Excerpt: Grantrepreneurs by Jake Swan

Nick, a young physician disillusioned with clinical work, moves from the small province of New Brunswick to the big city of Vancouver to take a research position with a medical startup, A.I. Plus Womxn’s Health Solutions. Nick quickly finds himself working in the company of “Grantrepreneurs” – rogues of the business world who have created a financing model based entirely on the outrageous exploitation of public grant and subsidy programs.

Have you ever looked at your life from the outside and wondered how one-dimensional you must seem to the people around you?  I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being a one-dimensional being, other than the obvious issue of objectification, but personally, I don’t mind being objectified if it makes it easier for people to relate to me. I used to portray “hard worker” as my dominant characteristic. I figured if other people saw me as a uni-dimensional object, the single character trait I would want them to associate with me was that I was the guy who worked hard.

But times they are a-changing. Hard work is no longer the path to success or reverence. Aren’t those the things we all secretly crave?  Money and the chance to be revered?  But in this new world, those things seem to come to the people who pretend not to want them. In fact, they seem to actively fall upon those who work the least, but who happen to have appealing facial symmetry. I’m not complaining. I’m just stating the facts as they lie.

Also, I’m feeling a little guilty about calling Michael “Michael’s Ritalin,” because it objectifies Michael. But when I mentioned it to him he said he thought it was “Great. Kind of quirky!” And stated that he “liked it.”  He also said, “For the record, Nicholas, I’m pretty sure I really am Michael’s Ritalin. Michael and I are pretty different.” 

I’m worried I’m creating a personality schism.

But where Michael’s Ritalin seems to be “the upbeat, quirky guy,” and Ray is the “wizened business-savvy guy,” and Clara is the “mysterious fun lady,” and Jeff is “the Frumpy, fun-loving brother character,” where does that leave me?  “Hard-working-guy” is in the garbage bin forever. It wasn’t fun and there was no pay-off. So what quality should I make the dominant one?  The old guy?  The poor guy?  That’s probably where I stand right now. How do I become the “fun to be around” guy? Or the “always helpful” guy?  Do I even want to be that person?

If I’m sounding philosophical it’s because I spent the night trying to talk the prime minister down from a children’s cough syrup induced existential crisis.

What happened is this:

When we came back from Wu Chung’s yacht party, a group of men in grey suits were waiting for us – or more specifically, for Clara. Their role, though it was never fully clarified, is basically the Canadian equivalent of the secret service. They protect the prime minister, but despite their better judgment, they also have to serve the prime minister. They are obliged to obey him. And last night, apparently, he got smashed on his favorite cocktail, The Flaming Homer, which he styled after Homer’s famous cocktail from the episode of the Simpsons that goes by that name. The prime minister’s version contains grape-flavored children’s cough syrup with a high dose of dextromethorphan. Some parents don’t care so much about the cough, it seems, as they do about knocking their children unconscious. I’m all in on that one. What kid couldn’t use a good night’s sleep, interrupted though it may be by DM-induced psychosocial nightmare content? 

The PM, it was later explained to me, began making Flaming Homers as a joke during a room crawl in his college days, but has since developed a genuine cough syrup addiction.

At any rate, he insisted that his security detail locate Clara, and deliver him to her. So along with the cough syrup thing, we learned that the PM is head-over-heels infatuated with our roommate.

He was sitting on our couch, dipping into a jar of pickled eggs (with his bare hands), and crying when the security agents allowed us into our own apartment.

The man who had put me on the stage for the grand opening of A.I. Plus Womxn’s Health Solutions was there. He asked each of us to sign an NDA, but he knew it was a lost cause. The PM was making a real scene.

“Clara,” he said, when he saw us, “I love you!  I can’t stop thinking about you. Please come away with me.”

The grey-suited security men, looking embarrassed, stepped outside, into the hallway.  The man I’d recognized was the last one out. He made a hand motion to me, that I interpreted as “I’ll be standing right here, so just yell if you hear small arms fire kicking off.”  Then he gently closed the door.

Clara, for her part, played it cool. “Mr. Prime Minister,” she said, “you’re having a cough syrup induced existential crisis again.”

“Babe,” he said, “je t’aime!”

“Let’s talk about it in the morning, Mr. Prime Minister. I’m really tired.” She then went to her room, leaving just us guys in the common area.

About the Author

Dr. Jake Swan completed a fellowship in Interventional Radiology at the University of British Columbia, took his residency at Dalhousie University, and completed medical school at the Memorial University of Newfoundland. He currently practices Interventional Radiology at the Saint John Regional Hospital.