Excerpts


Death Certificate
Childhood innocence…

When the sun came up at five thirty a.m. we’d already been on the road for half an hour. Looking down from our elevated perch on the Freightliner’s torn seat, the centerline yellow blurs hypnotized Scott and me. We sat in quiet awe while eighteen giant tires rumbled noisily past the ant sized cars below, stared at Dad’s effortless gear shifting, and said ‘ten-four’ to fellow truckers on the CB radio. Even inhaling the sickening diesel smell couldn’t take away from making the trip the coolest thing we had done yet in our young lives.

“Having fun, boys?” Dad asked, looking over to us with a grin as we approached the New Brunswick border. The excitement he read in our faces revealed more to him than our simultaneous lame nods. I believe at that moment Dad admitted to himself that Mom had been right. What happened two days before in the backyard never entered our thoughts.

“You two young truckers want some black coffee?” he scowled on our fourth pee stop. “They brew the sourest java here I ever tasted.”

“Not me,” Scott squeaked out.

“Me neither,” I managed, not sure why my dad seemed so angry.

Dad winked. “How ’bout some ice cream then? Won’t put any hairs on your chest, but you won’t have to pee so often either.”

“Sure.” I answered. Scott’s head bobbed in agreement.

The ice cream slopped all over Scott and me every time the truck went over a pothole. Dad laughed so hard he couldn’t control his coffee. What he didn’t spew he spilled. The coffee blended with the butterscotch ripple and Neapolitan colours on the truck seat. Mom would have wrung our necks for making such a mess, but Dad just revelled in the moment. By the time we reached the American border at St. Stephen’s we must have been a motley looking crew.

One look at the stains on our faces and clothes and the customs officer burst into laughter. He waved us right on through. Dad said it was the first day in twenty years he’d seen an American customs officer smile.<

Coming of age…

 

We sat on rocks jutting out into the lake. She didn’t have much luck casting out her line at first. I showed her how to open the reel face and draw fishing line with her left hand before swinging the rod out with her right. Before long her hook splashed into deep water twenty feet from the shore. Good for her, bad for me. Once she could cast on her own I had no excuse to wrap my arms around her to help with the proper technique.

Jocelyn’s improved casting technique didn’t make the fish bite. We’d been at it for almost an hour without catching anything. During that time I caught myself losing focus on fishing, instead staring at Jocelyn’s shoulder length brown hair or the seductive poses she positioned herself in while trying to find a comfortable seating position on the rock. Jocelyn interrupted my daydreams with a groan. “This is boring.”

“Sorry.” I shrugged. “I can’t make the fish bite.”

She smiled. “It’s not your fault.”

She laid the fishing rod on the rock beside her and pulled off the sweatshirt that her mother insisted she wear. My memory jumped back to the scene in Doctor Purdue’s office.

She stepped off the rock she’d been casting from and came close to where I sat. “You’re sweet for letting me come with you, saving me from a fall and teaching me how to fish. I know a way I can pay you back for being so nice to me.” Her earlier forced conversation and shyness had vanished. Swollen nipples protruded through her bra and T-shirt.

“What do you mean?” I asked.

Wallowing in darkness…

 

“How come in Montreal you pulled a gun on the frog for looking at you sideways? Tonight that animal almost took us both down and there was no sign of it.”

For a second I thought he sobered up. His face became stern and composed. He switched to trainer mode. “Never start what you’re not prepared to finish, my friend.”

“What?” I wasn’t getting his gist. Was he telling me he didn’t want to discuss it?

“In Montreal, I just wanted to scare the guy. If it came right down to it and I had to shoot the fucker, I would have. Wouldn’t be the first time.” He gulped the remainder of his drink.

I could feel my eyebrows rise and hoped Cal didn’t notice. A ‘someone walked on my grave’ shiver convulsed my shoulders. “So why not tonight?”

“Ahh. That’s good stuff.” He wiped his palm across his lips. “I knew going in it was different with Jimmy so I left the gun in the car. If I pulled a piece on him, I would have had to kill him. No doubt in my mind. Like I just said, never start what you’re not prepared to finish.”

I should have let it go but the liquor wouldn’t shut up. “If you did it before, why not Jimmy?”

He stared at me hard for ten seconds. Whoever had passed over my grave stopped for a fucking ceilidh, complete with the Highland fling. Finally, he answered, “It was a long time ago when I last fired a gun. Besides, tonight was too close to home. Even a dog don’t shit where he eats.”

“Right on.” As lame as it sounded, I couldn’t muster anything better.

The next minute of silence lasted a drunken eternity. Eventually, I started to speak to Cal while I stared at the floor. “Any chance I can crash in your spare bedroom tonight, buddy? I’m too fucking pissed to drive home.”

When Cal didn’t answer, I somewhere found the nerve to turn and face him. Bringing up the gun. How fucking stupid was that, I thought?

The scene before me brought a grin to my lips. Passed out on the kitchen chair, with his head bobbing against his own muscular shoulder, the hulk looked much less menacing. If he spent the night there, he’d have a wicked sore neck in the morning. That was his problem. I wasn’t about to wake him.

Soul searching…

 

The bomb Cal dropped while in an opiate induced stupor forced me into a numbed solitude. The women didn’t vanish all together. A man has physical needs. But I also needed time to contemplate what I’d just learned, without my libido or estrogen-inspired inconsequential ramblings distracting me.

Except for work, I spent much of August and September alone at the apartment. One could be forgiven for thinking I stayed inside to hide out from Jimmy, afraid I might run into him on the street and draw my last breath while he wailed on me. Jimmy was in jail, but who knew for how long? The way the justice system worked, he could get out anytime. He could track me down at the apartment easier than anywhere else.

No. My reason for living a hermit’s life wasn’t only fear. Duringthose long lonely hours I couldn’t stop thinking about Jocelyn and my own life before and after her death. An ‘examination of conscience’ my devout Catholic mother would have called it. A necessary step before sacramental confession. Only I didn’t intend to visit a priest. I needed to sort things out in my own secular head.

Redemption…

 

Sunday afternoon I phoned Scott.

“Hello,” he answered on the third ring.

“How’s it going, buddy?”

“Ronnie, fuck, man.” His voice projected both exuberance and desperation. “Where are you? I tried to get a hold of you all day yesterday and last night.”

“I’ve been in Halifax since yesterday morning.”

“What the fuck are you doing there? I ran into Billy at the grocery store yesterday. He acted nice to me, and strange. Said you went on vacation for a week and asked me if I was going to keep working for him for a while or not. I didn’t know what the fuck he was talking about so I just said yeah. What’s going on?”

“I just needed a break from work and everything. An old acquaintance of mine is working in the city. I’m gonna stop by his office and surprise him while I’m here.”

“You’re not shitting me are you? I had myself convinced you took off without me. For good.” The tension started to fade from his voice.

“No, buddy. I wouldn’t do that. How you doing, anyway?”

“I was doing alright until I saw Billy. Him asking if I was gonna keep working at the shop threw me off. I’m afraid he’s gonna sick Cal on me now. That animal’s not gonna take mercy on me like you.”

“Hold on. Hold on.” I interrupted his nervous ramblings. “Relax, buddy. You don’t have to worry about Billy anymore.”

 

Revenge…

 

Hey, I can’t give the whole story away!

To obtain a free copy of the novel (you pay shipping costs only) please contact the author at: beatonmy@yahoo.com

 


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