02 June 2013

MAGICAL MOMENTS

 
A woman is at my door. She is not happy.

"Return it now or I will rip your balls out with a flush cutter and use them as gel pads in my Mizuno Wave Riders," she says.

"Hi. I’m Alan and you would be…"

"My name is the burning sensation you'll feel when I shove my fist up your ass and practice my carpal tunnel exercises in your lower colon."

"I’ll call you Jenny," I say.

"Give back that magical moment you stole from Jeffrey," she says. 

Jeffrey steps out from behind his girlfriend, waves. I nod. I met Jeffrey two hours ago outside a Starbucks. He was begging like a homeless person...begging for people to take some of his life's magical moments. Thought I'd do him a favour. Looked like he could use one. Then take those moments and give them to a worthy cause. What charitable organization couldn't use a man's magical moments? Unless the man were, say, Hitler.

"You mean bought," I say.

"For a subway token. Barry Bond's scrotum of a subway token. That magical moment was our 2nd anniversary dinner. Twelve courses of gastrorgasmic rapture at WD-50 in New York. A bottle of ‘Millsesime Grand Cru’ Brut Pierre Paillard 2002. On a winter night that was like out of an Andreas Feininger photo."

"No need to go all Travis Bickle on me. You can have it back. And you can keep the token. You can also have the other magical moments Jeffrey unloaded on me," I say.

"Other moments?" 

"Yes, here..." 

“…antiquing on a warm July Saturday in Prince Edward County…you sold that moment?” She stares at Jeffrey.

“I like antiques. But I’m not crazy about them like you,” Jeffrey says

“…the first time we kissed?”

"It was great except...you bit my lip."

“…the early autumn night on the dock of my brother’s country home on Lake Rosseau where we stared up at the stars and talked of our future together. You sold him that moment? That moment!”

“…you pushed me in the lake after, don’t you remember? I couldn’t swim. I nearly died. Your brother had to pull me out and give me mouth-to-mouth. At least he didn’t bite my lip.”

'Jenny' isn't moving. This can't be good. I fear she will pull out a shank and this will turn into a scene from OZ.

"Jeffrey?" Her voice goes soft.

Jeffrey scratches the back of his neck, eyeballs the floor. She raises his chin until they are at eye level. He gently pushes her fingers away. She doesn’t resist.

"Those moments. Those were-. Those were your moments more than my moments," he says.

"They’re both of ours."

"No. You-. You step on my moments. I want magical moments…that are my moments. Mine." He sounds like the Elephant Man when he declares he's not an elephant but a human being. 

She continues looking into Jeffrey’s eyes like she's looking for a lost button.

"Okay," she says. Her hands slide up and down Jeffrey's arms. “A magical moment that's all yours.”

He nods. 

Her hands travel down his arms. She leans in and whispers in his ear. I can’t make it out. For the first time he smiles. She lowers to her knees. Now, I’m no Dan Savage but I know when a guy is about to get...“Nice meeting you,” I say, close the door, rush to the radio and turn it up. 

Then it occurs to me...my ‘Welcome’ mat is in the line of fire. I hunt around for matches, lighter fluid and my winter gloves. Goretex. My search is interrupted by loud knocks. Please be Jehovah’s Witnesses? I open the door to reveal a grinning ‘Jenny’ and Jeffrey. 
  
“We're wondering if you can do us a favour...” Jeffrey says. The two giggle.

“We don’t have enough for a taxi. But we do have a magical moment you might be interested in,” she says. They giggle again. That was one giggle too many.

I quickly shut the door and reach for the Goretex gloves.

14 April 2013

FOLLOWING

I am being followed.

Which is not the same as I have a following. If it were, the words would match.

They don't.

I am being followed.

By a cat.

A tabby. A mackerel tabby.

It boarded the same downtown subway car as me and exited at the same station seven stops later, followed me up the stairs, outside. Could be a coincidence. But it seems too coincidental to be a coincidence.

Why is a cat following me? For questions like these I call my neighbour Lora (see My Neighbour Lora). She's a poet. She traffics in the unknowable.

