Wordcarpenter Books

Chapter Twenty-two 


The Altered Eye Alters All


            Having taken Bakhurst's advice and taking advantage of the inertia started in his office, Reid seized his mini zeitgeist and wrote a rough first draft of his essay about the Golden Mean. Certainly flawed and requiring a lot of work, it was nonetheless a start and a monkey of his shoulders. The only procrastination he engaged in was to look up the words estuary and polemic, both of which he thought were very well chosen words. Nietzsche did engage in a mild yet sometimes violent dramatic hyperbole to hammer home his point, and right now he felt the swirling currents of a swirling river meeting the grown-up world of the ocean. Bakhurst really was a wordcarpenter.

            Leaving enough time to see Drake, he was strolling out of the library for the hospital when he bumped into Rex Clark. He was the emerging Big-Man-On-Campus, the guy who seemed to know everyone and the Great-Repository-of-Other-People's-Business. A master at small talk and a guy who acted in a manner that made him think of a plastic toy, Rex Clark went to all the parties and made it his business to be the Johnnie-Know-It-All of the first-year student body, and the last person he wanted to see.

            "Reid! How're ya doing buddy?" He put his hand through his coiffed hair.

            "Not bad Rex, you?"

            "Dandy. Just dandy. Missed you at Cartwright's birthday party last night at the pub. It was awesome."

            "Oh well."

            "Listen Big Shooter, I'm sorry to hear about what happened to the Drakemaster." Standing on the sidewalk in front of Douglas Library where everyone who entered and exited the library walked past them, it was a location Rex Clark savoured. "How's he do'in anyway?" He scratched his chiselled chin.

            "He's improving."

            "Good, good to hear." He noticed the cuts on Reid's hand. "What happened?"

            "Rowing injury," he replied. "Listen, I'm late for something."

            "Seen Daphne lately? She's looking hot."

            "Yeah, I saw her today."

            "She's a pie. I'd love to get together with her." The well-dressed Big-Man-On-Campus kept glancing over Reid's shoulder at female students entering the library. Reid made a motion to leave.

            "Too bad about Michelle's mom, eh?" he said nonchalantly.


            "Didn't you hear?" Purposely taking his time to enjoy the fact that he was more socially plugged-in than Reid, Rex Clark gawked at a tall girl exiting the library with about a hundred books under her arm.

            "What Rex?"

            "You didn't hear about her mom?" Too wrapped up in his one-dimensional world to even look at Reid, his mock surprise angering him.

            "No Rex, I didn't. What happened?" Rex Clark reached out and felt the quality of Reid's jacket and nodded in approval. Damn jacket.

            "She passed away." His polyester eyes said the words with a power rather than empathy. "I think it was cancer - the Jimmy Dancer of the Tit." Reid was stunned at the news, and how callous the Son-of-a-Bitch was.

            "Where is she? Do you know?" He thought about last night and how cold and selfish he had been.

            "She flew home this morning for the funeral and all that stuff. Sorry man, I thought you would have known." Something dropped in Reid's stomach.

            "Damn!" Walking away from Rex Clark, he tightened his scarf and flipped his collar up and walked past the hospital to where the mouth of the St. Lawrence River meets Lake Ontario. It started to snow, the flakes big and flaky that float down from the clouds like white cornflakes. Everything in his mind jumbled and mixed up, he couldn't organize his thoughts because he didn't know the reasons for them. Ending up at the yacht club close to the coast guard ship in the old harbour where there was a bench beside the water, Reid watched the snow disappear into the dark water, cold and dangerous. He let snow pile on his shoulders, cleansing everything white until he knew he had to go see Drake. He needed to find out why it all happened; he needed to see his best friend.




            When he showed up in Drake's room Mrs. Ketchum had just finished folding some clothes and was walking out the door. When she bumped into him she nearly had a heart attack herself.

            "Reid!" Her hand on her chest. "You scared me. I wasn't expecting you."

            "I'm skipping class," he said as if commenting about the weather, and making sure his stitched hand stayed in his pocket.

            "Actually, it's good timing." She took him by the arm outside in the hallway. "Drake is resting right now."

            "How is he doing?" Her straw coloured hair was shorter.

            "Drake can speak complete sentences now but his enunciation is still a bit slurred."

            "But that will go away won't it?"

            "His cognitive dissonance has improved more than expected," she said, eyes pleading. "There might be some permanent brain damage but we shouldn't expect too much too soon. For the amount of time he was without oxygen he has recovered exceptionally well." A stinging in his solar plexus. Invisible fingers pointing at him.

