Friday, August 30, 2013

today's progress: MFers never learn

Aesop wasn’t so sure as he watched a city crew collected loot from public trash cans. AC/DC’s “Rock & Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution” blasted from the white and orange truck’s cab. The streets were otherwise empty and Aesop made good time on his bike through Grandview and Mount Pleasant, dark and tree-lined. 

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

tonight's progress: especially you

“They think you... come on, you’re shitting me. You? Do they know you?”
“They know that I know you. That’s probably enough for them to have an open file on me.”
“You think? You think I’m that...highly regarded?”

today's progress: I've been havin' those dreams again

Once he was gone, the job lost most of its fun for Aesop, leaving only the crushing weight of unending human misery and shitty wages.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Today's progress: the walk you take from A to B to C

They drifted apart after Aesop went into private practice. Al called him a capitalist and spit on his shoes. Aesop, for his part, just shrugged. “Call me sometime,” he said as Al stormed out. “We’ll get a coffee.”

Monday, August 26, 2013

Today's Progess: ready for alarm, ready to be tough

Aesop got home in time to catch the 1 a.m. rebroadcast of the late local news. Hockey highlights, tomorrow’s weather, ribbon cutting ceremony at a new yoga wear store, commercial break, banter amongst the anchors about what happened at some awards show.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Today's Progress: no blind spots in a leopard's eyes

Aesop opened the passenger-side backdoor of the cab and sat down, startling the cabbie who had the Georgia Straight spread open across the steering wheel and was nose-deep in the “Savage Love” column.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

everyone whispers, 'cause I talk too loud

If there was one thing Aesop liked about parties it was that they're easy to leave. You just wait for the host to get into conversation with someone else and you slip on out the door. It was easier to do in Vancouver than it had been in Regina. In the winter, anyway, when you had to put on boots and gloves and a parka, it was a little harder to slip away into the night when you'd had your fill of human interaction. It was easier to just not show up at all.
Aesop saw his chance when Luke's wife came out to the patio to present some friends of hers from out of town who'd just arrived.
"Sorry," Aesop interrupted the introductions, "it's been a while. The bathroom is..."
"Down the hall, second door on the right."
Aesop could have drawn a diagram of the apartment and knew exactly where he was going. Down the hall, first door on the left. From one hallway to another. An elevator. A glass door. Exhale. 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

the bottom fell out

Emergency crews were already at work by the time Aesop got out on the street. They got one look at his blood-crusted and swollen face and tattered clothes and they wrapped a blanket around him and tossed him in the back of an ambulance.
At least I think I know where we're going this time, he thought as he realized it was the second day in a row he'd been put in the back of cube van under wrong assumptions about his identity. Still, it was probably not the worst idea to get his face looked at. It would be a real comedy of errors if not for all the violence. He wondered if it would end, as all Shakespearean comedies do, with a wedding.
At St. Paul's Hospital his wounds were cleaned and some of them sutured and he was told to sit in the salmon-coloured waiting room to be interviewed by police.
Aesop discovered with some pleasure that the pocketbook edition of Maigret & the Bum he kept in his blazer had miraculously survived the kidnapping, the beatings, the explosions and the aftermath. It was as if the sports coat had given its life to protect it. How would he ever replace it? He looked up in despair just in time to see a smokey-eyed nurse smother an equal made-up patient with a pillow on some daytime soap on the waiting room TV.
"Bad timing," he said out loud.
"You say something about a timer?" asked a uniformed cop who stepped between Aesop and the ceiling-mounted TV, eclipsing Aesop's entire field of vision.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

INTERLUDE: Goodbye, Elmore (part one)

