Wednesday, July 31, 2013

a permanent figure of jacked up sorrow

He woke as if from a restful sleep full of pleasant dreams. The Detective's awareness very slowly expanded beyond the inner machinations of his own mind. The first thing was the grape soda. His clothes stuck to him where they were saturated. There was another smell, sweet too, but industrial. He thought first of whether or not he had a pair of pants at home he could change into. Then he wondered if the sugary purple syrup would attract flies if he didn't get a change of clothes soon. Jesus, he thought, I'll be a real life Pigpen.
He began to notice his surroundings, the vibration of the moving truck, flares of daylight from the roll-down door, the throbbing behind his ear.
He realized he might soon be attracting flies for a much more permanent reason than spilled soda pop.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

far from what you need

"Wait, what? They let Gaétan out?"
"What'd you just get here or something? That's what I've been telling you about for the last five, ten minutes. Were you listening at all?"
"I'm sorry, I was...I don't get out here much...I was dazzled by the beauty I guess."
"Well, fuck, I don't know why you'd come all the way out here from Saskabush and then stop and give up twenty minutes before you hit the ocean."
"Well, come on, strictly speaking, that's not really the ocean. That's a strait, right?"
"This...," the Actor gestured with both hands, creating parenthetical marks in the air on either side of the Detective's body. "This is why no one talks to you anymore."
"What, my expectation of honesty? My preference for facts over mindless generalizations? Is this why no one talks to me anymore, or is this why I don't talk to anyone anymore?"
"Jesus, it's just a joke. Don't take everything so personally."
 The Detective leaned in to the light coming out from the other side of the patio door, drew his finger slowly along the sutures that held his left cheek together and said, "Do me a favour. Don't tell me what I should and shouldn't take personally, okay?"

Get Up, Go Out, Do It Again

The Detective shrugged, downed his rye and Coke, and looked out across English Bay. The Actor was talking to him, but he couldn't take his eyes off the freighters in the distance. Were they anchored? Or were they moving so slowly that they merely seemed anchored? The only way to know was to keep watching.
His guts still ached from the beating, and the stitches on his face didn't do anything to assuage his sense of being in a foreign city that spoke the same language. He hadn't been to the West End in exactly one year, the Actor's last birthday party, and before that it had been exactly one year again between visits. Each year, the Detective recognized fewer faces at the festivities. That's not entirely true. This year he recognized several faces from TV commercials. The brunette was in an ad for a bank that didn't have a branch in his neighbourhood and he'd seen the beefy guy load cinder blocks into heavy duty garbage bags during Barney Miller reruns on Sunday mornings.
Over the last few years, the Actor, too, had become more familiar as a face on TV--a goofy dad in a frozen chicken ad, a serious space commando on a military-themed sci-fi series--than as one of his oldest and most trusted friends. But the distance that had grown between them could not be entirely blamed on the Actor's increasing success. The Detective knew that this wasn't the first time he'd let his mind drift while "catching up" with his old friend.
"...that was a week ago. No one in my family knows where he's been since he left jail. What do you think?"

Monday, July 29, 2013

If you wanna get down and into it

The Detective took his grape soda over to the corner of the office where the abandoned phone still bleated from the floor. He bent his knees to pick up the receiver to avoid spilling his soda.
"Is this Hislop?"
The Detective shrugged and smiled at the Dance Instructor. "This is Hislop. Who, may I ask, is calling?"
"Delivery. Alley. Now."
The Detective scrunched his face. He had a deep mistrust of people who spoke in serialized single-word sentences. He was about to press the caller again to identify himself when the line went dead. He could feel the rumble of a heavy truck in the alley. He went to the window and saw a cube van with a painting of the Oregon Coast on its panel idling below. "I guess I'd better sort this out," he said to his officemates and slipped out into the hallway and then down the back stairwell, and out the heavy firedoor into the alley.
He felt the can leave his fingers and the grape soda hit his face before he realized he'd been punched in the gut. He could see the he sticky purple liquid seeping through his shirt as he buckled over and regretted eating five pepperoni sticks for lunch as another blow to his stomach brought them back up.
The Detective felt a hand on his collar and was in motion, independent of his own free will. He felt a greater power than his own lift his slack head up. His eyes finally focused on a man's face in front of him. He locked eyes with the face and saw panic and terror. Was he in front of a mirror? Had he gained fifty pounds since he'd shaved this morning?
"This the guy? This Hislop?" The voice from the phone.
Now he was sure he couldn't be looking at a mirror, as the face in front of him, a face he was now sure he'd never seen before in his life, spoke in a voice that was not the Detective's. "That's him, that's him!"
The Detective's head went slack again and he saw his can of off-brand grape soda roll by his inert feet before it all went dark.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

My hands are a city, my building's a thousand floors

The phone rang, and everyone looked at one another, suspiciously.
The phone had been sitting on the floor when the trio had taken possession of the office. In the three months since, no one had even thought to check if it was still connected. The previous tenant, according to the landlord, whom only the Outreach Worker had ever met or even seen, had been an import/export business who used the space the Dance Instructor now used for her studio as a warehouse.
"Is anyone going to answer that phone?" she asked without looking up from her screen.
The Outreach Worker put down a tennis racquet he was restringing, and said, "You should answer it, your name is on the awning."
"My name is on the awning, but your name is on the lease."
"I'll answer it," said the Detective. "My name isn't anywhere. I might not even exist. A man who doesn't exist is invulnerable."
The Dance Instructor and the Outreach Worker's eyes met before rolling off in opposite directions.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Trying to photocopy moonlight

Detective work wasn't much different than anything else he'd ever done. Pay attention, ask questions, write it up, don't take it personally. Three out of four of those he was even good at. He took a long pull on the grape soda, just held his head back and let it go down his throat without even tasting it. That fake grape taste brought up memories and if he couldn't even afford his own off-brand pop, he certainly wasn't in any position to pay the toll on memories.