            "Well-" It was all too unsatisfying and grey. "Do the doctors know what caused it?"

            "The doctors are still uncertain what triggered the heart attack."

            "Still uncertain." Shook his head.

            "There was some discussion that it was caused by a rare genetic condition called Marfane's Syndrome, which is found in tall, lanky body types. Apparently it is a known affliction common in basketball players. The doctors speculate that the heart attack was the result of a heart murmur due to this syndrome." Personally Reid figured it had something to do with the exhaust from the bus they both had unavoidably inhaled at the intersection just before their way up the hill, but he didn't mention it.

            "So then is he going to be all right now that they have some idea what it was?" Was he going to be normal again?

            "His blood pressure will need to be taken once a day, and his temperature. Drake can't drink coffee or alcohol, and is prohibited from doing anything strenuous. He also needs constant supervision, and he needs to swallow his pills at certain times a day."

            "I mean for how long?"

            "For an indefinite period of time Reid." The hard truths. He studied the floor tiles, worn and off-colour. "If he continues to recover like he is it's been decided that it would be beneficial for him to return to school for next term." Next term! "The dean has exempted Drake from his course load and has been awarded his marks at the time of the accident." Six weeks from now? And he's going to be behind.

            "Um, why does he need supervision? Isn't that a little...polemic?"

            "Because Reid he's a little slower than he was. A little crippled right now. He can't remember things so he might be a danger to himself." He finally sensed her frustration with his direct approach. He turned towards the door to deflect his assertiveness.

            "Oh, before I forget," she said, "I'd like you to do something for me. Could you get Drake's toiletries and personal items from his room? We're going back to Toronto where Drake will be cared for at home for the remainder of his recuperation." Something about Drake leaving the hospital so soon he didn't like.

            "Sure, no problem. When's he going?"

            "Perhaps at the end of the week. I'll let you know." She put her suitcase on the chair where she was sitting. "Also, if it isn't too much to ask, could you drive Drake's station wagon back to Toronto? There's no rush to get that done. Next time you want to go to Toronto please drop it off and we can reimburse you for the fuel and pay for the train to get you back to Kingston."

            "I can do that for you. What about Drake's horse and all that stuff?" he asked.

            "Oh, we've made arrangements with the farm, so you don't need to worry about that." She looked in on Drake and then back at Reid. "I'm on my way out to talk to the hospital administration. I'll be back in a few minutes."

            "Okay, I'll be here."

            "Thank you Reid. I won't be long. By the way, you look nice today." It's just a jacket.

            When he entered the room Drake was sitting up in the bed without any more tubes going into his arms. He really looked different though because of the weight he's lost. His neck was all gangly and showing veins and all those tendons and whatnot. It looked like he had lost twenty-five pounds.

            "Reid. How are you?" he asked slowly. His hair was greasy and combed to the side.

            "I'm well big guy. How are ya feeling?" Boy, he was thin. His arms looked like toothpicks.

            "All riight." It sounded like he was falling backwards. "The doctors say I'm going to recover one day."

            "Oh yeah. It's just a question of time. You'll be back at school reading your history and riding Phineas." Tried to be casual but was taken by his eyes. Powdery and sad. Drake's had always been full of power and purpose but when he looked deeply into Drake's eyes Reid saw an opaque glaze that hadn't been there before. His eyes looked altered somehow, crooked. Drake blinked. He saw that Reid was staring at him. Drake got up from the bed and went to the chair in the corner. He had a slight limp as he walked. His left arm rested on his lap in an unorthodox manner that shook Reid's bones. Something wasn't working properly. His hand was bent downwards in a sharp angle.

            "I'm going home soon," he said. Reid sat down in the other chair. Never had talking to Drake been more difficult.

            "It's good because you'll be more comfortable at home. It'll be better."

            "They want me to go back to classes in January." He searched Reid's expression to understand what he thought of it.

            "Your Mom was saying that." Neutral.

            "It'll be lot of work."

            "You know, it will be. And the readings and stuff too." Drake stretched his hands out and looked at them. He let out a nervous laugh.

            "I have trouble remembering the stuff recently." He looked away self-consciously.

            "Why no take the whole year off and relax. Get your footing and all that." Drake shrugged his shoulders, weak and beaten like a dog on a chain.

            "Has anyone from the farm been in to visit?" He had forgotten the girl's name with the bad eye.

