The Fixit Man

 

Up at the crack of dawn, down to the hotel pool, few quick laps, room service coffee and paper, baseball scores, one more day.

Check numbers… cops, cleaners, locker.

Breakfast at the place downstairs, waitress with a nice ass, poached eggs on brown, slice of some kind of melon, more coffee.

Shoe shine stall off the lobby, barber somewhere around.

Taxi, watch out for those pedestrians, poor bastards, feels nice around the ears, nice barber smell.

Chinatown, could’ve got the dope here just as easy. Better from a white man, even an ex biker. Neither would remember anything.

Here. This is the number. Asshole taxi driver didn’t like the tip. Fuck him if he can’t take a joke.

Chinese man, middle aged, used to gun em down in Nam. Not Chinese but close.

Door opening, no one around, too early for the public. Trucks leaving with crews and piles of clean laundry.

Chink wants more money for the coveralls now.

What the fuck? Theirs, not mine.

 

Brand new cleaner’s coveralls under the arm, car rental place, something utilitarian that won’t be noticed, something cheap and plain. Nothing memorable.

Rental agent, somebody’s daughter with big tits, perfect teeth. Credit card. Alias. Cheap little economy number, one with reclining seats.

Car rental girl, long legs, short skirt, know what would look good on you, baby?

Freeway Macdonald’s parking lot, more coffee. Map.

Silver Spur, ring road, freeway, industrial park. This is the way to go.

Morning radio sports talk. Pitching wins championships. More pitching is needed at home. It’s obvious.

Industrial park, business park, easier when they’re among a lot of other buildings.

Silver Spur. Just opening.

Dark, smell of vomit and urine and sex. Big pictures of strippers everywhere. Subdued rock music in the shadows.

Waitresses setting chairs at tables. The noontime rush’ll be crazy.

Owner in back office. Large, hairy, ex biker, accompanied by two heavies.

Wants more for the packet.

What the fuck? Theirs, not mine.

Ex biker, men, snigger at the suit and tie. In the old days a little blood and a few broken teeth. Shock. Reevaluation.

Factory next door, a few long blocks down.

Parking lot, back, coveralls on, the southern entrance.

Security guards with wands and tasers, cameras everywhere.

 

Wink from the man checking ID. Through.

Find a cart, push it around the giant floor. Hundreds of drones in blue smocks.

Jesus Christ, how long is this assembly line?

Chinese cleaners with the same coveralls nod, continue cleaning, talking to each other in Chinese.

Locker room, change room. Empty. Locker number fifteen.

Combination 43 -14 – 12.

Open the door, stick the packet under papers on the top shelf, beneath the photo, wife and kids. This can be a lesson for the kids.

Locker door locked, push the cart to an exit. Out.

Remove the cleaner’s coveralls at the car. Drive to the nearest bin.

A payphone.

“Narcotics. Detective Randall speaking”

“Detective Randall, I want to report drugs. Illegal drugs”

“Yes, and what’s your name sir?”

“That’s not important. I saw heroin. In a locker at work”

“Heroin. That’s a serious allegation, sir”

“You want the locker number?”

“Who does this locker belong to, sir?”

“James Thayer. Giant Computer. Boundary Road. The factory. Locker fifteen. Bye”

Hang up, park the car a little closer to the fence, to the entrance the cops’ll use. Recline the seat. Few hours of shut eye.

 

Sun found its way past the visor. Hot on the legs. Get out, stretch.

Back in the car in time for the show.

Grey ghost car. Parking out front. Two plainclothes cops waving badges at the security guards, hurrying into building.

Emerging with James Thayer cuffed, confused, mid thirties, still in his blue smock.

Pushed carefully into the car, whisked away.

Satisfaction.

Rent a car flying down the freeway to Chinatown. Dumped. Taxi back to the hotel.

“Hello. It’s done”

“Any trouble with security?”

