mkuiack


Saturday, March 13, 2010

 

Once, when Jimmy was six years old, Mr. Tedesco, the neighbour man who lived three houses over, died. The ambulance came at the request of the police who had come at the request of his wife and loaded up the stretcher. As they were carrying the body, lumpy under a sheet, down the narrow front stairs of Mr. Tedesco's house, Jimmy's dog, Chico, attacked the ambulance attendants and caused one of them to drop one of the handles of the stretcher, causing the body of Mr. Tedesco to drop from under the sheet to the ground, half of him on the narrow stairs and half on the sidewalk that led to the street. Mr. Tedesco was only wearing white underwear briefs and, in death, looked very small.
Chico was a bad dog. He was small and wiry and mostly brown-ish yellow with white on his paws and on his snout. He was untrainable. At the esteemed dog age of three he still shit regularly on the basement floor. He chewed anything that was left within his reach near the floor. He was an unrelenting terror for the neighbourhood children. He had a positive hate for anyone in uniform. The family had received a nasty letter from the hydro company concerning Chico's behaviour when their man came to read the meter. The family had received a personal visit from the postmaster of the town. The milkman had long since refused to stop at the house. Therefore, it was with considerable trepidation that Jimmy reacted when he heard his father speak the fateful words;
"Jimmy, go get your dog."
When the dog had been retrieved and chained to the post in the backyard where he spent most of his waking hours and the remains of Mr. Tedesco had been replaced on the stretcher and hauled off in the silent ambulance and the neighbours had all gone back to their lives, his father spoke again;
"Jimmy, come with me."
They were off to the back yard with a short stop at the sagging wooden garage to retrieve a round mouthed shovel and there Jimmy watched his father beat Chico to death. He watched the first two swings go wild and thud into the hard pack of the earth for Jimmy's father had been drinking and Chico was nothing if not wily and sneaky fast. He watched the third blow connect, the flat of the back of the blade catching Chico on the biggest part of his haunches, breaking a leg or perhaps his back. The next few blows all found an easy mark for Chico was lame and could do nothing to evade them. The noise was terrible, all screeching and thudding and then just whines. The coup de grace was a sideways glancing blow with the sharp edge of the side of the blade that dug deep into the flesh of Chico's neck, halfway taking off his head. His father panting with the exertion, his face lined with sweat, handed Jimmy the shovel and said;
"Dig a hole for your dog. There in the corner by the fence."
Once, when Jimmy was 36, he sat huddled at a little table in a little room in a little motel on the highway outside a little town. He was terrible drunk. He was looking out over the parking lot through a little crack in the curtains, taking occasional little maintenance nips and smoking a cigarette. Arrayed beside him on the table were an ashtray, a package of cigarettes and a brass Zippo lighter, a bottle of rye whiskey, and an ugly black gun. Janette lay on the room's double bed on her side. She had pulled a pillow into her stomach and held it there fiercely as if it were helping to staunch the flow of blood from some terrible, even fatal wound. She had been crying. Her face was a sight and her voice was torn, all ragged, plaintive.
"Why did you do it, Jimmy" she asked? "Why do you always do shit like that?"
Jimmy turned slow, stubbed out one cigarette and lit another from the pack. The Zippo closed with a mechanical snap. He turned back to the window and spoke to the crack in the curtain;
"Sometimes," he said, "my mind won't let me rest."
Janette considered this carefully and long. She had once been pretty but she had never been smart. She stared at the side of him, poised at the window searching the parking lot and the long stretch of highway beyond that led back to town, for a long while but Jimmy had given her all that he could. She pulled the pillow deeper into herself and closed her eyes.
"Oh Jimmy," she whispered. "We are so fucked."

posted by michael Saturday, March 13, 2010


Tuesday, February 09, 2010

 

So what are you going to do - she asked?
About what - I replied?
I could feel her looking at me but she held her silence for a long while. She was nothing if not patient.
About the dreams and the sleeplessness and the Shadow People and all the rest - she said finally. She was exasperated. The screaming, the terror, the anger. She tailed off.
I don't know - I said. What can I do?
You could call the doctor - she said.
He'll want me to go back there - I said. I'll never go back there. I can't. It makes everything worse.
Will you take the pills - she asked?
No - I replied. You know what happens when I take the pills.
Don't you want to get better - she asked?
More than anything - I said and I turned away to the window.
I heard her leave the room after a while and after a while I followed.
She was sitting at the kitchen table, her head resting on crossed arms. She was crying. Her shoulders shook with small sobs.
I just want to be normal - I said.
You don't know what normal is - she said - you don't have a fucking clue what normal is.
That's not my fault - I said - no one ever showed me normal. I had to read about normal in books. I learned about normal from watching television.
She looked up. I knew that I had broken her heart.
She looked down. Her shoulders shook with small sobs.


posted by michael Tuesday, February 09, 2010


Friday, January 22, 2010

 

You look tired - she said.
I am - I said. I woke up in the middle of the night and couldn't go back to sleep.
I had a bad dream - I said.
Again - she said and then she let it lie for she knew it was always best to let such things lie.
She came back to it when we were again abed and the lights had been turned off and we had exchanged kisses and soft noises of good night and fluffed the pillows and taken deep breaths.
Was it the same dream - she asked.
No, this one was different - I said.
She waited for she knew it was always best to wait.
I woke up in the middle of the night - I said. I was facing the wall, facing away from you. I came wide awake and I knew that behind me on the bed was a werewolf or a wild animal, a dangerous beast of some sort.
That's silly - she said - it was just me lying beside you and I not a wild animal nor a dangerous beast.
I ignored her platitudes.
I could hear it breathing - I said - and I knew that if I turned to check, the animal would eat me or kill me or tear me to bits. It was just waiting. I could hear it breathing and I knew what it looked like and after I while I could smell its fetid smell. It was laying on its side facing me just as you do when we sleep. It had black and leathery skin like an ape and a prognathous jaw and its upper canine was bared just enough so that it caught some of the moonlight from the window. Its eyes were open and it was watching me very closely. I lay awake forever or until morning. I don't remember which.
You must have been terrified - she said. I wish I could have saved you.
Last night - I said - there was nothing to save.

posted by michael Friday, January 22, 2010


Saturday, October 17, 2009

 

"You know something," Lanny said.
I sighed and prepared to be sad for this was Lanny's way of introducing something sad.
We were drinking at Lanny's kitchen table and had been there for a goodly long time. The drugs were long gone but we still had plenty to drink.
"No. What," I replied. With Lanny it was best to get right into it. He would not forget or become distracted or allow himself to be redirected. He was nothing if not tenacious when it came to ideas.
"Sometimes," he said, "I feel like I'm just something that God has stuck in his teeth and that as soon as he can work me free with his tongue he's going to spit me out."
My sense of the passage of time was not at its best. I searched for a longish while for some sort of reply. I settled.
"Is that right," I said?
Lanny did not consider this to be worthy of a response. He busied himself with pouring another tumbler of vodka. The dingy brown cast on his wrist made him clumsy and slow. He slopped a bit on the table.
"I didn't go to the funeral. He was a teacher."
I searched for some connection between the two statements and came up empty. I busied myself with another helping from the bottle. We were well into it. It would be gone in a while. I began to worry about how we would get more. We were flat broke and in deep trouble and Lanny had that arrest warrant to be careful about. Lanny didn't do jail well. Neither of us did, but Lanny had an especially hard time.
"What did he teach you," I asked? It was like pulling the pin on a misery grenade but I knew he had to get it out. He was nothing if not tenacious.
"He taught me to tie a tie, where to hide my liquor bottles and how to shut my fucking mouth.
Lanny smiled a terrible smile that made him look insane and made me feel like hurting myself.
"He was always saying that. I'll teach you to shut your fucking mouth he used to say."
His eyes smiled again with a smile that was even more terrible than the one before.
"I hated that cunt," he said.
Outside, there was the crunch of car tires on frozen gravel.
I looked to the window.
"Is it him," Larry asked?
"Must be," I replied. "Keep the gun out of sight until we're sure and for fuck sakes let me do the talking."

posted by michael Saturday, October 17, 2009


Thursday, September 17, 2009

 

Last night, I dreamed of Sylvia.
Sylvia is the face of my higher power.
She works to keep me sane.
In my dream, she ran cool, dead fingers down my arm.
In my dream, she made me shiver.
In my dream, she whispered to me small, quiet, incomprehensible words of comfort.
In my dream, she told me that it was going to be all right.
I have no choice but to believe her.
The alternative is terrible and mean and tragic and sad.
Last night, I dreamed of Sylvia.
Sylvia is the face of my higher power.
She works to keep me sane.


posted by michael Thursday, September 17, 2009


Saturday, June 06, 2009

 