            "Yuh. But I don't, I don't remember her that well." His voice was weak.

            "It will come. Just give it time. Time is a Great Healer." They sat in silence for a moment.

            "Yor my best friend." It wasn't a question; it was said undraped as the plain truth. Reid tried to read the emotion swimming around in his heart but he couldn't read it because of the crookedness in his eyes, his sagging carriage evident in the shirt that hung off his thin shoulders.

            "You've always been my best friend Drake. Like a brother. Drake grinned in his old way, looking weak. Sad. And pale. Reid searched for the right words to keep that smile on his face and give his heart what it needed, but he couldn't find them. Then something happened that scared the hell out of him. A tear dropped from Drake's crooked left eye. It was like seeing a crack in the foundation that has supported you your entire life.

            "Brothers," he said. He took a deep breath and cried. It all fell apart that moment. Everything. The stone crumbled into the sand and the earth shook under his feet. Reid reached out and put his hand on his shoulder, feeling only bones and shallow breaths. When he heard a sniffle behind him Reid realized there was someone else in the room. Standing in the doorway was Mrs. Ketchum, tears falling down her cheeks. The sound of Drake's sobbing gradually drowned out by a baby crying down the hall.




            When Reid returned to the house on Earl Street to grab Drake's toiletries and stuff, he stood over Drake's desk and saw his St. John's Ambulance certificate in a bowl of change. It was the course Drake had taken last summer. He remembered when Drake told him how lucky he had been when his partner who he had been assigned to practice CPR on, was the girl he liked the most in his class. Standing there, Reid cringed when he was overwhelmed by a thunder of accusing voices ringing in his ears. He remembered when Drake had asked him to take the course with him but had said no because he didn't see how a banker would need it. The electric pulse hit Reid's solar plexus, jolting him with a physical shock. He stood alone looking at the St. John's Ambulance Cross. Then he looked in the mirror and saw a stooped and injured posture.

            "Naive" he said. The image of Drake's father in a photograph on the wall tore apart all illusions of innocence that he may have built up since his exchange with the white-haired doctor. His stomach hurt and he stood gathering with a stooped posture the rest of Drake's toiletries. With sweaty hands he left the room, changed and went to pick up Daphne for their dinner at Chez Piggie

Chapter Twenty-three 

Missing the Middle Part


            No one spoke about the old Drake, no one except for Reid, but he only spoke about it to himself. It had become a personal dialogue for him. For the first time in his life he tasted the bitter pill of loneliness.

            Arriving at Daphne's house, he rang the doorbell and waited on the porch noticing four cars in the driveway. Daphne came to the door.

            "Hi" he said, looking in awe of the thick film of make-up she had on. Her skirt instantly made him feel underdressed.

            "Is that all you can say? What happened to `Good evening'? No flowers?" She invited him in since she wasn't quite ready despite the fact that he was on time. Butterflies swarmed in his stomach from out of nowhere.

            There were three girls sitting on the couch watching television in the living room, all wearing sweats. All three looked at him as he entered. Reid had met them all before but he didn't remember any of their names.

            "Hi Reid. How are you?" One of them with black hair held the same phoney smile as Daphne. She waited expectantly for a reply.

            "Hi..." he said, swallowing his words, face turning red, obvious he couldn't remember her name. Her smile disappeared. It was suddenly as silent as a graveyard.

            "Don't you remember her Reid?" A girl with thick legs in red sweat pants sitting on the couch leaned forward and threw daggers at him through her eyes. "That's Tanya, don't you remember her?" Prickly voice barbed with thorns. All three stared at him, an outbreak of laughter on the television that broke the silence.

            "Do you remember me Reid?" she asked. There were all sorts of witty, light-hearted replies he could've thrown out there to make everyone happy. The first name to come to mind was Linda, and then it was Leslie.

            "Yeah," he said, trying to be nonchalant. "How're ya doing Leslie?" In my racing mind I thought I heard more laughter. My throat was already parched.

            "It's Linda," she said. All looked with antagonistic stares, one seeing his self-inflicted hand injury. He became aware of the palsy in his left hand. Tanya stared with a superior mouth, all three with swollen jowls. First year starchy food does it to many girls but Tanya seemed to have ballooned a bit more than anyone else. It had something to do with those chipmunk cheeks of hers.

            "I'm ready," said Daphne. She strolled in reeking of perfume.

            "That's beautiful," said Tanya. "What is that?"

