Wordcarpenter Books

Chapter Thirty 




            Back at school Michelle was still in Vancouver having taken the entire week off for the burial of her mother, so Reid buried himself in the library. Writing a philosophy essay was like discovering a new world. Philosophy sought truth as it cornerstone and that was what he needed. After expanding his first draft, it was only six pages in length but it was supposed to be between twelve and fifteen pages. It didn't concern him though. What was important was that he was expressing what he really thought about Aristotle's Golden Mean. And it was a kick for him to write it out and argue that way he saw it. It fostered his true voice.

            He left the library excited to share this feat with Taylor during dinner but when he arrived old tensions returned when he saw his father's car in the driveway of his house. He was at a loss as to why he was here. Why would he drive four hours to Kingston? He thought perhaps his grandfather had passed away.

            When he walked inside his father was sitting at the dining room table chatting with Alex. There were textbooks open and Alex looked interested in front of his notebooks. Taylor wasn't home.

            "Reid," he said. "You look good in that tweed jacket. It's the same herringbone as your grandfather used to wear." Because Reid couldn't remember a time that he was ever proud of him, he wasn't sure if the look on his face was the genuine pride a father feels towards his grown son. Rejection from a father left permanent scars.

            "Hi Dad." Christ, it was always the same. Those eyes of his could burrow holes into his skull. "This is a surprise. Is everything all right?" He looked at his father's freshly pressed button down and felt inadequate. His first inclination was to talk about the Aristotle paper but he knew better. His usual serious face became even more serious.

            "I felt it better to come here and speak to you in person rather than talk to you over the telephone." Alex, who was a small guy to begin with, sank even lower in his seat.

            "What is it?" His mind went into high gear thinking about his grandfather. My father walked over to him and butterflies in rioting flocks descended into his stomach. Shocked to see how the cruelty of his character had etched itself into his features around the mouth and eyes, for some reason the memory of him washing his mouth out with soap returned, and he was a little boy again.

            "Reid, the reason I came to Kingston tonight was because I have some bad news." He looked back at Alex as if to include him. "It concerns Drake." Something in Reid froze. Waiting, he could feel a dam swirling with adrenalin. "Son, Drake is dead. He committed suicide yesterday." He stood waiting for a reaction but none came, so he glanced back at Alex who had his hand on his mouth, then back at Reid. He knew right away why he did it but he bet no one else did, not even his super-psychiatrist father. He felt a guilt that far surpassed anything he had felt after his heart attack. He sat down on the stairs near the table slightly out of view of Alex.

            "How?" His father looked back at Alex again and then stepped closer to Reid, replying in a whisper.

            "He shot himself in his father's study and with his father's shotgun." If that wasn't a statement then nothing was. The more he looked at his father's face the more his anger boiled.

            "I don't understand." Voice shaky.

            "Try to take it like a man." The way he said it sent something off in him. A storm of fury was unleashed at last. When he put his arm on Reid's forearm he ripped his arm away. He thought of all the times he had hit him with that wooden spoon for breaking one of his twenty million rules. He was so sick of it all.

            "Fuck!" he yelled at the top of his voice. Reid stood in front of him with his legs spread in a fighting stance, shaking. He felt a string of saliva on his chin.

            "That's not taking it like a man, son." He approached Reid like he would a hamster who had left its cage. A million scars came to life and ran red with blood. He was rancid with hate from years of abuse from a father who wasn't there and didn't care. Reid turned and walked out the door.

            Outside it was snowing and in no time his teeth were clattering and his body had the palsy. He went downtown instead of the freezing lake and found himself in front of a liquor store so he went in and bought some booze. He didn't know where the hell to go so he left for Fort Henry across the river. He kept the bottle in his tweed and drank it when there were no cars around. By the time he made it to the fort, he was warm enough to sit on the front wall facing the university. It was starting to get dark already because winter was only a few weeks away but he felt safe there at the fort in front of the dry moat and steep incline to the mouth of the St. Lawrence and Lake Ontario. He could feel his throat getting sore when he swallowed so he concentrated on his sore throat instead of letting the death of Drake seep in. He pulled his collar up as far as it would go but it wasn't enough. The wind hit his neck with full force and the shivering returned, so he drank more in the hope he would stay warm. The spirit soon lost its harsh bite and became palatable.

            He kept thinking he should get out of the fort before he was arrested but nobody came. No one in the world knew he was there so he stayed as the grey skies turned dark and the snow covered the ground with another few inches of pure whiteness. He heard the sounds of a train in the distance and saw himself as a stowaway crossing the prairies to Michelle's place out west. For a second the thought sobered him. She had to be back by now and must have heard about his date with Daphne. He felt a desperate urge to save her from misunderstanding. He couldn't sustain another rejection. He needed to talk to her so he got up from the twenty-foot high concrete wall of old Fort Henry and left for her house in the student ghetto.

