Ghost In The Bedroom

 

It was only nine o’clock in the morning and it was already forty degrees, and my wife had an urge to visit the cemetery. I guess it was more of a pull than an urge. Sometimes she felt like she was supposed to be there, although neither one of us could understand why. Sometimes she was sure that someone wanted her to go, and when we got there she would always find the right headstone. Man, it freaked me out.

“You know its forty degrees out there.” I said. ” Aren’t there any spirits you can visit that have air conditioning?”

“You don’t have to come if you don’t want to.” she said. I had been on this ride once before. Only once. She said it was okay for me to go fishing with some friends and not attend my daughter’s recital.  She said it, and I don’t know how she did it, but her eyes said something completely different than her mouth.  It would have been nice if that was really an option, but it wasn’t, I mean I was always a little apprehensive around all of the ghosts and ghouls that he become a part of my rather terrestrial existence, but she didn’t really mean it. And despite my reluctance to participate in the her otherworldly social circle, I always accompanied her to the local cemetery. It was really the only thing I could do.

Her cemetery of choice is The Necropolis and it happens to be the oldest burial grounds in the city. Its a little worrisome though that are many residents there that had been relocated to their current graves in 1850 when ‘Potter’s Field’ was redeveloped to accommodate the ever expanding city, I mean I had seen enough horror movies to know that no good can ever come out of doing something like that. There was a slight breeze that barely rustled the leaves of the maple trees that dotted the grounds as we entered.  We wandered along until my wife arrived at a particular grave. She looked intently at the headstone while I moved on slightly ahead, posting myself as a sentry in order to protect and defend her. “I wish you wouldn’t walk away like that.” she shouted. “Something really weird just happened.”

“Doesn’t it always?”

“Not like this.” she said. “I was standing there reading the inscription and I felt this wave of overwhelming sadness. Then I felt someone or something caress my face.”

“It was probably just the leaves from the tree.”  I said.

“It didn’t feel like leaves. It felt like a hand.”

“Well that’s creepy.”

“Not at all. It was actually warm and tender.” she said. “Like someone was trying to comfort me and let me know that everything would be alright.” It didn’t matter what she thought, it was still creepy. She wanted to talk about it when we stopped for raspberry ice at the cafe across from the park, and she wanted to talk about it as we walked through the tree lined streets of Old Cabbagetown. And despite my uneasiness we carefully considered the possibility that she had she had made contact with the other side.

It was hotter that night than it had been earlier in the day and I felt completely burnt out, I mean I had spent every ounce of strength I could gather pretending that the whole thing hadn’t given me the willies.  “I don’t think I’ll be able to sleep.” she said as we stood on the terrace smoking. “There’s so much going on in my head right now.”

“Don’t you two ever wear pants?” my daughter asked coming out to join us.

“Its too hot for pants.” my wife said.

“The two of you are so strange” my daughter added.  “You’re like a couple of weirded out old hippies.”

“You don’t know the half of it.” I said. “But if I had my way, the old lady wouldn’t wearing a thing.”

“That’s true.” my wife said. “He’s always trying to get my clothes off.”

“I can’t talk to you when you’re like this.” my daughter said as she went back inside. “You’re both crazy.”

“Well” I said, “we’ve finally achieved crazy.. And I think we’ve traumatized our kid enough for one day.”

“I think so.” my wife said. “We’re such good parents.”

As we settled into bed for the night, the heat was becoming unbearable, I mean I swear I could feel my eyeballs sweating.

“Did you open the window?” I asked.

“Ya.” she said.

“It just lets the hot air in. I’m going to have to close it.”

“Don’t close it.”

“Its like Death Valley in here. Nobody can sleep like this.”

“It has to stay open.” she said. “I’m supposed to leave it open.”

“For what?”

“So the spirits can come in.”

“Pardon me?”

“There’s nothing to worry about.” she said. “They wouldn’t hurt anyone.”

“Then why are they coming here?”

“I’m not sure, but I just feel like I’m supposed to leave the window open.”

“Well, I’m not putting pants on.”

“That’s okay” she said. “I don’t think they care.”

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Take Me To The River

by Fielding Goodfellow

 

One of my son’s has been preparing to join the Armed Forces, and I’m all for it, I mean I think he should  make his own life decisions.  My wife is not taking it well. She’s not sure he’s old enough to make this kind of a  decision on his own, despite being thirty-five years old. As he moves ass backwards through the transition from civilian life, he has been sorting through his belongings in order to determine what to keep and take with, and what he will leave behind. The Father’s Day foofaraw had just got underway when the proverbial shit began to hit the fan.

“I’ll take the tv.” I said.

“I don’t know.”, he told me. “I may take it.”

“What the hell are going to do with 60″ tv in the army?” I asked.

“I don’t know. We’ll see.” he said. “But I will need you to take the dogs.”

“Are you out of your fucking mind?” I asked him.

“What’s the big deal?” he asked. The big deal was, and still is the fact that the dog’s are dead. He had them cremated and their ashes are in urns that sit on a shelf in his book case. There’s a blue urn for John, the male Bichon-Poo, and a pink one for Yoko, the female Powderpap. Despite the fact that I adored both of these dogs, I have no interest at all in bringing their remains into my home. My wife however thought that it was the least we could do to help her boy make the move into army life. It wasn’t. The least we could do, as I pointed out, was obviously to not take the urns.

The dogs had been with us for ten or eleven years when my son took them. He had just moved into a place of his own and wanted to have them there, I suppose for company. We agreed. He had them for another four or five years, and as they got older, they both became ill.  I was there when they were both put down. as my son wasn’t emotionally able to deal with the loss on his own. I wasn’t certain that I was either, but I was reminded on both occasions that I am the father and this sort of thing falls into the realm of my duties, right up there with confronting the armed lunatics who attempt to break into the house. It was a difficult time for all of us, but my son handled it better than I had expected. He had made arrangements with the vet to have them cremated and placed in color coded urns that he could keep and cherish forever. And now, he wanted to pass the joy of having the dead animals’ ashes displayed as an eternal shrine in my home.

“Its not happening.” I told him and his mother.

“Its okay.” she said. “I’ll keep them in the back of my closet. You won’t even know that they’re here.”