"Hey Lora, why am I being followed by a cat?" I ask.

She pauses. A long pause. A pause that feels like the pause had paused to consider the pause. I eyeball the cat six feet away. It's rubbing up against an elderly man's leg. The elderly man smiles, pets the cat. Don't be fooled elderly man. That cat isn't the cat it wants you to believe it is.

"Lora? Still there?"

"Alan, you're not the one being followed. The cat is. So stop following him." Lora says and hangs up.

Whoaa. What?

I'm following the cat? This was a formulation I had not considered. I sat down beside the elderly man on the bench. Watched the cat roll on its back.

"Just because you're losing, doesn't mean you're lost," the elderly man says. To me. Not to me. I don't know. He wasn't looking at me when he said it. He takes out a linen handkerchief and blows his nose.

"Did you just quote a Coldplay song?" I say.

"I heard it at the hospital. I'm getting chemo for my brain. Tumour size of a grapefruit up there. The five for two dollar grapefruit. He's right. The singer. Just because I'm losing doesn't mean I'm lost."

"Right," I say.

How can Lora say I was following the cat? I was in front of the cat. The cat was behind me. If I were following the cat, I'd be following what's behind me.

"Hey, who did you see first come out of the subway? The cat or me? I think that cat's following me. My friend Lora thinks I've been following the cat," I say to the elderly man.

"Your friend is wrong. You haven't been following the cat..."

"Phew. Good to know."

"...you've been following me. Just like the cat," he says.

Whoaa. What?

"Why would I follow someone who quotes Coldplay lyrics?"

"Why does anybody do anything?" The elderly man says.

"What kind of answer is that?" I say.

"What kind of question is that?" He says.

The cat licks its paw, stops, looks up at me, looks over at the elderly man, pauses, goes back to licking its paw.

I feel like I'm in a Harold Pinter play.

I should leave before the elderly man so he doesn't think I'm following him. Too late. The elderly man gets up from the bench and walks away. Seconds later, the cat follows.

They must expect I'll do the same. Not a chance. I'm staying right here. He's wrong. Lora's wrong. I'm not the one doing the following.

After about a half hour a woman sits down beside me. She's tall and slim, short auburn hair, translucent skin, a face that would've caused Plato to reconsider the form of Beauty. I want to make her spinach lentil stew.

"Excuse me. But-. You are so beautiful I'd like to make you spinach lentil stew," I say.

"That's nice. I have a message from my grandfather. He's the elderly man who was here."

"Okay." I should want to crawl into a hole after that exchange. Yet-. Her face. She seems to know.

"Stop waiting 'til the shine wears off," she says.

"That's the message?"

"That's the message," she says.

I lean back. Close my eyes. Take a big breath.

What is the world coming to when elderly men quote Coldplay lyrics?


24 January 2013

THE SNOWMAN COMETH

I am watching a snowman attempt suicide. And it's not going well.

He lights stick matches. Tosses them at his body. The flames die quick against the wind and snow.

It's early evening. Dark. Cold. I'm on my way back from food shopping, weighted down with bags. Of food. Home with heat is near. A snowman is in distress. Can I turn my back?

***************************************

I'm 6 years old. I build a snowman in front of my house. Takes me all afternoon. It's not perfect. It's got lumps. And looks a little like the Elephant Man. But it is borne of my sweat. And, of course, the snow on the ground. And it is good. To complete my creation I reach up and christen its' nose with a stubby carrot. Just as I let go of the carrot my creation shivers and topples on me. Snow gets in my mouth, eyes, nose. I'm crushed. And crushed. Why? I ask the snow at my feet formerly known as The Snowman. Why? I never made another snowman that winter or any winter since.

****************************************

I call 911. "What's your emergency?" "A snowman is committing suicide," I say. There is a long pause. "I'll send the Easter Bunny out right away," the dispatcher says and hangs up. The Easter Bunny? The snowman doesn't need eggs. He needs help. I could inform the family upon whose lawn the snowman sits. What if the kid sees his creation in such deep despair and becomes traumatized?  I don't want that on my conscience. Only one thing to do.

