Sunday, July 27, 2008

THE CURES

The day I died it was snowing. I was laid out on the floor thinking I had passed out from my blood pressure medication. My blood pressure dropping so low that I fainted, hit the corner of my head on the coffee table, and was now bleeding to death ith no one to help me. I faintly recalled a man being in the room and the banshee yells of a woman but thought it must have been some kind of unconscious dream as I could not identify either person. Looking down on myself I could see the blood trickling from my head and oddly also from my nose. All those sirens you hear going somewhere else, but not your home, in the night? The ones that fade as you drift off to sleep reading your favourite book in bed comfy in the fact of your own safety? They were now coming toward me. Getting louder instead of fading. Creating commotion among my neighbours. The odd thing is, or maybe not so odd perhaps given my status as a single newly retired 60 something, no wife no kids no pets, was those sirens did not appear at my door until two months after my actual death. I had begun to decompose and stink up the place leading to a frantic pounding on the door by my next door neighbour. Getting no response they notified a strata council member who just happen to be my best friend’s mother. She discovered the body. Well she opened the door and found my body then closed it quickly due to the awful smell. No one had bothered to enquire prior to that. I had not answered the phone but then again I never answered the phone always letting the voice mail take it silently without disturbing me. I liked peace and solitude for reading and watching movies. I never got that many calls once I was out of the loop of the work force. People are so busy with their electronic messaging systems, work plans, daily chores, families, and extracurricular activities they hardly have time for each other much less some old fart out in the suburbs merrily doing nothing feasting on all the new found time on his hands. Envious of the mother lode.

Before I dropped dead Ethel Bridge, my fuck mate for the past two years left me for a younger chap, Chip. A boy in fact. She called him chocolate Chip not because of his colour, he was Caucasian but because she liked the taste of him. “He is so sweet. Literally.” She was 45 and always worried about her biological clock.. They went off to make babies in Italy where Chip’s mother lived. And cooked. And made his bed. Now he had two women to pamper him. The two women hit it off like spaghetti and cheese. Ethel in fact talked of hitching me up with Chip’s mom, Maria, who was 68. She was old and wrinkly. She could have had the twat of a teenager but you would have never got me in the same bed with that shrivelled up prune face. Imagine waking up next to that. “Does she even have teeth?” I quipped.

“Hmmm, I never asked. Is that important to you?” Ethel had a bad habit of asking that question all the time. It was like being in a group therapy session. Ethel must have learned the expression from her shrink who she fucked before fucking around with me. Or maybe at the same time. I never knew. Nor did I want to know. Ethel was my group therapy. And actually she was better than that. I had been to group therapy for my drinking and smoking. I decided after hearing everyone else’s god forsaken story of their miserable lives that I would quit the group and continue drinking and smoking. The year had started off badly. First of all I walk into work one day and they tell me to go home. Permanently. I felt like someone had just walked up from behind me, stuck an old fashion Canadian two-dollar bill down my trousers and asked to blow my dick. Or suck my blood out of me from my neck. Would I mind unbuttoned my pants or shirt, whichever was the case, and obliging? All the while I am eating sushi in a snowstorm waiting outside a store that has suddenly cloased for business. I mean how else do you feel. New management new priorities fuck off lady.

The best group I was in was one to quit smoking because it also included meditation. And there the only problems people had were smoking and cancer.

It threw me back to my first memory. I was in my crib. Bored and counting patterns on the wall paper trying to be quiet under the pain of my dad’s big bad admonishment. He an enormous giant. I had no idea what I did to make the giant angry. It must have been all the cuts over his face. Small little cuts, hundreds of them, inflicted, I later discovered, by a car wreck when he was up at Indian Lake with his cronies partying all night long. Booze broads and brawts over a campfire. Getting away from his very stressful work as a labour organizer, his stressful life of a man trying to make a marriage with a woman who was a schizophrenic who he was deeply in love with, his stressful life as the new dad to this noisy piece of pink flesh. Add to that the gun powder of having survived being shot down in a B-29 and left with an allergy to common soap and legs so painful they thought he would never walk again. He did and now was hovering over me. What did I do to make him so angry? His face like a giant monster. What did I do? My first pangs of guilt which would be added to later in life coming up as a catholic altar boy. That was my first thought when told to shove off as it were by these two managers tweedle dee and tweedle dum. And asked to never besmirch their names nor the names of their company. 22 years stolen from me in one brief meeting. Given less than an hour to clear out. Or else. That or else implied liked the wrath of dad implied if I did not stop doing something which I did not know what I was doing. Something terribly wrong and horrible. I felt like that little pink baby in a crib all over again.

