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.

Monday, July 18, 2011

These Walls Are Thick

The walk to the house wasn’t long. But it felt long. She was so quiet. Once she looked behind her. Behind us.

That clichéd bit where the author tells you that the character clutched the steering wheel/cliff edge/bad guy’s wrist so hard that their knuckles turn white? It happens for real. The chords of her purse were being choked to death by her right hand. The knuckles turn white because the person is actually squeezing the blood out of them.

I felt the urge of empathy. So like the crapping urge. Once you notice it, you have to do something about it.

“You’re really quiet.”

“Sorry. Just… thinking.”


“What I should tell you. What I shouldn’t.”

And then the house was in front of us. Guess I had clamped that urge longer than I thought.

She mounted the three porch steps and unlocked the door. Inside she closed the door behind me and relocked it. Relocked one of the locks. There were four of them, made of metals in thicknesses I had never encountered before.

She saw me looking at them and told me, “The back door is the same except there’s no key hole on the outside.” She rapped on the door. It thunked thickly.

She took three steps over to the front bay window. She dragged a finger across it. She stepped away and the space left was me-sized. I entered it and dragged my finger over the glass. It didn’t feel like glass. It was slicker, almost like oil.

She took off her shoe. Flipped it over so that heel, a modest pump, became a hammer’s head.
She smashed it at the window. Angrily.

It didn’t break. Or crack. It just kind of flexed. I saw it shimmer like a jelloey ice. She offered me the shoe.
“It’s okay, I believe. Interesting selling point.”

Her smirk was addled and could only hang on her lips a half second.

My rationality immediately suggested, “Understandable when your wife and kid have been taken down by bullets.”

“I found the receipts. It’s called ‘bullet-resistant’ glass. Apparently truly bullet-proof glass is too thick or something to actually be useful.”

I nodded. Images of beached fish danced through my mind.

Fortunately, she went on. “I wanted to show you that… the door and the window. Plus I couldn’t pull this out in a café.” She was reaching into her purse. All I thought was ‘Oh shitters, she’s pulling a gun on me now.’ And my superhero reflexes kicked in.

Yep. I stood there like a spring sapling. A dumb old bovine chewing its cud, stupidly staring its slaughterer right in the eye. Told you I could never be a super-hero.

Wonderfully, it wasn’t a gun.

“I don’t know what the hell this is,” she said as she carefully unwrapped the plastic wrap from around it.
I knew what it was.

It was the mask.

Or rather it was a plasticine model that I’m sure he cast into the real thing. Cast out of some polycarbon-super-hero-substance-name.

I took these pictures of it later.

I was able to take them because she handed it over to me. That’s the real reason she had asked me out to coffee. She wanted to leave this murderous foundling on my doorstep. Like the death of her brother had left the thing on hers.

“Take it. I’m moving back out west. Maybe further. I want to stop thinking about it.” She pulled out a large manila envelope. How trite, how cliché… how fucking bladder draining. “He didn’t have much personal stuff. No letters, no diary…” I nodded and was thankful she wasn’t looking at my eyes when she said the word diary.

“Just these. Some receipts. I guess he burned the rest.” She looked towards the working fire-place, cleaned out of any ash. Nice, a selling point that might make people forget the bullet-resistant glass and the Fort Knoxian doors. ‘And did ya know, the former owner, my brother, was a mass-murderer who ran around in Kevlar spandex and a horned skeleton mask. Cool huh?’

She didn’t know that. And she was making sure she never would.

“Will you give me your number,” I asked, still nodding, like an apprentice carpenter being taught how he’s going to fuck up his first dove-tail joint. “Just in case?”

“No.” Flatly. Becoming serene with the knowledge that she was actually going to walk away from all this glamorous drama.

“Let’s walk around the place once, ‘kay?” Dreamily. Fugue state.

An empty house waiting for new occupants is bright and spacious and echoes horrifically. There are scuffs where the furniture set its feet. Doorknobs that were burnished by the same hands a million times. Moving out and leaving behind this old hulk that wombed you for thousands of hours. Hollowed out pumpkin-like. And left to… well, who cares? It’s not your problem anymore. They can piss in the working fireplace for all you care. Knock down the thickened supporting wall between the kitchen and living area, so that it caves in upon itself. A pumpkin on the side of the road on November 2nd. Rotting in upon itself. Curling and collapsing slowly in.

Conversationally, she mentioned that the police had found bags of blood hanging in the fridge. “Like proper transfusion bags.” They had matched the blood found in the car. Her brother’s. She was become more and more ethereal as the tour wound down to its demise.

As she locked us out of the house, she murmured, “Thanks.”

