The International Writers Magazine:Canadian Lifestories
Space: Green Fireplace
to tell you a little poem. Let me sing you a poem. Let me hum
you a poem. Its but a jig. Let me dance it. It can also
be whistled. Its so smallI invented it while screaming.
When you whistle this poem please remember to whistle like a cat
being ripped up by a coyote. And when you sing it drop a bar on
your instep. If you want to hum it put a bobby pin in a light
socket and hum it with your teeth buzzing. And when you dance
it... jump off a bridge:
am but a little ant
I walk in a big circle
I am but a little ant
I walk in a big circle
If I were bigger
I wouldnt be a little ant
and my big circle
would not be bigl
I wake at ten a.m. to the painful buzz emitting from my gunshot leg.
The room is brightened through the thin curtains of the bedroom window
and as I look aroundthe desk, the MAC computer, and the drab dresser,
everythingmore or less in orderI seek something to compel
me into moving. There is nothing. I lay my head on the other side. Not
the pulpy side. I close my eyes and open them again. It seems I cant
sleep anymore, or have I?
I check my watch. It is now eleven twenty.
Its easy now to get up. Im naked. I like to sleep without
anything restrictive around my waist because I heard its not good
for the constitution. I dont know where I heard it but I believe
it. When it was cold I slept in this sheet-like religious thing with
little crosses around the hem. Nobody saw that, either. Now, on the
third of July 1994, it is too warm for anything.
I go to the bathroom and pee like a lithium addict. In the mirror I
see a man in his mid-thirties who gets the joke but just doesnt
seem to be able to laugh because theres no set-up. Hair curled,
eyes brown, broken nose, scar over right eye. At least the nose broke
I put on my bathing trunks, green khaki pants over them. And then a
Black Slug T-shirt. I have a box full of them left over
from the play. I sold one at the 1992 Fringe Festival. Like the play,
the shirt is rife with civil unrest. In the top drawer of the dresser
there are a hundred and fifty pairs of white socks. I fish around in
them marveling stupidly at how many different styles of plain white
socks there are. I find two the same length, their bands only slightly
different. I make an exaggerated flip of the down comforter, pick up
a few clothes and toss them in a plastic laundry basket. Everything
is more or less in order.
I turn on the radio and a pleasant chatter fills my mind as I take out
the pancake batter. Wheres that mango I saved? I find it first
try in the torn black day bag and drop it on the cutting board.
For some reason the batter is lumpy. What was different? A tablespoon
of butter must be essential. I put in a little extra milk and make crepes
on the crepe pan. I roll the crepes up around the over ripe mango and
tuck them into the oven. When its all ready I dribble honey over
it and sample it. I burn the roof of my mouth.
I pick up the phone. There is a message from my mother and I only hear
sadness. This is where Im from, Im thinking, this melancholy,
lonely person who is just like me. Sad and lonely, sad and lonelywont
some sweat mama take a chance on mecause I aint so bad
laugh at myself because you can be my doormat but youll never
take that away from me. Melancholy is the name of my secret lover. People
thought we split along time ago but well always get together to
hurt each other. Sometimes shes too tired. More often since I
got out of jail we just keep each other company.
Like a sound bite I hear Steve Miller crooning from a car stereo, "oooh
life goes onlong after the thrill of living is gone". And
then a burst of exhaust and its gone. I can still have a thrill
myself. I guess almost anyone can. But thats not what the song
I phone mom: "Whats up?"
"I painted the ceiling."
"What color do you think?"
"The same, I hope."
"Well of course its the same."
"A lot of people never even think of painting their ceilings."
It makes no difference that I stayed home for months after jail and
saw her just last week with my daughter. She doesnt like quiet
time. Shes still serving time since those months that I
broke apart and blew into a million pieces. My car was smashed to smithereens
and Im paying for all their insanity as well as my own. And so
is dear old mom. She just relied on those weekend visits of not-so-long
ago. Physical presence. Somebody to make supper for. There you go. Sit
in front of the tube and ride the time thief.
