November 10, 2013
THE WANDERER STRIKES AGAIN
Ralph Bellamy, known as the Wanderer, to the employees of the drug store, stepped up to the postal booth. Josephine, the new girl, stood behind the postal counter, smiled at him. And as was his custom and his pleasure, Ralph Bellamy smiled back.
“Can I help you sir?” the young woman asked. She was perhaps one third his age. And yet she let him make believe.
“I have a problem,” Ralph said. His face grew serious. Like parenthesis more than emotion. Ralph believed that you should play the part.
“Well, that’s what I’m here for, sir. To solve your problems. Hopefully.” Josephine squiggled her shoulders. And the dimples in her face.
“That’s very admirable,” Ralph smiled. That’s what he wanted to see. Accommodation.
Josephine tilted her head ever so slightly to one side. She’d been practicing the move since she saw it on television. When she was six years old. On the Miss America Beauty Pageant. With Bert Parks. Who looked like her father. Who was an auto mechanic. And not a master of ceremonies at a beauty pageant. We’re talking about Josephine’s father, and not Mr. Parks who was unconscionably handsome.
Ralph Bellamy looked around him. As if he were trying to discover who was slowing up the procedure with pointless and mundane remarks. He turned back to the young woman.
“Did you hear that?” he asked. The question posed by the wrong lips. Or so Josephine was beginning to believe.
“Hear what?” Josephine smiled banally. Banally is unfair. It was just that Josephine’s thoughts were elsewhere. On that boy she was to meet later that night. Oh, he had pretty teeth. They were pearly white. And he liked to nibble on her ears.
“That constant commentary on everything that’s going on.” Ralph responded, demanding more attention than he was receiving.
Josephine, though still smiling, looked at Ralph Bellamy warily. She had a bad experience with her funny uncle Tom. Who put his hand on her knee. With ambitions. And she screamed out like a sailor. Hand ahoy!
Ralph looked at Josephine. “You didn’t hear that?”
Josephine giggled and looked around the shop hoping that another customer would approach her counter. Josephine always giggled when she was nervous. Giggled so much that the police thought they would never get a statement from her. Against her funny uncle Tom.
“I’m not sure. What you mean. Sir.”
Ralph chuckled to himself. Like an old man. In a movie theatre. By himself. With his box of popcorn. And the pretty girl on the silver screen.
“I got a little side tracked there, honey. Happens to me sometimes. Especially in the presence of such… wholesome beauty.”
“Oh, sir!” Josephine blushed. Did he call me honey? The very endearment funny uncle Tom used. To explain that it had all been a mistake. Miscommunication can cause all sorts of problems.
The serious look came over Ralph’s face again. And once again Josephine became concerned.
“Does time exist?” Ralph Bellamy asked. He looked around the ceiling of the pharmacy. Maybe there were speakers. And cameras. And amused little games. Played by bored employees. With too much time on their hands.
Josephine stared at Ralph. Was he the weirdo Bea had warned her about? Bea seemed to know a lot of weirdoes. Some of whom she had dated.
“You see,” Ralph continued, leaning over the counter. Almost whispering. “We are always in the moment. The future doesn’t exist because it hasn’t happened yet. And what can we say about the past? Except that it’s spilt milk. So we’re stuck in the moment. It’s like a prison. And the more we focus on the moment, the less it seems that time exists.”
“I sell stamps,” Josephine reminded Ralph Bellamy. She noticed he didn’t have an envelope. Or a package. Not even a postcard. Which made her wonder. What was he up to? She checked her knee. That was protected. By the counter.
“I know that,” Ralph said, shaking his hands in the air. “But don’t you have an opinion?”
Josephine thought for a moment. Her back became rigid. She licked her lips and pressed her uniform down over her hips with the palms of her hands. Which were becoming clammy.
“If time didn’t exist than I wouldn’t get paid.” Josephine giggled. “I get paid by the hour.”
There was a long pause. While Ralph Bellamy got comfortable. Thinking.
“That’s very good.” Ralph laughed for a moment. Before returning to his former state. Seriousness. The laughter had not just been a reflex of politeness. He hadn’t expected the girl’s response. In some respects he had no answer for it. But if he had, he would have realized that the girl had refuted him. Soundly.
Ralph Bellamy looked around. Again. The comments were not ending. He did a pirouette. His back to Josephine. Thinking he would catch the commentator. But of course he could not. The commentator was in his head.
“But did you ever think,” Ralph said his back still to Josephine. “That you only remember getting paid? That you’re not actually paid.”
“Than why would I remember it?” Josephine asked. Oh, she was glowing. She had him. And she knew it. This was better than sudoku.
Ralph took a deep breath. Thought about… Josephine. Turned around.
“Maybe God is a prankster. Maybe he’s playing tricks on us.” Ralph Bellamy raised his eyebrows. Like bar bells. At the Olympics.
“Why would he do that?” Josephine asked. She looked around to see if there was another clerk nearby. How am I going to get rid of this loony tune?
“Why is he playing tricks on us?” Ralph repeated. “That’s very good.” Ralph thought for several moments. A point well taken. A rational being like God wouldn’t commit irrational acts. Unless.
Ralph snapped his fingers. Like Bobby Darren.
“Maybe God is bored. So much time on his hands.”
Josephine saw Ralph Sampson, the tall black clerk. She tried to get his attention.
“What do you say to that?” Ralph grinned like he had just screamed out check in a game of chess.
Josephine looked at Ralph. “God is bored because he has too much time on his hands? Is that what you’re saying?”
“But you said that time doesn’t exist,” Josephine countered. “So how can he be bored?”
Ralph rubbed his chin and thought for a moment.
“Okay.” Ralph waved his hands in the air, the fingers spinning around like the wings of a fan. “There’s only one of Him, right?”
Josephine nodded. She hated to agree with him. Hated to agree with any male. Since her funny uncle Tom. Made her pull his fingers.
“So maybe he’s lonely,” Ralph cried. “And that’s why he plays jokes on us.”
The girl shook her head.
“I don’t think so. God is all powerful. You got power, you can buy company.”
As Ralph considered her response, Josephine waved over to Ralph Sampson. Surreptitiously she pointed out Ralph Bellamy to the clerk. The tall black clerk started to laugh. She knew that Ralph Sampson was not going to help her. He was enjoying Josephine’s plight. Sampson knew that the customer known as Ralph Bellamy, or the Wanderer, had annoyed all the clerks at one time or another. It was her turn.
Ralph smacked the counter with his open palm.
“Maybe being a joker, keeps God from going mad.” Ralph Bellamy did a little dance step. God, he was happy. Lucky that insight had suddenly appeared. Like a balloon in a cartoon.
Josephine looked at Ralph Bellamy. She’d have to deal with him. Herself. She dealt with happy uncle Tom. Got him six months. And a restraining order. And then there was Billy, Frank, Louis, and Joseph. Hadn’t they found themselves into the oubliette.
Josephine put her hands on her hips. Hobbled her chin back and forth.
“You’re saying that God does things that are insane so that he can prevent himself from going nuts. That’s a circular argument. Circuitous. Only makes sense. On a flat world.”
Ralph’s mouth hung open.
“What?” he cried.