She was down the street, before I muttered, “Yeah. You’re welcome.”

Her purse swung lightly in her loose grip. A gay little dog dashing back and forth past her ankles.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Album 4: Wild & Crazy Guy

Many people come to me and the say hey Steve, what do you look for in a girl? And I tell them, I want a girl with no neck. That way, when she enters a room… every head turns. Except hers! She has no neck!
- Steve Martin, Wild and Crazy Guy, 1978

It’s over. There is no fucking afterlife. I quit.

My first day home after an all OHIP expenses paid 12 day vacation in the beautiful, recently refurbished St. Michael’s Hospital.
During my stay there, Dr. Weintraub told me that between the loss of blood and the unique way in which I managed to slash my own neck, caused my heart to stop four times. Once for as long as 3 and a half minutes. “Remarkably”, he quoth around a pen which he had mistook for a popsicle, “We don’t see any signs of brain damage.

I disagree, doc. I’m a fucking retard. Because I thought “Razor” was only a stupid machismoed nickname.

Let me go back 13 days, cue the wishy-washy flashback effect. Or is slamming, blasting light dipping to black more de rigueur?

Size does matter. I got back home and read all of Mercurio’s files in 48 hours. No sleep. I rocketed through them, cocaine up a movie star’s nose kind of speed. Every page, every mug shot, kept me tripping on to the next one. And in the end, the guy with the thickest case file had to be the guy who knew both sides the best. Knew what I had to know.

The centre of his deal was a nightclub. It had changed names several times over the past decade – Shangri La, West Enders, Serious (yeah, I’m serious), The Corporation, and most recently Righteousness. The guy who owned the place was also the owner of the throbbingly thick file. Most of his charges stemmed from, were committed at or around, or were linked to his possession of Righteousness.

I didn’t even get a chance to ask him.

I drank far too much Nigerian Dark at the Starbuck’s across on the other side of Righteousness watching various folks enter the two-storey, one-time warehouse. The aforementioned owner of the nickname “Razor” was sporadic in his appearances there. Every time I did see him though, I remember joking to myself that he had to pick a tough moniker like that because his real name was Dimitry Cokkov [Bloggist Note: to preserve the humor, the name has been changed, but the genitalia reference is still there.]

I learned differently the night I chose to go in. Night, because Mr. Cokkov’s daytime appearances may have been intermittent, but the eastern Bloc work ethic forced him there every night.

I bought shiniest, blackest clothing and shoes for the excursion. (Checked myself out in the mirror before I left; it was freakish. I remember that face. But it’s attached to the body of some troglodyte with veins on his biceps and a neck as thick as a truck tire.) I loaded up my giant duffle with my gear and layered in some old vinyl records on top. My cover song.

I parked the car around the corner. $20?! Because they knew some young, dumb, full-of-come night clubber from the ‘burbs would pay it.

I walked past the line of radiantly undressed youngsters who were all waiting to fuck, be fucked, or get hammered and live lives unfettered by hang-overs, aging and responsibility.

Straight to the seven foot tall 400 pound bouncer who was checking me out, because I was actually thicker than him.
The noise, sorry, "music" was oozing out of the cracks in the building. I shouted over the din, “The DJ forgot some of his shit!” Mr. Seven Footer cocked a neanderthallic eyebrow at me. I unzipped my duffle part way, enough to reveal a few discs. “His records! The fucking idiot forgot some of his records,” I acted (I hope) like I was pissed off at a prima donna, “Can you believe that shit?”

Apparently he could believe that shit, because he smirked and opened the door for me.

I think there were more woofers and tweeters in the place than there were people and there were a lot people. A tired looking shooter girl saved me a lot of looking. She asked if she could get me anything. “Dimitry!” I screamed. She couldn’t quite make out what I was saying. “Where’s RAY-ZOR?” I hefted the duffle again, this time with the zipper shut. “I got his shit!”

“Oh, he’s up in the office,” I lip read from her gigantic glossy pout. She pointed up through the smoke and mirrors and seizure-inducing light show.

It took three minutes for me and my duffle-shaped dance partner to squeeze through the grind stoned human beings and to get to the door marked “Employees Only”.

I ducked into a bathroom to do my Superman in a Phone Booth routine. I wound up in the handicapped stall (more room there) listening to a couple of “employees” in the next stall. Either they were fucking their brains out, or they really enjoyed watching each other use the toilet.

Even with parts of the outfit on underneath my civvies, it still takes about 12 minutes to suit up. The duffle and my clothes are disposable; no I.D. and as DNA empty as I can make them. (I’ll be caught eventually. In fact, it might be the only way to finish what I’d started.)