"Ill see how it goes. If I dont get a job tonight Ill
try and get the bus this afternoon. Either wayIll get back
I get back to the mango crepes. There are three of the little honey
covered perfectos. The first was actually overcooked; the second was
too thick; and the last was even thicker with pockets of powder. I get
no satisfaction from this. Even the coffee Im sipping with it
is weak and flavorless.
I do the dishes, stacking them on a dishtowel like a house of cards.
It looks o.k. Not exactly a home but more or less in order.
I wonder if this looks too bare. Its all in your point of view.
Once I fit the desk together in the bedroom itll be fine for even
the most critical inadequacies.
I look in disgust at disarray in the living room then call the dispatcher.
"Squamish first or last?" he says. With that happy tone.
"Have yourself a good one."
I suddenly have a sense of humor. Im thinkingI should get
this guy to call my mother, and wish her a good afternoon with his friendly
I throw a towel into my black day bag; check for goggles; grab thirty
cents for a lockerdamn why did this pool start charging thirty
centsI hate tokens. On my way out I grab a bag of garbage go out
the back and squint into the brightness. As I lift the plastic lid of
the dumpster I spy a dumpster diver with a hook on the end of a long
stick. I really shouldnt call the pros dumpster divers
because they recoup a lot of value. He is tanned, lean, muscular. He
looks like a tax collector on vacation.
I cross beach to the Aquatic Center. There is a grassy knoll beside
the pool and two young women dressed in stylish black garb are lounging,
talking, saying what I dont know and laughing. Maybe my hairs
all bunched up on one side. Its probably something more primitive.
The pool is echoes and foamy chemical smells. The young thing who gives
me my locker token blesses me with a look at those fresh, sought after
features of blondness, symmetry, and muscled tone. All set-off by a
perfect bite and clear blue eyes. I sign in.
"You need a locker token?
"You need an agent?"
"No, Ive already got one."
"Then a locker token will be fine."
"Are you an agent?"
"How can you be sort-of an agent? Either you are or you arent."
"Im trying to keep it a secret."
"Why? How do you get any business?"
"Im sorryI shouldnt have said anything."
"Youre an agent with a secret."
"No. Im sorryits a secret that Im an agent."
Its very hard to make any headway when you start off like that.
I proceed down the rubber steps, past the door with the unmistakable
female sign on it and then a sign of a male with an "X" over
it. No males. Its that gray part in any mans memory when
he was a toddler in the womens washroom. From that point on you
try to get that back. Parks officials know this.
But theres that sign. Simple. NO exceptions for illiterates.
I used to wonder what they were doing in there that no men were allowed
in. I was even wondering that same thing out loud one day when a friend
of mine took me seriously, went into the room with the no male sign
even though he was, took a dump, and walked out. He claimed he didnt
notice anything going on in there so go figure. Conspiracy theories
like that go down like superman flying back to earth.
I swam, my heart hitting the one-sixty barrier. When it feels like my
chest is a bowling alley I lay off.
Im in the whirlpool and all the good jets are taken. I wonder
how I got in this state. A woman did it to me, of course. But which
one? Or was it a group effort. Jets. Waiting for a jet. What about that
song that goes, "Benny and the Jets"does Benny get all
the jets to himself? My strength here is my research. I think about
my friend, Benny. How many people know what the words are to that song?
Are the jets supposed to be like the Supremes? And why is it assumed
I should know that? Is it in the song? I really might be crazy after
all, just for thinking about it. At least I know there was no woman
involved. I was brought down by excess and maybe something to do with
Outside, Maddie is tied to a bike rack. He lifts his big
dark eyes, shiftily checking my bag. Any dog treats in there? His boss
is in the weight room. I venture closer, patting Mads head and
he accepts this gesture though his heavy tail doesnt stir.
"Hows the Mad Dog doin?"
The "mad dog" silent.
This dog has such a face sometimesI think hes going to just
come out and say something:
"Just what is the point in saying that to me? I dont have
a voice box. How could I possibly answer your question even if I wanted
"WhoaMaddie", Im thinking. "You look really
I walk back home and call the dispatcher again for a job on the "Tiehess"a
ship docked at the container terminal in Vanterm. I call mom but shes
not in. I worry for a couple of minutes then forget all about her. Ive
replaced that worry with the panic of going to work.