Josephine repeated herself.
Ralph Bellamy stroked his head.
“Do you still want stamps?” Josephine asked.
Ralph shook his head sadly. And wandered off. Defeated. Crest fallen. Buried under… Then suddenly. Like he’d caught his hand in a buzz saw. Screamed at the ceiling. Which was another way of saying…
“Shut up! Just shut up!”
September 26, 2013
There’s a character in The Day of the Locust. His name is Harry. He’s a failed Vaudevillian. And his image has stuck in my head.
THE WHOLE PLACE BLEW UP
Hands on the pedestal. Toes tapping. Fingers snapping. OOOE. Charlie What Was His Last Name slid down the aisle. Knee knockers. Of the drug store. His body incredibly still. His feet like clippers over your neighbourhood hedge. In a swirl. Soft shoe. Sand between his toes. Put your ear to the floor. Don’t it sound sad? Vaudeville. There was laughter in his shoes. His fingers snarled. And the air, it just stood there shy and naked.
Charlie stopped up at the make-up counter, his chin pointed toward the ceiling. Really He was feeling it. His back arched, heels spinning, the sequins on his trousers and his vest squinting at the store lights. His fingers tapped the glass top, one over each, ever so lightly. His fingernails recently manicured, cured of melancholy. He tipped his green bowler hat, the hat he’d been given by the deputy mayor on St. Patrick’s Day. The hat rolling down his arm, to a hand, which caught it seftly. Like Jack Duffy caught that hay maker, and placed it back on his noggin. There was a smile on his mug. They were chums never parted. Like cousins under mosquito netting.
“How are you doing today, Charlie?” Deborah Hall asked. The cosmetician was deeply immersed in a magazine. Fashion research. She Liked It Hot And Rough,was written across the magazine’s face. And there were lots of tips inside. How to make chocolate cake without putting on a pound. And what he really wants under the sheets. Charlie knew that they liked it rough in Hamilton. Of course there was always the horn section, dipping their silver mouths into the hot molasses. They liked to call it jazz.
Charlie batted his eyelashes. His head jerked toward Jerusalem and then toward Deborah. His smile was forked, almost demonic. If only humans had never learned to speak, we could all order hamburger tartar in mime.
“Well,” he declared like a full committee of the learned and the privileged. And added, just as an aside, “And how are you?” His voice was theatrical as if it had been trained in a private school in Switzerland. His mouth the bulldog in the dog house. Hearing a funny little sound from his gut, which he didn’t understand, it being pure slang, which only the thugs on Queen Street understood or cared to understand.
“Whateva!” the cosmetician responded shrugging her shoulders in a very melodic manner as if her movements had been choreographed by a Spaniard at Juliards turning the pages of her magazine, her fingers like Fred Astaires.
Charlie relaxed, his body melting from some celestial pose. He leaned over the counter like a flaccid Dali time piece, making ‘I’ contact.
“Well, here’s one to put a smile on your lovely face,” Charlie said. And he loved Deborah’s lovely face. Would have put it on a postage stamp, signed her up to play Joan the last woman on the ark. But a trombone blasted the image of Deborah in his ear, smudged his hair, and misspent his youth. “A woman walks up to the beautician and asks, ‘Can you make me beautiful?’ ‘Hey,’ cries the beautician, ‘I’m a beautician, not a magician.’”
Charlie smiled, tipped his hat once more with juggling delight, than sashayed gaily down the aisle.
Deborah looked up from her magazine with a bored glance and watched Charlie disappear around the corner.
“Whateva!” she sighed and returned to her work. And the whole place blew up in silence.
September 16, 2013
I’ve always had an uncomfortable relationship with business. Not small businesses but banks, accounting firms, churches, media outlets. They never forget that money is the bottom line. Everything else is window dressing. Its not that I think the small businessman doesn’t have the same modus operanti. But he has less clout. He can’t hurt you.
A PROFITABLE RELATIONSHIP DANCES INTO HELL
Mr. Edwards stepped, one, two, three, and then a slide. A fox trot. His flashy brown slickers smoothly moving across the hand woven tapestry. How happy were his shoes. If they’d been Oxfords, they would have received awards.
Mr. Newton did not seem to notice Mr. Edwards entrance. At least not his dance. A slight glance upwards. The two men filled up the room with hand shakes and good will. Oh but how dark it was at the corners of the room. As if they never met, but disappeared into some endless well, running parallel, forever, never touching. Leaving a gap in between, that was equal to the least known irrational number. Except there’s always an except from one corner where the back lighting had the effect of highlighting the banker, Mr. Newton’s profile, making him look, sinister, cruel. Tempting lips, Mr. Edwards imagined, involuntarily, marauding across the thighs of Mrs. Newton. Where the pink reigned down like juice from a sluice of watermelon.
Mr. Edwards smiled.
Mr. Newton stood up and motioned to the chair in front of his desk. The chair wiggled a little. Looking forward to a fanny’s delight. The chair opened her legs. Mr. Edwards surveyed the room to make sure that there wasn’t someone buried in the shadows. Mr. Edwards slid into the arms of the chair.
“I’m glad we finally have met.” Mr. Newton blinked, a strobe light in the middle of a dance floor. A dark voice was crowded in his mouth and wanted out.
Mr. Edwards wondered if Mr. Newton hadn’t been born early in the morning on the dangerous shores of the darkened room. Mr. Edwards noticed that the banker seemed to be talking with his mouth full. Like a shark. Too many teeth in his words. Too pearly white. He reminded Mr. Edwards of Marlon Brando in the Godfather offering his condolences to those about to be deceased.
“I apologize for the darkness of the room,” Mr. Newton said. “I’ve just been to the eye doctor for a new set of glasses. Eyesight isn’t what it once was. All that fine print. Drops in my eyes. Makes them sensitive to light. Not that I’m aware that light has feelings.”
A joke. Who would have thought it. Mr. Edwards smiled. Being polite. Aware that there might be a clown around the corner with a hammer.
“And while I was there,” Mr. Newton continued, “I went to my dentist for a cleaning. He is next door. And what does he do, but pull out a tooth. To add to his pearly necklace. Or maybe he needs to do some work on his cottage. Or pay off a loan shark. So there I was. Drops in my eyes. Cotton baton in my mouth. Doing my imitation of the Godfather. I made him an offer that he couldn’t refuse. Which explains why my words seem muffled. But I can assure you, Mr. Edwards, that there will be no words hidden in that muffle. No small print. No secret code. I’m sure you understand. We both have wives who… how can I put it… have a taste for the better life.”
Mr. Edwards nodded. “Yes, our wives. I have always found it a wise policy not to enter into any discussions regarding my wife. But on that other matter, I too am glad that we finally meet, Mr. Newton. Perhaps we should have met earlier. Business being what it is, we both have been very busy.”
Mr. Newton grunted. What amounted to a fart inside of a smile.
“I sent you a preview of my plans,” Mr. Edwards added. “I hope you’ve had time to look them over.”
Mr. Newton’s face shriveled. Like a vampire giving the finger to a glass of orange juice.
What was that? Mr. Edwards thought. Is his body having uncontrollable reactions to my presence? Perhaps we should not be partners.
