In the wake of the recent shootings read this – Angry Young Men: 10 Good Reasons to be Angry

10 good reasons for young men to be angry young men:

1. Nobody can tell them about their Soul

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2. They can’t get traction on responding to the stages in life.

3. He has been cut off from Nature.

4. They don’t understand women.

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5. The proverbial ‘man cave’ does an injustice to their abilities and needs.

6. They have no real rite of passage into manhood.

7. Satisfaction and Fulfillment have been usurped by blame and guilt.

8. They can’t find an elder.

9. Their youth and future have been tarnished by lack of vision by weak elders who know fear and lack of resistance.

10. The female instinct is not respected.

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Short Story: Toad – Part 3 of 3

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Even though the agreement was for her to start after she gave birth Maritza started learning coding right away and for the next four months she worked at the restaurant till she was seven large months pregnant.  It was a period of hyper focus because she wasn’t going to have the time or energy for the months following the birth and she didn’t want anyone else to jump in and take the opportunity away from her.  The first step is to study CSS HTML, and Javascript.   

With the confidence of her new job her life plan was while she has child number one she will be a Front End Developer. Then after her second and last child she will become a Back End Developer.  The odds in Vegas of Diego being ‘the sperminator’ for that second child have been dropping steadily.  

Maritza’s due date was October 16 so Diana arrived Sept 30 just in case the baby wanted life to start a few weeks early.  

She wanted her mom to be with her when she had children.  But she knew by the time she was 14 years old she would never leave her hometown – the mini universe of petty importances – if she got married and had a child there.  It was painful but with the reports of increasing ‘femicidios’ she knew it was the right thing to do.

To begin with it worked out really well.  Diego was on his best behaviour; still a bit nervous and ashamed he got his girlfriend knocked up.  Diana loved seeing her daughter after three years and she spread that love on Diego’s toast too.  For a while.  Diana liked Diego but he just couldn’t get with the program. He would do anything you asked.  But you had to ask him to stop watching videos and put down the phone.  He worked full time but other than that there was a weak response to the fact of the cost of raising a family.  He didn’t party – he didn’t do anything. 

Diego’s mom died when he was around four years old so he ended up living with cousins till he was a teenager.  His dad became unhinged; unable to transition from grief to widower/dad/homemaker/happy person who didn’t drink everyday and just plop white bread and peanut butter on the kitchen table for his two boys to make their sandwiches to take to school.  His dad’s sister Blanca took over the role of responsible adult.

His dad visited a few times but his absence fertilised weeds of disdain to germinate in their garden of young man formation.  Of course the boys felt rejected and wound up with contorted relationships with love for a long time.  Perhaps that was one of the things that Maritza and Diego had in common. His limited lexicon of love was familiar to Maritza.  Not quite comforting but at least she knew what she was dealing with having seen her dad come back from Oregon without the words or the balls to improve the situation with her mom.   

Maritza explained her theory to her mom that since Diego was brought up by his Aunt and embarrassed about his dad and afraid they might kick him out if he and his younger brother became too much of a burden he didn’t impose.  That is why he had programmed himself out of ambition.  And probably the same for drinking.   He didn’t drink.  He went to church every two weeks to pray for aunt Blanca who was sick and had been for a while.  Diego sent her money on her birthday and at Christmas – 250 bucks – which surprised Maritza.  At first she didn’t say anything but now with needing things for the baby and el mendigo coche things had changed.  She can see that conversation about Aunt blanca coming soon.  Her mom was totally in agreement.

It was cramped in their one bedroom apartment.  Mom created her tidy corner for living.  They  pulled the couch out from the wall and put a foam mattress down.  She would nap with the baby when Maritza had gone out to shop.  In the space between conscious and unconscious is that beautiful feeling of experiencing your mind compressing.  It might have been a dream in sleep or had her mind imagined she was back in Mexico as a young mother with infant Maritza.  But instantly she realized that was silly because she lived in fear in Mexico of her loncheria being targeted by the narcos and she was breathing in the smells of her granddaughter.

Maritza told her mom she wasn’t married to Diego in any civil or emotional sense.  She wanted chdilren and she didn’t want stupid parent problems impacting the development of her children.  Diego was perfect for the job.  He was not anything remarkable: a little pudgy, not funny or depressing, not ugly or rich, not violent or warm, or not ambitious. 

Diana talked with him one Saturday morning when the two of them were walking with the baby in the carriage that everyone at the restaurant had chipped in for and given her as a gift.  In fact they had offered to give Diego a job.  He would have been making less money but it would have been stable and they would still have benefits.  He would have to improve his English and to him that meant reading and lots of things going too fast for him and not understanding.  Any book caused a white rain in his head that didn’t let him think.  His English wasn’t that bad but he made no effort to learn. It made Diego feel too domesticated.  He needed to be the man to go out and make his money to support his family in a job he found doing work he learned.  He didn’t need help.

Diana sensed he felt guilt from how his childhood went.  She told him he was not responsible for his parents.  How could he be?

“Hijo, as parents we make mistakes.  The ones you are going to make are enough.  You can’t also carry the sins from the previous generation.  You are so good to send money to your Aunt Blanca.  She will understand if you have to focus on your family now.  She has her own children to help her.  You have helped them so much.”

Diego sent money to Aunt Blanca so that he could feel a mother’s love.  He was too scared to go out into the world by himself.  His past was bullying his present.

“Hijo, you are a good man.  Your family loves you and needs you. Here.  Now,” said Diana.

Diana living with them allowed Maritza to study more and sleep more and obviously she was a great cook so Diego’s lunches were famous on the job site.  Diana made him dishes that he could share with the guys at lunch time so they liked having him on the team – so they didn’t fire him for being a lazy dumbass.  

She made tacos dorados, flautas, chiles en vinagre and she always gave him an extra bottle of agua de Jamaica sweetened with piloncillo.  She taught Diego how to make hand made tortillas so when she was gone he had a specific task in the kitchen.

She opened Fonda Diana two years before she got pregnant with Maritza.  It was such a hoe-in-the-wall restaurant with economical food for locals.  The revenue often just covered costs and everyone knew they had nothing really.  Just the house. Her father-in-law had divided his property up in equal parts for each of his six children.  Diana and Rodolfo had their plot closest to the road where they built their two bedroom/one bathroom house as newlyweds 20 years ago.  Diana wanted a little more distance between her and her in-laws but she didn’t have her own free property up her sleeve.  Being closest to the road gave the illusion of an easy escape in case of emergency. 

Now this was her turn being away like her husband.  Diana was traumatized by her husband’s experience in the US. Even though Maritza had her work permit Diana still had fear la migra was gonna knock on the door.  

She needs to be in the same place as her biggest worry.  In her marriage there was no worry nor love.  At least not love that flowed between the two of them.  There was his support of wanting the mother of his children to be healthy.  But there were no emotional hydraulics that kept them connected, rejuvenated or feeling appreciated.

Their love was like a coiled and faded green garden hose that sits in the grass beside the house – the grass growing all around it.  The water in the hose gets heated every day and cooled every night but never quenches anything.  There was endearment from him to her because he knew she knew he had cheated on her in Oregon.  Or as Maritza at four years old would say – oregano.

With her mom around Maritza started speaking more in English to Diego so her mom wouldn’t understand.  Diana understood they were a family and needed to have their privacy.  As a young family they had so many unknowns, of baby sleeping and parents not/diaper rashes/not trusting the doctor/medicine and diapers/noisy neighbours, arriving at once, like it was a surprise party no one told you that you were hosting.   Diana would ‘go to the store’ just to give them some space.   But winter had placed a white canvas on the ground after the beautiful palette of autumn fiery reds, glowing oranges and comforting yellows.  The cold was hard and penetrating and was more than necessary.  All the cold you needed was to make snow, why get colder, thought Diana, when she looked at her phone and it said minus 17 degrees Celsius.

 Diana sat in the coffee shop with her sugary medium hot chocolate.  She took her coat off and hung it on the back of the chair like the Canadians with their large double doubles.  She thought if she acted like them her marrow might radiate some warmth through her body.  She bought the hot chocolate because there was the word hot right in the name.   Diana cupped the hot chocolate with her pale hands.  It’s like she was wearing special lead gloves that didn’t let any radiation through.   She didn’t want to complain and cause her daughter any stress and pass that to the baby.  

She needed a hug.  She found a gif of a boy wearing a toque,snow on his head and frozen snot coming out of his nostril.  She sent it to her sister back home.   Her sister sent her a gif of a smiling devil with a bottle of booze.   Diana had planned to stay six months but cut it short saying that her son back in Mexico needed taking care of because he was getting sick and wasn’t eating well because dad was a moron in the kitchen.  And elsewhere.  They had Sandra’s first Christmas together and she left in mid January.  She was too cold to stay.  

Her tears were going in all directions.  They were falling up in the joy of being a grandmother of a beautiful shining life.  They were falling down in sadness at the stupidness of husbands and son-in-laws and sons not knowing how to love.

They were falling sideways at being 54 years old, grandma, mother-in-law, and feeling needed for what she did and not loved for the woman she was.

She knew what kind of woman she was.  Not from a sense of self-confidence based on life success.  She knew because Maritza told her.

“Mama,  I’m not going to miss you,” said Maritza, which shocked Diana.

“Because I will have you morning, noon and night.  Because I need to be strong for Sandra and caring at the same time.  All I have to do is exactly the same as you did for me.  Everyday. Resilient and dignified and creative and…”

“Ya basta,” Diana stopped Maritza and reached for Sandra to cradle her one last time before she went home.  Only Diego drove her to the airport because Diana couldn’t handle the car trip with the joy of being with Sandra and the sadness of having to leave.

Maritza didn’t want to have two children from different fathers so Operation Rogelio was live: get drunk while eatng dinner, have sex and hopefully get pregnant. Maritza figures by the time Rogelio (she has decided it will be a boy and his name is Rogelio) is five years old she can take out the blue recycling bin with Diego in it.   Have him get picked up and out of her life and he can get repurposed by another woman.

“Oye gordo, can you jump in your sexy car and run down to the liquor store and get us a bottle of wine for dinner.

“What colour?” asked Diego, liking the idea that he drove a sexy car.

“Red menso.  Have you ever seen me drink white wine in my life?”

“I dunno maybe when …”

“Make it one of those one litre bottles.  Here’s 20 bucks.”

As the door closed she could hear him jingling his keys with the satisfaction of a man with purpose. Click/clack the door to their second floor apartment closed.  She stood there feeling like she was watching the final credits of a bad movie you sat through hoping to be moved by it at some point – and the best part of the movie was the popcorn.

Maritza said to the closed door,

“You are a toad.”

From the short story series Tool by Kevin McNamara

Short Story – Toad part 2 of 3

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The two month delay because of the strike meant the real estate developers were way behind schedule to get 120 townhouses framed on their big Rowntree 3 project.  In order to avoid stiff fines for not having the homes ready for their buyers to move in on time they had to get the project done in a ridiculously short window of time.  As a result they were paying top dollar and brought in any and all guys who could swing a hammer.  Diego could swing a hammer.  He could also stand around with his hammer in his hand and talk while you work.  You would think he was single and had no one to talk with at home and so he used work as his therapy.  Paco wasn’t single either, he just looked that way.  His family was back in Guatemala where he hasn’t been in the three years he has been in Canada.  

“Donde chingados esta mi coche?” said Diego, freakin out. “NO me dices esto,” he says, with his eyes scrunched shut and pulling on his short black hair.  His new-to-him cobalt blue (no sunroof) 2016 Chevy Cruze is gone. He stood still for a few seconds playing a very brief mental movie in his mind called Fear.  

Fear of his girlfriend/mother of his daughter cell-yelling when he wasn’t home by 5:30. If he was driving he couldn’t text but when he declines her call that drives her crazy.  Then he would text her to say he would be another 30 minutes and she would think to herself why is he texting if he is driving.  Or maybe he isn’t driving, he is with una vieja and I’m gonna pull his hair out and feed it to her and pull his hair out and feed it to her.

Then, according to the script, when he gets home he can expect:

‘I told you not to get a car.  You know you can rent a car for like 80 bucks a day so to take my mother to Niagara falls you don’t need a car.   So you can’t say it was for me or for my mom or for the baby.  It was for you because you don’t want to wake up early and take the bus.  

‘Or stand in the fuckin cold at the bus stop,’ Diego, the pudgy whiner, imagines himself saying.

Paco looks at the screen on his cell and sees it’s a call from Diego –  he already regrets recommending this guy to Gus.

“One second Gus,” Diego turns away and sings as much as he talks his greeting. “Que pasa hermano?” 

“Alguien robó mi pinche coche.  Vieron algo?”

“No me dices esto bro,” said Paco without caring. 

“Preguntale brother,” insists Diego. 

“When are you gonna learn English cabron?” said Paco.

“Askem bro, por fa,” said Diego thinking his Spanglish would help his cause.

As Paco drops his hand with his phone to his hip he puts it on speaker.

“Hey Gus, Diego’s car is gone.  Do you know anything?” Asked Paco. 

Gus motioned with a quick flick of his chin towards the side street beside the job site. 

“No idea. Remember. I told you earlier. Tellem – Don’t park there – they will towem. And fuck me.  Looks like they did just that,” said Gus, restraining a  stupid-people-do-stupid-things-laugh. 

“Is that what you yell this morning?” asked Paco.

“Ya. I saw you nod and smile,” said Gus.  “So I thought whatshisface would move his car.”

“Porque no me dijiste pendejo?” Diego heard everything over the speaker. 

“Sorry bro.”

“Where take it, you know?” Diego yelled into his phone so Gus would hear.  His love of his car overcame his fear of speaking English.

“You gotta phone the city. They impounded it.  Shouldn’t be too far.”

“Impounded?   What the fuck,” cried Diego.

“Diego buddy Tabarnak, they towed it.  That’s all I know.” said Gus looking at Paco with wide eyes that asked ‘who the fuck is this guy?’.

“How much pay?” persisted Diego.

“Dunno. Couple hundred bucks maybe.”  said Gus accepting his steaming hot coffee,  “Thanks Dimitri.”

“Couple hundred?”

