Short Story – Papa and The Bertrand Brew House

Photo by Josh Olalde on Unsplash


Cappy survived the electrocution.  

It was torture.  Not stuff of Guantanamo Bay legend.  The torture was not being able to use my hand, Cappy remembers saying as he turned over his calloused hand and listened to some pencil pusher tell him how the world worked.

The engineer who had signed off on the project, saying that it was ready to remove the old boiler, forgot to disconnect the power in the mechanical room.  And Cappy got zapped with a near lethal dose of 240 volts three years ago.    

“Ok.  Ok.  I will.  Ya, you too,” said Cappy, hanging up the phone.  He looked through the streaked windshield but was talking to his supervisor Sammy on his right.

“They agreed that we can bill them for the extra labour.  The fuckin moron hadn’t even read the contract when he signed it.”

Sammy just sat there.  He could feel it coming even though it hadn’t happened in something like a year.

“I just want to rewind the movie of my life to the day before I get electrocuted and just be there with that dumb ass engineer, and just ask him, ‘yo bro didya double check that the power got disconnected?’  And then when we both see that even though on his little officey clipboard it has his signature with his little P.Eng number right under it, that the fucker didn’t do his job.  And I can see his reaction and look im right in the eye and say, ‘Bro!!?  What the fuck?!”

Sammy had heard Cappy’s rant a thousand times.  The vitriol towards the engineer, the engineering company, against life was on a gradual decline.  Sammy didn’t clench his stomach anymore when he accompanied Cappy down this road.  

Sammy waited a few seconds before saying, “You done?”

Cappy looked over at Sammy, the four days of whiskers slide across the collar of his hi-vis orange coat.  “Ya.  I’m done.”

“Ok great.”  Sammy rubbed his hands together and then cupped them to blow on them.  It was more theatre to break the moment and get a move on as opposed to actually needing to warm them up.  “So now ya think you might be able to throw yer fancy truck into drive.  That will help me get a little bit closer to my cup of coffee and my breakfast sandwich”

“Why in the world are you gonna get a breakfast sandwich?  It’s noon.”

“At this rate I’m not gettin anything if we keep sittin here.”

After fifteen minutes of idling during the phone call Cappy finally started driving and as a joke slammed on the brakes while they were still in the parking lot.

“Whoa, bro, settle down.”

“You’re a fuckin joy to work with,” joked Cappy. 

“I can see why your wife keeps sending you to work.  She doesn’t want to have to look at your irascible face all day.”

“Wow.  Irascible.  That’s a big word.  Do you need to take a nap now?”

Sammy laughed hard as he looked out the passenger door window and saw the temps coming down the stairs . 

The boiler extraction had gone sideways because they couldn’t get the bin up to the loading dock to just dump all the metal. They had to hire some temps just to unload the debris from the indoor cart, carry it down the loading dock stairs and reload it into an outdoor cart so they could take it around the corner of the building because that was the only place they could put the bin because they weren’t permitted to block any of the loading bays.  It was a shit show. 

It had actually been decent weather for February.  Minus 15 degrees or so Celsius.  The temps made a good team and got it done.  A temporary worker wants to impress the boss so they offer him full time work so it can actually work out really well for all parties.

Cappy got a pretty good pay out in the settlement with the engineering firm.  They still do business together but who knows what happened to that forgetful engineer.  

Cappy could’ve retired with his union pension and the payout but what would he have done.  At the time of the accident he was 59 years old and didn’t golf.  Even if he did he wouldn’t have been able to hold a driver properly.  After 2 months of moping around the house his wife sent him back to work.

It made him famous.  They wrote articles about him in construction safety journals and engineering publications.  Even the guys taking down the perimeter fencing at one job site grew his legend:

“That’s the guy …”  

“Wow!  How is he still alive?”

“Much less working.”

“And at his age he should be at home.  Unless his wife can’t stand him”

“How many watts was it?”

“Two watts?”

“Is that a lot?”

“Man, he is livin on borrowed time.”

“I’ve seen him before, what’s his name?  I think I worked on the bridge repair with him years and years ago.”

“They call him Cappy.”

“Like as in Capitain.”

“I guess.”

Sammy visited Cappy at the hospital daily after the accident.

“We’re amazed that Mr. Moravic survived.  And to be honest a little worried that he is so adamant he is going straight back to work after such a massive jolt of electricity lit him up,” explained the doctor.  “We want to hold Mr. Moravic for observation for an extra few days.”

“Ok doc, he’s all yours.

“They don’t make em like that anymore,” said the doctor. 

“Ya, Marty’s old school all the way,”  agreed Sammy.

 I am just so amazed.  And very happy for Cappy.”

“Cappy?  Who’s Cappy?”

“Ya they nicknamed him Cappy”

“Why would they do that?” asked Sammy.