“Yes, Mr. Edwards,” Mr. Newton continued, “I had an opportunity to glance through them. I had one of my staff check out the figures you sent us. A trustworthy fellow. The details of the report will not go beyond the three of us. Does that suit you?”
Mr. Edwards nodded.
The two men were silent before Mr. Edwards added. “Of course, Mr. Newton, I cannot stress how important it is to keep this information confidential.”
“Of course, Mr. Edwards. My assistant is aware of your need for privacy. These are delicate matters.”
Mr. Newton opened a box of cigars and offered one to Mr. Edwards.
“No, thank you.”
Mr. Newton took one out, ran it under his nose before lighting it up. “I suppose I shouldn’t either, Mr. Edwards. But I have a weakness for Cubans. Even after I have had dental work done.” Smoke sifted out of Mr. Newton’s smile. “My, what a wonderful gift tobacco has been.”
“Yes,” Mr. Edwards responded. “Unfortunately we can no longer sell them in pharmacies.”
Mr. Newton leaned forward. What is he talking about? Tobacco in a drug store? He took the cigar out of his mouth and placed it in an ashtray. He licked his lips.
“If I could, Mr. Edwards, let me précis your request. You want a loan so that you may renovate the furniture store that you believe will presently become vacant. Apparently Mr. Singh’s arrangement with Mr. G. is coming up for reappraisal. And you need money to make sure that that arrangement is ended. And then you will become the new tenant. Is that the gist of if, Mr. Edwards?”
Mr. Edwards smiled. The man is confident.
“Yes. Mr. Singh has made a valiant effort to make a goal of it in the plaza. But I believe that effort has not been rewarded. Perhaps that is Mr. Singh’s fault. Perhaps it is just bad luck. I believe that a furniture store is not a good fit in the Six Points Plaza, that Mr. Singh would be more successful if he relocated in one of the malls.”
Mr. Newton leaned back in his chair, retrieving his cigar, and taking a puff. He chuckled.
“You would make a formidable enemy, Mr. Edwards. I’m grateful that are ambitions coincide. How did Mr. G. react to your proposal?”
“I did not put my ideas to Mr. G. in the form of a proposal. It was more a loose fitting conversation. And he seemed receptive. Mr. G. is a practical creature. And when I pointed out that the practical served his interests as well as my own, he was eager to listen.”
Mr. Newton stood up and stuck out his hand.
“Well, Mr. Edwards, I guess we’re in business.”
Mr. Edwards shook the banker’s hand as he was led to the door.
“I’ll get my assistant to work out the details.”
“That’s fine, Mr. Newton.”
The banker stopped before they reached the door.
“Can I speak to you on a personal matter, Mr. Edwards?”
“Certainly, Mr. Newton.”
“My wife, a dear woman, has had some health problems of late. She is overwrought. The doctor has warned me that we have to keep an eye on her. Now, she may come to you with a story about her medication. Losing them. Something of that sort. Do not believe her, doctor. My wife can be very persuasive. But on no account, give into her. I am terrified of going home one day and finding a corpse in the house. She has had her stomach pumped twice already.”
Mr. Edwards nodded.
“And of course,” the banker added, “I can expect your secrecy on this matter.”
“Of course, Mr. Newton.”
Mr. Newton reached for the door and opened it. He padded Mr. Edwards on the shoulder.
“I think we are going to get along famously, Mr. Edwards.”
The darkness poured over the two newly engaged partners. And stuck to them like pitch waiting for a torch.
August 22, 2013
I found a manuscript that I had written some time ago. I only have vague memories of it. It was meant to be a fourth book in a trilogy. You can see why I forgot about it. Its called ‘The Invisible Man’. Its a girl meets boy story with a serial killer in between. Quite romantic.
“We Want To Film You.”
That’s Robin talking. A tall thin youth with a mop of blonde hair falling carelessly over his eyes, looking like a Greek god against my pale blue Plymouth Horizon. With his casual youthfulness, the swagger of innocence and bravado, he reminded me of the way all youth looked from a distance. Digging his hand into the pocket of his jeans, ragged and filled with holes, Robin pulled out a rolled up piece of paper. He unraveled it and handed it to me. I adjusted my bright yellow crossing guard jacket and read the paper. Humber College, Television and Film, English Class. After that there was a mishmash of information about the details of an assignment. God, I wasn’t about to read the whole thing.
‘Be nice, Sam.’
That’s Margaret talking. My beautiful young wife. She likes to chat. Describing it as one of the hallmarks of higher civilization. I have to be careful with Margaret’s chatting. She’s dead. As a door knocker. For about a year now. I’d like to mourn but she keeps hanging around. People said that we were the ideal couple. Wonder what they think now. They think I’m certifiable. Especially when they catch me talking to Margaret. Hell, maybe I am.
Margaret laughed. ‘Don’t talk like that, Sam. You’re not made. You just have a few loose screws, that’s all.’
I looked at Robin. “How tall are you?”
Robin blushed then swept his hair out of his eyes.
I raised my eyebrows and smiled. I handed the paper back to Robin.
“Look kid. I don’t want to read through all of this stuff. Could you give me the short version?”
“This is getting us nowhere!” That’s Oshioke Smith talking. A petite Asian girl, braces on her front teeth, long straight black hair running down over her shoulders. Oshioke put one hand on her hip and pointed the other at me. She was a beauty! If I was twenty years…”
What! I did know women before I met you, my dear.
‘But they paled in comparison to your lovely wife!’
Of course, my love.
“I am Oshioke Smith and the giant,” Oshioke gestured to Robin behind her with her thumb, “is my temporary boyfriend, Robin.”
She turned her finger back on me. “Got it!”
I looked for a moment at the finger pointed at me.
“Is that loaded?” I asked.
‘She’s quite a handful!’ Margaret giggled.
Oshioke took a piece of gum previously hidden behind her ear and stuck it in her mouth. “This is the way it is.” Oshioke popped her gum like a punctuation mark every time she finished a sentence. “We’re making a film for an English course in college. Why we aren’t writing an essay for this course is a mystery to all of us. Personally I think our professor is either incompetent or has some demented notion that this will be a wonderfully creative experience. Our film must be about heroism in modern society, especially those unsung heroes who make civilized life possible. There are the police of course. Would you like to deal with drug pushers, psychopathic killers, hopped up juiced derelicts?” Oshioke shook her head. “I think not. What about social workers? Would you like to have to deal with dysfunctional families, illiterate trailer park trash, abused children, paranoid parents? I think not.”
Margaret nudged me in the ribs. ‘Isn’t she awfully clever, dear? Don’t you think that she is awfully clever?’
I adjusted the yellow hat on my head.
“Oh, Sam!” Margaret shook her head. ‘She’s got spunk.’
She’s a pain in the ass!
‘She’s young. You be careful, l Sam Kelly. I don’t want that little girl’s spirit broken. You don’t know how a thoughtless sarcastic remark can deflate a young girl.’
I don’t think this little girl is any porcelain figurine.