Here is a thing that happened.
In happened long ago and far away.
There were five of us that summer. There was Tony, the quiet one. There was Gerald, who we called Chub after a character in a television program that had been popular when we were boys. There was Mike, who was big and strong. There was Dave, who was the funny one and the organizer. There was me.
We were all in high school. None of us had regular jobs because jobs were hard to come by. We made money here and there. We stole things. We worked casually for Mike's dad when he needed help.
It was July and it was the long weekend. I had told my mother that I was spending the long weekend at a cottage some distance from home. In reality I was spending it at Tony's. Tony lived in an apartment because his father had kicked him out of the house when the police had come the last time. Tony's mother paid for his apartment on the sly. We all used it as a home away from home and base of operations.
It was the Saturday of the long weekend. We had 3 hits each of LSD that was known one the streets as 'eyeball acid'. It came in the form of little sqares of paper that you touched to the liquid of your eye to get stoned. Something about the size of the blood vessels there made for quicker absorption but we didn't really care about that. We had 8 cases of beer and 2 gallon jugs of moonshine from Gerald's uncle.
We took the first of the acid around 10 in the morning and drank beer and played cards until about noon. By then we were good and stoned and the card game was not going at all well. Someone, probably Dave who was the organizer, suggested Frisbee so down the stairs we trekked. Chub said he was going to stay and drink another beer.
We played Frisbee for a while and that activity too broke down because someone was putting small stones under the lip of the Frisbee disk before throwing it - the Frisbee would stop but the rock would continue its forward progress to a painful end. Harsh words were exchanged. We walked down to the sub shop on the corner and bought some sandwiches. We headed back. Things were getting very cloudy and melty by then and there was an unspoken agreement that we would be better off inside.
When we trooped back up the stairs Chub was sitting at the little dinette table with a steak knife in hand carefully peeling skin back from his chest just below his left nipple. There was a pool of blood at his feet and his hand and arm were dripping with it.
"What the fuck are you doing," yelled Dave. He quickly snatched the knife away.
"I think I have a tumour," replied Chub. "It's in here. I can feel it growing."
"You don't have a tumour, you stupid fuck. You're just stoned. Jesus, what a fucking mess." This was Dave agin.
Mike appeared from the little bathroom with a pad of folded toilet paper and pressed it to Chub's wound. I got some hockey tape off the top of the fridge and we taped the makeshift bandage to Chub as best we could. We wiped up the blood with a dish towel and threw it in the sink.
We stayed in the apartment until Monday morning, drinking and taking the acid and listening to music and watching TV. When were sobered up we took Chub to the hospital because his chest was red and oozing with milky puss. On Tuesday we were all back in school.
There were 5 of us that summer. Now we are 2. Tony died when he rolled a car on the highway 2 summers later. Mike died of cancer. Dave OD'ed his firt term at college. Gerald is married to Rachel and has 4 daughters. He works at a garage. I write down things that happened long ago and far away.

posted by michael Saturday, June 06, 2009


Sunday, May 24, 2009

 

Here is another of the unfinished things. It is about my father - but what isn't these days. The previous unfinished had a vague direction. I have no idea where this one was going, if at all. It started with the little poem in opening and took on a life of its own until I tired.

In my midnight dream,
I saw my Hitler father.
I robed him prone,
And with some familiar nun,
Performed his last ablution.

Here is a thing that I remember.
Here is a thing that is true.
I remember it was Sunday night because I was watching The Ed Sullivan Show with my father, he drinking quietly, pensively on the couch behind me under the light and me on the floor closer to the television than usual for my father was not so quick to move me back lest I go blind as was my mother.
I remember that my sister was in bed for she was a baby and I was a big boy.
I remember that my mother was at a meeting of the CWL, the Catholic Whores League as my father called it. I remember thinking myself lucky that I was still up as Ed was kissing Topo Gigo goodnight for my mother never let me stay up to see the end.
I remember her key in the lock of the front door and the click of the door behind as she stepped into the porch.
I remember my father, quick as a cat, up off the couch, over me, punching my mother in the face through one of the little window panes on the door that separated the front porch from the living room.
I remember how he wrenched the door open and grabbed her by the hair and tossed her inside.
I remember how she stumbled past me and ran to the bedroom and closed that door with a bang loud enough to wake my sister and make her cry.
I remember the shouting and the hammering of my father’s fists and my mother’s screams and the crying of the baby and I remember looking down to see a single and very red drop of blood on my forearm that must have splashed from her as she ran past.
I remember the regular swoop of the lights of the police car as it stood in our driveway and the low and even voices of the policemen (who were my friends) and the screams of my father and the sobs of my mother and the baby’s cries.
I remember going to sleep in my closet with the door almost shut and the ceiling light on.
I remember waking up and going to the kitchen and seeing my mother with a line of stitches at her temple and one eye black and closed as she made breakfast and I remember that she was quiet, singing to the baby and I remember that my father was gone.
I remember going to the living room after breakfast and seeing that the glass had been cleaned up and the little window pane had been neatly covered with cardboard from a Kleenex box and some masking tape.
I remember looking down to my arm and seeing the blood drop there still, shiny and hard like a scab.

I moved into Room 11 of the Starlight Motel in the small Canadian university town of Turgottville on April 13, 2000 and have lived there ever since. The room is a standard 24 x 24 foot square with an additional liittle square of an entry. As you push open the only door you look into a small closet with the usual shelf up top and a rod on which to hang clothing. The closet is not crowded with things. I store my outerwear there - a couple of jackets for spring and fall, a raincoat, umbrella and some warmer things for it can get quite cool in Turgottville when the winter wind blows off the lake.
The door opens inward from left to right and if you are not careful it will hit a narrow 6-drawer chest that I have tucked in behind. Here I store the remainder of my clothing; 1 drawer for socks and under things, 1 for shirts with buttons, 1 for t-shirts, 1 for pants. 2 drawers stand empty. When released the door will swing shut behind you and lock with a click.
The wall to the left as you enter the room proper has a window with a large center pane and narrower panes on either side. The window looks out due east onto the end of the parking lot for Room 11 is at the end of the motel furthest from the office. There are 2 parking spots in front with the number 11 stenciled in yellow on the tarmac. These are usually empty as I do not drive. I do have a drivers' license which I have kept current since it was returned to me by the courts early in 2005. To the left of the parking lot is a fence of brown wood and beyond that an area of green space through which runs the occasional freight train. Across the street which is moderately busy with traffic especially early in the day and late in the afternoon there is a Tim Horton's outlet and a used car lot that never appears to have any patrons. Under the window is a large, industrial looking heater/air conditioner unit that regulates my climate. I like to keep the temperature at 69 degrees. The windows do not open. The window covering is an opaque drape of heavy brown fabric. I close it carefully on the sun when I wake and pull it wide open just before I go to bed to let in the darkness of the night.
Directly in front of the window is a small square pine table with 1 straight-backed pine chair. The table is where I keep my room key with its bright green plastic fob. I have never sat in the chair. Sometimes, I will drape a coat over the back of the chair to dry if I have been out in the wet. Beyond the table, in the corner where east meets south, is a V-shaped entertainment unit which holds a television, machines on which to play videotapes and DVD's, and an integrated audio system with an 18 CD changer and 150 watts of equalized power driving 4 small, foreign speakers mounted in the corners on the walls. I can make my music or movies very loud although I never do. On either side and on top of the entertainment unit are shelves that I designed to hold my collection of movies and music and had built for me by an acquaintance named Mel. Mel is a finish carpenter by trade. He says he is retired but I suspect he is simply too nervous to work. He does good work but slow.
The remainder of the south wall is in bookshelves, floor to ceiling. Mel built these too. In front of the wall is a brown fabric easy chair that rocks and beside the chair a small table for the telephone and the remote control and a sharp silver mechanical pencil with an HB lead and behind that a pole lamp. Behind the chair is an exercise bike that I keep pointed toward the television screen.
The center of the west wall is where I have my bed. It is one of the iron folding cots with metal slats and springs that the motel would ordinarily supply for a fee to sleep an extra guest or a child. It is sufficient for my needs although I did buy an expensive pillow some time ago. The book shelves continue all around the bed and are tight to it. I have a lot of books.
The north wall is interrupted by the door to the bathroom and contains a longish trestle table to hold my computer and its related paraphernalia. Between the bathroom door and the entryway are 4 4-drawer file cabinets. They are grey metal. Above the table I have hung 3 poster-sized pictures of men long dead. As I sit here in a grey rolling office chair I can contemplate the faces of Croly and Lippmann and Weyl, the dreamer, the thinker, and the technician and from them I draw, if not inspiration, then at least some small comfort.
The bathroom is what you would expect.
All of the walls are painted an eggshell type of white. The floor is covered with a short-napped dusty brown coloured carpet. There is a light fixture in the center of the ceiling and a switch just by the door. There are no clocks as I do not like to have the time thrust upon me.
The sign outside the motel office says that this room can be rented for $69.99 per night. I pay the owner, an Indonesian man named Muktie Abdullah Abdullah, $1500 per month in cash and do not ask for a receipt. He looks the other way when I make changes. His sister, whose name I never have mastered, vacuums and dusts and gives the bathroom a good scrubbing every Monday morning early and leaves me fresh towels.
This is where I lived when my sister called to tell me of the death of my father.

"We lost him, Michael," she said.
I said nothing.
"The funeral is Monday. Will you come? Home?"
The last an afterthought in case I had forgotten to where one would go upon the death of his father.
I agreed that I would.

She cried for a while and told me of arrangements and things of no consequence and then I think I hung up on her for she was gone and I sat in the easy chair for the rest of the night through watching "Roadhouse" with the sound off and listening to girl groups from the 50's and 60's singing about the joy of love and the misery of the broken heart and pondering the meanings and portents of the words 'lost' and 'home' as she had spoken them but arriving at no real conclusions and wishing with a great wishing for a long cool draught of an intoxicating liquor.

