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Chapter Sixteen 


 

Sheer Recklessness

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            Despite the growing cold the elation of the crew remained as they sipped their schnapps to keep warm. Amid the laughter and gaiety of the crew, Taylor's festive light-heartedness soared as he cheered passing boats with red-and-yellow-striped jerseys. In contrast Reid drank more schnapps and became morose. He was drawn to the waters edge, his stomach full of nails pinched in a vice.

            After the races finished the crew took taxis to the nearest bar before the big rowing party that night at the old armoury. They didn't go to the Brock University athletic centre to shower and change, so they were all still in their rowing jerseys when they walked into a place they thought was a tavern but was actually a lounge in a bowling alley. The crew, now rambunctious and drunk, took over the lounge like a rugby team. Even Sanjay was having a ball. None of them wanted to give up what they had worked so hard trying to achieve. Nobody wanted to go back and face the reality of assignments and essays and Christmas exams. Reid knew it wouldn't last because the misbehaviour kept getting worse, especially Taylor. All of them loud and sloppy, patrons began to leave. The roughhousing and play-fighting hit a crescendo in the bar when Taylor tackled Reid to the floor and the crew followed. Four or five bodies jumped on top so that tables and chairs were overturned. Everyone was in hysterics, enjoying their state of delirious fatigue, but the manager didn't like it one bit so they were promptly kicked out by the bartender for their excessive display of crew camaraderie.

            After the team had left through the accompanying bowling alley, Reid remained with Taylor for a moment at the bar because he was trying his best to apologize to the bartender.

            "We're just letting off a little steam," he said. "We almost won today, man."

            "I don't care," said the bartender. "Get out!" He was really cross.

            "Ah, c'mon man, sorry things got a little out of control. Really, I didn't mean for it to happen." He tried to explain but the bartender was unforgiving. Taylor became frustrated.

            Exiting the bar through the side door they walked beside a dozen bowling lanes.  Taylor, a half step ahead of Reid, began to veer to the left toward a lane as if a vacuum was pulling him towards a row of bowling balls. Tormented by laughter, his quick mischievous glance back told Reid everything. He saw Taylor reach out and pick-up a ten-pin bowling ball by the finger holes, then in a smooth immediacy of motion swung it in front of his chest, covering the stolen evidence under his jacket. They were almost at the door when Reid heard a loud bang that echoed through the empty bowling alley. Taylor had dropped the ball.

            "Damn!" he yelled, no longer laughing. When they hit the fresh air outside, the crew was milling in front of the bus waiting. When Harold spotted Taylor exiting the bowling alley in a cloak of malevolence, he and Sanjay were the first to notice the bartender walking out of the doors behind them.

            "Boys!" he shouted, as he pulled out the bowling ball from under his jacket. "Retribution for an unyielding bartender!" A mumble of approval came from the bus.

            "Could I have the bowling ball back?" the bartender said with provocative tight lips. Boy, he was mad.

            "Bowling ball, you have?" said Taylor, mocking the provocative voice of the manager. All in one motion, he gave the manager a head fake and crisply rolled the bowling ball down the driveway toward the road. Though the intersection was about eighty-feet away, the ball was gaining speed to a healthy pace down the grade of the pavement. The manager, stuttering from Taylor's head fake, began running after the ball.

            Running back to the bus, they all halted just shy of the doors watching the bowling ball gain speed down the grade of the pavement. A dark silhouette of a man ran frantically towards the busy four-lane street. They could hear honking horns as the bus pulled away inconspicuously. Reid was affected by Taylor's sheer recklessness.

  

Chapter Seventeen 

Shattered Glass

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            After using the athletic facilities at the university to shower and change, the crew arrived at the dance late. Most were drunk, which was all right because everyone else seemed to be in the same state. Rowers were a work-hard play-hard bunch. The old Lake Street Armoury was on the opposite bank of the river from where they had enjoyed the races. All the competing crews from Ontario and Quebec sat at tables surrounding a makeshift dance floor.

            Taylor disappeared when Reid and some of the crew took a corner table at the far end of the Armoury. The dance floor was already packed. Since they arrived late the music had already slowed down in tempo. Maybe the DJ figured all the crews had been imbibing with schnapps all day, as per the custom of regattas, and many were heading quickly for exhaustion after the final day of races. Reid was beginning to enjoy a newfound pride of his rowing experience and the spirit of the crew, as he surveyed the dance floor, keeping an eye open for Erin. When Taylor reappeared he had a bottle of Vodka with one of those pouring spouts on it stashed where he had hid the bowling ball. He had somehow snuck behind the bar and stolen the bottle.

            "Mix!" he said in his hyper state. "McFetty we need mix!" He darted back to the shuffling commotion of the bar again while he and the crew remained at the table and drank. He had placed a large bottle of vodka under the table. He was thinking of Erin when Taylor returned with a pilfered carton of orange juice and a handful of plastic cups.