Theres a blue rectangular bag full of cervical collars and a black
bag for lunch and junk to read which I carry out the door at three oclock.
I pass aloof men and women; a bagman sitting in his swaddling, hat out;
a girl against a store front"spare change, sir?".
In the grocery store I stand for a long time not thinking. Just staring
at the small packages of salads and meats in the deli section. The problem
is not necessarily a catatonic or autistic spell
but that Im not hungry. No desire at all for grub of any sort.
But Ive been there beforebetter get something or come the
nine-oclock gun Ill be in the crews quarters taking
my chances on salt fish and egg foo yung. I have a hunch Im going
about this the wrong way and so I stare at the little morsels all rigged
up so delicately. I pick a turkey and beef sandwich, a tomato and onion
vinaigrette salad, and a seafood saladthis looks all
pink and creamy. I grab a drink and the whole story runs about eight
bucks. Is this a healthful choice? Is it budget conscious? Staring didnt
seem to help.
I walk to Granville by Drake and note how the street repair is progressing
and above me spy great billowy cloudsnot the rain type. These
clouds are only good for looking up at when averting my eyes from passing
strangers and ner do wells.
the bus to the longshoremans dispatch hall I dont bother
with the paperback in my bag. My fellows on the bus and on Granville
Street provide all the distraction I could want.
A young woman, maybe nineteen, is sitting in front of me. She and
friend about the same age are sitting on the back side seats. When
they reach their stop they pass and our eyes meet. The smiles we
exchange still give me a warm feeling.
At the dispatch
hall I sign out a large metal first-aid kit and lug it across the railroad
tracks to berth six at Van Term. Im early by half and hour.
The "Tiehee" is a Chinese freighter, well maintained and spotless.
In the first aid room which is actually a seamans quarters with
running water, desk, bed, and connecting toilet, I listen to the first-aid
radio. There are five channels going as the containers are loaded by
the gantry cranes.
In an hour or so I eat my lunch, borrowing a pair of decorative black
and red painted chopsticks form the mess. When Im finished I return
with them and one of the sailors show me where to rinse them off.
The beef and turkey sandwich is too full of meat and has an odd smell
to it. It knows the garbage pail. The tomato salad was fine but the
fish salad was a gruesome, sickly sweet affair. I ate all of it and
then quaffed back a coke to cover the memory of the fish salad. I start
writing this with the vague intention of the title: "Everyday in
Every Way" or "My life is more than the pathetic moments that
make it happen". But I reconsider, still not sure thats all
there is to it. I decide a focus makes a hell of a lot more sense. It
will not be an expository title.
At eleven-thirty a lasher came into the room with a bruised knee. We
call that a contusion in first aid or medical terms but
its just a bruise and it seems to help if you write the thing
up right away in medical terms and then read it back to him. You use
words likedistal circulation and abduction and skeletal muscle.
And thats how you get his attention. You say something like: "O.K.I
hope. Your distal, lateral lest metatarsal seems to have developed an
abduction precipitated by rapid vertical deceleration of an acute nature
and affecting skeletal muscles." You dont just say; "you
bruised your foot".
I write it all down, the guy signs it and were away to the races.
One oclock comes around in no time. On the way out I stop at the
first aid room on the dock. Larry is inside the dock ambulance and Dirk
was outside talking to him. Dirk was grinning as usual. Its frightening
to see what can happen to people when they quit booze. Inside the first
aid room is Tony, sitting in the first aid chair.
"How you doin?"
"How you doin?"
He looked healthy, his dark eyes sparkling for a moment. Still alive
after all those kids.
"Get some holidays this year?"
He takes a deep breath. "Beautiful place there. If there is a paradise
on this earth."
"Why do you come her?"
"Theres no jobs down there. Anyhow Im born here."
Theres no tolerating anyone who insists theres a greater
place to live than Vancouver, B.C. And even Tony admits that without
a job even his paradise dont cut it. Larrys on the phone
and Dirk has just made a mirth filled goodbye and tiptoed
past the room. Were all the new first aid generation as all the
old ones have retired, died, or done disabled themselves. And the W.O.B.
wants lifers. Guess its time to move on. Larry and me used to
pull wrenches together as many of our category became first aid attendants
to get away from all the chemicals. Larry goes back to work on Tonys
leg which is afflicted by a plenty big bruise. Tonys still working
in the shop and thus the blood shed. Thats another reason to go
on the band aid patrol. A sprained neck convinced me to give up on the
wrenching as I drove my head into a newly welded brace.
