Monday, September 5, 2011

Out Looking In

They found our hero in the gutter
With a diamond ring and a gun.
He'd done it for the love of Lucy
And ended up on the run.
Watch out for Lucy,
Though she may look frail.
Say excuse me, Lucy,
Darling don't you use me;
I don't want to land in jail.

- Watch Out for Lucy, Backless, Eric Clapton 1978

Homeless for three months.

Not without a home of course. But it didn’t take much to figure that if the grass sower had access to my wallet, my car, my license plate, then he knew my address, and if the house hadn’t been burned down yet, or maybe booby-trapped, then it was at least under surveillance. 

Frankly, though, that isn’t why I didn’t go back. I’m not sure what was going through my head. I was withdrawing from whatever painkillers the hospital had intravenoused into me, that bloody highway in my neck was rerouting traffic while construction went on, I had forgotten the name of my slaughtered wife and daughter, and, as I recall, I was heavily into the belief that I had been to the pearly gates long enough to figure out that they didn’t exist.
So I was fucking tired and I just didn’t have the heave to pick up my feet much past Bay and Queen.

So I leaned against the corner of 390 Bay. The thrum of all the re-insurance companies scuttling about its granite skeleton couldn’t throb through my marrow deep exhaustion, I remember feeling. I leaned against that building, pictured 9/11 briefly, wondered how that much steel and concrete stays erect, and stayed there for, I think, almost three days.

You know those sped up city-scape sequences that they use to represent the hum of daily life in the big city? When your brain goes on hold, that shit happens. The key is not to move your eyes. After a few hours, you’ll start to see the cars bunch up at the stoplights like flashing salmon resting before the next leap upstream. The people, multi-coloured blood cells flowing by, brush by you like you’re as unimportant as cholesterol plaques.

Care as little as you can and the roaring scoop of your belly pain fades into the sound of the streetlights coming on all at once. Over zealous car horns collapse into the spinning mutter of rubber on asphalt. Your skin is no longer the definite terminus of your body and it mingles with the particulates of diesel, the astringent sting of mouthwash and the shudder of streetcars trampling their way along their lucky tracks.

At some point, my leaning collapsed into a squat. The ligaments in my knees eventually sagged enough that my ass contacted the sidewalk. I guess I was woken by the tiny mucousy sound of my mouth opening; it’s a muscular contraction to keep the jaw closed.
My saliva was more paste than liquid. Three days without water will do that. Yeah pasty mouth, followed shortly by death.

So just after my mouth went basset hound on me, and just before I kicked the empty bucket for good, well, that’s when the Queen came by and gave me water.

I call her the Queen because like Elizabeth, her right hand makes that unceasing backhand wave. Unlike the United Kingdom’s monarch, this Queen has been on the streets as long as had I lived in Toronto.

I’d see her a few times a week while I was taking computers at Ryerson. Yes, my friends and I made the requisite nasty comments about her. I think I may have instigated the whole Queen moniker, by whipping out that clichéd homeless person insult, “Get a job!” And one of my friends mockingly defending her highness’ honour by bellowing, “She’s got one, man, she’s the Queen!” His sneering of “The Queen” accompanied by pursed lips and the over-arrogant backhand wave.

Why do only groups of people make those kinds of comments about street-folk? I never even thought those thoughts when I passed her on my lonesome. You worry about getting too close and smelling their stink, sure, but you don’t go out of your way to spit some lame vernacular at them. Why in groups?

Now, she was there, sallying to and fro a few yards from me. Her hand wave was more of an upright palsy now, and as she sashayed closer and closer to me, I could hear her mumbling invective. I think it was about the time; she was urging everyone on the street to get where they were going; people were waiting for them; how rude it would be to make them wait; have a look at the old city hall’s clock across the street. But I was dehydrated and probably delirious.

I do remember her wafting into my personal space, and yes, the stench would have woken a Mike-Tysoned boxer better than an ammonia caplet. I remember her reaching into the same long black trench coat she’s worn all these years. I remember thinking that its blackness was now a wrinkled grey. Rhino skin. Triangles of furrowage from years of being folded into a sidewalk pillow.

Things clinked inside her coat. Dusty, ancient, borderline medieval things. She withdrew her nearly Pakastani tanned hand, veins the size of dew worms roped around knuckles stretched taut, unharvested fruits of arthritis grown under seasons in the city sun.

A sparkling unopened plastic bottle of water in that claw. Without missing a beat in her muttered tirade against time, she broke the seal of the cap – I assume she knew how weak I was – and left it at my side near my hand.

Like a Persian rug gone mad, her talk opened up its weave to say to me, “Drink and live now, boy.” The streams of salivary rasping closed over again. An eye closing. A racing flood rising over a mid-stream stone.

