lost ironies

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Tag: Vancouver

shame wheel

the shame wheel spins
only slowing round shift change, the fentanyl dawn
after doing the graveyard
handing out rigs at the door and listening to plights
having to be tough at times
down here where no one backs down
no, no bread tonight no sandwiches
yeah, I got socks no razors
yer right, I don’t know what it’s like
fuck me, another OD in the men’s room
as the neighbourhood tilts into daytime
throwing its own mercury switch
naloxone doesn’t always work it’s all about timing
sirens ambulance and fire the cops stay away
we’re good Samaritans after all
though none of us has heard of the Samaritan Pentateuch
it was Eric he had a bed in the sanctuary
did he have family?
the Mayor calls it a bloodbath
then has an organic lunch
the shame wheel spins

___________________________________________________________________________

 

 

 

 

 

haunted shelter

3am

Gustav Holst plays in the dim gymnasium
—the gentle decay of orbits

I pass through the gym with my eyes on the floor
for there are monster faces in the shadows
of this old and long haunted church

then comes the two-way Narcan(!) crackle
someone dials 911

the face of the man on the washroom floor is blue when I arrive
the first two naloxone injections haven’t worked, and I
see flap in the faces of my unflappable coworkers
we wait on the third dose then hear
the fabulous deep inhalation

it’s raining outside
a trivial detail
but it fascinates me
after the ambulance has gone
__________________________________________________________________________________________

 

 

 

 

 

graveyard shift at the homeless shelter

if I were a saint
I’d lay on hands &
change all the crack
meth
heroin, rigs & fentanyl
into the pure cold orbits of stars
for all of us to see out front
on the 3am street, looking up

magnificent
someone rejuvenated might say
like the word was sanctuary
beneath a childhood staircase

but the stars move too slow
to compensate for outrageous hurts &
saints should mind their own goddamn business
where were they when the first shit sample
hit the wall & a child mind found
that the real estate of refuge
had fences & gates
__________________________________________________________

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

photographing Spencer

It’s just me and Spencer, alone in an alley on the Downtown Eastside. He’s struggling with the Brillo in his crack pipe.

“Just hang on man,” he says—“I just scored. I’m really jonesing.”

He’s been sleeping on benches, shoplifting and begging. He’s filthy, a stunning ruin of a man. Finally he lights the tiny nugget in the glass tube and inhales. Then he shudders, exhales and says, “Ahhh fuck me.”

I’ve come to take his portrait so he can send it home, but now he’s wrecked. His eyes’ve gone reptile, and he’s confused by gravity. It’s not the picture his family will want to see.

“Damn you’re a mess, Spence,” I say, and he grins at me with his blistered crack-lips.

“Go ahead then. Take my fucking picture.”

And bam, I do. Sometimes I think the D-300 sounds like a gun going off. Bam bam bam…. Holding down the shutter release, circling him. It’s evening and the light is runny, the colours blunt. Every line on his face is accentuated, every deep hungry hollow, every childhood abuse stitched into his psyche.

“Last I got my picture taken, it was the cops,” he laughs. But his buzz is changing, even now. He lights up again, inhales/exhales and says, “I’m running out already. Lend me some cash.”

“I’ll buy you dinner at the Ovaltine, but I won’t lend you money.”

“Shit, I don’t want no dinner. I can get dinner at the mission.” Then he says, “Check this out…,” and attempts a pirouette. He falls on his ass, and I catch the fall in six shots, like the frames of a motion picture. I’m not cruel; I’m just a photographer. I offer him my hand. He ignores it.

Now sitting in the gutter sludge, Spencer says, “My old man fucked me, you know?”

“Yeah, Spence. You told me.”

“Like I was a bitch. Tore me open every time. Stopped when I was about fourteen. Guess I wasn’t pretty no more. Kept beating the crap outta me, though. The prick had a heart attack a couple of years back, died. Shit his pants when he did, my brother says. My mother’s fifty-five. Looks ninety.”

“Pictures are for her, huh?” I say.

“It was hard for her. ”

I’m silent for a moment. Crows are massing overhead for their night-flight back into the suburbs.

“I’ll work on the pics tonight,” I say, “colour and black & white. I’ll track you down tomorrow. We can use a computer at Carnegie to send them home. Try to make that shit in your pocket last.”

“I don’t know where I’ll be tomorrow.”

“I’ll look for you, anyway.”

“No,” he says, handing me a grubby note, “I mean I really don’t know.”

He’s already walking away as I read what’s written on the slip of paper—

Please send these words with the pictures: All my love too family and friends. Good-bye. This is followed by a short list of email addresses.

I shout at him, “What’s this mean, Spencer?” Then I run after him, grab his shoulder and turn him around. “What’s this mean?” And I know what it means just by what’s on his face. I let him go. I’m just a photographer.

________________________________________________________

everybody loves Mandy Patinkin – a Christmas story, sort of

It’s when you secretly slide it down into your lower frontal region that you realise why cheese is the most shoplifted grocery item in North America. It’s nutritious and a half pound of it is just the right size and shape to hide in your pants. In fact, I read somewhere that cheese theft was one of the primary reasons that most supermarket pharmacies opted out of methadone dispensing programs in the eighties and nineties. That means you have to be careful, because store security watches the cheese. Which is why I put it into the basket and walk around the store a bit before I sneak it into my jockey shorts.

That’s just something from the street, baby. I don’t care what you do with it. I mean, if you’re reading this, you’re probably all comfortable with a fridge full of cheese. And not that crappy orange shit they pass off as cheddar, either. You’ve probably got some Camembert, some Stilton or Parmigiano-Reggiano, maybe even some Crotin du Chavignol. Careful you don’t choke on it.

So anyway, you ever wake up with your head real messed up? Because you drank the night before, and it ain’t sitting well with the Olanzapine? Which is what you expected would happen but a friend had some cheap rye and you were feeling a bit lonely, so you helped him finish both bottles? Ever wake up like that? Probably not, because you can afford your own cheese. But it’s a bitch to wake up like that. I’ve had your conventional Betty Crocker hangovers and they aren’t anything by comparison. I mean it’s like you wake up and you’re suicidal and homicidal at the same time, but you don’t know what to do first. And isn’t it all about choices, man?

It was like that this morning and I wanted to sleep all day, but my landlady cut this six foot hole in my wall two weeks ago so the plumber could do exactly forty-five seconds worth of work and she hasn’t been back to fill it in. Now I can hear everything happening in the apartment above me. I mean I can hear the woman up there breathing. I can hear her light a cigarette and blow smoke. I can hear her thinking about what shade of lipstick to wear.

So there I am this morning lying in bed, eyes wide open at 9 a.m., listening to the woman in the apartment above me running her Swiffer back and forth over her linoleum like it’s some kind of aerobics—like it’s Swiffercise or something. And she’s listening to this lame-ass radio station playing Celine Dion and Michael Bublé.

