The Gentlemen’s Game

3 Mar

This short story is part of a collection I’m working on.  All the stories involve cars in some way, shape or form.  A work in progress you might say. This is an unedited first draft.  I hope you like it.

It had been a long night fuelled by expensive drinks and flirtatious encounters, one after another.  It seemed every time he stepped to the bar there was another knockout, a bombshell of a beauty waiting for her next drink.  If he managed to catch her eye, he’d ask what she was drinking and buy the next round.  He called it The Gentlemen’s Game and hoped that it would score him some company for the evening.  He’d been at it for hours with nothing to show for it except an incredible buzz and a good sized hole in his bank account.  Truth be told, he’d been at it for years without even a hint of success.  By this time, most of the women who frequented the same clubs as he did knew his game and timed their trips to the bar accordingly.  Some of the younger women, university students mostly, would even keep an eye on him throughout the night and watch his drink to see when he’d be making his next pilgrimage to the bar.  They’d take turns orchestrating encounters along the chow line to cash in on the game he was playing.

“Cash in – cash out,” they’d say to each other as they walked back, drink in hand, to meet the others and decide who would get to try their luck next.

Unfortunately for Richard, he was an easy drunk and after two or three doubles, his ability to recognise faces slowly faded away as the alcohol took hold of his system.  Individual women became nothing more than “members of the opposite sex”.  His ability to seek out women he was actually attracted to disappeared; its place filled with nothing more man’s primal urge to get it on.  

At the end of the night it was always the same.  Club patrons waited impatiently for their coats and jackets while some argued over he-said-she-saids, some appeared stuck together at the mouth and others like Richard, did their best to stand up straight, often relying on the nearest wall for support while doing their best to smile and appear slightly less intoxicated than they actually were. 

Richard was hilarious in these end-of-evening situations, often wearing the largest grin and still doing his best to make eye contact with the ladies.  His glossed over stare, red face and usual dishevelled appearance where topped only by his inability to react when addressed by anyone.  He appeared to stare directly through women who kindly thanked him for the drinks along with their possessive, would-be partners for the evening, who often threw a defensive and sometimes aggressive glance in his direction as they made their way towards the exit as if to say, “Watch it buddy.  This one’s mine.” 

Once he retrieved his belongings from the coat-check and followed the well lit hallway that led to the street, he would find himself surrounded by the evening’s aftermath.  It was usually a sea of drunken women struggling to stand in high heels, many wondering barefoot, shoes in hand.  Beautiful, long legs on the verge of collapsing underneath blonds, redheads and brunettes who seemed to be surrounded men locked in battle like warriors from middle earth hoping to win the love of a fair maiden or at the very least, an evening’s accommodations in the royal chambers. 

If he was sober enough to string two thoughts together he’d make his way to the line up of taxis waiting to carry him home to his lonely apartment where he could fall asleep in front of some mindless television, usually after shoving a few pieces of bread into his mouth and opening a can of beer that would soon be forgotten or possibly spilled on the floor.  If he was past the point of clear thinking upon exiting the bar, his animal instinct would kick in, forcing him home on foot.  The forty-five minute walk sometimes felt like twenty minutes and on other occasions, it felt like two days.  Those night where he’d take liberty in creating new shortcuts often led to an overpowering, although often short lived sense of fear and panic.  

Getting lost on the walk home was the worst.  On two separate occasions he’d given up trying to get his bearings, deciding instead to sleep off the confusion in the closest possible nesting place – once in a stranger’s garden tool shed and on another occasion, below ground level curled up in a window well of a newly constructed apartment complex.  The night spent in the garden shed worked out well, all things considered.  He woke in the quiet backyard of an empty house.  It wasn’t vacant.  It was just empty.  The residents could have just skipped out to pick up a coffee and the morning paper but for all he knew, they may have also been somewhere far away enjoying their summer vacation while a stranger filled their flower pots with urine and slept in their wheelbarrow.   

The window well didn’t work out as nicely.  Although he managed to squeeze himself into the pit lined with aluminum sheeting and filled partially with dead leaves and garbage, he longed for the comfort of a stranger’s wheelbarrow when he woke.  The sound of traffic had first broke his slumber and although he tried his best to ignore its constant intrusion into his dreamlike state, he couldn’t ignore the sound of knuckles on glass as they seemed to pierce his skull, tapping directly on his frontal lobes.  He painfully opened his eyes and found himself face to face with the tenant of a downstairs apartment, obviously irritated by his choice of evening accommodations.  An angry faced, middle aged man stood in what appeared to be his living room, staring directly into Richard’s eyes.  Two children sat behind the morning madman, their eyes wide open in disbelief.  