Athletes talk about a switch that goes on when they play. And those over-paid boobs are only selling themselves for money. My switch is the lowering of the helmet and mask. The infra-red goes on, the mini-hyperbolics start feeding my ears everything from mice farts on up. It’s not my heart that pops first. It feels deeper, somewhere underneath my kidneys. Lower than a vomit precursor, but it bubbles up the same way. Rippling up through my diaphragm, kick-starting the heart, playing soccer with my larynx. Shuddering into the deepest chords of the muscles of my limbs. Sudden dog-panting heat.

I can’t help but smash the stall door open. It popped off as easy as Cheerios in a kid’s mouth.

Two people saw me in the hall on the way to the door at the end. Even high on E or drunk, their hesitant smiles – I’m in a Halloween costume for fuck’s sake – drip off their faces. Maybe it’s the way I walk. Maybe they’re sad cuz the skeleton-faced man won’t do a happy jig. They flatten against the hall walls. My shoulders feel ten-miles wide.

The door was reinforced aluminum but the frame was wood. I planted a boot right next to the door knob. At a hundred miles an hour, cheap cedar exploded. The door cracked off the back of a black fellow’s ass and skull. I jammed a G-10 under his ear – I don’t remember unsheathing it – and pulling down hard. I felt his liquids soaked through my chromium knuckled gloves.

A ridiculously stubbled lackey on a leather couch actually got his six-shooter out. The G-10’s aren’t made for throwing, but he flinched as it whirled in his direction. His big brother must have picked on him when he was little. With my empty hand, I grabbed his gun hand; the ex-KGB guy who runs a place north of Scarborough spent three solid days teaching me that when you pull on somebody, their instinct is to pull back. So you use that. Give them what they want.

I gave him his own gun muzzle under his rib cage… Squeezed his hand and made him shoot himself, twice. One of the bullets must have ricocheted off a back rib; it blazed up behind his clavicle and punched him in the jaw. I heard his neck snap; a thick wet pop muffled in jello.

I finally got to set eyes on Dimitry “Razor” Cokkov. Him I need to be able to talk.

He’s a lanky squid. Long and pale. His big Russian forehead made even more bulbous because he’s got his greasy dark hair pulled back in a pony-tail. But his most distinctive fashion faux-pas are the thick, long leather bracelets, Conan the barbarian style. Thin, cheesy metal striping on each.

His body guards dead or bleeding out, Razor cuts for the door.
I dive into his knees. I think one of them momentarily bent the wrong way. He goes down like Crumplestiltskin and I’m sitting on his gut. Just like my Brazilian Jiu Jitsu instructor instructed. Ready for the ground and pound.

Or in my case, ready for the mask to dip down and begin the interrogation.

That’s when I learn why he’s called Razor.

It’s not that he’s a sharp dresser. Or excessively quick witted. It’s those Conan forearm bracers. Those thin strips of metal weren’t decoration.

They were actually razor blades mounted into the leather.

Me, idiot that I am, hovering over him, giving him a shot, or a slice, at my most vulnerable spot. My neck. He doesn’t punch. He’s been here before. He hammers his elbow into my throat and then pulls back.

My body is telling me something’s wrong, even before I feel the heat of blood being where it’s not supposed to.

Then I see it. The blood actually jetting, as far as a 16 year old’s ejaculate, in triple time. In time to my heart beat.

And even over the deafening heartbeat of the music below, I can hear it. My own juice hitting the wall, the floor, in such amounts… spattering like pregnant rain drops. A pre-tornado downpour hitting the moss-eaten roof of my grand-father’s farm.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Coffee With A Dead Superheroes Sister

All those little icebreakers that are barely comfortable in a normal conversation… the weather, what do you do for a living, I just saw… (insert name of recent, inoffensive mainstream blockbuster) and I really… (choose one: liked it, thought it was too long, couldn’t get over the price of the theatre tickets). Those clichéd bits of inroad…

With her, they felt like a balloon that’s managed to go unpopped for seven months. Wizened and discomfiting to be around. A homeless Tourette’s victim who picks the streetcar seat next to you.

This one time, it was less uncomfortable to cut to the chase. To actually talk about the dead body lying in the middle of the room.

“I did the star 69 to get your number.”

I nodded, and sipped the black coffee. Noisily because it was hot.

“And I know you said that you couldn’t remember seeing him. How long have you been in the neighbourhood?”

“Um, about 8, 9 years I guess.”

She nods, holding her cup close to her mouth, but not drinking. The steam tendrils around her nose, which is foundationed slightly. I feel flattered. And the flattery makes me feel guilty because I’m married. “Yeah, that was right around the time.”