“We could have chosen a fireman or a man of the cloth but that’s been so overdone.” Oshioke switched hips and jabbed toward me again, continuing her rant. I kept dodging the jabs, which Robin standing behind his girlfriend enjoying the moment. She continued, “If I see another picture of a fireman carrying a kitten down a ladder, I’m going to cough up a hair ball. And there was no way we were going to do a teacher. I mean that would be so kissing up.” There was a puzzled expression on Oshioke’s face. “Do you have Turrets? You keep moving around. It would make a great angle. Man with mental disability keeps our children safe.”
‘Tell her you’re a retired cop, Sam, the most famous law officer in the west end of the city.’
I will not. It would only encourage her. Last thing I need is two kids putting me on film. I still have friends at the station. If this ever got back there, I’d be the laughing stock of the Force.
I shook my head and smiled at the girl.
“No, I do not have Turrets. I’ve got this tune in my head. Ever had that? I can’t get rid of it. It has a driving beat. The last time this happened I threw my back out. Had to go to a chiropractor.”
‘What did I tell you! You’re messing with her head, Sam.’
Oshioke glared at me. She was not amused. I liked that. A dump truck rumbled up Kipling Avenue kicking up dust. Some stones jumped out of the truck and skipped across the street. Robin stepped in front of Oshioke to block their path. One of them hit his leg.
“Jesus!” Robin grabbed his leg and massaged it.
‘That was so brave, Sam.’ Margaret sighed. ‘Didn’t you think that was brave, Sam?’
They were stones, dear. Not bullets.
I took a pad and pencil out of my back pocket and jotted down the license number of the truck. Oshioke stepped towards me and pressed her finger into my chest.
“Will you be our hero?”
I stepped back and rubbed my chest.
I moaned. That’s going to leave a bruise!
‘Don’t’ be a wimp, Sam!’
I looked at Oshioke. “I’m not a hero.”
‘You’ve got to help these kids, Sam.’
I do not have to help these kids. There are lots of heroes out there they can film. What about… dentists? They risk their fingers every day.
Oshioke jabbed her finger into my chest again forcing me to take another step backwards. “That’s just the point, Mr…”
“Mr. Kelly, we’ll make a hero out of you. That’s what the media does. It makes the news. It’s a challenge, but Robin and I are up to it. Have you ever read Catcher in the Rye?”
I thought for a moment as I rubbed my chest.
“You’re not going to jab me again, are you?”
‘Is this the Sam Kelly I fell in love with? Picking on a little girl?’
Shut up, Margaret. You’re dead. You might try and keep that in mind.
‘I may be dead, Sam Kelly, but at least I’m not insensitive.’
Oshioke looked at her finger and stuffed her hands into the front of her jeans. Robin stood behind her still grinning, enjoying each of his girlfriend’s antics.
I rubbed my chin. “Catcher In The Rye? Nope. Can’t recall any such book. Is it a baseball book?” I turned to Robin and gestured toward grey Horizon parked across the street on Mattice Avenue. “Is that your car? Same as mine.” I pointed to the pale blue car that Robin was leaning against. Robin turned and looked at my car.
“You’re right, Mr. Kelly. They’re the same. I got mine cheap, at a junkyard. My dad helped me to get it going. He loves working on old cars. Bit of a hobby.”
I reached over and patted my car gently on the roof.
“I’ve had Bessie since she was a baby. When you two were still in elementary school. She’s my little girl. That’s what I call her – Bessie. Last year someone broke into Bessie and stole her back seat. Broke her little heart. Police told me that there were a slew of similar break-ins across the city. Apparently Horizons are very popular in South America. I had a hell of a time finding a new back seat. The insurance company didn’t want to pay up. Said she wasn’t worth it. But what can you do when it’s one of the family? Do the cops pull you over a lot?”
Robin nodded. “They keep threatening to take it off the road. I never thought about giving my car a name. Sort of a neat idea.”
Oshioke jabbed Robin in the ribs with her elbow, her jaws working diligently on her gum. She turned back to me.
“Could we get back on track? The point, Mr. Kelly, is that you are responsible for the safety of children. That was Holden Caulfield’s dream. I think that’s grounds for heroism.”
“Who’s Holden Caulfied?” I asked.
“The hero of Catcher in the Rye!” Oshioke was molesting her gum. She was pissed. Behind her Robin shook his head. I looked down at the young woman.
“You keep doing that, young lady, and you’re going to break a crown. I hope your parents have a good dental plan.”
Oshioke glared at me. I could see the steam in her eyes.
‘She idolizes you Sam.’
Idolizes! I’m just happy she isn’t carrying a gun. Look at those eyes!
“I think what Osh is trying to say,” Robin interjected as he patted Oshioke on the head gently, “is that we think there is a story in your job that should be told.”
Oshioke pushed Robin’s hand away. Robin chuckled.
‘They are such a delightful couple, Sam.’
I’m not doing it, Margaret.
‘Oh don’t be such a poop, Sam. It’s just an assignment for school. And it would be such a treat to see them everyday. Reminds me of when I was young and in love.’
I can’t remember that far back.
‘It was before we met.’
I checked my watch. The kids from the school would be showing up soon. I looked around.
“Where’s you crew? How can you make a film without a crew?”
“We’re the crew.” Robin swept his hair out of his eyes. “Our cameras are in the car.”
I thought for a minute. “How long is this going to take?”
“A few days. We’ll come by each morning and afternoon and shoot a few feet.”
Robin took a package of cigarettes out of his pocket and offered one to me. I considered it a bribe. I took one of the cigarettes and stuffed it behind my ear.
“I’m trying to quit,” I explained. I checked my watch again. “The kids will be out of school soon.”
Oshioke took a cigarette from Robin’s pack. She stuck her gum behind her ear again and stuck the cigarette between her teeth. Robin lit up her cigarette.
“How long have you two been a couple?” I asked.
‘Don’t play with them, Sam Kelly!’
Oshioke smirked as she glanced back at Robin. “Too long! But we’re trying to quit. Do you think we could interview the kids?””
I looked passed the couple and spotted the children marching down the street towards us.
“I can’t give you permission to interview the kids. Parents get upset about stuff like that. You might want to ask at the school. Principal Genova is a pretty good guy.”
‘I knew you’d say yes.’ Margaret gushed with enthusiasm.
Then why have you been harassing me?
‘Because it’s fun.’
Oshioke looked over her shoulder at Robin. “Why didn’t you think of that?”
Robin shrugged. “I can’t…”
“Have you made any movies previous to this epic?” I asked.
‘Quit giving them the third degree, Sam. You’re no longer a cop.’
“I’ve been working on an idea about the police and a serial killer.” Robin blushed. “Still working on the script. I’ve gotten sort of stuck.”
Oshioke let out a cloud of smoke. “Stuck! He doesn’t know how to begin. What the hell does he know about serial killers? Why not make a movie about Godzilla in Etobicoke? Tell me, Mr. Kelly, have you ever heard of a serial killer in Etobicoke? No. Do something that is believable, I tell him. Like unwanted pregnancies. Or gangs in school. I told him to work small. But does he listen to me? No. As you can see, Mr. Kelly, we are completely incompatible.”
I looked at Robin. He shrugged good naturedly.
‘How can you resist them, Sam? They are an absolutely adorable couple.’
I know I’m going to live to regret this.