So I get up, and I feel like shit. I mean you’ve got no idea. I can’t even puke my guts up and get it over with. Dry heaves are the best I can manage. Booze and court ordered atypical antipsychotics make for a whole different kind of hangover, baby. It’s like being in a food processor with the pulse setting cycling on/off on/off on/off on/off into infinity with Celine Dion and Michael Bublé sitting on your couch singing Don Ho tunes. At times like these, command hallucinations are redundant. I don’t need the dark shadow in the corner telling me to go downtown with a meat cleaver, but at least if it did it might ground me.

But I’m outta bed now. That’s my point. And I’m stumbling round like a fool. I even bounce off of the walls a couple of times. And I’m hungry. So I open the fridge and there’s the cheese. It’s orange and it glistens in its plastic wrap. It sits alone on a shelf in my otherwise empty refrigerator saying, I’m all you got, baby. Eat me. I reach in and gab it. Then there’s a knock at my door.

When I first met my neighbour Myron, I had one of those uh-huh moments. I remember looking at him and thinking, my god, the eugenicists were right! My thoughts rarely have exclamation marks but that one did. Over time, I’ve come to know his knock. It was him at the door. I closed my eyes with the cheese in my hand. What were the chances that if I stood perfectly still and didn’t make sound he’d go away? He knocked again.

Knock knock knock. “You in there, Nick? Got any weed? Nick? You home?” Rap rap rap. “Let’s smoke a joint, man. I’m feeling all strung out.”

Some of us are born with deficits. Others of us acquire them over time. Myron fits both categories. Once, in a drunken stoner of a conversation, Myron described an accident he’d been in. “It’s where I got my brain injury,” he said. He described to me how, as a kid, he’d nailed roller skates onto the bottom of the family toboggan, and rode it down the driveway. Into traffic.

“I remember seeing this big chrome bumper coming at me real fast,” he said. “It had an Alberta plate. It said Wild Rose Country just under the numbers. I was just a kid but I thought, wild roses must be real beautiful. Then, for a second, it got all bright, then real dark. It’s been kinda dark ever since.”

Knock knock knock. “Nick? I heard you bump into the wall, man. I know you’re in there.”

“Bugger off,” I yell.

“C’mon, Nick. I got the tinnitus real bad today. It’s making me crazy, man. C’mon. I know you got a bag of bud, man.”

I went to the door and opened it. “Why the hell don’t you tell the whole damn building?”

“What?”

“What do you mean what? You’re in the hall telling the world I got inventory. That’s fucked up.”

“That cheese?” He focussed on what I held in my hand.

“Shut up.”

Then looked up from the cheese, at me. “You look like shit, man.”

“Shut up.”

“Could I have some cheese?”

I grabbed Myron by the shoulder and pulled him in. “I thought you wanted to smoke a joint. You want cheese, too?”

“I like cheese,” he said.

“Fine. Sit down.”

I pulled a joint out of a small soapstone box above the electric fireplace and threw it at Myron. In the kitchen, I opened the cheese with a pair of scissors.

“You got a match?” Myron said.

I cut the brick of cheese into six chunks and threw one at him through the kitchen door. It bounced off of his nose and onto his lap. He looked down at it with his mouth open.

“You got a match?” he said again.

I grabbed a Bic off of the top of the refrigerator, and threw it at him. It bounced off of his forehead and fell next to the cheese.

“Let’s watch Mandy Patinkin videos on the YouTube,” he said.

“Mandy Patinkin? No way, man. ”

“C’mon, man. They cut off my internet.”

“Why you all hot for Mandy Patinkin all of a sudden?” I said. “You turning queer?”

“No. He’s just got a good singing voice.”

“Forget it, man. You’re in a Mandy Patinkin free zone.”

“Hey man, what’s wrong with you? Everybody loves Mandy Patinkin.”

“Fuck if I do,” I said chewing on cheese.

Then Myron said, “Check it out. I do a great Mandy Patinkin impersonation. Listen: Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”

“It’s getting real gay in here,” I said.

“He’s a talented and sensitive guy who’s overcome great adversity—I read that somewhere.”

“Isn’t that swell.”

“I think so,” Myron said lighting the joint.

Then I said, “Hey, you know I knew a guy once that looked like Mandy Patinkin. His name was Dick. Dick Freed. He was even more fucked up than you, Myron. He dealt crack downtown. Smoked as much as he sold. One day, after a harsher than average encounter with the cops, Dick says he’s had it. Fuck the cops, the crack, the other addicts, sleeping in the alley. He says he’s gonna disappear, leave the city. Go to the country and live in the woods, or some shit like that.”

“Sounds good to me,” Myron said. “Can I surf some porn?”

“No,” I said. “Hands off the computer. So anyway, I tell Dick he’s full of shit. I tell him that every skidder-junky I ever met downtown says the same thing. They ain’t even got bus fare but they’re going to live in the woods or with the goats on some imaginary farm. They’re gonna get all clean and healthy and shit and start eating their vegetables. And then I told him that it never happens. I never met anyone that made it out. Talk‘s cheap, and it’s boring. And then I told him another thing; I told him to be careful because, in my experience, it was always shortly after a junky starts talking that kind of shit that he overdoses or gets knifed or gets, in some other way, dead. When you lose your focus on the street, you die baby. That’s just the way of it.”

“You got crackers?” Myron said, taking a monster toke. “Cheese needs crackers,” he coughed.

“I got ‘em, but you can’t have any. So, I run into Dick Freed a few times after that. One time, he’s all bandaged up. He’d just gotten his arm sliced by some crazy bitch named Helga in the Savoy. Not with a knife, but a broken beer glass. The next time, I’m pissing out back of the Washington Hotel and there he is, bleeding bad leaning up against a dumpster. Beaten for outstanding debts. I made sure he was still breathing, and split. Called 911 from the hotel lobby.”

“Can we listen to Howard Stern, man?” said Myron.

“Shut the hell up, I’m telling a story. Next time I see Dick is the last time. Months go by. Dick Freed is nowhere downtown. I stop thinking about him. Some other dealer takes over his spot on Hastings Street. His name comes up a couple of times in conversation—Whatever happened to Dick Freed? You remember crazy Dicky Freed, looked just like Mandy Patinkin?—that kind of shit. But he’s real gone, and I figured dead.

“Then it’s December, just before Christmas, and I see him. Dick Freed, walking up Hastings towards Carnegie. And he’s dressed real nice. He’s standing straight and walking kind of proud, like a real citizen. I mean, he actually looks out of place against the locals. I step aside as he approaches, and watch him coming.  When he sees me, he says hey there, Nick, and holds out his hand. We shake. He tells me that I’m looking swell, which I know I’m not. And I say the same of him, which he actually is. He asks if he’s been missed and I say that he has, by some. And then he tells me what happened.

“Back when I told him to be careful, that the shit he was talking was an overture to his own demise, he took it to heart. After the beating out back of the Washington Hotel, he begged five bucks and bought a lottery ticket. He lost. But he did it again and the lucky bastard won. He won ten million seven hundred thousand and change.

