“Mama, why did you hit Beverley?”
A collective gasp seems to permeate the room along with the smell of red meat. It is only as I add my hamburger hash to the table that I realize I have been invited to a vegetarian pot luck.
My last message to her is written in the snow on her front yard.
I submit my review in the form of an interview with questions but no responses. The questions contain all the information and interpretation but readers think there has been an editorial oversight.
“What the hell are we doing here?”
They spend the night in their orange VW minivan parked in my driveway. The only time they come in is to shower in the morning.
He is like a carefully calibrated time bomb, set to detonate at the moment of most potential destruction. I fall upon him, shielding her from as much damage as possible.
They are two androgynous waifs aged twelve and ten. The older boy is the figure of responsibility in the household. He cooks the meals. He cleans the house. He ensures his younger brother gets to school on time. Their mother is named Gypsy. Her income is from home-based massage and aromatherapy services. The boys bring their pet ferret to Brewer Park.
I smell chlorine and potato chips as I lead him down the hall to become a tadpole once more.
Ben, his bare feet on a footstool in front of him, is absorbed in a book. He feels one of the cats lick his toes. He bends forward to absent-mindedly stroke the cat and sees that it is in fact a raccoon who has wandered in the open patio door.
I stand at a safe distance and watch as they take aim and fire at each other. They seem so young. The footing is wet and precarious from so much shooting.
He has acquired potassium nitrate, sulphur and charcoal to create homemade fireworks on the kitchen stove. He suffers second-degree burns over his face when the compound inadvertently explodes. He claims to be fine as he sits in Emergency shaking uncontrollably from pain and shock.
Homemade shepherd’s pie. Cheese sticks. Tuna sandwiches so long as there are no green bits and not too much mayonnaise.
I arrive expecting to see my favourite tree only to learn that it had been removed six years ago. In its stead I meet a ten-week-old pug.
We are on the path, heading home. I follow behind but am distracted for the briefest moment. He is not there. He is crashing through the bush toward the river.
Amongst the comic books and tea cups I find a single boxing glove signed by Shawn O’Sullivan.
I wake groggily in the middle of the night, vaguely aware of an alien noise filling my bachelor apartment. As I become fully awake I realize a bat is zig-zagging through my airspace. Startled and disoriented I dash out of the apartment realizing too late that I have locked myself out.
We meet at the Prescott to drink draft beer and watch Shawn O’Sullivan’s fight. After a few glasses of beer his name becomes Sawn O’Shovellin.
Our light-hearted exploration is halted by a resonant boom that seems to encompass our entire foundation.
“I’m not happy about the fact that you assume you will spend every weekend at my place.”
“But that’s okay. Any time you want a weekend alone you can just tell me.”
“I sort of want it the other way around.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, if I want you here I’ll invite you.”
That is how our relationship ends.
I have a system to enrich my lonely evenings. It determines a specific shelf in the entirety of the MacOdrum Library. It selects a specific volume with no opportunity for personal preference to influence the outcome. Then I read. Meiosis and Oocyte Atresia in Bovine Fetuses. Canada’s Metric System – a Short Metric Practice Guide. Microfoundations of policy implementation : towards European best practices.
“Now, can you do the hammer?”
“Can anyone do the hammer?”
“Paul could. He never did it because it scared us. But he could do it.”
I am dozing in the car while he has breakfast with the stripper.
He emits sweaty exhortations to repent while knocking back another bourbon. A young Linda Blair is possessed by Keith Moon.
“I thought you went out west to dry out.”
She tells him, with remarkable candour, that she is a prostitute.
A heroin overdose silences Handsome Ned before he reaches his 30th birthday.
Fleming Mackell wins two Stanley Cups and dies at age 86. His daughter, Joanne Mackell, is a dear friend of Handsome Ned. A couple of weeks after Handsome Neds’s death Joanne is performing at Clinton’s. Tears seep from her eyes as she sings “I Shall Be Released.”
“Hello, is this Wayne Johnston the author?”
“You probably mean Wayne Johnston the novelist. No, that’s not me.”
“Okay. You don’t have any idea how I could find him, do you?”
“I could only suggest you might contact his publisher.”
“Well, now we’ve come full circle because I am his publisher and I’m trying to track him down.”
“She did crosswords like… let me tell you, she would do five crossword puzzles a day. Now, she may be cognizant of her surroundings but she can’t talk to you. She’s locked in her body.”
I am alone on Christmas day. There is no food in the apartment and no grocery stores are open. I go for a walk in the drizzle and manage to find a convenience store where I can buy a tin of tuna. On the way back home I see a woman leaving a house with a coat draped over her arm, her hands held out indicating wet nail polish. Tears are streaming down her face.
The police will not allow us to leave for work as there is an incident across the street. Shots have been fired. The cellist dares to peer out the front window but not before putting a spaghetti pot over her head.