A History of My Father as the History of McDonald’s by D. Gilson

America on the brink of war, 1940,
and my father born on a dairy farm turned
to dust. In San Bernardino, Dick and Mac
open McDonald’s Bar-B-Q, car hop
service and a large menu of fifteen cent single
patties, seventeen with cheese. War Machine.
War spreads. Suburbs. The farm glistens
with Chevrolets and dew, the hum of tractors.
America in need of protein. Their demand
for milk. 1949 and potato chips get the axe
for french fries as the dew dries
by milking time, the debut of triple thick
shakes. My father hunts for squirrels
with his brother. Skeeter shoots ‘em straight
between the eyes.
’55 and the family sells up
for more acreage. High school. The first
drive-thru replete with towering, golden arches,
checkered tile, though by ’65 the number
will reach seven hundred. Graduation day,
1959, and my grandmother’s forged signature
on enlistment papers. We will not enter
a conflict in Vietnam.
Dick and Mac build
their hundredth restaurant. Fond Du Lac,
Wisconsin, meaning where the river
is blocked. Lawton, Oklahoma, the year
of our lord and my father’s first marriage,
1961. Ray Kroc buys out Dick and Mac
for just under three million. 1963. A daughter.
A Filet-O-Fish is born. McDonald’s goes global,
1967. First Puerto Rico then Ottawa as my father
moves his family to the air base in Okinawa.
Big Mac and Hamburglar, reassigned to Hanoi,
1971, my father, Special Sauce, Agent Orange,
Two All-Beef Atom Bombs. Silence till ’74,
stateside in Biloxi. Extramarital maritime war
zone. The Ronald McDonald House opens
its doors. Carry on my wayward son.
On the doorstep of Regan, 1979. Divorce.
My mother. First Happy Meals, their plastic
toys. For a brief period, uninterrupted joys.
The Eighties. The McNuggets. The Miscarriage.
Regan re-elected. ’84. Ray Croc passes.
My father leaves. Then comes back. I am born.
D. Gilson is the author of I Will Say This Exactly One Time: Essays (Sibling Rivalry, 2015); Crush, with Will Stockton (Punctum Books, 2014); Brit Lit (Sibling Rivalry, 2013); and Catch & Release (2012), winner of the Robin Becker Prize. He is an Assistant Professor of English at Texas Tech University, and his work has appeared in Threepenny Review, POETRY, and The Rumpus.