“No. The man was smooth as silk. Cops grabbed Mr Thayer within two hours”

“Good. That should be the end of that union”

“You think so? In my experience, they’re pretty resilient. Another one’ll spring up in a few years”

“Not with a leader like Thayer, though. And we’ll be ready next time. Congressmen are working on it as we speak. They better be. Fuckin Commies. Anyway, I’ve got your number if I need you again”

“Yes. Just leave a message at that number”

“Well, thanks. The cheque is in the mail to that box number you gave me”

“Ok. See you”

Discard the suit and tie. Quick shower. Mini fridge. Ice cubes. TV. Sports update.

“Hello?”

 

“Hi babe, how are you?”

“Oh, its so good to hear from you. You wouldn’t believe what happened”

“Yes I would. Ryan’s dentist appointment?”

“How did you know, dear? He needs braces. It’s gonna be thousands”

“Jesus Christ, Emily.”

“I know, honey. But we can do it.”

“Fuck”

“I know, dear, but it’s his future. We don’t want him going through life with crooked teeth”

“What about Patsy?”

“Well, you know she had that recital last night”

“Hmm”

“She did fine. She’s so buzzed about it. She wants to be a professional violinist now”

“Yeah. Right. Till the next fad. Billy ok?”

“He wants you home for the weekend, dear. They’re in the playoffs. He’s pitching the first game on Saturday. You can’t miss that”

“Tell him I’ll be there. I’m finished here. I’ll be catching the first flight home tomorrow. There’s no need to pick me up. I’ll grab a cab. Just as cheap”

“So your consulting must have been successful, dear”

Swallow the cold, smooth rye.

“Mmhm…very successful”

“Ok dear, see you tomorrow. You’ve got a lot of messages on your line. See you then”

“Ok Bye”

Leave a Comment

Goa

 

We left Bombay on one of those trains you see on tv. Guys hanging off the sides, people sitting on the roof.

We were travelling third class, the cheapest form of rail transit in India.

Everyone in our class was packed into passenger cars with wooden bench seats which were quickly occupied by mothers with their children and a young Sikh military officer, off duty, to whom a crowd of young men passed a strong looking metal trunk through the open window.

He had been smart, boarded the train, ruthlessly knocking old women out of his way, without his luggage, secured a window seat.

The rest of us defended what little space there was near us and stood our ground through the swaying departure.

Joyce found a piece of floor near our backpacks where she could sit.

There was no point in talking. We were in for twenty straight hours, travelling third class from Bombay to Goa.

I stood leaning against a window, bending over to watch the endless slums roll by as we left the city.

A pair of Australian women began complaining as we entered the countryside. The difference stood out between the pampered Aussies and the stoic Indian mothers who sat on the floor for hours without uttering a bad tempered peep.

The whining grated on my nerves.

Chai wallahs appeared at the windows on the platforms of every stop along the way. You passed the money out, they passed the chai or sweets or Fantas, in.

The Aussies loved the distraction, but their greed showed. They bought more of everything than they needed, shared it only with each other.

They could not sit still and nothing was good enough.

We somehow slumbered a little that night.

I found myself standing at the window again as the morning appeared. Water buffalo looked up from wet paddies as the train sped by.

“Hello, how are you? Where you from? I am a salesman from Bombay”

I looked up to see a chubby, sweating Indian in a wrinkled suit and tie.

He was smiling at me.

When I told him I was from Canada, he laughed loudly. Leaning close, he waggled his forefinger in front of my nose.

“Never trust an Indian”

He winked, proceeded to outline the steps the Indian government had taken to obtain a nuclear reactor from Canada, all the while swearing it was for peaceful reasons, then produced a nuclear weapon from it. It was vague to me, I had heard of it, it had happened, but it was vague.

I didn’t think it as hilarious as my Indian friend did. I felt embarrassed when he called Indians untrustworthy and thought, to myself, that I had about as much to do with the government of Canada as he did with the government of India.

He talked with his hands, demonstrating telling signs of the naivete of Canadians and Westerners in general. He used comical facial expressions to emphasize slyness and brilliance.

We chatted till he got bored and moved on.

The vegetation grew lusher as we travelled toward the equator.

The Aussies had been reduced to tears, then exhaustion.

I was just glad they shut up.

Joyce imitated the longsuffering Indian women.