“The time?”

A big inhale before she let’s the carpet-roll of story come out. A familiar pattern to her that makes a difficult thing easier to lay on someone’s floor. “His wife and his little girl. And him too actually. They were caught in a gunfight. The crossfire. They died. He just withdrew. From everyone, everything.”

I had to feign a reaction. I already knew all this. Hiding behind my own coffee, I knew more than she did.

“Here in Toronto?” I asked.

“Yeah, can you believe it? Maybe because of the other incident that happened that day, it just got pushed a few pages back in the papers.” Her eyes wandered out through the front window to Queen Street.

It was that feeling you get when you get a phone call or attend a meeting and the person who’s done the calling isn’t telling you why they called it. That eye-rolling irritation, with a timid flutter. 

I push into her. “That must have hit you hard.”

A smile crawled over her mid-thirties face. “I guess. I had gone to B.C. for school. He stayed here and kept his life going. Y’know, finished computers at school, started climbing the IT ladder. Married his high school sweetie, well sort of. The house. A kid.”

Her eyes’ focus bounced around me, blue bumble bees buffeted by an emotional summer wind. Prelude to thunderheads.

“Funerals without a body, they’re like birthdays without cake.” Rain coming as tears, form on her lower lids. “Except opposite of course. But they’re both unfinished.”

She sniffed back the crying snot that was threatening to honey down out of her nostrils. Her hair was a standard: Not Excruciatingly Blonde by Clairol with Rather Mousey Roots by Mother Nature. She looked up to the ceiling and shook her head. That big inhale again. This time matched by a settling exhale.

As her eyes came down, she put her palms on either side of her cup and saucer. When her eyes reached me… No, when she leveled them at me, she had decided to go through with the why.

“At the estate sale, I didn’t put everything up for sale.”

“Oh no?” My secret identity – if I could have possibly been a super-hero – would be befuddlement. I hoped it was more convincing than Clark Kent’s appearance-mogrifying nerd glasses.

“The place – their house – is sold, but the transfer isn’t till Monday. I still have the keys.” She reached to the back of her chair, the strap licorice-dangling, leading to a purse, with house keys, no doubt.

I nodded and started counting out change for the coffees. Maybe on the way there, she’d divulge the other why’s: why she hadn’t told the corpse-desperate cops what she was about to show me and why she picked me as a confidante.

I had my own why’s. Why me? Why was I agreeing to go? And was I, no why was I actually feeling horny?

Monday, June 27, 2011

Album 3: Let's Dance

Like weeds on a rock face waiting for the scythe,
Ricochet, ricochet.
The world is on a corner waiting for jobs,
Ricochet, ricochet.
Turn the holy pictures so they face the wall.
And who can bear to be forgotten?
And who can bear to be forgotten?

- David Bowie, Let’s Dance, 1983

People look better from far away and with clothes on.

From a distance everyone has the chance to look beautiful. But the closer you get, the more you see. My wife and child are on the other side of death’s fence and they are as gorgeous as cartoon characters. Outlined with ink and memory. Blemishes and bodily excretions blurred into bright technicolor slapsticks. Every argument and tantrum has long been exhumed, carved out of the mud and pus and filled in with Tiger Tail and spumoni ice creams. Happy dandelion fluffs suspended in a sky of misery.

This is what I think as I pull out a box-cutter and slash off Mercurio’s clothes. The hairs on his body were all black and coarse, kith and kin to their pubic cousins. The grey shadow of stubble punching through his cheeks and chin. Where he sits most often, on his fish belly white ass, errant red rosettes of pimples. His subcutaneous fat jiggling with the palsy of his blubbering and begging. From 20 feet away, with his clothes on, he probably picks up pretty regularly.

As I hack off his underwear, he begins blathering about the safe in his den and its combination.

He smiles because that stops me. Nodding like a retarded bobble-head. “Yeah, yeah. I’ll show you.”

I follow his mooning buttocks up the stairs. Forty years of shit eventually stain your crack no matter how well you wipe.

I have vague recall of shag rugs and overwrought oil paintings. The flash of a bedroom that even a pervert would call over-the-top. But his home office was Spartan and functional. Almost admirable.

Desk: all IKEA powder-coated aluminum and birch veneer. Probably called MUMBL or EFICENT or some other pig-English. Chair: the extra-ergonomic mesh weave that fools you into believing your ass isn’t slowly spreading into a shitting pancake. Shelves: lined stem to stern with the orange-beige volumes of Canadian law, and right up to date with the all the addenda. And then the real gold: 4 solid filing cabinets on wheels.