And then one more gasp, “We’ll see about yer killing yourself tomorra.”

Her back to me. The wake of her body odour washing over and away. Her backhand wave clearing a furrow into her oblivious subjects. The sea parts and closes again behind her.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Tit for Tat During Tête-à-tête

She showed me hers and I showed her mine. All lookee, no touchee.

It was almost a physical sensation, the change in her tone when I called her. “’Seat of my Pants’”… and then after I told her who I was and why I was calling. “Oh thank Christ! I was having the shittiest of days. Thank you! Thank you!”

We arranged a convenient meeting time and she invited me to her office/loft-space.

“Just you and me?”

“Uh no,” she responded, “My business partner and camera guy, Dale K---- will be there too. Never know when you might need witnesses.”

On the day, she greeted me with a dry strong handshake. The wrinkles born of what I assumed were years of TV work deepened and yawned as she smiled and introduced her collaborator. Dale was swarthy lout whose camera-toting had lost him his muscular symmetry.

She turned down the volume on the Tom Jones duets and clapped her hands together. “That them?” She had spotted the manila envelope I had brought with me.

She looked to Dale and peeped a giddy little girl noise. I handed her the envelope.

She slid them out onto the coffee table’s glass top. They looked yellower in this light. With all of them leafed out like that, I could see the differences in pens used. Shades of blue, a couple of blacks and even the lacerated alarm of red.

She was about to scoop them, but stopped herself. “Oo, fingerprints!” And she went to the other side of her kitchen’s island and disappeared under the sink. Returning she wriggled on a pair of school-gum eraser pink dish-washing gloves.

“Impressive, huh? You’d never know I’m a CSI addict.”

Dale smirked and rolled his eyes. Then to me, “I swear she’s half detective. At CBC, you didn’t borrow her stapler without a hazmat suit on.”

I watched them quickly pour over the pages. She filled the auditory vacuum with questions like, “And you say you found them in the sleeves of a record collection?”, “Could you show us the house where they came from?” and ended on “Would you do us a huge favour?”

They wanted a sample of my handwriting, just so they wouldn’t look the fools. I complied amiably.

After writing a few paragraphs of “The lazy brown cartographer inked the fjords disparately and without enthusiasm…” I capped the pen she had lent me and went to collect the diary entries.

Her lips pursed instantly. Wrinkles radiating from her pucker drained the friendliness briefly, long enough to see her feral side.

“Oh, you’re not going to leave them with us?”

“I wanted to keep entering them on the blog.”

“Right, ok. Um.” Her eyes boring holes into the pages. If the sun had been behind her, her retinal lenses could have started them smoldering.

“Could we pay you for them?”

“Possibly,” I answered calmly. My hands had straightened the pages and slid them with a whisper back into the envelope. “Make an offer on paper and send it to me, and I’ll consider it.”

Desperately (pore-sized sequins of sweat had erupted on her upper lip), she posed, “How about, maybe we could copy them now? So we could see if they match up with what we’ve got on tape…?”

“The tape… Yeah, you can copy them. Could I have a look at the tape?”

She glanced at her camera man. He had nothing to add, so she finally proffered, “Ok, no copy, just…”

“No, I just want to have a look.”

So while she used the copying function of her fax/scanner/printer, Dale took me into a small room, a one-time den charred with briquettes of electronic video equipment, all of which seemed to trail one or more wires to a grail-esque pearlescent Apple laptop. It glowed like an angel waiting for us.

Dale roamed the mouse through various folders and finally double-clicked on a file with the dubious title of “Security Vid No edit”.

A new window sprouted, a giant blue Q flashed up and then there was a grainy black-and-white image dominated by the disappointing view of a sidewalk. “The front door security cam from an electronics shop.” Dale’s stub of an index finger drew my eye into the upper corner.

“Watch there.” It was a black rectangle that was the unlit space between two buildings. He pressed the virtual “Play” button. His finger kept pointing at the black rectangle. “Wait. Wait. Okay here it comes.”

The black rectangle went white three times. Blip and then blipblip. Each time highlighting the warbled brick pattern of the corner of the building. Like some alley-way hooker was trying to spark her crack pipe. Except far less dramatic and romantic. 

I felt tremendous disappointment. “That’s it?”

“We think that was the gun fire you described. Guns don’t usually have muzzle flare, but if the slugs hit metal. 

“Now wait for it…”

His finger and thick nail urged me to keep gazing in the same area. The dark rectangle seemed to ripple. 

“He’s in the shadow. Looking to see if there’s any witnesses.” Dale’s voice trailed each word. He’d obviously watched each frame of this sequence many times. “Nobody there… Off it comes and he swings it down now.”