We didn’t find out till we were installed in a farm house, with a family, near the beach, that Goa was a European vacation spot.

Famous celebrities from the West, rock stars, film stars, those in the know in Europe, with the means to travel to India for a one or two week stay, populated the seaside town during the European winter.

I soon became addicted to the bean baji they made at the little restaurant in the main square where the buses stopped.

The square was a leisurely stroll down the beach and dirt road from the farm.

The Aussie couple who arrived in one of the local buses had “gone native”.

They introduced themselves to us in the restaurant. She was the chai wallah and he was the chapati wallah.

They explained that they had left home two years before and as far as they could tell, from the letters they kept receiving, their families were on the verge of hysteria.

They were supposed to like India and travelling, but enough was enough. They weren’t expected to like it this much. They wondered if a family member would come over from Australia to try to find them in the teeming masses of India and take them back.

At the moment, they were perfectly happy in India.

They dressed like Indians and spoke to Indians in their own language. They liked the pace of life, the people, the country, the craziness.

The guy pronounced “Boom shanka” in an experienced manner when someone shared a pipe of Manali hash.

Goa had been a Portuguese colony until the 60s so they didn’t approve of dope smoking. There were less beggars there than in the rest of India and the locals still retained some Christian traditions like church and drinking scotch.

Goan cops didn’t allow nude sunbathing. They took their time, walked slowly down the beach, looked carefully before telling German and Scandinavian girls to put their clothes back on.

The “Boom shanka” was part of a religion which included sharing pipes of hash.

We had seen, in the train station in Bombay, an Indian all dressed in red, red robe, red in his long hair, red paint on his face, sharing a pipe with a blond Westerner with thick dreadlocks down to his waist.

They went through the boom shanka chants and held the smoking pipe up in front of them, as if offering it, before they smoked.

The barefoot Indian looked fearsome, wild eyes, many necklaces of nuts and baubles, carrying a red trident. They said he was a worshipper of Kali, the goddess of destruction.

The family matriarch, the grandmother of the family, questioned us one day. She gave Joyce a pitiful glance when she found out that we had  no children.

I had to admit that no, neither my grandmother nor my mother owned her own sambas.

The grandmother was proud of her palm sambas.

We lived among them. They were large plots of land like farmers’ fields full of tall palms bordering the beach.

They produced enough wealth to keep the family independent.

Women bent double in adjacent rice sambas for twelve hours, two dollars per day.

Other women, those working for the grandmother, carried huge piles of palm branches to the walled in yard at the farmhouse. The branches were trimmed for firewood.

The women, barefoot, casually killed the large rats which scurried from beneath the branches where they had their nests..

They were in a concrete trap and every one was killed. Those that weren’t crushed by the ends of branches wielded by the laughing women, were slapped sharply on the ground by the tail.

When bullfrogs are hunted for frog’s legs, the same killing slap is used on the water.

We wandered over mud paths atop the dikes which bordered the sambas by the white beach of the Arabian Sea. The wind rattled the palms and bent each stalk of rice.

Spots of bright colour in the distance pinpointed  women’s blouses. Luminescent blue and green birds darted through the dappled sunlight.

For people used to traditional North American fare at Christmas, the shark steak dinner at the seaside restaurant was different.

The cruel realities of the sea were displayed along the beach where we walked every day.

Piles of sunfish lay rotting in the sun beside dead sea serpents, many poisonous.

One of the indelicate but necessary realities of travelling in Asia is checking your shit.

Yes, it’s unpleasant, but a tendency toward diarrhea, called “loose movement” by the grandmother, is a good indicator of illness.

Travelling with a woman was much better than travelling with another guy or alone. The advantages were innumerable.

Women related to women in the kitchen, food preparation was a common part of their lives. There were a lot of things which an Asian woman could never say to a Western man but which she could share with a Western woman.

Joyce was learning to bake something from the women of the house just as we were leaving.

It tasted good when we ate it for supper, but they left it out all night and I got the runs from eating more of it in the morning.