But what can you say about this place we live where then thousand flowering
trees make it the most beautiful springtime city in the universe? If
theres a way in Christendom to stay, I, You, us, will find it
and defend this turf with the unlimited spending limit of our Amex cards.
We see the truth, that this is just still a glorified logging town and
yet we also know that it hasnt yet reached full bloom. That is
exciting. This is worth staying for.
Im outta the first aid room. Im on the street, over the
I walk around the Waldorf Hotel to the bus stop. No more drivin
for me, thank you very much. There was a big, friendly fat guy there
that night who used to smoke the same thing.
Up the sidewalk on the other side of the street a hooker stood. She
stood away from the street as soft sell as a street hooker can be. A
couple of drunks approached. First one lurched out slamming the door
open then another. The hooker looked tired, as though she had a couple
of kids at home. They saw her figure in a black skirt which showed the
full length of her stockinged legs. She was slightly stooped and had
I not finally got a glimpse of her face when a cab came by and received
her appraising gaze, I would only have needed to watch the reaction
of the drunks to guess she was homely.
The drunks approached. The first reeled out of the bars side door
and as he approached her she hid her face. Like a shy high school girl.
When the drunk finally got close enough to see her face he stiffened.
While a prettier girl would be harassed, a truly homely woman is treated
with a solemn respect. It appears that compassion can make drinking
a waste of time.
At last the bus comes. Thanking the fat guy for the smoke, I sit on
the right side of the bus so I can see the sidewalk better. As we slide
along the electric wires I get glimpses of the east downtown night life.
All along there is evidence of people living on that same fast fuse
I was burning a few short months ago. The excitement of real danger,
interesting to watch and seemingly so pregnant with possibilities to
experience. And yet of time which disappears this time which disappears
this time which never really was never really goes away, mixing with
dreams like color in cream paint.
The poor, the hooked, the hookers
a man grabs a woman by the shoulders,
shakes her, screams at her. The bus slides by. Somebody made a deal,
somebody made a threatthe whole place could be Dantes joke.
But the bus keeps moving. Sometimes I recognize the face of some poor
schizophrenic, some dealer, some whorebut their faces are unimportant.
They dont remember me and I dont remember much about their
faces. The bus moves.
I get off on Granville, near the bridge. Near my daughter whos
coming up on nine and lives in Kits with her mom. Near the aquatic center,
right on the femoral artery of downtown. Five minutes of walking and
I reach my apartment by the back.
There is a long woman at the door trying to get in. Shes new in
the building and hasnt yet figured out the trick to the lock.
But Im thinking she might get spooked if I just come up on her
so when I get to the entrance to the underground parking alcove, I speak
up. There is an unmistakable tension in her look and voice but she keeps
cool as I explain to her Ive had the same problem myself once.
I help her get her key out and stick my own in. "Youve really
got to get it all the way in," I say, without any allusions.
Shes dressed expensively but her sense of calm returns and now
shes aloof, holding a few boxes in one arm. I open two more doors
for her, watching her sense of street smarts perk up again when she
goes for the second door and I step in to do it because of her boxes.
She lets me and I cut the awkwardness with a remark about how rarely
I see anyone in the building. I open my own door and look across, leaving
her to her own door. Over the months I realize shes a whore. Late
night cab rides in odd outfitskimonos, all sorts of leather, whatever.
I seldom see anyone else in this building as if its really just
her and I living here. Me and the whorehows thingsliving
with a whore in the West End. I guess Im calling her a whore
now because since the first time I saw her and she needed my help shes
acted like a whore. Probably defensive reactions to the sight of me
on the second floorgoing in: coming outI get her left side
and it seems like shes Uma Thurmon and Im John Travolta,
her hair hanging across her goth face as she leans forward on her door.