Here are some things that I have not done for most of this latest millennium;
- drunk alcohol
- smoked cigarettes
- taken any drug, prescribed or otherwise
- worn short pants
- had an orgasm

Here is how I spend my days since I moved into the Starlight Motel.
I wake when the sun shines through my window. I get out of bed and immediately close the curtain tight against the sun. I kneel by my bed and ask for help. I use the toilet as required and brush my teeth and shave my face and scalp and shower. I dress in fresh clothing from head to toe according to the season. I make the bed.
I leave my room and cross the street to the Tim Horton's. I buy a copy of each of 3 papers, 2 national and 1 local, from the boxes by the door and scoop a copy of the free university rag and order an extra-large coffee with cream and 2 bran muffins. I sit at the furthest table with my back to the door and read the papers and have my breakfast. This takes about an hour. I go back to my room, taking the papers with me.
On the way back to my room I stop at the motel office to collect my mail and pass the time of day with Muktie Abdullah Abdullah. Like me, he is an early riser, invariably found behind the office desk reading some foreign language magazine printed on cheap and runny paper and watching what appears to be the same episode of some Indonesian soap opera with the sound at a level almost inaudible. The motel is not a busy one except in the spring and fall when the parents are in town to collect or drop off their student children. The mail and couriered packages are from the previous day for the deliveries come during the afternoon when I choose not to be disturbed.
I take all this back to my room and dump it on the computer desk. I carefully clip out any newspaper articles I have marked and add these to existing folders or make new folders for them to be filed alphabetically in the cabinets. The papers then go into a trash receptacle under the desk. I am not much for recycling. I peruse the collected mail; new books and music and movies are unwrapped and shelved. I do not pay any accompanying bills. I boot up the computer and read my e-mail but do not answer it.
I choose the music for the day; 18 different disks in the order in which they were purchased. When I reach the end of my catalogue I start again at the beginning. CD cases are stacked carefully on the floor beside the chair to be perused as required. I keep the volume low to medium high.
I read for about 3 hours or until I feel tired. I make occasional margin notes with the silver pencil.
I nap for an hour on the bed. I sleep on my back in the afternoon and on my stomach at night.
When I rise I ride my exercise bike for an hour according to its digital timer.
I read for another hour or so and when I hear the traffic noise increase on the street outside the motel I walk 7 minutes to the Ponderosa Steakhouse at the corner and avail myself of their salad bar. Salad bar without an entrée is $9.99 plus tax and I leave $20. The waitresses know that I require plenty of tap water and never have dessert. I eat alone and read.
Sometimes, in the evening, I will go to a movie or to see a live production at the university theatre or to hear a lecture from a visiting scholar. I never go to readings sponsored by the Department of English for, although I look much different now, there is always a chance of being recognized. This happened a few times very early on and led to uncomfortable situations and once to a scene that eventually involved the police. The literary I follow only vicariously now from the safety of the shadows.
Without live entertainment in the offing, I go back to my room and read for another 3 hour stint. When it is full dark I might watch a movie.
Each night before bed last thing I write a short poem. It always begins with the same line; 'In my midnight dream…'. Poem complete and saved to memory, I kneel by my bed and give thanks. I use the bathroom as required. I go to sleep.
On Tuesday mornings I go to the bank and shop for my necessities and stop to browse the used book and music stores on Main Street near the university.
On Thursday mornings I go to the university library. I secured a visiting scholar card from a sympathetic chancellor with whom I went to grad school. Here I keep current with the latest journals.
On Saturday mornings, I answer my e-mail and reply to written mail and pay bills. I walk them up to the Korean store on the corner and mail them there.
On Sunday mornings, I go to early mass at St. Paul's, the Catholic church hard by the water of the lake. I am no longer Catholic as such but I find the stained glass and dark wood to be a comfort.
On Monday, Wednesday, and Friday evenings I go to AA meetings in the basement of Gethsemane United Church.
This is how I lived when my sister called to tell me of the death of my father.

She woke me just as I was about to fall asleep on a Tuesday night in the early summer. By Wednesday mid-morning I had chartered a small plane to take me to her and bring me back to my motel home at a moment's notice. I packed a newly purchased leather suitcase and called a cab to take me to the airport. I stopped only to ask Muktie Abdullah Abdullah to hold my mail as I had to fly out to attend the funeral of my father. He looked suitably crestfallen at the news and told me that it was a terrible and honourable thing for an only son to bury his father and assume the leadership of the family. I told him that he had no idea.

Here are some things that I have not done for most of this latest millennium;
- traveled further afield than a 20 minute walk from my room
- eaten meat
- written prose
- watched a television program
- granted an interview
- spoken to my father

Here is what I packed for my trip home;
- 2 complete changes of clothes
- toiletries
- 3 books; Ellis' American Psycho, Steinbeck's East of Eden, and a somewhat moldy medical textbook by the staff of New York's Grace Dieu Hospital dated 1883 titled simply Insanity
- 3 CD's, Elvis Costello's Get Happy, An American Prayer by the Doors, and The Best of The Shirelles, and a portable player
- my silver pencil with HB lead
- a pad of paper, legal-sized and yellow
- my room key with its bright green fob
- my 24 hour chip
- the Holy Bible

I landed in the late afternoon. The airport's only runway was just able to handle the small jet.
The tarmac sat in the midst of a circle of trees as did the town itself. I entered the small airport administration building and walked up to the only counter. Behind it sat a small and round-ish man. I asked him if I could perhaps rent a car. He arched a thumb toward the car rental kiosk;
"The car rental guy only comes out for scheduled flights," he said. "There's only the one flight a day now. We hardly never get charters." He trailed off. His name tag read Ross Arnott - Manager.
I asked him if he was related to Bob Arnott and he said that Bob was his dad. I told him my name and that I had gone to high school with his dad and lived just down the street from him until I left town for good. He appeared unimpressed.
"You used to be the writer, didn't you," he asked?
I allowed that I had.
"My Dad used to brag that he knew you in school."
I assured him that his father and I had been quite close during our high school years.
"How long since you been back," he asked? This accompanied with a lift of a porcine chin in the general direction of town.
"It's been 25 years or more," I replied.
He nodded as if he understood.
I asked if he could call me a cab and went outside to wait.

The last time I saw Bob Arnott he had been beating on the hood of a Dodge Ram pickup truck with the business end of a round mouthed shovel in the parking lot of the Commercial Travellers' Hotel. It was winter and the incident had something to do with a woman as I recalled. I had left before the police came. I could not remember the name of the woman.

When the cab came I asked the driver to take me to the Inn and we made the ride in silence. I looked out the window at the trees. When we reached the town itself, I gave some serious thought to my hands clasped before me. I fingered the chip in my pants pocket. I asked for help.

Here are some things about the town in which I was born;
- it has a population of 11,000
- there is 1 Catholic and 3 Protestant churches
- there are 2 primary schools and 1 high school
- there is a paper mill at which everyone works save those who supply goods and services to those that do
- it sits in a bowl surrounded by trees
- a river runs through it; the river water is brackish and opaque and grey

The check-in procedure at the Inn was unremarkable. I had maintained a platinum card all during my travails and it functioned well without the bother of credit limits. I paid the bill in full on the first Tuesday of every month.
There are 3 places in which visitors to my hometown could stay; 2 motels side by side on the river side of the highway as you leave town north. Then there is the Inn and it has stood forever. It sits like a 3 story behemoth hard by the river but closer to the business core. While the motels on the highway were for tourists passing through on their way to somewhere more memorable or hospitable and itinerant sales representatives and the like or alternately for sexual trysts between local consenting adults not necessarily married to each other, the Inn was the town's dowager aunt. The Queen had stayed there for a night many years ago while she was a princess still on a cross-country tour. A plaque proudly conveyed these particulars. I took the Queen's erstwhile suite which turned out to be a bedroom and a sitting room with a bath slightly larger than the norm. The furniture seemed to be original stock.

On the first floor of the Inn were 2 bars and when I was a younger man I had been a denizen of them both. The larger, the Jackpine Room, was loud and raucous and featured live music on the weekends to which the women and some of the drunker men might dance. There were fights every night and with the police station just across the street in the basement of city hall a couple or a few patrons invariably spent the night in a cell sobering up. I had had the pleasure a number of times. The smaller of the two, euphemistically known as the Little Pine, was a strip club that employed a rotation of women who made their way through the region spending a week in every little burg. They were not the cream of the stripping crop; indeed they were well down that profession's pecking order, but they served in all their missing teeth and cellulite stretch marked majesty to lay the foundation for my anatomical and sexual education.

I had my first bar drink in the Little Pine when I was 16 years old. Prior to this I had been content to drink at friends' houses or in the bush around the town. The beer and liquor we stole from our fathers or paid someone older to buy. The staff of the establishment at the time consisted of the son of the owner who was a couple of years older than I and had given up hope for further formal education. He worked the bar and watched TV in this, the time before cable, and called the police as required. His help-mate was an alcoholic waitress who had come to town to strip some years ago and never left. Bob, the son of the owner, said she gave great blowjobs but I was never tempted to test this assertion. She was light several teeth, had acne on her face and shoulders. Her tits dangled like hanged men. Neither Bob, nor the waitress whose name I cannot recall, were sticklers for ID; a heartbeat and the necessary cash would more than suffice.

My first drink in that establishment was a CC and 7 for that was what my companion was drinking and it became my usual. Without 7 to be had, I drink the CC straight without ice. I got drunk that first night and blacked out and woke up in the back seat of someone's car about 2 miles from my house.

There were 5 other bars in the town and although I would appear regularly in them all as my teen years progressed it was the Little Pine that I called home and it was there in the heavy wooden captain's chairs of the table next to the stage that I felt most comfortable.

I had asked at the front desk about the disposition of these 2 establishments when I registered and been told that both had been closed for years. I breathed an audible sigh of relief and gave thanks. The clerk told me that if I wanted a cocktail, she pronounced it cock-a-tail in some accent I couldn't place, I would have to head 'downtown'. She asked if I wanted a map but I assured her that I would just wander my way around if necessary. She seemed not aware that I could throw a rock over downtown from where we stood with room to spare.

I called my sister from the Queen's phone and told her I would be there in a while. I was vehement that I did not need a ride. It was Wednesday and my first night away from the Starlight Motel in a little over 7 years. Before I left I knelt by the Queen's bed and asked for help in my usual way; 10 times slowly I repeated what had become my mantra;

"I surrender my finite self to thee, Infinite God."
"I surrender my finite self to thee, Infinite God."
"I surrender my finite self to thee, Infinite God."
"I surrender my finite self to thee, Infinite God."
"I surrender my finite self to thee, Infinite God."
"I surrender my finite self to thee, Infinite God."
"I surrender my finite self to thee, Infinite God."
"I surrender my finite self to thee, Infinite God."
"I surrender my finite self to thee, Infinite God."
"I surrender my finite self to thee, Infinite God."

