for their support over the years and has participated in eight QWF writing workshops to improve his craft. Joshua is a winner of the 2010 QWF Quebec Writing Competition and was longlisted for the 2007 competition. He has had poetry published in Carte Blanche, told stories live at Blue Metropolis for This Really Happened, and written for QWF Writes. Joshua has been published by the Oxford University Press, Véhicule Press, Maisonneuve, Vallum, The Feathertale Review, The Rumpus, and The Malahat Review. He is a regular storyteller on CBC Radio and recently received a grant from the Canada Council for the Arts to write a memoir.

Photo credit: Seth Sawyers (top banner); Steve Gerrard (headshot)

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8 thoughts on “Tuesday, or Was It Wednesday?—by Joshua Levy

  1. Great piece, Josh. The facts are indeed slippery fish. Sometimes, while researching details for an essay, I discover I’ve forgotten the way something really happened and stuff I thought happened didn’t happen at all. This piece poses some great (and perennial) questions: is the accuracy of the smallest details as important as that of the big ones, “the unverifiable, deeper truths”? Unverifiable, hm, so sometimes you _have to_ make stuff up? Where does one draw the line between fact and embellishment? Is “it could stifle the creative process” a strong enough argument to support the use of possibly made-up details? You wouldn’t want made-up bits in a piece of hard-hitting investigative journalism, but is there more room for the way “memories change colours and shapes under different conditions” in, say, memoir? I think so.
    So much to mull over.

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  2. Michael Chabon calls his latest work, Moonlight, faux memoir. I like the term because it acknowledges the lack of fact checking as well as the genuine effort of memoir to get to a truth. The most important thing is telling the story – if you can add wit and a great use of metaphor, you have my attention. Great piece!

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  3. Oh I laughed. more than once. This is one of my favourite phrases: “a factually bullet-proof story.” I am still chuckling… oh yes. It’s great to find your story here.

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  4. Joshua- Good morning from Logan Airport, Boston , MA. Came across your piece and loved it! I am a new blogger so I haven’t made many comments but I just had to give you a thumbs up. I am an older writer and love the fact that I can change and manipulate threads and details from so many past years. Headed to South Africa. Will keep your parents in mind and take good notes…

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  5. i like the humor of the story. what i like the most-“he opened a cabinet next to the sink and grabbed two ceramic bowls. each had a different colourful made-up bird painted on it. or were they real bird species?” which i think captures the indecisiveness of the writer/narrator on what to write/ include in the story (should he include the small details as well as the big details? and so on). in fact, i find the metaphor to be what the whole story is about. i think the same shows in his inability to place the date he visited his parents (Tuesday, or was it a Wednesday?). it captures the labor of writing, of any form. i enjoyed reading it.

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