There it was. 

That same horned skull, but mounted on some kind of helmet, rounder, a chin strap flapping akimbo. “26 frames and we knew it was the same skull on your blog.”

The foot, lower leg and the skull took a step and escaped the range of the camera. Dale backed it up to the least fuzziest blur of the skull. The tiny triangular shadows cast from the spines were what brought me there. The everyday street-lamp glare balefully shining down on something that had never before been lit. A demon taking off its calcified hat for a midnight stroll.

Her voice behind me was smug and gleeful. I could feel the eight-year old in her, sharing a glimpse of her Xmas morning with me. Stocking spewed chocolates in her breath. “It’s him, isn’t it?”

She gave me the diary entries, back in their manilla home. My hand imagined the weight of a bone and Kevlar helmet.

“You’ve read all of the entries, yeah?”

I nodded. My eyes still on the single stalled image on the laptop.

“We need a name for him. All super-heroes have names. He’s got a secret identity, an origin story, a costume… no cape unfortunately. But did he ever name himself?”

“Yeah,” Dale gruffed in eagerly, “Like, uh, Skull-man or the Revenger or something.”

I didn’t reply until the silence held us all too tightly.

“No, he didn’t call himself anything. No cape, no underwear on the outside of his leotards. In fact, he loathed what he became.”

She leaped on this with cannibalistic joy. “Really? Good, good. What did he say?”

I finally took my eyes off the laptop. Weirdly, I was all forlorn and a bit angry at these two people now. Stupid bullshit possessiveness. I had taken the glasses off Clark Kent and screamed “Look! It’s him!” And as everyone clustered around the reddening super man, I was pushed to the back of the crowd, and felt sorry for what I had done.

“You’ve got the diary now. It’s all in there.” 

Without saying good-bye, I got up and left.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Position Wanted

Rumour has it that you can play dirty.
I'll tell you what I'll do about that, yeah!
I'm playin' them at their own game, yeah!
If you can't beat 'em, join 'em.
You'd better do it,
'Cause it makes you feel good.
If you can't beat 'em, join 'em.
You're never gonna help yourself.
- If You Can’t Beat Them, Jazz, Queen, 1978

Healing. It takes time. It uses up bodily resources. And it never recreates the exact person that you were before the injury or illness.

The morning as I stepped out of the hospital, I disputed all these things to myself. A half-hearted argument with myself to keep my mind off other things. Moments after standing up out of the wheel-chair – I felt like I was refuse being hauled to the curb, not a recent ICU patient, going from intense minute by minute scrutiny to the shadows of downtown Toronto where even the eye of the sun avoids you – I felt dizzy. Deeper breaths only managed to move the hospital porridge from the bottom of my gut and throw it against the trap-door under my Adam's apple.

But I wasn’t going straight home. I had made my life complex recently. But if the police went over my car, they’d find blood and a specially modified helmet and mask. It might be circumstantial evidence, but, like I said, I had already complicated my life.

My car, of course, was not where I left it three nights ago. The buses might run slow, the city budget may always need federal hand-outs to balance, but fuck-goddamn, the tow trucks must be part Swiss watch and part industrial strength Hoover vacuums.

A skid mark of my blood still stained the sidewalk looking like the little one’s favourite drink. She pronounced it “chokkit milk”.

Healing, yeah, healing a wound like mine. After the white blood cells swallow infectious or noxious intruders that enter through an unexpected orifice, the cells to either side swell into the gap. If the wound isn’t too wide they bulge out onto a matrix left by the dead (or missing) cells. Like jello filled balloon animals, they twist in the middle until they pop apart. Two where there was one. An unmarriage that creates a new life exactly like the old.

My old life. With a marriage. Sunshine spilling into our bedroom. I wake up before her and peer over at her shoulder, its horizon rimmed in the sun’s purest white light. I swear it saved its best for her. Those Saturday mornings that I could call my weekly chokkit milk. Same name, same feeling probably.

If the wound is particularly deep, if it slashed through the cellular support matrix, then the body has an extra step. The cells beneath the wound exude a new matrix made out of collagen fibres. They don’t get enough practice perhaps because this new net isn’t exactly like the previous one. It’s warped, not in line with the cells to either side. So when they start to swell over this new rope that bridges the chasm, they’re off kilter, out of alignment. Not so nice and neat. And that’s why and where we get our scars.

Scarring is only skin deep as far as we can see, unless of course it happens on your heart. A good ol’ heart attack actually scars the muscle tissue. While performing an autopsy, coroners can look at the blood pump and trace out previous, non-lethal heart attacks. Unless of course, the recent seizure was so severe that the heart ruptures. Explodes. That’s an odd thought, isn’t it? Your brain has enough oxygen left in it that you could actually think about what that muffled pop was in your chest.