"Hey," I say.

The snowman doesn't answer. Just continues striking matches and tossing them at his body.

"What're you doing?" I say.

"I'm sequencing DNA. What the fuck d'ya think?" he says.

"You're trying to kill yourself," I say.

"Move to the top of the class, Einstein," he says.

"Any reason?"

"None. My life is great. I sit out here all day getting whipped by the wind, smacked by snowballs from spoiled little brats, and pissed on by dogs. I've never heard a Mozart concerto, seen anything by Van Gogh, or..." 

"What?"

"...felt the cold touch of a snowwoman." The snowman's head slumps forward. I catch it and put it back on.

"You have no genitalia."

"Really sensitive. Genitalia does not define gender. They're there. You just have to dig."

"I'll take your word for it," I say.

"In a few days some local brat'll knock me down. My life will be over. Maybe-. Maybe you can help," he says.

"This isn't what I'm thinking is it?"

The snowman looks at me with those big button eyes.

"Geezus." I start pacing. "You want me to pimp for you."

"Think of it as matchmaking."

"You want me to build a snowwoman."

"Right up against me. So I can feel every lump," he says.

"You don't understand. The last time I did this-" I say.

"I know."

"How?"

"Snowmen talk," he says. "Listen, however she turns out she will be beautiful. And she will be loved."

"Geezus, Maroon 5?"

"That's all the mother plays," he says.

 "I really don't think I can do it."

"You can. You must. For both of us."

"Hey, Deepak Chopra. I need time."

"Not too long. Sunrise is coming."

I walk. End up at Aroma in Forest Hill Village. Warm up inside. 'She Will Be Loved' by Maroon 5 comes on. Tap on my window knock on my door/I want to make you feel beautiful. Isn't this all the  snowman wants aside from snowsex? To make the other feel beautiful? To know the feeling of making the other feel beautiful? To give. With love. Even if it's snowlove. I slip on my gloves. It'll be a long night.

****************************************
A few days later I walked by the house. Even though the cold weather hadn't changed, the snowman and snowwoman were no longer standing. They had somehow melted into a frozen puddle on the ground.

07 January 2013

ASLEEP AWAKE, AWAKE

A few hours ago I fell asleep. When I woke up, I was still asleep.

This is a problem.

I need to do laundry. If I'm asleep, how will I know two socks aren't balled into one before I toss them in the washer?

So here's what I'm thinking. I go back to sleep, wake up, everything will be the way it should. Thing is, I'm already asleep. Not sure how I will get back to sleep when I'm already asleep. I could stay up asleep, and hope that I fall asleep from being asleep, so that when I wake up I won't be asleep. Yeah, that's worth a try.

On my back. On my bed. Eyes closed. Fence. Sheep. Jump-.

This won't work.

Light is seeping through my eyelids. I need something to block out the light. Something like a sleep mask. I have a sleep mask. A production company included one in a bag of swag at the launch of their fall line-up one year. Given the quality of their shows, including the mask now seems prescient.

On my back. On my bed. Mask on. Fence. Sheep-.

It's dark. Too dark. Way too dark.

I feel like Clarice Starling at the end of Silence of the Lambs when she's in the psycho killer's lair stumbling around in blackness, while he stalks her sporting night vision goggles. What if somebody is outside my mask, in my room, sporting night vision goggles. They can see me. I can't see them. Because I'm in the dark. Because I'm wearing a sleep mask. Because I'm asleep awake and I'm trying to get to sleep so I can wake up.

I can lie here paralyzed with fear. I can lie here paralyzed with more fear. Or, I can take my chances and run.

I run. Jump up. Scream. Flail. Smack into the door. Fall back. Take off the sleep mask. Rush out. Close the bedroom door behind me.

In the hallway, my heart pounding, I determine I must go back in so I'll know. I swing the door open, make a quick check under the bed, in the closet, under the bed, in the closet, under the bed. No creature sporting night vision goggles or otherwise.