Then she turns and looks at me through her hair just nodding, almost
imperceptivity. Shes fast at operating the lock and theres
no more need for her to look at me, my face full of curiosity. She is
a whore with a fine edge of respectability, like an unshakeable aura
around her. As if she were some movie star. Every time Ive seen
her shes made a quick piercing surveillance of the prospects or
whatever the hell shes looking for/ or not looking for. That really
gives it all awaythat quick look. Its a look that takes
in a lot of information of a relevant nature. But she uses that as if
shes giving nothing away when shes giving it all away. Shes
a sharp, street smart poser whore. Shes definitely on a fast burn.
Once we flirted. Now the relationship has become almost non-existent
and my life is dangling again like a limp fishing line. I aint
so bad. Why dont I mount some courage and ask her what the hell.
Scaroo is on her mail box. I can just see us having an affair of the
heart. Id steer her around Stanley park on a double seated bicycle
and we could take a lounging picnic on the lawn. And that would be the
end of the affair part. The rest of it would be fierce arguments about
something that slipped. Im a big believer in rhythm. I just dont
have the money and the belief in the product value. Its worse
for sizzling than steak. And yet Im lookin after her like
a dog after raw meat. I stop myselfIm not that big a pig
so as to make such an unflattering simile, casting myself as a curr
following its schnozzle. But here you goconfusion all over again
just when its time to come to some sort of reasoned point. What
am I a dog or a pig. Thats some sort of manic problem,
AnyhowI wont hold it back anymoresome digression,
eh? YeahIm an editors nightmarehow much is bull?
How much aint? Things are original when you never think they are.
My few hard fought victories have always been prefaced by outrageous
luckgood and bad. Some time Ive had a sense of humor, sometimes
I dont. Kind of a pervasive "sometimes" when I think
how its gone in the last few years. I think there was some kind
of accident that brought me to write this. What it really was Im
not sure but somehow I got shot and there aint a day go by that
I dont know it. I truly hope and expect it was an accident because
I dont believe theres any cops whod shoot an unarmed
man while he lies face-down on the highway. The Coquihalla highway,
October 14, 1993somewhere near Merritt. More than one guy was
manic that night.
Just whats going on when a guy does some sort of stunt? Stick
around and Ill put out my cigar and type it out for you right
Here it is three months since I was picked up by the a loose nozzle
of societys vacuum leaner, R.C.M.P. and related attachments. They
hoovered me from the bloody pavement to the lock-up in Penticton. And
then I spent a couple of weeks in forensic, a day or so in Richmond,
and then a month in Kamloops at the provincial medium security. A very
deep problem. Animals and animal law.
But now out and free again at the small cost of thousands of hours of
malingering, radiating pain in my left thigh. I know what this is doing
to me. So, Im suing them, of course. Over generous use of taxpayers
gunpowder. Very serious charge. Somebody might get transferred yet over
this. But I must insist on charging full price because its the
height of the season and all. If I run out of money Ill just head
back up to Merritt with a tail light out.
The cops laughed at me. Not all of them, just the bad apples. Maybe
it was really only one bad apple, not knowing it was bad, just thinking
it was funny as only a bad apple would. So it would seem Im trying
to make this new interest of the Disney Corporation out to be a sort-of
Dudley Do-wrong. As unfunny as the actions are my interpretations refuse
to allow them the notoriety they seek. Or are they really heroes, booting
the shit out of an unarmed man, mauling him with a dog because thats
the nature of heroes?
Lets jump along here. I was just thinking of my psychiatric assessment.
You see, there was this Doctor Levey who interviewed me on several occasions,
as did two others. To determine my level of delusion, they said things
like: did you know this building is actually on another planet? But
more to Dr.Levey who determined I fancied myself as a bit of a writer
because I claim to be published, optioned, etc. "Did you know youre
famous in Europe?" I looked at him in wonderment. "For what?",
"How highly do you rate your own writing?" he said to me with
a personalized smile.
"Just as good as anybody else hacking it out."
"Would you say you were better than Shakespeare?"
"Is that what they say?"