And if it was quiet enough where you were… you’d hear the absence of the beating. That final friend leaving you alone. To die.

The walk from the hospital to the tow depot is only about a kilometer and a half. A healing man walks slower. And notices his slowness with the diamond focus of the reprieved.

The round man behind the chest high counter looked like he bathed regularly… in black grease and nicotine. He rolled on his chair over to the counter and then stood up. His yellow edged eyes looked at the bandage around my throat. His cigar thick fingers were bapping away at a computer terminal carved from beige soap, asbestos and twenty year old notions of good design.

“License plate?”

I told him. His fingers hiccupped on the key. He gave the enter key a particularly hard smack.

“You already been here,” he said to the terminal angrily.

“Me? No, I haven’t.”

“Yeah, you have. Says here. Says you didn’t want it no more.”

I was too tired to be angry back at him. Images of my blood pressure forcing itself through my neck also made me take another, deeper breath.

“So it’s gone?”

“Not yet. Tonight it woulda been.” More angry thumping at the dead-horse of the terminal. “Gimme yer license.”

“I did.”

“No, no, yer fucking driver’s license.”

I went into my wallet. And apparently, somebody else had too. My driver’s license was gone.

His yellow, hyperthyroid eyes were all over my hesitation.

“Stupid motherfuck… get the hell outta here!”

My blood went up. I swear I could feel it gushing over the stitches under my skin. Blood red rivulets around a fallen branch from a leaning riverside tree.

“Gowan, motherfucker! Or I get the cops!”

I left. My fist squeezed in upon itself. Wishing I had something to bend or break.

But I didn’t directly leave the impound. I took a stroll. Let my breathing clear out the blood that had been curdled by anger. Let my eyes wander till I found the familiar rear-end of my car, that was no longer mine.

Unlocked. The door opened and let loose that familiar gush of scent. Even blindfolded, every driver would probably know their vehicle’s particular odour-ratio of old fries, dirty shoes and accumulated layers of every day cologne… or perfume.

I sat in the seat that cupped me as familiarly as you could cup your wife’s breast. Your hand already widened to the perfect semi-circular cupola.

My blood was there too. Enough dried sauce to barbecue two racks of ribs. But everything else was gone. The helmet and mask. The bag that I carried all my equipment in. Gone. Whoever was here with my license.

The same person, I was suddenly sure, who had left me a flower pot full of razor grass.

They had my stuff. They had my license. They knew who I was and where I lived.

They had everything.


I flipped down the sun visor. The picture was still glossy and shiny. A sunrise in the dusty heated cloud of the car. Their two brilliant smiling faces laughing at me from beyond the grave. A come hither tempting. Right here! Right now. C’mon. Take off the bandage and ram one of your fingers into the stitches. You’re strong enough. You should have died here in the car three nights ago.

Healing and scars change you. Broken knuckles won’t bend as far. Repeatedly slashed skin becomes brittle and easily split.

And as I looked down at their picture, I wondered what injury my mind had suffered that I could no longer remember their names.

My wife and daughter. Every “Littlest Pet Shop” toy in her still untidied bedroom… and the exact angle of her feminine freshness products on the shelf under the bathroom sink.

But the scar had formed right where their names were.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Connections Unwanted

Though (to date) nobody has used the comments ability of this blog, I have received several communiqués through the attached e-mail function.

Twelve in fact. Seven have been folks thinking I’m looking to hook up with other individuals who “obviously share the same sexual fascination with men in tights.”Um, yeah. Just so y’all know, I’m flattered that you think my Bat-cave would love to be pummeled by your Super-cock, but I’m more of a Fortress of Solitude type-o-guy.

Four of the twelve were no less passionate. These, uh, “ultra-focused” comic-book fans must have googled something to do with super-heroes and wound up in a place they automatically assumed was a tiny fan-fiction niche. But not finding any alternate universe stories of Wolverine taking on Green Lantern, chose to vent their disappointment in a negative fashion. 

For example…

----- Original Message -----

From: M---------
Sent: Wednesday, August 3, 2011 3:30 PM

Dear Mr. Meat-stupid,

I don’t know what the fuck you’re trying to pull. You’re lame attempt to steal the Punisher story and try to make it your own shows that you don’t have an original thott in your pea-sized brane. I hope Marvel sues you’re fucking ass off. But they probably won’t because nobody even bothers to read boring crap like this.