“Ill know.” I said.

“Well” my son asked, “What do you suggest we do?”

“What should have been done in the first place..” I said. “The ashes should have been scattered in a park. They always liked the park.”

“I don’t know.” my son said.

“Well then,” I said, “You’ll have to take them with.”

“What the hell do I tell the army?” he asked.

“You can always tell them they’re your parents.” I said. He didn’t seem to think that was funny. Neither did my wife. I however was pretty sure it was fucking hilarious.

“We’ll figure something out.” my wife said.

“What if those were your ashes?” he asked me.

“They’d be scattered in a river by now.” my wife answered on my behalf.

“Exactly.” I said. “If you want I can scatter the dogs in the river.”

“I don’t want their ashes scattered.” he said.

“Well, if you leave them here” I advised, “it will no longer be your decision to make.”

“Can I speak to alone?” my wife asked me. And there was twenty minutes in our bedroom, listening to her try to change my mind. I told her over and over that the ashes would not be staying in our home. Period. She cried and she begged, but I was steadfast, like a rock. And then she did it. “Please do it for me?” she asked.  Damn, she was good. She knew exactly what to say. She knew that I would never give in to the boy, and she also knew that I could never refuse one of her ‘do it for me’ requests. I didn’t even try.

“You’re such a bitch.” I said.

“Ya” she said. “But I so do like it when you talk dirty to me.”

My son was overjoyed that the dogs would remain sealed in their urns, prominently displayed in the back of my wife’s closet. There was really nothing else to say, and I had grown weary of these festive, family gatherings that always seemed to cost me something.

“Thank you for letting the dogs stay here.” my wife said as we lay in bed that night.

“I didn’t really have any choice, did I?” I asked.

“None at all.” she said. “But if you can think of something you want to do, I’m naked and I’m free for the next twenty to thirty minutes.” Damn she was good. She knew exactly what to say.

The Finger Of God

by Fielding Goodfellow

 

When the blonde woman from The Weather Network who looked a lot like Connie Stevens announced the impending storm of all storms, my wife was quite excited. She had always been that way. I however, was somewhat indifferent. She was ecstatic, dancing around the house with the joyful exuberance of a school girl, waiting with gleeful anticipation of the impending downpour. She said that thunderstorms stirred up the spirit world and set the forces of the other side n motion. She said it was destined to be one scary night. The storm arrived late in the evening. She stood by the open window watching the lightening illuminate the night sky like fireworks on Canada Day, and listening to the thunder claps that shook her nerves and rattled her brain. The gale force winds howled, causing her to close her eyes every now and again as it blew the cool spring rain onto her face. She said she couldn’t sleep, not with Mother Nature being so exquisite, so I went to bed, leaving her to revel in the euphoria of nature’s unyielding power. Sometime during the deluge  I awoke to find her sitting on the edge of the bed nudging me. “You’re not going to believe this.” she said. “Someone was just in here.”

“Ah, hell.” I said. “There’s always someone in here.”

“I’m talking about someone from the other side.” she replied.

“I know.” I said. “They’re the only ones you ever let in.”

She said that the experience was weird, even by her standards, and she needed to talk about it.  I hated those conversations and did my best to avoid them at all costs. She was well aware of my feelings, but just couldn’t seem to stop herself from dragging me into her other worldly world. I had seen a lot of weird things over the years. With the assistance of an inordinate amount of hallucinogens and pharmaceuticals that I had religiously introduced to my brain, I have seen flying lizards, talking dragons, and miniature Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles performing ‘Dancing Queen’ in my kitchen sink, but to be honest, the whole spirit, and ghost thing just simply freaked me out. To my wife however, it was commonplace. It had become a recurring part of her life. This time though,she said it was different.

“It was really weird.” she said. “I was just standing at the window, smoking, and someone just came up beside me and stuck a finger in my ear.”

“You mean like a wet Willie?” I asked.

“Ya.” She said. “ But it wasn’t wet.”

“Of course not.” I said. “I don’t suppose spirits would have saliva. Maybe it was just the wind.”

“Are you listening to me?” she asked. “It was a finger.” She leaned over and inserted one of her fingers in my ear. “That’s what it felt like, a finger.”

“It doesn’t always have to be from the other side.” I said.  “Maybe it was from another universe. Maybe it was an alien probe. According to the Enquirer, they’re really quite common.”

“Do they usually probe your ear?” she questioned.

“I don’t think so.” I said. “But its possible you got a trainee.”

She thought that I was trying to be funny, and wanted me to take it far more seriously than I apparently was. I swear I was trying. She was spinning her wheels, stuck in trying to understand what the hell had just happened to  her. I struggled to help, trying to find some sort of reasonable explanation but sadly, I arrived at none. We carefully considered the possibility of her having been dreaming, but she was adamant that she was wide awake, standing at the window and smoking. Everyone else at home was sound asleep, and she claims to have not been under the influence of alcohol or drugs, although I have encouraged her to give it a try on several occasions,

“I suppose it could have been the finger of God.” I said.

“The finger of God?” she questioned.

“The finger of God.” I repeated.  “The same finger that brought the plagues to Egypt and etched the commandments into the tablets Moses brought down from Sinai.”

“What would God want with me?” she asked.

“I don’t know.” I answered. “But I’m sure you’re not the first one to ask that. I’m sure that everyone God has reached out to has asked ‘why me’? I don’t suppose it really matters though, I mean its God.”

“That’s a little nerve racking.” she said. “God has never visited me before.”

“Then I guess you’re due.” I said.

I sat beside her on the edge of the bed and I rubbed her back. The joy of the storm of all storms was gone.

“Just come to bed.” I said. “Its getting late.”

“How can I sleep?” she asked. “This is just so weird.”

“I’ll protect you.” I told her.

“Really? What are you gonna do?” she asked. I was surprised that I had to reminded her that I had spoken to God on more than one occasion, and that sometime in the mid 1970s I had firsthand experience with alien probing while completely messed up on a small bag full of peyote.

“Why don’t you just lay down and relax” I said, “and leave everything to me.”

“What are you thinking of doing?” she asked.

“Nothing, really.” I replied. “Just trying to help. I thought that if we recreated an alien probe, you might be able to tell if that’s what happened to you.”

