Monday, July 19, 2010

Are You Up For A While?

“Hi there Mr. Cyril, it’s Reza Dibadj, nice to see you again!”

Reza had learned some years ago that these people appreciated a quick little reminder when saying hello for the first time in a while. It was, after all, a cottage community so there was often a long time between seeings. Also, everyone seemed to be pretty old. And drunk.

“Of course, Raisin! Nice to see you too! And how is Francis?”

“Francis is doing great, still attending classes overseas of course. I’m married to Isabel. We’re expecting.”

“Yes! Good!”

Cyril had whacked his shin against the side of his boat while disembarking that morning, and though blood still seeped from the cut the sappy trickle had not yet reached his sock.

“Up for a little while?” he asked hopefully, his smile stretching around some odd coloured dental work.

“No,” Reza sighed, “just the weekend.”

Cyril’s shook his head and tapped his tongue against the roof of his mouth, “Teh, teh”

“We’ll be up for a little stretch at the end of the month though,” Reza added hopefully.

“Ah. Well. Good!”

Everything was, of course, always good there. It really was. Days were a steady succession of discussions about just how good it was, the only exception being that it was not as good when you had to leave.

Reza had learned that despite the community’s reputation for being inaccessible, it was actually fairly easy to make friends if you simply heeded this simple protocol ­—

Affirmation: This is just such a special and wonderful place.

Confirmation: Yes, it’s totally unique and amazing. We are very fortunate.

The bit about being fortunate was a little flourish he had added. He was humble by nature, but also, even notwithstanding his name, the absurdly hairy legs he had stuffed into tennis shorts made it clear that he had married into the community.

“Yes, we’re really looking forward to it. Two weeks! It’s just so much better when you can really settle in for a while here. More relaxing!”

“Yes, yes it is. Wonderful!” Cyril had started shuffling off toward the iced tea-stand, which also sold homemade brownies that Reza frequently sought out.

Watching the young girl get up from her chair to greet her teetering customer, he wondered if his child would one day work at that stand for a summer job.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


A few tables away the flash of a camera caught his eye.

I wonder if they were taking my picture, he thought with the slightest raising of an eyebrow. Probably. I bet they think I’m some movie star.

It would be really embarrassing if they come over to ask me to pose or sign an autograph. I’ll do it, though. 

They deserve it, a brush with fame. That’s the kind of thing that makes someone’s night.

Probably they think I’m Ashton Kutcher, except my arms are bigger than his. Which, let’s be fair, you couldn't know that he has skinny arms from his films, but I have it on pretty good authority that mine are bigger and possibly better defined.

The girl in the gym seemed to really know her stuff, when it came to celebrities. But she said I look more like Jason Bateman. Which is weird because I totally don’t. Though I think we probably have the same speech cadence. It makes people laugh almost no matter what we say. Just the way I say it.

When I listen to myself on tape, like on voicemail and such, I’m always surprised at how little it sounds like me; because I actually have a much deeper voice than it picks up.

Maybe I should send some drinks over to the picture-snapping table. That would be sporting of me. Then they’d have a story to tell their friends! “Bradley Cooper bought us a round of drinks!” I bet they would be talking about it for weeks.

Imagine I’d worn my glasses? That would have really freaked them out. I wonder who they’d think I was then. Some kind of bookish celebrity, that’s what. The Harry Potter guy or something. Except taller in person.

And not gay.

Though sometimes when people aren’t sure they think it’s a bit hot too. Is he or isn’t he? They don’t know! Mystery booksmart. I can see when people are puzzled by it, when they can’t quite figure out if my jeans are tight because I bought them that way or if it’s because my legs are totally ripped. Puzzling enigma.

“Hold on Ray, are you even listening?” she asked.

“What? Sure I am.”

“Well what did I just say?”

He glanced over to the table where the camera had been but he couldn’t see them anymore. Probably they’ve gone back to the nowhere from which they came, he thought.

He looked at her vaguely, sniffed, and said, “You don’t understand me at all.”

Sunday, July 4, 2010


Wrangling a bear cub can't be easy, but it must be easier than this.

It has never been lost on me that my daughter's name is a near-homonym of violence; Violet commits violence to the air-sickness bag that was tucked (probably for years) in the seat-back pouch in front of us.

After the routine rundown of safety procedures, the lead steward also informs us that our plane, and its carrier, are saddened but proud to have one of our fallen soldiers on board. He explains, in our two official languages, that the Colonel aboard had "given her life" for our Country and, presumably, the principals she seeks to uphold in Afghanistan.

Violet eats a bruised banana and I remember my grandfather. "Soldiers don't give their lives, they have them taken from them," he told me many times.

"Elle est tombée en service," is what the steward says during the French half of the address. That's it, I think, a tomber: you know that you might fall, but you sure don't want to.

As the plane taxis away from the gate, I have to press the baby to my chest in preparation for take-off, essentially assuming our crash position, just in case.

Out the window I see that the grounds crews have halted their peculiar vehicles, standing at attention beside them as the plane passes them. A baggage-lift driver is holding a flag over his head, snapping stupidly in the jet wash and barely visible.

"Agua," says Violet, looking at the lake as we ascend. In the hour-long flight, she doesn't lose any fingers and I sweat through my shirt.

When we land, the sober steward announces that in honour of our fallen soldier, it is requested that we passengers remain seated until the coffin is unloaded. Though he doesn't specifically mention that we should be silent, we do. Even Violet.

We all hear the hydraulics of the cargo bay and a great deal of clunking that probably isn't the coffin but sure makes us think about it. What it must be like, a military coffin? Hard and likely aluminium. Probably sturdy. Surely not actually draped in a flag in transit? I wonder if her parents are at the airport.

Strangely, I hope that she's OK down there. Which, how could she be.

Violet has cheese in her hair and I kiss her between her eyes.