“So, now he lives in a nice little house in the woods on the Sunshine Coast. He’s gone off of the drugs and booze and he’s eating his vegetables. He said he was in the neighbourhood looking up old acquaintances. It was Christmas, after all. That was when he stuck his hand into his pocket and pulled out a crispy new one hundred dollar bill and handed it to me. Ain’t much, he told me, but he hoped it would take the edge off.”

“Wow,” Myron said, in a cloud of smoke. “That’s kind of a cool story. What you told him helped him to move on, to overcome. That must have made you feel good inside.”

“Not really. I was jonesing, and I figured there must be more where that c-note came from. So, I pulled the kitchen knife I’d hoisted from the dollar store and robbed the bastard.”

“What?” said Myron.

“Yeah. Turns out, the dumb shit was carrying more than a thousand dollars. He was just asking for it, man.”

“You’re a real sick bastard, Nick.”

“I guess.”

“You got beer?” he said.

“Not for you.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

a Vancouver moment

“Oh Bjorn,” asked Winola, “what ever will become of us?” .

“Don’t worry, Doll Face,” Bjorn said. “This town has never seen a Finnish tap dancer like me. I’ll take this city by storm.”

“But, Bjorn…,” Winola said, with a hopeless whimper.

“What is it Sweet Cheeks?”

“People in Vancouver hate Finnish tap dancing.”

“Then I may have to rely on ventriloquism, Cupcake,” said Bjorn. “Come on over and sit on my knee and only move your lips when I speak, Kitten Whiskers.”

“What a wonderful idea,” Winola said. “The world will be our oyster.”

“That’s right, boo-boo-blossom!”

“But Bjorn?”

“Yeah, Sugar Britches?”

“Would you please just call me by my real name?”

“Certainly, Love Chicken, but what the hell is your real name?”

 

 

 

 

 

closing time at the Jiminy Cricket Cocktail Lounge

A hand and forearm flopped lazily out of the large, sloppily bundled package as it was lifted over the bumper and into the trunk. There were three men presiding. Fat Phil O’Malley stood lookout as a man in a tee shirt and jeans, wearing latex gloves, folded the forearm back at the elbow, tempted by the gold Rolex on the pale, dead blue-veined wrist. A cadaver Rolex. He shook his head and closed the hood.

“You sure this is his car, Phil?” said Jack, the third man.

“I checked the hotel register when the night guy went to the can.”

“All righty, then. It’s July. It’s hot. By dinnertime tomorrow, this bum’ll be attracting cops and flies. The cops will clean it all up real nice. And presto baby, we’re back at the track.”

“He was one lippy son of a bitch,” said tee shirt man.

“Not anymore,” fat Phil O’Malley said. He lit a cigarette, hacked and spit.

*   *   *   *   *

The Jiminy Cricket Cocktail Lounge was just off the highway near the airport, next to the YVR Astor Airport Inn.

It was the small hours, Wednesday morning, and a man by the name of Larry Glick sat at the bar looking at his reflection in the mirror behind the rows of bottles, listening to Antonio Martini do his last set at the electric piano. It was close to closing time and bartender big fat Phil O’Malley was pouring out last call.

“Closin’ time, fella,” O’Malley told Glick. “One more. What’ll it be, same?”

“Same,” Larry Glick said. “Better make it two.”

Big fat O’Malley cracked two beer and put them on the bar. Glick slid some cash back.

The Lounge was still mostly full. Glick imagined it was the usual swarm, but to him they all seemed the type of guys he’d see in a neighbourhood bar or tavern, not a near-airport lounge. These were tradesmen and labourers, judging by their boots, grubby jeans and tee shirts.

“Rough crowd,” Glick said to O’Malley.

“They work for a living,” the fat man said. “No shame in that.”

“Truth,” said Glick, and gulped back some beer.

“Where you from, mister?” said O’Malley to Larry Glick, loading glasses into the washing machine. “Guys like you are in and out as the flights come and go, not all night.”

“Chicago.”

“Ah, American.”

“No shame in that, either” Larry Glick said.

Phil O’Malley shrugged and continued loading the washer.

“I knew a Chicago fella once,” said a man, slurring his words, a few barstools down. “He packed heat, a .45. I told him Canada wasn’t the place for that, but he wouldn’t listen. Ended up killing a broad downtown because she wouldn’t return his affections. He’s doing federal time up the valley now. Last I heard, he was in isolation ‘cause he don’t get along with the rest of the population. I guess people from Chicago are just assholes.”

“Ease up, Jack,” Phil O’Malley said.

“I ain’t seen a gun in twenty years,” said Glick. “Not since the Marines. Not all Americans are the same.”

“Bunch of bastards….”

“C’mon, Jack,” said fat O’Malley. “Let’s end it nicely tonight.”

“I gotta clean up the mess when one of yous Yanks comes up here and goes postal,” Jack said.

“You a janitor?” said Glick.

“No,” Jack said. “RCMP. They call me Policeman Jack, as a way of lowering the tension round here. You can call me sir.”

Glick smiled and sipped his beer. Antonio Martini was singing Volare à la Dean Martin.

“There was this other American I had dealings with…,” said Policeman Jack, sipping his rye and Coke, “from Cincinnati. He was running hot handguns and meth into the country along a dirt road that cut over the border at an uncontrolled rail crossing. But I settled his hash. We shot it out on that very same road when no one else was around. I tapped him thrice, and I left him there for the coyotes.”

“That’s real nice,” said Larry Glick, reading labels on the bottles across from him.

“Please, Jack,” said Phil O’Malley. “We close in a half hour. Let’s not have no trouble. I don’t wanna be talking to your on-duty pals until 6:00 a.m.”

“Is that what you’re doing up here?” Policeman Jack said. “You up here, running guns and selling meth to schoolchildren?”

“I sell semiconductors.”

“Huh! My ex-wife’s brother sold semiconductors outta Silicone Valley. He was a coke-fiend. You a coke-fiend? You in possession? How about I frisk you and find out?”

“You’re shit-faced, Jack,” O’Malley said “And you got no cause.”

“He’s an American semiconductor salesman. That’s all the cause I need.”

“You’re drunk, Policeman Jack,” Larry Glick said. “You ain’t touching me. You think you got cause, call in some of your sober pals. You carrying your weapon right now, all blotto?”

“I carry it in my sleep.”

“Well that’s real interesting. But now, since you’ve been so forthcoming with stories of Americans you’ve known, I want to tell you about a Canadian I once knew.”

“Where you taking this?” said fat Phil O’Malley, under his breath.

“To its logical conclusion,” Larry Glick said, and then, “It happened a long time ago. This guy I knew, a Canadian, we’ll call him Skyler from Regina. He fell in love with a beautiful young woman in Milwaukee, but the woman, let’s call her Venus, didn’t wanna have nothing to do with him.  She thought he was a real tiresome prick. He sold pet food to grocery store chains for a living, drove a base model Honda and dressed out of the Sears Catalogue. She rejected him, so he secretly followed her round for months, studying her, finding out what she liked, where she went, what she ate and drank. A lot of people would have called it stalking. I guess he was a little obsessed with her. But he was weak, just couldn’t move on.