“In my ear?” she questioned.

“No” I said. “I think we need to go the more traditional route. I think its worth a try.”

“Of course you do.” she said. “But I suppose we’ve really got nothing to lose.”

“Nothing at all. And after the probing” I added, “we can try to rule out the finger of God.”

“How do we do that?” she asked.

“Just leave it to me.” I said.

The Road To Sedation

by Fielding Goodfellow

 

She liked to tease me by sitting on the arm rest of the couch wearing one of my shirts and nothing else, with her legs spread slightly apart, just enough for me to see the prize that lay there. I liked it too. That was just her kind of foreplay, a little game of ‘look what I have for you, later’ that never ended the way she had imagined it would. Despite a feigned struggle to defend her virtue which had long since been lost, later arrived much sooner than she had planned.

I suppose that I should start at the beginning. Gabrielle was a graduate student majoring in contemporary English literature who asked if she could interview me as part of her thesis even though I was not English or contemporary. I was merely a drug infused scribbler of fables and foibles, which I was certain she would quickly uncover. Twenty minutes into an interview that took place at The Blue Parrot, she asked me why I became a writer. The first thing that came out of my mouth was “I have a lot of pens.”,

“Are you ever serious?”, she asked.

“I’m always serious.”, I told her.  “That’s not humor you’re hearing. That’s sarcasm.”

“Are you always sarcastic?”, she queried.

“As often as possible.”, I informed her. She laughed, we drank, and I took her home. We sailed through the Sea of Space and the Sea of Time that night, most likely a direct result of the peyote we had consumed in the cab and now, faced with the delightful task of traveling through her seemingly endless desires, I took up residence in the paradise between her thighs while she took up permanent residence in my one bedroom apartment. Not that I minded, I mean she was wickedly improvisational in bed, and wonderfully astute at keeping up with my constantly derailing train of thought.

“I think I think I’d like to be a nihilist.”, she blurted out one evening.

“Not likely.”, I replied. “I don’t believe nihilists enjoy sex.”

“Really?”, she asked.

“I think one would be hard pressed to find a couple of nihilists who thought there was any point to it.”, I replied. “And I’m not sure they’d have the energy. Its a lot of hard work to maintain that level of pessimism and skepticism. Now, if you put a bunch of naked hedonists in a room, well, then you’d have an orgy of epic proportions.”

“We should try it.”, she said.

“I thought we just did.”, I responded.

“I mean we should have an orgy.”, she clarified.

“Generally speaking, I’m not comfortable getting naked around other men.”, I told her.

“Me either.”, she replied. “I was thinking more of a couple of other women.” There have been very few moments when I have felt like jumping into the air and screaming with joy. This was one of those times. “That would still be an orgy, right?”, she asked.

“The best kind.”, I advised. And that was just how it was. Everything just seemed to be that easy.

Sometimes we would wander down Yonge Street and sifted through the bins at A & A’s and Sam The Record Man, or wandered through Yorkville, stopping to sit on a stoop somewhere near where The Riverboat or The Penny Farthing once stood where you would have been able to listen to the flower children sitting cross legged across the road singing songs about peace and contentment, The music filled the street back then, and sitting there under the shadows of the high priced hotels and high end retailers, and under the influence of drugs that made us larger and smaller and opened our minds and eyes, Gabrielle put her head on my shoulder, and clasped her hands around my forearm. We were living in our own time of sex, and drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll.  As we drifted away on a drug induced calm we could sit there for hours, still amazed by Sergeant Pepper, Pet Sounds, and The Yes Album.  We remained silent for as long as we could, but sometimes shit just happens.

“I think I want to have a baby.”, she whispered.

“A baby what?”, I asked.

“A baby.”, she continued, “Our baby. You know, a kid.” Thoughts were racing around my head, too fast for me to grab hold of any one of them. I knew I wasn’t ready for this, and I had always been certain that I had no real emotional attachment to Gabrielle. It was all just about the sex really, the wonderfully perverse, sweaty sex. I didn’t love her. She was merely a joyride in the road trip that had been my life. I struggled to find anything to say. Nothing seemed appropriate.

“I’m not ready for this, Gabbi.”, I told her.

“Well I suppose I can wait until you;re ready”, she said.  A shot went off in my head like a rocket exploding, and I realized that I had no choice but to tell her what I had always hoped I would never have to say.

“Here’s the thing”, I began.. “I probably should have said something a long time ago, but I don’t love you. I just don’t have those kind of feelings for you.”

“What?”, she asked. “All this time I’ve been falling in love with you, planning a life with you and you didn’t think it was important to let me know that you have no feelings for me!”

“I don’t know what you want me to say”, I told her.

“I don’t want you to say anything. You’re such an asshole.”, she said as she stood up and walked away.

I sat on that stoop for a long time, trying to sort it all out. When I returned to the apartment, all of her things were gone. I looked for her at the University, I suppose to apologize for what she saw as leading her on, but her friends informed me that she had left school and moved back home, although no one seemed to know exactly where that was. I never saw or spoke to her again and, while I had managed to leave it all somewhere in the psychedelic sedation of the hallucinogens I would routinely abuse every now and then, when I hear ‘Perpetual Change’ I thank God that I was such an asshole and let her walk away.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brunch At The Constellation Hotel

 

by Solomon Tate

The old man loved the brunch at The Constellation Hotel although I really don’t know why. It was over priced and only moderately edible, but every Sunday morning, for almost a year, he could be found in the dining room eating waffles. I had recently returned from another year of Bohemian adventures in Amsterdam, Copenhagen, and Paris, wasted on mind altering drugs, while hanging out in cafes drinking incredibly strong coffee, smoking French cigarettes, and talking philosophy and literature, while waiting for night fall to dive balls deep into divas and debutantes. I had returned with my hair longer than it had ever been, and a full beard. It was a far cry from sitting at a table in The Constellation Hotel dining room high as fuck, waiting for waffles with my family. My mother upon seeing me for the first time in twelve months proclaimed “Oh, look. Jesus has come back from the dead.” My brother had a very different perception.

“You just can’t spend all of your time getting high and getting laid.”,  he informed me.