Every inch of my body tingles.

And then I realize...I am not asleep awake anymore.

I am awake.

I make a note to send my fear a gift basket.



31 December 2012

...ALIVE

"I'm dying."

I'm at a Starbucks. It's deserted. New Years Eve. She sits at a table beside mine. She's beautiful. Like a child's poem.

"Don't take this wrong but you are the most beautiful woman I've ever met who is dying," I say. She moves over to my table.

"Here." She takes my fingers, puts them on her jugular and holds them there.

"Strong pulse."

"No, feel." She moves my fingers slow along her neck.

"Still...you know...strong..."

"Do you feel? I'm dying."

"Keep my fingers on your neck any longer I'll be dying."

She pulls them away, doesn't let go of my hand.

"Will you come with me?"

"Maybe...where?"

"Doesn't matter. Just come. It'll be perfect." For the first time her face brightens.

"You're dying," I say.

She takes my hand and puts it up to my jugular. "What are you?"

"Beatrice, come on. We're all waiting." It's a guy in a sleek, fitted, sharkskin suit.

Beatrice gets up, kisses my forehead, brushes her lips against mine. I feel her breath enter my mouth. I am...

16 December 2012

MY NOSE MY SELF

I woke up this morning without a nose. 

Just a blank piece of skin. Not attractive. I have meetings today. If I show up without a nose a producer will notice. They're trained like that. Just so you know, this has never happened before. No part of my body has ever left without my knowledge.

I do a grid search of the apartment. No nose. I check the fridge door magnets. No note. I consult the neighbours. They haven't heard from or seen my nose apart from my face. The thing has vanished.

A tear runs down my cheek. I have to sit. Already I miss my nose. It wasn't perfect. It had a little bump near the front. Maybe it was a bit too wide. I never said anything. Just accepted all that it was in the way that it was. What will I do without it? Besides, it held my face together.

The phone rings. It's Polk, my accountant. Polk doesn't usually call in the mornings.

"I'm being audited." I say.

"Hi to you. Too Alan. You. Are not being audited. No." He says.

"So..." 

"Are you missing. Your nose?" Polk says.

"Uh...maybe," I say.

"It. Is here." He says. 

"You have my nose," I say.

"It. Is here."

Can you put it on?" I say.

"Just. A second," Polk says.

Long pause.

"Your nose does not. Want to. Talk to you," Polk says.

"Oh," This hurts. We've been together for a long time. "Can you tell my nose I miss it very much and...well, just that."

Long pause.

"Your nose misses. You too." Polk says

"So why did it run?"

"It says. You do not. Listen to it," Polk says.

"I listen. I'm listening right now."

"Now. You listen. Out of fear. That you will. Lose it. Not. Out of love. For all it. Gives you," Polk says.

I am knocked back. My nose shows a depth of understanding I had previously not known. But then. Maybe I haven't been listening.

"Your. Nose. Wants me to remind. You of Thai Gardens." Polk says.

"I remember..." I say.

"You. Ordered the ginger chicken. In a cream sauce. With hot red peppers."

"That was what I ordered," I say.

"The dish. Smelled bad. Your nose told you. It told you. The dish would hurt you. If you ate it. For days and. Days. You would be. In pain. You. Did not listen." Polk says.

I got so sick after eating that Ginger Chicken. Took a long time to get over. My nose is right. It smelled bad. I didn't listen.

"I listened." I say.

Long pause.

"Alan. Please." Polk says.

"Okay, I didn't listen. My nose is right. Polk, I want it back. I'll do anything." I say.

Long Pause.

"Here's what your. Nose says. You. Must promise to trust. When it sniffs. You must. Promise to surprise it. Everyday." Polk says.

"Okay, I will," I say.

"It wants to. Hear you say. It." Polk says. I hear a rustling. A sniff. Does my nose miss me? Or is it the allergies?

"Okay, so, I'm sorry for not listening to you about the Ginger Chicken. Really. I mean it. If I had listened to you I wouldn't have gone through all that pain. From now on, I will be attentive. And... surprises. Definitely. Every day." More rustling. Polk gets back on the line.

