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 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.
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.”
June 22, 2013
A small episode from my novel SNOW. You can download it or have a look. Its free. A bargain at twice the price.
SNOW is part of a series of novels involving an aging police officer in the suburbs of Toronto. In this novel weather plays a key role in the novel. In the previous novels The Hole and H&R (HER) a bottomless well and a asteroid play key roles. There are a couple of short books that have evolved from this. One is about serial killer. But I haven’t gotten my head around that one yet.
25. Brothers and Partners
“Did you notice the Chrysler following us?” Michael said as he laid his clothes carefully out in the dresser drawer.
David was playing with the television. He slammed the top of the set with the palm of his hand. “Cable is out! Must be this fucking storm.What Chrysler?”
“The one that was sitting on our ass all the way here.”
“Who would be following us? And what was all that Irish accent stuff in that bar? I felt ridiculous talking like a Mic. And Sean. What kind of name is that?”
“It’s all I could think of at the time,” Michael responded, continuing to lay his clothes in precise rows. “Why’d you call me Michael? The idea was that we wouldn’t use our real names, brother.”
“Well, you could have told me that before we walked into that dump.” David kept pushing the buttons on the remote. “If we have a plan, tell me the fucking plan. And that bar! Zig Zag? What kind of fucking name is that? And the smug look on that bartender’s face. I’d like to wrap his grin around my fist.” David threw the remote against the wall. It smashed into pieces.
Michael turned and looked at the pieces of the remote on the floor. He grinned.
“Fuck!” David roared. “Are we going to be locked up in here all evening with nothing to do? I hate being bored. I don’t know why we couldn’t have stayed downtown where there’s a little action. Out here in the sticks! God! We should have brought that girl back from the Zig Zag. She looked like she was up for a party.”
“She’s old enough to be our mom,” Michael responded.
David got up from in front of the television and walked over to the window. He parted the Venetian blinds and stared out into the snow at the car parked across the street.
“And this weather! I thought we left this shit behind in Russia. Your Chrysler is sitting across the street.”
“What’s he doing?”
David pressed closer to the window. “Nothing. Maybe I should go out and ask him what he wants.”
Michael picked up several pairs of dark blue socks and placed them like napkins in the top drawer. “What if it’s a cop?”
“Why would it be a cop?”
“Why would it be anyone else?” Michael responded. “Right now the cops have nothing on us. Let the fuckers stay out there all night and freeze their balls off.”
“I don’t care if it is the cops, I don’t like to be watched. Never liked it. This is the New World.”
“Stay focused, brother. We’ve got other fish to fry. We’ll check out the other motels on the airport strip. This Lombardo guy has got to be hiding somewhere.”
“You think he’ll be signed in under his own name, Michael?”
“No. But what else can we do? Let’s check around and see if there are any games. Guys like Lombardo are addicted to gambling. Someone must have seen him.”
David looked back from the window. “What are we gong to do about Mazudo?”
“I told you not to play with that cocksucker,” Michael responded.
David returned to the other bed and opened his bag, dumping his clothes into a drawer. “Shit! I had some good dope here. How was I supposed to know that Mazudo was holding a flush?”
Michael shook his head. “Because it was his game, brother.”
“You think he was cheating?”
Michael glanced at his brother’s clothes piled in his dresser drawer. “Look at the mess you’ve made. Why can’t you pack your things away neatly like any normal human being?”
“I had some good dope in here,” David said rummaging through his bag. He laughed. “Here it is.” He took out a lunch bag of dope and papers and started rolling a joint. “So now we have to find this Lombardo prick to pay off our debt to Mazudo. I’m getting tired of doing other people’s laundry.”
“Your debt,” Michael corrected David.
“There is an easier solution to all of this.” David lit up a joint. “Let’s just whack Mazudo. The guy is a slime ball.”
Michael closed the drawer to his dresser. “That’s plan B, brother.” Michael looked at the joint in David’s fingers. “Let me have some of that.”
April 22, 2013
Sex is awful when you’re too young. Its power over you is tyrannical. It can be devastating. This combined with one’s naivity and innocence make for a dangerous brew. This is a story from my book The Bicycle Thieves.