My brother and I were called Chip and Dale at home and at school even though I was Charles Danforth and my brother was David. I don’t know how it got started. I was called Chuck at first and then the name morphed into Chip. It just seemed natural and was a way to tell us apart. We were twins although we were not identical twins we did look enough alike I suppose that people could get confused. When I first met Ethel at the gas station I found her very flirtatious. I liked the way she held her hand up over her eyes to block the sun and the way she talked when she said “let me get a good look at you. She actually recognized me then. I used to be in her science class. Biology to be specific before she became a writer of mystery stories. Successful enough to quit teaching and travel a bit. Although she mostly stayed home here in Canada. She had a cottage up in lake country in the interior of BC and an apartment over in False Creek in Vancouver. Well it was a condo actually. But she was just leasing it for a year until she found a place over in Kitslano which is where she really wanted to live. Ethel was a very straight forward woman. She knew what she wanted. Sex. And lots of it. Ever since her husband had left her from some “younger thing” she had been on the prowl. I don’t know who else she was bedding down at the time but soon enough we were stealing afternoons together in her condo. We would go through a box of condoms in no time. She was insatiable and I was well, young. I could get it on at the drop of a hat. We soon settled on Wednesdays. And it got to be a bit of a routine after awhile. But we did other things too. She would take me to the opera or the symphony and show me off to her pals, many of them middle aged women who also had this certain sparkle in their eye whenever they met me. They appeared envious and began acting like nervous little school girls actually. I felt a bit freakish at these momements like I was the circus act brought out now and then to show off to a certain select audience of middle aged women who were horny from neglect at home.

I learned a lot from Ethel. Not just in bed but at art galleries, museums and the like. I think my most enjoyable time was when she took me one very long weekend that turned more into a week in New York City. I was able to book off from the gas station job and she was able to leave behind her commitments and we jetted to Manhattan. We stayed at a very nice hotel in the newly revived financial centre.

I wish god damn Pops wouldn’t call me at 3 in the morning drunk, slurring, drooling, Ethel thought as she surveyed her hotel room. Here she was at yet another conference in another city. At least it was New York City this time and at least she was able to squeeze in some personal time so she could get some more of that young stud she keeps pretending is the greatest thing since sliced bread. Somehow Nat, who she calls Pops but who is becoming as pesky as a gnat manages to track her down and blubber about the good old days when he was at the top of his game with the company and on top of her. This hotel in the financial district was a great idea. Away from the fray of Times Square it was actually very quiet down here near ground zero. The hotel had been newly refurbished after taking a beating on 9/11. It had been turned into a temporary hospital the weeks following that fateful day that booked marked everyone who was living on the planet’s. Before the twin towers and after. Ethel had eaten, with Nat back in his greener days, at the Top of the World restaurant many times. Nat liked to drink a certain Brooklyn beer and she enjoyed their famous sky high martinis. Those were the days. Martini lunches and then fuck naps. Work was too demanding to have martini lunches anymore. It was usually just San Peligrino with a light salad. And the love naps had to be put off until around dinner time when she would beg off the evening entertainment since she had had enough of being with conference attendees from 7 in the morning until 7 at night and proceed to work up an appetite with a brisk run on the treadmill followed by a sweaty rub and dub with Chip. He loved to make love to her when she was all sweaty from her workout. And she found this unusually exhilarating. Slipping and sliding. He would turn up the heat just to keep her sweating while they moistened the sheets with their playtime. Then it was shower and a late room service dinner all snuggled in bed watching classic movies on TV. More love making and then oblivion until 5:45 the next morning when she would pop out of bed fresh as a daisy and launch into her day. Chip liked to watch her put on her makeup and stockings and tight suits all he while learing and telling her how much he wanted her right then and there. “Just wait until Saturday dear” she warned him. They had a routine where even though she did not have to go to work she would get up and go through the same preparations as if she were going to work only he would jump her bones and ravish her once she was all dolled up. She would feign to leave and then say something like “oops I forgot my panties” and come back into the room only to be overtaken by his hard body and beguiling kisses and gentle touch. For a 20 year old Chip was not a fumbler, far from it. Pops could take a few lessons from this yummy youngster.

Poor old Pops. Let go by the company, no longer a fit, she wondered if that would be her fate down the road in 15 years. She better prepare for it that’s for sure. No excuse though for him to call her at 3 a.m. Luckily Chip had not arrived yet so wasn’t there to intercept the early morning call. He would not get into New York from Vancouver until noon. She grew wet in anticipation. He vaguely knew who Nat was but luckily had never met him. Luckily Chip was not one of these nosey jealous types wanting to know her entire history of lovers. Chip appeared wonderfully mature for his age in some ways. He still had a lot of the kid in him but it brought out the playfulness in her. She felt more like 25 sometimes with Chip, her chocolate Chip, than 45. Even looking in the mirror she felt she looked younger, her crows feet that had been sneaking up on her face map had seemed to almost disappear like one of those cover girl commercials on tv. She had a spring in her step and even other women she knew kept asking her if she had her hair done or as May Sarton suggested, god forbid, a face lift “No I have not had a face lift Mary Sarton!” she said a little too loudly one day at their monthly lunch date back in Kitslano at the vegetarian restaurant they frequented and had been going to for the past 20 years. “Well it must be all this health food we are eating then” Mary would slyly say hoping to wheedle out some new information about the new love in Ethel’s life. “Well it hasn’t done much for you” Etheled needled back.

