03 June 2014

THE SCRAMBLER

I need to clear my head.

I've been working on a script for hours and the words aren't coming. Maybe they had a prior engagement. I don't take it personal. Okay, maybe a little. They could've texted, or e-mailed, facebooked, tweeted, ninged. Matter of courtesy. How long have we known each other? Shared laughs, tears. I mean I was at 'bris's' bris. What does it take to ning? Really.

I even put out potpourri. What word doesn't love potpourri? They don't love potpourri. Really? Then who would've tipped them off? Why?  Something Nicole Richie once said  summed up my thought at that very moment: “It's hard to tell who has your back, from who has it long enough just to stab you in it....” I'm looking in your direction hardwood floor.

So after having consumed a pot and a half of coffee and chewed on about a dozen chocolate covered espresso beans, give or take a dozen, I go down to the local amusement park. To clear my head. I wander. Until. I come across...The Scrambler. 'To clear, one must first scramble.' I'm sure I heard Deepak Chopra  utter those words. Or was it Wavy Gravy? Doesn't matter.

For the uninitiated, The Scrambler is an amusement ride with three long arms which revolve around a central post. At the end of each arm hangs a group of seats which revolve in a circle. When the ride starts up, the arms spin, the seats spin...there's a lot of spinning, in all directions.

A schematic:


I'm standing by the ride in progress and see an eight year old girl whipping around, laughing, waving at her friends, having fun. Fun. I can have fun. Fun is fun. Fun is nuf spelled backwards. I must get on that ride to scramble and clear and save the script. Beads of sweat convene on my forehead. My right leg shakes like I'm doing an Elvis impersonation. Teeth grind. It's not the coffee. Don't blame the coffee. Did I have too much? NO! You didn't have enough. Who are you? I'm your coffee conscience. I know Juan Valdez. We're not close. Fresh mountain grown coffee from the hills of Colombia. Buy a ticket.

I hand the operator a bunch of money and tell him to give the change to support concussion research on the Mole in Whack-A-Mole. He laughs. "I'm serious, man," I say.

There are two seats available. One is beside a really fat kid eating an ice cream cone. Who lets a fat kid with an ice cream cone on a ride? Ice cream can become airborne. The other seat is next to... a vision of beauty in the form of a woman who looks like she stepped out of the pages of Vogue, after stepping out of the pages of Mother Earth, the New Yorker, American Heritage of Invention and Technology, and Die Freundin. She had silky dirty blonde hair, wore cat's eye glasses and had on a flowery light 70s dress. Her face radiated glowing luminosity. Not sure if I just broke some kind of law using all those words together. I'll accept the consequences. I have in my back pocket a copy of Viktor Frankel's 'Man's Search for Meaning' just in case I'm imprisoned. No need to flip a coin on this one.

While the operator locks us in...

"Um, hey, hi...Alan," I say.

"Cali, I have a cousin named Alan. Are you ready?" she says. And smiles.

I break my 100 year ban on the use of the letters OMG together in succession.

OMG!

After the ride I must get her number. Who knew the Scrambler was the place to meet beautiful women?

"Me? I was born ready," I say.

Turns out I was not born ready.

The ride starts up. Our car whips around, gathers speed and heads straight for the fence. We are heading straight for the fence, my coffee conscience says. HOLY SHIT! We are headed for the fence. We will hit the fence. We will go through the fence. We will topple. And nosedive. And plunge. Our heads will bang the ground repeatedly. I won't be able to eat pudding without assistance for many years. 

It might be instructive at this point to interject my experience on amusement rides. When I was a kid I ventured on the merry-go-round once. Two words: death trap. The horse behind me was always this close to taking a nip from my back. I had to continually spur my horse to stay out of reach. The ride's flashing lights and blaring organ music was, no doubt,  a disorienting technique the ride owner  picked up from the CIA. Rides were really not my amusement park thing. I preferred the bench. 

"We're gonna die!"

"Isn't this fun?"

I close my eyes and pray to every deity I ever read about including the Norse Goddess Frigg. What the frig, Frigg? WHAT THE FRIG?!

"Noooooooo!"

Cali  LAUGHS.  LAUGHS MORE.

Her laugh echoes like she's a mile away. I'm feeling stretch and squash. Arms rubbery. I get panicky. What's happening?! Be cool, Coffee Conscience says. Coffee Conscience sounds a lot like Samuel L. Jackson in Pulp Fiction.

After a time I open my eyes. I'm still alive. However. Everything looks different. The lights shine bright and swirl and twist. We're moving slow. I look over at Cali. She's standing on the seat with her arms outstretched. "I'm Queen of the Scrambler," she says.  I feel so light like I could fly away.  Chocolate covered espresso beans appear. Float in the air. I grab and stuff my face, offer a few to Cali. She's pre-occupied... reinventing the wheel. Literally. She has a wheel in her lap and a toolkit beside her. She's a dream. This is when I notice them. Small elvish characters. Purple skin. Stripped to the waist. They all look like James Franco. They're taking apart the mechanics of the ride. "Not cool, mini James Francos," I say. "Write another self-critically acclaimed novel!" They don't listen. Parts of the ride fly past. My heart beats faster and faster like Hummingbird wings. "We're gonna die! Again!" I shut my eyes and pray mini Seth Rogens will show up and talk some sense into mini-James Francos.

Time stretches.

"Open your eyes. You're missing all the fun." It's Cali's voice.

I open my eyes. WHOOSH! SNAP! Back in the present. Just in time to catch another car whipping at us. At the last second it turns away. If I survive I promise to devote my life to the lepers of the world...actresses over 40 in Hollywood.

RATTLE.

"The safety bar's loose. I'm sliding out!"

Cali laughs and LAUGHS.

"Wheeeee!"

I shut my eyes again and like Brontes the Cyclops who loses his contact and has shown up at Lenscrafter 15 minutes before it opens I must hold on and wait.

And. Wait. Wait.

"Hey Alan. Alan. You can open your eyes now. Ride's over."

I open my eyes and see Cali's radiant face. It's all good, Coffee Conscience says. You're comin' down.  It's like the space capsule has been opened and I'm stepping out. Then the embarrassment washes over me. I lost my sh#t in front of a beautiful woman.

"That was fun. I'd do it again," I say. "I mean, not now, but, you know, another time."

She hands me a card. "Call me." Leaves with a small wave.

The card reads:

Dr. Calliope Wallop
Proctologist
416-87C-OLON

'No Fear'


Perfect. Because. I am. A no fear kinda guy.



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."