Wordcarpenter Books

Chapter Eighteen 


In His Father's Voice


            The next morning Reid woke up in a sweat clinging to the hospital bed. He had just had a dream that he was trying to walk up a steep set of slanted stairs but kept slipping off until he was sliding sideways down a stairwell. He was determined to climb the stairs but inertia kept pushing him off. When he woke up he didn't know where he was for a moment, but then it all came back to him when he saw the stitches in his hand and a few around his wrist. His stomach hurt from the booze and his tongue was like sandpaper. Thirsty and alone, he thought he might just stand up and walk out because no one was around, then a nurse came in with a cop and they stood at the end of his bed. The nurse was one of those ancient types with white hair in a bun whose face looked as if it never changed from being stern. She was all business but the cop in his uniform scared him more. Lots of thoughts passed through his mind when he saw them both looking at him. For all his own independence and zest for adventure, he felt like he needed someone there with him to talk to these figures of authority, particularly the cop. It was only then that he realized that his father lived in St Catherine's. A few years ago he had retired and moved out of the city to a place on the lake where he bought a home with a pool because he hoped Reid and his sister would visit him and use the pool, but they never did. The one time he did visit he remembered the house being full of empty rooms. He felt no love in that house, just the deep chill of indifference. Maybe that's why he remembered is father, because the hospital room was cold too.

            Reid thought about calling him to bail him out and get him out of here but then he realized that it would be the worst thing he could do. His father would yell at him instead of helping him. Reid couldn't take more rejection so he put it out of his mind.

            "Feeling better?" asked the nurse. He said he was. No one had covered him with blankets. He was just lying there on the bed in his bloodstained shirt with stitches and splotchy iodine on his cuts. The nurse took hold of his arm and studied the handy work of the doctor, but she was rough. He had to ask why she couldn't manhandle his hand with some finesse? She damn near ripped open the stitches.

            "Reid," said the cop. "I would count yourself lucky. The gentleman whose motorcycle you pushed over is not going to press charges for vandalism, nor is the lady whose window you smashed up." Charges. That woke him up all right.

            "I'm sorry about that," he said, as if on reflex.

            "I'm sure you are, but they are asking that you pay the costs of replacing the window and repairing the motorcycle. I believe it will be a few hundred dollars. Are you willing to do that?"


            "That's good. Then I will ask you to give me your contact information and sign a letter of intent stating that you will pay remuneration to both parties."

            "Okay," he nodded.

            "Since you are nineteen, we don't need your parents' involvement unless you want them here."

            "No, I don't."

            "Do you have a way of getting home or back to university?" Thinking about it he calculated he had enough money to take a bus back to Kingston without his parents ever knowing about it. He reached for his back pocket and felt his wallet, making sure he hadn't lost it in yesterday's mayhem. Reid felt all grown up when he knew he could handle this whole thing without his mother or father ever finding out.

            "Is the bus station close by?"

            "It's just down the street from here. I'll give you lift if you want." The cop wasn't sporting a chip on his shoulder, like movies always suggested. He seemed like a decent chap despite the severe looking moustache on his upper lip.

            "If I can walk there, I'd rather get there on my own." He understood that Reid didn't want to show up in a cop car with all the other passengers looking at him like he was a convicted felon.

            "OK sport, then come with me and fill out this form and we'll give you back your hospital card and you can be on your way. I just hope you've learned something from this little adventure of yours." He got out of bed and went to the counter at the nurse's station with the cop. He was wearing a bulletproof vest under his tunic. Cops get a bad name because they're always eating donuts and stuff, but for some reason he felt safe with this cop. He had an overwhelming feeling to confide in him.

            "Did you speak to the motorcycle owner and the lady?" he asked.

            "No, the officer who picked you up last night spoke to both parties." Parties. Definitely a cop word.

            "I do need to get back to Kingston because I have exams coming up and the rowing team is probably worrying about me, so I don't really have the time but-" He stopped his paperwork and looked at Reid right in the eye as if he cared. He damn near swallowed his words with emotion. "Can you tell them that I'm very sorry about what happened?" The cop's eyes softened just a little bit.