Gus was a few years older than Paco but both of them were in their 30’s.  Over the past few years they had been on a few projects together.  Gus liked Paco but didn’t make friends on the job because when push came to shout Gus couldn’t have any favourites.  But there was that one time when the concrete guys saw his name on his hard hat and started talking shit like, ‘Paco, where’s the taco?’ and all of them laughing.  Gus in a very calm voice actually said to their foreman.

“If you and your fuckin clowns don’t shut it and say sorry to my guy then there might be an engineering report that says the drainage is not to grade and this whole slab needs to be repoured at your expense.  And I don’t think your butt ugly money grubbin boss is gonna like that.  Are we clear?!”  Said red faced Gus staring the foreman straight in the eyes.

“We are,” said the pissed off foreman.

“I want to see you in the site office now.” Gus yelled at Paco,

At this point Paco had been with the company only a few months so he wasn’t sure where he stood with management.  Once in the trailer Gus keeps talking,

“Did you hear what they were sayin? Calice” Gus swore in French.  His French is still really good but he only uses it for choice swear words.

“Is no big deal,” said Paco.

“I am not going to school those fuckin morons on Latin cusine am I?”

“No,” agrees Paco, having no idea where this was going.

“Guatelmans don’t eat peaches tacos,” said Gus pacing around the trailer with the awareness of his poor pronunciation but in the moment he felt he had earned some cultural credibility by trying to swear in Spanish.

“You are so right Gus,” said Paco wondering if this out-of-character burst of Latino solidarity maybe came from a previous life when Gus was a Mayan curandero.

So now when Gus gave the ‘kill it’ signal with his hand at his throat Paco took it off speaker.  

“Diego, come back and I will help you later,” said Paco and hung up.

“Hey Paco, what did you think I said?” asked Gus.

“When?”

“This morning.”

Paco laughed at himself and shook his head.

“I thought you say, tell Diego he’s a fuckin toad.”

“I said – tell’em if he doesn’t move they’ll fuckin towem”. 

Maritza was gonna kill him.  It was Diego’s first day on the job and he was losing more money than he was making.  He relieves his self inflicted stress by comforting himself they will start receiving the child tax credit very soon. Diego says once the baby arrives she will want a car.  But she says they have a bus stop right out front and the No Frills supermarket is 3 blocks away.  She keeps repeating that you don’t need a car in the city. It’s a waste of money according to her dad. 

Maritza remembered her dad being there in person for her eighth birthday. While he worked in the US for 6 years they would Facetime but it felt weird. It was sad when he would sing Las Mananitas on her birthday. As he sang her mom would bring the gift that he sent money for from Oregon where he was driving a tractor in a vineyard.  He was close to Canada but never went there.  He figured the Americans would grab him at the border before he crossed.  He should have tried, he says to his wife now that he has been sent back.  If they wouldn’t have let him travel to Canada then they just would have sent him back and it is the same result.

He got deported when he got in a car accident in town with a lawyer who had been drinking.  The car accident meant he came back home which made her happy but that is where Maritza got the idea cars were a bad idea.  Plus the maintenance.  But when you get one, if you can’t afford a good one – don’t buy one.

Her dad taught her English even though he and Diana, his wife, knew that meant she would be more apt to leave when she got older.  Also he wanted to prove that being away so long has brought some benefit to the family.  He had sent more money than he could have made if he stayed in Mexico but he hadn’t been there for the childhood of their daughter and son.  Or for their marriage.  At least he came back.  He was faithful to his family – to his wife not so much. Reynaldo, his son, was bad at school but good at soccer.  He was a good striker being tall for his age.  He didn’t show potential so he had no future as a pro player.  It was fun for now but difficult for later.  Maritza was the bright light of the family.  

Before she gave birth Maritza worked as a Cook A in a restaurant for 2 years while Diego would spend about 6 months in each job.  She worked till she was 7 months pregnant and then couldn’t handle being on her feet all day.  The restaurant liked her from the get-go and had offered her a full time job after a few months.  That way she could apply for a work permit.  Diego also got a work permit being her common-law spouse.

She was really scared when she got pregnant.    But now they had to rely on Diego’s income for the whole family.  Maritza knew that was a recipe for a stress fueled, argument filled disaster.  She needed something she could do while the baby was sleeping.

Also she didn’t know,  maybe they would cancel her work permit and it wouldn’t give her enough time to apply for permanent residency.  Rhonda, the manager of her restaurant location was so supportive but it was not her decision – it was the owner’s: Mr. Jackes.  But she would speak to him.  He had various restaurants and other businesses on the go.  Maritza knew Mr. Jackes was a lawyer and had met him briefly once when he came to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.  

A few weeks later Maritza was tying up her apron and looking at her belly when  Rhonda called her into the tiny, cramped office.  Rhonda motioned to the only chair in front of the desk.

“Have a seat Maritza.  How are you doing?”

Feeling fine,” she said, seated on the edge of the plastic chair rubbing her belly.  “We just had other doctor’s appointment, all good,’ she said, putting two little thumbs up in front of a weak smile.  “But obviously I’m nervous.” 

“Yes, of course. Obviously no heavy lifting.  Get Clifton or someone to help you,” said Rhonda.

“Yes, thank you very much.”

“Listen Maritza, I talked to Mr. Jackes last week.  I explained to him your situation and I told him you were an excellent person and an excellent team member, fast learner and that it would be a good idea to find a way to keep you on board.  And of course for your work status right?” Rhonda looked into Maritza’s dark anxious eyes.  “So he called me this morning and he had a very interesting idea.”

Maritza nodded as if she was riding a bike on a bumpy road and wrung her hands.

“His idea is for you to transition out of the kitchen into an IT role.  Updating websites with promotional materials for his restaurants and stuff like that.  What do you think?”

“Wow,  sounds amazing.  Thank you so much.  Because…”

“Because in a few months you can’t be in the kitchen all day on your feet.”

“Yes, of course,” Maritzasat back and laughed, then she breathed a huge sigh, then she cried as the stress left her body and joy germinated – all in succession over the course of ten seconds.  She looked at Rhonda and smiled  and suddenly she hiccuped.  They both laughed.

Short Story: Jack of All Trades

Photo by Avel Chuklanov on Unsplash

“What did Andre say?” asked Manuel.  Looking sideways at Oddie as he walked he twisted his ankle on an offcut of 2 by 4 and almost fell.  “Fuck,”  he said break dancing into his balance on the wet plywood floor.

“Careful bro,” said Oddie as reached out his hands to catch him. They were out of whack having sat through the two hour rain delay in the trailer.  “I hate this when our day gets shot to shit.” 

“So what’d he say?”

“Andre?  Not much, just shootin the shit.”

“Bullshit, you guys talk all friendly til Gerry came back.”

“Ya, he was asking me how the project was going.”

“Did he ask about Octavo?”

“Why?”

“Did e?”

“He asked about the team, nobody specific.”

“Whadya say?”

“That our work speaks for itself.  Well built – on time – no drama.”

“Whade say?”

“I can’t remember,” said Oddie, getting irritated and dropping his hands to his side with the palms out.  “I think he nodded his head.  Said nothing.”

“Whad you say?”

“Bro, it was actually a private conversation. Is there something you want me to say to Andre?”

“No.”

“Where is Octavo?”

“In the shitter.”

“He just went.”

“You sound like Gerry.”

“Don’t insult me.”

“Relax bro.”

“I think there are some shiity nails that need hammering on that far wall.”

Andre had zeroed in on Oddie when he dropped by the job site earlier this morning as the rain ended.

Andre explained Gerry had been with the company around nine years and was a known quantity.  Meaning he was known not to take initiative or develop a strong crew.  Everyone just came to work and did what they were told yesterday.

“Kind of like a government employee,” said Andre.  “But this is actually a business.”

“Ya I have seen him in action,” said Oddie by way of agreement, not wanting to sound negative.  Andre had stopped to ask Oddie questions on his site visits before.  But those had been in the flow of work.  This was a targeted convo.  ‘I’m glad, thought Oddie, ‘he didn’t buy me a coffee.’

“Listen Oddie, you’ve been with us for what a year?”

“Ya, a little longer.”

“What do you think of us, as a company?”

Now it felt like a job interview right here on the spot.  Which was fine because it was so much better than having to take a day off work, wrap a tie around your neck and find a place where you can print off a copy of your resume.

“Lots of work and the pay is always on time.”

“Cool,” Andre nodded, leaving space in the conversation purposely as if he came home from the supermarket carrying empty shopping bags.   It’s amazing people will say really revealing things to fill that awkward space.  

Oddie didn’t take the bait.  Andre liked that.

“I am looking for a fixer,” said Andre, looking Oddie right in the eyes and let that sink in a few seconds.  

“A guy we can rely on.  We have several projects at various stages of development,” Andre continued, now sounding like a politician. “Sandoval lost his shit the other day because we had to push back the delivery date on one project and the company is gonna be fined.  So I had a meeting with the other PMs and we agreed we needed a fixer.  Someone we can dispatch where and when needed.  I brought forward your name.”

“The Fixer.  Sounds like a contract killer who comes out of retirement for one last job kind of movie,” Oddie regretted his attempt at humour as he said it.  Andre winced.

“Joking.”

“You, I have seen, slash heard, provide solutions.  You can think on your feet.  And you know how to work with all kinds of people,” Andre said, tossing Gerry under the shadow of the bus with direct inference to his small mindedness but also Oddie’s ability to work with people who didn’t speak a lot of English.

“So, it’s a new position in the company.  Nobody has done it before.  It will mean a pay raise but I don’t know exactly what the salary is yet.”  What Andre didn’t mention was that the job had not even been proposed to Sandoval, much less approved.   Once he saw the efficiencies it brought to each project he would yell at the PMs less.  Hopefully.

“So it’s salary and not hourly,” Oddie inquired about the money.

Andre tilted his head forward to look over his safety glasses at Oddie.

“Brother,” said Andre with slow words following each other like there were in rush hour traffic bumper to bumper.  “I don’t know, who it was, that put limits, on how you think: parents, teachers?  But, I suggest, you exchange those limits for goals.  You’ve got a damn good opportunity here.”

“Very cool, very cool,” said a nervous Oddie matching Andre’s vocabulary while wanting to sound appreciative. “What’s the next step?”

“Well, take some time to think about it and talk with your family.  Are you married?”

“I live with my girlfriend.”

“Ok.  well you guys talk it over.  Here’s my card.  Text me and I will call you back.”

“Perfect.  I appreciate this.  When do you need to know?”

“ASAP.  You are my choice but there are other candidates.”

“Ok.  and what is the actual job description would you say?”

“You’re the Fixer – so you fix what someone else broke.  You’ll get from job site to job site as needed.  You could stay somewhere for a few hours or weeks, if you see what I mean.  Putting out fires, filling in if some assshole just walks off the job.  You bring a good vibe so the whiners don’t infect the others.”

Oddie wasn’t sure of the meaning of the word caveat; maybe, at street level, it was like bait and switch.  

“And you know, PR – for the company.  The eyes and ears of head office.  Since you are salaried you are paid for driving between job sites and you expense gas and a certain amount of car maintenance. We will cover all that down the road.”

“Ok.”  

On the bus ride home Oddie was doing somersaults –  ‘Trina is gonna flip.  She doesn’t want to invest in a car right now.  Sure when we have kids but she wants to focus on developing the app and finding funding – It’s more money and lots more contacts – she has to see that.  She can focus on the app while you bring in tons of industry knowledge.’

“You’re gonna be a jack of all trades and master of none,” said Trina, closing her laptop as she stood like she didn’t want her screen to witness her arguing.

“So there is no conversation?” asked Oddie.

“Dude.  I thought you understood the trajectory of this project,” said Trina, sounding like Andre. “And our lives.”

“Exactly, that’s the point.  Our lives can use the money and the contacts of my new position,” said Oddie.

“The position!  the point is, where is your focus?”

The focus of the moment was the fury that fired from their eyeballs at each other.

“Your focus is out there,” yelled Trina, her frustration thrusting her arm up at 10 o’clock.  “We need it in here,” Trina now pointed to the closed laptop.  The air was hot with argument but still within a domain of recyclable love. 

“The app needs someone who is all in and I can’t go all in if I am working construction.  And we both know we can’t afford to not have an income.  Unless you have a rich uncle I don’t know about.”

“Speaking of uncles, does this have anything to do with your uncle Mo.”

“What the fuck.  Why do you ..?”

“Well?”  said Trina.

“Listen.  This is not a problem.  This is a good thing.  We need to decide about growing.  So can we please not, not dramatize the whole thing with other issues?  That would be an unfair disaster,” said Oddie wondering what a fair disaster might be, as his brain looked for an outlet to the pressure.

“You’re right.  It is definitely not a problem.  You want that job – you take it,” said Trina with fatality on her lips and both hands on her hips.

“Why in God’s name are you shining some bad light on me because the company wants to give me a promotion?”

“Listen young man,” said Trina, causing Oddie to stand up straighter than a scarecrow.  “I think you’re better off not subcontracting God to do your dirty work.”

“Trina babe.”

In the pit of her stomach Trina felt one of her inner lives jump overboard without a life jacket. 

“You’re making yourself out to be a mistake maker,”

Regardless of the love that travelled between them on their many threads of endearment – something was broken.  The first thing the job offer as the Fixer had done was to break their relationship.

Their fights had been stupid misunderstandings from where they would ease back into loving and being loved.  This fight started out implicating Oddie for not focusing on their app project but somehow got hijacked to be about them.   If the silence earlier today between Oddie and Andre was engineered to be awkward then this silence was free radical, spontaneous.  And veering towards disastrous.

For the first year Trina will insist, in the boudoir of her life vision, it is unfair.  But after the initial disillusion and hurt she will repurpose all that energy to be a catalyst for greater self reliance and success.  Oddie will settle into convincing himself it was a fair disaster.  Only a matter of time before their ideas usurped their need for each other’s kind of love – till their differences took them in different directions that couldn’t co-exist in the same relationship.

_____

From the Short Story Series: Tool by Kevin Mcnamara

Manuel Labour: Short Story from the Series : Tool

photo on pexels by Tiracahuad K




“Where’s that illegitimate son of yours?”  Gerry asked Oddie proving that even though he was the site supervisor – no one at head office even thought of sending Gerry an email.