"You can't park here!"
Elmore King didn't look back. He'd pulled up in front of the fountain because he thought it would look cool. He hadn't even considered whether or not it was a legal parking spot. Did decorative water fountains count as fire hydrants? Maybe he'd get a ticket, maybe he'd get towed. It wasn't his car anyway, and even if it was, he was answering a higher calling at the moment than that of automobile ownership.
Elmore King was going to murder his brother.
He had some things he'd always wanted to before he took that final, irrevocable act. The first of which had been to drive his neighbour's 1974 Plymouth Roadrunner. A real classic. Don't make cars like that anymore. Damn shame.
Of course, if they did, it wouldn't have been nearly as much fun taking this one for a ride. Elmore had coveted his neighbour's muscle car for years. It sat under a tarp most of the year, a damn shame to let a car like that, a car that wants to be driven, a car made for the road, sit still like that. May-long, Elmore'd watch Brad Kostyk give it a proper wash and wax in the driveway, then take it for a cruise--who knows where. Kostyk never had it out past 9. Never drove it after dark.
"Elmore, what can I do for you?" Kostyk seemed genuinely surprised when he answered the door. Less so when Elmore smashed his fist against his stomach and dragged him to the kitchen, where the Roadrunner's keys hung on a pegboard.
The rumble of the V8 made Elmore feel like he was riding a lion. Like some gladiator from Bible days, riding a lion into the arena to punish the wicked.
He could still hear the beautiful roar of his magnificent beast from Detroit as he pushed through the doors into the front lobby of City Hall.

Monday, August 19, 2013

if we all go

That's when the windows blew in.
Everything went loud orange, then hissing black, then silent gray. Aesop was under his desk. Earthquake? Continental drift? Rapture?
The silence turned to a buzz and the gray dissipated, letting through staggered rays of sunlight like lasers through a fog machine at a Duran Duran concert. Aesop stuck his head up and saw Gil and Roz were already at the window where the the dust seemed the thinnest. He joined them.
"What the hell?" he tried to say, as his eyes followed the line from Gil's pointing finger to the burning mess of the ground floor of the medium-rise office building across the street.
He could see Roz's lips moving, repeating something,"...some fucks they blew up, some fucks they blew up...". Aesop closed his eyes and mentally reconstructed the view he'd seen out the window dozens of times before, as recently as five minutes ago. A courier outlet, a dry cleaner, the lobby of the office building, a fast food franchise..burritos? Thai?...and a chain coffee shop.
Aesop opened his eyes and looked at Roz again with concentration and finally heard: "...they blew up Starbucks! They b..."

Friday, August 16, 2013

I like it, I like it, I like it small

When he arrived back at his office, the Detective noticed the fire escape door through which he'd gone down to the alley was still propped open with a Yellow Pages from 2008 still in its original wrapper. Someday that'll be worth a fortune, he thought as he nodded to the Dance Instructor and the Outreach Worker, each staring at their computer screens with a mix of anticipation and disinterest, more or less the same position they'd been in when he'd last seen them more than 24 hours earlier. Only their clothes were different.
His were the same.
"Late night, Ace?" the Outreach Worker didn't even look up.
"Yeah, you look like shit, man," the Dance Instructor added.
"Is that smell coming from you?"
The Detective took off his sports coat. He held it up to the window to see the tears along the shoulder seams and the scuff marks on the arms. The corduroy was almost worn through.
"I liked that coat," he said as he slumped into the chair behind his desk, rousing his laptop from its sleep to show his LinkedIn profile still in edit-mode. "I don't know where to get corduroy in this town anymore."

Thursday, August 15, 2013

There I Go, There I Go Again

"So what do you think, Gaétan's going to come after you? He must be in his 80s by now. I wouldn't worry."
"He was old when he burned the farm down. I can't imagine he's held together by anything more than hate by now."
"I dunno. Prison has a way of taking the fight out of old men. Trust me on that. He's probably in a nursing home somewhere."
"That should make it easy for you then."
"Make what easy?"
"Finding him. You'll find track him down for me, won't you?"
"I don't know. My whole life changed the last time I got involved in your family feud. The last few days notwithstanding," the Detective gestured toward his face, "I kinda like my life now."
"But that's just it," the Actor said. "This is what you do now. This is who you are. I'm not asking you to stick your neck out or do anything unprofessional. This is your profession. Come on, man."
"It's unprofessional of me to even be talking to you, you know what I mean? I mean, you wanna hire me? Come to my office, I pay rent there for crying out loud."
"You want me to hire you? Really? We're friends... I thought... "
"What? What did you think?" 

