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.
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
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
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.