“Well, I guess it’s alright to film.” The voices of the children had reached us. “It’s a free country. But don’t tell anyone that I said it was all right. I’ve got to get to work now.”
I stepped across the street and stood at the curb of Kipling. A black Jaguar came speeding down Kipling Avenue. Robin ran across the street to his car on the other side. The Jaguar’s horn cried out as it sped passed. I made a mental note of the car. Cops are always making mental notes. One of the side effects of forty years of police work.
August 20, 2013
HOMICIDE: January 8, 1997
One of possibly three sniper-arsonists who terrorized a five-square block area of downtown Montreal in a continuing 12 hour shooting spree was killed by police bullets fired from an armored RCMP helicopter at 10 p.m. Sunday.
“He was hiding in a cubbyhole when the guns from the helicopter and marksmen on the roofs of surrounding buildings opened up on him. The poor bugger rushed out from the concrete cubicle to fire and was ripped to pieces. Chunks of him flew into the night and over the sides of the building spraying the onlookers below.”
As the siege of the Howard Johnson Motor Lodge in downtown Montreal continued officials were reluctant to state who was responsible for the massacre but it is known from reliable sources that a group of militant homosexuals calling themselves EKWAUL has claimed responsibility. Another, up to this time unknown group called OFC (The Organization for a Free Canada) has also claimed credit.
“It was all on the tube. They must have had cameras in the copters. I thought it was a promo for a movie. It made me sick. But I couldn’t change the channel.”
August 15, 2013
I always wanted to be a trophy wife. It is the ultimate prostitution. You sell your soul as well as your body. I like ultimates. That’s what Mrs. Newton is. She is also very angry.
OUT OF HER PURSE POPPED A PACKAGE OF PILLS
Mr. Edwards, the pharmacist, smiled at the attractive blond across the counter from him. And waited. She might not be finished. But Mrs. Newton had nothing else to say. So she smiled at him. Mr. Edwards continued to smile. One of them was stressed out.
What’s wrong with her? Suddenly nothing to say?
“They flipped out of the package?” Mr. Edwards repeated.
Couldn’t think of anything else to ask. Probably the wrong question to ask. She probably thinks that I’m accusing her of lying.
“Yes,” Mrs. Newton said. “They just flipped out of my hands. I took the package out of my purse and when I tried to open the lid of the pills… oops! The top flipped off. Somersaults. Like a 200 metre dive. Off a cliff in Argentina. And the pills flew into the toilet. My heart fluttered. I swear it. Like a butterfly in your fingers. Then I knelt down and wept for an hour. It seemed like forever. God, this is so impossible. Why do I confess all of this to you? But like the old song says, love will bloom in that starlit hour with you. Have you ever waited in a train station?”
Mr. Edwards stared at the customer. Train station?
At a loss for words Mr. Edwards was left repeating Mrs. Newton’s.
“Right into the toilet.”
Mrs. Newton licked her lips with her tongue. Just the tip of her tongue. My mouth is so dry. She nodded.
“Yes, I understand.” Mr. Edwards smiled. What is it with the tongue?
“Did you know,” Mrs. Newton asked, “that in 1956 Nat King Cole was beaten while performing on stage in a small city in the South? Who beats Nat King Cole?”
While Mr. Edwards considered Mrs. Newton’s story about Nat King Cole she continued to talk.
“And I just got the prescription the other day. Something to settle my nerves. I’ve been clumsy of course. But it’s my nerves. They’re so jangled.”
Mr. Edwards continued to smile.
“Didn’t anyone help Nat King Cole?” He couldn’t remember any such story. He’d heard lots of stories about that baseball player. What was his name? But he’d never heard anything about Nat King Cole. It was possible of course.
The blonde smiled back at him.
Why doesn’t he say anything?
“Excuse me?” she said.
“The story,” Mr. Edwards responded, “about Nat King Cole.”
Mr. Edwards smiled. As did Mrs. Newton. She stared back at Mr. Edwards. Waiting as did Mr. Edwards wait. One of them was stressed out.
Is he trying to find out which one of us will break first?
No one spoke. Finally the pharmacist could take it no longer.
“Do you have the package with you?”
Mrs. Newton fished into her purse and pulled out the empty pill container addressed to Mrs. Newton. It was a prescription that Mr. Edwards himself had issued. But he could not remember doing so. He couldn’t remember much of anything so preoccupied was his mind with the beating of Nat King Cole.
How come I never heard that story before?
“Mrs. Newton?” Mr. Edwards asked, looking up from the empty pill tube.
“Mary Newton.” The blond smiled. She licked her lips again. “Or Tess if you wish. Friends call me Tess. My husband calls me Mary. The maid calls me Miss. My husband is the manager of the bank in the plaza. He is a very powerful man. A man who can be beneficial to anyone in business. A man not to be trifled with.”
“Yes.” Mr. Edwards nodded. “I have met your husband on a couple of occasions. Business meetings. What would you have us do, Mrs. Newton?”
Mary Newton brushed the hair from her eyes as she sighed.
“I would like you to replace the pills. If you would, Mr…” She’d forgotten his name.
Mr. Edwards keyed in Mrs. Newton’s name into the computer. He asked her for her address. She complied. He licked his lips. It was a habit he had acquired any time he had to pass on bad news. Mrs. Newton was still licking her lips. They were still dry.
“We can’t replace your pills, Mrs. Newton.”
“You can’t…” Mrs. Newton’s mouth hung open for a moment. Like a garage door that has yet to automatically close after it’s automobile has departed.
“I don’t understand.” She finally added.
“We can’t renew your prescription. There was nothing on the previous prescription to allow that.”
Mrs. Newton stared at the pharmacist. She could not believe what she was hearing.
“I don’t understand,” she said. “I haven’t taken any of the pills.”
Mr. Edwards smiled again, his tongue running along the edge of his lips. Mrs. Newton squinted. If she hadn’t been so upset she would undoubtedly have made a comment on Mr. Edwards’ proclivity.
“The prescription does not cover refills.” The words rushed out of Mr. Edwards’ mouth.
“But, I haven’t taken any of the pills. It’s not a refill.” Mrs. Newton raised her eyebrows ever so slightly.
“If you would like, Mrs. Newton, we could phone your doctor and ask him if he would allow you to renew the prescription.”
“And you’ll tell him what happened to the pills?”
“We’ll relay your story.”
Mrs. Newton took a deep breath.
He thinks I’m lying!
“It isn’t a story. It’s the truth.”
The pharmacist smiled. “I’m sure it is, mam, but we have no way of confirming that. I’m sure that your doctor, who knows you better that we do, will renew your prescription.”
“I’m sure he would but… he’s gone on holiday.”
Mr. Edwards looked at Mrs. Newton and shrugged.
“What does that mean?”
“There’s nothing that we can do.”
Mrs. Newton took a deep breath. She was growing increasingly impatient.
“Is there something you could suggest?”
Mr. Edwards thought for a moment.
“There is a doctor on duty in the clinic attached to the drug store. He might be able to help you.”
Mrs. Newton smiled with relief.
“Oh,” Mr. Edwards said. “I’m sorry. I forgot. It’s six o’clock.”
Mrs. Newton looked at the pharmacist.
“It’s six o’clock. What does that mean?”