"Your nose. Is satisfied. But it. Has one last. Request." Polk says.

"Name it." I say.

******************

The meeting goes well. I'm just ecstatic to have my nose back. I guess I hadn't noticed that I was focusing on it. "You're touching your nose like it's your dick," a producer says.

After the meeting I fulfill my nose's request: a three hour facial at a spa in Yorkville. I tell the attendant before she touches my face, "Be gentle with my nose...it knows."

02 December 2012

AFTERNOON IN THE PARK

A small dog walks up to me in the park. I'm on a bench cartoon hopping through the latest New Yorker. The early afternoon is cool and cloudy. The dog says,"Listen to me."

"You're a dog talking," I say.

"You're a human stating the obvious. Listen to me." The Dog looks over my shoulder.

"Can't make out the accent."

"It's dog with a hint of dog. What does it matter? Listen to me. Don't look back."

I look back.

"What did I say?" He says.

"Don't look back."

"You look back."

"I look back because you said don't look back. You need to learn more about human behaviour. I didn't see anything."

"You saw enough."

"Really? Like what?" I turn around. "There's a shrub. A tree. A garbage can. It's the shrub, right?" The dog shakes his head and walks away. "Bark once if it's the shrub. Was that a bark?" Out of view.

I return to the New Yorker but thoughts of the shrub distract me. Something about it. I turn around and stare at it. The shrub's maybe four feet high, gangly and unruly, dotted with symmetrical branches of vibrant green. I can't turn away from it like a sexual oddity in a traveling freak show.

My phone rings. It's Jason. "Where the fuck're you?" I tell him I'm in the park. "Everybody's here. We've been waiting for, like, 15 minutes. The producer's not happy," he says.

"Start without me," I say. "I'll be there soon."

"Soon when?" He says.

"Soon."

"Sometime today soon? It's your script. The fuck ya doing at the park?"

"Staring at a shrub," I say.

"Seriously. A shrub?"

"It has properties. Can't look away." 

"You've fuckin' lost it. Producer backs out you are-" he says.

"Jason, gotta get back to the shrub, bye," I say and hang up.

The more I look at the shrub, the more I can't stop looking at the shrub. Each branch makes me think of some past relationship or life incident. I want to both cry and laugh. So I do both. Which makes me come across as a crazy person. I should really get up and walk away. I should. But I'm not able.

"You okay, mister." It's a kid no more than eight with a dog...the talking dog!

"Hey, it's your dog. He speaks in English you know. Say something?" The dog barks. "No, in English." The dog barks again.

"He told me not to look back, I did and now I'm stuck here staring at that shrub."

"Mister, you remind me of my mom before she went to the hospital for a month," the kid says. He leaves. The dog looks back at me with an expression I can't make out. I told you so? Maybe. Anyway I don't have time to figure it out. I've gotta get back to the shrub.

The sun lowers in the sky. Evening creeps up. I'm feeling chilled. My phone rings maybe four times. I don't answer. It'll just take away from my shrub time.

"Alan...Alan..."

"Yes?" I turn and see an unfamiliar woman. "Who are you?"

"I was sent by a mutual friend...a concerned mutual friend." She's in her early forties with light brown hair, big brown eyes and an expression of warmth.

"Jason?" She shakes her head. "Polk, my accountant? Rachel? Emma?"

"None of the above. Here..." She holds out her hand. "We have to go...now...you're in danger."

"I can't leave the shrub. There's too much still...I have to decipher."

"How about this? We walk over to the swings. You'll still be able to see the shrub."

"Well..."

She looks up in the sky. "We have to go." She grabs my hand.

"Is it going to rain?" She yanks me up from the bench. "Ow."

"Lets go...you have to get away from here NOW."

"Okay, fine..." I take her hand.  She leads me over to the swings. I sit down and swing back and forth. "I don't understand why you had to pull me away so quick-.

CRASH! From out of the sky drops what looks like a tank on the park bench totally crushing it.