“Ricky’s time in the trenches of physical labour came to an end on Friday,” said Oddie. “It was stupid that he couldn’t wait until we at least finished the project.”  

“Fuck.  Where we gonna get another guy to replace Ricky?  Not that he was any good,” said Gerry.  Oddie ignored the fact that Gerry was ignorant of the skill level of his own team. 

“What he tell you, eh?” Gerry fished for intel.

“Never said nothing about his next job,” Oddie lied in Gerry’s dialect.  “Thought maybe you would know.  He go to head office?”  

No one was surprised Ricky sped off in his shiny blue Rubicon Jeep to see if his genes resonated with being the heir apparent to Sandoval Developments.  Oddie would stay in his little framing world and go back to taking the bus home after work.

“Who the fuck hires these people? Why can’t HR just bring em onsite for an hour and I can see what they can do.  No resume, no cover letter no fake interview with some fuckin HR pencil pusher who can’t hammer of fuckin nail.  Just skills on display,” said Gerry.  The angry version of Gerry was preferable to the non angry one.  In his non angry mode he would walk around looking for something to be wrong.  It was annoying and got in the way of getting work done.  Angry Gerry would stomp over, yell, lose his train of thought which flustered him so he would kick or throw something and then sign of with his signature insult,

“Quit playin with yourselves and get to work.”

Gerry had trouble distinguishing between getting to work and delivering results.  As long as he heard hammering hammers, sawing saws and guys swearing at each other he felt his job site was a well oiled machine.  

Gerry’s therapy was driving to the lake as it woke to the grind of the city. His coffee would sit slightly tilted on the hood of his pick up and his purple e-cigarette in his hand.  This morning Gerry saw a dead raccoon washing up on the beach this morning – half out of the water on its back.  Probably been rolling in the wee waves dead 2 days.  Gerry thought raccoons had a bad reputation.  Though their urban interface (shitting on people’s roofs, raiding their garbage) made them deserve it.  

But they were fabulous animals he would tell anyone if they would listen.    He heard some people had them as pets.  He admired the dexterity of their nimble black paws. He thinks they would be great on the job site.  If you could train a raccoon, or a pair of them, to bring you materials and tools and hardware they could scale the skeleton of the house so quickly and not drop anything from those clawed mitts.  The crew would laugh at him if he mentioned it.  If Tim would say it, it would be a hilarious lunch time idea. But if Gerry said it, it would be sick, cruel and pathetic.  

Gerry didn’t like the version of Gerry they associated him with.  He wanted a different Gerry.  His wife wanted a different Gerry too.  And that is why she up-and-left-him.  He knew her affair started before the divorce.  But their marriage was dead way before that.  Good thing they didn’t have kids forcing the kid to bounce between parents on weekends.  But Gerry would have loved taking a son or a daughter to Manitoba in the summer to visit grandma and grandpa and to fish.

“You see that guy over there in the orange hard hat – that’s the new guy,” said Oddie.  “He has three years experience in wood and metal framing, he’s done roofing.”  Oddie knew he would have to sell Gerry the idea of Octavo so he just kept talking.  “Just fuckin look at his pouch.  He showed up on time.  It’s all good.”

“Did HR send him over?  Why didn’t I hear about this?” asked Gerry. “What’s his name?  Where’s he from?  Does he speak fuckin English?”  

”He comes recommended,” said Oddie, deflecting Gerry’s undercurrents of racism and pettiness.  

Oddie didn’t tell Gerry that Ricky had told him last Monday that it was his last week.  In case Oddie had a friend he wanted to give a job.  So Oddie asked Manuel if he knew anyone looking for work.  Oddie, Manuel and his buddy Octavo met for beers last Friday.

“I was eight of eight chilren,” said Otcavo. “My mama tol me something was differen when I was born.  The worl after I was 7 years old se transformo,” Octavo looked to Manuel for translation.

“Transformed, I get it” Oddie translated.

“I was a really organize chil, really really. I organize my toys. Then. I don’t play … ya no.

“Anymore,” said Manuel.

 I no play, only organize. Then all eyes turn to grandmama. Grandmama is huesera.”

“What’s a wasibera?” asked Oddie.

“Huesera menso. It’s a healer; of bones.” 

“She tell my mom I need to wash my brain so I drink garlic crudo and fuckin rábano.’

“It’s a small red raice,” said Manuel 

“Radish?” says Oddie.

“Horible, they mix with olive oil. Sometime with miel, honey. “

“Did it help?” asked Oddie.

“HA. I try.  I hide my simptomas so they think it improve so I drink less garlic and rabano,” said Octavo.  “My grandmama say I have sindroma de Tourette.  Everyone now more raro than me.”
“Weirder than me,” clarified Manuel.

”Shit,” said Oddie leaning back, nodding his head.  They all take a drink from their pint of beer.  Manuel’s anxious brown eyes meet Oddie’s pensive brown eyes.

“So what was your thing?” Oddie asks, then simplifies his question. “Your routine?” 

Octavo nodded at the table and gestured like a flight attendant to give Oddie an example.  Octavo’s beer was exactly in the centre of the coaster, the coaster was exactly in the middle of the plank of wood on the picnic table and the coaster was exactly halfway between the umbrella post in the middle and the edge of the picnic table.

“It feel good, you know, to get tal cual.”

“Just right,” said Manuel.

“But then it molest me that your beer,”  Octavo points to Oddie. “And his beer not in the place correct,” Octavo smiles and drinks.

“Physical labour lets him express all the things it makes him need,” said Manuel.  “You know what I mean?”  

“He needs to keep his hands moving so he can hide the … ,” Oddie said, beginning to grasp Octavo’s struggle.

“Tourettes,” helped Manuel.

“Tourettes,” repeated Oddie.

“Quieres más?” asked Octavo, finding Oddie’s comprehension therapeutic. 

“Mas,” said Oddie.

“Como nino I organize todo. Cars, size y color y funcion and speed. My cloth always fold tal cual por color según el arco iris – rainbow. Cantuerraba sin parar.

“He hummed all the time,” said Manuel.

“I had 10 years ol, in school they knew I was differen. Teachers protec me from los matones.”

“From the bullies,” said Manuel.

“Rechine los dientes, apreté los dientes” said Octavo.

“I don’t know.  He grabbed his teeth really hard,” said Manuel. 

“Headache.  I stop school for work,” said Octavo.

“Shit,” Oddie’s admiration of Octavo suspended the moment. “Bro you are brave.”

Octavo froze till Manuel translated.

“Eres valiente.”

“Valiente,” repeated Oddie.

Gerry was happy with what he saw so far from whatshisface.  The crew received Octavo without missing a step. Within 30 minutes they nicknamed him Doc Oc – Spiderman’s arch villain.  Octavo loved it.  It highlighted him and not Tourettes.  Octavo worked constantly to impress his new boss and hide the Tourettes.  He wasn’t quite sure who his actual boss was: Oddie or Gerry.  

His last site supervisor had a roommate in college who had Tourettes.  The roommate took 5 times as long to enter and leave their apartment with all his idiosyncrasies and routines that he had to complete before the door was sufficiently closed, locked, double checked and the key in its proper place.  It was the tidiest and most organized apartment you’d ever seen.  They discovered that chicks loved it so Octavo and his roommate worked it in their favour to invite women over for a few drinks and any extracurriculars they could agree upon.  

These good memories meant the supervisor sponsored Octavo’s presence on the job site.  The crew hammering in studs and installing headers didn’t have the same breadth of humanity.  According to them, a man in their world didn’t suddenly yell for no reason or constantly ‘correct’ the arrangement of their tools.  These were issues the foreman took up with the site supervisor.  The foreman got Octavo booted off.  

Octavo didn’t know or care what the real excuse was, as if excuses were real.  Usually they complain about speaking English or certifications in case the inspector shows up. 

Octavo wasn’t about to justify his chemical torment. It painfully didn’t matter, people’s overbearing ignorance relegated his life to the bargain bin of souls with the schizoids and the otherly afflicted.  For whatever reason the genetic gods graced him with Tourettes.  He was Tourettes and Tourettes was him. No small minded pendejos could corrode his dignity.  

Manuel Labour is a Short Story in the Series: Tool from Kevin McNamara

Guy Wire – A Short Story from the Series: Tool.

Photo by William Wendling on Unsplash

Mondays and Fridays Tim drops the refilled ziplock bag of pistachios onto the lunch table in the jobsite trailer.  Manuel picks at them during their 30 minute lunch.  Oddie prefers them like dessert.  Those hard shells, the dry mauve-coloured skin and the light green flesh: only an idiot would say he couldn’t feel the resonance they shared from the simplest plastic bag. It is the kind of love that is shown not spoken.  It is a need and not passion.  It is reliability.  It is salty healing and $2.75/pound of brotherhood. 

“I was the guy who wore his pyjama bottoms to school with a wad of gum stuck in his pocket,” said Tim.

So..? said Manuel.

“Two weeks in a row,” said Tim.

“That’s commendable and disgusting at the same time,” said Oddie.

“Yo bro just by looking at your low budget face I can tell you were the guy who punctured the principals tires on the last day of school,” said Tim.

“No, that wasn’t me.  I was the guy in high school that put my shoulder pads on backwards at the first football practice.  They fuckin had a fuckin field day with that all season,” said Oddie.

“Bro – how did you not notice your shoulder pads are on backwards?” said Manuel.

“I know.  But I am glad they did because it made me see wanting to be part of the football crowd was fuckin futile.  Once I started making money in the summers driving dump truck and showin up to school in my fuckin steel blue camaro those fuckers could fuck off and die.  Chicks just opened that passenger door and slid in oozing sex and sexy,” said Oddie rekindling his high school status.

“Whoa, big man on campus,” says Manuel. 

“What’s the fuckin difference between sex and sexy?” asked Tim.

“Dude.  That is the whole fuckin point.  It’s like what ice cream is to gelato,” said Oddie, liking how that sounded but not even sure what it meant.

“What the fuck does that mean?” said Manuel.

“Bro.  Despite the fact that Oddie has the poetic tact of a parking ticket he is right,” said Tim

“I am lost,” said Manuel.

“If you don’t know what it means, start asking around for a good divorce lawyer,” said Tim.  

“I’m not even married yet.”

“Not on paper.”

“Everyone shut up. Shut up.  Ok.  Sex. and Sexy.  This is how it works.  XY is a boy and XX Chromosome is a girl. We all know that one right?  Or were you too high in biology class?”

Tim shrugged his shoulders and raised his eyebrows to enter a guilty plea.

“So when a guy, hopped up on hormones, looks at a woman he sees XX – he sees sexx.  With two xx’s.   But she feels what she is offering is sexy.  Ya see what I’m saying? When she goes out lookin for love,  she has on her XY glasses.  She has to inhale bad cologne and swat aside the sleazy pick up lines in the search of the right pickle for her grilled cheese.”

“Even coming from you bro that made no sense,” said Tim.

“Oddie don’t worry, you have a future writing romance novelas,” said Manuel.

“But did you know the whole genetic code is being uncovered so you can live like 150 years.”

“Bro – genes and chromosomes are not the same thing,” said Oddie.

“For our purposes I don’t think it really matters,” said Tim.

“What are you a doctor bro,” said Manuel.

“Actually, I wanted to be a doctor.  But I can’t deal with seeing blood or causing people pain and all that shit ya know,” said Oddie.

“So be a chiropractor or something,” said Manuel.

“Naw.  That is all hourly wage stuff,” said Oddie.

“And framing …?” said Tim.

“Ya but I got plans,” said Oddie lowering his voice even though there was no one else in the trailer.  “I’m not going to stick around with these jokers longer than I have to.”

“But bro – the pay is regular and the work is constant – what’s the issue?” said Manuel.

“Gerry,” said Oddie.

“Forget Gerry,” said Tim. “He’s an idiot whose ambition is to be an assohle.”

“That’s my point.  If Gerry is running one of your job sites, what does that say about your company,” said Oddie.

Out of his peripheral vision Tim saw Manuel look over at him.

“Did you have this conversation with sleek Reek before he left,” asked Manuel. 

“Not in so many words,” said Oddie.

“What does Ricky care – he is set for life,” said Tim tossing a few pistachio shells on the ground.

“Listen,” said Oddie.  “Guys, if we don’t look out for ourselves …” then Gerry opened the door to the trailer and yelled even though the guys were right there,

“We can’t get the skid steer back there behind the house to support those trusses and the neighbour is being a dick.  We are gonna have to do it by hand,” said Gerry, putting an end to their lunch.

“We need to use the guy wire,” said Manuel, trying to offer expertise.

Tim glanced at Oddie.

“Guy wire!  Are you setting up a tent for a wedding reception we don’t know about?” said Oddie.

“Dude – it’s called a come along.  You do know the difference,” said Tim.

“Sure, dude.  It’s a language barrier.  You guys think I understand everything but no,”  said Manuel.

“Let’s get on it.  It’s gonna rain later,” said Gerry holding the door open.

Tim stood up smiling to himself and said to Manuel:

“Yo – wire guy – why don’t ya – come along?”

Short Story – Knock It Off

Photo by Francesco Ungaro from Pexels


Sandoval, pointing his tanned index finger from atop the conference room table, told his VP of development Andrea to make sure there was a fresh shitter on site for when the engineer visits.  Andrea emailed Andre the project manager to take care of it.  So Andre texted Gerry the site supervisor to take care of it.  Sitting in his pickup truck in the curving line of the Tim Horton’s drive thru waiting for his large double double coffee Gerry got an idea.  He was going to get Ricky to take care of it.  Ricky has this inborn arrogance that makes it seem when he asks you for something it is more like a fact than a favour.  But Gerry was scared of Sandoval’s son Ricky one on one. 

“Hey I need one of you two geniuses to order a new port-a-potty.”

“What the fuck for?” said Oddie.

“Don’t those guys just show up on schedule every like ten days?” 

“Ya, well it’s potty time,” said Gerry, making Oddie smirk.

“Fuck that farmer Joe, that’s your job and you know it.  You’re trying to pawn that off on us because you don’t have the huevos to do it yourself,” said Oddie.  In mid sentence Oddie remembered that it really annoyed Gerry when someone threw in phrases from their mother tongue.  Spanish wasn’t his mother tongue but it still slid the job. 