Shit this guy is really crazy. Just like aunt who told me there were
people jumping fifty feet in the air. Human fleas. Gotta watch out for
that cheap wine, Im thinking. Christ, fifty feet! Fuck. I held
out my hand. "Residuals?" Now thats reality testing.
Fame and money or at least the residue of great vats of money. That
makes senseson-a-fa-bitch, famous in Europe. But he didnt
elaborate and eventually it sunk in hes only checking my gullibility
factor. Thats how you test somebody. You tell them something thats
off the wall and if they bite
I figured it out. But how does he
know I didnt let a Swedish photographer take pictures of me that
are now on the side of buses? More importantly, how did he know otherwise?
Nothing would surprise me but this guy thinks that high expectations
are a sign of mental illness. Now Im scared.
"Oscar Wildedo you know who that is?"
"He was an English scapegoat, wasnt he?"
"He was a writer who said, You always kill the one you love.
What do you think about that?" he says.
"Its got problems."
"This is Oscar Wildes quotation. Do you think youre
a better writer than him?"
"Concerning Oscar Wildes quote. You always kill the
one you love. Whats the problem?"
"What if the one you love, loves you?"
"In that case youd have to kill each other."
"Doctor, I know you despise me for speaking to you as an equal
but in this case you picked a quote that is a simple error in logic."
Uh-oh. I blew it. It reads more like a movie review hiding behind section
16 of the criminal code which says something about giving a guy a break
if he wigs out once in his life. Nope, says the shrink, he was in "psychosis
not otherwise specified currently in remission","and he did
not carefully consider the consequences" of "bipolar mood
disorder". Well fuck me silly.
There goes Oscar Wilde again with this love killing shit like a priest
on a lifeboat. If Im psychotic how can I "carefully consider
the consequences" of a psychotic act? It seems very simply a logical
fallacy and I bet you two to one I could find ten shrinks would agree
(at least privately). So whats the verdict? Did I try to take
myself out with a bunch of drugs or did I just fry my brain and wig
out for a spell? That can only be decided by getting into these legal
definitions under this putrid section 16 of the criminal code. Now its
clear, according to another shrink, that Im a manic depressive
and have to be drugged for the rest of my life or else Ill play
"Indy" the first chance I get.
So lets get this straight
1) Me, the subject was psychotic at the time and even Dr.
Levy states in his summary: "there is evidence of mental illness
at the time of the offence".
2) I was aware of what I was doing, knew it was wrong but "did
not carefully consider the consequences".
Now lets see what Hans says about this subject.
Hans is amiable, like Dr.Levey, they all seem amiable as old hell until
you read the report they write on you. Yeah, well you can say, thats
their job but to be make a good doctor hes gotta have a good patient.
So I tried my best to be a good patient. At the time I was running on
a confused senses of street smarts and illusions about aliens. Not Mexicans.
Even the cops were in my illusion as if they were involved in some macabre
war with a whole class of psychotic crimialia, most of whom disguise
their demi-monde frustration in ill thought out criminal enterprise.
Like the damned, evil at heart at heart. Those are the charges. And
its a babysitting service as society spends its roundest dollars
running the criminalia institute where it would be a hell of a lot cheaper
ah well, forget it. Theres always an assimilation into
points of contact and thats the point. Its those little
cubicles, those stalagtites at the entrance of a cave. Those are the
things that seen to fall and stick you in the back. Those are the things
you gotta watch out for. Those cryptic talks in "the black hole"
they like to call the cells in Penticton. People hanging their arms
through the cell bars, talking for long periods of time. Taking names
and dates and deeds. Wild, bone-chilling stories of torture and murder.
People werent shot, they were blown up
or capped. Theyll even say plugged in
normal conversation like they were saying how high the daffodils grow
And yet the patrons (always in general) hold a certain affection for
both their persecutors and the very bars they dared to rattle. This
is the place. You hear things here youll hear nowhere else. This
is the engine of Oppsiteland. Here everything is the opposite of the
outside. A huge amount of weirdness can happen here behind these bars.