“He’s gone home,” the pharmacist explained. “At least he has left. I’m not sure where he went.”
Mrs. Newton stared at the pharmacist for some time. She wanted to remember his face. Then she turned and walked sharply away from the counter and down the aisle toward the exit. Peggy Castle, Mr. Edwards’ assistant, stepped up behind Mr. Edwards.
“What was that all about?” she asked.
“Trouble,” Mr. Edwards replied.
Outside in the parking lot, pointed directly at the store, sat a smart red foreign sports car. Mrs. Newton sat in the car. Grinding her teeth. Black seething asphalt. Black leather upholstery. Dead aim. At the front window. A red sports car. Smart efficient German design. Power under the hood. Fuming. Listen to that engine roaring. That cool stroke of the pistons. Soft black Italian leather upholstery. Talking to herself. Sensitive. Music coming from the radio. Don’t Get Around Much Any More. Impulsive. Heaven on wheels. Fire in her eyes. Smoke coming out of her ears.
“Who the fuck does he think he is?” Mrs. Newton said. Pronouncing each syllable separately. Like bullets in a chamber. “Thinks I’m lying! Thinks I’m some kind of pathetic pill popping suburban pooper scooper.”
Her hands squeezing the steering wheel. Thoughts racing through her head. Homicidal thoughts. Eyes popping. And the soft smell of a clarinet. Smoke from her cigarette climbing daintily through the air. Fingers tinkling over shiny yellow ivories. Cigarette air. And a husky voiced blonde. With a big mike next to her lips. Thought I visit the club, got as far as the door.
“I could drive this fucking car right through his precious plate glass window.”
The keys in her hands. Dangling. Like church bells. Like drum sticks. Like soft puffy fingers around a child’s neck. Moving towards the ignition. Been invited on a date,
I might have gone, but what for.
“Are you alright?” a voice asked.
“Is something wrong?” the voice asked again. A Charleton Heston voice. Out of the clouds. Coming down on you like a storm. Dark clouds. Rolling thunder. And the smell of sweet jangled jasmine.
Mrs. Newton looked out her window. And then up. Her vision fled. Like mist at the first sight of the dawn. A giant stood outside her car. He bent over to look in her window. His huge hand pressed against the glass. Like the mouth of a python. Ready to swallow her. To drag her down it’s throat. Everest. She could hardly hear his voice. Like she was reading his lips. Like his lips were dancing. A classic waltz. Liquor dancing drunk in their veins.
“No!” she cried.
“Why are there tears on your cheek?” Everest asked. “I couldn’t help noticing.” He smiled. Lines broke across his face. Rivers eating out the dust in a desert. Continents being tossed aside by rift valleys.
And the stand up base kept thumping against her heart. A clarinet. Whistling.
She turned sharply on him.
“What business is that of yours?” She spoke towards the steering wheel. Like it was an ear. Like the smart red foreign sports car was listening to her. Like she had to address the automobile. Like she was in Berlin addressing the cream of German engineering. And the horns laughed. And the clarinets could not believe they’d ever heard anything so funny. Would someone lick my cigarette? But the stranger on the outside could not hear a thing. He kept looking at her with concern. And the drummer laid a fan across his drum. Stirred it like it was stew. Was somebody ever going to eat?
“I think we should all look out for each other,” Everest said. “I saw you. You look agitated. Distraught. I was afraid that you would do yourself an injury.”
Where am I? What kind of world is this? Have I just woken up? Was a crime committed. Someone throw themselves off a sidewalk? In front of a truck? Oh God, I need my medication. Or a hug from my father. And why did he leave us? Leaving her was easy. But how could he leave me? With her?
“I think people should mind their own business,” Mrs. Newton cried, turned on the ignition, the motor screaming, and sped out of the parking lot. Squealing her tires.
Everest straightened up and smiled. He felt like Murray Westgate. If he could remember who Mr. Westgate was. There was an annoying tune playing over and over again in his head.
“Sometimes I get so sad my knees begin to shake,” he said to the space where the little red sports car had been so happy.
August 8, 2013
Almost every weekend I am set upon by young people to contribute to their cause. Swimming, scouts, cancer, summer camps, air cadets. Sometimes I say yes and sometimes I rush by. At times they look like the most bored beings on the planet.
SOMEWHERE IN THE DISTANCE A COCK CROWED TWICE
Luiza smiled, hand out, looking for some loose change. As the young couple entered the drug store. Those sliding doors. Passed the magazine stand, passed the hand creams and relief from heart burn, passed her and her friend Madeleine.
Luiza and Madeleine. Two Air Cadets, dressed in blue perky uniforms. Women flying over London, freshly pressed into service, their hair tied up in a bun, not hot crossed, like a bob, tuckled neatly under their caps, with small metal merit badges stapled to the sides, like they’d saved humanity. Cleaning up the neighbourhood, participation, is important. Just ask Adam and Eve.
Out to raise money. And awareness. There’s nothing a girl can’t do after a pat on the bum, and a legal tampon for the ides of March.
Blood red lipstick. Eyebrows plucked. Fresh pale foreheads. Fashionably young. Scare crow looks. Alanis Morissette in a turban.
The young couple had stared straight ahead, hands in their pockets, pretending that no one was there. Pretending not to see the Air Cadets, pretending to be preoccupied. What if there is a little Oscar on the way? Doctor’s bills. Hospital bills. All those paper. Diapers. Got to think about paying off that mortgage. Or those teeth. Capped.
“Cheap fuckers,” Luiza swore under her breath. Watching the couple disappear passed the nail polish removers. And pest control items.
“This sucks.” Madeleine stepped over to Luiza’s side of the door. “I knew this drugstore was a mistake. People aren’t in a generous mood when they enter a drugstore. They’re too busy thinking why they came. Too busy wheezing. Rubbing those corns. Aches in your back. That dripping nose. Bile in your stool. There is too much damn purpose. Oh, I wish we’d gone to the liquor store.”
“Why didn’t you say anything then?” Luiza asked.
“I didn’t want to get in any more shit with Cooper.” Luiza smiled. Holding it like it was her breath. As a middle-aged woman stepped up to them.
“You girls look just stunning in those uniforms,” she said and stepped into the drug store without dropping a coin in their box.
“Then why don’t you give us a fucking cuntribution,” Luiza muttered between clenched teeth. Luiza didn’t like swearing. In a drugstore. It was bad karma. She was sure nothing good could come of cursing in God’s house. And surely a drugstore was God’s house since people arrived hoping to buy something to relieve their distress. And wasn’t that the definition of the Supreme Being. The great solution. To pain. If not that then what?
“How’d you get in trouble with Cooper?” Madeleine asked. Taking a moment to check the cell phone that she kept inside the left breast of her Air Cadet vest.
“It was so lame,” Luiza responded. “Hardly worth telling.”
An elderly man stepped up to the girls. Bent over. Looking more like a question mark every day. He looked at each of them and smiled. His teeth were bright. Even if they weren’t his. Then he dropped a five dollar bill in Luiza’s box and walked off.
“Pervert!” Luiza said. She turned to Madeleine. “Did you see that?”
“After he dropped the bill in my box he grazed my breast with the back of his hand.”