We had to be very careful about cooking utensils in Goa because, as the women demonstrated, anything left out in the kitchen is an object to be examined and crawled over by the same giant cockroaches which hung around the toilet.

The toilet was even scarier than the kitchen. When you crouched to defecate into the darkness below the little room beside the kitchen, the giant barnyard sow in the back yard could be heard grunting and trying to climb the concrete chute below you, to meet your turds halfway.

When I started squirting brown juice, I couldn’t stand the sounds emanating from the depths of the toilet. I visualized a fat septic tank with teats waiting for my diarrhea. I found a place in the bush where I squatted, wishing for the cool Himalayas.

The monsoon season was approaching, it was time to head north before the world was submerged.

Leave a Comment

Zero Toleration

I firs met Bubba an Stone one midnight when dey was gettin chased across de Interprovincial Bridge by Andre St. Pierre an is karate club. Dey flag me down an I elp em out, giv em a lif. I booted er to Ottawa, lef a buncha drunk black belts pantin an cursin at de moon.

What dey did in de tavern to piss off de karate club, I dunno, but I seen St. Pierre an is boys get some guys, after a few beer one night, an it weren’t no pretty sight. So I give em a lif an we ad a few beer in de Market. I never see em again till las mont when dey come in de club on Elgin Street where I work behine de bar.

“Frenchie!” Bubba roar an crush my an like a big, drunk bear. E’s even bigger now dan den. Stone, got a black eye but, as usual, e got a good lookin girl wit im an cement on is boots.

I don tink Bubba an Stone learnt much in school excep ow to drink an fight an play football.

Dey could play football cause dey were real tough an Bubba strong like a bull an mean when e put on de pads. Stone, e was jus mean alla time.

After dey cripple some guys in university ball an fail all deir courses, dey end up in de construction business. Stone learn ow to build ouses from is fadder, got is own company. Bubba started out as a labourer for de city. Now dey give im is own truck.

Dey’re bot pissed off at de wedder dis winter an, like mos people, dey’re about to crack aroun de end of Fevrier. Dey want to go to Florida an look up an ole football buddy. Dey invite me along dat night at de club. An I say yes.

Tabernac.

 

Stone, e bin through a couple marriages an lotsa udder women an got some kids scattered aroun. E says e can handle everyting excep women. Bubba got no kids an e’s fightin wit is girlfrien. De one Stone call “de douche” when Bubba can’t ear im.

I shoulda known better when Stone tole me to bring an extra suitcase. One of is wives got all deir luggage an Bubba’s girlfren got de cops to keep im away from de apartment.

My brudder, Guillaume, e’s smart, but e’s stupid. Smart wit money, stupid wit women. E always know ow to make a buck but insteada bein appy wit a nice little business in ull, e get tangle up wit a good lookin woman from Montreal. E moved down dere an got busted wit six keys o toot. I figured my brudder won’t be needin is suitcase for a while. I get it from my mudder’s an bring it along.

It was a Monday mornin, not too early. We bin on a tour of de otels upriver in de Pontiac since we lef ull some time Saturday mornin. So our stomachs not de bes when we jump in Bubba’s new Corvette an ead for de border. Wit me an de suitcase in de back seat.

Bubba, e’s big and tough, but e loves is Corvette. Is girlfren’s mad at im cause e spent money on de car e was spose to spen on er. He yell an take a slap at me an Stone if we spill somethin in de Corvette. Bubba can eat tree family size bags o chips, while e’s drivin, witout spillin a crumb. E takes a big paw fulla chips an stuff de whole ting in is mout while we ‘re bootin it outta town.

De boys are ungry when we get to Kemptville an we all need a beer so we stop at de otel dere to join de farmers an rednecks in de tavern. Dey make de good meatball sandwich in de otel in Kemptville. Pretty soon, Stone gets inna game a pool wid some rednecks. De waitress, Katie, she’s stoppin longer to talk to me at de table, every time she bring de beer.

 

It ain’t so bad bein small an French wit de long eyelash. Women love de long eyelash an get real mudderly when dey’re bigger dan you an tryna speak French. So dey usually come onto me firs. Sometime, it work, sometime, it don. Dis one came onto me firs. Definitely.