“Ah, Hell”, I replied. “I’m pretty sure I can.”

“What about the future?”, he pressed.

“Well”, I said, “there will probably be different drugs and different women”, but I suppose it will pretty much deliver the same result.”

The young, blonde server with a wonderful pair of tits arrived at the table and was busily pouring coffee as she looked over and smiled at me. I smiled back, She left the table and returned a few moments later and placed a large glass of orange juice and placing it in front of me, brushed her boobs across my upper arm. “I thought you might like some juice. Its on the house.”, she informed me as she smiled. “If there’s anything else you want, just let me know,”, she said.

“How about your phone number.”, I replied.

“I was hoping you’d ask.”, she said as she wrote something on a piece of paper, folded it, and after handing it to me walked off.

“What the hell was that?”, my sister-in-law asked. “That girl is all over him.”

The conversation at the table, as it always did, turned to politics. The old man believed he was a liberal but there was a significant conservative bent. He supported social services, but only for those who didn’t really seem to need them. We argued about this regularly, and it drove him close to madness that I was a such a social democrat. He had, in the past, referred to me as a Socialist, a Communist and a Marxist. I did not however prescribe to any political ideology. My beliefs were simply that people, regardless of their beliefs, should take care of each other. I had toyed with the idea of having a tattoo of Harpo Marx etched into my left butt cheek and as I sat silently listening to the banter around the table, with all of them spewing out obtuse factoids that they believed would illustrate their points of view which, not surprisingly, were identical to the old man’s, I decided to go through with it. Just because.  It was a wonderfully bizarre and surreal trip down the road to insanity as they affirmed an uncanny fascist belief system coupled with the need for socialized health care, and I suppose being so messed up on peyote made it seemed like I was watching one of those  propaganda films made by the government that were so poular in the public school system in the 1950s and 1960s.

The note the young blonde server with the wonderful tits had given me contained her phone number and an invitation to join her in the coat room on the mezzanine level.  “Well”, I thought, “The coat room it is.” There was a door that led into the room, which she advised was never used in the summer. She took my hand and led me in and, as we sat down on some folding chairs, she put her tongue down my throat. I caressed her cheek and her hair, while she took off her shirt and fell in front of me on her knees.

The old man was furious when I returned to the table. “Where’s that waitress?”, he asked. “Is she working here or not?” She reappeared just as he finished talking with waffles for everyone, incessantly smiling at me. “There’s something wrong with that girl.”, the old man stated. “What the hell is she always smiling about?”

“She’s smiling at your son.”, my sister-in-law informed him. “She’s got the hots for our Jesus.”

“Well perhaps he should give her the tip.”, the old man said.

“I’m sure he’s already given her more than just the tip”, my brother answered.

“Indeed.”, I replied. “And judging by the smile on her face, I’m pretty sure I’ll be giving it to her again.”

“You’re such a pig.”, my sister-in-law declared.

“I know.”, I told her.

When they were ready to leave, I said my goodbyes to the family, and set off to play another round of carnal coat room with the young, blonde waitress with the wonderful tits. I saw her a few more times after that day, but once she wanted to meet me outside of the coat room at The Constellation Hotel, I lost interest. I continued to see my family off and on for the next 40 years or so and I occasionally cut my hair and shaved, if only to appease my mother. Once my parents had passed, everything sort of went to shit. I don’t really know who’s to blame, but I don’t think it makes any difference anyway. Shit just happens. The Constellation Hotel which saw its heyday come and go, was closed and demolished in 2012 and on the site sits an empty lot. In a way its really quite sad, I mean, the old man loved the brunches there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What About The Kids?

 

“What about the kids?”, my wife asked.

“What kids?”, I replied.

“Your kids.”, she told me. “Our kids. Remember them?”

“Uh huh.”, I answered. “What about them?”

“I’m not sure we can go away and leave them here alone?”

“Well, there’s no way I’m taking them with.”, I informed her.

“What if they burn the house down?”, she asked. And there it was, her obsessive fear of the house burning down. It was almost impossible to overcome. It was her belief that a fire would start in the kitchen as a result of the misuse of the kitchen appliances. Therefore, it stood to reason that if we were home, or if at least one of us was at home, the house would be saved from destruction. She had established very strict rules regarding the use of the kitchen appliances, which she routinely enforced by patrolling the kitchen like a a game warden, keeping a watchful eye for perpetrators and those she suspected were about to violate her rules.

She regularly ventures into the kitchen just to check what temperature the oven is set on, and if it is higher than three hundred and fifty degrees, she turns it down. It means nothing to her that the directions clearly stated to cook at four hundred and twenty five. It is not permitted. The choices are to cook it thirty to forty minutes longer, or eat it under cooked. And every fifteen minutes, like clockwork, she makes the obligatory trip back to the kitchen, opens the oven door and checks on the status of the food inside, lest it be burning, and in the process aggravates and agitates anyone who is cooking at the time.

The broiler is completely off limits. It has been deemed too dangerous for us to use as she fears the five hundred degree temperature it cooks at the most. Stove top cooking is only permissible if the burner is set at no more than a number six. Frying is permitted depending on her level of paranoia, and had been very close to being outlawed altogether. There was an incident. Nothing significant, but for my wife it was confirmation of the impending doom that can result from unauthorized cooking.

“Is somebody cooking something?”, she asked late one evening.

“I don’t know.”, I answered.

“Well”, she continued, “I smell something burning.”

“You always smell something’s burning.” It was uncanny really. She could smell something burning before it actually started burning. It was one of her many gifts, a sort of ‘something’s burning’ savant. “Nothing’s burning.”, I told her. “No one’s home except the two of us.”

“I have to go check.”, she stated as she got up out of bed.

“Well?”, I asked as she returned from her trip to the kitchen.

“You have to check that you turn the burner off!”, she exclaimed. “You dropped something in the bottom and left it on. At number eight! Its never to go above six. We’ve been over this. Five would be better, but I’m trying to be reasonable. The entire kitchen is filled with smoke. Next time you might just burn the whole place down.”

“I hope not.”, I replied. “I don’t think I’ll live long enough to hear all of the lectures.”

“This is why we can’t go away.”, she continued. “None of you pay attention to what you’re doing. The kids are too lazy to check and you, well, you just can’t remember what you’re doing anymore.”