Nat the gnat. Yep that is what she called me. You never know the last thing you will say to a person before they die. Poor Ethel. She will probably regret that was the last she said to me. She has a sweetness and hopefully in time she will be able to forgive herself. I am sure that 20 year old will help her forget. Of course these days where people are pounded with information death is an ohmygod one minute and forgot the next. People don’t have time to mourn anymore unless it is someone terribly close to them like a long lasting marriage or children, parents, deep close longtime friends. She will get over it. And well of course I already am.

It’s not the first time I have faced death. We all dodge a bullet or two throughout our lives and by the time we get to be my age you realize there has to be a little luck on your side. You don’t stomp around 6 decades on the planet without having survived some near misses. The first time was when I was a mere wee tyke, 7 or 8 years old. I was walking to school per usual and standing at a corner of a busy intersection like I am suppose to. I think about dashing across as there is very little traffic but there is this older car, a fast back Ford or Chevy, creeping along. A 1940s type looking car like the kind you see in those old gangster movies where Robert Ryan and Bob Mitchum duke it out for right over might. Anyway this care is creeping along and I notice that a little old man is driving it which explains a lot. He is in no way keeping up with the normal ebb and flow of traffic. Suddenly out of nowhere (why do people say that? Really it was suddenly out of somewhere) a big new Chevy pulls up to the intersection on the cross street to my left. I only spot it because I looked both ways twice and had spotted the slow old man driver’s car. I can see the lady driving the car appears distracted. She has tears in her eyes and she seems panicked. In a hurry. She pulls out into the intersection apparently not having seen this old fella inching along at all. SMASH! She has pulled out right in front of the older car. The most sprightly awake person could not have avoided the wreck. The old car clips the tail end of the chevy and even though both cars are going rather slow. The Chevy;s front end goes up in the air as if launched like a missle, spins around 180 degrees with three of it’s wheels in the air and then lands facing me crashing down within inches. By this time Susie Hawthorne, an older schoolmate of mine, has arrived at the corner and pulls me back just in time as the car is landing. Once back on solid ground the car goes to pieces. Fenders, glass, the hood and headlights all fly off into the air and crash land onto the street and sidewalk around me. Never underestimate the effect of speed when two objects collide while moving. It is astonishing. By this time Susie has pulled me back from the corner just as the hood comes crashing down where I was standing. The woman is in one piece, shaken up, shocked, she has stopped sobbing the starts wailing. The little old man was killed instantly, his head having hit the dashboard and then windsheild back in the day before seatbelts. It was the first time I had seen a dead body and luckily it wasn;t my own. I was inexperienced at dying.

“I want sex. Why do you think I went home with the coat check girl in the first place?
”Because she was young and had big breasts and she was stupid and horny. Just your type:”

“Doesn’t say much about you does it?”

“Yeah well explain to me again why you couldn’t get I up for her?” she then marched into the back bedroom and slammed the door. I ran to the door screaming. “I was in a strange place with a strange woman. And….and…”

It was true. I was in a very strange place and it was an unusual tete a tete. After the fire which destroyed all we ever owned except the clothes on our back my wife and I with our two young boys moved into a big house donated by the local church community. The house would be vacant as the owners were traveling abroad. We had it to ourselves for at least the summer. It was a godsend. The kids had a big yard to play in for a change instead of a downtown tar paper roof outside a cramped apartment window. The space allowed us to be so far apart in the house we almost would get lost. We never knew where the other one was. We could be more independent of each other instead of always on top of each other. I had hoped and prayed this would be fewer rages and arguments. It had been a very tense time trying to get this marriage off the ground. First emigrating to Canada. Getting disgusted with the big city ant hill that was Toronto. Including a bogus job that ended up paying nothing. A job I had worked at for a month in anticipation of great pay and relief from the grinding poverty we found ourselves in. So we packed our little Renault station wagon with it’s cute umbrella handle gear shift, diaper pail for the younger boy who was still in diapers. And headed to the maritime provinces of Canada. Our reasoning is that since we were poor we should go live where the poor people live. We had survived a muggy hot summer without killing each other although somehow in the process Ann had ended up with a broken pinky finger when a coffee table I had shoved out of the way flipped and landed on her. She had held up her hands to guard herself. My god I was turning into my Dad. Full of anger and violence. I was beginning to understand how certain pressures could lead to such despicable behaviour. To top it off Ann had a hatful of anger from what was later to be known as PMS. At the time little was known about this condition. She would rage right up their with me and at times surpass me holding a can of lighter fluid over my head and a lighter at the ready willing to turn me into a protesting Vietnamese monk we saw on tv during the Vietnam war era. Get away, get out of the city, move to a more manageable area remote from the traffic, smells, pollution and crowds of the uncaring anthill. Every day on the subway I felt like I was going deeper and further into an anthill. Everyone I talked to, including other expatriates, were solmemn and sad, disgusted wit their lives, strung out on dope, mundane, impoverished, gray. Every thing seemed grey. Every day seemed grey. Event that hot muggy summer. All was grey so we packed up what little we owned and fled like refugees to a promised land.