I'm stunned. I look over at her mouth open. "Lets go home," she says.

I take her hand and we walk away, past the swings, out of the park.

I don't look back.




21 November 2012

RACHEL

"Donald kisses my fingers and tells me I'm beautiful," Rachel says.

Rachel's sensitivity could hang in a gallery.

"He's a good man, Rach," I say.

"Will you kill him for me?" she says. Takes a sip of coffee.

We're in the Dark Horse Cafe. It's crowded. Lots of chatter. Did she say kill?

"Did you say kill?"

"Kill," she says

"Eliminate from the earth kill," I say.

"Yes," she says.

"You're not serious, right? I mean..."

"I am."

I look around the cafe and wonder if anybody else is talking about killing another human being. Maybe everyone is. Maybe this is the cafe of choice for assassins. I see a lot of students. Maybe this is the cafe of choice for student assassins. Does a student assassin only kill other students? I need distraction. My friend Rachel just asked me to kill her boyfriend of 8 months. The man she loves. Her soulmate.

"He's not kissing my fingers anymore," she says.

"Maybe he has finger fatigue. So this is why you want to take his life. "

"Will you do it?"

"You think he's kissing someone else's fingers. Rach, he doesn't seem like that kind of guy."

"That kind of guy never seems like that kind of guy," she says.

"The kind of guy who never seems like that kind of guy can also be mistaken for that kind of guy," I say.

"The guy that can be mistaken for that kind of guy can be acting like the guy who can be mistaken for that kind of guy and really be that kind of guy," she says. "Will you do it?" 

Lets see... if I say no, she'll find somebody else and I won't sleep at night. If I say yes, maybe I can buy some time, convince her otherwise.

"Sure, I'll do it," I say.

"You'll kill him," she says.

"Yeah."

Rachel takes a sip of coffee. She looks past me. She takes another sip. 

"I was kidding you know," she says.

"Yeah, I know," I say.

"Because-." Her eyes water.

"Rach?"

"Donald holds me when I get the awfuls," she says. Tears roll down her cheeks.

"Rach?"

I look into her eyes. She's gone. Somewhere far. Somewhere I can't reach. I take her hand, cover it with my other hand. Sometimes that's all you can do.

08 November 2012

HEAVY HITTERS

Polk, my accountant, enjoys, on occasion, networking his clients with outside business people. So when he asked me to meet a couple of heavy hitters I wasn't surprised, and agreed, without hesitation. Polk oversees my tax return.

I have no special affinity nor noxious disregard for heavy hitters. I do try and avoid getting them upset. They're heavy. And they hit. For a living. Same goes for heavy swatters who are heavy hitters with less clout. And light swatters who are heavy swatter wannabes. The nature of business is such that one day a light swatter can become a heavy hitter. And if I angered that heavy hitter when he was a light swatter, I may come out of that meeting stuffed into various briefcases.

We're at Starbucks. It's me, Solomon, and Ben. The two hitters are in their early forties and from New York. They were paying so I ordered the most expensive drink I could configure - a 13 shot venti soy hazelnut vanilla cinnamon white mocha with extra white mocha and caramel. One thing I do like about heavy hitters. They have a need to demonstrate feats of heaviness.  Spending money is one.

"So what do you think?" Sol says.
"About what?" I say. 

"Why are we even meeting with this guy?" Ben says.

"Polk said Alan's a great ideas guy. And a Jew. You're a Jew, right?"

I nod.

"A Jew'll understand. You are a Jew, right?" Sol says.

I nod again. I have no idea what they're getting at. But whatever it is seems to involve Jews. I hope it isn't about coming up with ideas for a bar mitzvah. Some  heavy hitters have been known to spend a lot of money on bar mitzvahs. One heavy hitter brought into the synagogue hall a circus with a trapeze act, clowns and an elephant. Unfortunately the elephant got spooked by the rabbi's light spinning Star of David yahlmuke and rampaged into the synagogue. Damage was limited. The male elephant stayed on the men's side.

"He's not right. There's something about him I don't trust." Ben says.