A REAL Punisher fan

Sigh, yeah. Others were a little less aggressive, but bothered to mention that I’ve also ripped off Batman’s utility belt, Spider-man’s over developed sense of responsibility, Hellblazer’s loner mentality and even the Hulk’s “the madder he gets, the stronger he gets”. That one’s beyond me.

I didn’t respond to any of the original twelve missives.

Not even this one:

----- Original Message -----

From: J---------
Sent: Monday, August 8, 2011 5:15 AM

To Whom It May Concern:

My name is Janine F----. Until recently I was a European news correspondent for CBC News. My current project would benefit if you could grant me an interview regarding your blog about this non-fictional (?) vigilante.

And viewing the actual pages that you purport to have in your possession... Well, they would make more than just my day.

Please call at your earliest convenience: (647) xxx-xxxx.

Thanks in advance,
Janine F----

Exec. Producer
Seat of My Pants Productions

I hesitated over this one. No condemnation, no assumption. Just query and invitation. A real name and telephone number maybe. Plus it made me realize how much I missed bouncing the Diaries of someone else’s wall. But in the end, the triviality of the time it was sent put me off. It wasn’t much, but 5:15 AM? Jeezus, must be some kind of comic book freak looking to trap me into a face-to-face insult session. No thanks.

She/he/they/it didn’t give up though…

----- Original Message -----

From: J---------
Sent: Monday, July 10, 2007 5:15 AM

To Whom It May Concern:

Please have a look at the attached scan of the headline of this article. It’s from a community newspaper that publishes out of the Queen Street East area. The area the first “diary” entry supposedly took place.

If you agree to meet with me, I can show you the rest of the article.

Look forward to meeting you,
Janine F----

Exec. Producer
Seat of My Pants Productions

And there was the attachment. Laying there as noticeably as a used condom in a church pew. I didn’t immediately open it. I’ve had my share of viruses that I stupidly contracted by opening stuff from other people I didn’t know. I scanned the thing twice with two different virus/mal-ware detectors. The little jpg file didn’t set off any alarms.

So I did the fateful double click.

No paper name, most of the date obscured, no by-line. Either this Janine was smart enough to chum the water and jig the lure before setting the hook, or there simply wasn’t any such article and I was being suckered. (Though why? I’ve never understood the power-tripping of pranksters. And I didn’t see how this person was going to get any money out of this encounter.)

I took a lot longer to make the decision this time. I finally worked up my courage, went over innumerable contingencies, possible outcomes, even legal avenues they or I might race down… and once I was certain and completely ready… I let it pass. Told you I wasn’t a super-hero.

She tried one final time. 

----- Original Message ----- 

From: J---------
Sent: Monday, July 10, 2007 5:15 AM

To Whom It May Concern:

I have surveillance video of what I believe is the first entry in your “Diaries”.
If you choose not to contact me, I won’t bother you again.

Thanks again,
Janine F----

Exec. Producer
Seat of My Pants Productions

Monday, August 8, 2011

When You Don’t Want to Go Home

I’m living in the world of the super-hero.
Everybody catch the show.
And when the film is done,
The viewer passes on,
And I wonder, yes, I wonder,
Where does the super-hero go?
- Super-hero (from “Keep the Dogs Away”), Thor, 1977

Before my eyes opened in the ICU, my nose was already informing me. Oceans of anti-septic hand gels washing up against vanilla-scented bleaches. The over-laundered smell of hospital linen; fore-cursors of old folks’ hell-homes. The flexible plastic oxygen tubes poking up my nostrils, giving me the perfect ratio of oxygen. But the smell of the plant came from outside the pressurized canisters hidden somewhere in the institutional chartreuse walls.

On the 20 by 20 centimeter table beside my bacteria free bed, was a spurt of green grass, maybe a foot and a half high. Fireworking out of a terra cotta pot. Wincing and drooping, it seemed, as it tried to photosynthesize the photons from the eye-drying fluorescents of the room.

The grass was a green shot with dull grey and an almost yellow stripe up the centre. My crusted-over eyes picked out the tiny serrations along each leaf’s edge. The inside elbow of a mantis; the insect finally stopping its eternal preying and stretching its killer limbs to heaven.

“Hi there,” said a young brown man striding into my previously private room. “You’re awake. Good.” His stethoscope and the slightly darker brown bags under his eyes told me he was the emerg doctor even before he said, “I’m Doctor Parmaj. I closed the hole in your neck.”

I was under sedation. His words and movements seemed like they were skipping every other beat.

“You’re at St. Michael’s hospital, the emergency ward. Can you tell me your name and your age?”

My wallet lay like a leather turd beside the plant’s pot. He knew who I was; he was seeing if I knew. I told him.