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Don't they know I can't read lips?

The Detective felt blood both inside and outside of his mouth. His left eye was swelling towards shut. The man with the mean face had stopped asking questions, even rhetorical questions, but hadn't yet grown tired of playing with his fishing club.
The Detective thought back to his days in the dishpit at Diner Mike's. Line cooks and waitresses, seemingly half his age, looking at him with a mix of pity and confusion. "Cautionary tale," he'd heard one of the cooks say to another behind his back. The Detective absorbed it the same as he was absorbing the blows from the fishing club.
Mistaken identity, that's all. This isn't me. This is Hislop. This is some dishwasher. I'm back in the alley behind the office now, watching a couple of crows play tug-of-war with a Zip-Loc bag full of generic Froot Loops. 
The club finally broke against the Detective's jaw. Some external force lifted his head and through his one open eye he could see the man with the mean face's mouth moving. Whatever he was saying, it probably wasn't nice.
One crow stretched out its wings and started to fly away. The other crow wouldn't let go of the bag, so it ripped, and the sky filled with red, green, orange, yellow, and purple rings.
The Detective struggled to speak. He had to spit out a lot of blood before he could get any air past his lips. The man with the mean face, sensing his captive was about to make a full confession, leaned in.
"The real ones have blue loops, too, now" the Detective was able to whisper. "That's how you know the difference."

Monday, August 12, 2013

just behind the dawn

The Detective lost his job at the newspaper after the Gaétan Incident. Another few years and he would have lost his job to the slow death of industry, so he didn't hold a grudge. The Actor, who was by then finishing up a MFA in creative writing at UBC, convinced the Detective to come out west, write screenplays together. The Actor even helped the Detective find a job. Which was how, at the age of 29, the Detective found himself getting up 7 in the morning to ride the B-Line across town to wash dishes at a popular brunch spot on Main Street.
The Detective had dishwashed his way across the country a decade earlier, from Banff to Montreal. It had never been particularly inspiring work, but it was all the more demoralizing to end up back in the dishpit with 30 on the horizon. Demoralization, it turned out, was inspiring, and the Detective spent every pearl diving moment thinking of a way out. 

Saturday, August 10, 2013

stung by the city

The door rolled up, filling the back of the cube van with a gray light that stung the Detective's eyes despite its typical Vancouver haze. Two large men climbed in and mercifully blocked out the gray again as they got closer. They took the Detective by his arms and dragged him out onto gravel. He didn't have the strength to lift his head high enough to look around. His feet couldn't keep up so they dragged behind.
A door opened and gravel turned to worn industrial grade carpet. Jagged gray to fuzzy gray.
Fingers grabbed his hair from behind and pulled his head up until he saw a small man with a mean face in a gray sweatshirt under a leather vest. He recognized the smooth wood of a small fishing club in the man's hand a moment before it came up to crack him across the face.
"Who do you think you are, Hislop?"
Another crack from the club.
"I'm not--"
Another crack.
"What were you thinking?"
"I'm sorry."
"You're sorry?"
"Yes. I'm sorry. Please don't hit me anymore."
Though his eyes were still bleary from the gray daylight and teary from the beating, the Detective felt sure he saw the meanness in the small man's face drain away. Blank eyes stared back at him. Then the mean came back. Then the club came back. Then darkness again.

Friday, August 02, 2013

both for people who like to dance fast

Gaétan Desforges was an 80-year-old farmer from Saskatchewan who, 12 years ago, had burned down the Actor's family's farm east of Saskatoon. No one was hurt, except Gaétan, who suffered bites to his legs and arms from the RCMP dog who took him down after an eight-hour armed standoff.
The Actor's grandparents, who'd lived on the farm for decades until about 3 years before the incident, refused to say anything about the incident. Not to the police and not to the Actor. The Detective, who'd been in a different line of work back then, had used his media credentials to arrange a prison interview with Gaétan and sent the Actor in his place. The Detective had been a better friend in those days.