The International Writers Magazine:Dreamscapes Canadian Stories
surviving the Canadian Summer without a 'fan'
girlfriend Dom and I moved to Montreal in May of 2004. My parents,
who live in Vancouver, came to visit us that August. By July,
Id convinced them to stay with us instead of a bed and breakfast.
the deal: you buy us a bed, and stay with us. We need a bed, but you
can use it while youre here. The bed will set you back 200 bucks,
250 max. A week at a bed and breakfast or hotel will cost you 400, minimum.
Youll save money, and well get a bed. Its win-win!"
Dad considered the proposal for a moment, and said, "Sounds good
to me. Its a deal."
I was stoked. We needed a bed. "Sweet, Ill go get the bed
today. And some breakfast." We laughed. After all, it was funny.
But then there was a moment of silence on the line. He came back on
the line, cleared his throat, then said in a quiet, worried tone, "Kyle,
youve got a fan, dont you?"
He had reason for concern. He was in Vancouver. Vancouver was in the
grip of a "Catastrophic Heatwave", he said, "I tried
to buy a fan today, but couldnt find one. All the newscasts say
that theyre sold out everywhere. I looked all over town for one.
There isnt a single fan for sale in the entire city. Even IKEA
is sold out."
What a Catastrophe. His tone of voice suggested the military was about
to be called in -- the specially trained fan-carrying heatwave response
unit of the Canadian Military.
I however was in Montreal. "No, we dont have a fan."
Mom picked up the other phone, "Honey, you just make sure theres
a fan there for us when we get to town." I tried to cool their
nerves, "Chill out mom, its not that bad," And then
added a cocky, "Actually, its been a pretty cool summer out
here." I could picture her face, a comment like that would make
it twist into disbelief. She snapped, "Just go out and get a fan."
My Dad wouldnt take any of my B.S. either, but he had a different
approach, "Hey, big guy, youre a big guy now, right? Why
dont you just go out and buy a fan?" His tone of voice suggested
that I would become the fan-buying man he knew Id one day become,
as if it was my destiny. I think he was just jealous I could actually
go out and buy a fan easily from a nearby store. Knowing his style,
I was surprised he hadnt ordered a container of fans from China
and tried to corner the red-hot Vancouver fan market. Im sure
hed thought about it.
If you havent met my folks already, let me introduce them. My
Dad, Ian, has done well in the import/export business, and my Mom, Colleen,
recently retired from teaching primary school. Both are fervent minimalist
maximalists. Their motto is: If theres a problem, go to IKEA and
buy minimalist furniture the more the better. They just built
a new house and if you go there and can find a single item of furniture,
or bedspread, or thick wooden clothes hanger, or kitchen utensil, or
painting inside the entire house not purchased at IKEA, you are officially
my hero. They should change their names to Bjorn and Volvo. Neither
of them drives a Saab, but thatll change the day IKEA puts them
on the shelf.
Moms idea of me growing up is buying Scandinavian furniture in
my spare time. My idea of growing up is leaving home so I can spend
an afternoon strolling along the sidewalk fishing clothes hangers out
of a box on the street. Metal clothes hangers. Free metal clothes hangers.
They called me with one week to go. A cool rain fell on Montreal. Within
half a minute, the long-distance guilt trips began to rain down from
west coast. If I was trying to be a lame-o punny guy, Id
have said that the guilt drips started to rain down. But I was too busy
deflecting bucket-filling drops of guilt for that sort of nonsense.
"Honey, you need to grow up some time. There comes a time in life
when youre old enough to buy some nice things for yourself. Why
dont you take Dom to IKEA, I bet shed like that. I know
theyve got fans there."
Theyd gone crazy. Vancouver Heatwave 2004 was in its third week.
The evening newscasts were surely onto their fourth series of hard-hitting
graphics by now. The military apparently hadnt shown up yet. The
only thing on their mind was the cool rejuvenating breeze emitted by
an oscillating three-speed fan.
"Mom, look, Ill find one. This city is a gold mine for free
stuff." Now Id much rather slit my own wrists with a rusty
hockey skate blade than spend a morning at IKEA, so I told her in a
tone of voice that would satisfy her, but secretly told me Id
do absolutely nothing to make it happen, "Dont worry, itll
happen. We will get a fan. Trust me."