“Goooood.” He drolled, clicking a pen the thickness of a robot’s finger and writing in a folder that I didn’t see him open. I sniffed the palette of oxygen being provided to my lungs.

“How are you feeling?”

“Little… slow”. It felt like my saliva had turned to drying sap.

“Yeah, a little morphine there.” His coffee coloured eyes looked into mine. Concern or checking my pupil dilation? Both? “Do you remember what happened? You weren’t saying a lot under the anesthetic.”

The teeth in his smile were so white they were almost blue.
My story was short, but the morphine was giving me the time to find it. I told him that I had been doing some duct work in my house. Cutting sheet metal. That I lost hold of a large piece and it fell on my neck. That with all the blood I didn’t think an ambulance would reach me in time.

He nodded, writing the story into the chart. So now it’s true.

“It sliced you pretty good,” he told me. He drew his finger across his own neck in demonstration. Pepper grain stubble poked out of his leather brown throat. “A four inch slice that almost completely severed your sternocleidomastoid muscle right across. I put that back together, but more frighteningly…” His eyes looked tired not scared. “… the corner of the metal went deeper… into your carotid artery.”

My nodding seemed far away from me. Like her waving from the dock, when I took the girl for rows on the lake.

“You probably noticed the blood pulsing out. Jetting?” More distant nods from the patient. “If it had been your jugular, it wouldn’t have done that. The jugular takes blood back to the heart mostly with gravity’s help.”

He’s trying to impress me. Why? Cuz I showed up with a piece of his kind of hardware, his sole domain, sprouting out of my neck?
“Anyhoo, it nicked you right where the carotid bifurcates…” – his fingers split into a peace symbol on his neck – “… one supplying blood to the face and top of the head, and the other, to the brain.” His smile widened blindingly in a moment of true humour. “We used your clamp in the procedure. Thanks for bringing it along.”

He pulled my forceps out of his lab coat pocket and placed it beside the grass’ pot.

“Three weeks you should be back to your usual capacity. Till then take it easy, wouldn’t want you to have a blow out.”

He rose. “Unfortunately, thanks to the continual shortage of beds we suffer in our supposedly first world medical system, we’re going to send you home tomorrow. I’ll be back just before they set you loose, to remind what watch for… hemorrhages, dizziness, blood spurting three feet out of your neck, that kind of thing. Today make sure you enjoy our wonderful selection of pureed foods.”

Click-click. The cigar sized pen slides into the lab-coat pocket again. Safe and sound. “Any questions?”

My eyes traveled up with what felt like the speed of a caterpillar. And found the grass plant not waving in the wind. “Who…?” I croaked. My voice couldn’t make the climb all the way up and out.

“You’re larynx wasn’t damaged. You just need some water. I’ll have the nurse bring you some.” His eyes swiveled under those huge dark lashes. “As far as the plant goes…” His fingers traveled out to stroke the sagging length of its leaves. “They didn’t leave their nam… Ow!”

Missed him pulling away from the plant. Saw the beetle-backed bead of blood on his finger. He sucked it like any non-doctor would. “Cut me.”

He headed for the door with his finger in his mouth. He was more than ready to go, but then his eyes found mine again. He took his finger out of his mouth, tasting his own fluid.

“My partner died of steroid abuse a few years ago. Couldn’t find a liver donour to replace what he had destroyed. If you’re done with them, good. Even though, I hate to say this, but it was probably the thickness of your neck muscles that prevented your head from being half sawed off.”

“I’m done.”

“Good.” His finger cried another red tear. “Damn.” He put his finger back in his mouth and left me with the grass.

My water came from an aging Jamaican princess who was masquerading as a nurse. She sucked her teeth audibly when she saw my plant-mate. “Now who’d be going and giving you that nasty piece o’ work?” Turns out she grew up with this stuff in the Caribbean.

Razor grass.

Monday, August 1, 2011

50 Ways to Avenge Your Lover

The urge to gain vengeance. Is that what separates man from the other beasts? If you kill a she-wolf’s pups, will she track you down over hill and dale and day and week, just to match death with death?
I don’t think so. I think that takes a particularly evolved form of determination. In fact, I think the animals, always more sensible than their primate cousins, would run as far from the kin-killers as possible.

Excuse me as I leap (in a single bound; look ma, no proof!) to the conclusion that revenge is uniquely human. A social mechanism devised to make us think twice about offing the members of someone else’s clan, tribe, family. 

So is our hero a quitter? A Punisher without a capital “P”? Tune in next time, when, well, c’mon, you know the answer. You have an unfair advantage. You know there’s quite a few more albums to be released. Yes, he’s going to come back. So relax and enjoy the death of that particular plot-twist.