“You tell Ricky he has to order the new shitter,” said Oddie, imposing on Gerry the 4 inches taller he was to punctuate his point; then walking off.  

Gerry was fuming because he didn’t have what these assholes did. Oddie had an x-factor.  He had a way to receive a problem and without doing anything crazy; without yelling and droppind f- bombs all over the job site, he got stuff done.  50% Mike Holmes + 50% Macgyver but with better hair than both of them.   Ricky had money. 

“We make that dumbass’s life way too easy,” said Oddie, including Ricky.  “Dude I’m getting tired of Gerry not givin me any recognition.  Does the office even know I exist?  What Gerry should do is tell his superiors that Oddie is a man who can think on his feet and is great with managing people on the job site,” said Oddie with Ricky nodding his head and just trying to stay neutral.

~~~

Oddie didn’t like complaining to Trina but he needed to vent.  Trina was more surprised at the level of pettiness than bothered to have to hear about work drama from her boyfriend.  She told him “Just speak your mind on the job site.  But do it in a way that highlights your  ability and your effort. Especially in front of that Ricky in case he can go over Gerry’s head and say something to his dad.”  

“Just look at how I basically transformed Sandoval’s son into a young man who believes in his ability to do shit.  He is outgrowing that insecure spoiled brat his dad dropped into Gerry’s lap and Gerry passed off to me,” said Oddie to Trina as he cooked dinner.  She looked up from building the app on her laptop and saw his afro grazing the bottom of the stove fan and wondered how a hard hat could actually stay on his head all day without falling off all the time.  

“Gerry is such a weasel.  The least he should do is throw a few gift certificates my way:  $200 for a nice steak dinner,” Oddie talked to himself while seasoning the onions.  He liked how the grains of rock salt gave his finger tips a mini massage.  He loved the sweet fragrance of frying onions but today he couldn’t smell anything because he was stewing in his own thoughts. “Ya know, Gerry is like a house cat: he is afraid of the outside world,” said Oddie.  

The outside world for Gerry is anyone under 30 years old, an assertive woman, anyone whose first language isn’t English, doesn’t approve of his e-cigarette or has creativity and leadership.  

~~~

When Ricky ordered the new port-a-potty he got the day wrong.

“Where’s the fuckin port-a-potty Ricky!” said Gerry inviting cardiac arrest.

“What’s that Gerry?” said Oddie.  “You’re not happy with how someone else did your job for you?  Then instead of sucking on your phallic e-cigarette why don’t you dial Justin Time?”

“Ricky!” yelled Gerry.

“Sup Gerry,”  said Ricky, taking off his orange hard hat and wiping his forearm across his forehead.

“Where’s my fuckin port-a-potty?”

Oddie took a step back and watched as this moron turned purple in the face thinking that we waste so much of our emotions on such silly things. 

“I dunno Gerry, I ordered it so it should be here.  Relax, the engineer doesn’t get here till tomorrow, right?” said Ricky with his moneyed coolness.

“Fuck it,” said Gerry as he pulled his cell out of his pocket and called Justin Time for himself.

“What!” Gerry yelled at his cell phone pacing down the suburban street where they were putting up new 5,000 square foot homes in a cul-de-sac.  “I need that port-a-potty here today.  Now.”

Gerry got to the job site at 6:15 the next morning just in case their port-a-potty was the first delivery of the day.  He leaned on his truck, took a pull off his e-cigarette and a sip of his coffee.  The morning in the cul-de-sac was cool and quiet and the sky was clear.  For some reason he looked over his shoulder in time to glimpse two deer bound down into the ravine.  He thought of just quitting and moving back to Manitoba and taking care of his parents.  He felt guilty everytime he e-transfered money but wasn’t there to help out.

“Gerry looks like shit, how do you think he slept?” said Oddie in a mock conversation with Ricky so Gerry could totally overhear it.

“Fuck you.”

“It’s just a toilet,” said Oddie.

“What’s his problem?” said Ricky, putting on his gloves.

“Last year Gerry phoned Justin Time yelling at them, droppin f-bombs that he needed a new port-a-potty right away because Jean was totally hungover and he puked all over the inside of the port-a-potty.  It was a stinkin hot August day and the shitter smelled like shit.”

“What happened?” said Ricky adjusting his safety glasses.

“Their boss called someone at our office who emailed Andre who yelled at Gerry.  So Gerry is ashamed to talk with them.”

“Did they give you a new port-a-potty?”

“No.  Gerry made Jean clean it up.  After telling me to do it of course. I told him to go to hell.”

The engineer is scheduled to arrive at 9:30 a.m. and the architect should arrive around then too.  Andre the PM was already on site and looking pleased with the progress.  

No one thought to reschedule the lumber delivery so Peter from Access Lumber was walking on site with a purchase order in his hand and trivia in his head. 

“Where do you want me to put it down?  Same place as last time,” said Peter.  His last delivery to this site was about two months ago.

“Who are you?” said Andre.

“Access Lumber bro,” said Peter.  

Oddie started to hum a song that made Ricky giggle but a glare from Gerry shut them down. 

“Why is he here?” asked Andre.

“I need the lumber or my guys are gonna be just sittin around all day playin with themselves,” said Gerry in an attempt to sound like a decision maker.

“What’s your name?” said Andre.

“Pete,” said Peter quickly while taking a step forward.

“Ok Pete,how fast can you get that lumber unloaded?” Andre asked Peter.

“I can be pullin outta here in 90 minutes if nobody gets in my way,” said Peter.

“It’s 8 am.  I need you outta here in 60 minutes.  These guys can help you,” said Andre motioning to Oddie and Ricky.

“That’s right Peter of Access Lumber.  We are at your service.  We got 60 minutes together,” said Oddie with a wry smile.  Andre could tell there was something going on between these guys but he didn’t care.  He wanted the lumber offloaded and this guy off his job site before the engineer arrived. 

“Get it done Oddie,” said Andre.  With that comment Oddie felt that the people in the office might know that he wasn’t a bobblehead like Gerry. 

“Why the fuck is everyone so tense becaue of one fucking engineer?” Ricky whispered to Oddie.  Oddie was directing Peter to back up the truck onto the front lawn, chewing it up a bit more. 

“Ya I know.  It’s complicated,” said Oddie.  Ricky had learned the vocabulary of evasion on site when the guys didn’t want to talk with him about shit the company did or rumours about his dad.  Ricky stood between Oddie and the space to get out from the back of the truck with a stance that declared that he was not his dad.  “Dude.  Now’s not the time,” said Oddie.

“Is this guy a real fuckin hard ass or what,” said Ricky walking with Oddie.

“No.  Not really.  She’s pretty fair from what I understand.  Not being an engineer myself.  She just doesn’t take bullshit – and therein lies the issue,” said Oddie.

“Right,” said Ricky as they walked around the truck.

“Now level out that area where the plywood goes.  And I want the 2 by 4’s over there,” Gerry gave redundant instructions to Oddie and Ricky who already knew what the drill was.

They got the lumber offloaded and Peter pulled onto the street at 9:15 and he sat in his truck doing paperwork or on his phone.

“I just got a message from the engineer.  She can’t make it today” said Andre.

“Fuck me,” said Gerry.

“Not today,” said Oddie.

“So when?” asked Gerry.

“We’ll let you know.  Just keep on schedule and don’t fuck up or we’ll have to tear everything down,” said Andre. 

Gerry was exhausted.  “I’m goin for coffee,” but then he saw he was already holding a large coffee in his hand.

Peter jumped down from the cab of his truck and walked across the street to the job site.  

“Hey guys,” Peter said.

“Is that you Peter?” said Oddie.

Peter loved his job because he would visit different job sites all the time and could use the same trivia on all of them but get a new reaction each time. He ached to overcome his sense of lack of accomplishment as a man by bringing his own Jeopardy show where he is the host and the contestant.  He just kept talking when the guys rolled their eyes or he heard others laugh at him.  He was like a comedian who came to practise his routine on the guys before going on stage. 

“Brother, I think you’ll like this one,” started Peter. “The original Zeppelin, the LZ 127 Graf…” 

Oddie got a kick out of giving Peter a hard time but also admired his spirit to do his thing regardless of what others think.  And he occasionally had a good story to tell.  He  was pretty sure the trivia Peter came up with was determined by his children’s homework assignments.  Ricky now used wrist braces because his wrists weren’t used to the framing.  He pretended he was adjusting his braces so he could listen to Peter.

“Knock it off guys.  Get to work?” said Gerry, breaking up Peter’s seminar on airships.

Oddie laughed to himself and started singing so Peter could hear as he walked to his truck:  