We settled in Halifax eventually after a stint in Yarmouth. I found work in the local Hospital. We got a bit on our feet. But the arguing and raging continue, much to the detriment of our health and that mental condition of our children who some how managed to still be children. Nice reasonable young boys growing up without much in the way of toys but learning to make their own toys out of common items found in yards and on streets. They could take stick and rocks and make an whole army. They could run around in circles and pretend they were airplanes or racing cars. Their was no limit to their imaginations. In fact when we finally could afford toys, the shiny colourful things seemed strange to them and they would soon go back to playing with their own toys they had constructed out of twine and old stuff found around the house. Pots and pans beat spinning tops any old day. Years later I was surprised how normal the boys had turned out. For now however the rage between Ann and I escalated. She would take the kids and run back home to her family in the USA. Who could blame her? The prospects were not that hot with me. Even with my steady job it was poverty wages. I ended up driving cab making even more money and this led to meeting someone who found me a good solid job in journalism with a local paper which led then to a job as a freelance reporter for radio and print. Finally I was making real money and was able to afford a larger apartment. Back up came Ann with the boys. A honeymoon period would ensue. Then the cycle would repeat itself. Anger. Rage. Where did it come from? Busted dishes, busted guitars, busted walls, busted doors.

Now laying on my back all these years later I contemplate the horror of those youthful years. I notice the ceiling has cobwebs, the accumulation, the wealth of a bachelor. Cobwebs and dust. Knowing why I am a bachelor, at least for five more minutes or however long it takes for me to fade into the wild blue yonder. How long have I been laying here? I think I hear birds chirping, which this time of year would mean it is about 4 a.m. their springtime banter almost deafening in a way. Away from the big city traffic I chose well in buying this cozy two bedroom. And realizing it is snowing outside, snow in april for the first time in 38 years say the record keepers, I feel sad I will miss Christmas. My cock hardens as I drift back to the coat check girl. I couldn’t get it up for her. Even though she was badaciously beautiful. It was the first time in my life I could not get it up enough to perform the act. Here was this young fresh thing right still in college ready and willing wet and a little wilder than I had imagined, on top of me, trying to help and nothing worked. So naturually when I got back home full of guilt and anger and disgust I had to confess to Ann my attempted misdeed. I had stretched the boundaries of our open marriage a little too far apparently judging by her reaction, the look on her face, the redness, the glaring eyes. I wondered if she could help me out a bit here. I was horny again. I had to prove myself of course. And Ann always turned me on. Our games of lab rat. Our tie me up tie me down rituals. The sexy dripping f=of her vaginal lips. The anguished look in her eyes as she came and then came again. I could trust all that. So I just wanted some, well, assistance here. Work with me work with me. She wouldn’t. I pleaded. I prodded. She couldn’t she said. Something about lack of communication. Oh that catchall excuse of all women who walk the earth. They can not perform the sexual act because of a lack of communication.

“We’re communicating now honey”

“That’s not what I mean”

What do you mean dear”

“Don’t ‘dear’ me after where you have been. Didn’t you get enough from your floozy?”

“But I thought we had an open marriage?”

“So you chose to go screw someone after a disasterous fire that destroyed all we ever owned and threatened the life of our children?”

“But they were in daycare. They were not threatened at all.”

“I had to rescue them Nat. Otherwise they would have come home to that smoldering rubble we used to call home.”

She had a point. What dicompoop would run off with the hat check girl at a nightclub following the destruction of his house and home? So I tried begging hoping we could quickly kiss and make up. When you are in y our 20s and male only one thing dominates your life and I had guns ablazing down here now. My groin was burning. The look in her green eyes said fire, fire in her cunt and I want my cock in that fire. I wanted to stir that fire up and then put it out, in both of us.

“Okay let’s forget the Open Marriage. Let’s use this chance, this new home, this new situation, this reprieve from our poverty, to renew our vows and restore our marriage.”

Ann looked at me as if I were a martian. An alien. “You’re unbelievable. You’re not serious. After all this?”