“If you don’t get up right now, I’m comin’ out there and then you’ll be sorry.” 

Richard fought his way to his feet, his spine temporarily locked in the shape of a fishhook.  As he forced himself into a painful upright position and somehow managed to get his legs under him, the blind of the window snapped shut.  Not knowing if that was a sign the angry tenant was on his way out to free the parking lot of riffraff, Richard quickly hobbled to the sidewalk and made his way up the street with the pace and appearance of a mindless zombie intent on finding his next meal of human flesh.  All he really wanted was his bed and a large glass of water. 

Thankfully tonight followed a much smoother, much more appreciated pattern.  Upon exiting the bar and making his way to the waiting taxis, he found that not only did he not have to fight tooth and nail for a ride, but he was able to simply open the rear door of the cab and take a seat without incident.  

“Where ya headin’?” the driver asked. 

“550 George, front door,” said Richard. 

“You’re not gonna fall asleep on me are ya,” the driver asked. 

“No. No, I’m alright I think,” said Richard, as he watched the crowds along the sidewalk moving back and forth, pushing, shoving, hugging, and kissing.  For a moment he felt like he was looking into some sort of human fish tank. 

“Not a bad night out there tonight ‘eh?” said the driver.  “I’ve seen it absolutely bonkers out here sometimes.  Some nights ya get a real show.  I’ve seen fist fights, all kinds of boobs, and some folks practically screwing.” 

“Yeah, I’ve seen some f’d up shit happen after the bars close,” said Richard, his head now leaning on the window for support. 

“Some of these guys are completely ridiculous,” said the driver.  “I don’t think fighting really works to turn women on these days.  This guy here,” he said pointing to a well-dressed, handsome man trying his best to hail a taxi.  “This guy’s got the right idea.  He’s sober enough to avoid a fist fight and still wear his clothes properly.  Look at that, his shirt’s still tucked in.” 

Richard had untucked his shirt and stuffed his tie into his pocket moments after arriving at the club. He was convinced women found the post-work-casual look attractive. 

“Even though he’s trying to hail a cab like he’s in the movies or something,” the cab driver pointed out, “you’ve gotta admit, that’s a pretty attractive girl standing with him.  He’s playing what I call The Gentleman’s Game.”

 Richard, only half listening, now tuned his hearing and attention towards the cab driver. 

“The Gentleman’s Game?” he asked. 

“Yeah,” said the driver as he flashed a glance in Richard’s direction. “It’s when a guy stays within his limits surrounded by dudes out to get drunk.  The Gentleman will nurse maybe two drinks at the most all night long.  He’s not out to get drunk.  He’s out to impress the ladies.  He’s out to be a gentleman.”

Love on the Run

3 Mar

Image

The King and Queen just want to live their last days in piece.

My Town

7 Feb

You can hear the tune by clicking HERE. Cheers.

Snowliloquy

23 Jan

This is the first draft of a series of stories I’m writing about cars and our relationship with them.  I hope you enjoy it.  I would love some feedback.

Nathan looked out the window into the darkness. The mucus colored glow of his daytime running lights lit up a patch of snow stretching from the driveway to the kitchen window where he was standing. A trail of exhaust rose from behind his car like smoke from a wood burning stove, conjuring up memories from his rural Canadian childhood. As a kid, seeing the smoke rise from a dozen chimneys in either direction of his family’s one acre lot was the tell-tale sign of the change in season and the coming holiday break. What was once a source of childish excitement had become little more than a reminder of the long season ahead and all the problems it usually brings. Last winter he needed his battery boosted twice, his timing belt replaced and during one of several late nights spent shoveling the driveway of his tiny apartment, his car had been clipped by a passing snow plow and had to have some serious reconstruction done to its tail end. Insurance covered that one.

On the counter behind him, the coffee maker spat and gargled out the last drips of his morning brew, dark like the outside world on this particular December morning. Before the final drips had finished filling the pot, he was pouring his morning fuel into his aluminum thermos like he’d always done leaving the last drops of breakfast to evaporate as they landed on the Brewmaster’s element.

Nathan wasn’t much for routines and considered his daily pre-work activities more of a ritual than anything else. To him the word ritual had a better ring to it and implied an almost religious connotation whereas a routine, well, that just sounded too prearranged, too premeditated and far too close to something he’d always associated with old folks. With his forties drawing ever-closer, he was in a constant state of attempting to put distance between him and any article, action or intention that may resemble that of a full grown, functioning adult. His wife Janice referred to it simply as denial and she was probably right.