“There’s a skeeter on your Peter knock it off.  There’s a skeeter on your Peter knock it off – there’s a dozen on my cousin I can hear the fuckers buzzin, there’s a skeeter on your Peter knock it off.”

~~~

From the Short Story Series: Tool by Kevin McNamara

IG: kevin_mcnamaraca

Short Story – Shorten Up Ricky

Photo by Kevin Jarrett on Unsplash


“Oksana asked me what Haka meant,” said Oddie,  “So I gave her my best version of it.”

On his first day Ricky had seen the word in black marker on the back of Oddie’s hard hat but figured it was his last name or something.  That was when he hadn’t asked questions because he feared it would only have shown how little he knew.

“What is Haka?”  asked Ricky.

“It’s the warrior dance the All Blacks do before each game.”

“Who are the All Blacks?”

“New Zealand’s national rugby team.  Watch this,” says Oddie as he stands right in front of Ricky and starts slapping his forearms as he squats and shouts with his tongue out.  

“What the fuck … are you two love birds talking about now?” asked Gerry the supervisor out of breath.

“Nothin,” said Ricky. 

“What in the world could possibly motivate you to get out of your truck and climb that ladder?” said Oddie.

“Sandoval is coming later today,”  said Gerry, feeling awkward talking about the boss to the boss’s son.  “He hates a messy job site and he will yell at me saying the minister of labour is just around the corner …”

“The Minister?” said Oddie.

“Yes the fn’ Minister of Labour is comin down here to find us,”  said Gerry.

“Fine us,” said Ricky, the boss’s derelict son.

“Fine,” said Gerry.

“Ok we’ll clean up your job site Gerr Bear,” said Oddie.

“Now,” said Gerry.

Sandoval got his start in Quebec 30 years ago renovating apartments when the tenants moved out so the owners could jack up the rent.  To avoid the unions in Quebec he brought his guys to Ontario.  Two of his best men, Rejean and Frederick, were machines 20 years ago.   They had forgotten more about how to build a house than these young guns would ever know.  Frederick became a supervisor years ago but Rejean had framed himself into a corner.  He told himself he couldn’t do anything else. 

“Tabernac, Jerrie.   Kick doze feckin punks inta gear.” said Rejean.

“Relax, Jean.  I got em cleanin up the job site.  Nothin you need to sweat your little French balls about,” said Gerry.  

Gerry found himself squeezed between this wrinkled and weary red seal swearing at him in French and these newbie cowboys knocking in nails as they gabbed about energy.  Oddie could see Gerry stressing because he didn’t have skills to get the team to work together.  Oddie loved sitting back and watching Gerry squirm. 

Strapping on their tool belts after tidying up the job site, Oddie wondered,

‘Why is it that some people are just so easy to make fun of?’ 

“Ok Gerry-atric,’  Oddie yelled down to Gerry, “Looks real cute your job site.”  

“If by cute you mean tidy then get back to building my fuckin house,” said Gerry.

“He’s not coming,” said Ricky.  

It took Oddie a few seconds to realize that Ricky was referring to his dad; the boss, Sandoval.  Ricky obviously had the inside scoop.  Oddie inched a 2 by 4 stud until it was on centre with slow taps of the side of his hammer trying to think of something to ask.

“It’s Tuesday.  We won’t see him till Thursday.  Chill,” said Ricky.  Seeing Gerry leaning on his truck, checking his phone and pulling on his e-cigarette he said “It’s like watching a rat in a lab experiment.”

“Bro, who are you tryin to kid.  Ya gotta shorten up on the handle so it will be easier to get the nail in the middle of the block.  Shorten up,” repeats Oddie.  “You never played baseball as a kid?”

Ricky purses his lips.

“Fuck,” said Oddie. “Gimme that thing.  With all your money you couldn’t get yourself a real hammer.  Who made this thing? Fischer-Price?  Watch me; it’s like this.”  Oddie shows Ricky and Ricky gets the hang of it. 

“That’s better.  Now you only look like a spaztic rookie instead of a complete moron,” said Oddie.  

Oddie does anything complicated and Ricky works around Oddie.  Oddie is the only one who isn’t afraid to whip Ricky into shape:  

“Ricky don’t be picky – grab a couple of those lovely 2 by 4’s and let’s frame the shit outta this wall.” 

“Jesus, Mary and Joseph Ricky.  That’s not how I taught you to put in the blocking.  You’re makin me look bad.”

“Ricky, you don’t have to advertise you’re a rookie.  We already know.”

Ricky was still slick; hair coiffed down to the nanometre.  But now his boots were nicked and scuffed; the leather on his tool belt was softening up and wrinkling.  His posture was strong; his gait potent.

“Who is Oshkania again?” asked Ricky.

“Oksana.   She’s Tali’s girlfriend.  He says she’s his fiance but I haven’t seen any rings yet.  Anyway, Saturday morning she has a Zoom call about intention. with this group of people all over the world who are into well-being.  You know, healthy living.  What they do is they take turns sending each other good vibes.  And apparently it cures people of diseases and other shit,” Oddie loved having an audience.

“Whaddya mean intention?”

“Intention.  It’s something you want.  Something you want to happen.  Something you want to be in the world,” said Oddie.

“What have they cured?”

“I think she said cancer but I find that hard to believe.”

“Cancer?!  What… what’s her group called,” asked Ricky.  Oddie feigned needing to pick up a block and looked over at Ricky who, for the first time, was radiating confidence.  And purpose.

“I don’t know bro.  But I’ll get that for ya,” said Oddie.

Oddie can see Ricky is just here till the waters calm between him and his family and he will move on to whatever project his father’s money can finance.  In the meantime Oddie is a whole golf bag of services to the little prince;  Oddie is the 3 wood of focus; the 7 iron of curiosity; the sand wedge of problem solving; the pitching wedge of nuance; the putter of belief.  

“Where’s Reggie?”  asked Ricky.

“You know you came along just in the nick of time.  Reggie’s knees went a few years ago.  Now his wrists are so shot to shit he really shouldn’t even be working.  He has to take a couple of days off sometimes.  So that would mean I would have to work with Rejean over there.  You saved me from a long slow death.”   

“What’s wrong with working with him?” asked Ricky reeling with the realization that his privileged upbringing was financed on the backs of these guys.

“I dunno.  It’s just that he is so out of touch and out of shape,” said Oddie, hiking up his jeans.  

Oddie could feel he was getting soft because everyday after work he would step up into Ricky’s Rubicon after putting his lunch cooler on the back seat.  Now Ricky gives him a lift home when at first it used to be just to the subway.

At the traffic light a woman in cat eye sunglasses pulled up beside them in a yellow Jeep Wrangler.  Ricky gave a casual three finger Jeep wave; she waved back.  Oddie pushed his sunglasses down his nose to get a better look.  

“Bro ….”  Oddie loved this.

The yellow Jeep sped ahead while Ricky shifted into second on his own time.  

“What kind of name is Oddie anyway?”

Shorten Up Ricky is from the Short Story Series – Tool by Kevin McNamara  

Short Story – Your Bro Moe

Photo by Ali Mahmoudi on Unsplash

“What the hell?” said Moe under his breath as the mall bench shook.  He was ready to kick into survival gear thinking it might be an earthquake.

The guy on Moe’s left glanced at him; at his phone and back at Moe.  

Realizing what happened Alex said, “Bro.  Sorry.”  Alex showed his cell phone screen to his bench neighbour.   “I just couldn’t help it.  Robin Williams man.  He is crazy funny,” said Alex explaining how when he laughed so much he made their bench shake.

“Comedy.  That’s some of the best therapy there is,” said Moe

“Amen to that bro,” agreed Alex.

“Oh, boy!  Hnhn,” Moe laughed despite himself.

Alex had asked him why he was sitting on a mall bench waiting for his wife to appear laden with shopping bags.  

“When my wife found out I had a second Instagram account she freaked.  So here I am paying for it.” 

“How’d she find out?” asked Alex.

‘My 6 year old daughter has a friend whose dad followed one of the accounts I followed and somehow the 2 girls outed their dads.”

“What happened to the other guy?”

“Dunno.”

They both swallowed the loneliness of being in a place with thousands of people yet feeling alone.  Seeking community Alex asked;

“What’s all the fuss about shopping anyway?”  

“I hate shopping,” said Moe as the elevator music played Dua Lipa.

“What is it about shopping malls; they just suck the energy right out of me?”

Ya, I know what you mean.”

 “Usually I can swing it so I only have to drop them off and pick them up,” said Alex.

“I look forward to that day.”

“Hey man, I’m Moe.”

“Nice to meet you, I’m Alex.”

After their fist bump it felt weird to meet someone when you are sitting down.

“What do you do for a living Alex?”

“I’m a carpenter.  I’m up for my red seal in a few months.  How about you?”

“I’m in sales for a loading dock systems company,” said Moe.

“Very cool.”

“It keeps me outta trouble.”

“So do you do any of those huge Amazon distribution centres?” asked Alex.

“Ya,”  paused Moe, breathing life into the doubt that blocked the sun out of his life.  “I put in a bid a few months ago and they should be deciding.  Any day now.”   

In life there are beautiful pauses.  Like, just before he says, ‘Will you marry me?’ as he is on one knee outside the restaurant.  This pause wasn’t beautiful; it felt like it was filled with itchy scratchy fibreglass insulation. 

“How did you get into dock systems?” asked Alex.

“I hurt my back framing and couldn’t do physical work anymore.”

“You didn’t want to continue in construction?”

“You know I did but my wife kiboshed that,” said Moe.

“Hmm,” Alex looked at the shiny floor between his boots.

“Ya, I know.  Sounds pathetic,” said Moe.

“I didn’t say …”

“She was right.”

“What …?”

“Carrie, my wife, said, I can remember it vividly.  She was standing sideways at the stove. She moved the chicken in the frying pan with the wooden spoon and said,” remembered Moe.  “You have two tasks: the first is to get off the painkillers.  The second is to get a job that pays.”

“Shit,” said Alex looking at the floor and then at Moe who was looking up at the ceiling.

“She was right.  Again.  I had been shafted too many times by general contractors.  And I was hooked on codeine”

“So, whadya do?” said Alex.

“I got the pills from my truck, under my shirts in the bottom dresser drawer and the bathroom and poured them all down the kitchen sink as Carrie watched me.  Then, I turned on the fan over the stove as she cooked the chicken and gave her a kiss.”

“Bro.”

“Sorry man.  I shouldn’t have vomited my crazy life story.  You’re gonna think I’m a…,”

“I can think for myself,’ said Alex.  “So you stayed off the painkillers?”

“Ya know I did.  I have.”

“How long ago was that?”

“Like 5 years.  Hardest thing I’ve ever done,” said Moe.  “But ya know what I miss the most?  Talking smack on the job site.  And the smells, believe it or not.”

You mean the sweet smell when you saw a piece a lumber.  Or the porta potty?” asked Alex.

“Ya right!  Nothing like the fragrance of a portapotty that has been on the site for a week baking in the August heat,” joked Moe.  “But with two young children ya gotta do what ya gotta do.”

“I hear ya bro,” said Alex.

“So how long till you get your Red Seal?”

“By the end of the year I’d say.”

“Cool.  What keeps you motivated to keep going?” asked Moe.

Alex was getting a little weirded out by how quickly Moe could get so personal.

“Same as you.  Family,”  said Alex.

“But what’s in it for you?”

“I love my family bro.  It gives me satisfaction to provide for them” said Alex 

“I believe you 100 percent.  The thing is your life can pass you by and you didn’t live it.”

Moe had touched a nerve in Alex.

“Ya know who you remind me of bro?” said Alex detouring the conversation.

“Who?” said Moe.

The sailor in that poem Ancient Mariner.”

“I thought you were gonna say someone like Mike Holmes.  Who the fuck is the ancient mariner?”

“He’s the wrinkled old man who stops the young people arriving at a wedding.  He needs to tell them his story.  Check it out,”  said Alex.

“I’ll Google it,”  said Moe.  “But that’s a bit of a weird reference,” he said as he was used to a different reaction to his desire to help.

“Hey man, it was grade 11 English class.  Mrs. Downs.  Great teacher,” said Alex.

“Nice to meet bro, take care,’ said Alex as Moe saw his wife come out of the store with children and shopping bags.  ‘You’re a bit of a weird random guy I talked to in the mall’  thought Alex as he watched Moe walk away.

Alex had related the conversation with Moe to Rebecca, his wife, as they were on the drive home from the mall.  As he was merging onto the highway Rebecca asked him,

“So. Is your life passing you by?”  

Short Story – Jerry Rig

Photo by Sandro Cenni on Unsplash


“Ok guys, another session of Hot or Trot.  You first Andy,” said Matt.

“OK, give me a second  …Gigi Hadid or Scarlet Johansen?”

“All blondes!  I like it bro.  Gigi obviously.  She’s a sultry minx,” said Matt.

“I agree,” said Hector.  Matt didn’t trust Hector.  Matt didn’t know why yet.  Hector knew why he didn’t like Matt.

“Ok Sally,” said Matt using the nickname for Hector he takes from the fact he Hector was born in El Salvador.  Nobody else uses it.  “Your turn.”

“Selma Hayek or Eiza Gonzalez?”  

“Hector and his smokin hot Latinas.  Cheers,” said Andy.

“Who the hell is Aisha Gonzalvez?” asked Matt.

“It’s Eiza Gonzalez, you uncultured hack.”

Without hesitating Matt launches an immature missile back at Hector, “You know what the problem with …”

“Hey, Isn’t that the new guy right there,” squints Andy.

“Who?”

“Across the street.  The guy who just came out of the fast cash place.”

The three of them look across the street and drink from their pint glass.

“Yup,” said Matt.  “That’s him.  He’s the guy prancing around in those Carhart overalls he doesn’t need.  There he goes into that coin laundry place.  Bubbles.”

“Cute name,” says Hector.

“Hector.  Since when the fuck did you say something was cute?” asked Andy.

Matt, Andy and Hector were enjoying Friday afternoon beers on a patio picnic table. Monday to Thursday they worked hardscaping projects 12-14 hour days so Friday Fields, the boss, could leave the city early to beat traffic getting to his cottage north of the city. 

Though they make decent coin, they do not have cottage bound incomes so they find a friendly patio and flirt like idiots with the waitress:  Andy loves her perfume, Hector her eyes and Matt her boobs; all of them mentally promising a huge tip so they earn her wink as they leave. Today they were happy bread to the toaster of 4:30 pm June sun.  That Tom Cochrane tune was finishing. 

“Jerry,” blurts Andy.

“Bless you.”

“Jerry?  Quien chingados es Jerry?” asked Hector.

“That’s the name of the new guy.”

“My man Jerry.  He’s alright,” says Matt, wanting to be drunk.

“Listen guys …”  Andy grabs his phone and puts a twenty on the table.

“No bro, not again.”

“Gotta go guys,” said Andy. 

“But we just ordered our second pitcher.” 

“I’d love to, but duty calls”

“Ya I know. I get that call all the time and I just send it to voicemail. Deal with it when I get home.” 

“Not this time …,” hesitates Andy in a way that disarms all their ridicule. 

“Whatever bro,” said Matt. “See ya Monday.” 

Fridays are for grabbing a beer on a patio so, instead of driving to work,  Andy rides the bus in the morning.  Post patio Andy loves looking out the window at the scenery from the back of the Uber and disconnecting. 

As the Uber waits at the light, Andy sees Jerry, the new guy coming out of the coin laundry, walking past the fast Cash place and going into the 2 for 1 pizza place. It’s pretty good pizza. But all they do is cut a regular piece into two pieces. Voilà: 2 for the price of 1!

Monday morning they couldn’t find the key to the Bobcat.

“Who the fuck has the key to the fuckin Bobcat?” 

“Try Fab fuckin Fields.”  

“He probably took the key Friday because he feared in a neighbourhood of homes averaging $4 million someone would steal his heavy machinery over the weekend just for kicks.”  

“If he arrives and we haven’t done jack shit he’s gonna fuckin lose it.” 

“Mother fucker.  Start offloading the interlock up to the top of the driveway.”  Fields was on his way.  Driving south from cottage country he saw the calls on his Bluetooth but didn’t answer on purpose.  

Using the wheelbarrow they were getting it done as if they had all just converted to being Amish.  Having pulled back a bit the chiffon floor to ceiling curtains in the living room, Mrs Moosavi was observing the chaos outside her home. 

“Mother fucker!  Start offloading the interlock up to the top of the driveway.”  

“Fuckin fields does this on purpose to reduce us to fuckin manual labour so he can justify not paying us more.  He is the master of ‘an accident – on purpose’.”

“It’s brilliant and sociopathic.”

“You think that is an exaggeration but you have to see that he sets himself up to be the hero.”

“Relax.  All I know is my paycheck arrives on time every two weeks.  Baboom.” 

Seeing that the two summer hires were setting the lines and had a handle on the task at hand Hector leaned on his rake.

“Andy, hermano, how’s your wife?”  Hector loves strategically dropping Spanish into his conversation.  

“What? Oh Ya she’s doin alright. Thanks for asking.” 

Hector was fishing for gossip because Andy didn’t usually offer up to much info about his family like the other guys did. 

It worked. 

Andy hesitated “My wife has serious menstrual cramps. They just knock her right out. So I can’t just sit there Friday afternoon at a bar drinkin beer while she has to get up and feed the kids dinner and keep them from destroying the place.” 

“Wow. That’s brutal.” 

“For her, ya. But Xochi must have to deal with that too,” said Andy. 

“Ya. She and her sister, apparently their cycles are synched or something so they just talk on the phone. I bring home chocolate and ice cream and she seems to get through it.”

“Hey guys, did you need anything?” asked Jerry encroaching on the supervisor bubble.

“Ya.  A medium double double and a French cruller,” said Hector.

“Ignore that ridiculous, brown gnome,” said Andy. 

“Thank you brother Andy.  Now. Jerry, when the Guiness Book of World Records comes searching for the smallest Canadian penis in the history of Canadian penises – you just point them in Andy’s direction, will ya?”  said Hector.

“Jerry-rig it for the moment brother.”

Not a chance!  Get the fuckin come-along,” said Matt.

They needed to hold the 40 foot white pine back at the side of the house to get the Bobcat into the backyard so they could resurface the pool area.  Since the client couldn’t peek out from the window to see what they were doing two of the crew said fuck it just yank on the tree and if it returns to its original position great; if not then Fields and his insurance can deal with it and yell at him later.

The three including Matt said no.  Either they said no because it was a lazy solution to a small problem.  Or they simply feared Fields’ rath once the customer complains.

“What he meant was to get Jerry to hold it.  He’s standing right behind you.”

“Ok Jerry.  If you’re the arborist in the family, what do you think?”

“I can make it happen.  We just need a couple boards and the hand saw and we will wedge the space open.  Also the ten foot ladder,” said Jerry. 

“Ok, Jerry.  Make it happen.  We’re gonna take lunch and need this ready when we come back.  Capiche?” said Matt who today was driving the Bobcat.

Driving to Tim Horton’s with nouveau riche mansions on either side there was a Filipino nanny wheeling a stroller and walking a schnauzer.  In this neighbourhood because nobody who actually owned a house walked on the street there were no sidewalks.  So the babies and their nanny’s walk in traffic.

“You know my neighbour got a ticket for not pickin up his dog’s shit”

“My neighbour was telling me he got a fine for not putting his dog on a leash.  Then he went on this rant saying that he was going to submit a proposal to Elon Musk.”  Matt told the story:

“You know what Elon Musk should do.  He should program his Nueralink chip to…

What is the fuck is a Neurolink chip my other neighboour asks.

Neuralink.  I corrected the guy.  You haven’t heard of this?  It’s another one of his big ideas to insert silicon chips into people’s heads to monitor their thoughts and help people with diseases like MS to be able to move because they think it, the first neighbours says.

So it can listen to your thoughts and do what you want. That sounds cool I said

Ya but the government is gonna want to listen to those thoughts too.  You know it’s only a matter of time said another neighbour as we stood there watching our dogs play in the dog park.  Anyway, back to my idea.  Have the chip geo identify with your home and then have posts, kinda like charging stations, at various points, like in parks around your municipality that you have to get within say 3 metres of every so many days.  Basically making you exercise – he says.” said Matt.

What if you have a broken leg – does the chip know that?  And you can’t make it.

“No you have to go,” Matt whips out his sarcasm.

“Ya, even when the snow is 2 feet deep.”

“What’s the point?”

“He is saying, my neighbour, that why penalise the people who actually are out there with their dogs getting fresh air and exercise.  Make the lazy twinkies get off their couches and take their beer belly for a walk to the park at least once a week.”  

“And if they don’t?”