“Yes because of all this.” I then moved forward and attempted to put my arm around her to hug her. “Don’t you dare come near me.
”But….” I stammered in my little boy voice

“Don’t touch me.” And she ran upstairs and went into one of the many rooms. I ran after her and looked in each room until finally finding her crying in a fit on a bed in one of the back rooms. My heart went out to her and since she was laying on her back I felt I could approach her, lovingly of course. I crawled on top of her and then she began squirming under me. “Leave me alone” I felt all powerful suddenly. Something heroic came over me. Something heroic and evil all at the same time. I persisted. I pried her legs apart with my knee. For a brief moment she seemed to release herself to the inevitable. She quit struggling and totally let go. I put my hand on her crotch, her tight jeans were damp down there. I knew she wanted me. I began rubbing her. I her head moved back and forth. She was enjoying this I just knew she would now give in and let me pierce her. I tried to kiss her but she kept moving her head back and forth. Was she shaking her head no? Yet she had given in. I tried to dry hump her and she gave a little buck back. Ahhh I was in familiar territory now. Suddenly she whispered in my ear, “I have to pee” Ah yes of course. I let her up. And I waited. I began taking off my shoes, unbuttoning my shirt then I lay back on the bed. It was a bright sunny spring day. I rubbed my dick. It was stiff, aching. Ann came back into the room, some buttons on her blouse were missing. Had I done that? She crawled on top of me and just as I began to move my face up to hers to kiss her she pulled out the weapon. A four foot brass candle stick holder. The old fashioned heavy kind you see in those murder mysteries. Before I could say anything she had me pinned down, quite a feat for a five foot 2 98 pound girl on a male over 6 feet tall. And she brought the big brass candle holder up and then before I could say anything down toward my head. All flashed before me in seconds. I thought of the Dylan song, our favourite recently, Big Brass Bed, Only this brass was of a different nature. We were past our big brass bed days. I was a goner for sure. I realized I had made a major mistake in pressuring this mad woman. Because she was obviously mad, she was practicing no means no before it was invented. The old fashion way. Murder. Her face was fire engine red. Whatever sexiness I had felt shrivelled as I became a wet mass of fear. Cold and clammy all over. The big brass weapon then stopped, less than an inch from my juicy forhead ripe for the beating. “Don’t you ever touch me again, ever. Do you understand?” All I could do was nod in agreement. I was still nodding as she climbed off me, left the room and slammed the door. I lay there in disbelief. I realized it was over but at least I had escaped with my life.

I not only escaped with my life I escaped period. Once I heard her go into the back yard I began packing. I frantically packed everything I could. I called a cab. I fled out the front door. I went to the bank, took out the insurance money we had coming to us for the fire and went to the nearest hotel. I ordered up a whore. And some booze. Both arrived. I could enjoy neither. I was still shaking when the whore arrived. She, like the hat check girl, tried her damnest to get some action, but she was also older and frankly ugly so I gave her the two hundred bucks and told her to scat. Next morning bright and early I grabbed the first flight to Vancouver. I was not going to become my dad I kept repeating to myself over and over again.

The third time I almost died everyone else around me thought I was going to die except me. That’s the way it is with cancer victims. Even if they only have a 10 per cent chance they think they will be in that ten per cent. I never though it was going to get me. Even in my darkest days of hell. And it was hell. A hell hard to explain. People around you expect the worst at first. Actually the worst part anxiety wise was waiting for the diagnosis. Once I knew what I had and once I had the prognosis I was relieved. I had a 50 per cent chance according to the oncologist. I felt it was more a 60 per cent chance. So did the nurse. She said they like to error on the side of caution. I immediately thought they like to cover their ass for legal reasons. Don’t want to make promises they cant keep. It was 1999 and I had a trip planned to New York City. I was taking advantage of a business trip tagging on a few extra days to enjoy time in Manhattan. The doctor said I could go. I was pleased. It was my first trip to New York since 1966 when I was a senior in high school. It was also a trip almost cancelled by serious illness, not cancer, but hepatitis A which I had contracted from my first kiss. My first kiss poisoned my body. I should have realized then that this was an omen of things to come such as my two unsuccessful marriages. But I have always been an optimist. I rebounded from the Hep A very quickly and then again the doctor said I could go. He ordered that I get lots of rest and not over exert myself. I got three hours of sleep the entire three days in new york with my fellow thespians. We had worked hard over the past year on school plays and this was our reward. Frank Sinatra’s Strangers in the Night was playing throughout the streets of Manhattan. I saw three plays, Wait Till Dark with Lee Remick, Mame with Angela Lansbury and Rosalind Russell. Angela playing Mame this time around reprising Russell’s roll and Cactus Flower featuring Lauren Bacall and Barry Nelson. It was a trip I would never forget. A bookmark in my life. I drank champagne, even tho I never drank at the time, I put a lampshade on my giddy head and as the typical show off that I was back then sang “I am a lamp” in parody to Paul Simon’s then popular I Am A Rock. We gobbled food from the automat and smoked cigarettes and it was the best time of my life to that point so far. I had completely let loose having been given a reprieve from my illness and released from the strictures of my sergeant father’s discipline at home. When I got home I slept 24 hours straight and then went to see the doctor. He pronounced me cured. Maybe I could cure my cancer that way this time around33 years later. I drank, I smoked, I saw Annie Ger Your Gun with Tom Wopat and Peterson and brian Dennehey in Death of a Salesman, a play I finally got having been a salesman for most of my adult life up to that point. I went to Yankee Stadium and saw the New York Yankees play the Boston Red Sox. And sundry other things one does in New York. I had a luxuary hotel room right on Times Square and just stood there on evenings after the theatres let out watching the poor and the silk underwear set mix and mingle. The huge crowds. I stuffed my face with pastrami at Katz Deli and bought the tee shirt (send a salami to your boy in the army). But you can’t cure cancer like you cure a cold or even like you cure hepatitis. Cancer is not an illness, a sickness nor disease. It is, well, a cancer. It is a world gone wrong. It is a malformation of cells. Just like there are a million stories in the naked city, there are thousands of cancers. Curing cancer is like throwing darts blindfolded at a dart board with you standing in Manhattan and the target residing in Los Angeles. Okay, I head a better chance than that and I felt this would not kill me. Still a gloom settled into the pit of my stomach, restlessness. A realization that I would soon have to go back home and face the music. Face he fires of radiation hell. Once again I was so inexperienced and just letting go and dying. What is it in most of us that in the deepest depressions we managed to find some sustenance that helps us rise up and continue to fight for life rather than let go and succumb to the inevitable?