“Well then”, I suggested. “We’ll just have to order in.” I went into the kitchen to check the extensive smoke damaged created by a crumb sitting under a hot burner. It was not filled with smoke. I was hard pressed to find any smoke at all. There was however, to my wife’s credit, the faint odor of something having been burnt, and in the bottom of the burner, there was, oh hell no, a solitary penne noodle. It was burnt. It was badly burnt. I gave it last rites, the best funeral I could, with full military honors and a burial at sea.

We can still fry, despite her misgivings, however she did implement a buddy system. There must be two people in the kitchen at all times, with one of them assigned to ensuring the temperature settings are within limits, and that everything is turned off when completed.

“I think she needs help.”, one of my daughters disclosed as she stood there as my cooking buddy while I made chicken parmigiana.

“She’ll be alright.”, I told her. “She just worries about safety.”

“She’s out of her mind.”, she explained. “Its an electric oven. There’s no flame or fire. Does she think that the food is going to spontaneously combust?” It was hard to argue with that, and I agreed to speak with my wife.

“I need to talk to you about something.”, I said as I entered the bedroom.

“Are you done in the kitchen?”, she asked anxiously.

“It will take thirty minutes to cook, and the oven is set at three hundred.”, I said. “Its under control. Are you alright with that?”

“For the time being.”, she replied.

“Good. I think you need to relax the cooking rules a little.”, I advised. “Its making everyone a nervous wreck.”

“I can’t help it.”, she said.

“I know.”, I reminded her. “But we really are pretty careful. I just don’t think we can ever meet the expectations you’v e set for us. We’re going to make mistakes, but in all of the years we’ve been cooking, there has never been a fire.”

“That’s because I’m always running into the kitchen and checking on everything.”, she informed me.

“No.”, I replied. “Its because we really do know what we’re doing. I just think you can let up a little.”

“How?”, she asked.

“Well, for one, stop running into the kitchen to check on everything all of the time. You can go in the kitchen to make a tea or something and check on stuff, you know, make it less obvious. And stop telling the kids what to do and how to do it. They’re not little kids. They’re all grown up.”

“So, the kids are complaining?”, she inquired.

“Ya, they are.”, I answered.

“And what about you?”, she questioned.

“Well you can check on me as often as you need to, and you can give me shit whenever you feel like it. Just like its been since the day we got married. Can you live with that?”

“I suppose.”, she said. “But the broiler is still off limits.”

“Agreed.”, I replied.

“Don’t you think you should go and check the chicken you left in the oven?”, she asked.

“On my way.”, I told her. She was surprisingly calm, and I hoped that she would be okay. Over dinner I brought up the weekend trip again.

“Alright.”, she said. “We’ll go to Niagara On The Lake for the weekend.” I was, to say the least, pleasantly surprised.

“I’m glad.”, I told her. “And I think it will be good for you.”

“Well”, she continued, “It took some work and some planning but, my mother will come and stay with the kids until we get back.”

“Okay.”, I replied. “That’s sounds like a plan.”

“Ya, and they will be ordering in all weekend.”, she advised me.

“Really?”, I inquired.

“Ya.”, she went on to explain. “We will be removing the circuit for the oven when we leave. They won’t be able to cook with it all weekend.”

“Well its nice to see that you have overcome your fear of the house burning down.”, I told her as sarcastically as I could.

“Ya”, she stated, “It wasn’t really as difficult as I thought it would be.”

 

The Summer Of Crazy Eddie Appleton

Of all of the summers I have seen, the summer of 1969 remains entrenched in my memory, and I remember it with a fondness that, at times, seems a bit overwhelming. For me it was not the summer of Woodstock, or the summer of  the ‘giant leap for mankind’. It was the summer of Crazy Eddie Appleton.

That summer my family went to the cottage at Jackson’s Point. I spent my days with my summer friends Danny, Rosie, and Misha. From the moment I first met her, I was attracted to Misha. She was an insanely pretty girl, with a tight t shirt, and a pack of Du Maurier stuffed into the back pocket of her cut off denim shorts, with an attitude as contrary and sarcastic as my own. We spent our time at the beach, the arcade, and hanging out behind the old marina where I learnt how to smoke.

Across the road from Rosie’s cottage lived the Appleton’s. We knew nothing about them, but none of us were permitted to go near the place. According to everyone’s mother, Eddie Appleton was a crazy and possibly dangerous man. Other people in the Point seemed to share the same concerns, walking on the other side of the road as they passed by, looking at it as if to catch a glimpse of the crazy and possibly dangerous man in the front window. Crazy Eddie Appleton had become the Boo Radley of Jackson’s Point.

He would usually come out at night, roaming the small, summer town talking to himself, dirty and unkempt, shouting at no one in particular, dressed in an overcoat, hat and gloves despite the sweltering summer heat and an orange florescent vest that could be seen from miles away as if to warn everyone that he was on the loose. One evening, as we sat behind the marina smoking, we saw Crazy Eddie on the beach burying something in the sand. “Probably body parts of some kid he killed.”, Danny reported.

“Maybe its his mother.”, Rosie speculated.

“Why don’t we just call him over and ask him what he’s doing.”, Misha suggested.

“Oh my God. No, don’t!”, Rosie pleaded.

“Well then, why don’t we just wait until he leaves and then go dig up whatever he buried.”, Misha proposed.

“Good plan, Einstein.”, I told her. “I knew I was hanging around you for a reason.” Misha smiled at me,  lit another cigarette and gently placed it in my mouth.  “But we’ll have to come back tomorrow morning.”, I continued. “We’ll meet back here at seven.” On the way home I kept thinking about the way Misha put that cigarette in my mouth, and I was almost certain that her hand brushed my lips. I laid awake all night, wondering, wishing and hoping that she liked me too.

We all met behind the marina as planned. Danny and Rosie brought shovels, and Misha arrived carrying a large thermos which was filled with coffee that she had taken from home. None of us had ever had coffee before, but this seemed like as good a time as any to start. We sat down behind the Marina and smoked a cigarette as we took turns drinking coffee from the little cup that so conveniently came with the thermos. There were a few fisherman milling around, and an old man was roaming the beach with a metal detector. “We need to go now.”, Misha said. “Before it gets too busy.”