With his lunch packed and his thermos of coffee stuffed safely into his computer bag, Nathan began the second phase of his morning ritual – the drive to work. Always underdressed, he threw on his hoodie, ball cap and sneakers and stepped out into the cool morning air, soaking both his feet in ankle-deep slush as he walked to the car.

As he began making his way through the cramped downtown streets, Nathan launched into his daily automotive dialog – a ritualized soliloquy that focused almost exclusively on weather conditions and the inability or irresponsibility of other morning commuters.
And he had a particular distaste for people who parked on the side of the street affectively narrowing the area available for motorists unfortunate enough to pass one another in those locations.

“Fuckin’ streets,” he said to himself. “If it was any tighter I’d have to grease the car up to squeeze through. Way to park, asshole.”

His grip tightened on the wheel as he navigated between parked cars and oncoming traffic approaching at the same slow crawl as his advance. The dashboard heater of his ’97 Corolla stretched and relaxed in unison with the car’s engine and with it, the amount of heat it threw. Nathan couldn’t wait to get on the freeway so the heater could open full-bore and take the chill from his finger tips.

“Fuck this cold weather,” he said as he fiddled with the sliders on his dashboard heater trying to find a balance that would help remove the haze forming on his windshield while maintaining some sort of warmth.

As he neared the merging lane that would guide him onto the highway, Nathan could see the road ahead was covered in snow and slush and prepared for the usually lack of traction these conditions kindly provided.

“Where the fuck are all the plows,” he said to himself as his glance quickly skipped from his rearview mirror to he driver’s side mirror, over his shoulder and back in the direction he was heading.

Once he had successfully completed his merger into the traffic his drive always seemed to improve. The long stretch of road and the even flow of traffic was a pleasure after navigating the tiny thoroughfares near his apartment.

As his exit approached he began preparations for what was almost always a slippery stretch – one that has tried time and time again to pull him off the pavement and into the ditch. At least once a week someone was parked nose-down, their rear wheels dangling just above the roadside. This exit took no prisoners and had claimed many a victim during the coldest months of the year.

“Not this time,” Nathan muttered in a Hollywood tone, briefly imagining himself as a toothpick chewing protagonist is some big budget film about Canadian winter driving. The thought brought a smile to his face as he slowly followed the off ramp’s curve making sure not to get too close the edge of the pavement.

“As if,” he said. “Who the hell would make a movie about Canadian winters?”

The idea was enough to distract him momentarily from his bitter venting. He loved the idea of making himself laugh out loud and it was something he did often, just about every morning.

“I bet the National Film Board would throw money at something stupid like that,” he said as the wipers smeared snow and ice across his line of sight.

“Ah fuck! These wipers suck!”

He was now within sight of his office as he slowed to a crawl in the turning lane, often the last straw for his morning patience. Car after car passed by. The long line of oncoming headlights stretched out before him like a giant string of Christmas lights. He sat, not-so-patiently waiting for a break in the chain long enough to allow him to make the left turn into the company parking lot.

“C’mon,” muttered, turning down the radio to embrace the full effect of his anger. “Which one of you assholes is going to let me in?”

Every morning it was different. He waited and watched the traffic pass. Usually after sitting with his blinker on for what felt like a minute or two, he’d start to count the cars as a way of passing the time until he found a large enough gap in the flow to squeeze through. And always, once he’d made it across the line of cars and into his parking spot he’d wish the number of cars he counted was much larger as it would certainly prove to be good conversation fodder in the lunch room. Every morning he resolved to begin counting sooner and every morning he forgot, distracted by the one-man show he put on for himself as he sat behind the wheel.

“Morning Nathan,” said the office receptionist as Nathan opened the door and stepped inside. “How was your drive this morning?”

“Hey Betty,” he said, smiling as he hung up his coat. “It was fine. The roads aren’t too bad at all. It was actually a pretty easy drive in this morning.”

His ritual done for another day.

Lost & Found: An Evening of Storytelling

22 Jan

Last night the Gallery Connexion held its first storytelling event. The theme for the night was “lost & found”. The six storytellers for the evening included Erin Keating, Amanda Jardine, Andrew Sisk, Eric Hill and myself. The capacity crowd enjoyed what will hopefully be the first of many storytelling/spoken word events at the gallery. Big thanks to Eric Hill for setting it all up.

For my story, I chose one that I posted here last fall in written form. I call the story, “I’m the opposite of all those things”. This is my performance from last night’s event. Enjoy.

A Hole in Our Heart

27 Nov

Here is a little tune I wrote over the weekend. I figured our shale gas protesters could use a theme song to help with the cause. And if they already have one, there’s certainly no harm in having another. Stop Shale Gas in New Brunswick.