All these years later I am at an event of a professional association I belonged to for years before tossed on the dustbin of obsolescence. I ran into Jeff and Fred and a host of others. “We wanted to give you some kind of special award this year but you aren’t a member so…”

“Well I am a member. I paid my dues as a retired member.”

“Right” said Jeff thoughtfully as if I had just given him an idea”

“Of course” mumbled Fred looking to the ceiling for another excuse. I did not force the matter.

`There is a girl here, Marnie, who really thinks you are great, Jeff said. ``She goes on and on about you, how you helped her career, how great you are. She really wants to see you. ``

I had no idea who he was talking about. ``Oh really, where is she? `` They both looked at each other then looked at me and Jeff shook his head saying “You really don’t want to go there Nat….you just don’t”

Later that evening I sat in casual dress instead of the usual decked out business suit dress up. It was a relief. Not everyone wore business attire despite the formality of the event. Awards were being handed out but a lot of these folks were behind the scenes types in the business. They were not meet and greeters like I had been in my job where such attire is the uniform of the trade. They could get away with open necked shirts and a smile. Many were smiling at me. There was my old buddy Barry, winking and laughing and calling out my name much to the embarrassment of Janice, his lovely loving wife of 24 years. In my mind the ideal couple. Old Barry had had a couple of drinks despite his doctor’s warnings and his wife’s cajoling. He was used to the old days of drinking and smoking your way through theses events. Sure he had taken the cure but he fell off the wagon now and then. The rest of the year he was sober as a judge and tomorrow morning after an all nighter in the after hour suite he would regret the hangover as he climbed into the cab for the airport to head back cross country to home and hearth. He would have just 24 hours to recover and then be right back at his job bright and early Monday morning. I pity the fool as Mr T used to say.

Ethel’s mother was raised in an era when women wore gloves and drank Grasshoppers and men wore hats and drank Gibson’s. You look back on that era now and think it glamorous. But Ethel could tell you it was anything but that. Her mother dressed in all the latest 50’s fashions. She possessed movie star beauty. Think Gene Tierney playing opposite Tyrone Power in The Razor’s Edge or as Laura opposite Dana Andrews. Stunning good looks. And father dressed her to the nines, maybe to make up for the fact that he could not cure her. Mother was bi-polar. Ethel was stunned to discover, years later, that Tierney also suffered the same tragic illness. When Ethel was young she and her brother would watch mom break down into tears, lonely, as she begged father on the phone to please come home and help her with the kids. Oh Ethel and Bob wee not so awful. They were normal kids getting into normal kid things. Fighting like brothers and sisters fight. They would just as easily make up after running to mom demanding she be a peacemaker. But it was all to frantic for poor mom. She was adrift. She was like a little girl who could not find her way.