“He shouldn’t be alive much less lucid after getting fried like that so we are bringing all our interns to come and see him so they can have first hand experience with his case.  This group of interns gets a kick out of giving the patients nicknames.  They don’t tell the patients.  I really shouldn’t have told you,” said the doctor.

“But, what does Cappy mean?” 

“Ya, of course.  Well you probably know better than me but capacitance is the ability to hold an electrical charge.   And your boss can hold more charge than anyone we have ever seen.  And lived to tell about it.  So they called him Cappy for capacitance.”

Sammy thought this doctor was a real cowboy.

“And what are the side effects and timeline to recovery and all that?”

“He will need to come back in for revision in two weeks and once a month for 3 months and then we can give him the all-clear to go back to work.  Or not.  Depending on his progress.  We have to ensure there are no motor or cognitive issues.”

“Three months?”

“Well he can do stuff.  He just can’t work for the time being.” 

“He is going to be bouncing off the walls,” said Sammy.

 I can see that he is such a hands on guy that he might get a little antsy.”

“That’s an understatement.”

“Ya he has been somewhat impatient already, said the doctor”

“”Ya, and he is only getting more irritable the longer he isn’t working.  You might see him again.  If he has to stay home for very long his wife will start throwing pots and pans at him.”   

Tomas was Veronica’s dad’s name so she wanted to honour him by naming their first born after him.  Five years later Cappy liked the name Bertrand for his second son.  Tomas is a lawyer who moved to Ottawa to work in government so they don’t see him too much.    Tomas looked for a job in Ottawa because first Sheri landed a job out of law school working on intellectual property law.  Tomas got a job in the Department of  Innovation, Science and Industry.  Veronica doesn’t like such a long name or that his wife took her son so far away.

Veronica tells Tomas, 

“Are you losina weight?  Cherry should start to cook a little for you,” Veronica mis-pronounces Sheri’s name on purpose.  Even though she has been in Canada for over 40 years Veronica still blames it on her accent.  It used to drive Tomas crazy but now he just glosses over it.  He just visits by himself because Sheri called her relationship with his mother temporarily suspended in the best interest of everyone.  Sheri came for the funeral but hasn’t been back since.  

“She is just as busy as me working so I can’t just expect her to …”

“That’sa right.  It should just naturally be what she wants to do.  Anda do it,” interrupted Veronica as she stirred a steaming stew on the stove to prove her point.  Veronica gets all theatrical with her old country accent when she feels she is being left behind by her sons.  By life.

“Anyway Cherry is no a very good cook so maybe it’s even betta, that Cherry doesn’t cook so much.”  Veronica stuck to her one more time.

“Ma, Sheri is a good lawyer and focused on her career.  Plus, Sheri makes more money than I do.” Both Veronica and Tomas know he never says she when he talks to his mom about his wife just so his mom knows he doesn’t accept her mom’s pronunciation. 

“Ti in tvoj denar.  Just like your papa,” said Veronica.

“Ma, that’s totally unfair.  I gave Bertie twenty thousand for his brewery business.”

“Twenty?” said a surprised Veronica.  “Your papa told me you gave only ten.”

“Only ten?!  It’s a lot of money, ten thousand dollars!   Listen ma.  I told papa I gave Bertie ten in case, if papa were to ask Bertie if he can help that you wouldn’t feel pressured to give more if I had given more.   Also I figured if I gave him twenty then maybe he would feel what he brought to the table and that he wouldn’t take money from you and papa.” 

“We gave ten.  I wanted to lend them more money but papa said no-no-no. ” said a proud Veronica.

“Have they paid you back yet?”  asked Tomas.

“Mashee, don’t be like dat!”  Veronica scolded Tomas using his childhood nickname.  But, yes they had.

The other son, Bert, partnered with a friend from college and they started their own microbrewery.   The brewery was just getting off the ground when he died.  Killed by a drunk driver on a beautiful spring night as Bertie rode his bike home after visiting his new girlfriend.

The closure, as a couple, they never had about Bertie’s death has felt like a really bad hangover since he died.  It was the drunk driver who did all the drinking and now Cappy and Veronica feel like shit everyday.    Cappy couldn’t deal with the stupidity of it all. So he boxed up his grief in a strong box and purposely forgot the combination to the lock.    

Bertie had been a really good soccer player in highschool but lost interest after no American schools gave him a scholarship.  Upon graduation he immediately focused on learning about business.    He took business courses at night at the college campus downtown.  Even though it was easy to take on-line courses he liked doing the group work so he could meet girls.  He also met Chad at school.

Chad and his dad Ross brewed beer at home as a hobby for years.  Chad and Bert put together a business plan and took it to Ross.  Ross put up most of the money.  Bertie needed three credits for his diploma when they signed the lease for the brewery. Between working full time, opening up a brewery and his new girlfriend finishing a college diploma took a back seat.

