They might wish to make pets of us.
January 9, 2013
Most animals are not very sophisticated. They want the basics in life. Food. Shelter. A 24″ plasma TV. But we imagine that there is more there. I once spotted a Coyote on the block. At first I thought he was just a gaunt shaggy dog. But then he looked at me. It wasn’t the look of a pet. It was the look of an equal.
Fred is a cat. Fred in these stories, one of which I am inserting. A brief taste. If we ever get off this planet we will meet creatures who will not be pets. They will challenge us. In some cases they might wish to make pets of us.
A short excerpt from the second novel in a quartet called The End Starts Just Before The Beginning.
“Ann and I went to look at air-conditioners this afternoon,” Fred said.
“Air-conditioners? But, we already have an air-conditioner. Besides, the hot weather is over.”
“That’s what the sales clerk at Canadian Tire told her. Ann didn’t believe him. Nice looking fellow too. For a moment, I thought Ann was flirting with him but then she went into a rage when he said it was almost October. You know how Ann can go into a rage, Dave.”
“Ann thinks it’s April. Don’t you find that strange?”
An airplane passed low overhead, dragging a sign behind it that read – Mild, isn’t it? I could see into the lit interior. The passengers were all seated. The No Smoking sign was on. I butted out my cigarette and fastened my seat belt. I turned on the radio. It was the news. Estonia had just declared its independence from the Soviet Union and had been spotted off the coast of Newfoundland. I turned the station. The baseball scores were in. The Blue Jays had lost another cliffhanger. I flipped through the stations until I found some music that fitted my mood. Country music. Someone had just been cheated by their woman and was crying into their Budweiser. Another station. A talk show. A woman had just had an argument with her husband. He wouldn’t take out the garbage or rake the leaves. He wanted nothing to do with the kids, just came home from work and sat in front of the television with a bottle of beer watching the ball game. “I swear,” she said, “if I come hack to this world again, it won’t be as a woman. I’ll come back as a case of beer. At least I’ll get some attention.”
“Did you ever see someone die?” Fred asked. “You ever know anyone who actually killed someone? And I’m not referring to my pet fly.”
A flock of seagulls flew low across the highway in front of me. I flicked on my headlights and slowed down. The car behind me that had been hugging my tail honked its horn. I looked into the rear view mirror. The car pulled into the next lane and alongside of us. The driver threw a few obscene gestures my way before he flew off into the distance. We turned east along the 401. Fred repeated his question.
“My father killed someone during the war.” This wasn’t actually true. I had no idea whether my father had killed anyone. I assumed that, as a soldier, he must have. We are all the children of killers.
“To tell you the truth, Fred, I haven’t seen anyone die.” I have always been petrified by death. When Ann’s father died I couldn’t go near the coffin. Everyone milled about in the funeral home and spoke softly for fear that if they spoke too loudly the dead might rise. Ann often went to the graveyard to lay flowers on her father’s grave but I always found some excuse for not accompanying her.
A Chevrolet pulled up beside us. Before it could advance, a motorcycle sped up the white line between us and down the highway. The Chevrolet retreated and pulled off to the side of the road.
“Death is like the North Star, Dave. It’s one of life’s few constants. Without it we would be lost. How about when your folks kicked the bucket?”
I shook my head, explaining that I had no idea whether my parents were dead or alive. They had just disappeared. Dr. Blackstone claims that I have wiped them out of my memory, that I have made a conscious effort to forget them. But I recall that I returned home from college one long weekend to find that they had sold the house and disappeared. I called the real estate agent who had sold the house and she had no idea where they had gone. She said that they had mentioned moving to Sudbury, a mining town north of Toronto. Sudbury was known for its nickel mines and for having a landscape that resembled the moon. It was said that astronauts had trained in the outskirts of Sudbury rehearsing for their lunar landing. My mother had loved her garden and I couldn’t imagine her and my father moving there.