“Roll that one out,” , still hand-cuffed, he chin pecks at one of the cabinets. Keeping my eye on him, I pull the one forward. It moves as easily as a new-born Porsche.

“You can barely see it, but there’s a panel in the floor. Press down on any two corners.”

I do so. The panel whispers up an inch. I pull it out the rest of the way. Underneath, the eye of a combination lock stares up at me. The small safe nestles between floor beams. He gives me the combo. Very eagerly.

When I don’t start twisting the dial, he tries not to panic. When you’re naked, it’s harder to hide that you’re lying. On him, I noticed that his dick actually crawled further into his body.

He tempts me. “I got almost 50k in cash in there. Some coke. Plane tickets and hey, a few passports.” My hand goes to the filing cabinets. “There’s even a couple real special pornos. Imported from Cambodia. Stuff that goes all the way.” He tries to laugh, like you would with a buddy who’s looking at the waitress’ tits too.

The safe also might contain a silent alarm. I put in the wrong combination, and the cops, especially for this snotty neighbourhood, are here at the speed of light.

I turn the mask down at him. Time for it to speak.

I knock on the top of the filing cabinet. The mask says, “Who’s buried in here?”

With the audio-modulator that I wired into the mask, my voice hisses out of two 1-inch speakers in my helmet. I went for a cross between Dennis Hopper in Blue Velvet and Darth Vader in an underground garage. A resistor on one speaker causes a split second delay so it almost sounds like there are two voices. I smelled Mercurio start to lose control of his asshole.

I knock the cabinet again. Harder.

“Juh… juh… just clients. The good stuff is in the safe, man.”
I put one hand on the handle of the cabinet. The other on the corner. I start to pull.

He manages a laugh. “They’re locked. They won’t open.” I can’t hear him. The muscles, the anterior deltoids, the trapezius where it grabs my skull, behind the ear. They’re making too much noise as they bunch up. Like a bale of straw compacting, rustling against its own fibres.

As the lock on the cabinet pops, Mercurio’s breath escapes him. “Oh fu…”

For the next four hours, I’m going through files. Mercurio’s certainly got the lungs for lawyering. Despite his incessant nattering, I learn how to go for the liver of each client file. Find the charges. Any that mention racketeering, gang-related offenses, extortion, loan-sharking, high-level trafficking, ownership of buildings that have been implicated in prostitution or human trafficking, all that good shit. The stack is half as tall as me.

Four hours of office work. The adrenalin has long worn off. The crick in my neck hurts worse because of the weight of the mask and helmet.

I turn it on to Mercurio again. “Up,” hisses Darth Hopper. Merc moves, moaning about how he’s had to piss for the past two hours. I lift the 30 pounds of files and shoulder him back downstairs to his gigantic living area.

He watches me empty his gym bag and stuff the files in it. Maybe it was just the dawn sun starting to trickle in his tinted windows, but he looked like he was turning a bit green. His worried “What’re you gonna do with those?” gets shut up, when I force him to “Show me your kitchen.”

“Why?” He tries humour. “You getting hungry? Heh.”

“No,” I breathe, “This box cutter’s too sharp.”

In his granite countered, monolithically-applianced kitchen, I find a thick, short knife. He probably pares guavas with it.

“Whattya need with that?” My answer is to shove him back to the grand plains of his living room. I sit him in what I judge is the middle.

He flops down on his back. “God, I’m so fucking tired.” I yank him by his hair back into a sitting position. “What?” he groans, like he’s gotten used to all this.

“I need your balls on the floor, motherfucker.”

Now he’s awake all over again. A gibbering rubber-lipped lawyer.
“Spread your fucking legs.” He mouths off more. I put the tip of the paring knife half an inch up his left nostril. “Or I could just kill you instead.”

He slowly spreads his legs. The shudder and stutter over the hard wood. His cock has climbed nearly completely into his pelvis. A purple turtle head barely poking out of its shell. All that extra skin that he probably describes as 8 inches of heat-seeking moisture missile has to go somewhere; and so his scrotum sags all the way to the red oak flooring.

I need time to hop his fence and scramble through the ravine back to my car. But I want him alive so he can tell his shit-hole clients that somebody’s got all their files… their addresses.

I raise the knife. 

“Oh Jesus. Oh Jesus. Oh Jesus.” He chants. I ram the knife down between his legs, straight through his nut sack and 3 inches into the floor.

I managed not to hit a testicle. He can pull himself away from it. He’ll only have to slice through about an inch of scrotal skin.

When his 10 second scream peters out, I jam the mask in his face.
“Tell them. All of them. That I’m coming.”

As I leave, I notice he finally took that piss.