            He made it to her house where he could see a fluttering of light hitting the drapes. He stood there for a few moments because he didn't want to face that mob of soap-opera queens but he was bold as hell so he went in anyway. He walked past them because he knew Michelle wouldn't be watching television. He went to her room but she wasn't there so he went to the living room where the girls were watching the idiot box, and turned it off. He had audacity in spades. When he asked them where Michelle was, they said she was at AJ's Hangar with some friends. Then he called them a bunch of ‘phoney dough heads.' He got a kick out of that because he didn't even know what a dough head was.

            When he got to AJ's he didn't realize how drunk he had become. He was slurring his words and his posture was all over the place so the guy at the front door wouldn't let him in. He yelled back at him, telling him he had to see this girl. This guy was about 500 pounds and arms the size of his legs and he could tell he didn't like his tweed jacket but he wasn't about to apologize or anything. He ignored him and tried to walk past but the bouncer grabbed him and pushed him pretty hard. He wasn't expecting physical violence so he hit the wall by the front door shoulder first at a bad angle. It hurt like hell but he thought it was only a Charlie Horse on the top of the arm. He didn't make a scene; he just bounced off the wall and kept moving away from the 500-pound bouncer.

            It was really snowing now and his stomach was killing him so he started for home, hoping his father wasn't there. Stumbling and holding his shoulder on the way home, he imagined he was General Wolfe and had been mortally wounded. He spent the greater part of the walk back still wondering why historians say ‘mortally wounded' when they should just say ‘killed.' When he got home he couldn't even lift his arm to make Kraft dinner. There was no one there so he plopped down on the couch. He was numb and his mind couldn't process anything anymore. He had a deep chill in his bones that didn't go away so he tried to warm up on the couch with a blanket and hoped someone would come in the house to give him a hand with dinner. He wished Michelle would come by and make him some hot tomato soup to warm him up but no one came. He cursed himself for being so weak and forced himself to go upstairs to bed, but doing all that required tremendous effort. He was bouncing off walls on the way up the stairs and kind of yelling every time he hit. He thought he might have chipped a bone at the top of his arm.

            Once he was in bed he shut his eyes to sleep it off but the pain was too intense. He was so stubborn to get to sleep and determined to ignore the pain that time seemed to sit still. He kept expecting the front door to open but there was nothing. He didn't know how many hours he was lying there shivering with palsy in wet clothes. It reached a point when his whole body hurt. But still he laid there with a stiff upper lip to get to tomorrow. Then he focused on the pain instead of ignoring it, and that's when he started to get a little scared. His imagination took off and he wondered if he had ripped a tendon or something. The last place he wanted to go was the hospital. Too many bad memories there but the more he thought about the pain, the more he realized it wasn't going away. In fact if anything it was getting worse. He finally got out of bed with his tweed jacket still on and left without his winter coat, walking slowly to the hospital. He saw students coming home from the library and looking at him in horror. He was weaving all over the place clutching his shoulder and walking as if he had been shot on the Plains of Abraham. He made it so his gait was equal to the pain he was feeling in his shoulder. It was funny how you can endure pain to such extremes.



Chapter Thirty-one 

Pouring Heavens of Valhalla


            A week later people stood around the closed coffin shivering in the cemetery in disbelief of what had happened. Reid felt a chorus of accusing eyes on him as he stood as a pallbearer under the overcast sky covered in snow, but despite the teary-eyed onlookers he felt nothing. He didn't cry, he didn't even try to look sad; he just stood there with his arm in a sling.

            After Drake had been lowered into the ground and Reid had gone up to the casket for the last time, Mr. Ketchum approached him under a leafless tree and held out his hand. When he took off his glasses the frailty of his battered eyes pierced Reid's soul.

            "Reid, I'm sorry."

            "I'm sorry too Mr. Ketchum." In the exchange of looks between them, Reid's animosity shrunk to a warming glow of acceptance, as if a thorn had been pulled. He recalled what he had read in Nietzsche's Basic Writings: Nothing brings a man down faster than the passion of resentment. Just then Michelle reached for his hand. All in a moment the strength in her hand gave him an intimacy that caused a tear to well-up in his eye. He put his hand on her face lightly caressing her left cheek, and held her in his arms feeling her body against his and her fine hair on his closed eyes. She pulled him tighter, him smelling ivory soap. They stood there in the midst of the funeral clinging to each other as if a long lost yearning had finally reached its destination in a union of tears. The abyss had beckoned but she had saved him; he no longer feared to love for love was the catalyst to truth. From the pouring heavens of Valhalla, it rained dreams among the rubble of headstones and snowdrifts. 


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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