“So one evening, he’s following her in a rental car. It’s in Toronto, where she’s gone on a brief vacation—family, get it? Anyway, he tails her to this club in an old warehouse. It’s loud; there’s punks; an open bar; the reek of kink in the air. He decides to go in, and gives his car to the grungy valet. Once he’s in the club, he’s shocked at what he sees. There’s Milwaukee Venus in a black corset, holding a ping pong paddle in her hand, slapping the ass of this old guy tied to the wall. Venus, as it turns out, is a real spanker.

“Now, in a strange way, Skyler sees his in. He figures he can take a paddling from Venus if it means he can sweep her off her feet and move to the suburbs.

“So, he shoulders his way up to the bar and yells over the music at the bartender, ‘Hey, how does a guy get spanked in this joint?’ And the bartender says, ‘Take a number, chump.’ And the number thing is for real. There’s a ticket dispenser and the numbers light up on a little LED display on the wall. So, Skyler takes a number and orders a ginger ale. He’s number 27, and Venus is currently spanking number 10. He’s got a bit of a wait ahead of him before he gets paddled, so he starts to look around the place and notices that he’s one of the youngest guys in line. Which is saying something, because he’s 49. He’s in a huge room filled with young S&M punks and granddads and some broads with paddles and riding crops. It’s very weird, by his simpleton standards, and he starts to wonder if he shouldn’t just forget the whole thing. That’s when this oldster comes up to him and introduces himself.

“’Hey there, young fella,’ says the half-naked old guy, hollering because like I said it’s real loud. ‘I haven’t seen you round here before. You must be new to our little club.’

“’Yeah,’ says Skyler. ‘I just thought I’d drop in for a spanking.’

“’Well, my name’s Archie,’ says the old guy, and Skyler shakes the man’s well-manicured hand. ‘You like a good spanking, do you?’

“’A hard spanking’s good to find,’ Skyler declares, not knowing what else to say.

“’A decent spanking needs to be earned, though,’ says Grandpa Archie. ‘You figure you’ve earned a good spanking? Have you been wicked? Can you provide examples?’

“Skyler wonders why all the questions, but decides to play along.

“’I haven’t really thought about it much,’ he says.

“’Well,’ says Grandpa Archie, ‘I redirected 75 tons of UN Humanitarian Aid meant for Ethiopian refugees last month. Waddaya think of that?’ Well, Skyler’s quietly appalled. If this guy’s someone’s granddad, then he’s some kinda lousy granddad.

“Lousy Granddad Archie goes on: ‘I made $108,000 off that deal and I spent it all on coke, booze and sex. It’s not the first time, either. Meanwhile, I keep my wife in a cut-rate seniors’ home. She’s got dementia, see. She doesn’t even know my name, anymore. Isn’t that great? I haven’t visited her in eight months, and then it was only to hand over the divorce papers and have her sign over Power of Attorney. You see, I’ve really been a naughty boy.’

“Skyler ponders that. He recalls dropping eggs onto cars from a highway overpass when he was 10 years old, and wonders if that might count.

“Then Grandpa Archie points to the wall where an obese man’s in chains and he’s being spanked by a redhead in a purple ballet tutu. ’You see that porky bastard cuffed to the wall,’ Archie says. ‘The one in the blue and red striped boxers? That’s the CEO of the Bank of Canada. That son of a bitch embezzles, gropes women in public and is generally running the economy into the toilet. You got anything that compares to that?’

“’No,’ Skyler from Regina admits. ‘I guess I don’t.’

“’And yet,’ says Grandpa, ‘you figure you deserve a spanking? C’mon, give it some thought. There must be some seeds of wickedness inside of you. Ever cheat or steal or ignore an injustice? Do you have any admissions of failure? Any pleas for forgiveness? How about a simple desire for understanding?’

“’No,’ Skyler says. ’I sell pet food to grocery stores for a living. I donate 15% of my gross income to charities. I attend church, and I volunteer at a homeless shelter. I return my library books on time. I vote. I….’

“’Phaw!’ says Grandpa Archie. ‘Typical Canadian. But you see the men in this place? They aren’t your typical Canadians. This isn’t any place for a typical Canadian. You want to be in a Tim Horton’s choking on a cruller and a double-double. I don’t know why they let self-righteous little pricks like you into this place.’

“Skyler wondered, too. Though he couldn’t recall behaving self-righteous at any time that evening. He’d paid the cover to get into this debauched place where he was surrounded by depraved leather jacketed kids with Mohawks and old men. He even believed for a short time that he might participate in the debauchery. But he understood in that moment that he lacked the twisted and immoral edge necessary to have a woman like Milwaukee Venus spanking him with her ping pong paddle. Then he wondered, for a single mad moment, if he could be wicked retroactively – get his spanking tonight and then perhaps misdirect a truckload of kitty-chow tomorrow. But he knew he couldn’t. He gulped back his ginger ale and let his number 27 fall to the floor.”

“And then…?” said Policeman Jack.

The energy in the room had changed.

Fat Phil O’Malley stood still behind the bar, engrossed, having hung on every word of Larry Glick’s story. And he wasn’t alone. Everyone in the bar was captivated now, all of the rough-lookers in their jeans and tees. Even Antonio Martini had stopped singing like Dean Martin to catch every word. For his part, Policeman Jack had ditched his arrogance, and was waiting for the punchline.

Larry Glick had half a beer left and chugged it back. It was always like this whenever he told this story, in cocktail lounges across the continent. But this group seemed even more sucked in than the others.

“Well,” Glick said, “Regina Skyler decided then and there that he was only good at one thing, and that was being good (all stalking aside). He looked around him at the S&M nightclub clientele, hoping he would learn from the depravity of his experience. Then he looked over at Milwaukee Venus as she perspired, exerting herself in her black corset, slapping some anonymous senior executive on his ass for some perverted narrative of iniquity. He noticed then that there was a dim magenta spotlight casting an array of erotic shadows across the pale geography of Venus’s shimmering back and shoulders. It made him think he might weaken. But he didn’t. He put his empty glass on a table and walked out.”

Now you could’ve heard an ice cube drop in the Jiminy Cricket Cocktail Lounge.

“That’s it?” said Antonio Martini, who sounded more like Jerry Lewis now than Dean Martin.

“Of course not,” said Larry Glick. “Skyler went home to Regina and continued to sell pet food to grocery stores. A week later, he landed a $12 million deal with a nation-wide chain—who knew dog food was worth so much? He continued to donate 15% of his gross income to charities, and continued to volunteer at the homeless shelter. Once he thought he might live dangerously and return a library book late, but he just couldn’t pull it off. He did, however, stop clothes shopping out of the Sears catalogue and started ordering from Land’s End.

“Then about a year later, he met a woman named Edna at a church picnic. Three months after that, they eloped, impulsively like two nutty kids, in Las Vegas during a pet food convention.”

“And they lived happily ever after, right?” said O’Malley, with a warm chubby smile.