Me? I’m small, but I’m wiry. A lover, not a fighter.

I never tot trouble would start in Kemptville. I get up to go for a leak an ear bullfrog noises.

I look aroun to see Katie arguin wit some rednecks. By de time I see it’s me dey’re talkin about, a bottle’s comin my way an de fight’s on. A couple jump Bubba from behine, but dey’re flyin over de pool table in a urry. I kick one guy in de back, Stone breaks is cue on a guy’s ead an we make it to de door.

Bubba spins dat Corvette tru de gravel a few extra times to spray dose farmer trucks an we boot it for de border. We stop at a gas station to clean out de car, ave a piss, get ready for de USA.            When we pull up to de border crossin, Stone sees some guys over to one side watchin guards tear deir truck apart, an laughs. We answer all de questions from a young guy in a uniform an e says to wait a minute an goes to get an ole guy. Dis guy looks like a state trooper from Texas, almos big as Bubba, wit de gun an de badge an de sun glasses. E takes one look at Stone’s black eye, wants our i.d.

I tink we woulda bin o.k. if Bubba din take off is sun glasses to look in de glove compartment. Dunno why e’s wearin em anyway, it’s almos dark. I’m watchin de ole guard examine de i.d., but I see e’s really lookin over top of dem at Bubba’s eyes, in de side mirror.

I could see is eyes too. Dey were red, real red. In fac, dey look like dey avin internal emmorage. De ole guard put is big, fat ead in de window, smell a real deep breat an tell Bubba to pull over beside de guys Stone laughed at. Bubba takes one look at de guys’ truck gettin torn apart an de back of is neck gets red as is eyeballs.

 

We’re all pretty cool cause we know we’re clean. We go into de office wid de president’s picture on de wall beside all de wanted posters an answer more stupid questions. Bubba’s lookin out de window while some guards look unner de Corvette wit mirrors, open up de ood.

De ole guard keeps smellin real ard while dey ask us who we gonna visit in Florida an if we ever take drugs. He stops sniffin so ard when Stone rips a real loud beer fart. Finally, jus when I tink we’re finish, de young guard march into de office wit Guillaume’s suitcase an a look like e jus won de lottery. E pull de plastic on a little panel in dere I din even know about. De ole guard reach in wit is big, fat fingers an pull out a baggie wit is udder han on is gun. E looks at us wit a big, ugly grin an opens de baggie. Ten seeds fall out on de counter.

Couple udder guards, in de room behine us now, got deir hans on deir guns. Bubba turns red, Stone turns to me. Everybody looks at me. I try to give em a shrug like Trudeau, tell em it ain’t my suitcase. De guards smell blood now. Dey take me an Stone to one room, Bubba to an udder one. De young guard gives us some pamphlets an leaves us alone. Stone’s blamin me. I can ear Bubba roarin.

Stone looks at is pamphlet, looks at me.

“Uh oh”

Dese pamphlets about some new law dey made in de States, ‘Zero Toleration’

I agree wit Stone when e say,

“Uh oh”

Dis new law means dey can take Bubba’s new Corvette an keep er cause of ten ole pot seeds even my brudder forgot.

Collis.

 

I never knew my brudder could write. It never come up. I guess everybody can write deir name an address dese days. Dat’s what saved us.

Guillaume wrote is name on de tags an inside de suitcase. Dey ask more questions an finally fine out dat my brudder’s in jail in Montreal. Dey bring us all togedder in a room to tell us what we gotta do to get Bubba’s Corvette back.

Bubba’s real red an starin at us like e’s gonna explode so I stay behine Stone when we go in. I feel better when I see some guards wit deir hans on deir guns.

Dey probably woulda let Stone and Bubba go back to Ottawa cause it was my brudder’s suitcase, but Bubba explode right dere.

“You idiots” e yell an make a dive for us. E knock alf de guards down an roll aroun on de floor wit de fat one till one young guard it im on de ead wit a night stick. Stone jumps in an pretty soon dey’re cuffin dem an draggin dem away.