“Shit!” Madeleine began to giggle. “Was it good for you?”
Luiza smirked. “I’ve had better.”
The girls giggled. A woman in a pink dress sashaying toward them, bobbing her head, listening to some Cab Calloway in her head phones, dropped some change in their boxes. Liked to hear that rattle, like a doctor to the patient with leukemia.
A couple of teenage boys stepped up to the girls and dropped a quarter in the box.
One of the boys elbowed the other in the ribs, to get his attention, to remind him of their wager.
“I will, man.” The boy unsure of what to do, undecided moment to moment, then turned to Luiza. “Do you girls date?”
Luiza looked at Madeleine and back at the boy. Grinned. Flattered.
“I guess,” she said.
The boy turned to his friend and cried. “I told you they were lesbos.”
The two boys bent over laughing. One slapped the other on the back. The other reached into his friend’s pocket and retrieved his wager.
“Morons.” Madeleine spat out. Took a turn. For the worse.
A middle-aged man wearing a Blue Jay hat. Fumbled a large bill into Luiza’s box. What a blunder. Too embarrassed to ask for it back. A young couple with a baby. Change in the girls’ box. Two nuns dressed as waitresses arguing over husbands placed an offering in their basket.
When there was a lull in the traffic, Madeleine turned to Luiza.
“So what happened that pissed off Cooper?”
Luiza turned to Madeleine. Made her promise not to repeat the tale to anyone else. Madeleine promised. Falsely.
“Well, you know how Cooper is always dressed so pristine.” Luiza began. Madeleine nodded. “Every little thing must be in its place. It’s like he’s obsessed with order and cleanliness.”
“Ya.” Madeleine nodded. For the second time.
“Well,” Luiza moved closer to Madeleine. “I asked him which side of his trousers he put it on.”
Madeleine looked at Luiza with a puzzled expression on her face. Somewhere in the distance a cock crowed twice.
“I was told,” Luiza leaned closer to Madeleine before continuing, “that when a man gets a suit tailored for him, the tailor cuts a little more material on one side of his trouser legs so that the guy has a place to comfortably put it.”
“By it you mean…”
Madeleine howled with laughter.
“And I said to him,” Luiza continued almost in tears, “Cooper, I think you put it on the wrong side.”
July 5, 2013
THE WIDOW SAT DOWN BESIDE HER
Mrs. Murphy, often called the Widow, propped up in her walker. Her arms like wires. Leaned against the counter in the cosmetic section of the drug store looking into the mirror that was looking back. She played with her hair. Remembering those cool April evenings, when in front of her vanity she drew a brush through her thick long brown hair. And the mice scurried across the floor. And looked up her night dress.
Without turning her head away, she spoke. Like she was Alanis Morissette.
“I used to be a great beauty.”
Deborah Hall, the cosmetician stood on the other side of the counter. Like a secretary waiting on the corner. For her boss, a married man, to pick her up. Cleaning the glass counter top with a dry cloth and no sense of humor.
Deborah hadn’t heard Mrs. Murphy. She’d been thinking of last weekend. It was already Tuesday and she was still thinking about Frank. About how funny he’d reacted when she told him that he should make use of a good deodorant. Right after his eyes had rolled up in his head beads of sweat rolling down his forehead onto Deborah’s chest and that terrible lonely sigh slipping out of his lungs when he had reached his orgasm. Or what passed. He hadn’t phoned back. And it was Tuesday.
Deborah Hall looked at the Widow. Patiently. She’d heard the old lady’s story so many times. It was tiresome. How all the young men of her village had fought each other for the privilege of her… company. How she had met them in the parlor. Did anyone have a parlor anymore? She met them with the doors open. So that her mother could hear everything happening. As if anything happened. How the last one standing had proposed to her. Not standing. But kneeling. A sentimental cliché. But still romantic. And tragic in a kind of pathetic way.
Mrs. Murphy had fallen for someone else. Was that possible? A fellow she’d met while she’d been with Harry looking for his new car. Did she actually fall? Harry was another suitor. More interested in big automobiles. He never called them cars. Mrs. Murphy’s mother did not approve of Harry. He had grease under his fingernails. Why wouldn’t he? He was a mechanic. Owned his own service station. Wore his uniform as proudly as any sailor. Maybe her mother was right. He smoked. Held his cigarette in his teeth. Too tight. Like the Germans. There was a bad lot in the big city. Where temptation lay in small hotel rooms with the windows open on hot sticky August evenings. Mrs. Murphy told Deborah how someone across the way had watched them making love. Her and Harry. From another building. Where they made fans. On his lunch break. And Harry wasn’t the one she’d fallen for. That was Earl. He was an accountant. In his father’s business. And the fellow was standing in the window boldly holding his male thing in his hand while Harry did what he was proud of. And Earl was bound to inherit the business. And a comfortable living. And with the right woman, an ambitious woman, maybe expand into real estate. Mrs. Murphy believed in property. It’s the only thing that they’re not making any more of. Unless we travel the stars. And then all bets were off. And Mrs. Murphy stopped. To take a breath.
For a brief moment Deborah considered confiding in Mrs. Murphy. Should she phone Frank back? Or just chalk it up as one more guy? Who couldn’t appreciate a good thing. But then dismissed the idea. Talking to Mrs. Murphy. How could you trust anyone who had so much stuff dangling from her? And we’re not talking about jewelry. From the chin, the neck, under the arms. And we don’t want to imagine anything else. Being old is so hideous.
“Dear,” the Widow said. Attempting to get Deborah’s attention. From her own selfish thoughts. Maybe laying with her lover. Under a tree. Where’s it’s shady. Deborah smiled. Mrs. Murphy had succeeded.
Then all the young men were gone. Mrs. Murphy continued. This time as she had on previous occasions. Gone. Young men sucked up in the war. Lost in foreign mud. With her image in their hearts. Like a thorn in our Saviors flesh.
That’s what it is. She’s Pathetic. Deborah believed when she stood in her smart little outfit in the drugstore. But in those moments late in the evening when Deborah was alone. She wondered. As she cleansed her face with care. Whether she would feel that way when she was Mrs. Murphy’s age. And how fast that time might come. And would she have any memories of her own. To soothe a lonely soul.
Mrs. Murphy leaned over the counter and whispered to the cosmetician.
“There are only two things that smell like fish,” she said. “And one of them is fish.”
“Mrs. Murphy!” Deborah cried and stepped away. The widow often talked like this in Deborah’s ear. When there was no one about. If only the old lady would speak loud enough for others to hear, she would have a witness. And proof enough to have her removed from the store.
Deborah turned on the old woman and spoke lowly as if in confidence.
“How can you talk to me like this? Such intimacies should not be shared amongst strangers. And we are certainly not friends.”
The old woman giggled and returned to her previous conversation.
“Oh, yes,” the Widow said standing more erect to get a look at her bosom in the mirror. “I had all the young men eating out of my…” She smiled at Deborah and added. “Lap.”
“Mrs. Murphy, you mustn’t…”
The widow stepped back over to the counter and took Deborah’s hands in hers. Took them swiftly. Like a thief. Ready to run off.
“All my life I’ve been holding back but not now. It’s so liberating being my age. You can say anything and be forgiven.”