“For a while,” said Glick. “Skyler blew a wad on Edna. They stayed at a ritzy hotel; they ate at the best restaurants; he bought her a wardrobe of designer clothes. They even gambled, which wasn’t normally Skyler’s style. But good clean living paid off and he won 50 grand at blackjack. And that’s how it went until they got home.”

“Then what happened,” said one of the rough looking crowd, at a table near the exit.

“Then they went home, and Edna got news that her mother had died, which sort of rained on the new couple’s parade, but waddaya gonna do? But the news of her mother’s death woke Edna up to the realisation that no one and nothing lasts forever. So, she figured it was time for Skyler to meet her father, who hadn’t been at their wedding, since they eloped. He was some banking bigwig, and Skyler was real impressed with that. For him, that made meeting the old geezer a big event.

“They planned their little family shindig for a Sunday, after church. It was gonna be a barbecue, pork chops with extra fat and some nice thick steaks. Edna even made her favourite Jell-O mold salad, the one with the canned fruit cocktail. And who doesn’t like that recipe?

“Anyway, the big day arrives, and Edna goes out to the airport to pick up her father and is surprised at the Arrivals Gate to find that daddy’s gotten married also, to a woman much younger than him and, in Edna’s opinion, a little bit on the brassy side. But that’s how men are, she decides. And she quietly decides, right there as the suitcases roll by, to bless the union.

“On the way home, daddy’s bride seems amused by the blandness of Regina, which Edna finds mildly offensive. And she can’t help looking at the brassy young thing in the backseat through the rear view mirror. And right there, Edna rethinks her blessing and makes up her mind that there’s something really wrong with the whole situation.

“Back at the house, Skyler’s in backyard barbecue heaven, marinating meat, tossing salad and making an alcohol-free Sangria recipe he’d found in Healthy Pentecostal Magazine. He’s got a spatula in his hand, checking the coals in the pit, when he hears the Honda pull into the driveway. Skyler’s been waiting all week for this moment, and runs out front to greet his father-in-law. And when he does, when he runs up to the passenger side door to open it, he’s stunned to be met by a man he already knows, a well-kept man in his 60s wearing an expensive Hawaiian shirt and a Tilley hat. It’s Grandpa Archie from the Toronto S&M bar. And getting out of the backseat is Skyler’s old obsession, Milwaukee Venus.

“Skyler drops his spatula as Archie holds out his well-manicured hand to shake.

“’Well, well,’ Archie says. ‘Aren’t you the last person I expected to meet today?’

“Venus just smiles sheepishly and gives her suitcase to Edna, who’s picking up on some very weird energy, and wondering what it could mean. So, after a moment, Edna pipes up and says, ‘What’s going on here?’

“But no one speaks, until Archie timidly says to Skyler, ‘Waddaya think of the little woman?’ Which was really the wrong thing to say.

“’It was kind of all of a sudden,’ Venus giggles. ‘It was just a couple of weeks ago. He asked me to be with him at the piercing parlour when he got his Prince Albert. I was holding his hand during the procedure, and that was when he popped the question. It was just so damn romantic. What’s a girl supposed to do?’

“’And he’s stinking rich, too,’ says Skyler.

“’A girl’s gotta think ahead.’

“That’s when Skyler bends down and picks up his spatula,” Larry Glick said. “Then he walks into the house.”

Now the Jiminy Cricket Lounge was more than silent. Larry Glick threw a 10 spot onto the bar, telling big fat Phil O’Malley to keep it. Then he began to shimmy off of his bar stool.

“Well what happened then?” said O’Malley, scooping up the sawbuck.

“You ain’t going nowhere,” said Policeman Jack, putting his hand at his side where the room assumed he kept his service weapon. “Not until you finish the story.”

“No need for gunplay,” Glick said, belching politely into his hand. “Justice was done.”

“How?” hollered one of the rough-lookers by the exit. “You’re starting to piss us off. What the hell happened?”

“You may not like it.”

“Try us,” said Policeman Jack, his hand having disappeared now into his sports jacket.

“Okay,” said Larry Glick. “Archie and Venus just stand there, waiting for Edna to say something. But Edna’s mute. She’s never seen that quiet fatal look in her husband’s eyes, and couldn’t imagine why it was there in the first place. In about a minute, Skyler returns with a 30.06 hunting rifle, loaded with cartridges he’d proudly made himself in his basement, according to instructions out of Christian Survivalist Ammo Magazine. He’d used them more than once to take down deer in season. Now he puts the rifle’s butt to his shoulder and takes aim, moving the sights back and forth between Grandpa Archie and Milwaukee Venus. Who’s gonna go first? Everyone stands still, all wide-eyed, as Skyler chambers a bullet, and then settles his aim on Grandpa Archie.

“’Skyler don’t,’ Edna screams. ‘Whatever it is, we can work it out.’

“’No we can’t, Edna,’ Skyler says. ‘I never thought I could hate until this moment. And I never knew that it could feel this way. I’ve always denied myself hate. They said hate was wrong. It was sin. That a man would always regret it. Can you imagine how a man struggles to keep himself from hating in this world, Edna?  Of course you can’t. You’re just a damn woman. They said hate could kill a man. But it’s not like that, at all. I know it now. It’s deliverance, Edna. I wish I’d known sooner. Now I know why Hitler did what he did. I feel like I could fly. It’s ecstasy. It’s a drug, Edna. And I want more. And I know how to get it.’

“That’s when Skyler finally squinted and drew a bead. He had Lousy Grandpa Archie’s high forehead in his sights. ‘Say bye, bye, old man,’ Skyler said, and squeezed the trigger.

“Click!”

“What, click?” said Policeman Jack. “Failure to fire?”

“Failure to fire indeed,” said Larry Glick. “The warning in Christian Survivalist Ammo Magazine stated clearly that The Publisher takes no responsibility for ammunition’s failure to fire, or likewise misfire.

“You call that justice?” said O’Malley?

“In its own savage way,” said Glick. “Because now Milwaukee Venus sees her chance to defend her man, Archie, and yanks a snub-nose .32 S&W revolver outta her purse and fires six rounds into Regina Skyler, who drops like a rock onto his very own front lawn.”

“This is a very disappointing story,” said Policeman Jack.

“Maybe,” said Larry Glick. “But it makes one point very clear.”

“And what is that?” O’Malley said.

“Canadians can be just as hateful and prone to homicide as Americans,” said Glick. “But when it really counts, you’re too damn stupid to do anything about it. Even when you’re holding all of the cards, you’ll find a way to fuck it up.”

“That’s it?” said one of the rough-lookers near the exit.

“That’s it,” Larry Glick said, checking his gold Rolex. “And with that, I’m going back to my room to get some shuteye.”

“Maybe not,” said Policeman Jack.

 

 

 

an end to Paris part 1

For those who are not yet familiar with Trudy Parr,
check out the woman in the red raincoat
here

London July 30, 1945, 22:20

The clip of her quick pace down the unlit corridor could be heard from far away. The sound was the happy result of her hanging up her RAF uniform, and donning civilian clothes. Though she remained an RAF officer, Natalie Falls’ work with the Special Operations Executive meant that her practical military shoes were in her closet. It was now the heels of her stylish non-combatant pumps that announced her approach along the darkened halls.