"Is it because I'm Jewish?" I say.

Ben stares at me. "No," he says. "What a stupid thing to say. We're also Jewish." Ben lacks a sense of humour. A heavy hitter who lacks a sense of humour can become a heavy waterboarder.

"Here's the thing. We, Ben and I, had a tech company. Very successful. Got bought out. Long story short, we're sitting on a mountain of money," Sol says.

"Yeah, we can buy this building, the building beside this building on both sides, the clothing store across the street, the restaurant beside the clothing store, go four blocks north, we can pick up the office tower, and all of the people on the street for cash...right now," Ben says.

"We're not buying people," Sol says. He stares at Ben.

"It's a figure of speech," Ben says.

"No, I know you, you want to buy those people." Sol says.

"We have the money," Ben says. Sol continues staring at him. "Fine. What I said, without the people. For cash."

"Now we're looking to get into the entertainment field. In a big way. Family entertainment. We got an idea we think is a winner," Sol says.

"Okay," I say.

"It's a theme park," Sol says.

"Okay."

"The theme...the Holocaust," Sol says.

"We're thinking of calling it Holocaustworld. Or Holocaustland," Ben says.

Ben and Sol sit back with big satisfied grins.

"Pretty cool, huh?" Ben says.

"So, let me get this straight, you want to do a theme park based on the horrific events of the Holocaust," I say.

"Tasteful, though," Sol says. "And educational. Very educational. At every ride, you learn more stuff about the Holocaust. We were thinking, it's a great way to bring the Holocaust to the younger generation. Make it come alive. In a good way. Museums? Who's going to museums? This park could have a bigger impact than any museum."

"And we can make a killing," Ben says.

"Did you just say we can make a killing?" I say.

"Yeah. You got something against making a killing on a Holocaust theme park?" Ben says and shakes his head.

"No, as long as it's a killing and not a murdering then I'm cool," I say.  "Don't your think it's a little vulgar and disrespectful?"

"Auschwitz has a gift shop," Sol says.

"Touche," I say.

"We want you to come up with ride ideas." Sol says.

"Ride ideas for a Holocaust theme park," I say. Sol nods

"Get this, customers come into the park on a train," Ben says and smiles. "Pretty good, huh?"

"Yeah, not sure I would've conjured up that one," I say.

"We can give you a lot of money. And a lifetime pass to the park," Sol says.

"The lifetime pass is tempting. It's just that...genocide theme parks is not really in my wheelhouse. So I'll have to say no. But thanks for the coffee."

As I walk away I hear Ben say, "What kind of Jew is this guy? How can he turn his back on the Holocaust?"

Later, I call Polk. "Hey Polk, I met with those two heavy hitters."

"And?" Polk says.

"Interesting. But they were more like two guys who'd been hit on the head by something heavy."

"Maybe. Maybe next. Time." Polk says.

"To be honest, Polk. I hope there isn't a next time."


29 October 2012

INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE IN AISLE 5

The air shivers. The leaves turn. It's the spring of our fall into autumn.

I'm at the grocery store. Aisle 5. Eyeballing cans of kidney beans. Maybe I'll buy. Maybe I'll wait. Time is not on my side. Is it ever on anybody's side? Guy beside me is also eyeballing cans of kidney beans. He's over 6 foot, short shaped hair, face by Donatello, built. This is one seriously good looking dude. He doesn't slip on slippery slopes.

"So, which brand of beans do you like?" The words come out of my mouth. I've never before asked another man his brand of kidney beans. But with this dude... Whatever brand he's using... I want. I am confident his brand will recalibrate my life. I slip on slippery slopes.

He turns to me. His eyes are watery and red. He sniffs. Once. Twice. Breaks into a cry. Soft cry. This is one seriously upset dude.

"I'm sorry. I'm a mess." He says in a soft voice.

I hand him a serviette from Starbucks which I keep in my pocket for the unclean moments in the disapora. "Thanks." And that's when I notice something odd about his teeth. He's got canines way longer than normal and they look super sharp. The only people who have such teeth are lawyers and vampires. He didn't have blood dripping from his mouth so I figure he must be a vampire.