            "Yes, I can do that for you Reid." Water went to Reid's eyes so he had to look away. Took a deep breath and went on. "It's just that I saw my old girlfriend last night and we sort of got together and then she basically told me to-" He almost said ‘fuck off.' "She told me to leave her alone after we danced all night together. She was so cruel. But don't get me wrong, I can take it. I mean I'm not a kid. But it was all so sudden and out of the blue." The cop didn't say anything but he kept looking at Reid with those grey eyes. "And my best friend was just in a coma and now he's got brain damage and it may have been my fault because I didn't give him CPR and my Dad doesn't care about me. And I don't want to call my mother because she's so nice and would be really upset if she found out about this." It felt good when it all gushed out. His voice was shaking all over the place but he trusted those sober eyes. He was shaking his head to shrug it off like a big man when the cop put his hand on Reid's shoulder. That's when it came out, the tears that is.

            "It's tough out there. And we're all human and make mistakes. We all go through tough times. Just remember to learn from this. Okay sport? You're not alone. Just don't go off and punch windows again, or next time you'll lose your hand." Then he smiled and Reid thought he saw a bit of mischief in his eye. So much in that one smile.

            "I appreciate-."  

            "I know sport. And I understand how you feel. Trust me. I do." When Reid reached out for the form his hand was shaking with palsy.

            "By the way, when do I have to pay the damages?"

            "It's on the form there. I believe you have seven days from today."

            "Seven days!"

            "And it must be paid here and in person. No cheques or sending money in." A monkey wrench. Panicking, he didn't want to show he might have trouble paying the money so he nodded nonchalantly.

            "Okay, no problem."

            When he left the cop gave him his card with his office phone number so if he had any questions or problems he could call him directly. Reid left the hospital with the promise to repay the costs of the damages to the motorcycle, and walked towards the bus station, worried the cop would be watching him. When he made it to the station he sat on the bench and thought about the last 24 hours. So much can happen in a day. But paying for the damages trumped all his thoughts. He toyed with just leaving for Kingston but he knew it would come back to haunt him. Besides, the integrity of the cop had rubbed off on him. There was only one option. It was Sunday so his father would be at home. Reid didn't have his telephone number so he looked it up in the phonebook at the payphone. Sure enough he found it so he dialled. His father picked it up after three rings. Hearing the sound of that voice brought Reid back to a state of weakness and doubt. All the confidence he had churned up in the morning with the cop vanished at the sound of his father's voice. Memories in a torrent rushed through his mind and his heart felt cold and damp.

            "Hello?" said his father again.

            "Hi Dad." He agreed to pick up Reid at the station in fifteen minutes. He bought a coffee and tried his best to regain that warmth that the cop had given him. He sat there on a bench waiting. Someone had carved "Fucking loser" on the bench. Funny thing was that when he read it he thought he heard it in his father's voice.


Chapter Nineteen 

The Dreamstealer


            Reid ate breakfast in the kitchen in Toronto thinking about all the philosophy he had studied so far this term and what it all meant. He was aware that it was all words and ideas stagnant on yellowed pages unless they were applied and used, which required backbone and a certain type of focused courage. He wondered if he had that strength to assert and to live the ideas. Being the little boy swayed and pushed had grown stale and it was now a time for him to become who he was inside - that budding man who had thoughts of taking a different path than what he had thought when he started the term. If he was to take a whipping then so be it. It was time to stand up for what he believed no matter what the cost.

            As Reid was about the stand up to pour himself a cup of coffee, he glanced at the last page of the newspaper and felt the eeriness of co-incidence. In one corner it read:

In architecture, the pride of man,
his triumph over gravitation,
his will to power
assume a visible form.
            - Friedrich Nietzsche, 1889


Then, in the other corner, it read:

The most beautiful house in the world
is the one you build for yourself
            - Witold Rybczynski, 1989


Ideas he agreed with expressed a hundred years apart. Was it a sign? It was time for him to begin building his own house.

            "Overcoming gravity," he said just as his father walked into the kitchen.

            "Morning son."

            "Morning dad." The night's rainfall carpeted a sheath of water on the un-raked leaves in the corners of the backyard beside the wooden fence. The basketball hoop that his father had put up on the garage for him was hanging on by only a few strands of net.

            "There's nothing in the paper except depressing news about the ozone layer and unemployment today," he said. He watched his father pour himself a cup of coffee.

            "Finding the papers depressing these days are you son?" His freshly starched collar contrasted against his red paisley tie.