This is the training ground for the New Young Fascist Brownshirts. Lumpen
as possible. You never hear this much outside but its taken for
granted joe cellblock thinks things should be a lot tougher. Theres
a lot of talk about Hitler here. And Manson. There are a lot of descriptions
of murder here. One guy entertained our block (this was in Kamloops)
with a descriptive and emotionally charged description of cutting a
throat. There was some disagreement about whether the seven pints of
blood they transfused into his victim was a full body full but the young
slasher liked the significance and notoriety that went along with such
a vicious attack.
And yet this same tall, blond kid of eighteen would rage and cry in
the mornings and slam the phone against the wall screaming, "Fuckin
bitch! Fuckin bitch!" Often there seemed to be no difference between
jail and the forensic institute.
Here dwelt Hand and Dr. Levey and my fastidious and comically efficient
pre-sentence report man, Mr. Yang. Mr. Yang followed up my story by
calling everybody I owed money to and documenting my bizarre behavior
in broken English. My own doctor, a Spanish guy with links to organized
coffee shops, sent a letter which Dr. Levey included in the report.
In this letter my doctor explained that it would be a mistake to let
me go. A mandatory something would be necessary because I didnt
realize I still had a buzz on. Further instances such as car chases
would be inevitable. Hans enthusiastically endorsed this idea: "Rorschach
protocol indicates a style of processing information which focuses (sic)
excessively on small and/or unusual parts of the stimulus field, while
neglecting more easily perceived and isolated features. Although (he)
seems able to recognize some of the most commonly perceived objects
on the cards, a very large proportion of his cognitive representations
are either unusual or outright inappropriate. Finally, his summary states:
"Several indices point to a severe disturbance of ideational processes
reflecting a breakdown of reality testing and indicating the presence
of a thought disorder." He even stated the "schizophrenia
index" was in the critical range. Thank-you very much Hans. Well
So what does the good doctor recommend after all this shicksoflexo?
Does he realize that while a sixteen year old car thief may be running
for good reason, a thirty-three year old in his own car is running under
some delusion and the question of what was right or wrong was not at
all clear while a pack of angry cops urging him on to oblivion, ramming
While I might have made a different choice (about running), in the first
place, the possibility did not seem possible after the chase began.
It seemed they didnt want me to give up in a peaceful manner at
all and were making a sport of running me down. No gratitude there.
For example if I put myself at risk and didnt think twice about
holding back a drug crazed man from beating an R.C.M.P. officer who
was trying to arrest him from freaking out and causing mayhem and damage
as well as running over a womans insteps with the wheels of his
Ford. So much for what the hell they do call it.
My grandfather said to me once, "If you say something and its
wrong then at least stand up for it goddamn it!" Well, I was drivin
one night and I stopped at a gas station, gassed up and got out of the
car. I looked at the gas pumps. I saw the price: $33.50. I was thinking.
A few nights before I was at a restaurant and didnt have enough
money to pay. I ordered spaghetti and meatballs which is an Italian
dish, but unfortunately I didnt have the money on me to pay for
the alleged meal. I did my best to convince the waiter that I would
make good on any charges he could conceive on me but he failed to believe
my good intention which I later proved was good when I approached the
alleged restaurant and made my good restitution. I had tried to leave
the owner an I.O.U. but he wouldnt accept it as legal tender.
This led me to call my good friend and confident, Peter Hathaway. Hathaway
intercepted the cops and this spared me a night in jail for the crime
of a nine dollar meal but now Im on the hook to the Italian community
and Hathaway is warning me of discipline.
"Jerry, are you O.K.? I mean can I trust you enough to take you
home?" He eyed me suspiciously and then, finally, he slapped me
on the back and gave me the O.K.
"Its not like you getting in that sort of jam," he said.
He was not overly serious but
"Have you been taking something really
We go back to about 1984 when I met him through a beautiful mutual friend.
Her name was Katrina, a German Canadian, who smiled a lot and once had
a letter published in the Ottawa Citizen. We were just friends then,
at the time Hathaway was leading a bizarre protest against draining
a mines tailing pond which was overflowing and threatening a community
below. Hathaway would have none of that however, his view was all around
on the high ground. Their geological information indicated the pond
could easily hold more water. The solution? Open it up at a loss and
start production of Moly. "You mean open up at a loss," replied
Adam Zimmerman, the chairman of Norda at the time with the bottom line
on the decision to keep it closed and just drain the pond into a recreational
lake. Along with a few thousand pound of various menacing sounding chemicals.