"You're a vampire," I say.
He nods. Sniffs. Wipes his eyes. Cries again.

"Anything I can do?" I say. 

"I'm okay. I'll be fine."

He looks me in the eyes. I feel like I'm staring into the face of a wounded lamb. A wounded lamb that, it so happens, can drain all the blood from my body in about 3 seconds. This vampire is not going to be fine. He looks in serious pain.

"I hurt." He picks up a can of kidney beans, turns it around in his hand and puts it back on the shelf with the side of the label sticking out. That's when I notice he's done the same with a whole row of cans.

"You do hurt," I say.

"That hurt," he says.

"No, hey, I mean, I was just acknowledging your pain," I say. "You wanna talk about it?"

"The world is harsh. People are harsh," he says.

"Yeah. They can be," I say. "My name's Alan."

"Burton. Burton Shine." We shake hands. He starts crying again. A passing shopper stares. I glare at her. "Hey, you've never seen a vampire cry before?" The shopper scuttles away like a crab.

"Alan, what do you think of my garden?"

"Excuse me?"

He indicates his arrangement of kidney bean cans on the shelf. His garden. "Should I grow other varieties?"

"Would you like to grow other varieties?"

"Yes," he says. "Chickpeas will go well with the kidney beans. Especially in the spring." He takes cans of chickpeas from a lower shelf and 'plants' them amongst his 'garden' of kidney bean cans.

"Is there anybody you want me to call? Because..."

"I have nobody. Except for you, Alan. And my garden." Burton goes back to tending his 'garden'.

Excellent. I've picked up a new friend. A depressed vampire.

"You know if you've got stuff to do..." he says. Tears well up in his eyes.

Yes, I have stuff to do. My life. But he looks so vulnerable. How can I abandon him?

"Nothing important really. So...your garden. It's really coming along," I say.

"My garden bores me," he says. "I am feeling a bit peckish."

"Peckish."

"Hungry," he says.

I know what peckish means. I just don't like where this is going.

"Do you think you can get me something to eat?" He says.

"Sure, egg salad sandwich be okay?"

"No."

"Tuna salad?"

"No."

"Chicken salad?"

"Human salad. Minus the salad," he says.

"You want me to get you a human. Can't you get one yourself?"

"I have no energy. I'm depressed," he says. Tears return.

It occurs to me that Burton the vampire might also be Burton the emotional vampire. I have experience with emotional vampires. Having blood drained would be less painful. In order to extricate myself from this situation I will need to be an emotional vampire slayer.

"Burton, look at your garden," I say. We both look at his 'garden' of cans on the shelf. "Would you say your garden is an act of creation?"

He runs his hands across the 'flowers'. "Yes, definitely. An exquisite act of creation."

"Would you say creation requires energy? Positive or negative." I say.

"Um, yes, I guess," he says. The tears have dried up.

"So it took energy for you to create your 'garden'," I say. "Maybe you're not depressed at all."

"What do you mean?" He says.

"Maybe..."

"Maybe?" He says.

"Maybe...you spotted me when I came into the store. Used your vampiric powers to eyeball this chili recipe I had in my hand. Knew I needed kidney beans, and that I wasn't the kind of person who boils kidney beans from scratch, so I would have to go to the canned food section. Saw me pick up a grapefruit that had rolled away from an elderly person and put it back in her cart. Came to the canned kidney bean section and set up your 'garden' before I got here-. See where I'm going with this?"

Burton's mien changes. The colour returns to his cheeks. He looks... embarrassed.

"Alan, you are like a miracle worker. I came here depressed. But after talking with you, I feel energized. Not all people are harsh. Not you. Thank you." He extends his hand. I shake it because...he is one seriously charming vampire. "I will never forget our encounter. I will grow. I will be a better vampire." I almost want to give him a hug. But those incisors... "Take care," he says and leaves.

I feel drained. Quickly touch my neck. Emotionally drained.