Me? I jus stan dere. A young guard notices me an point is gun at me.

“Resume dat position” e say.

Stone uses is phone call to get a ten tousand dollar bond on de spot. I gotta go, according to Bubba’s call, back to lawyers in Ottawa to get affidavits signed dat we don know nuttin about drugs.

Maybe it weren’t fair, in a way, but me, I was appy to catch de nex bus dat came tru de border to get away from Bubba till he cool down.

So de nex day is Tuesday. Instead o bein alfway to Florida, I’m gettin off de bus at de station in Ottawa an lookin for dis lawyer, Kenny Nelson, who use to play ball wit de boys. Turns out, is office is in a big, new building on Elgin Street wit igh speed elevators an lotsa plants.

 

My brudder, Guillaume, e don like lawyers an e always say be careful wit dem, but dis setup looks o.k. to me. Dere’s lotsa good lookin women, all dressed to kill. I talk wit a sweet, blonde receptionist till Kenny Nelson shows up. E takes me to is office an I tell im de story. E asks me some questions. E’s laughin so hard, e’s almost cryin. E phones some udder lawyers oo played ball wit de boys. Dey all laugh an finally e tells me to come back tomorrow morning, de papers will be ready.

Me? I’m tres fatigue by now an dis blonde got me tinkin bout some relaxation. I go for a breakfas special in de unnergroun fas food joints where Theresa works.

Theresa, she’s big, wit lotsa poing. She love de long eyelash an take real good care o me from time to time.

Theresa got a real good job in de government building on top o dese fas food joints. She comes down for a coffee wit me an gives me de key to er apartment. I got to know er about a year ago when she came into de club wit er government friens.

So I go up to er place after I pick up a few grams from de stash. I ave a sauna an a swim in er pool, get some relaxation till she comes home an we hit de sack. She cooks a nice Italian supper an I feel guilty when we’re sittin in fron de fireplace wit de wine an smoke an listenin to er jazz records. Guilty about de boys, I mean.

Me an Theresa ave a good time an she ‘s tryna talk me into movin in wit er like she always does. I don tink she really wants me to move in, it’s jus sorta a game we play. We bot know it would spoil all de fun.

In de mornin I see Kenny Nelson an e’s still laughin an phonin more guys oo played football wit de boys while I sign papers sayin I don know nuttin about seeds or dope. Finally, e gives me all de stuff we need an I get a bus back to de border.

 

We musta got lucky cause one a de young guards was a Corvette freak like Bubba an dey spen lotsa time talkin bout em.

Bubba’s mellowed out, but e’s still mad. E lets us in de Corvette when we get everyting straightened out. Pretty soon, we’re bootin er sout on 87, lookin for six packs.

De boys jus don feel right widout a cold, American beer between deir legs when dey’re drivin in de States.

De only words Bubba says to us, excep “Put on Van Halen”, was “You idiots!”

Every so often, while e drink is first six pack, he looks across at Stone an in the mirror at me an shakes is big ead.

After de firs couple o six packs, Bubba let Stone put on Dire Straits.

I don pay much attention anymore. Since I met de bands at de bar, seem to me de guitar players are jus as crazy as ousepainters.

Well, de trip goes pretty good after dat. By de time we get to de sout, we figure out dat we only got one day to stay in Florida if we’re gonna make it back to Ottawa on time.

“No way!” Bubba says.

“Red says toot’s thirty five a gram in Miami. We’re stayin for a vacation. We deserve it”

Red’s deir football buddy. E runs some kinda tourist resort where dey specialize in parties.

We ad a real good time, stayed for two weeks, till we ran outta money. Guillaume always says dat de only people dat party like Quebecers, is Americans. I believe im now. We end up alfway to Cuba wit dancin girls an gangsters an almos get shot outta de water by de coast guard, but dat’s anudder story.

 

My brudder, Guillaume, he’s comin into de club for a drink tonight. Is woman in Montreal got im a good lawyer an dey trew de whole ting outta court. E’s comin in to pick up is suitcase, too. Nex week, e’s goin on vacation.

Leave a Comment

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 62 other followers