Judy, Marcus’s younger sister by a year, sometimes sat watching television with them in the O’Reilly basement. David didn’t know if she was pretty but she had an unsettling affect on him. Anytime she was around David felt butterflies in his stomach, and his mouth going dry, and a certain weakness in his knees. As much as Judy’s presence made David feel uncomfortable, he missed her when she wasn’t there. Sometimes when Marcus wasn’t looking she would rub her leg against David’s. When she was doing this, David would pretend that her attentions were having no effect on him while at the same time praying that they would never end. David did not know what to make of all of this. He couldn’t talk to Marcus about his sister and certainly couldn’t talk to his own sister. In truth, he didn’t know what to do. But in his heart he knew that sooner or later something would happen. And he was afraid of what that might be.
David loved to listen to Judy laugh at his jokes, loved to watch her shake the long black hair that ran over her shoulders. He wondered what it would be like if they could be alone. Maybe they would talk, just between themselves and not in the crowd that always existed at the O’Reilly household. Maybe they could be friends. But David didn’t like to think about maybes. It made him feel queasy.
On afternoons when the boys were playing horseshoes, Judy would watch, cheering David on. Marcus would tell his sister to shut up but when his back was turned she would smile at David, running her tongue along her braces.
“You shouldn’t talk to your sister like that,” David said when the two boys had taken off for Apache Burger. Marcus had a yen for a strawberry milkshake. Marcus was always hungry.
“Why not, she’s my sister,” Marcus said shrugging David’s remark off as inconsequential.
On one occasion Terry was playing horseshoes with the two boys. He pointed out to Marcus the attention that his sister was paying to David. Marcus complained to Mrs. O’Reilly that Judy was bothering them. Judy stomped off, banging the back door as she entered the house.
David was no longer in the mood to play horseshoes.
“He’s got a crush on your sister.” Terry pointed at David.
“Do not!” David protested.
Terry laughed and taunted David. David turned and flew at Terry knocking him to the ground, and kneeling on his arms.
“Take it back,” he cried, raising his fist above Terry’s face.
“Okay,” Terry cried. “Just get off me! My mother’ll kill me if I get this shirt dirty.”
On hot days the O’Reilly kids would wade in the huge outdoor pool that Mr. Marcus had constructed in the backyard. One day as Marcus and David sat watching television, Judy came down the stairs soaking wet with a towel wrapped around her. She retreated to the back of the basement in a location where only David could see her, and changed. Did she know that David could see her? David tried not to look but he couldn’t keep his eyes off her long and slender boy like body as she slipped out of her bathing suit. Her nakedness tied David’s stomach in a knot and made him feel sick.
“Let’s go to Apache Burger,” Marcus suggested. “I’m hungry.”
Another day watching the Loretta Young Show in the Marcus basement, Judy sat with her leg slung over the arm of a chair. Marcus had gone to the corner to buy his mother some ginger ale. David was delighted to finally be alone with Judy but he didn’t know what to say.
“She’s beautiful, don’t you think?” Judy said referring to Loretta Young.
“Ya,” David replied. “I guess.”
“I wish I was that beautiful,” Judy sighed.
David’s mouth went dry. He wanted to tell Judy that she was beautiful, that she was much more beautiful than Loretta Young but the words wouldn’t come out. Upstairs Mrs. O’Reilly dragged herself across the kitchen floor and called down to Judy. Judy’s face was wrenched into an ugly glare.
“Why did she have to get pregnant! Don’t I have enough to do?”
Judy stomped up the stairs.
One morning David sat in the living room waiting for Marcus to come out of his room. Marcus stumbled from the kitchen, a bowl of corn flakes in his hand, and still in his pajamas. Mrs. O’Reilly called him from the basement where she was doing a load of laundry.
“Jesus!” he cried. Marcus put the bowl of cereal on the floor, slid it under the couch, and stomped out of the room.
David sat alone in the room for several minutes. Except for the roar of the washing machine in the basement, he couldn’t remember the house being so quiet. When Marcus returned he turned on the television and fell onto the couch, forgetting all about the cereal.
“Go wake up, Judy,” Marcus commanded. “My mother needs her.”
“Send one of the kids,” David muttered. David resented Marcus’s tone.
“They ain’t around. She’s upstairs sleeping. Sneak in and tickle her feet. She hates that.”
Reluctantly David climbed the stairs to the bedrooms. He felt like a thief moving down the hallway. Never having been upstairs before he was not sure which room was Judy’s. He checked one room after room but each was empty. What if he walked into her room and she was naked? What would he do? Ever since that day he’d seen her remove her bathing suit, David couldn’t get Judy out of his mind. I should go back downstairs, he said to himself. This is all wrong. He entered the last bedroom.