Fred Langdon never thought himself a killer. The closest he came to sin was with young Cindy Williams, a beautiful university student he could not resist. That was when he was a professor of languages by day while studying computer information systems at night. Okay so he snorted a bit of coke. Well quite a bit but that was back in the 70s. Okay he chipped a snort now and then with his clubbing chappies. He reasoned it kept him from drinking too much. But murderer? He didn’t have the profile or demeanour for it. Fredrick Henry Langdon Jr. wasn’t a rageaholic like his dad. Nor was he a manic-depressive like his brother. Fred was multi-talented. Then he ended up at Bear Stearns making a living he had never dreamed of back when its stock was trading at $150. Sure he was an IT guy in the middle of high profile investment bankers but the income provided him a nice bachelor pad in Manhattan. Nice in the sense it had fewer rats then most and the plumbing worked, most of the time. He got involved with the Hilary Clinton campaigns and worked for some causes. And he became active in the arts scene. He continued seeing Cindy made easier by the fact he was no longer her professor. And having a beer on Saturday night, maybe two. After the credit crunch and massive downward spiral at Bear Stearns he was laid off. So he followed Cindy who went to Vancouver to see her parents. At least that was her story at the time. She had been there about six months and he missed her. He wasn’t doing anything but knocking around. He had some savings and a severance package and decided a trip to the west coast would be just what he needed. He certainly didn’t need his Manhattan apartment anymore and quickly let it go. The trip would also give Fred a chance to catch up with an old friend from grade school days, Nat.

It all started with a busted lunch date with Nat. He came over to Nat’s expecting a nice business lunch so they could discuss starting up a small IT business with Nat now that Nat had been forced into early retirement. Nat put up some mild resistance on the phone but eventually broke down confessing he really did want to do something about planning a new career. Nat and Fred knew each other since catholic grade school. In fact Nat almost went into the seminary with Fred and their buddy Bill Sutcliffe but got talked out of it by his father who had enlisted the local priest to convince Nat that what he had was not a calling but a longing. A longing to go off to the seminary with his best pals. As it turned out neither Fred nor Bill became priests. Fred chose the university life and worked as a lay person in the church playing organ while Bill got drafted and went off to Vietnam where he was killed.

So Fred gets over to Nat’s and finds him sitting in his underwear yakking on the phone. He buzzes Fred in then goes back to his easy chair, in no apparent hurry, and sits back down continuing to talk animatedly to whoever was on the phone. After about 15 minutes of throat clearing and fidgeting, clearly leaving his coat on so they could leave for lunch, he started to give Nat some hand signals. Well Nat nodded his head and keeps talking.

“I never committed to come down to the studio today. Look I got someone here I need to pay attention to. Let me ask him. Fred, look, apparently there has been a mix up. This cable tv show over in Langley wants to interview me. Now when I said sure I figured they would get back to me to set an exact date and time. I never thought we had a firm booking. Now they are wondering why I have not shown up and they are in a bind. Do you mind if we head over there right away?”

Fred nodded approval if for no other reason than to get Nat off the phone and moving. Approving of the new set of plans seemed to be the best route to take at this point with Fred thinking he could do his pitch on the way over to Langley. But when Nat got off the phone after saying a curt “fine then” he continued to stay seated.

“Shouldn’t we get going Nat?”

“I, well I can’t”

“Why not?”

“Well I am kinda double booked”

“Oh that we can talk on the way over to the studio.”

“Well, no, I mean well we could have but….”

:What?”

“I’m not going”

“But you said…”

“I know I know, I lied to them.”

“Oh Nat at least call them back and explain you wont be there, tell them.”

“No, no that’s okay. If I don’t show up they simply will never call me again and that will be a relief. After what has just happened to me I want to be left alone. I never want to be part of the outside world again. I just want a bottle and a piece of ass. That is why I have to put off our lunch date. I have a uh…well…I have a date if you catch my drift.”

Fred was infuriated. He actually had arranged a tryst himself this afternoon but had cancelled it in hopes of snaring Nat’s business. Now he was being stood up by Nat and had no prospect this late in the day for re-igniting his love plans for an afternoon delight and the local Best Western. He had cancelled the room and didn’t bother putting the champagne on ice. He was about to express his extreme disappointment, doubly disappointed because he was also starving having skipped breakfast in anticipation of the big business lunch with Nat, his long time chum. How could people be so unreliable. Then the door buzzer went off. Fred jumped at the electric shock of it. And Nat ran into the bedroom to put some pants on.

“Get that will you Fred? It’s my girl come to rescue me. “

“Oh really, anyone I know?” hollered Fred form the living room as he went to buzz the guest in

“As a matter of fact it is,” Nat replied.

“Who?” Fred said while opening the upstairs apartment door. And then he saw who just as Nat said it. Cindy Williams. Next thing Fred knew Nat was on the floor with blood coming out of his nose, Cindy was nowhere to be found although Fred recalled her screaming and running down the stairs back outside from where she came and he had a baseball bat in his hand with bright red marks on it.