In her hand was the usual attaché case, filled with the day’s communications and briefing notes. Outside, the sirens sounded, and spotlights scanned the sky. She stopped at the office of Vera Atkins, SOE – F Section, and knocked.

“Come,” came a voice from within. “Quickly, don’t let out the light.”

Blackout curtains allowed Vera Atkins to have a dimly lit office.

“The war’s nearly bloody over,” said Falls. “Patton’s mopping up. Why are we still having these damn drills?”

“It only seems over,” Atkins said, straightening her desk. “The Soviets still have an air force.”

“True, I suppose. And millions of starving peasants to throw at us.”

“Besides,” Atkins said, “sirens keep us on the home-front focused. Take a seat.”

“I brought this for you.” Falls placed the heavy attaché case on the floor, and sat.

“Speaking of the end,” said Atkins, “what will you be doing now, provided we truly do have peace.”

“Secret Intelligence Service, I imagine. They’ve asked me on.”

“Really? You don’t plan to marry some RAF hero, and move to a little cottage in Scotland, so you can watch each other become fat, toothless and alcoholic over the course of the next forty years?”

“Definitely not, and that’s very cynical of you. Besides, what good’s a hero without a war?”

“Yes,” said Atkins, “and I think, from reports, that you’re more impressed by the young ladies serving cocoa in the canteen. Does SIS know of your tastes?”

“If you do, they do.”

“I, for one, will be sorry when it’s over,” Atkins said, lifting the lid of a teapot and peeking in. “The war has been good to us—women I mean. Take you, for example; you’d just made Flight Lieutenant when you came to Orchard Court. Now look where you are. I wonder if I shouldn’t salute you.”

“That’s not what I’m here to discuss, Vera.”

“Most women doing war work now will be returning to children’s runny noses and scrubbing floors,” Atkins said, trying to envision a postwar England.

“Shall we change the subject?” said Falls.

“Of course.”

“It’s Soho and Dillinger,” Natalie Falls said. “Parr and Dench. There are plans to evacuate all of our agents from France, but not them. As their handler, I’d like to know why. And I’d like to know why no one bothered to discuss the matter with me.”

“We need them there, for a little while longer.”

“They deserve to be brought home,” Falls said.

“There are always little details to attend to when war ends, Natalie.”

“Will they be spying on France for us now? What if they’re caught? Spies are executed, even in peacetime.”

“Yes,” said Atkins, “that would be ironic, after their having survived until now.”

“Please take this seriously,” Falls said.

“The lives of spies are always in danger, Natalie.”

“Needlessly?”

“Truth be known, the two of their lives have always been in greater jeopardy than the rest, and their chances of survival have never been more than middling. Even before they came to us, they were just throwaways. It’s why they excel at what they do. They measure success differently than regular people, good people. They measure it by what and how much they can steal, and the amount of mayhem they can cause.”

“That’s how we measured their success, too.”

“But for them, it’s nearly a mania,” Atkins said. “Especially for Soho, that Trudy Parr woman. Face it my dear, there will be no place for them now that the war is ending. Can you see them living normally back in Canada, some little town called Vancouver? And they’ll be no good in intelligence services, either. They lack the necessary sophistication.”

“I disagree,” said Falls.

“Don’t let their accomplishments in Paris fool you. They’re not heroes. They’re merely thieves and murderers, verging on psychopathy.

“Once again,” Falls said, “you’ve described most of the spies in service of the Empire.”

“These two don’t deserve to be removed from the chaos they’ve helped to create and have thrived in for the last five years, just because you pity them. You could bring them home tomorrow, and they wouldn’t thank you for it. Especially Soho. Her profile,” here Atkins took a file out of her inbox and placed it on her desktop. “It suggests that, for her, murder passes for intimacy. Her psychological assessments says as much. She’s a psychotic, and too dangerous to evacuate. She was useful to us when we needed her, but we never imagined she’d survive ‘til now. We have a mission in mind that will delete her as a problem, but something more important first.”

“You’re wrong, Vera. Her performance has been stellar, Dillinger’s too. What they’ve done for the war effort has taken an enormous amount of discipline, acumen and courage. I understand that Trudy Parr’s condition may be deteriorating, but if it is, it’s due to the stress of her uniquely barbaric mission. She’s done it for England and the Allies, Vera. Please don’t forget that.”

“You’re a romantic.”

“What do you intend to do with them?”

“Continue to make them useful, for the time being.”

“And what is the important mission you’ll send her on, before you delete her?”

“A target.”

“Who?”

“A fellow named Frank Becker, code name Chicago.”

Falls was surprised. “He’s an American,” she said.

“Yes, but he’s in Paris, bargaining with Soviet spies. He somehow knows about something called the Manhattan Project. It’s believed that he’s obtained specifications for the so called Shadow Makers, through some sleight of hand.”

“What are Shadow Makers? I don’t know what those are.”

“You’re not supposed to know. You’ve only just been cleared. The yanks call them Fat Man and Little Boy. They’re a new kind of weapon. The equivalent 21 kilotons of TNT in a single bomb, dropped from on high. One will destroy an entire city, on its own, if they work.”

“What are they going to do with them? I don’t imagine they’re museum pieces.”

“Japan. They won’t quit, and no one has the stomach for another invasion by sea.”

“Why don’t the Americans take care of Becker themselves?”

“They may. That’s part of the stunt we’ve had assigned to us. There are two teams going in. Ours is already there. Theirs may be, too. Both of our countries have residue agents in Paris.”

“Residue?”

“Soho and Dillinger will be informed of the assignment in seven days, by BBC Radio code, the usual thing. Until then, they have other things to attend to.”

“I don’t like the term residue agent, Vera.”

“It’ll be a feather in the cap of whichever country gets him first. We need that feather in our cap, Natalie. And the Americans need to be humbled. All of this noise regarding George Patton and his 3rd Army is quite out of control.”

“How long have you known about Becker?”

“A while.”

“So, all of this comes down to you wanting to get him before the Americans, even if the war ends tomorrow. That’s really why you’re keeping Soho and Dillinger there. You know they’ll win that race. I don’t think you believe a single word of what you just said about them.”

Vera Atkins placed Trudy Parr’s file back into her inbox.

“Not every word of it,” she said, “but many of them. There are people above me, Natalie. They must be kept contented. The use of extra judicial killing is coming to an end, officially. And killing an American is definitely off of our compass, officially. This may be our last grand escapade of the war.”

“Won’t stopping a double agent from selling the Soviets plans to a weapon that powerful make the two of them worthy of retrieval?”

“Soho and Dillinger are formally considered irredeemable by SOE,” Atkins said. Then, with a broad smile, she lifted and peeked under the base of her desk lamp. “I see no reason to stray from that point of view.”

With a tug, she pulled a listening device out from beneath the lamp, and held it up by its broken wires for Natalie Falls to see. Then lifting the lid of the teapot, she dropped it in, where it made a wet plopping sound.

“Oh dear!” she said, looking into the teapot. “What have I done? Clumsy me!”