It was a good corporate decision, really, since the environmentalists
didnt have a chance in court while there was a question of the
pond giving way. Its those losing causes that make later meetings
so much more interesting. Did you cut the mustard yet? They all wait.
And you have the vague suspicion theyll breathe a sigh of relief
when news comes of your passing"He was a man in great upheaval
who hasnt had a good nap in twenty years. Finally he gets a nap.
"What would you do in your personal finances, Hathawayif
you didnt have the money to pay a mortgage, would you buy a house?"
Said Zimmerman. Hathaway is good though. He raises the subject to a
moral question leaving the old war horse way down the hill of moral
"I just wanted you to know that the people of the area are very
upset with this and would feel a while lot better if you personally,
would attend a meeting this weekend
"Im afraid thats Jack Saardss department."
"The mine manager."
"Well you outa know hes being worked over pretty good by
us and he seems to be losing all kind of ground. At least morally."
"There will be a court decision on this and well abide by
Yeah. We lost. But not without some pretty good sparring by that Hathaway.
On the radio, on the street. Whatever.
So what do you do when youre at the end of the line and have sunk
so low as to defy a local food establishment to the tune of some majorly
good spaghetti. What do you do when none of the hospitals are open and
youre starving and have been wandering around in a confused state?
You hope youve got a friend like Hathaway in town.
We were on his front lawn. Id already been in for some health
food and general good advice from his eight year old about the state
of my shoe laces being that you can get a set anywhere in the mall.
Now they were were smoking Indian cigars and strolling off the big deck,
around the front lawn, inspecting for varmints. At the side of the house
we dwelt. I was under the impression he was either trying to figure
out my state of mental well-being or tell me something but in fact he
was talking about building a dividing fence to keep the dog off the
street. I got the feeling he was suggesting that I dig the post holes
and I offered to do them the next day, not realizing I would go on a
chase, get shot, and be in jail by morning. He told me not to worry
because hes already trained the dog to dig them.
That evening seemed to crawl on. I fell asleep in the bath. It was almost
cold when I woke up. Somebody, it was Peter, knocking.
"Are you O.K.?"
"Yeah. That was great."
"O.K. be down tout-de-suite." Did he say suffer? What did
he mean by that? No. It was just my ears.
I felt almost normal as I sat in their kitchen a plate and a spot like
Id rated since we met, the table spread with wholesome food, good
manners and kindness couching any discussion. He couldnt have
said suffer. And yet he could of. Hes like me that
way, dealing with crisis by way of humour.
Later that night I changed my mind again, under suspicion Id been
poisoned by the barley soup and had to leave soon after bed time which
I did. My daughter was very worried anyhow, even if I was wrong about
the poison. I could surprise her by coming home early. Or so I thought.
And yet, something was going to happen. Sense and nonsense. I drove.
I remember the tears of her young mother when she was born. "Please
talk to me about his book", she said of The Right Stuff
as the caesarean guys snapped on the rubbers. The tears came when the
doctor informed her that the incision had been made.
"Now, now," I said, desperately. "What happened after
the plane crash." No, no, that was not the right thing to say,
"Would you like to see your daughter being born?" said the
I left her mid-sentence. I was doing no good up there anyways. What
I saw didnt immediately register with my expectations.
There was a wound which appeared to be at least a foot long but no doubt
was much smaller than that and within was the exposed under half of
a baby girl. In a moment she was pulled form her enclave by her ankles
and her tiny features were wiped so her first marsupial protestations
could be heard.
"A beautiful baby girl," they said, holding her right side
up for my inspection. I had never seen anything this closely before
and was completely unable to make any sense out of it. None of my film
worked, though I took many pictures. What I saw before me was a small,
grimacing gargolian anthropoid with a frightening aspect of familiarity,
steeped in angry purple skin. This is the beginning of the newest new
beginning. Do you want to believe it doesnt hurt?
It is like grabbing an alligator to master this one. Jaws or tail will
always be your choice.
J. A Billstrom is a Vancouver based writer. We lost his email address.
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