Shit. What am I going to do now, thought Fred. First I’ve got to get rid of this baseball bat. The garbage bag by the door, it looks practically empty, I will stuff it in there, and get out of here. Let me wipe….no time for that, there is a pair of gloves sticking out of his coat. Doesn’t I don’t recall touching anything except my bat. Let me grab those gloves, put them on and get out of here. Better close the door. Wait, I hear a noise next door. Looking through the peephole I can see its just the neighbours coming up the stairs and into their apartment. Good good , the didn’t hear anything. Hope they can’t hear my heart throbbing, got I hope I don’t have a heart attack. Wish I could take one of those blood pressure pills of Nat’s right now. Gotta stop chuckling to myself, they might here me. Wish they would hurry up and go inside their apartment next door. There. Door closed good. Okay if I can get out of here. Wish it wasn’t broad daylight. The snow and rain is a mess too. My footprints will be left behind. Maybe this will turn totally to rain though and there wont be a trace. Good good no one outside here. What am I going to do with this garbage bag. Hey, bonus, here comes the garbage truck. Alright, first break I have had all month. Shit. Okay just tie off the end of the bag here. Wait, let me wipe the bat with some slush first. There there, wiped right down. Now retie that bag. And dump it. Hope the garbage truck driver doesn’t see me. I will put my hood up. Mom would have told me to cover my head. Cover your head Freddy, cover your head. You’ll catch your death if you don’t cover your head. God I am sweaty. I am burning up. Why am I shivering. Oh right it’s cold outside here of course. It’s snowing. Okay the garbage man is picking up another load first good good good. Now let me dump this bag with the bat discreetly, into the garbage dumpster. Shit who is that coming out of that suite down at the end? Did they spot me? Well no matter now, no matter. Got I am suddenly itchy all over. Did Nat’s place have fleas or am I just nervous? Oh shit I gotta keep from laughing out loud or that resident down the other end my hear me and see me. Okay, good thing I took a cab here. I will just walk out. Yeah just walk out of this complex and oh good there is a bus. I will catch the bus. Wait a minute. Not here though. Not at this stop. I better walk up aways to the shopping centre. Yeah that’s the ticket. Walk up to the shopping centre and grab a bus or even a cab up there and get the hell out of dodge. Man I am screwed. Why did I come all the way out of here from New York City anyway? For that cunt Cindy. God I am so stupid. I am not a murderer for Christ’s sake. When I get back into Vancouver from this god-for-saken place, and forgive me God for taking your name in vain, I will go to Holy Rosary and say a prayer for Nat. What if Nat is still alive? I never thought to check. Shit. Too late now. Gotta run. Gotta get back to Vancouver. Got to say my prayers or stations of the cross maybe. Yeah stations of the cross. Maybe I should just go to the hotel, pack, and get the hell out of dodge. Yeah. I should just leave town. Forget Cindy. Forget this whole damn escapade. Put it behind me. Once back in New York I can melt into the scene again. Well kind of. Well anyone hire me after my stint at Bear Sterns? Are there any jobs at all with this credit crunch thing going on? Maybe I can go back to working on Hilary’s campaign. They seemed to like me there. I can melt into a respectable life, become an average citizen again. God life was so good before the crash and now THIS.

Book One

It’s not very often you don’t hear from the narrator, the true narrator of the story, until several pages into the story. No the chap dying on the floor, as nice as he is, is not the narrator. I am the narrator and this has gone far enough. I am taking back control of the actual story.

Hi I am Gus. And I will be your guide from here on in. I will try to not be too obtrusiveI can already see you are an impatient reader. Okay. Here goes. I know all these characters in the story thus far. I am more familiar with some more than others but overall I have to say I have truly engaged all of them in some sort of extended conversations at one point in my life or another. And if I were to say which if any of them would be likely to be excited by news that Nine Inch Nails (aka NIN) have given their new album away. No not that new one of 2 months ago, the double cd that cost 5 bucks online. The NEW new one. They want to promote their tour. So now songs have become ads for the show. And what a show it will be with 46 new tunes in the past two months.

The phone rings and the dog farts. It is hard to keep anything on the cave level these days. Everyone is up into everyone else’s business. I long for the cocoons of my writing table. Tables actually. I have a computer for every room the way Dickey had a typewriter in every room. Or so I read. Each room a different mood. .

Nat was going to say something. Nat?

As I lay on the floor I realized even after a few months I still had not got rid of the compulsion to make a schedule. I was still in the harness only the harness was self made. Maybe it had been self made all along. Yes it had been. Its not easy taking off the harness. Guild, and well, guilt, and the social message to be productive even in retirement we must be doing instead of say napping. Or learning how to unchain the compulsion to always be up at 7 and productive by 9. Even the gym routine had become well routine. That’s why I am now glad I made the decision I did. Took a left turn you might say. You hear stories like this now and then. Urban lore about what the dark side of the family did. An uncle that ran away to join the circus. A mother who left her peaceful household for a fling in Texas. I decided to be Santa.

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