Here are some of the things I could see from the balcony of my room;
- the paper mill belching its smoke
- the spire of the Catholic church
- the river and the park through which it coursed
- City hall and the police station
- the highway running north and south through the trees
- 2 people sitting on a bench on which I had once sat with a lover having a quiet and terminal fight; they appeared to be lovers having a quiet and terminal fight

In my midnight dream,
It is first thing, sunny and blue.
Large birds wax and wheel, dulcet.
In my midnight dream,
The people glower,
The shuffle and shift their load,
Cannon balls of melancholic hate.


posted by michael Sunday, May 24, 2009


Monday, April 20, 2009

 

I should be studying some incredibly dry printed material for an exam that I am taking at work but instead I have been leafing electronically through some files of the unfinished and, perhaps, unfinishable. I have found 2 items that I started some time back and have decided to post them for someone's posterity. They are the beginnings of what I had hoped would be larger, longer things but, as I have mentioned in previous posts, I have that nasty sticktoitiveness problem. Chronic, painful, incurable.
Regardless, here is the first one.
It had a working title of "Beginnings" and I suppose that will serve us here.


This is the story of how it began.

It is not the story of how they fell in love for who can say with any accuracy how such a thing happens. There is no how when it comes to love — one day it is not there and one day it is. And whether it appears on kitty-cat feet or with the roar of a rhinoceros is purely academic. And whether it crushes the heart with the sudden stomp of the lightning bolt or worms its way in like prairie dust through a closed window is six of one and a half-dozen of the other.

It is not the story of when they fell in love for no one can really ever know that — for him it was simply a fact of his life, this love — it happened by increments, imperceptibly, glacial. For her that love was perhaps born full blown but not until nearer the beginning. Indeed, he asked her at a later date this very question and she could not answer and grew flustered.

It is just the story of how it began for them and nothing more — it will not attempt to follow the course of that love — it will see them off on the journey and bid them adieu for some things are best left unexamined — left to the imagination, as it were, for it is in the imagination that this beginning was born.

There are only two characters in this story of the beginning. There is just her and just him. It will be written from his point of view for it is this point of view with which the writer is familiar. He would never presume to think or to write as a woman for that would presuppose or assume some knowledge of the feminine mind and that creature is elusive — a chimera — it is as the horizon, it retreats as you approach. The writer, which is I, will simply report what it was she said and how she said it — how, that is, it sounded to him. And as they say on flyleaves everywhere — any errors or omissions are that of the writer and his alone. It will be written in the first person because that is easier — things flow from the imagination as “I” statements as a matter of course and from there easily down the arm.

Some other persons enter the story of the beginning but only tangentially — they are exposed only as their lives intersect with that of him and, to a lesser extent, her. Sometimes they are used to illustrate some aspect of the past that made him and her as they are but fundamentally the story is about him and her alone. The other characters might provide contrast or explanation or sometimes comic relief. We are primarily concerned with the aforementioned two characters for this is the story of their beginning and nothing more. Any other characters are prologue at best or mere window dressing at worst.

The story of the beginning takes place over a long weekend and a bit — it begins for all intents and purposes early on a Thursday evening and ends on Monday night. I say for all intents and purposes for it does not, of course, end there — it goes on but the reader is not to be privy to the events of Tuesday or thereafter. Likewise the relationship does not actually begin on the Thursday — rather this version of events begins there. Some of what went on prior to that day is mentioned but only in passing, in historical context if you will. It provides a useful counterpoint to the present — it serves to illustrate how the moments of the beginning came to be.

The season is late spring when it is warm enough for lovers to walk but cool enough that they might require a sweater or jacket.

The year is the present but exactly which present does not matter. Let us narrow it down to the period after the popularization of the microwave oven but well before the colonization of the moon and stop there.

This is the story of how it began.

I entered her life — she did not enter mine. We were thrown together by fate or karma some such factor — it was a new job for me and my new boss, having finished with the introductory paperwork and the ‘here’s the water cooler and there's the men’s room’ tour, stopped abruptly and turning slightly to me said;
“And this is your new seat mate, Sonja. Sonja meet Richard.”
And I, having been distracted by the bright fluorescents of the new surroundings and somewhat taken aback by the boss’ abrupt stop caught only some of that.
“Hello Sonja,” I said. “I’m Richard. It’s good to meet you.”
And she replied in a tone I thought snippy;
“It’s Sonna. Nice to meet you.”

She pronounced it like the Finnish steam heat room. She pronounced it with all the world weariness of someone who has spent their life correcting the pronunciation of their name. She pronounced it and flushed slightly as if embarrassed to have had to correct the pronunciation of her name for her whole life and turned back to her work. She had accompanied the above with a smile but it did not appear at all sincere. It was one of those smiles that involved only the lips and cheeks and touched the eyes not at all. It was the smile of a nun or the school principal and I remember thinking that she was a little bit sad. And we spoke not another word for the rest of the day.

She was beautiful, there was no question of that. I remember thinking she was beautiful after the first brief full-frontal glimpse I had of her before she turned away and went about her business. I remember thinking it again and again as I casually watched her walk to the photocopier or off to her lunch. 'Built like a brick shithouse', 'built for fucking’ my father would have said. 'A mere slip of a girl' my mother would have called her — barely five feet tall and whippet slender — chestnut hair and chestnut eyes and features as fine as china. Her cheekbones were pronounced and high, her lips full, the upper slightly more so than its lower mate, her little nose turned up a touch at the end, a generous body but slim. She was in her mid-twenties, say twenty years younger than me — she was of the age when men of my age were rendered invisible and I was of the age when women of her age were very visible indeed. She wore no makeup that I could see yet she sparkled. It would be several days before I discovered her scent — the smell of her, my goodness. It would be some time before I came to think of her as the most beautiful woman in the world.

At day’s end I reported to the boss as instructed and when I returned to my desk Sonna was gone, her chair pushed back and askew and her desk all in glorious disarray in her haste as if she had bolted from a fire. I looked over the detritus of her desk briefly — a picture of an older couple dressed very fancy and posed all formal in front of a fireplace, one of a young man on a tropical looking beach holding a bottle of Corona, one of a baby boy with a strawberry birthmark on his cheek, one of a younger, smiling, obviously drunk her with two friends on the porch of a rustic-looking cabin, and a calendar with funny pictures of dogs. Scattered here and there were some of the usual womanly things — a hairbrush and some pins and elastics, an emery board, what looked like a birthday card the inside inscription of which I could not read —the outside featured a picture of a clown and said ‘Zippy the Clown wants to wish you a Happy Birthday’. I pushed her chair neatly up to her desk which backed neatly toward mine for the first of many times and that was the end of the very beginning of the beginning.

Here is how I came to be at that place in that time.

In brief, I was a burnout. I had in the year prior to that meeting accomplished the following;

·Lost a job
· Lost my car and my driving license
· Lost a wife and home
· Lost my friends
· Lost my family—my parents in a car crash and a sister through cruelty and inattention
· Received treatment for alcoholism and addictions to gambling and drugs at a residential facility
· Embraced the philosophy of Alcoholics Anonymous
· Contemplated suicide and been assigned to a psychiatric facility for a short time
· Attempted suicide and been assigned to a psychiatric facility for a much longer time

The job I had lost had been as a Team Lead for a software company — I had been responsible for the preparation of technical manuals for a species of medical software designed to run Medical Resonance Imaging machines. Here is an example of my team’s work;

This section describes how to install MRIcro on a computer with the Windows operating system. There is a separate web page that describes the installation of the Linux version of MRIcro.
1. With your computer connected to the web, download the 5.9 Mb installer program, choose a mirror that is close to you:
· US zip file (shift+click here) http://www.sph.sc.edu/comd/rorden/mrizip.zip.
· Double click on the "mrinstall" icon. The installer will give you the option to install the manuals, a sample MRI image and other files. By default, the files will be installed in "C:\Program Files\MRIcro". Note: with Windows 2000/NT, only administrators can copy files into the "Program Files" folder. If you are using 2000 or NT, either log in as an administrator or choose a different folder to install the files (e.g. "C:\username\mricro").
· To run MRIcro, click on the "Start" menu, select "Programs", point to the "MRIcro" folder and click on the "MRIcro" icon.

I had worked with the same company for nearly twenty years since I had given up on graduate school and sought gainful employment and had worked my way up from the bottom. Just like in the movies, I had started off in the mail room. I was not a computer type — I had picked up some knowledge in passing and taken enough company sponsored courses to qualify for promotion and I was adept at faking the rest. I could write and could manage people and knew enough to leave the technical to those members of the team who washed their hair the least. In fact, the best worker on my team had been a person I had never met. I had hired them by e-mail and did not even know where they lived or their gender. Still, their work was splendid and timely and crystal clear. My team was easy to lead. The job was not at all fulfilling but it paid reasonably well and allowed me to work from home for the most part which, in turn, allowed me to indulge my drinking and the occasional and later not-so-occasional drugging and the online gambling which I referred to as a hobby and my erstwhile wife referred to as the activity “which is going to ruin us”. The job was for me the pinnacle of my career — I wanted to rise no higher. I was the poster boy for The Peter Principle. The money was okay given the effort and I had to show up at the office in a presentable fashion only about one day a week and this I was able to do successfully until near the end when I found that I could not show up in a presentable fashion and then at the end when I found I could not show up at all..