“And if they don’t then he says there is an automatic fine of like $15- 20 bucks,” said Matt.

“Holy shit!” and they all laugh like the time Hector told them he was thinking of importing exotic birds from El Salvador.

“Big Brother doesn’t need our help.”  

“We need to shut your neighbour up!” said Hector.

“Shut im up or shut im down!”

“Ya he is a bit of a nut job,” said Matt 

“Ya think?!”

___

Jerry Rig is from the Short Story Series Tool by Kevin Mcnamara

Short Story – Odd Man Out

Photo by Kevin Grieve on Unsplash

“I’m gonna start my own home services company,” declares Oddie as he and Reggie load the morning batch of 2×4’s onto the forks of the loader to lift them up to the second floor to start framing up there. 

8 am on a chilly September morning, the summer heat has peaked and subsided.

Oddie imagines he is an angelic combination between Chris Rock and Lenny Kravtiz; funny and suave.  If you saw him you would probably think he looked more like a cross of Kevin Hart and Danny Devito; short and obtuse. 

Reggie, the ragged yet loyal employee, smirks out loud and pauses to straighten his back for a moment, 

“Right you are.”  The clean Spruce fragrance was a weird source of Reggie’s optimism over the years.  

Oddie stands for Odd Man Out which is the lengthy nickname the forming crew gave him in his first week.  They just had to look at him: his boots were too skinny, his hard hat was on crooked, his face was puzzled.  He just looked odd.  But he was quick on the job site.  

“That’s right.” 

“What’s your company called?

“I don’t know yet.  It’s a service that connects the trusty handyman with homeowners needing odd jobs.” said Oddie as if it already existed.

“Right,”  repeats a smug Reggie and turns to grab an armful of lumber. 

“What now?!” 

Reggie loved yankin this guy’s chain.  He gets so hot under the collar at the blink of an eye.  With his grey gloves he touched his left index finger to his right baby finger and started counting,

“First of all, you do know there are like at least 5 of those apps out there that provide those services and seconofall they have like, just a little bit of a head start on you.  Third they have millions in financial backing and…”

“And what?” 

And .. they aren’t you.”

“Meaning what?”

Reggie straightens up again and looks Oddie directly in the eyes and says nothing.

“Fuck you!” says Oddie.

“Right.” 

“I don’t care what you think.” Declares Oddie.

“You don’t want to care but you do,”  Reggie exhibits his clarity of mind as he straps on his tool belt..

“Fuck you, get to work,” Oddie orders Reggie

“Get to work, Fuck you”

Be original

“Hey Reggie, Gerry the site supervisor yelled from ground level, “Ya gotta sec?”  

Reggie undid his tool belt saying under his breath “What the hell does this dipshit want now?”

Gerry was squinting up at Oddie framing in a door as Reggie got down there.  Gerry starts speaking to Reggie while still looking up at the second floor. 

“You have to be weird and know it to get a nickname like Odd Man Out and live with it.

And that the shoe fits says everything.”

“He loves it.” said Reggie staring at the side of Gerry’s ugly head.  “We gave him a back door to being part of a team of foul mouthed framers and he took it,” 

“Are you a fucking psychologist?”

“The guy needs what you need.  He is shit at how to get it.  About the same as you are at dropping in a plumb door header.  That’s why they made you supervisor,” said Reggie.

As soon as Reggie heard Gerry say  “Listen Reg.”  His bullshit detector went off.

“I gotta bit of a situation.  Sandoval’s son needs a job and the office threw it in my lap.  You worked with him before, right?”

“That pip squeak would carry the same 2×4 from one end of the job site and hide on his phone for 30 minutes.  Then carry the same 2×4 to the other side and do the same thing all over again.”

“Ya well he got in some kind of trouble.  It’s either cars or drugs.  Maybe both.  Anyway the message from Sandoval is to keep him busy so they know someone is keeping an eye on him,”  then Gerry laughs as he reads the text message he received from the office this morning.  “So he learns the value of work.”  Gerry looked to his right for confirmation from Reggie but didn’t get it.

A wave of humility and appreciation ran through Reggie.  He realised what he already knew: that Rhonda, his wife, was his hero.  She had been super strict with their son and daughter and that is why Cherise their daughter was on academic scholarship at McMaster University and their son Malcolm was in grade 10 following in her footsteps. 

“He’s not the only one …”

“What’s that supposed to mean”

“Nothin”

“What can that miserable little shit do here without fucking up my job site.”

“Nothin.”

“Ya I know,” agreed Gerry. “Wait.  Let’s put em with good ol Oddie.”

“Let’s not.”

Gerry pulled a purple e-cigarette from his inside jacket pocket and hauled on it.

“Oddie and I have a decent rhythm if you hadn’t noticed.”

“Listen Reg …” Hearing that phrase again Reggie just turned to walk away.  “He starts tomorrow,”  Gerry yelled at Reggie’s back.

Ricky parked his 2022 metallic blue Jeep Rubicon beside the portapotty at 7:45 because he was afraid that his dad would take away the Jeep if he was late.  His dad was the owner of Sandoval Developments.  If the forming crew thought that Oddie looked out of place, Ricky looked like he was modelling for the Home Depot website.  Everything he wore was functional, just like Oddie and Reggie.

But the function for Ricky was to look good. New construction boots, tight hi-viz black sweatshirt with silver and yellow reflectors, shiny black hard hat with a Sandoval decal on the front, fresh yellow leather gloves and tinted safety glasses.  He never took his ear buds out.  He was instantly labelled Slick Rick.  Reggie loved how this clown brought comic relief to his day.

Oddie hated working for $24 per hour for some rich fuck.  He hated that the same rich fuck didn’t give a fuck for his own son.  He didn’t hold it against Slick Rick.  Oddie adopted him like a younger brother even though they were the exact same age.

“Bro, you’re holdin the hammer all wrong,” said Oddie.

“Ricky.  What did I tell you about holding the nail between your fingers?”

“Dude, did you even put your level on this stud.  From here I can see that the thing isn’t plumb.”

Wow.  Nice.  Look at that.  Fits perfect.  Reggie did you see?  Our man Slick Rick is good on the saw.” 

“Dude.  Look at me.”  Oddie schooled limp Rick on the reality of belief in yourself.  “Haven’t you realised that they think I am a freak.  They have more in common with you than they do with me,” said Oddie even though it wasn’t true.  As a young man lost at sea Ricky instinctively grabbed his phone to ground himself cyberspace.  

People didn’t understand Oddie’s sense of tribal inclusion.  In truth, neither did he.  He simply felt like we are all in this together.    Oddie had no reason to question because that was who he was. He also knew he needed to accomplish something everyday so he got some satisfaction.  He wanted to share this.  

Slick Rick was a textbook spoiled brat.  A tragic teenager.  His parents weren’t on the same page about children, marriage or money.  His mom’s love wasn’t going to magically make him into a man.  His absentee dad supplied everything but the intangibles.

Sandoval pulled up in a white Mercedes SUV to see how his son was being made into a man.  To get out of the vehicle would have been to break the macho archetype he loved more than his son.  The back seat tinted window came halfway down.  Ricky looked at Oddie, looked at his phone, undid his toolbelt and climbed down to talk to the tinted window.

Reggie and Oddie unabashedly stood at the edge of the second floor watching the father/son debacle.    

“For the last 15 or so years Sandoval has shown he doesn’t give a fuck about the well fare of his own son,” said Reggie. 

“Dude, we are providing a babysitting service to Richie Rich,” Oddie said to Reggie. “The fuckin father needs to know that.”  Reggie looked sideways at Oddie and said,

“You are not going to pity Richie Rich.  That’s not gonna pay your bills much less fulfil your  crazy dream of your Odd Man app.”

Oddie nodded at Reggie’s name for his odd jobs by a handyman app.

“Ya bro. Or do you want to be in the business of handy jobs?” Reggie laughed at his own joke.

Odd Man Out is from the short story series Tool by Kevin McNamara

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.”

Short Story – Timber

Photo by Callum Hill on Unsplash

“Hey, let’s go grab a beer and wings at the pub.  They probably have the Leaf game on.”  said Stan.

“Wow, ok, ya dad.”  Tim said. “ But where’s mom?”

“She went over to visit your Aunt Magda.”

“Again?”

“Nothin to worry about.  Grab your coat.”

Stan poured them both more beer from the pitcher. 

“Thanks dad.”  Tim said without looking up.  Stan had trained himself to savour those phrases.   Tim really liked this father-son moment sitting at the bar watching the game and licking the bbq sauce off their fingers.

“Ya know, one of the other sales guys at work says his numbers are down because of the pandemic.  Everyone else’s have gone up.  What do you think is going on with that guy?”  Stan asked. 

“Dunno.  Lots of factors: pandemic, budgets, competition.  Or it could be something personal”

“Exactly.  Those are the same factors for all salespeople.  So why would his sales be lower?” 

“OH yes.  Oh, no.  Shit, nice stop by the New York goalie.  Nylander should have gone 5 hole.  Sorry dad. What was the question?”  

Stan made himself busy gnawing on a chicken wing.

“Right, why are this one guy’s numbers lower than the rest of you?  Ummm.  Well I don’t know the guy personally so it is tough to say.” Tim distanced himself from the question.

“He doesn’t know what he wants.”  Stan said.

“Well, who actually wants to sell industrial racking systems?”  Tim grabbed another wing from the plate between them with a rapid glance at his dad.  “I mean does it bring him satisfaction?”

“With all these Amazon fulfilment centres mushrooming up all over the place it is an amazing opportunity to build a career.”

“Are you suggesting that I apply for a job there?”

“If that is what you want.”  Said Stan.  “You see, I don’t see you passionate about graphic design.

“Well, in a way, you’re right.  It’s my entrance into the gaming world and the whole Metaverse and NFTs.  Remember I explained that whole scenario to you.”

“I remember you told me Eminem invested thousands of dollars in a pdf.” 

“It’s more complicated than that.”

“My point is Tim, it has been a year and a half since you finished high school and I haven’t seen any, you know, growth.  I see you in your gaming chair and hear you scream when one of your buddies shoots you.  But don’t hear anything about your on-line courses.  I haven’t had you come up to me with a notebook and specific questions you have for growing a business or finding clients.”

Tim wiped his fingers with that noxious moist towelette they give you and grabbed his beer, 

“So what happens now?” He arched his back after being hunched over his plate of wings and looked straight ahead at the big screen tv.

“You start paying rent the beginning of May.”  Stan said

They stared at the same screen but were miles apart.

“If you want to go to college, for graphic design or anything else, I will pay 50% of the tuition while you live at home.  And at that point we can negotiate the rent.”

“That was over two years ago.” Said Tim grabbing another nail from his pouch.

“So whadaya wanna do, bro?”  Asked Manuel 

“I wanna buy a house.  I dunno, maybe flip it.  We’ll see.

“So what’d your dad say when you told im that?”

“Well of course I didn’t talk to my dad the whole Uber ride home like any self respecting 20 year spoiled brat would do.  Then lying on my bed with a pleasant beer buzz.”

“Wait, who says pleasant?” Interrupted Manuel. 

“Hey, it’s my fuckin story pal?”

“And who says pal?”  Manuel teased.

“Do you want me to push you off this fuckin floor?  Pal?” 

“Chill bro, chill.”  

They were framing the second story of this new house they had been working on for 2 weeks.  They were supposed to have finished by the end of October but they didn’t get started till the beginning of November. And still the general contractor was putting pressure on them.  But it wasn’t their fault.  The general contractor didn’t want to pay such a high price for the lumber so he delayed hoping the price would go down.

The price didn’t go down so that backfired and Tim and Manuel had to pick up smaller jobs in the meantime.  Tim had signed up on one of those handyman apps.  It was called Odd Man.  Horrible name but they paid.  He wasn’t supposed to because he was in the union.  And the thing was the local carpenters’ union had worked out really well for him.

That Friday night Tim went out with his gaming buddies Raf and Tony.   They were attempting to meet women so they were at a bar with Tony’s sister and a few of her friends.

“So chillin there, on my bed with a mild beer buzz I felt the house really, I don’t know, empty without my mom there.  I grabbed my phone but focusing on that kind of killed the beer buzz and only made me angry.” 

“Angry?  Why?”  Asked the friend of Tony’s sister. 

“I have lots of reasons, bro.”

“I’m not your bro.”

“Sorry, man.  Sorry again”

“Like…?”

“Like what?”

“Like what reasons.”

“Like… Well in this case ‘cause my dad was harpin on me about my entire future right.  Anyway, I, like I say, I don’t know but I was driving myself crazy so I went down the hall and my dad was reading at the kitchen table and I said,

“Hey dad …?”

“Tim…”

“Sorry for not, you know, for not talking to you on the Uber ride home.”

Stan looked at Tim slouching in his dropping sweat pants that had never seen a drop of sweat in their life.

“I remember, I took a big breath making me stand up straight and I said, 

“What about Marco, Vince’s son?  You said he joined the carpenter’s union and makes good coin.”

“That’s right.”

“Well that’s what I want.  To make some good coin.”

“Give him a call.” 

“I don’t have his number.”

“He lives right around the corner.  Knock on his door.”

“Dad, nobody knocks on anybody’s door these days.”

“Then be a nobody.”  

“And that was over 2 years ago.”  Tim said.

“So,  Are you a nobody?” She asked.

“Look at my hands.  Are these nobody’s hands?”  Tim displayed his scratched hands, palm and back, to Trish, the friend of Tony’s sister, for her to appreciate his calluses and cuts.  

Trish put her phone in her back pocket “Look at my hands.  Are these the hands of a nobody?”  Turning over her manicured hands, palm and back for Tim to appreciate her silver rings and bright red fingernails.

“Those are the hands of …”  Tim had nothing.

“The hands of the cute young woman at the bar you are going to offer to buy a drink.”

“That is … exactly correct.”  Said Tim, briefly bowing his head.  “What’s your poison?”

“You sound like a bartender,  You’re not a frickin bartender.”

“Ok.  Hey there cute young woman with ravishing red fingernails,  can I interest you in a beverage?”

“That was cheesy but better.  I’m going to the bathroom.  Order me something you think I would like.”  Trish nodded to one of the other young women in the group of friends of the sister and they headed to the bathroom.

Tim turned to the bar.

“What’s your poison?”  The bartender asked.

Tim shook his head quickly.  

“Did you see the woman I was talking to?  What do you think she would like to drink?”

“I actually don’t recall seeing her specifically but you can’t go wrong with a Tom Collins.”

“I’ll get one of those and another pint of Creemore?”   

“Do you remember my name?”  Trish asked as she accepted the drink.

“Do you know my name?”  Tim countered.

“Tim.”  Trish placed the limp slice of lime on the napkin on the bar and sipped the Tom Collins.   “Your turn”

“I don’t … recall.”  Said Tim, copying the bartender.

“Do you live with your parents?”  

“If you can believe it I would prefer the answer to be yes.  I’m trying to save up to buy a house.  I actually live with 2 other guys in a shithole with a filthy bathtub that hasn’t been cleaned in months.”

“Then clean it.”

Alcohol Intelligence is the original AI.  It has been the modus operandi of many a shy/angry/ill-equipped-for-life man.  It has worked well in the moment thousands and thousands of times.  It has damaged lives thousands of times.  It is the algorithm of getting sufficient alcohol into the body of at least one of the participants so they disconnect from reason, standards and dignity leading to sex within the first night, if not hours, of meeting each other.  Whether they want to or not.  

This, not surprisingly, was Tim’s default strategy.  He had not encountered any other creative techniques for flirting .  Stan was a good father/husband in that he was there day to day.  He provided.  Regardless, he didn’t know how to speak about women with his son.  Which is a major reason why now, at the bar, Tim was preprogrammed to align all mental and verbal efforts towards sex tonight. 

“Tina ..?”  Tim raised his eyebrows making a stab at her name.

“Trish.”  Trish wished Tim would stand up straight.  Three beers in, Tim wished he could smell her long back hair.  

“Trish, you wanna get outta here?”  

“And go where?  To your place.  Not until you clean it.”

“Why me?  I am waiting for my lazy roommates to clean it.  We all have our responsibilities in the home.  I am responsible for the kitchen.  Raf, did you meet Raf?  That’s him in the brown Atari t-shirt still holding his first beer of the night – he takes care of the garbage/sweeping mopping and shit like that, and that guy beside Raf …”

Trish shook her head and then leaned in to look into Tim’s eyes to make him stop.

“And why in the world would I be interested in your dysfunctional bro show in Nerdia?” 

“Bro show in Nerdia?”  Tim’s brain was temporarily blocked as her cool blue eyes hijacked his arterial system.  “What the fuck is Nerdia?”

“Oh that is what we call the imaginary place a gamer’s mind goes to when he enters his video game zone.  It’s a combination of nerd and Narnia.”   

“It sounds like you are pretty proud of yourself for coming up with that … title.”

“It works doesn’t it?”  Trish smirked with her eyes and sipped from the pink paper straw.  “I can tell you actually like the whole idea of having your own little niche in the Metaverse.”  Niche got its own punctuation: a wrinkling of the nose 

“Are you actually talking with me or am I like that half dead mouse that a cat plays with?”

“You did pretty well with the drink.”  Trish referred to the Tom Collins not wanting another one but wanting to keep Tim’s focus on her. 

Monday morning was light years away from the here and now of Friday night at the bar.  Right now Tim was the man of the moment.

“Timber or lumber.  What’s the difference?  Tim asked.

“It doesn’t matter.”  Manuel puffed out clouds of steam in the cold morning.  He hated working outside in the cold so he came to work pissed at Woodley, the GC because he delayed the project to save a few bucks and they ended up framing outside in late November. 

“You’re right it doesn’t matter,  It’s just I like to learn stuff, to understand stuff.” 

“What a fuckin waste of time.” 

Tim stopped hammering for a second as he felt the bubble he was in after going out with Trish again on Sunday afternoon was now being burst.   

“The problem with you is you’re a lazy paycheck to paycheck typical idiot.”  Tim puffed.

“Do you lay awake thinkin all these high school insults?”

“You’re worse than the fuckin spolied Canadians.”

“What de fuck you talkin about pendejo feo? Yer Canadian.”

“You don’t know what you’re talkin about.”

“If it was my choice, I’d fire your lazy, insubordinate ass.”

“Insubordination?!  What are we in the fuckin army.”  Laughed Tim.

“Shut your face and pass me another 2×4 before I freeze to death.”  Manuel said.

“Entitlement is usually reserved for white trash Canadians, not immigrants who usually have a better work ethic.  Unless they hate their parents.  Do you hate your parents?”

“What the fuck.  I’m bein paid to frame fuckin houses.  Not be psychoanalyzed.  This is bullshit.  Esto es una mierda.”  

‘Someone always ends up paying for the bullshit of others’, Tim thought as he dropped his toolbelt with a thud on the plywood floor of the open second story.  Their friendly barbs had never landed them actually angry at each other.   

He didn’t really need to take a piss but he needed to create some space between the two of them.  He learned this technique from his dad.  Also it would put him in a better mood because he just loved the inventive names the portable toilet companies had like Willy Make it, or Royal Flush.  The one at the end of the driveway was Urinbiz.

“Here.”  Manuel made up with Tim by getting him a coffee he didn’t ask for.

“Thanks bro.”

“Bro, this is the last job I do for Woodley.  If you wanna keep workin wit em, man it’s totally your right.  But me bro, this is my last. I’m done”  As Manuel sipped his double double he was holding onto a loose 2×4 like it was a small tree.  He let it go and as it began to fall he said in a whispered yell,

“Timber.” 

Short Story – Duct Tape

Duct tape

‘Ya baby’ Joe says to himself.  Emerging from the forest he wipes sweat from his eyebrows as he slows from running to a walk.   Sitting on the bumper of his open trunk, he chugs water and scribbles the perceptions of the tree sap.    

On his forest runs, Joe duct tapes tree sap (today it was Blue Spruce) to his forehead,  wraps his head with his blue bandana and runs in the forest.   As he runs his heat starts to liquify the resin. Joe’s theory is he will absorb the essence, the history and the mineral of the sap.  Then he needs the grammar to be able to translate it.