Once on the beach we tried to remember exactly where Crazy Eddie had buried the body parts. We dug and dug, but came up with nothing.  The old  man with the metal detector shouted “Hot damn. I found something.” We all ran over, and there in his hand, was a gold ring. “What is it?”, I asked.

“A lady’s wedding ring, I would think.”, the old man said.

“I told you he buried his mother.”, Rosie reminded us. Misha grabbed Rosie’s shovel and she began digging like a dog trying to retrieve the bone it had buried. We took turns with the shovels and dug and dug, but we found nothing except some sand crabs, fish skeletons, and some small turtles. The pier at the beach began filling up with boaters and fishermen getting ready to start another day on the water.

“We should go.”, Misha said. “We’ll have to figure something else out.” Dejected, we headed back to the marina, where we shared a cigarette. We sat in silence for what seemed like an eternity, and I suppose each one of us was trying to come up with some way we could find out what Crazy Eddie had buried on the beach that night. “Come with me.”, Misha said as she took my hand and led me to the other side the marina, behind an old Maple tree. The touch of her hand sent shivers through my body, and I knew that I probably would have followed her anywhere, just to stay near her. “You’re the smartest one of us.”, she told me. “What do you think we should do?”

“Well”, I answered. “Digging up the beach isn’t going to do anything. I think we should follow Crazy Eddie. Maybe we can catch him red handed.”

“That makes sense.”, Misha said, as she leaned in and gave me a kiss on my lips. That brief kiss made me feel indestructible and I kissed her again. We must have been there for about five minutes with our lips pressed together behind that Maple tree. When we started to walk back to our friends, we held hands. “I guess I’m your girlfriend now.”, Misha stated with some certainty as she squeezed my hand.

“I suppose so.”, I answered.  I had never really had a girlfriend before, so I couldn’t be sure.  But either way, I liked it.

Danny and Rosie were too scared to join us in our mission that night, so Misha and I decided that we would do it alone. Just the two of us. Like Jonathan Steed and Emma Peel from The Avengers. We left the marina to plan our mission, but found ourselves making out in the lane way behind the Red and White Grocery Store. It was at that moment that I realized that I really didn’t give a rat’s ass about Crazy Eddie or what he buried at the beach. All I wanted was to keep doing whatever the hell I was doing with Misha. I hoped that she was feeling the same, but I was too damned scared to ask.

That night, we waited in the bushes across the road from Crazy Eddie’s place. I told my parents that I was staying at Danny’s overnight, while Misha told her family that she would be spending the night at Rosie’s. We had a plan, and now we just had to wait for the villain to take the bait.  Eddie Appleton finally came out of his cottage, and headed off towards town. He was carrying a small black bag, and a small shovel, the kind you would use in a flower garden. Visions of Lars Thorwald began playing in my head. Maybe, just maybe Rosie was right. Maybe Crazy Eddie was burying his mother in various places around Jackson’s Point. Misha and I followed him as he rummaged through every garbage can and dumpster he could find. Every now and then he would open the small, black bag and place something in it, or take something out. We couldn’t be sure. We followed him through his journey and to the beach. We watched him dig a small hole, and bury something in the sand. He dug five holes that night, and we memorized the location of each one. When he left, Misha and I went behind the marina and smoked a cigarette. “Well stay here until it gets light. Then we can dig up the holes and see what Crazy Eddie’s been up to.”, I said.

“Okay.”, Misha replied, as she put her head on my shoulder and closed her eyes.

I woke her as soon as it was light, and we walked onto the beach and started digging exactly where Eddie Appleton had dug the night before. We dug up all five of the holes and each one contained the same thing. Fish bones. Numerous, assorted bones from numerous assorted fish. “This is crazy.”, Misha said.

“They don’t call him Crazy Eddie for the hell of it.”, I told her.

“I just don’t get it.”, she continued.

“Maybe you have to be crazy to get it.”, I replied. It was crazy, and I didn’t get it either. It made no sense. The early morning boaters and fishermen started arriving so Misha and I went back behind the marina. “Well”, I said, “the mystery is solved.”

“What a let down.”, Misha replied. “I thought we were onto something big.” I did too, and I was just as disappointed as she was.

That afternoon I saw Crazy Eddie and his mother on my way to Rosie’s. She said hello, and I crossed the road to talk with them. I said hi to Eddie and he merely shrugged. Mrs. Appleton apologized for him, informing me that Eddie had been out very late burying fish skeletons at the beach. I asked her why. She told me that Eddie was trying to give the fish a proper burial and he felt they should be laid to rest near the water. After all, that is where their friends and family were.

I continued to hang out with Misha that summer, hiding behind the marina smoking cigarettes and making out. When it ended we parted ways, writing the customary letters for a while and then, we just lost touch with each other. I haven’t seen Rosie since that summer, and Danny and I connected a couple of times when we were attending the same University. We had grown apart, blazing different trails for our lives. I spent some time with Eddie that summer and I learned that he was not dangerous. He was certainly fucked up,but he was completely harmless, a good soul who I suppose was totally misunderstood. He taught me how to look at the world with hope and patience and I was always amazed at his innocence and kindness. Eddie died many years ago. He was hit by a drunk driver while wandering the streets of a much busier Jackson’s Point wearing his orange fluorescent vest.  Truth be told, I enjoyed every minute we spent together.

 

 

 

The Silence Of The Yams

 

After an ill fated attempt at minimalist living, my wife had forged ahead and dug her heels into a newfound healthy eating lifestyle. It seemed that she had gone vegan. Just like that. The announcement came as a surprise to the entire family. “She’s gone crazy.”, one of my daughters voiced at the secret meeting we held in the backyard.

“She’s not crazy.”, I told them. “Let’s just give it a try.” Desperately hoping that this too would die a quick death, we joined her in the madness of a meatless life.

Every day she would send us pictures and recipes of meals that she found on the internet, each one captioned with “What do you think about this?”, or “Doesn’t this look good?”, in an attempt to involve as many of us as possible in the meals without meat campaign she had launched. We never responded, not one of us.

“What is this?”, I asked as we sat down to dinner.