That was when the list as above started — the items there are not chronological or even sequential — some things happened concurrent with others — some things were woven through the list from beginning to end — in some cases it is a matter of the chicken and the egg. It is misleading to even draw it as a list — it is more of a genealogical chart. First came Alcoholism and Alcoholism was fruitful and begat the losing of the job and the losing of the job begat the losing of the wife and so on. Or perhaps a three dimensional flow chart would be more appropriate but the beginning was the same — for it all began with the ‘demon rum’.

That was when the list as it pertains to the losing of things started — the process of losing them was well underway and had been for some time. If the actual losing was the explosion when the car hits the ground at the bottom of the cliff, then my life prior to that had been the driving of the car to cliff’s edge, driving faster and faster, sometimes approaching on a tangent, sometimes driving straight for it. When I left terra firma and began the plunge itself is uncertain. But of this there is no doubt — it all began with the demon rum.

The list items concerning friends and family are somewhat misleading, I suppose. When I emerged from the fog of the treatments and recovery I found that I had neither, but sober second thought made me wonder if I ever had had them at all. My parents had disowned me long before and my wife had never even met them. The last communication I had from my mother had stated simply that she and my father loved me and would always love me but could not accept the way I was living my life and would therefore not share theirs with me. By this she meant that they did not approve of my drinking and the drugs and the itinerant nature of my education and the police at the house asking for my assistance in an investigation. That was in the very early years and I had become wiser since — I practiced the same vices but I had become wiser by which I mean more discreet. They were killed in a car accident on an early winter morning coming back from a dance at a rural Legion Hall. I knew my father had been drinking for he was always drinking and never more than at a function such as that and he never let my mother drive. They left me a pile of money which brought me solace in that it came my way just after the divorce from my wife became final and therefore was mine and mine alone. It occurred to me only later that my ex-wife would probably have considered getting rid of me to be a bargain at half the cost. My sister was content that I was alive and clean but not inclined to invite me to Christmas dinner. She had Jesus Christ as her personal lord and saviour and the Catholic church as her bulwark. She had a husband who had a good job and was handy around the house and allowed her to make all of the decisions and two children and a house with a pool and two cars and nice vacations — a week in the winter and two in the summer. She was all I had and not at all inclined to share what she had with me. My parents were dead and had mercifully missed much of the debacle their first-born had made of his life. The friends that I thought I had turned out to be merely professional acquaintances and/or drinking buddies and I had little to offer either of these groups. I had not been in the office enough in the later years to form any real attachments. I had been good at my job but it was a job that was easy to be good at. I had been quickly and efficiently and happily replaced and the corporate current flowed over the small hole that I had left in short order and I assume I soon became a tragic-comic story to tell the new guy in the company cafeteria. Without drinking my drinking buddies and I had nothing in common — indeed, I had for the last couple of years of my career as a practicing alcoholic preferred to drink alone in the solitude of my home office. Not for me the conviviality and fellowship of the bar scene — I drank for oblivion and succeeded more often than not. Not for me the dart league and a pint. Not for me the bringing of a six-pack over to watch the game and leaving two cans behind because I was driving. I went out on occasion but only with those of my alcoholic peers who could keep up and would not raise an eyebrow at the amount or the pace of my consumption. When that failed, I drank alone. I drank until I could not drink anymore and then when I came to, I drank more and again.

Of my wife I will not speak — suffice to say that eventually I came to love my addictions more than I loved her and broke her heart in every way that a heart can be broken. She plays no part in this story save that of a person whose heart was broken by him.

I came to be at that place in that time with her through the good graces of an employment agency and a fat and plain woman named Sharon who specialized in placing persons who suffered from what Sharon always referred to as “Past Mental Health Issues”. The capitals were pronounced in her diction and she placed the emphasis on the “Past”. I wondered oft-times whether my issues were indeed in the past but did not broach the topic with Sharon. She was an enthusiastic woman and an optimist and her positivity knew no bounds. She was the mirror image of most of her clients, myself at the top of the list. For her, the glass was always half-full and for me, there was no longer any glass.

The company in question, a large insurance concern, had certain quotas to fill in that era of quotas — so many blacks, so many aboriginals, so many homosexuals, so many lunatics, so many suffering from “Past Mental Health Issues” —and my job was the result of these quotas. It was well below me to my mind. I was making about half of what I had made before but it offered benefits and permanency and flexible work hours and air conditioning and a comfortable, adjustable chair and overtime if you wanted it, which I did not. My job was to enter insurance claims mailed in by clients not smart enough to use the online service into a computer terminal and let that computer decide whether or not to issue a cheque to the insured. I had an in-box that was filled on a regular basis by my boss or one of her minions and an out-box in which to place the completed claims to be filed forever and all eternity in a warehouse on the other side of town. In no time at all I was able to do this job well but it was a job that was easy to do well. I was able to listen to music on an MP3 player and take breaks and lunch at times of my choosing so long as my productivity and quality numbers were within acceptable norms. I quickly learned what these norms were and sought to meet and exceed them but not by so much that I might draw attention to myself. I wanted a promotion like I wanted a bout with the bubonic plague. The job left me free to attend meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous which I did every day and twice on Sunday. Every third Tuesday night I went to the library. Friday night I shopped. Saturday night I played cards in a league of recovering addicts and alcoholics. I read. I wrote in my journal for a half hour every morning before work —I was getting up a collection of poetry that I hoped to shop around — I was editing a novel I had written while drunk and that I thought could be saved. I was writing up a regular storm and showing it to no one at all. Such was my shallow life, but I was dry and healthy and had good and sane and regular habits. I had a small bachelor apartment with a TV and a stereo system and a computer with internet access. I had my half of what my wife and I had split and one half of what my parents had left and was spending about one quarter of what I had been in my previous lifestyle so I had quite a lot of money in the bank. I spent next to nothing. I had come to appreciate the mundane as much as I had chased the chaos in the past.

Here is how we came to know each other, she and I. Here is the beginning of how the beginning began.

It began with her boyfriend. His name was Dave and he built fences for a living, working in the warm months. When not building fences he grew and sold marijuana. I learned of him and of the tumultuous nature of their relationship through the inadvertent and not so inadvertent eavesdropping and surreptitious monitoring of her phone calls and her conversations with her best office friend, Katherine. I learned that Mondays were bad and busy days because it was on Monday that she had to discuss and deal with the debris of the weekend. And as I learned these things, she and I grew closer by increments but remained apart. We both smoked so we saw each other on occasion in the smoking area at the front of the building and exchanged cautious nods and nervous smiles. We worked side by side each day and our greetings grew from the rudimentary to the banal to the progressively more friendly. We went from ‘good morning’ to ‘how was your weekend’ to ‘any plans for the weekend’.

It began about ten months after I started to work. We were, she and I, on cordial terms by then. We smoked together on occasion. We exchanged witticisms about the latest vagaries of the company planners and policy makers. We were not friends but we were more than civil. She knew nothing of me for I gave none of myself. She had asked if I was married once and I had told her I was divorced and she had said she was sorry and I had said thank you and we had left it at that. I knew nothing of her save what I had gleaned from her conversations and her whispered conversations with her female work confidantes.

It began the day she cried.

It began the day that Annie retired.

It began the day of Annie’s party.

I was at my desk when she came in to work — I always arrived and left before her. My drinking days had taught me to sleep hard and wake early. I was at my desk when she came in — she had her telephone to her ear, holding it there with her shoulder and she struggled out of her coat — it was spring — and threw it into her locker with a slam. I was at my desk when she said;
“I don’t care anymore, Dave. I just don’t care.”
And then a significant pause. And then;
“Whatever”.
And she pressed the goodbye button and tossed the telephone onto her desk and leaned forward on her desk and began to sob into her crossed arms with these quiet sobs that made the shoulders move, not up and down but back and forth, not vertical but horizontal, shoulder blades nodding toward the neck and back toward the waist. I knew she would be hot to the touch and clammy. I was impotent. There is not a man in the world who knows what to do with a sobbing woman, be that woman his mother, his wife, his sister, the complete stranger weeping on the city bus. Not instinctively. Women would move quickly, unerringly to gather up the sorrow and relieve it. And men and me — we sit impotent, contemplating the sobbing shoulders of a beautiful woman who was barely a stranger. We sit impotent for the longest while — we might reach out as if to touch, to stroke, to comfort but we would pull back quickly from that — we might look around for help but find none, the office around that time was at its most productive as everyone dealt with their first thing in the morning e-mail — we might make as if to speak but find no words — we might make as if to speak but find we do not know the language at all, not one word. We might sit impotent for the longest time then we turn back to our desks and write to Katherine an e-mail.

Katherine; (I wrote)
Come quick. There is crying. She needs you.
Richard

And we would watch as Katherine scurried over to gather up the sorrow and relieve it, gather up the afflicted, the damaged, the sobbing face fitting smoothly into the crook of a shoulder, the caring arm effortlessly finding and supporting the heaving shoulders (for the sobbing had become serious and noisy by then and was attracting the attention of the office women) and shepherd her to the ladies room (where they remain sequestered for the longest time) without so much as a glance in my direction. And we would watch as she came back to her desk and sat down and began to work as if this were another day without so much as a glance in my direction. And we would turn back to our terminal and turn up the volume on the MP3 player another notch and think how she had looked remarkably like the most beautiful woman in the world when she had walked in with the colour in her cheeks high and her hair flowing behind and the arch of her lovely throat exposed, all cords and skin, by the way she held the phone pressed to her ear. And we would stare at the terminal for the longest time and wonder exactly why it was that if it was she who had been crying and she who had spoken those harsh telephone words and she who had needed to be shepherded to the ladies room for care and comfort — if all of these things were indeed true, and I had no reason to think they were not, then why I felt exactly as if it had been my heart that had been broken. And we would recite our mantric prayer, the one that was getting us through each endless day. We would say;

“Please God, guide my words and thoughts and actions that I might be an instrument of your will and not mine, because my will didn’t work!