"Well, you make sure you get a good one, not some wimpy old fan.
We need a good one. I know how hot it gets back east." She then
put on her best high-pitched first-grader suggestion tone
(She was a teacher after all): "Why dont you go get one right
now?! Just think how fun itll be!"
"Mom. No. Just calm down. It will happen. Well find one.
Itll be fun. Youll see."
"Okay, I trust you, but, and dont forget this: you cant
just go around finding electrical equipment in the street. Its
dirty, and besides, it might be a fire hazard." Guilt trip tactic
number one: the fire hazard. Every mothers secret weapon. I didnt
bother telling her we didnt have a smoke alarm. No need to ignite
A few days later, we got Max the landlord to take 20 minutes out of
his busy Tuesday to bring over a smoke detector. Naturally, I did absolutely
nothing to solve the fan issue.
On Wednesday evening we picked my parents up at the airport. My Dad
extended his hand, but before he let it touch mine, he hesitated, pulled
back slightly, and said with concerned hope in his eyes, "So, did
you get the fan?"
I bit my lip and did my best to improvise. "No, but I checked the
weather and its supposed to be cool all week. Dont worry."
We left it at that. The air was cool enough to keep them quiet for the
first few days.
By Friday, things started to heat up, but the apartment was bearable
enough not to raise more than an eyebrow of concern from either mom
or dad. By Saturday though, Montreal was headlong into a heatwave capable
of generating a triple digit death toll. Sweat dripped down the walls
of our apartment. On Sunday morning, after one night in the heat, my
dad snapped. He came into the kitchen downright cross after a sweaty,
sleepless night. He looked at me with a mixture of disbelief and anger.
"Why didnt you get a fan? You know I cant stand this
east coast humidity."
I looked up from my cereal and said, stupidly, "Well, at least
we still have fans in our stores out here." I immediately wished
I hadnt. He looked at me, his eyes narrowed.
"Whatd you say?"
I knew Id lost. I made him an offer, "Nothing, listen, Ill
get one today." My moms eyes lit up, visibly excited by the
mere suggestion that we might spend a day in a retail outlet that sells
both meatballs and mousepads, "Maybe we can go to IKEA?"
"Well see", I said, and looked back down at my cereal.
"Yes, we will see", said my dad, in a way that suggested my
next move would establish his feelings towards me for years to come.
What I did next would prove both my responsibility and respectability,
not to just myself, but to the entire family. He quietly shook his head
and walked towards the back door, on the way out for his morning run.
As he stepped out into the penetrating heat, he added, "You know,
Kyle, there comes a time when you have to grow up. You cant just
go through life in hope that things will just work themselves out. Obviously
you havent learned that yet."
45 minutes later we heard him plod up the stairs. Hes usually
a pretty calm guy after a run, but we knew today would be different.
Hed just followed up a night in pensioner-killing heat with nearly
an hour of east coast humidity. His son had just let him
down. His eldest son. Worst of all, he was about to arrive in an apartment
that couldve doubled as a Russian steam bath. We braced for the
"Look what I found!" he said, and held up the most ragged
assed fan of all time. A four-foot high oscillating fan taped in the
middle all crooked like, in three pieces with the safety guard off.
It was the sort of fan that even the most hardened, multiple shopping
cart-toting bum would pass over in disgust. It was awful, but he beamed
with delight. This was his find. His pride. His baby. His fan.
Our jaws dropped.
"And guess what
it works too! I tried it out in the lobby
of an apartment building down the street."
I closed my eyes to savour the image of a mid-run, heavy-breathing,
52 year-old man crouched in the lobby of a respectable apartment building
on a Sunday morning nonchalantly inserting the plug of a fan hed
just pulled from a garbage can into the wall, eyes filled with desperate
hope that it might work. Sweating.
This was too good.
I plugged the fan into the wall and set it on high. A forceful blast
of cool air shot from its grubby blades, instantly clearing the air.
I looked over at mom and delivered the bad news.
"Sidewalk one, Sweden zero."
2005 Kyle MacDonald
Uncle the Agent
Kyle MacDonald on the ride to hell
think hes stopping for us?
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