Falls looked astonished.

“Oh well,” Atkins said, shrugging, and reclining in her chair.

“They bug your office?” said Falls.

“Not anymore.” Atkins placed a hand on her teapot. “That was the last one, for now. And don’t be naïve.”

Now Falls was embarrassed.

“Let’s talk more freely,” Atkins said.

“I’m starting to lose track of what’s happening here,” said Falls.

“I regret having to be the one to tell you this in such an unambiguous way, Natalie, but you must understand that no matter how well they’ve performed in the field, and no matter how well they perform this last assignment, SOE will never knowingly allow Soho or Dillinger to return alive.”

“I know this sort of thing happens,” Falls said, “usually for very good reasons. But now that we’re talking more freely, why?”

“The answer remains the same. It’s been determined that their assimilation back into civilian life would be too difficult. Especially in light of what they’ve done for us, and Soho’s failing mental condition. They’re too clever, too difficult to contain. Soho is too unstable, and Dench too devoted to her. They are therefore considered at risk to divulge classified information, not intentionally, of course, but under many predictable and unpredictable forms of duress. They’re not alone. Some have already been dispatched for similar reasons, as operations wind down; identities erased, paper trails torched, names forgotten.”

“Why are you divulging this to me, in such detail?”

“I don’t know, Natalie,” Vera Atkins said. She picked up a pencil, and studied it. “Maybe it’s because I’m overworked, and in my state of fatigued, I just let it slip out. Bad luck, too, because as their handler, you might try to intervene on their behalf—mightn’t you?”

“I might,” Natalie Falls said, after an uncertain moment.

Atkins opened her desk drawer, and pulled something out.

Then she said, “You might even arrange for a Group 2 submarine called the HMS Ultra to arrive at a certain location, at a certain time, indicated in documents contained in a certain envelope. Once there, Ultra could, perhaps, pick them up and take them to a safe harbour, where they may be provided with false identities, passports and enough currency to get them back to Canada, or to wherever else they might like to go.”

Vera Atkins slid an envelope across her desktop.

“As a high level Intelligence Officer,” Atkins said, “you could arrange and authorise this sort of thing. No need for paperwork in light of the confusion that will shortly ensue. Naturally, you’ll properly dispose of the contents of this once you’re done. I know nothing, of course.”

“Of course,” said Falls, taking the envelope.

“And now,” said Vera Atkins, pulling open a side drawer, “I have a lovely tin of pâté and a box of these dreadful American Ritz Crackers. I may even be able to locate some tinned peaches. Shall we have a nosh?”

“Yes,” said Natalie Falls, “that would be very nice.”

Paris, same night, 02:55

“Keep your eyes open,” Crispin Dench whispered, as he fixed a silencer onto the muzzle of a .38 automatic.

He and Trudy Parr stood on the landing between the second and third floors, in the dimly lit stairway of a hotel on rue Hérold. They had agreed that that night’s kill would be Dench’s. The assigned target was SS-Obersturmbannführer Ritt Gerst, of the 33rd Waffen SS Grenadier Division. Gerst was normally accompanied by an armed aide, Obersturmführer Wolfric Hueber. This night, however, Gerst was visiting his mistress, alone.

Dench climbed the stairs silently, and turned down the hall to room 3E. There, he put his ear to the door and listened. There was soft talking, languages shifting from German to French and back again. Dench tried the door knob. Locked.

Meanwhile, Trudy Parr stood perfectly still on the landing, surrounded by faces staring out from dark corners, the too many ghosts of her victims that followed her everywhere. She held safe within her the memory of each of them, each private final breath, each last evidence of thought. She remembered each name, and how each life had ended, by the gun, blade, poison or other means. She loved them all, and wished to remain with them forever.

There came a sound from below. Someone beginning to climb the stairs. She backed away from the light, to stand amongst her departed.

In the hallway above, Dench stood at the apartment door and considered the possibilities, of which there were too few. Picking the lock was risky and would take too long, and though the desk clerk had provided the room number, he refused to offer a key. So, Dench stepped back and kicked the door in, the peace of 3:00 a.m. making it sound like thunder.

On the landing, Trudy Parr heard the footsteps cease momentarily as the door went crashing in, then begin again, rapidly now and in earnest. As the footfalls came closer, she stepped out of the shadow.

In 3E, Dench found Obersturmbannführer Gerst in bed with a girl no older than twelve years, his mistress. Gerst began to struggle, encumbered by bedsheets, for the nightstand where he had placed his Luger. As Dench waited, and watched, he thought of how tired he was of war, of his and his partner’s faultless precision in their orbit of chaos. And now, this privileged fool in his bed with a child, scrambling for the only thing that might save him.

Back on the landing, Gerst’s aide, the trim blond Obersturmführer Hueber, had come face to face with Trudy Parr. He held a bag of groceries and wine in one hand, and his sidearm in the other, but was startled to see this woman standing there, with her disturbing violet eyes and serene demeanor.

“Bonsoir, monsieur,” she gently said

The razor she drew from her garter made a curious metallic sound as it snapped opened. Then she swiftly slashed Hueber’s throat, severing the carotid artery. Out of habit, she was careful to step back in order to avoid the resulting spray of blood. It was a calmly executed series of graceful movements. Hueber dropped his Luger, and she kicked it away. His eyes were wide, and he held his hands to his throat, as though that might save his life. As he stood there dying, Trudy Parr reached out and softly stroked his cheek. She spoke in English this time, and tenderly said, “Bye-bye, baby.”

In 3E, Dench stood with Gerst in his sights as the man fought to pull his weapon from its holster. Dench believed that giving the SS officer a chance at defending himself was the least he could do. But clearly Gerst wasn’t used to working under pressure.

“Oh, c’mon,” Dench said, and waited a moment longer. The girl had by now fallen out of bed and lay flat, facedown, on the floor. “…fucking master race…,” Dench said, finally, and squeezed the trigger.

The first bullet struck Gerst in the head, spraying grey matter on the wall behind him. Then Dench strolled up and shot him in the heart.

“Get dressed,” he said to the girl, in his best street Parisian.

Taking a billfold from Gerst’s tunic, he pocketed the officer’s ID. Then he walked round the bed to the girl, and gave her the money it contained. Far more than she’d ever seen in one place before.

“Get out, as fast as you can,” he told her. “Exit through the kitchen.”

When he returned to the landing, Trudy Parr was crouching next to Hueber’s body. She looked at the dead young man with her strange, adoring eyes. Crispin Dench had seen this before, and had stopped worrying about it. Though Trudy’s methods had become bizarre, her work remained otherwise flawless.

“He died like a darling little soldier,” she said, his blood pooling as she ran her fingers through his hair.

”Swell,” Dench said. “Now, let’s get the hell outta here.”