And then, for good measure, we would say it twice more.

That was the day that Annie retired. That was the day of Annie’s party. Annie had been with the company since Jesus wore short pants and had risen ultimately to the lofty position of Team Manager. This meant that she supervised a group of persons like myself — we went to her with esoteric questions about the exact nature of this truss or that or to have her translate the dental-ese of some orthodontist trying to straighten a tooth that appeared to have been extracted some years earlier. She had seen it all and knew it all. She had also risen as high in the corporate structure as she could — she had a high school education and the practicum and did not speak Corporation. She was the integral medium cog that allowed the larger cogs to interact with the smaller without jamming or grinding. She had performed this function for more years than most of her charges or her bosses had been alive. She had never married and lived her family life through the good offices of a sister and her husband and children. I always suspected she might have been a lesbian had she been born about twenty years later. As it stood, women of her generation with no interest in men became just spinsters, those sorry souls who had never found ‘the right man’. I had an innate sense about such things—specifically lesbians and nuns—I could pick them out of a crowd—it was something about their shoes.
Annie’s long years of dedicated service earned her a public celebration of her leaving. The department was to be treated to cake and coffee urns and fruit and vegetables and dip in the conference room on the second floor from one until two. There would be speechifying by our bosses and they had imported a designated hitter from Head Office to present the plaque or whatever there was to be presented and ‘say a few words’. We, the plebian, would go because it was free food and it was a nice paid break from our workaday routines and because we all loved Annie and owed her some gratitude for solving for us some problem simply and quickly and efficiently when to take it up to the next level would have caused untoward delay and perhaps even paper work.
When the time came for us to retreat to the conference room I locked my terminal as per the oft-repeated instructions, lest some nefarious individual attempt to access the confidential and entirely useless information stored therein, and twirled in my chair toward the middle, the neutral zone that I shared with Sonna. And she was there, having twirled in her own chair toward the middle ground, and looking at me. Her face had been repaired and her eyes showed no sign of the previous sobbing. I thought she looked remarkably like the most beautiful woman in the world. She smiled and stood, smoothing her sweater down over breasts too generous for such a small frame toward hips too shapely, too cantilevered for safety;
“Are you going to Annie’s party,” she asked?
She smiled as she asked and the smile worked across her eyes for a moment and I remember thinking she looked remarkably like the most beautiful woman in the world.
“Free cake,” I replied. “Wouldn’t miss it for the world.”
“Can I come with,” she asked? She tilted her head down just a mite and looked back up through chestnut lashes thick and long.
And after a long moment I realized that she was asking to walk with me to the party and had neglected just a single word and I gathered the composure to answer;
“Absolutely.”
And I smiled then or formed what I thought was a smile. I suppose I had smiled at some points in the last long years — I must have smiled in greeting to the store clerk or the lady in the library or to some alcoholic colleague at my AA home group or perhaps even at work. But it was different this time — to make the decision to smile and send the message from brain across nephrons to neuro-transmitters to neurons to nerves and down to the muscles of the face and ask that they do the complicated maneuvers that would cause the corners of my mouth to curve somewhat upward against gravity, to show the teeth, to lighten the hold of the muscles around the eyes, to show some semblance of pleasure.
I smiled and said; “Let’s go”.
I stood as did she and I allowed her to precede me into the aisle between our cubicles into the main corridor like a good gentleman and we moved slowly toward the elevator, she oblivious before me and me making a concerted effort to keep my eyes off her ass in tight navy blue pants and no lower than her shoulders. As we moved toward the elevator we met up with other little groups of twos and threes and by the time we stood by the elevator bank we were a crowd and Sonna and I were pushed closer than we had ever been before. I caught a whiff of her and then the elevator doors slid open with a serpent’s hiss and we were inside with a bunch of others and we were standing shoulder to shoulder except hers were considerably below mine and the elevator was descending toward the conference room on the second floor. Somewhere in there I turned toward her and she turned toward me and I said;
“I’m really going to miss Annie. She’s been great to me.”
Like Noel Coward, I thought to myself, my conversation just sparkles. What is there about this silly woman that makes me feel in her presence like my IQ has been halved?
And she smiled again, smaller this time and said;
“Yea. Annie’s great!”
She continued looking at me for a bit then and held that little smile until the elevator arrived at the second floor and we started to get off in a clumsy jumble. As our turn came to move she stretched the smile a bit. I allowed her to precede me out of the elevator like a good gentleman and followed in her wake toward the conference room, a liner behind the little ice breaker or tug effortlessly cutting through the waves of the crowded port. We ended up leaning our shoulders against a piece of wall not far from the raised dais, she in front of me, the crowd rapidly filling in around us. I leaned there and wondered about the smiles I had received that day. I wondered why I felt that I was not in on the joke, why it seemed to me that she knew something that I did not, or more properly, why she knew everything that I did not. I found myself feeling angry at being bested by this mere slip of a girl, at allowing two or three smiles to discombobulate me to this extent. I felt, for some reason that she had been making fun of me and then ashamed to think such a thing. I closed my eyes as my boss’ boss called for our attention and repeated to myself;

“Please God, guide my words and thoughts and actions that I might be an instrument of your will and not mine, because my will didn’t work!

The crowd shuffled its feet and Sonna and I became closer, as close as we could be without touching. She in front, apparently oblivious to me, and me in the back, chin poised just above and behind the top of her head. As the program started and the platitudes started to flow she gathered her hair with one hand on either side of her throat as women do and flicked it over her shoulder as women do and some splashed against my chest and chin. She half-turned then and smiled and blushed and whispered;
“Sorry.”
And I smiled a silent ‘no harm, no foul’ in return but my mind was full beyond full. The smell of her, my goodness.

After the platitudination and the speechifying we formed a little receiving line that filed slowly past Annie so we could shake her hand and pay our respects and move from there to the little buffet for cake and snacks and coffee. Sonna and I were pushed together through this maze, me driving her from behind like a calf. And when we emerged at the successful end of the food line we stood there briefly with Katherine and some other young woman whose name I did not know and ate and sipped with nothing of consequence to say. We ate and we sipped and I listened to them talk until we had finished and, having nothing to say and nowhere to go, we made the noises of returning to our desks. I noticed Sonna balancing her debris in one hand and trying to reach her mouth with her white Styrofoam coffee cup with the other. I reached out as if by instinct;
“I’ll take that,” I said, and reached to take the used plate and fork from her hand.
“Thanks,” she said and treated me to another one of those glances — chestnut eyes reaching upward through chestnut lashes too long.
I smiled back and made my way slowly across the crowded room toward the trash can by the door. Having deposited our waste, I glanced back toward her, thinking that I would simply make my way back to the elevator as I was better than halfway there. She was looking intently toward me and when our eyes connected she raised a single index finger in the ‘wait’ signal and putting her head down, she began to move toward the door and me. I waited and she soon emerged tiny and shiny like a ferret from the sea of larger cake-eating beasts with a smile.
“My dates always walk me right to the door,” she said.
I was treated to another smile, this one larger and more genuine to my mind.
“You go first,” she said. “Take no prisoners.”
She took a fold of my shirt and I immediately wished I had worn another and better. We got to the elevator and rode the reverse ride up to our floor with a crowd of mostly chattering women in silence. We were in the middle this time, surrounded on all sides. We got to our desks and prepared to take our seats. The way things were arranged we sat back to back but only just barely and when we sat in our chairs and both spun toward the center of our space our knees would almost touch. I found myself face to face with her in this fashion.
“Katherine told me what you did this morning,” she said. “That was nice. Thanks for that.”
“I didn’t know what else to do. I don’t do crying women well,” I replied.
“You did this crying woman just fine,” she said.
And she smiled a perfect smile and spun away toward her terminal. And as she rotated her hair made a lazy arcing centrifugal motion in the air for the briefest of seconds and it was there again. The smell of her, my goodness. I sat in my seat for the longest time, frozen. I sat until I came to my senses and realized I had been sitting and staring at her back for the longest of times and only then returned to my work, embarrassed and ashamed and perhaps in love or lust or just confused, comatose, insane. And when I made my preparations to leave for the day she made a point of turning in her chair and saying a friendly goodbye and that was how things changed on the crying day — the day of Annie’s party. We became friends and began to share things and things were good at work and I went home that night and every night after and began to drink the bottle of vodka I bought at the liquor store every night on the way home. I was happy, you see, and when I was happy I drank to become miserable. As with crying women, I didn’t do feelings well.