The Detective sat back down on his desk. He put his half-empty soda down on a stack of well-thumbed Len Wein/Dave Gibbons issues of Green Lantern comics the Outreach Worker had bought at the Pigeon Park Street Market a few Sundays past. He logged off of his Words With Friends match against a minor memoirist he was a fan of, and got to work updating his LinkedIn profile.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Relax Baby Be Cool

The Detective swished the grape soda around in mouth, enjoying the carbonated tickle on his tongue, feeling the purple sucrose coat his teeth. The Dentist was another old friend he'd have to look up once he got a few cases under his belt. How long had it been?
The last time the Detective had been to see a Dentist was for a root canal. It had been painful and costly enough to keep him flossing for what, four, five years. He'd had a benefit plan then, even.
Now, he had an online diploma in Investigación Privada from a Mexican correspondence school and a business plan sketched out in the margins of a Ross Macdonald paperback: "I could do this. Maybe. Why not?"

Friday, July 19, 2013

I do my best, but I'm made of mistakes

"We should get a record player," the Detective said to his officemates on the third day in a row that his phone didn't ring. Not a telemarketer, not a wrong number, not an old friend who'd seen his ad on the Internet and wanted to find out for themselves if it was true. No calls.
"What do we need a record player for?" asked the Dance Teacher. "I can play anything you want to hear on my computer. Go ahead, pick a song."
"Yeah, but, I've got a computer, too," said the Detective. "That's not the point. I just think, I mean, god, it might be nice, if that's an idea you can understand, it might be nice to have a record player. We could put on records. We could buy some records, some really good ones, to have around the office to put on whenever we felt like it."
"Don't you have a record player at your place?" asked the Outreach Worker. 
"No. Do you have one at yours?"
"I do. Why don't you just get a record player at home? Why have one here?"
"I just thought it would be nice, that's all," said the Detective.
"You want to make this your Man-Cave," said the Dance Teacher, shaking her head. "This is where you come to hide from the world. You want to put in a record player today, tomorrow it's a pinball machine, next week there's a bikini calendar over there on the wall. I'll tell you now, as long as my name's on the lease, that nonsense won't happen here."
The Detective walked over to the white mini-fridge in the corner that the Outreach Worker kept stocked with off-brand cans of soda. Fresh Up, Captain Cola, Dr. Spritz. The Detective chose a Grape Zeal. The Outreach Worker often brought clients back to the office for paperwork or to kill time waiting to hear back from the Ministry. It was only polite to have something cold and sweet to offer them. The Outreach Worker's thriftiness was well-known and occasionally admired. He was no miser. To him, thriftiness was an extension of his generosity, of which the Detective was a constant beneficiary.
"Hey, I've got a Groupon for mussels at the Sandbar," he'd say over the phone. Or "Watermelon was 2-for-1, so I'm bringing one over, okay?"
The Detective made a mental note to pay for the grape soda after business picked up and went back to his desk.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Now you know my middle names are Wrong and Right

He lived with the moustache for a week. From Monday to Monday. "What'd you join the RCMP or something?" they asked him downtown. "Did you, didn't you have a beard?" they asked him around home.
He would forget he wore a ridiculous moustache during the course of his daily tasks only to be reminded by the cocked eyebrows of passers-by.
He'd gained about 30 pounds since the last time he'd been a regular shaver. Mostly in his neck. His beard started going white at age 17. He grew his first sideburns at 13. All his life, he'd used his facial hair to look older. Now he was older. He was old. There was no getting around the passage of time. Now he could use his facial hair to look younger. By getting rid of it.
"What are you, 35 or something?" he asked his freshly scraped face in the mirror, examining the white hairs on his temples, in his eyebrows, up his nose.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

He wanted to grow a moustache.

He wanted to grow a moustache because it seemed easier than writing his existential detective novel. And possibly quicker. He grew a moustache because he was an admirer of things that required little more than weeks of patience but could be undone in seconds. He grew a moustache because there were no good movies playing in San Francisco. In fact, he did not so much grow a moustache as he subtracted a beard. He grew a moustache because the bearded phase of his life had to come to an end and he wanted to pretend he could set the terms of change. For his face was a ship too long at the dock, so he believed, and whiskers were barnacles to be scraped away to make her seaworthy again. He recalled a time when his nautical metaphors were inspired by Melville, Dumas & Homer, and not by SpongeBob Squarepants.
He grew a moustache because he wanted to have something in common with his favourite detective novelists. He grew a moustache because he wanted to change how he was seen without changing who he was.
"Oh no," his wife said when she came home from work. "At least trim it."
So he trimmed the parts of his moustache that curled under his top lip and tickled his teeth whenever he spoke. He trimmed the parts of his moustache that distinguished the moustache from all the other moustaches he'd ever grown. He trimmed the parts of his moustache he'd grown in hopes of looking like Paco Ignacio Taibo II, but had to finally admit made him look more like a man who didn't know what he was doing when it came to his own face.