            "Harsh," he said, not meaning to say what he was thinking. He desperately felt short of breath. Tanya shook her head with self-justified disgust and turned back to the television. There was another roar from the television as if someone had just died of laughter.

            He promptly left the house with Daphne.

            Once downtown, they walked through a long limestone archway to a medieval looking court. In the corner of the snow-covered quadrangle was Chez Piggy.

            "I love this place," she said. "It's so romantic." Reid shifted his chair to face the exposed limestone wall across the room. It was warm as hell inside so he took off his sweater and tried to forget about her roommates. When the waitress came by he ordered wine.


            "Your shirt looks a little small for you." His chest felt restricted as if lungs were in a vice.

            "It's a tad snug."

            "I like it though," she smiled.  "It looks gorgeous."  Daphne's small talk continued without a lull, as Reid sat uncomfortably drinking his wine being subtly asphyxiated.

            "You know Rex Clark?" He didn't answer with the expected immediacy of enthusiasm. "You don't? I thought you knew him, are you sure? He has so much style. I think he's a great hockey player or something. And he knows everyone."

            "Plastic toy."


            "Hockey, yeah."

            "Oh you know him?"


            "Why didn't you say?"

            Daphne seemed to know everyone too. She spoke freely and confidently, naively and ignorantly while Reid only nodded and drank, and began to see things through fresh eyes.

            "How is Drake these days? Better?" He didn't want to share his thoughts with her about his best friend because she was like the town crier. Tell her and everyone will know.

            "Yes, he's better. He's leaving for Toronto this week."

            "So soon?" she asked from her half-eaten Caesar salad.

            "His mother is a nurse so she'll care for him at home. And Drake's father is the head of the Canadian Psychiatric Association, so I think they believe it's better for him to spend time at home to cue his old memories and all that."

            "I hope you don't feel responsible for it," she said. There was something in her eye that was unsettling.

            "What do you mean?"

            "Well, responsible. I hope you don't feel responsible for his brain damage, that's all."

            "And why should I?"

            "You know. That you didn't- I mean that you could have helped him more." A great darkness was rising within him.

            "What do you mean?" The palsy was a full throttle now, voice as thin as ice. A monster rose like bile.

            "Don't be so defensive Reid. I was only asking."

            "I don't understand what you're getting at. That's all." She saw the palsy when he lifted his wine. He had to sip it early to steady his glass.

            "I'm just saying that I hope you don't feel responsible for his brain damage because you didn't revive him when he fell down."

            "Revive him? How?" He knew what was coming.

            "CPR. They say you could've saved him if you gave him mouth-to-mouth." They. A poser word that a phoney uses as justification and recourse when asked their opinion. They said so it must be true. They my ass.

            "He was still breathing Daphne, violently breathing. How could I have given him CPR?"

            "That's not what I heard."

            "I'm sorry?" She became silent. "How could I have given him CPR if he was still struggling to breathe?" She fidgeted and drank her silly liqueur.

            "Why don't we drop it Reid? I can see that you're upset."

            "Ignorance," he said to himself. At first he didn't know if he had said it out loud until he saw in her face that he had.

            "What did you say?"

            "What I mean is that you weren't there but I was."

            "Listen, everyone knows you should have given him CPR, Reid. That's why he's now a vegetable."

            "Everyone?" His stomach melted into bloody glass.

            "Accept it Reid. I'm just trying to let you know."

            "I think someone is missing the middle part here." Maybe it was the wine, but he was beginning to think that he might have Tourrette's Syndrome.

            "What?" She gave him a jittery smile. "I don't understand."

            "No, you wouldn't."

            "What do you mean?"

            "Inertia can be a deadly thing."

            "What are you saying?"

            "I'm barking up the wrong tree." Palsy hand grabbed his stomach to stem the bleeding.

            "I don't understand you."

            "Actually I'm in the wrong forest," he said, flippantly. He thought he might have been more patient with her at the beginning of the term, but everything had changed. Reid saw the ramifications of choosing to have an open mind: how his mind had expanded not like an elastic band but like a piece of gum stretched on a hot summer day.

            "Let's go," he said.

            "O.K. Reid." They left after he paid the bill. To his surprise Daphne invited him in when they arrived at her house. It was something he had wanted all term but now had no interest. Seeing the television flutter against the curtains from where they stood on the porch, he declined the nightcap and left with a kiss on the cheek, feeling a deep loneliness and a yawning despair.



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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