Judy was lying in bed. A naked leg hung out from under a bed sheet, dangling over the side of the bed. David’s mouth turned dry.
“I should get out of here,” he muttered to himself but his legs would not move.
Judy began to wake up. David took a step toward her. She rubbed her eyes, sat up in bed, looked at David, and screamed. David ran. He ran out of the bedroom, down the hall, down the stairs, out the front door, up the street, up his driveway, into the backyard, and hid behind the hedge at the back of the lot. And waited.
“What have I done?” he kept repeating over and over, tears running down his face. “I shouldn’t have been there. I shouldn’t have looked. I’m going to hell! I’m going to prison! God, let me disappear!”
David waited and prayed.
“Oh, God, I’ll never go near a girl again! I promise! I promise I’ll never do nothing again.”
Hours passed. As the sun began to set and the shadows stretched out along the lawn before retiring, David slipped into his house and up to his room. And waited, laying on his bed, staring at the ceiling. Each minute seemed to drag on for an eternity. He heard Chico barking out in the street. Maybe he should go talk to Terry. But wasn’t it Terry who had taunted him about Judy having a crush on him? He couldn’t bear to be taunted again. David saw images of himself being dragged from the house and thrown in a police cruiser. He saw Judy on the sidewalk with her father, pointing at him. He heard the jeers and laughter from all the neighbours and then the weeping from his mother, and the look of sad resignation and disappointment in his father’s eyes. And then he fell asleep. When he woke the next morning and heard his mother vacuuming downstairs he knew that his prayers had been answered.
March 25, 2013
I don’t read. Fiction. Haven’t for decades. When I was in my teens I read everything I could find. In my 20s and 30s, I read a lot of genre fiction, science fiction and detective novels. When I was at college I read an assortment of books. Lot of South American writers who I loved, and some American Literature which I did not.
Joyce Carol Oates, a small bird of a woman, taught at our school. I regret not having taken a course with her. Friends told me she was interesting. Rumors about her at the school were not flattering. One was that she was paranoid. Never sat near the window in her office. (Snipers) Once a pizza was sent to her as a gift from one of her students. She sent it down to the science labs to be tested for poison.
I read Them. It was very well received by critics and readers. I hated it. My impression: she doesn’t have the faintest clue. She lived the 60s in her office.
I’m reading the NY Times Book Review. An introduction of some younger writers. I realized that my time has passed. Actually my time never existed. Outside of Kurt Vonnegut, there is not an American author since Hemingway I’d want to be associated with.
March 9, 2013
I’ve always been interested in found art. That is the mystery of the story told is the mystery of the author who made it up. I wrote a book which is supposedly written by someone else. It is called The Moron. It is about the ownership of ideas. The ownership of a culture. Shakespeare didn’t write his plays; Ayn Rand did.
My father said that we’d all end up in a box. Buried in memories. Death is no mistake. Life was an explosion that we live in. Everyone was headed in different directions with a common goal. Nothing makes sense in the unexamined life. What counts are the lies you get away with. Father was one of those young men called the baby boomers who never had to prove their metal in war or desperation, and thus remained eternally angry. And their anger ate them up inside, made them hungry and dissatisfied. I hated my father. He never thought I existed.
I was nine years old standing in the middle of the living room in front of the television.
“Don’t stand so close to the set!” my father barked. He took a seat on the couch. I stood in front of the set.
“You seen my cigars?”
I shrugged. I was nine years old. What did I want with cigars?
“Where are my cigars?”
“I don’t know where your bloody cigars are,” I cried. I just wanted to watch my program.
“I don’t want to hear that kind of language young man. Now I asked you a simple question and I expect a civil response. What are you watching?”
“Heman,” I responded.
“Get back from the couch. You’re going to ruin your eyes.”
I moved back to the couch.
“What else is on?”
“Nothing,” I replied.
“You’re too old for this program. Heman is for little kids. There must be something else on. Where’s the remote?”
“I want to watch Heman,” I said.
“Give me the remote.”
“I don’t have it.”
“Who had it last?”
I shrugged and sat down. My father stood up and fumbled through the cushions looking for the remote. He made me stand up. Unsuccessful he got down on his knees and looked under the couch.
“Where the hell…” he cried.
“Mom said I could watch Heman,” I said taking my place back on the couch.
“Your mom’s not here.”
“I was here first,” I declared.
“On the planet?” he asked then roared with delight as he pulled the remote from beneath the armchair.
