……

 

30 November 2012

It was cold at noon (minus four Fahrenheit) and windy. The only person at ‘the heater’ was Shakes. Beside him was a sports bag, a purple plastic shopping bag with a globe sitting on top — all his worldly possessions.

“Dennis,” said Shakes. I’ve got a favor to ask you.”

“What is it, Shakes?”

“I need a bottle.”

“Sorry, Shakes, I don’t have any cash on me.”

“That’s not what I asked.”

He pulled an envelope out of his pocket and handed me a twenty-dollar bill. “Would you please go to the World Exchange for me? Get a coffee for yourself.”

“Sure I’ll go,  Shakes, but I don’t need a coffee. We get it free at work.”

“Don’t say I didn’t offer.”

It’s only about a five-minute walk to the World Exchange Center. I didn’t mind making a run and Shakes is barred for life. “Okay, Shakes, I’ll be back in a few minutes.”

When I came back Shakes was talking to Fred. I looked at the globe and asked, “Shakes, are you planning to do some world traveling?” He laughed.

“How about Australia?” I asked. “Would you like to go there?”

Fred said, “I have a friend who came from New Zealand.”

I said, “I’ve seen pictures of New Zealand. It’s really beautiful.”

“Yeah,” he said, “they also have seventeen women to every man. I asked my friend if it was true, and why he left. He said, ‘They have lots of women alright, but they’re all ugly.’ I don’t think any women are ugly. Every one of them has something beautiful about her.”

I asked Shakes, “Have you heard anything about Joy? Did she phone Jacques?”

“First things first. I lost my glove.”

His yellow glove was just a few feet back, near where we were standing previously. Every time the sun moved farther behind one of the tall buildings, Shakes moved out of the shadow and into the sunlight.

“Where have the others gone?”

“They had places they had to go. Jacques, André and Travis were here. Do you guys know Travis.”

I said, “I know Travis. He talks a lot.”

“Yeah, he not only talks a lot, but it’s what he says. Sometimes I just have to say, ‘Travis, go away. I don’t want to listen to you.’

“I’m waiting here until two o’clock. My workers are coming by in the van, to pick up me and my stuff. They’re going to be giving me the keys to my apartment on Moriset.”

Little Chester and Donny in his motorized wheelchair came over to where we were standing. He picked up the globe and looked at it. I pointed out Iceland, where my grandparents came from.

He pointed at Newfoundland. “This is where I came from. They’re the same color.”

I said, “I’ve always wanted to go to Newfoundland. It’s really beautiful.”

“No, it’s not. I lived there for twenty-four years. I couldn’t wait to get away.”

“I hear the economy has really picked up since the oil discovery.”

“I’ve been hearing about that for forty years. I don’t think anything has happened yet.”

I asked, “Were you a fisherman?”

“My mother said I had lazy bones. I’ve always had lazy bones. I snared rabbits. Once, some friends and I were out in the bush. We had a cable and made a lasso out of it. We hung it between two trees. A moose came running along, right into the snare. My friends hauled it up in a tree. We had meat to last us all winter. Lots of people have heard of snaring rabbits, not too many have heard of snaring moose.”

I said, “I’ve eaten moose, It’s really good.”

Shakes said to Chester, “Get the fuck out of my sun!”

“I don’t understand you, Shakes. What did you say?”

I said, “I think he means you’re making a shadow on him. You’re standing in his sun.”

“Oh, I didn’t know what he wanted. Sure, Shakes, I’ll move down.”

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