With all the supply chain delays they had to postpone the opening of the brewery so for the last six months Bert worked at Chad’s dad’s accounting firm learning the ropes of corporate taxation.  Bert was more of a numbers guy, Chad was the beer guy and Chad’s half brother Brad was supposed to be the marketing guy.   Brad came up with a cheesy name and logo for the brewery but after Bert died they decided to call it The Bertrand Brew House.

Through the church Veronica tried to get Cappy to go to grief counselling.  Then they tried anger management as a back door to get Cappy to talk.  Cappy stonewalled them all.  Gently enlacing his massive fingers on his friendly belly he would just sit there.  It’s not that he didn’t listen to them.  He actually couldn’t hear them.   He generated a force field to block out anyone who wanted to fix him.  He doesn’t even remember the funeral.  No one saw him get drunk and weep, look at pictures of Bertie or even scream in anguish at the gods demanding to know why.  He just couldn’t deal.  

Almost two years after Bertie was killed, Cappy got electrocuted.

That is why Veronica doesn’t want Cappy at home.  When he’s home it’s like there is a pinata filled with grief hanging from their living room ceiling, slowly swinging back and forth like when the air conditioning is on.  And what Cappy just needs to do is grab the stick and bash, smash and crash that pinata.  Make it bleed sweet grief.  And rejoin the party.

The coffee shop is buzzing with Saturday afternoon millennials typing and talking into their laptops.  Sitting down with his brother-in-law Paulo Sammy gets distracted by all the attractive young women sipping chai latte thingamajigs and just stops talking mid sentence.

‘“Focus Sammy Focus,” said Paulo.

“Bro, I think I am officially old.  The girls are so young and …”

“So you called the ambulance and …,” prompted Paulo. 

“Ya so anyway, I went to the hospital with Cappy.  We’re in the ambulance and I am just shitting myself.  I am practically yelling at him, Don’t die you stubborn fuck. And the paramedic guy says for me to cool it.  So I’m looking at Cappy lyin’ there thinking  Marty, If you are gonna be stubborn – today is the day – now is the time – you’re gonna live.   In those days we still called him Marty.  Cappy refused to die like the stubborn mule that he is.  

“Once I knew he was gonna make it I went over to his house to speak with his wife.  So I go get my truck and I’m driving over there.  Actually I am amazed that I didn’t get in a car accident.  You know when you are imagining something inside your mind and that is where all your focus and your consciousness or whatever goes.   Then you are just totally on autopilot.  Well, that was me driving all the way to his place imagining how I was gonna tell Veronica Cappy was in the hospital.”

“At least you didn’t have to give her worse news,” said Paulo. 

“True enough.  Anyway I was so surprised when he asked me about you,” said Sammy.

“Well, I am happy to be of service if I can help.  I’m pretty sure I met Martin, or Cappy, years ago at your place for a barbecue, a birthday party, something like that.”

“Ya, I think so too,” said Sammy.

“So according to you what would be a good result from our meeting?”

“Cappy needs to talk.  After that if he commits to follow up or something with you that would be awesome.”

“Would you say he is reserved or introverted?

“No.  We have great banter at work.  He’s just, gotta get comfortable and feel that you, or whoever, is sincere.  Not yankin his chain.”

“That makes perfect sense.”

“Ya, and I doubt he will do the whole small talk thing; how are the wife and kids.  I think he will want to … Hey there he is.”

Sammy and Paulo stand up and shake hands with Cappy.

“Grab a seat there handsome,” Sammy directs Cappy who was dressed in his church clothes:  checked button-down long sleeve, v-neck sweater and his navy blue windbreaker.  

“Cappy.  You remember Paulo.  He was saying you guys met at my place one time.”

“Hey Cappy.”  Paulo felt weird calling him that.

“Paulo, how ya doin.”

“Can I get you a coffee?” Paulo asked Cappy.

“Green tea if they have it.”

“Since when did you start drinking green tea?” asked Sammy.

“Coffee is giving me bad heartburn all the time and my family doctor said green tea is good for me”

“Green tea it is,” said Sammy.  “Let me get this.  Paulo, did you want anything?” 

“No I’m good, thanks,” said Paulo.

“It’s one of those March days ya know when the warm sun on your face feels great but once you turn the corner and you are in the shade of a big building it drops like 10 degrees.”  Cappy is talkative because he is happy it’s spring which means the days are longer so they can work later.  

“I guess I should call you Cappy.”

“Ya.  Your knucklehead brother-in-law over there just had to go tell anyone who would listen about that nickname they gave me in the hospital.  And now here we sit.  It stuck like flies to shit.”  

“Cappy it is.”

“Doc. listen. You’re a doctor right?”

“No, I’m a psychotherapist.”

“Sammy told me you were a doctor.”

“It’s confusing, all the different titles.  A psychiatrist is a doctor.  I focus on behaviour change through something called Accelerated Experiential Dynamic Psychotherapy.  All that means is we talk about options for how you are going to grow.”

Cappy was almost stunned by the word grow being applied to him and not referring to his round belly.

“Keep talkin.”

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