“You don’t suppose they were picked up by aliens?” Fred suggested. “I read about that in the National Enquirer. Abductions. Taken away in big ships behind the moon and examined, or fondled, or experimented upon, or whatever it is that aliens do to you. I’ve often wondered why there haven’t been any reports about aliens abducting Hondas? Or microwave ovens? Or cases of scotch whiskey? I know that there are hundreds of bicycles that disappear every year. And what about hockey pucks? What happens to all the hockey pucks?”
Another passing transport truck sent shivers through the Beetle. The vibrations almost sent Fred tumbling off the seat and onto the floor. I laughed and was about to respond to Fred’s enquiry when I noticed a Mustang coming up quickly on my left. When the Mustang was almost upon me I noticed that there was an incredibly beautiful blond wearing sunglasses driving the car. I thought I recognized her from the evening of my lecture fiasco. She pulled up beside us. I hardly dared to look. She did not try to pass us but drove along for some distance parallel with the Beetle. Finally I could resist no longer and stole a glance. Except for her shoulder harness and her sunglasses, she was naked. She smiled; I smiled back.
“Dave!” Fred cried.
“Quiet, Fred!” I barked, turning on Fred. I looked back at the blond. She was beautiful like a goddess rising in one’s sleep to taunt you. The blond goddess took off her sunglasses.
I gasped. The Beetle veered to the right.
“Did you see that?” I cried.
Fred nodded his head.
“She didn’t have any eyes.”
Before I could take a second look, she sped on ahead, exiting off at Keele Street. I decided to follow. She had a Michigan license plate. I followed the blind goddess for several blocks but never managed to catch up with her. As suddenly as she had appeared, she vanished. Perhaps she’d gotten bored. Perhaps she never existed. I was sweating. I pulled off the road and into a Tim Horton Doughnut Shop where I spotted the motorcycle that had passed me earlier, parked next to a van. I went into the shop. When I returned to the Beetle with a coffee and milk and half a dozen chocolate doughnuts, I found Fred still visibly upset.
We sat for a while without speaking, listening to Merle Haggard. Fred did not touch his milk or chocolate doughnuts, his favorite.
“Who?” Fred gulped. “Who was she, Dave?”
“I don’t know, Fred.”
Fred was trembling. “I’ll tell you who she was, Dave. She was a bloody omen and not a good one. Jesus, Dave, don’t you think this whole thing is getting out of hand?”
“What thing, Fred?”
“Life. Your life. Christ, I don’t know how you can stand it, Dave. It scares the hell out of me. Things happen to you, weird things, things out of a Cronenberg film. Dave, someone is trying to tell you something.”
I pulled out of the doughnut shop and headed west on Eglinton Avenue.
“Where are we going now?” Fred asked, his mouth full, finally succumbing to the allure of the chocolate doughnuts.
“Home,” I replied. “You wanted to go home, didn’t you, Fred?”
“Ann will he worried.” I added.
“I wouldn’t count on that, Dave,” Fred responded.
“What do you mean by that, Fred?”
“What I said earlier about Ann loving you. It was a lie Dave. Your whole life is like that. Upside down. False. Nothing is real. I don’t know how you dare to get up in the morning. I don’t think you love Ann either. I think it’s something the two of you are holding onto, like a lifesaver. As far as I can see, the both of you are nuts.”
I looked at Fred. “You shouldn’t talk with your mouth full, Fred. It’s impolite.”
I stared out at the highway ahead, suddenly feeling drunk. The rearview lights of the cars and the white lights of the street lamps began to dance in front of me. The road began to curl, throwing the Beetle high up on its back as if we were riding a snake. My mouth was dry. I had to get home. That’s what I kept telling myself. I felt like my father must have felt when he found himself lost in the woods during the war, hoping he didn’t stumble into the German lines. I was angry. My hands squeezed the steering wheel. Did I want to kill myself? Was that it? Could Ann see that? Why had she asked me to take out more life insurance? How much was enough? I wiped my brow. We turned off the highway and headed south on Islington Avenue.
“Ann took me for rabies shots yesterday,” Fred said, rubbing his arm. “That’s the third time this month.”