Let’s roil about in that goo of revenge a little bit longer, shall we? Might as well. It’s in you. Supposedly it's in all of us. We just have to find the right trigger. 

With some it’s as big a target as their ego. “Yo momma’s got teeth in the back of her neck and the bitch chew like this!” That reason has been around ever since Niobe opened her big mouth way back at an ancient Greek birthday party. Leto had all 14 of Niobe’s pups offed… just for a few words.

Others have to feel like there’s a threat to their stability, their success; the wolves would mark it as territory. We’re just a little less pissy than them. It might, ultimately, be a male instinct. Deep down all us guys have a obsessional hold on our women. Our gal is raped, hoo-boy; that red glaze folds down over our eyes and we punch till our knuckles peel down to the bone. Never had that pleasure? Then just think about the last time you thought she cheated on you. If you had lined up her and her perp-lover, which one would you hit first? 99.9% it would be the guy. Or at least the guy first. Slaughtering your horn-dog mate and the possibly gestating fetus within its traitorous uterus, well, that’s another wonderful social mechanism. 

Let’s not forget the ultimate, for those of you who have a child. Ooooh, I didn’t have to push too hard on that button, did I? You get all incensed when the kid’s teacher gives your kid a C-. Some joker decides to actually lay a hand on your offspring? Oooo, Mother Mary in a tub. I’d bet all my unborn children that the Palestinians and Israelis could care less about the piece of dirt they’re not sharing, because they’ve mowed down each other’s innocents. Religion and history are just ancillary for them. Extra bullets. It’s on, motherfucker. Or should I say, “Child killer”?

Whether you think its knee-jerk backstabbing derived of millions of years of chemical flow in homo sapiens, or it’s our soul being mistreated by the malign spirit of a festering evil resident in another of God’s creations, the result is the same. 

Our “hero” though. He’s stopped, given up.

But why should we wallow in his chasm-sized depression? We read about super-heroes to feel good, don’t we? Because everything is so perfectly black and white in that world. Hell, we love super-dudes so much, we’ll even dress up like them. In public!

I had a small stringer of links to people that liked to show off their brighty-tighty pajamas and masks. Wikipedia of course made my research a waste of time. All the links, plus more are in this entry:

And glory be to Hosanna on high, the super-wannabes are even going on patrol! Serving their communities. Putting their lives (sort of) on the line.

I guess it happens in a society that has everything. No offence, I know these folks are well-intentioned, but I suspect that if they thought they’d get shot at, they’d put their underwear back under their pants and use their Bat-phone to dial 911.

They’re not revenge-killing. Or even revenge-patrolling.

There are no links or entries for our skull-helmeted, knife-slinging friend. Our Man of Steroids, the Ghost Ridder of crime, our unfriendly neighbourhood mob-mass-murderer. He’s all alone in a class by himself.

Yeah, that’s what I thought too. 

Silly rabbit! Blogs aren’t just for emotional release any more! Nope, they let people connect. With me.
Not just people. Folks who make documentaries. Yeah, journalists.

Journalists… with video.

Monday, July 25, 2011

I Still Quit, Part 2

On your own, And I'm alone
In the shadow of what we've done.
And I can't help but think
That some day you'll be back home.
Fly away, fly away,
To your new home across the bay.
Leave your nest, oh baby leave the best
Thing that you've been.
- Quiet Riot, Metal Health, 1983

I don’t know about you, but when I realized I was dying, a wave of calm, anti-nausea floated down over me. Like cool linen sheets after the heat of a sapping July day. I felt it touch my head, my brow, coating me all the way down. Vanilla ice cream under my skin.

Or maybe it was the blood loss. But I saw my heart rate slow, the arcs of blood were heaving from my neck in fewer quarts per second.

My first aid knowledge is marginal and my on-board medical equipment was even lighter. As my vein or artery or whatever painted an abstract portrait of my death on Razor’s office wall, I went through my checklist.

Gauze? Nope, that’ll just stop the gusher from hitting the wall.
Tourniquet? Sure, if I want to die of asphyxiation rather than blood loss.

Bandaids? Geeze, c’mon idiot! Teflon suturing thread and curved number 8 needle? Too Rambo to even try.

5.5” curved lockable Kelly Forceps? ( I could clamp off the bleeder. Hawkeye and B.J. would drink a still-brewed martini to me if I could pull it off. Standing outside myself, as I write this though, it’s a ludicrous thought: forceps jutting out of my neck while I sashay down the promenade, tipping my bloodied top hat to all the ladies and ships at sea. If the CEO of my former employers hadn’t thought it a wonderful and symbolic parting gift for my “bereavement and healing leave”, I wouldn’t even have a pair of these things.
I ripped open the velcroed leg pocket and slid my thumb and finger into the smooth-edged instrument. To open it, you have to squeeze it together and then force your fore finger and thumb to move in opposite directions. Then you can pull apart like normal scissors.