            "How?" He didn't bother because he knew the answer. Taylor really did have a knack. He poured drinks and kept the stolen bottle against the brick wall in the corner. They all sat at the table flushed with self-esteem when he spotted Erin. Standing up without saying a thing he went to her as if drawn by an invisible magnet. He looked into her sunlit eyes as she embraced him warmly like the old lovers they were. Inseparable, they danced and held each other for every song. Enjoined and oblivious to others, Reid couldn't help thinking of how close they had been before they slept together. After going all the way at her cottage things were never the same again. Instead of bringing them closer it put something between them. It was if the smooth glass surface between he and Erin had shattered and could not be put back together. He was aware that his feelings for Erin never changed. Erin felt like the panacea for his inner turbulence and the potential saviour of his unravelling life. After all, she had been his first love, or what poets call true love.

            Maybe he wanted her too much there on the dance floor, and it was this that scared him, so when there was a break in the music he went back to the table in the corner for a swig of beer with his crew. Erin was a bit reluctant to return to her table but Reid was thirsty and wanted to join the esprit de corps with my crew. For him it was only a break in the music and a chance to have a drink with the entire crew one last time.

            "Whew!" he said, picking up his drink. "Intense!"

            "Rekindling some old flames are you buddy?" Harold said. There was fear in his gut. Reid couldn't say why but it was there.

            "I hate commitments." When he said this he wondered if it was true with Erin. In his emotional state he realized he did want to commit to her, that he needed her. He was only being jocular.

            The disc jockey announced it was the last song, so he walked over to Erin's table but she wasn't there. He found her on the front steps of the armoury talking to some guy.

            "Erin! There you are. It's the last song, shall we?" He reached out for her hand, bold with booze.

            "Reid," she said, "I'm talking to an old friend."      

            "But it's the last song." He took her hand. Carefully, she pulled it away.

            "No Reid."

            "But-"

            "Leave her alone will you," said the guy. Reid narrowed his eyes on him.

            "Who's he?"

            "Listen, ease up," he said.

            "You ease up you fucking jerk."

            "Reid, I'm talking to my friend. Do you mind?" She gave him a look so cold a chill blew down his neck. He began to shake. Felt like his entire world was about to crumble, that there was no one there for him.

            "Why don't you take off, guy," he said to Reid, this time with some bluster. He stepped towards Reid in fighting stance. He looked deeply into Erin's eyes and saw a distance he feared more than anything in his life at that moment. Her eyes told him she didn't want to know him anymore. Confused and juiced by adrenalin, he ran down the stairs and disappeared into the darkness towards the river. His whole body had the palsy. Blabbering, he couldn't put a sentence together so he kept running. Like a little boy he yelled "Why?" over and over. In the darkness along the river he crossed a street and in his anger pushed over a motorcycle that was parked by the curb, just as he had been pushed away by Erin. Running past a house with a freshly cut down tree, the stump still bleeding with the odour of cedar, set him off so he punched a window in the screen door, cutting his hand badly. The sound of shattering glass scared him so he ran away, down the street until he felt blood dripping from his fingertips. When he  saw a light on in a little house he knocked on the door and an old lady brought him inside her kitchen where she put his hand under the tap. There was blood everywhere but he didn't feel any pain. The last thing he remembered was telling the woman what his girlfriend did to him, and asked her to explain to him why she did it. Then the police showed up. But by then he was calmer and the cops were all right and took him to the hospital.

            The Queen's bus waited for Reid until well after their scheduled midnight departure, but there was no sign of him the bus left for Kingston without the novice bow seat.

  
  

  

Table of Contents

1.     The Student Ghetto
2.     The Living Tree Principle 
3.     Overcoming Neophobia 
4.     Socrates' Big Swinging Ice Pick 
5.     Life As An Adjective 
6.     The Timestealer 
7.     Range of Multiplicity 
8.     The Banks 
9.     The Means is the End 
10.  The White Haired Doctor 
11.  Mortally Wounded 
12.  Visigoth Code of Ethics 
13.  Cognitive Dissonance 
14.  The Chinese Laundry Café 
15.  Catching a Crab 
16.  Sheer Recklessness 
17.  Shattered Glass 
18.  In His Father's Voice 
19.  The Dreamstealer 
20.  The Vine of Resentment 
21.  The Golden Mean 
22.  The Altered Eye Alters All 
23.  Missing the Middle Part 
24.  Anima 
25.  Taylor Not Afraid 
26.  Beyond the Monoperspectival Norm 
27.  The Grip 
28.  Visigoths in Tweed 
29.  The Unseen Hand 
30.  Dislocation 
31.  Pouring Heavens of Valhalla
32.  So Then...       
 
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