That is the beginning of how it began.


posted by michael Monday, April 20, 2009


Wednesday, March 04, 2009

 

Here is a thing I remember from a long, long time ago.
I was in university so it was 1981 or so and I and several others were at the Brunswick, a local watering hole of ill repute. We went there a lot because the beer was cheap, the code of behaviour relaxed and there was a karaoke style of entertainment (this in the pre-karaoke era) that involved a drunken midget singing along to the juke box if you bought him beer which we always did.
There were lots of us there, boys and girls both, this gang and that, united by going to the same school and having some friends and/or classes in common. Ostensibly, we were there to celebrate the going away of a young woman who I barely knew. She was from Rochester, New York and, after 2 years of Canadian school, had decided to continue her education in the States rather than return to Toronto. So we had gathered to say goodbye to her, even those of us who had barely said hello.
I cannot for the life of me remember her name but I remember she was pretty in a way that only Irish girls can be - dark hair and long lashes, miniature pixie features, small and firm and upright breasts, a smile that could light the world. I remember sitting across from her on the sticky, beer-sodden benches of the Brunswick and listening to hear speak and watching her as she said her goodbyes to her friends for she was leaving in just a few days. I remember that I imagined that I had fallen in love with her. Suddenly, she had become my dream girl and in my beer-sodden state I imagined that I would make her mine. So I chose an opportune moment that was probably not terribly opportune and asked her if she would like to go out with me the next evening.
To her credit, her look of incredulity lasted for but a second and then she turned on that lightbulb smile and said to me;
"That's very flattering Michael and normally I would say yes but I think this is a time for me to be saying goodbye to old friends and not making new ones. Don't you?"
I beat a hasty retreat.
I drank a great deal. I remember that I was angry and surly for the rest of the night but looking back on it now I realize just how sweet and kind and gentle she had been to refuse in that way. I realize now that what she probably meant to say or wanted to say and what I deserved at the time involved some combination of the words 'idiot', 'drunkard', 'fool', or 'stupid'. Yet she held back and treated me like a lady would.
I ended up taking another woman home that night, someone as drunk as myself and what followed is a sordid something of which I am not proud but that is another story.
This one is about whatshername who was sweet to me when I didn't deserve sweetness, gentle with me when I didn't deserve gentleness, and kind to me during a time in which I was never kind.
I wish I could meet her again and say thank you or I'm sorry or make her understand that which I barely do myself.


posted by michael Wednesday, March 04, 2009


Thursday, February 26, 2009

 
A conundrum can be defined as '...a paradoxical, insoluble, or difficult problem; a dilemma'.

Here's one....

I must apologize to her in such a way that she does not know she has been apologized to at all.

posted by michael Thursday, February 26, 2009


Tuesday, December 23, 2008

 

I feel it now, its weight,
It tires me.
I sleep in the middle of the day.
I feel it still, the pain,
In my limbs,
And the muscles of my face.
There is no greater burden,
Than an apology unproferred,
A sin unforgiven,
A act of insensitivity,
Forgotten,
Trapped in the oyster of time.


posted by michael Tuesday, December 23, 2008


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

 

A conundrum can be defined as '...a paradoxical, insoluble, or difficult problem; a dilemma'.

Here's one....

I am dependent upon a God of my understanding whom I may never understand.


posted by michael Tuesday, November 18, 2008

 

"You're hairy," she said.
"I like hairy."
She combed persimmon fingers down my chest.
I watched a single hair fall to the carpet.
I felt ashamed.
I knew the meaning of insubstantial.

"I love the smell of you," she said.
"You smell sweaty, like a man."
She kissed my sternum for her lips were there.
I kissed the top of her head.
I breathed of her.

We stood like that for the longest time,
Perhaps a day or a year.
She traced my chest with ice cube fingers,
And kissed me here or there.
My arms at my sides,
I was paraplegic.

Behind her was a mirror,
Full-length on the wall.
Reflected, I saw my own face,
And the back of her,
All skin and curves and bone.
So beautiful,
Lazarus-like, I reached for her there.


posted by michael Tuesday, November 18, 2008


Thursday, October 30, 2008

 

I have been going through some old papers at home and have come across a surprising number of old poems and letters and assorted scribblings, mostly self-indulgent and immature. Some, however, have a nice image at bottom. This is one of those....it was written about a young woman named Nancy with whom I shared love and hate and all the in-between.

Now is my soul in full winter,
Now it is buried in snow.
No birds fly above it,
No creature disturbs the calm,
Hard crust of its surface.
There is just the wind,
Turning snow to ice,
And that to thicker ice,
More blue.

Now does my soul lie fallow,
Not thinking, not feeling,
Rotting a grandiloquent rot.
It looks inward, downward,
For nutrients long lost,
Sucked from the depths,
By thirsty seeds uncaring.

My soul looks not for springtime,
My soul looks not at all.
It lies in ignorant bliss,
Raped, unknowing,
It feels no pain.
Nor does it wonder as to why,
Once lush, it now stands barren,
Or whither has fled the green.

I am thankful for its ignorant bliss,
For I could bear no more soulful pain,
That in my head is pain enough.
My mind still tastes her kisses,
And feels her hand's caress.
It remembers how she filled my arms to overflowing,
And the too soft hairs,
At the nape of her neck,
How they smelt like sunshine,
And burnt my lips.


posted by michael Thursday, October 30, 2008


Friday, September 26, 2008

 


This time it's not the heroin,
This time it's not vodka hurting,
This time it's not a ward dream,
Aided, abetted by drugs,
Screaming and leather restraints.
This time it's human pain,
Bitter sadness that vodka used to blunt,
Heroin allowed me to ignore.
This time it's the realization,
That, in all likelihood,
I will never see you again.
Not in this lifetime,
Not without the intervention of the angels,
And I do not think they are so disposed.


posted by michael Friday, September 26, 2008


Sunday, September 07, 2008

 


Here is the beginning of a story I am writing. I began it about 6 weeks ago and have let it settle 'til tonight. I have been thinking about it for a year or more. It will be about evil and 'the failing' - you know what they say - write about what you know. It is set in a city in a time like now. I'm not sure how long it will be nor do I have an ending in mind but I would like to see it through to the end. That is something I have been lacking in my life - the seeing through of things to the end. That is something I am currently trying to change - that and virtually every other area of my life. And you know what - it's going okay!
I would like to dedicate it to a friend who sometimes comes to me in my dreams.


Here is how it began. Not how it all began because that would be a much longer story but how this portion of the story began, the portion I want to tell. What came before pales in significnace. What came before was merely prologue and no one reads prologues any more. What's the use? If it were important it would be in Chapter One.

Here is how it began.
I was sitting in a bar.
Drinking.
He sat beside me at the bar and my life went to shit; complete shit, shit as deep and viscous and fragrant as shit can be. The sort of shit that young shit dreams of growing up to be.
That's the short version.
Here's the long.

My name is Bailey. I have a first name but no one ever uses it. I work at a newspaper, editing copy. I used to be an actual reporter writing actual news stories but I lost that job. Got shitcanned, fired. Shame really, for I was pretty good at it and had acquired a bit of a reputation. But 'the failing', as the Irish call it, got me. If you're not Irish, that means that I became a drunk. More properly, I suppose, I was always a drunk but I got to the point at some point when the drink became more important than the work or anything else. My boss, the paper's managing editor, a man named Howard with whom I had gone to college, threw me the bone of copy editor instead of firing me outright which is what he really should have done and would have done if I had not gone to college with him. The chronic absenteeism, the missed deadlines, the piss poor attitude should have done it. If not, the fist fight in the lunchroom should have done it. The very smell of me toward the end days should have done it. Instead, I got a stern talking-to about 'turning my fucking life around and fast' and two weeks 'vacation' and a new job description so that I could kill the time necessary for me to get some sort of a pension. I suppose I should be grateful. I am not. More like bitter with a side of ashamed. I am a pariah but a pariah with a pay cheque. I still have a bit of a reputation although not the one I had before.

This is what I do.
Copy editor - noun - a person who edits a manuscript, text, etc., for publication, esp. to find and correct errors in style, punctuation, and grammar.
I review the writings of reporters who are not drunks presumably and correct their grammar and spelling and syntax. I am not allowed to edit the content or alter the context in which the content is expressed. I am to limit myself to style, punctuation, and grammar alone. There have been many times when I have thought of some delightful turn of phrase or some fetching choice of vocabulary but I must hold these impulses in check. My creative days are done. I babysit the words of others lest they stray - I do not parent. I have been weighed in the balance and found wanting.
I am good at my new job - new although I have been at it for some years now - because of my education; first at the hands of a stern and unforgiving mother who was a primary school teacher and had been educated in the classical, Roman Catholic system and was a regular bear for grammar and expression and syntax, then through my own long years of schooling, and finally through my voracious reading, an activity which sustained me through my life until I found the solace of the bottle and abandoned the printed word for the easy pleasure and collapse of television.
I work from two in the afternoon until ten in the evening, Monday to Friday. It is the drunkard's perfect schedule. It allows me at least four good hours of drinking each work evening and allows me to sleep late and still prepare for the work day and allows me two evenings a week when I can really tie one on. The very nature of the job allows me to perform it without much in the way of conscious thought or physical effort. I used to try very hard to not drink during the workday but that lately has changed; I have taken to having an eye opener or two before I leave for work and carrying a flask of rye whiskey on my person for hourly little top-ups followed by a breath mint in the men's room down the hall from my cubicle. I am a little bit drunk most every waking moment and really quite drunk every night when I go to bed and I would have it no other way. I don't know if I could anymore. My die is cast.

The melodramatic among you, the left liberal, the 'that poor man' when you see a street person bouncing his way down an alley types, will ask how I came to this. The simple answer is that it just happened. It was nobody's fault. There was no trauma - no plausible excuse. I was raised in a respectable family with two sober, responsible parents and two quite average siblings, graduated high school and college, got a job, got married, tried unsuccessfully to have children, worked my job, climbed the career ladder, got a divorce, got into a fist fight in the lunch room, and here I am. It was that simple, that inevitable. It was like the tide, except the water of the tide was whiskey, or gin, or vodka, or beer. I drank experimentally in high school. I was a binge drinker in college. I was a social albeit heavy drinker when I was a professional, married man. I was a secret drinker when my wife began to complain about my drinking. I was a bottle hider and a sneak and a thief and a liar and a mint chewer when she forbade it. I was a stumbling drunk when she left me. Now I am what is known as a functioning alcoholic. I drink yet I function. There you have it. It was like the tide, except the water of the tide was whiskey, or gin, or vodka, or beer. It was inevitable, the transformation, inexorable, comforting, natural, welcome.