I must have done it. I must have found the vein on the first shot. Klick, klick, klick. As the locking-teeth pushed over each other. The blood stopped shooting. Holy Virgin-Mary-in-a-lawn-tub, I just stopped dying!

Now I had to focus on getting out of there. Razor and his deli-slice arm-bands had gone out the door and might be rallying some troops, or the cops even. So I picked the dirt caked window. Already open, it led onto what must be one of Toronto’s last iron fire escapes.

As my feet hit the back alley’s black top, my knees buckled and the rest of my body sagged down. My face was a few inches from inhaling a used condom, a wizened mouse corpse, and several shards of beer bottle glass. It all started to fade… literally to black.

Oh right. Passing out. The Kellies had stopped the blood exiting my neck, but they were also keeping it from reaching its intended destination: my brain. 

As carefully as my palsying fingers could manage (they were already getting cold!), I unlocked the clamp and let the blood flow onto the pavement. Sharing body fluids with the condom, trying to resurrect the mummified mouse, re-filling the shattered bottle shards… and since the black stepped back, it must have replenished my thirsty brain.

A few pulses and then I re-locked the forceps in my neck. Had to keep enough blood in my limbs to make it to the car around the corner. And then?

St. Michael’s was the closest hospital. Trivia that comes with administering a medical database for pharmaceutical distribution.
As I staggered, using the building walls and lamp-posts as crutches, I pulled off the mask and helmet. Avoided eye contact, because goddammit, I didn’t want anybody to ask if I was okay. Yeah, shit-for-brains, doesn’t every Kevlar-wearing avenger have bloody forceps stuck in his throat? Just fucking move on, there’s nothing to see here, people.

I had to do the unclamp and re-clamp thing 4 more times. The last time it didn’t work. The black negligee that was being drawn over my eyeballs didn’t go away. I cracked the car into a solar-powered parking meter (How do they work at night? Where does my VISA number get stored? How fucking long did I sit in the dead car making it my casket before I threw open the door and collapsed a few meters from the yellowing plastic emergency sign at the anus end of St. Mike’s?)

The dead thick white light of the emergency sign became that light at the end of that tunnel. The so-called near death experience.

Yes, your brain gives a jerky playback of the highlights, lowlights and a few crushingly neutral moments of your life in a more or less reverse order.

The whirring sound of the bullets. The tungsten-egg-crack of a skull bone being forcibly swung open. The mewing of “Daddy! Daddy!” as she felt the word coming out of her perfect puffy lips; playing with it like a gelatinous bubble toy. The stab of an appendix rupture, more light than pain. Not the wedding, but the walking by a store window and feeling the tug of the dress on my eyes, even though her hot hand, always moist, kept heading down the gum-dotted sidewalk. Long sweet kisses peppered by the tongues of lovers with no names. The curdling rev of a motorcycle jiggling my thighs. The stench of my mother’s unwashed panties as proof she was human. Bright bouncing balls and twinkling dinkie cars in the duvet of summer sand. Air harrumphing from my lungs as the bicycle handle-bars punched me in the gut for trying to jump it over a too flexible plywood ramp. The rash of heat around my nose and eyes, the coming of a great guilty cry, even though the yellow callused hand of my father never descended towards my frightened vulnerable butt cheeks; the crashing scream scraping out of my throat “It’s not right! It’s not fair!”, before the flood of phlegm closed it up and a blazing white yet cold light blinded all my selves’ eyes.

It began to recede, that light. There’s no after life, damn you all! It’s just the brain shutting down in reverse. Neurons and nerves. Liquids and bio-electricity. All scientifically explicable and philosophically depressing. Playing the tape one last time in the opposite order that it was recorded.
And when I woke, knowing that the afterlife was a joke, a tool, a promise that had no punchline, no purpose, no pay-off… when I woke knowing that, I knew that they were gone. My girls, whose memory made me kill, cut, and torture.

No afterlife. They were gone forever. It made all this, my last purpose, my last remaining distraction, meaningless. It no longer mattered. Wow. Again the air is hammered out of my little lungs. And I don’t feel like making the effort to inhale again.

And so I quit. Fuck it. I’ll just stay here in the life-affirming blue and beige of St. Mike’s ICU and drizzle away. The tubes can feed my veins. The nurses can sponge my flaccid cock till it bleeds. The doctors can clipboard my health and practice their bedside manner at the side of my armour-plated bed. Go ahead, heal me back to Olympic standards. 

But I’m done. I’m staying right inside here.