A Hole in Our Heart

I had to add this youtube link because traffic actually crashed my hotlink hosted file. Whacky!

I Played Little League

23 Nov

It’s been a while since I posted anything so I figure I’m due.  Here is a little piece of a story I’m working on about the two years I played on the community softball team in Geary, NB where I grew up.

There was a point in my childhood where it seemed like every rural community had a ball diamond.  The simplest of infrastructural endeavours, these recreational hubs often employed nothing more than a few fence posts and some chicken wire to fashion a crude backstop and some leftover lumber to build two rickety benches on either side of home plate.  With minimal investment, any backwoods community could add a taste of municipal flare to a vacant lot, the backyard of a church or the far corner of an elementary school playground.  And judging by the number of deserted ball fields you can spot when driving through these tiny hovels today, this crude form of community revitalization appeared to happen every couple of generations.  Lucky for me, my interest in softball came along during one of those periods of rustic renewal, when it seemed every small community within a twenty minute drive from home was hoping to foster the next Babe Ruth.  

While some stretches of rural settlement were content with converting any field into a vague resemblance of a ball diamond, others left nothing to the imagination adding sheltered team benches, outfield fences and an outhouse for players and spectators to share.  Over time, it became evident that many of these small communities may have been slightly ambitious in the construction of these homespun Candlestick Parks, neglecting to take regular upkeep into consideration.  I watched many a field-of-dreams become countryside eye sores for nearby residence over the years but somehow, despite their lack of floodlights, adequate parking, acceptable lawn care, baselines or even spectators of any kind, these glorified patches of well-worn grass spawned countless community rivalries and memories that would live-on for our entire lives.       

In the spring of fifth grade, I brought home a notice from school announcing tryouts for little league softball.  Several of my friends were planning to attend so I went to work on my Mom and Dad, hoping they would allow me to try my hand at line-drives and pop-flies.  I’d never played softball before and the closest I’d ever come to swinging a bat at a ball involved a rusted badminton racket and some frozen horse manure from our backyard.  The thought of being part of a team had always seemed like an unobtainable goal until then. 

Up to this point in time, my previous track record with pretty much any group activity usually ended with me stubbornly refusing to ever go back and doing my best to make my protest known.  My childhood fear of being embarrassed and humiliated in front of a group of strangers usually resulted in me embarrassing or humiliating myself in front of a group of strangers.  Like the time I ran screaming out of swimming lessons because I didn’t know how to swim.  It seemed like a good idea at the time.  Thankfully, my parents gave me another chance at humiliation and let me join little league. 

Tryouts consisted of nothing more than showing up, signing a form and being told what team we were on.  Due to overwhelming interest that year, we ended up being the only community in the league to field two teams.  A few parents had volunteered to coach and claimed to have picked the teams by drawing player’s names out of a hat.  As if by design, the two teams that were formed that year ended up being just about as one-sided as a North Korean election.  It seemed like all the kids who naturally excelled at organised sports and were raised among generations of athletic supremacy ended up on one team, while me and all my introverted friends who collectively knew as much about softball as we did about kissing girls made up the bulk of the other.  Even though I could see the writing on the wall, it still felt good to tell my friends and family I made the team.  

Once a week our team would meet at the school ball diamond for batting practice, drive drills and plotting the most basic of plays, like how to catch a pop-fly without colliding into one another.  It was somehow assumed that we all knew the rules of softball inside and out prior to our first practice but as I was quick to learn, I knew a lot less than most of my misfit friends.  One of the first rules I learned was that a runner could overrun first.  I knew something was up the first time I actually hit a ball and delivered a dramatic slide into first base.  What to me seemed like the introduction to some inner athlete I had not yet met, sparked a display of laughter, applause and heckling like I’d never seen before.  Even my coach got a good laugh out of that smooth move.  That was just the reaction that would have sent me home in tears sworn to never return again but for some reason, I remember wanting to stick it out.  Somehow I was able to brush the embarrassment off and keep going, something that up until that moment I had never done before.  I was charting new ground and softball was my guide. 

Thankfully, I wasn’t the only player on our team who lacked the natural ability and athletic agility possessed by most every other player in the league.  We all took our turn making foolish mistakes, fumbling plays, swinging at wild pitches and listening to the taunts and insults hurled by the other team.  I can remember dreading my turn at the plate, hoping the coach would have somehow forgot to add me to the batting order.  He never did and when my name was called I would reluctantly make my way to the plate to the shouts of “easy out” and “this guy’s a no-hitter”.  For the first time in my life, I wasn’t running away from the hecklers and the name-callers.  I was bound and determined to prove them wrong and knock one out of the park.

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