~~~~~

‘Hey bro, I’m gonna take a shower.’  Felipe said when Joe opened the door to their apartment.

‘Wait.  What’s your problem? You’ve been in bed all fuckin morning and, unlike you, I have to work.  Why the fuck would you need to clean your shitty body right now?

~~~~~

‘Dude, I apologize.’  Joe said after showering first.  ‘I was in another space when I arrived because … whatever.  I’m sorry.’

‘Ok, Whatever.’  Felipe copied Joe. ‘ Are you off to work now?’

‘No, I am going to make lunch.  Are you going to shower?’ Asked Joe.

‘No’

‘What?!  ‘When I got in I thought you were going to shower.’

‘The moment … passed.’  Felipe said.

‘Don’t tell me.  You’re hungry for the food I make.  But you’re not hungry for the food you don’t make.’  Joe grilled his roommate.

Felipe accessed his go-to guilt mongering moves:  slow shoulder shrug, meekly look to the floor. 

~~~~~

A month after kicking Felipe out Joe’s new roommate would be a friend of Sarah’s (one of Joe’s first clients).  Irena was arriving in town in 2 or 3 weeks.  She already had work and just needed a place to live.  Felipe only took his belongings so Joe paid to dispose of the mattress but left the desk and chair in the hope of saving the world from another Allen key assembled desk and bookshelf.  

‘Here is first and last month’s rent.’   Irena said, ‘Holding out her hand with twelve one hundred dollar bills.’  

Walking up with a bunch of clothes on hangers, Irena’s dad locked eyes with Joe, ‘All good?’  Joe nodded too many times, too quickly thinking he had been seen checking out the guy’s daughter.

~~~~~

‘Hey, what are you listening to?’  Asks Irena as she comes in from her night shift and Joe happens to be putting away his grocery shopping (for the last hour).

‘That’s some early The Weeknd’

‘It’s a little whiny.’  Tests Irena.

‘The guy is talented. 

Within a week of Irena moving in the apartment smelled so fresh it made Joe think of getting flowers but that would have been weird.  He would put down his phone just to hear Irena walk from the shower to her room.  Joe didn’t want to jeopradize the reliable rent but his body was crushing with lust for Irena.  Joe was slow.  Irena had picked up on that signal weeks ago.

‘Irena, I think we both know that I think you’re hot.’ Joe knew now he had to shut his stupid mouth.  And wait what feels like millions of seconds.  Wait like an idiot or speak like a moron.

Irena’s radiance fills their 2 bedroom apartment.

‘Ya I agree.’  Irena talking tough, delayed a second, ‘ I’m pretty hot.’  Irena demures through her eyebrows; and then they both break out laughing.

‘You wanna go to the Mexican place up the street for a bite?’

‘Who me?’  Plays Irena.

‘No, with my assistant coach from peewee hockey!’

Walking into the headwind on Hitchens Street North Joe hugged Irena to his side.  

~~~~~

At times Irena’s shift work coincided with Joe’s night cleaning contracts.  It worked when the frolicking couple wanted to be together.  Joe surprised himself how he shared with Irena his deepening engagement with nature.

‘While you are working with doctors helping people I am barely learning to work with nature.  It’s a whole education.  The forest is a university.’  You know what I mean?’  Joe asked.

From the simple lexicon of willingness to love and be loved Irena said. ‘Yes.’

~~~~~

‘Mmmm, I love that pine scent – so sweet, vibrant and earthy.’  Irena inhaled the pebble of red pine sap she rolled in her fingers.

Joe thanked the tree for the sap then pulled a small piece off.  He stuck the duct tape with the nugget of sap to Irena’s forehead.’

‘Weirdo.’  Joe said, smiled at her with a cross-eyed look and kissed her.

‘Ok captain.’  Says Irena knotting her pink bandana and pumping her legs.  ‘Let’s heat up some of your sap.’  

In the autumn afternoon facing the forest, Joe speaks, 

‘I have no idea what this sap contraption does but it just has become my ritual between me and the forest.

He stood erect, shoulders back, vision focused deep into the forest for 10 seconds, and with a slight nod of his head, they entered the forest.

 ~~~~~

Joe is shaken.  ‘What?’  

‘Why not?’

‘Why not.’  Said Joe scared shitless to go out into the forest at night.

‘You are awake anyway, neither of us are working so let’s do it.’  Irena said

‘We can take a thermos.’ Joe rallied.

The trees having surrendered most of their leaves to the cycle of the seasons allowed them to take in a wide swath of stars.  Sat on a long shelf of river shale they wrapped themselves in the red wool blanket as they cupped their steaming tea.

‘I need to be different.’   Joe said

Irean looks at Joe sideways, ‘Don’t worry buddy, you are plenty different.  Which is plenty sexy.’

‘No.’  Says Joe ruining the moment. ‘Irena, my point is I need to not be my dad.’

‘You aren’t.  You won’t be.’

‘I can’t do that to you.’

‘We won’t let that happen.’

‘I can tell your dad is a big bad ghost lurking in your past.  Still I wouldn’t mind meeting him – so I can know you better.  So I can see where he finishes and you take off.’  Irena said.

‘It’s not like I am in a fight with my dad.’ Joe winced. ‘I don’t even know if he is alive.

‘My dad took me on my first fishing trip when I was like 6 or 7 years old.  He yanked me out of school and we went up to a cabin on the French River for almost the whole week.  My mom was furious he didn’t take her anywhere mid week on the spur of the moment.  One night when we finished dinner in the main lodge and got back to the cabin it was pitch black.

‘Where’s your tackle box boy?’  

‘I don’t know. Isn’t it here?’

‘I don’t see it.  Are you calling me blind?’

‘No, daddy, no.’

Well if it isn’t here where daya think it is hiding?’

‘Did I take it to the main lodge after I tied up the boat?’

‘Damn good question.  You gotta keep track a your gear.  The fish aren’t gonna’ do that for you.’  

‘What do I do?’  asked a trembling Joey hoping his dad would offer to look for it together.

‘You do what any good angler does.’  Joey’s dad stood with his back towards him and said, ‘He finds his gear before someone else does.’  

‘Where is the flashlight?’ asked Joey.

‘It’s in your tackle box?’ He lied.

‘So,’  Joe said looking into Irena’s eyes, ‘I walked towards the lights of the main lodge but my tackle box wasn’t there.  I was scared shitless because I had to go down to the dock.  There was no light.   I nearly kicked the tackle box into the water.  It was on the dock beside our rented boat.

So that kind of ruined any nighttime wilderness adventure for me – till now.  Till you.’ 

Irena readjusted their blanket and caressed Joe’s hand as she breathed in every ounce of the moment.

‘You know what my dad said before he left the day I moved in?’  Asked Irena.

‘I have no idea.  But he did give me the once over when we were unloading your stuff.  By his reaction I think he felt you had nothing to worry about.’  Joe said.

‘Meaning what?’

Meaning that there was no way a woman like you would be interested in a schmoe named  Joe.’

‘Maybe.  Or maybe he could tell you weren’t a prick.  And that I was safe.’

Joe loved the breath he was breathing, ‘You are safe.’

Irena laid her head on his shoulder and her imagination went to work.

After a few magic minutes, ‘Hey, what did you mean by a woman like you ?