He turned and pointed it at the television like it was a laser gun from a sci-fi film. Nothing happened.
“Mom took the batteries out,” I grinned. Mom hated the remote. Said that it was impossible to watch television when father was touring through the stations. It was like watching clothes in a tumble dryer, she said.
He left the room. I knew it was only a matter of time until he returned with batteries. I wished that I had a remote to turn him off.
February 15, 2013
I’ve been working on the great novel for 50 years. More or less. Every writer wants to write War and Peace. I was big on form. The architecture of fiction. But I’d get bored and mothball the work. Or break it down for parts. The Death of Lou Grant was the orphan of such an enterprise. It was suppose to be one part of a large novel about Marshal McLuhan. Or someone like him. The Death of Lou Grant is a story about the characters in the Mary Tyler Moore Show appearing in the dieing moments of a man’s life. It is a tragedy dressed up as a sitcom. The piece below is one chapter.
Lou In The Elevator With Ted
LOU: I am back in the real world, in the middle of my backyard, in a lounge chair, having a stroke. I can feel my chest melting. The low sizzle of skin. Drops of perspiration tickling my breasts. A low breeze moves the trees slightly…
Ted looks around the elevator as if he thought we were on Candid Camera. There was always someone trying to pull a fast one on Ted and though he wasn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer, Ted knew that people were constantly trying to put one over on him. I was having a nervous breakdown.
LOU: The sun slips behind some leaves and for a brief moment a chill crawls across me. I have known this feeling all my life. It is death. Death is a young girl skipping rope, reciting an old chant… I’m tired.
TED: Lou, are you feeling alright?
LOU: A few yards behind, the compost is groaning, the low growls and farts of digestion.
TED: Lou, are you quoting someone? I could give you my reading of Hamlet. I got glowing reviews in college.
LOU: Perhaps when we die, the spirit of the body is sucked into the soul like a star collapsing into itself. We have become a single moment, a thought. The definition of homo-sapiens: I am here… Everything is spinning. Round and round. Like its going to spin right out of…
TED: Excuse me, Lou. Am I supposed to be writing this down?
LOU: Murray already used that joke.
TED: Well, how was I supposed to know that, Lou. It’s not like you guys let me know what’s going on.
I started to babble on about modern consciousness and amino acids. And communications. God, I could hear myself. It was embarrassing. Without being interesting. Or profound. And all the time Ted kept looking around the elevator. At one point he reached for the emergency phone. I grabbed his hand.
LOU: Anger is the engine of despair. What is the rage that my soul sheaves? What is this drunken muttering in my soul? Let’s blame it on the fucking ozone layer. I have to get out of the sun. God, why can’t I stop talking. Talking like my mind is out of control. Stop me from talking, Ted!
Ted began to giggle nervously as the elevator doors opened
TED: Lou. You kill me!
January 12, 2013
The main character in Reality Strikes Back is based partially on a school friend. He was an intelligent fellow but there was something odd about him. Sometimes he would forget why he was doing something. Not uncommon in later life. But he was a teenager. And he looked like a famous racing car driver. Nothing odd about that. I don’t for the life of me know why I mentioned that. He was like that. Random thoughts popping up in conversation.
Check out my ebook Reality Strikes Back.
I sat on the bed after Ann and Claude had left thinking about when I was a child. I would climb the steps to my room late at night and I would pause, having forgotten momentarily why I was on the staircase. My mother would awake, one eye open, laying in her bed, and wait for me to discover why I had begun to climb the stairs. Only when I had continued my journey could she fall back asleep. That’s how I remembered my mother. A solitary moment. One image in an album of images. There is no relationship between the images, no cause and effect, no chronology in my memory. All the images of my life were like a deck of cards, shuffled, appearing by chance. There is no sense of the past, no movement, no flow, no highway leading to my present state, passing me by, and disappearing into the distant future. My memories were free floating, without gravity or God, existing by themselves like planets drifting through space or children asleep in an orphanage. There is a postcard of Niagara Falls, stilled by the power of the camera, and there is a man in a barrel, going over the falls. The man is the moment, the falls are eternal. I seem only aware of the water going over the falls. I cannot find the man and I don’t understand the concept of the falls. I remember my mother, frozen in that bed, frozen in that moment of anticipation, waiting for me to decide. I remember nothing else about her. My mother in a bed waiting. A bed in a dark room. Water over the falls. And a man stuck in a wheel barrel.