“Portobello burger.”, she answered. “It tastes exactly like beef.” She was wrong. She was very wrong. It tasted nothing like beef, and even with all of the barbecue sauce, mustard, horse radish and onions, the taste of the mushroom still jumped up and shouted “This isn’t really a burger.”

And then, after reading an article on their health benefits, my wife discovered sweet potatoes. She figured out how to incorporated them in almost every meal. There were pies, and casseroles, and pastas. There were salads, and soups, and stews. After a few days, the rest of us were growing restless, feeling helpless against the onslaught of beans and vegetables, so when she went out with friends one evening, the rest of us headed off to Napoli Vince and dined on the meat lovers platter. There was veal, and sausage, and lamb and steak, and not a bean or a yam in sight. And it was so good! “Why can’t we do this all of the time?”, a daughter asked.

I knew why, but I didn’t want to ruin the obvious joy that illuminated my children’s faces. “Why don’t you just tell her we’re not going to eat veganese any more?” my youngest daughter asked. Why not indeed!

Upon my wife’s return I was ready for the showdown. “So what did you guys do tonight?”, she asked.

“Not much, really.”, I answered.

“How was dinner?”, she continued, as she headed into the kitchen. We all started to panic. We forgot to get rid of the meal she had left for us, sweet potato and lentil stew, in our haste to return to our primal inner carnivores. “So, what did you eat?”, she stated as she returned to the living room. My daughters left, like rabbits running from the fox, leaving me alone to face the Spanish Moroccan in a one on one battle to the death. She was already wearing her battle gear, that ‘I know you did something you shouldn’t have’ face, with those dark, unblinking eyes, arms folded across her chest, and her left leg a little turned out with the foot below it repeatedly tapping on the floor in 2/4 time. I took my position directly across from here, careful not to seem too confrontational while at the same time, demonstrating a complete lack of wrong doing. My hands were in my pant pockets, and my eyes were intentionally avoiding any eye contact with her.

“Well”, she said, “what did you do?”

“Can we sit down and talk?”, I asked.

“You can sit if you want.”, she stated, “I think I’d prefer to stand.”

“No.”, I replied. “I really need you to sit down so we can talk.” When we were both seated I realized that she looked even more upset than when she was standing, but there was no way I was going to ask her to stand up again.

“We don’t want to be vegans.”, I told her. “We just can’t live on rice, and beans, and sweet potatoes.”

“Millions of people eat like that.”, she replied. “What do you mean you can’t?”

“We don’t like it.”, I answered. “We just don’t like it.”

“Well”, she answered, “I could change a few things around, and maybe use different spices.”

“No”, I told her, “its not the seasoning or the spices. Its the lack of meat. I appreciate you trying to keep us healthy, we all do, but we have to come to some sort of compromise. You can’t just dump all of this on us at once.”

“Okay”, she responded. “I guess you’re right. It is a big change to have to deal with all at once. So what did you guys eat tonight?”

“We went to Naploi Vince’s.”, I told her.

“Did you bring me anything back?”, she asked.

“Actually, no.”, I informed her. “But there is a veal on a bun that just needs to be heated up, and its all yours if you want it.” She hoped out of the chair like a jack in the box, and dashed to the kitchen, placing the sandwich in the oven, and I swear I could hear her salivating from the other room.

“We should do this a couple of times a week.”, she said.

“We can.”, I replied.

“Its so good.”, she added, with a mouth full of food, savoring every nuance of this most perfect of sandwiches. I watched her as she continued to eat, taking in all of the sounds that indicated just how much she was loving it.

“Food sex, right?”, I asked her.

“Uh huh.”, she said between bites. And while she continued to eat, I disposed of the lentil and sweet potato stew she had left for us. When she had finished her sandwich, we headed to bed and laying there, I heard her say “We have to go to St. Lawrence Market tomorrow morning and pick up some veal. Oh, and we should get some hot Italian sausages, and beef ribs. I want beef ribs.”

“Okay.”, I said.

“And on the way”, she continued, “we should drop off all of the bags of beans and legumes in the donation bin for the food bank.”

“Okay.”, I repeated. As I drifted off to sleep, I couldn’t help but thinking that I had just dodged another bullet, well not just me, but my kids too. I haven’t seen a sweet potato for a few months, and everyday I am grateful for that. I do however, spend some time, usually at night when the insomnia takes over and leaves me awake and agitated, wondering about what frightening idea from the lunatic fringe she will embrace next.

 

 

 

 

Harland Chesterfield & The Magic Bullet

Shit happens. It almost always does. The year that should have been, never was. We had big plans. Plans that we were certain would change our lives forever. Plans to attend ten Yes concerts in 15 days during the band’s ‘Close To The Edge Tour’, but nobody had heard from Harland Chesterfield since the weather changed that September. The search for him took several days, but he was found in a motel room hours away from home, draped over the side of the tub with an empty six pack of Labbatt’s Blue and a crumpled pack of Players scattered on the floor.

Harland Chesterfield had always been one weird, little guy. He was usually hanging out at Wilmington Park in what seems like a lifetime ago, roaming around, struggling to find somewhere to fit in. He seemed a withdrawn, but  he was usually also pretty wasted.  Harland didn’t have many friends, and kept to himself most of the time. He lived his life through music, and that seemed to be the only bond he would, or could share with others. He knew his stuff though.

One Friday night, at a house party at the home of one of the many teenage tarts who prowled Wilmington Park in search of drugs, love, and sex, Harland had discovered that the best way for someone to take their own life was at a Yes concert during the ‘I get up, I get down’ section of  ‘Close To The Edge’. He thought it was absurdly brilliant. We just thought he was messed up. He had reason to be. When he was nine years old, his mother seemed to have lost her mind and stabbed his father to death in the kitchen, after he informed her that the soup she had served him was not hot enough. She looked at him, smiled, and inserted an eight inch blade directly into his heart. He was dead before he hit the floor. She was institutionalized, and Harland was sent to live with an aunt, a divorced woman who lived on my street and whose bedroom I had the privilege to visit on more than one occasion.