“Don’t you have gentlemen friends,” the widow asked, “who, in the heights of passion, whisper lovely obscenities in your ear?”
At that moment a mouse ran down the middle of the aisle. Deborah Hall unable to scream, pointed at the small furry animal. Mrs. Murphy turned and seeing the animal, brought her foot down heavily on the floor. The tiny creature disappeared under the Widow’s shoe. A moment later a pool of blood crawled out. Deborah Hall, about to scream, fainted instead.
July 4, 2013
New novel. Thought I’d workshop it on the blog. Gives me a better feeling for it. I think its about a serial killer. Or a killer who eats cereal. (stupid joke or no joke at all.)
Chapter One: The Bench
I don’t know if this is the start of my story. Only know this is how I have to tell it. I have a bench on the sidewalk in front of Millers Restaurant. I liked to stand behind it. Sometimes I would sit but mostly I liked to stand there. There is an empty lot across the street with a makeshift snow fence around it. There is nothing on the lot except weeds, some stones, and a scattering of bricks from the building that stood there. It had been a grocery store for fifty years but had recently been torn down.
Occasionally a car, truck or bus would pass along Dundas Street but the scene was basically stark, the bare essentials. Which is the way I write. Which is the way I live. Which is the way I think. The bare essentials. Hopefully I will be able to pare everything down to two elements. Me and God. And then the real conversation would begin. If I could get out of the quick sand of my first page.
It’s a good place to think. To mull over ideas. That’s my madness. Everywhere I look I see patterns. Patterns are someone’s idea, someone’s creation. Order is recklessly rearranging the furniture around us. Giving birth in the ashes of death. Music and discord are the same notes. There is a certain chaotic frenzy in order. Order is my God. Patterns are His skin. I need a universe in which everything makes sense. What else is consciousness for? Why does God need us as witnesses? Why does God need us at all?
Things like that.
I took a seat on the bench.
“You look like a man whose been left behind.”
I looked up. A thin young man, well dressed with a swath of wispy blonde hair that fell over his eyes, took a seat on the bench beside me. I looked at him suspiciously. Creeped me out, to tell you the truth.
He smiled. “Supposed to be another hot one.”
He had an odd accent that I couldn’t place. American, I thought. Somewhere down south.
“Summer is going out with a bang,” I said.
The strange young man looked across the street at the empty lot.
“It was a grocery store,” I said anticipating his question.
“I was going to say that it looked peaceful in a odd way.”
“You’re from out of town,” I said, stating the obvious.
“A strange place for a tourist,” I said. “Not many people are attracted to the sights of the Six Points.”
“In town on business. Thought I’d go for a walk. Get a lay of the land.”
“What do you do for a living?”
He turned to me. “I’m a hired assassin.”
My mouth dropped.
He laughed. “You’ll have to forgive my sense of humour. I’m a professional photographer. Magazines. Fashion mostly. Looking for shooting locations. And new talent. How do you turn a dollar?”
I hesitated for a minute. “Work at Shopper’s. Wanna be a writer.”
The young man nodded. “Write anything I would know?”
I shook my head.
“What do you write?”
“Murder mysteries,” I replied.
He laughed. “That’s certainly a popular genre these days. Murder mysteries all over the newsstands. Cheap novels written to scare the pants off middle-aged women. What do you figure is the attraction?”
I shook my head.
The stranger smiled. “I think everyone wants to be murdered. And survive to talk about it.”
July 4, 2013
AN ARGUMENT AGAINST THE EXISTENCE OF GOD
Bea pulled up her skirt. Lace panties. Tucked in her blouse. Drew a finger across her lips. Looked in the mirror. Everything presentable? Buttons straight. She loved her eyebrows. Lorded over them. They turned up at each end. Like an owl. On time. Like she was going to ask a question. Kept people on their toes. Made them feel… uneasy.
Make-up. A soft brush across the cheeks. A touch on the lips. Eye liner. Make the eyes look bolder. Powder on the nose. And the chin. Where a few days before she had spotted some migrant hairs. They were gone. Out of sight – out of mind. She thought for a moment. Who thought up that phrase. A phrase she enjoyed mulling over in her mind. It made her feel… thoughtless.
I dim all the lights and I sink in my chair.
Bea did a side step. Promenade. A fox trot out of the washroom, down the hall, and into the kitchen. Oh God, it feels great to be a woman. Who is light on her feet. If her appearance had matched her dancing, men would have thrown themselves at her. Size nines.
The smoke from my cigarette climbs through the air.
She turned the coffee maker on. It smelled like Artie Shaw.
The walls of my room fade away in the blue.
And popped some frozen pancakes into the microwave. Laid them out on Brian’s plate. Like corpses in a morgue. They would dry out. All he had to do was to pop them in the toaster. If he got up before noon. If he didn’t go out for lunch with his friends. If he didn’t… Bea shook her hair.
And I’m deep in a dream of you.
Rustling like leaves in the fall.
God, there is something crazy in the air.
Bea laughing. Out of the blue. Out of desperation. And her heart fluttered. Like a butterfly in her chest. She couldn’t continue to worry about her son. He was twenty-six years old. She moved. Two steps backward. Slowly. If only he could hold down a job. Quickly to the left. One step. Why was it so difficult to show up on time? Two steps forward. And then a promenade. And why did women have to dance backwards? Was it because men couldn’t manage it?
A smile gripped Bea’s face. Like a vice. She was no longer pretty. Maybe she never was. But she had been young. One time. And loved it. Carefree. Her hands in the air. Shaking her curly hair to Hendrix. Really mixing it up.
Bea stepped out of the house. Like she had a thousand times. After locking the door behind her, she stepped jauntily around to the driver’s side of her Honda. Sprightly. She smiled when the motor turned on. Dance lessons again that night. Where was she going to get the money to buy another car when the Honda finally kicked the bucket? Maybe she’d start taking cabs. And giggled.
Why didn’t we take out more life insurance, Mel? Bea smiled. Most of the students at the dance class were women. Men are such cowards. But still she loved to move around the floor. Even if it was in the arms of another women.
Mel wanted to take out much more insurance. As if he knew his days were numbered. And wouldn’t she have been in the peaches. If she had agreed. But she wanted to take dance lessons. She should have listened to Mel. Or was that just guilt? She was still alive. And where was Mel? On a couch somewhere. Up there. Watching television. Asleep.
Bea backed down the driveway and waited for the street traffic to break. She looked back at the house.
At least the mortgage is paid off.
Just as she was about to back into the street, she heard the bang. Like a midnight backfire. From some kid’s jalopy. And then the left side of the Honda sagged. Depressed. Giving up the spirit. She got out. Looked at the flat tire. Crossed her arms. And wished secretly that she could sing.
Taking out her cell phone she called the drug store to let them know that she would be late.
Late. Don’t know how late. But late.
She wondered if she could manage changing the tire by herself. Or should she call a service station? Or should she wake up her son and ask for his help? She shook her head.
No. I can’t face him this early in the morning. And opened the trunk of the car and took out the jack and the extra tire. I’ll have to go back and change.
Bea threw her arms up into the air and laughed.
“There is no God!” she cried. Took the jack and smashed in the front window of her… car.