‘A total babe with beautiful brown eyes; not afraid of the dark and not afraid to duct tape sap to her forehead.‘

Short Story – Rootball

Photo by Gigi on Unsplash

Root ball

The boss explained to Roger it was the pandemic.  His manager told him it was Artificial Intelligence.  

‘Buddy,’ Rick, his colleague, relished saying, ‘ You just don’t fit in with the company vision.’  

‘Vision for what?’ Wanted to know Roger even though it really didn’t matter as he was on his way out the door.

‘A vision, you imbecile, of making money off of paying clients.’  Rick the dick chuckled as he rubbed Roger’s face in it.

‘That was.’  Roger shook his head as his shoulders sagged, ‘Harsh.’

‘Yeah. Who cares?’  Rick stared into Roger with his legs astride as if he was on the podium having won the Italian Grand Prix at Monza. 

‘So, you spineless piece of shit, how do you fit into their money making vision?’  Roger needed to know.

‘Me?  I just count the stuff as it comes in.  I transferred to accounting.  I don’t want to be in the field anymore.  I don’t want to be made obsolete.’

‘Like me.  Right’

‘You said it, not me.’

Leann, Roger’s wife, made her younger brother Ryan give Roger a job.  She has been working from home for almost a year and for 4 months of that Roger had been out of work and driving her crazy.  

‘It’s like I didn’t even know my own husband until I spent time with him.’  Confides Leann.

‘That doesn’t bode well.’   

‘It turns out the more time you spend with him the more Roger he becomes.’  Lets slip Leann.

‘What’s that supposed to mean?’  Her mom needs to know.

Realizing she said that out loud Leann now has to reconcile it with reality.

 It’s not really a bad thing.’  She tells her mom by Zoom. 

‘Darling,  meaning what exactly?  That he gets all creepy and …?’  investigates her mom.

‘No, no no. Nothing like that.  It’s just that, after a while, he lands on the annoying side of bizarre.’  

‘How long is a while?’  Mom gets right to the point.

Leann sighs.  Looks into the Zoom version of her mother’s eyes, drops her eyes to her computer keyboard and returns to meet her mom’s eyes again.

‘Half an hour.’

When Leann and Roger married they had an understanding there weren’t going to be any children.  Leann would have been open to adopting if he was but Roger who didn’t want to spin the roulette wheel on someone else’s DNA.  Over time Leann saw what he meant first hand.  Twenty-nine going on thirty years old was not yet the prime age for a mid-life crisis.  Leann would need to find another excuse to assimilate Roger’s lack of traction with daily life.

~~~

Straight outta calculus Ryan jokes when asked about when he started his company.   In his final year of high school, 3 months before final exams, he slammed his textbooks closed, ignored his mother’s pleadings and walked out the door.  With his rusting pickup truck, his best friend Mark and the family electric lawn mower he started a landscaping company.

In his first summer landscaping, he and Mark, with a bout of the munchies, were waiting in McDonald’s drive-thru aching to scarf down a few Big Macs.  Back in the day you could drive high.  

‘The company needs a name bro!’  Says Mark in the wait between placing their order and the pick up window.

‘Why?’

‘To meet girls.’

‘What do you have in mind?’ An interested Ryan asks. 

‘Nothin’’

‘No shit!’

‘Except visions of Big Macs dancing in my head.’ Mark says grinning like an idiot. 

Ryan turned down the radio and leaned forward looking at the big McDonald’s logo: those famous Golden Arches; ‘Golden Branches …?’

What?

Golden Branches Landscaping bro!  Whaddaya think?

Dude …! 

I know right …?

Golden Branches Landscaping baby!

Ten years later, sitting in the driver seat of his warm white 4 x 4 pickup with the engine running, Ryan pulled at his scruffy beard as he mentally digested his odd brother-in-law. 

My Roger doesn’t need dope – he can go interplanetary under his own steam – thought Ryan

On a podcast Ryan had heard that if you want to work things out try talking to yourself.

My Roger …’  Ryan started, which self-startled him causing him to stall.  

‘Why the fuck is he My Roger?’  Ryan shook his head at himself. 

He gazed into his blue and white Toronto Maple Leafs hockey player bobblehead glued to the dashboard that subtly wiggled and jiggled to the purr of the diesel engine. 

Having slid into a pensive moment Mark startled Ryan by jumping into the passenger seat of the cab.

‘Dude we have to talk.  We are falling way behind on this fucking project.  Did you see the forecast?  We are getting more frost 3 days in a row.  We need to…’

‘I know genius!!  I know what we need.’    

‘Whoa!  Bro oo… What the …?  Let’s go for coffee. I’m buying.’

‘Fuck coffees.’

‘Ya know that small alien creature that crawled up your ass and took a shit must have been some ugly?’

‘Let’s go.  Let’s show these guys this isn’t a babysitting service.’ Ryan jumps out of the truck.

No one on the team knew Roger was the boss’s brother-in-law.  They just thought he was one of those flakes who finds work with them each season.  The flotsam of society. Men that know what they don’t want.  Guys who are connected to reality by gravity, government checks and little else.  They want to be paid cash daily,  they call everyone by a nickname after meeting them 5 minutes ago and you hardly ever see them eat.  One day they never show up again and their work boots will stay behind the back seat of the work truck until the end of the season and then get donated.  

Roger’s previous job as an insurance assessor was less than a year ago but felt like a lifetime away.  The money was steady and the questions were few, the rules were clear and the creativity was zero.  There should have been little chance for him to alienate himself yet they still found a way to push him out the door.  Roger wasn’t sad or surprised because he easily could have told you he wasn’t living and working in the here and now

In the bowels of spring are frigid February nights with minutes colder than hours. Roger needed to tell someone how, in the fathoms of darkness, cut loose by the leylines of sleep, he lay awake as sewer rats and hoary bats were gnawing at the sinews of his soul.  And then he would quickly submit a disclaimer to whoever would listen that while all this was achingly paralyzing there was, available, an undercurrent of light that was freeing.

Sleepless and alone in the basement pull-out bed with his blue eyes wide open he had a 3 am epiphany about what gave him satisfaction: Delivering results while doing work that congealed in him a real here and now feeling.  Unaware that he was picking at the earth under his fingernails he loved what he just learned he wanted.

Along a client’s side and front lawn they were planting a row of cedar trees.  As he plants and rakes, weeds and waters Roger is fascinated by the potential of that root ball that the trees come with from the nursery.   On his knees with his bare hands in the moist and fervent soil, Roger inhaled the poignant autumn air.  It was like he was being paid to do downward facing dog.  

Like roots drawing minerals into the plant – Roger spoke under his breath as he helped to guide Jose driving the Bobcat as it dropped one of the cedars gently inside the hole where it would be planted – parents draw minerals into their child’s life. 

Roger’s insight continued –  the challenge in the progression of a man is to mineralize his own life – with what he wants.

That is exactly what is happening to Roger.  Whether he knows it or not. 

To them Roger seemed to talk more with the trees then he did with them so the guys nicknamed him Rootball Roger.  They needed to pigeonhole him in order to accept him as one of their own.  They want to accept him as part of the tribal urge to work together.  Then there is what goes unmentioned, and poorly understood; the importance of accepting a guy so he doesn’t feel the loneliness of no tribe.  

‘Rootball.  Mrs Crowsworth always asks us to knock on her door just so she knows we are working around her place.’   Robbie, the lead hand, told Roger.  ‘Plus she likes meeting the rookies.’

The truth Robbie knew was Mrs Crowsworth hates when anyone knocks on her door.  She patented peering out from behind her living room curtain at the people working on her yard.  The guys pretended to be busy oiling the clipper and gassing up the leaf blowers in anticipation of the show.  Mrs. Crowsworth did not disappoint.  

‘Did your office not tell you to not bother me?!

‘I’ Stammered Roger taking a step back having rung the doorbell.

‘Are you new or dumb or both?!  I‘ve never seen you before.’

‘If no one can knock on your door how do you see them?’  Roger got suckered in.

‘How dare you?  I keep tabs on you people you know!  I am going to call Ryan and cancel your crazy company.’

‘Crazy…?’  It slipped out.  ‘What the hell?!  No, no please don’t call Ryan!’ Pleaded Roger.  ‘It won’t happen again, I promise.’

‘That’s what the last guy said.’  Scowled Mrs Crowsworth while sizing up Roger having sensed his sincerity.

Back at the work truck Robbie and Jose were almost pissing themselves with laughter.  They couldn’t have had a better victim to offer Mrs Crowsworth.

‘Hook, line and fuckin’ sinker baby!’ Howled Jose watching from the truck and high fiving Robbie.

When Roger left at 6:30 am each morning Leann sent him off with a hot coffee and what was once a lukewarm kiss was now an air kiss.  Once he was gone Leann breathed easier and could send off a few emails so her colleagues and clients would see she was working really early.   The plan was to work a few focused hours then live her life while Roger was at work.  Leann had found a great online yoga teacher that went at her speed.  Her friend Rita recommended a great online cooking show with a spontaneous cook who made dishes based on a Mediterranean diet.  She alternated days between yoga and cooking or watching travel videos.

Then around 4:30 pm he would open the back door, drop his backpack and say ‘Hey babe, how was your day?’ as he reached into the fridge for his first beer.  Leann would make sure she was back at her work desk with her headset on to ask, 

‘How’d it go today hun?’

‘Good, just working late with the west coast office.’  Leann would lie so they wouldn’t have to sit down to dinner across the table from each other.  Which made a lot of sense as they were no longer sleeping in the same bed.  Or the same room.  Nothing wrong with separate beds but these two were on different tectonic plates going in opposite directions.   

‘It just feels like I am losing money. Even though I know he paid the down payment.’  Leann confides in Rita.

‘Leann, honey.  We all know that was $30 thousand from his parents.’  Rita reminded them.  ‘And you have been basically bringing home the bacon for the last year while Roger does his pre mid-life crisis soul searching.’

Ya, I know.’

‘How’s that going?’

‘Well if his soul is in the basement then he may be on to something.’  Leann offered.

‘What – he moved down to the basement.  I knew you weren’t sleeping in the same bed but this is new.’

‘Ya.  He kind of lives down there.’

‘What the hell?!  How long has this been going on?’  

‘It’s been a few months.’

‘Leann?  Rita was lost for words which she didn’t like.  Have you talked to your mom?’

‘She knows but she doesn’t know the details.’

‘Do you know the details?  Wake the fuck you stupid woman!!  This is your life.  And for what it’s worth, it’s Roger’s life too.  He doesn’t have the capacity to give you what you want.  And you have the capacity for love, young lady.’

Except for when Ryan called asking him to help clean up a whole bunch of broken branches after that violent windstorm in the middle of December Roger hadn’t worked since the beginning of November.  Landscaping season leads to snow shovelling for guys with nothing better.  Roger’s weakening back can’t handle shovelling snow for a living.  It was now almost February and Roger could only think of having to contribute to the mortgage payments.  

‘If I didn’t have the mortgage pressure hanging over me then I would be hating thinking about being 30 and living in my own basement.’  Roger admits to Dean.  Dean and Roger were neighbours growing up.  They bumped into each other at Canadian Tire so Roger invited him out for a beer. 

‘So, how would you say Laura is dealing with your whole situation?’ Asked Dean, gradually embracing that he was being pulled into some guy’s uncomfortable marriage drama. 

‘Work or relationship?’ Deflected Roger not correcting Dean when he got his wife’s name right.

‘The whole enchilada.’  Frowned Dean as a way to distance himself from participation in Roger’s reality.

‘Well out of some sense of weird self respect I can’t make my wife have to put up with me while I am like this.’ 

Roger lifts his hands to then point his fingers back at himself.  ‘This. This is being lost.  But.’  He raises his index finger as he lowers his gaze. ‘The good news is I know I am lost.’

‘How does that make you feel?’  Dean asks having gone full-on therapist.

‘I don’t like it.’  

‘And I doubt your wife likes it either.’

‘She doesn’t.’ Admits Roger.

‘She doesn’t?!  Then leave.’  You moron Dean says with his eyebrows.’

‘What…?’

‘Leave.  Pack your bags.  Move out.’  

‘Hey man, what the hell.  I am looking for a little man to man compassion here.’

‘What you seek is compassion and what you need is a kick in the ass.’  Proclaimed Dean before  taking a long sip of his crisp second pint.

‘Shit and fuck!  Man you know I am just at the end of my no good Goddamn rope here!’

‘Dude, wake the fuck up!!’  Dean was sensing the best thing he could do for Roger was to rattle his cage.  ‘From what I am hearing you don’t have a relationship.  You’ve got a rental agreement.’  

‘No relationship is perfect.’  Justifies Roger.

‘Exactly.  That’s my point, numb nuts!!  Yours has crossed the line from, what I imagine was a living connection with your wife to a business deal where your client is actually disinterested in your services.’ 

‘Did you fucking rehearse this shit before you came here?’

‘Dude.  You invited me for a beer.   You know man talking with you, it is frustrating. Infuriating. You’re such a …’  Dean doesn’t complete his thought.

‘Say it’  Begs Roger.

‘Such …. I mean from 20 minutes of swilling beers with you all I can say is you feel like a lost cause of a man.’  Dean gives what Roger asked for.

‘A lost cause’ repeated Roger.  Both guys drank long from their pints.

‘How ya feeling now?’

‘Like I’m drowning.’

‘Good’

‘Good?!’

‘If you’re drowning then you swim straight to the surface, like a mad man.  You become the fucking solution.’

‘Fucking solution.’  Repeated Roger unconsciously. 

‘You.’  Dean aims the word as he tips his pint at Roger.

Roger downed the rest of his beer staring Dean in the eyes.

In a matter of days Roger pivoted.  He cashed in his RRSP, gave Leann 6 months of his part of the mortgage payment during which he said she could sell the house or buy him out.  He bought a 4×4 pickup like Ryan’s and got on Instagram promoting Trent Urban Farming.  Or as Roger liked to think of it by its initials: TUF

Pivot was one of those buzz words like unprecedented and quarantine that hogged the vocabulary of the Global Covid Republic 2020 +.  

Roger had pivoted out of insurance, paused in landscaping and set his sights on urban farming.  About which he knew nothing (except 3 months with Golden Branches Landscaping) but he really thought having a lawn with grass in front of your house was stupid.  Including his own suburban piece of paradise.