A Customs Officer Interviews Christopher Columbus

by Mason Binkley

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Officer: What’s your business in America?

Columbus: I am here on the King’s business, good sir, and by extension, I am here pursuant to God’s Will.

Officer: Uh-huh, right. Now how about some details? What do you intend to do, exactly, if we let you in?

Columbus: Well, if truth be told, I intend to exasperate, ravage, kill, mangle, and destroy some of your natives, among other things. I would also like to write in my journal, time permitting.

Officer: I’m sorry. What?

Columbus: My journal. It is essentially a small book that I use to document my thoughts and observations about—

Officer: Not that. I know what that is, damn it. What did you say about “natives” or whatever? I'm hoping I misunderstood you. 

Columbus: Ah, yes. Allow me to explain. If granted permission to enter, I will deploy numerous expeditions into your country’s interior and take various natives by force in hopes that they give me information about valuable items in these parts, and then I would slaughter them regardless as to whether they provided me with the requested information. I am primarily looking for gold. I wish to extract as much of it as possible from your land, load it onto my ships, and return swiftly to Spain. The King enjoys soaking in the bath as his servants sprinkle golden flakes into the tub. If, however, our efforts yielded no discovery of this precious element, I would, of course, need to fill my ships with some kind of dividend, preferably slaves. Ideally, in this scenario, I would send my men on raids to round up fifteen hundred or so of your finest natives, plucking them from their homes and workplaces, after which I would lock them in pens guarded by my most trusted Spaniards and dogs, and finally, I would handpick the best five hundred or so specimens to load onto the ships and discard the others into the ocean.

Officer: Now how in the hell am I supposed to respond to that?

Columbus: Sir?

Officer: You’ve got the wrong idea about this country, buddy. We’d never let those things happen. 

Columbus: I find your sense of righteousness rather curious and even amusing. Has your country never legalized slavery, taken resources from other lands, or ravaged other peoples?

Officer: Well, yeah, but that doesn’t make any of it okay. At some point, we gotta break the cycle. You follow me? Anyhow, you sure as hell can’t do that stuff to us, in our own country.

Columbus: Lest you rush to judgment, good sir, you should know that, if permitted entry into your country, me and my men would also pursue a most noble and mutually-advantageous end, namely, the propagation of the holy Christian faith. We would, indeed, eradicate all heresies and idolatries, and make all men, women, and children bend the knee before God and King, establishing here a shining City on the Hill, a radiant example for the heathen nations to follow, and we would attain these lofty goals expeditiously, even if we had to wield our swords in great festivals of carnage and bloodshed to purge the wicked.

Officer: Shit, man. You don’t sound Christian to me, at all. You sound pretty confused and fucked up, actually.

Columbus: Ha! If I am so misguided and repugnant, as you so brazenly indicated to me, Christopher Columbus, the man sent here on a divine mission with the blessings of the King, then why am I celebrated at home and abroad?

Officer: I don’t know, man. People believe a lot of weird shit. How long were you sailing around in the ocean, anyway? Did you lose your mind out there?

Columbus: I assure you that my faculty of reason remains perfectly intact, although, admittedly, the voyage did indeed take a toll. You must understand, we spent ten long weeks at sea, with no land in sight and no women to provide comfort in times of need. Most of the crewmembers, and I as well, had begun to engage in certain physical relations with various food items being transported on the ships, especially the softer food items, such as, for example—

Officer: Okay, I’ve heard enough. Look, you’re not gettin’ through. In fact, we’re gonna detain you for further questioning. You can’t just sail up in here and start makin’ terrorist threats.

Columbus: God and King will be most displeased with your foul and vacuous decision, you heathen-born, repellent naive. I shall immediately—

Officer: Yeah, yeah. Save it for your lawyer, asshole.

 

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Mason Binkley lives with his wife and identical twin boys in Tampa, Florida, and works as an attorney. His writing has appeared or is forthcoming in McSweeney's Internet Tendency, Jellyfish Review, Maudlin House, Entropy, Bending Genres, and other places.