 

 

 

 

the Smilin’ Buddha

I remember that if not for the neon
the fat bouncer’s face would have been
shades of Sydney Greenstreet
a massive star of boiling noir
with its punk planets wheeling
the street fights and the moons
the hookers in retrograde
and furiously smoking mahjong Chinatown

that was the scene the
1970s
before the city ran out
in midsentence

 

 

 

dollarama Jesus (’cause it’s Easter)

Willy Cox, who was small of stature and red of hair, was given just three minutes by the bouncers to find his dentures after Luther Sheeny knocked them out of his mouth with a wicked right hook.

When Willy discovered them in the farthest corner of the bar, he realised, after picking them up, that his upper plate had been broken clean in two. So, after telling Luther Sheeny, the bouncers and all of the patrons of the Dover Arms Pub to fuck off, he headed down to the Denman Street Dollarama to steal a tube of super glue. And it was there, in the insipid and colourless buzzing fluorescent light of a dollar store hardware aisle, that Willy Cox witnessed Jesus Christ Himself perusing the store’s selection of multi-headed screwdrivers.

Now, Willy Cox was not religious about taking his medication, and it may also be said that the medications prescribed for his disordered mind were not always adequate or free of injurious side effects. But whether medicated or not, Willy Cox always believed that he could see Jesus and that it was only Jesus’ refusal to materialise that explained why he never really had.

Further, the Jesus Willy Cox saw in the Denman Street Dollarama, it must be put forth, was the conventional white bread European-looking Jesus that one sees in American Christian tracts and framed on the walls of downtown soup-line missions. And to some, this may have been a suspicious sign; perhaps the Holy vision was a mere memory of a cookie-cutter Jesus seen somewhere else. He was blue eyed and had brownish blonde hair. He looked freshly bathed, and His robes and sandals were spotless.

Upon each of His hands, however, was a clean and distinct nail hole, and there was a radiant halo above His head. It was for these reasons, Willy Cox thought, that this was the one and only immaculate resurrected Christ.

Willy tried not stare. After all, the other Dollarama customers didn’t seem to notice their Saviour scoping out screwdrivers, so why should he? What was the big deal? But it was hard not to take a sneaky look. Was it appropriate to ask for an autograph, he wondered. Could he approach Jesus to simply discuss the weather? Was Jesus truly divinely informed? Would He know Willy Cox for the unworthy brain disordered, shoplifting, bar fighting boozer that he was?

Jesus now had two different brands of multi-headed screwdriver in his hands. As His eyes moved from one to the other, back and forth, He slowly shook his head. “Every damn thing’s made in China, nowadays,” Willy heard Him say.

Then Willy Cox made his decision. He stuffed a tube of super glue down the front of his pants, and walked over to offer Jesus Christ what assistance he could in choosing a screwdriver.

“Hello, Your Lordship,” Willy said. Then— “That’s correct, isn’t it? Calling you Your Lordship?”

“Oh hello, Willy,” Jesus said. “Say, do you know much about screwdrivers?”

“You do know my name.”

“Of course, I’m the resurrected Son of God. I’m omniscient. And you’re Willy Cox, son of Tom and Agnes. You’re an unworthy brain disordered, shoplifting, bar fighting boozer. You frequently take my name in vain. You’ve paid for sex three different times this month, and you left the fish and chip place down the street last night without paying for your meal. But back to the screwdrivers, which one do you think?”

“Well,” said Willy Cox, a little ashamed, “pardon me for asking. But if you’re omniscient, why are you unaware of which is the better screwdriver? Wouldn’t being omniscient suggest that you have always known the ultimate truth of these two screwdrivers, and of all screwdrivers that have ever existed and ever will exist in the future?”

“Okay,” Jesus said, mildly annoyed. “So, maybe omniscience isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.”

“All righty then,” said Willy Cox, sounding a little surprised. “What do you need to know?”

“Well, what brand do you recommend? They’re both made in China for goodness sake. Can anything good come out of China? In the way of screwdrivers, I mean.”

“I can’t recommend either of them, Sir.” Willy Cox was still unclear on the correct way to address the Blessed One.

“So,” Jesus said, “where does a deity get a decent screwdriver in this town? And call me Jeez, everybody else does.”

“I don’t know if you can get a decent screwdriver in this town, but you could try a hardware store. There’s one on Bidwell Street.”

“That may get a bit too pricy. Prices here at the Dollarama are more in line with my current economic circumstance, resulting from my general adoration of poverty. A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.”

“I guess,” said Willy Cox. Then he said, “May I ask you another question, ah, Jeez.”

“Fire away,” Jesus said.

“What does the omniscient, and presumably omnipotent, Son of God need with a screwdriver?”

“It pays to be prepared, Willy.”

“Yes, but can’t you just will a screw to penetrate a surface? Won’t a screw be immediately present wherever you deem it necessary?”

“I tell you this,” said Jesus. “Do not use your stolen super glue to bring together what has been torn asunder. For I say unto you, your upper plate will mend cock-eyed and leave you with visibly uneven dentition.”

“You’re avoiding the question. What do you need a screwdriver for?”

“When a flood came,” said Jesus, “the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built.”

“Huh?”

“There are atoms dancing in the Dollarama,” Jesus said, holding his arms out wide, a screwdriver in each hand. “Here beneath the fluorescence, from on high. Do you hear their angel song?”

“I just hear Debbie Harry singing Rapture over the Muzak.”

“Ah, the Rapture,” said Jesus. “The tribulation and persecution that will come before the ultimate triumph of the Kingdom of God.”

“Nah, it’s just a Blondie song about Mercuries and Subarus, and getting eaten by Martians.”

“Is not.”

“Yes, it bloody well is,” said Willy Cox. “Listen.”

“Stand and witness in yourself, Willy Cox, the direct and transformative presence of God here in this place, among the budget-priced hammers, wrenches and duct tape. Prepare yourself to be brought forth from the multitude of man and be seated at the right hand of God.”

“You sure you’re Jesus,” said Willy Cox. “You sound a bit unhinged.”

“I am the light of the world,” Jesus said.

“Really? In the Denman Street Dollarama? Looking for a cheap screwdriver?”

“Look unto Me, and be saved.”

Suddenly interested in seeing how Jesus Christ would pay for His purchase, Willy Cox pointed to the screwdriver in the right hand of the Lord Saviour.

“That one,” he said. “It’s a pleasing shade of yellow.”

“I agree that it is,” said Jesus, after a moment’s consideration.

He replaced the other screwdriver, and walked to the checkout where He stood patiently in line while the customers ahead of Him paid for their budget priced cupboard liners, greeting cards and office supplies.

When Jesus made it to the cash register, and was asked how he’d like to pay, He leaned over the counter and whispered something into the cashier’s ear. Hearing His whisper, the cashier smiled in elation, and held her hand to her breast. Jesus smiled back and said, “Bless you, Doris,” and left the store.

Willy Cox ran to the head of the line, butted in and asked the cashier,

“What did that man in the robes just whisper in your ear?”

“He told me not to worry,” the cashier said.

“That’s it?” said Willy Cox.

“I guess it was more how He said it,” said the cashier. “Oh, and He also said that you have a tube of super glue stuffed down your pants, that you didn’t intend to pay for, but that He’d take care of it.”

“But He didn’t give you any money.”

“No, He never does.”