So I was sitting in a bar.
Rather, I was sitting in my bar, my regular haunt, my local, almost exactly halfway distant between my workplace and my apartment, on my regular stool, just there, second from the corner, near the cash register so I could exchange witty banter with Sissy, the brassy waitress who worked the busy nights, if she were in the mood, near the draft taps so I could pass the time of day with John or Paddy, the owners and bartenders, one or the other on alternate nights, and with a clear line of sight to the television suspended up in the corner and always tuned to the 24 hour news network with the sound down. You could watch the scrolling news across the bottom of the screen and watch the handsome talking heads mouth their words if you were so inclined while you waited for the drink to make you drunk.
There are social bars and drinking bars. Any real drinker can tell you that and any real drinker can differentiate between the two in a flash. Social bars are nicely decorated according to the season and the current holiday and somewhat clean. They smell okay, even good. They are designed for first date, after the movie, cocktails. They are designed for the office gathering thrown to celebrate someone's nuptuals or a promotion or retirement. They are designed for the 'that's enough for me, I'm driving' crowd. A real drinker will avoid them like the plague. They too often ring with laughter. There will be music that is just a touch too current, a tad too loud. They might have live entertainment that one would be expected to watch. God forbid, they might have a karaoke machine. Or plant life. Or a perky, always smiling hostess. Or a kitchen that is there for more than show. A real drinker will avoid them like the plague.
Drinking bars are pretty much the opposite. They smell of beer and sweat and urinal cakes. Women are rare. The music is the same tape that has been playing for years. There are no seasonal decorations for - insert name of holiday here - is just another day in the mind of a serious drinker, an inconvenience because it means they will have to drink alone at home for a day or two because the bars are closed until settling back into their established and comfortable routine. What decor or charm there is came with the place and has never been dusted. The staff is surly and resistant to change. They do not care about tips. They have usually been drummed out of their jobs at social bars, often for drinking themselves. A food order is just a pain in the ass. The air conditioning is set several degrees higher than one would expect; drinkers have not done anything that would require them to be cooled down. The lights are kept low. If there is a jukebox, it is broken. Has been for years. There might be a pool table but no one ever plays. Social type drinkers, the smart ones anyway, soon pick up the vibe and leave. They know they are unwelcome. They know they are unwanted. The very atmosphere of the drinking bar, the taint of the oxygen itself, will drive them away feeling like a black in the fifties who has presumed to sit at a lunch counter in the South and managed to escape just ahead of the mob. They hit the street with relief and they never come back. They tell all their friends. And thus, a drinking bar is born. To the drinker it is home. They push open the doors and their cares are lifted away. Here is a place, they think, here is a place for me. They drop into the place like a gasping fish back into the water and the environment envelopes them and gives them life and strength and comfort like a maternal embrace.

That established, let's get back to it.
I was sitting in a bar.
Drinking.
I was about halfway through my usual ration. It was about midnight. I got there about twenty past ten, same as always. I ordered a double and a beer first thing, then drank a single about every twenty minutes until last call when I would order another double and a beer to quench the thirst that would surely be caused by my arduous two block walk home. That gave me about twelve ounces of booze to work with and I would follow this with another twelve ounces or so sitting in my recliner at home in front of the tube, bottle on a side table at my elbow, trolling through the late night cable channels. Holding myself to twelve ounces or so at the bar meant that I could carry on a reasonably coherent conversation with the staff or any other guests who might want to pass the time of day. I could make the walk home without attracting the unnecessary attention of the police. It was also a financial decision. My demotion at work had reduced my take home pay considerably and I continued to drink the good stuff at my bar to show that I was not an alcoholic, just a regular with a taste for fine liquor. At home I drank rot gut whiskey purchased in sixty ounces bottles that cost less than half of my nightly tab at the bar. At home I drank from the bottle.
I was about halfway through my usual ration. I was as close to straight up sober as I ever was during the day short of the moment when I opened my eyes from sleep. I could have passed a roadside sobriety test. Indeed, I had plenty of experience in such testing, official and unofficial, during the last, sad days of my marriage, my wife's technique and tactile sense more sensitive than any equipment that the police had and not limited nor beholden to my rights according to the constitution. It was slow that night. Sissy had not been in at all so it must have been early in the week, maybe a Tuesday. It was me and Paddy on our respective sides of the bar, two men deep in conversation like lovers or gangsters or newly met long lost strangers at the far end of the bar, and a table of six guys in suits but run to fat slumming at a table near the door, six to ten years out of the frat house and still trying hard, all quite drunk and loud and boisterous, ties askew, still drinking it up at a good clip, bourbon and beer chasers, none willing to be the first to call it a night. In a couple of years, one or two of them might graduate to a stool at the bar with me. The torch would be passed.

So I was sitting in a bar.
Drinking.
He appeared to come from nowhere. By this I mean nothing metaphysical or spooky, simply that I did not notice him come in and sit down. The door was almost directly behind me and opened with a whisper. I looked down from the scrolling news and silent talking heads of the all news television and there he was, two seats to my right and Paddy was putting a double something clear on the rocks in front of him. He asked for peanuts and Paddy just laughed and walked away to his regular perch, one foot up on the shelf at the back of the bar, attention seemingly on the television but I knew he had the whole place in his view. Peanuts were beneath his contempt.
From my position I could look in the newcomer's direction as if I were watching the television above the bar. It was just a matter of lowering my eyes somewhat and I was able to bring him into focus and give him the once over. Just curious. (Drinking bar etiquette forbade anything except a covert glance. I knew first hand that forgetting your drinking bar etiquette could get you in a world of grief and even the hospital. Not all patrons came to bars looking for friends.) I had seen everything the television had to show three times over and Paddy was nowhere near as locquacious as Joe and Joe was never much of a talker. Good looking guy. White. Dark brown, maybe black, hair cut a little long for the fashion of the day. Tweedy jacket over white dress shirt, no tie. His trousers were hidden in the shadow of the bar. One leg was stretched back into and around the bottom rail of the stool on which he sat and I caught a glimpse there of polish or light. No glasses. No brief case. He watched the television for a while, half-turned away from me. Every minute or so he would lift his glass, give it a shake to jingle the ice like music and take the very tiniest of sips. He drank like a scientist. He might not have seen me at all. I looked away.
It was the day of the execution of Saddam Hussein and his mugshot was all over the news. Endless reports of his quiet death by hanging in some sand-choked shit-hole and reports and commentary and opinions from various talking heads and soldiers and political persons and men in the street about what this turn of events might or might not mean for the fate of the world and the country and the larger cosmic consciousness of mankind. I had been editing copy about the execution for two full days and could no longer give a shit one way or the other. My political views were impotent, right of center, uninvolved. I didn't vote. Didn't care.
That is one evil motherfucker - he said. Still. Can't help but love the guy.
Somewhere in there while I had been looking up to the television or down to my drink the new arrival had broken the silence. I was taken aback. Surprised. I thought I might had misheard him or imagined the sound of his voice or the sentiment expressed. I wasn't sure if he was speaking to me at all. From the direction of his gaze, he seemed to be addressing my glass.
Pardon me - I said quietly - hoping to clear up all of these doubts, real and imagined in one pass.
Hussein. He's an evil motherfucker - he repeated. But you gotta respect that. And now he got caught and he's got to take his medicine.
This time he turned toward me somewhat and lifted his head until our eyes almost met. There seemed to be little doubt as to his feelings on the matter. I had not given it much thought. I did now and decided that if he had been executed he must have been pretty bad. I did not have to read the words I corrected but I remembered the themes of repression and genocide and weapons of mass destruction. I didn't think I was capable of respect any longer. Still, one did not enter into a bar room conversation with a stranger lightly. I mulled it over. I thought it safe to agree or disagree both.
You got that right - I agreed and I was done.
We left it at that. When he did not speak for a while I thought we were done and turned back to order a fresh drink from faithful Paddy with a finger and a nod.
You ever know anyone who was evil - he asked? Truly evil? A real motherfucker's motherfucker?
Somewhere in there while I had been looking up to the television or down to my drink he had turned to me to speak. This time he was looking right at me, right at my eyes. His face was largely in shadow and I couldn't see much of an expression. He did not appear insane. He seemed, if anything, genuinely interested in what I would have to say on the matter.
Define evil - I asked.
I thought I would throw it back at him. I needed time to think. I was nowhere near far enough into my night's ration for a conversation of this depth. Evil, for fuck's sake? This was the time for the vagaries of Sissy's love life or the relative merits of the American versus the National League or the price of gas.
I mean truly evil, twisted, Satanic - he said. Like the Devil. You know, from the Bible?
He answered quickly giving me no time to think.
Evil you know, evil. Without any positive or redeeming characteristics whatever. Evil like tearing an infant to pieces with their bare hands evil just to see its mother cry and then beating the mother to death for crying the very tears they had caused and then having a good laugh about the whole thing. Concentration camp evil. Bayoneting pregnant women evil. Amoral. Sociopathic. Unable to feel any positive emotion whatever. Thriving on the infliction of pain and the application of misery. An eater of hate and drinker of dread. That kind of evil.
He was giving me no time to think.
My mother in law was an evil bitch - I joked.
Is that so - he mused? Maybe I should punish her on your behalf, Mr. Bailey?
Paddy interrupted as he came over to ask him about a refill. He refused, downed what he had left in his glass in one large swallow, ice and all, threw a bill on the bar, and took his leave with a nod for the two of us.
Gentlemen - he said.
I had not the time or inclination or the breath to answer. The table by the door stood to leave with much shouting and proferring of plastic and a bunch of 'your money's no good heres' and that took some time and by the time Paddy returned with a large fresh one for me on the house and a short beer for himself the stranger was long gone and out of my mind. And then it was late and I was on my way home to end that day and begin the beginning of another much like it.
When I awoke I had no memory of the stranger at all, something that was happening more often than I wanted to admit. My memory was growing holes and alcohol seemed to make them bigger.


posted by michael Sunday, September 07, 2008


This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?