            "Well, there's not much of real interest that gets by the censors." Kyle McFetridge sat across from Reid at the kitchen table with morning eyes.

            "Crime is on the rise," he said adjusting his collar. "We have inner-city gangs now, have you heard?" A product of 1950s idealism, the white picket fence still front and centre in his paradigm. 

            "Yeah, I've heard." Reid was still worried about his father's reaction to his request for money, which he hadn't brought up last night. He was still angry that he hadn't told him about the regatta so he could come and watch, but he was angrier that he hadn't told him that he was on the rowing team. He made it clear he thought it was unnecessary and a distraction from his studies.

            "Toronto is starting to get those American big city symptoms." Reid noticed a shoehorn by the bowl on the kitchen counter. "Soon St. Catherine's will be swamped with the same degeneration as the States." Reid took a deep breath.

            "Dad, why don't you understand why I am developing other interests outside school?"

            "What are you learning?" he asked, lifting his coffee for a sip as steam rose from his extra-large mug.

            "Well, other than the rowing experience that we talked about last night, I'm learning about philosophy. The professor is-"

            "Philosophy?" he interrupted, a hint of disgust in his voice. "Why would you ever take philosophy of all things?"

            "I wanted to take something different from my core courses."

            "Why couldn't you have chosen something a little bit more practical like another commerce course to get ahead?" It occurred to Reid that philosophy, at least as taught by Bakhurst, was the epitome of practical.

            "Philosophy is good Dad. I'm really enjoying it."

            "You don't want to be a philosopher do you? You don't want to walk around with sandals stroking your goatee do you?" Reid resented the mocking tone. His father was picking a fight.

            "Well," Reid wavered, "I rowed this term and it was a good experience. The regattas were fun and the guys on the crew were cool."

            "Cool?" Kyle took another sip of his coffee leaving the word floating in the air. "Listen Reid, I'm sorry that your rowing season didn't turn out so well. Finishing out of the medals must have been disheartening." His pensive eyes were sincere.

            "But Dad, that's not the point."

            "Sure it is. What do you mean it's not the point?" His lips parted slightly with the expression of an astonished disbelief as if embarrassed by his son's lack of understanding. "I'm sorry it wasn't more successful son." There was no pride in his tone. Reid stood up and walked to the kitchen to the coffeemaker to pour himself another cup. He looked out the window at the pool drained and unused.

            "I've met a lot of new people, some interesting people."

            "Of course that's important. But the fact is that business schools look at marks not friends, and meeting new people is not measured by marks."


            "There are no buts son. All the other students have the same excuses."

            "It's not an excuse dad."

            "What else are you learning?" With his hands, Kyle invited him to speak.

            "I'm learning about the arts, about-" He realized he shouldn't have used the word ‘arts' as soon as he said it.

            "Why, do you want to become an artist?" he interrupted, squinting through his heavy eyelids.


            "Artists starve son. They live paycheque to paycheque, struggling to get food on the table." Kyle's upper lip stiffened. "Is that what you want?" His emphasis on the words chilled him under his grey sweatshirt, blood stains discreetly hidden by his arm.

            "No. It's a good break from accounting and math, that's all Dad."

            "If you want to study arts then you're on your own financially." A distant brewing passion was quelled by this single sentence. He had always thought his father would never outright verbalize the threat. But he knew he wouldn't miss the opportunity to comment on the waywardness of his character. In that way he gets an A-plus for consistency. Reid was more like his grandfather, a man with a good heart. Maybe that kind of thing always skips a generation.


            "Reid please, keep your eyes on your work. You have so much talent that it would be tragic if you wasted it. You know your grandfather always said to me, `those with the most talent are the ones who most take it for granted.'" He tilted his head and smiled. "I realize there are adjustments to make in your first year, I just want the best for you. You will make your old man proud, won't you son?" He saw his father's tiny chip on the corner of his coffee stained front tooth he had seldom seen since he was a child, making him feel paternal security and the strength of the father-and-son bond. Reid sighed and let go of his fight, his father's droopy eyelids making his eyes look innocently sad.

            "Of course Dad." Reid smiled and looked outside at the falling rain. He knew he could now ask him for some extra money for an imaginary group project for his Introduction to Business class. He sipped his coffee and his thoughts turned to Michelle.



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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