After the police had found him, Harland was taken to the hospital and released a few days later, apparently in good health. It seems that he had simply drank himself unconscious. The trip was back on, and we were set to depart for Waterloo the following afternoon. Harland didn’t want to talk about what happened in that motel room, and the only comment he ever made about it was simply that he had a great sleep. We attended the Waterloo show completely messed up on peyote, and  followed it with concerts in Toronto and Ottawa.  Montreal was to be the last Canadian date, before we were to set out for the second stage in Flint, Columbus, and Erie.

During the Montreal concert, dead smack in the middle of ‘I Get Up, I Get Down’, amid the dry ice and flashing lights, Harland Chesterfield fell face first onto the floor. When we couldn’t get him to move, we called security who removed him from the concert floor and took him somewhere inside the bowels of the arena. We followed the security detail, and waited outside a room they had taken him to. Paramedics arrived quickly, and they seemed to be in there for hours. Finally, the door burst open, and they rushed Harland down the hallway, strapped to a stretcher, and into the back of the waiting ambulance. Harland passed away, in fact he was already gone by the time the paramedics got him into the ambulance. He was pronounced Dead On Arrival at the hospital. An autopsy identified the cause of death as suicide by poison. Traces were found in his blood and on his hands. Harland Chesterfield had administered the magic bullet that took his life at a Yes concert, with twenty thousand fans cheering, amid the spectacle of ‘I Get Up, I Get Down’, just as he had said he would.

We didn’t finish the ten shows in fifteen days. None of us really wanted to continue. Harland’s funeral was small and short, but those who attended gave him a send off we were sure he would have appreciated. The following summer, as I dabbled around the North, neck deep in drugs and damsels in a dress, I listened to Close To The Edge every day. It continues to live on in my playlist, and everytime I hear any track by Yes, my mind drifts off to remember Harland Chesterfield.

 

 

 

 

 

The Body In The Courtyard

The view from my terrace is wonderfully tranquil. I look directly into a forested area that, in Autumn, turns into a myriad of colors that regularly takes my breath away, and a courtyard enjoyed by the 4 buildings that make up this community. But that morning, it was different. Something had happened to shatter the peace that often came with a morning on the terrace.

I stepped out onto the terrace at about 5 in the morning, coffee and cigarette in hand. The lights that illuminated the courtyard below brought the entire area into view. There was nothing out of the ordinary. At 7:30, I returned to the terrace to find 6 police cruisers parked on the courtyard. There were strands of bright yellow police tape roping off an area near one of the other buildings. And there, on the ground just beside a neighboring building, was a body. It was covered with an orange tarp, and guarded by one of the officers. Several bicycle cops, dressed in the standard issues yellow jackets, and short blue pants arrived on the scene, and were relegated to directing the public away from the area. A black sedan pulled up, and 2 men, wearing suits and sunglasses got out, and walked over to the corpse. It seemed that the detectives had arrived. This was a local CSI.

They wandered around the site, and headed into the building. From my vantage point I watched as it all unfolded. I could see the detectives step onto an 11th floor terrace of a neighboring building, and, after rummaging around, peer over the edge of the terrace. Within minutes they departed the building, spoke to a uniformed officer, and left the scene just as inauspiciously as they had arrived. “Probably suicide.”, I said to my wife.

“What if he was sleep walking and fell off.”, she remarked.

“No.”, I told her. “Either suicide, or someone was high as fuck, and thought they could fly.”

“Really?”, she questioned. “Does that even happen?”

“It does to me.”, I informed her. “Many times. But usually the gargoyles wandering around the terrace keep me inside.”

It didn’t take long for the Forensics Unit to arrive. Two Officers lugging a briefcase full of evidence gathering equipment, and a camera. Pictures of the scene were taken, and the orange tarp was lifted in order to take photos of the corpse. Once completed they headed inside the building, up to the 11th floor terrace, and began taking pictures there. They returned to the scene on the ground, and rounded up what I suspect were bone fragments, and placed them in a bag. Once they were done, the Coroner’s Office arrived, in their black van, instructing the bicycle cops to keep away, and a Sergeant on the scene dispensed the short panted cyclists to other duties off the site.

The corpse was rolled and lifted onto a series of plastic coverings, and placed on a stretcher. It was wheeled to the awaiting black van, placed inside, and driven off. I looked down at the site, and noticed an enormous pool of blood. One of the maintenance workers from the complex came to wash the blood off of the concrete slabs that creating the walkway around the courtyard itself.

“I wonder if it was a man or a woman?”, my wife inquired.

“I think it was a man.”, I said. “Pretty big corpse for a woman.”

“Well that seems a little sexist.”, she stated. “There are big women, and there are small men.”

“Indeed there are.”, I agreed. “But it took three men to lift the body onto the stretcher, so I’m going to have to go with it was a man. Secondly, I am not sure that jumping to one’s death is a method women generally make when they contemplate suicide.”

“We don’t know it was suicide.”, she reminded me. “Maybe she was thrown off the terrace.”

“Well”, I added, “The detectives were in and out in about 15 minutes. The forensics team took about 30 minutes and then left. I would suspect that if foul play was suspected, there would be an investigation going on right now. I think they found a suicide note in the unit, so, that’s it.”

The Police began to remove the yellow tape, and once this task was completed, they left, like a convoy. It was 10 o’clock, and after 2 1/2 hours, the scene was completely restored to its previous pristine condition. We all seem to react to these kind of things differently, and my youngest daughter, who had been busy taking pictures of the event, began sharing them with her sister who now lived in the suburbs, informing her that there was a vacant apartment down here that was available. My wife found it completely disrespectful. My daughters found it funny. I just found it sad.

I have seen a lot of shit go on down here. There have been multiple stabbings and shootings, drug overdoses, and a serial killer stalked his victims not too far from where I live. The intentional taking of one’s own life saddens me. We still have no idea of what transpired. There was no information in any media outlets, and no one who lives in the area has any more information than I do. I suppose that we will never know what really happened. Perhaps my wife is right. Maybe some one was sleepwalking and fell over the railing. Or perhaps someone tossed the victim over the edge. I suppose, any scenario could be possible at this time. My guess, as I informed my wife, is that the gargoyles on the terrace had left, and the dude, who was high as fuck, simply wanted to fly. It happens. In any event, I hope the poor soul finds some peace now.