Visigoths in Tweed (Part 2)

Chapter 15

Catching a Crab


At the end-of-season regatta in St. Catharine’s, the nine of them stood beside the picturesque riverbank in their light blue rowing jerseys with old-fashioned yellow and red horizontal stripes running across the chest. In the late autumn morning with the sun shining the crew rejoiced in their season-ending championship race with a few parents and teachers who had come out to see how the Queen’s rowing club would fare. The two thousand-metre course was outlined with lines of floating markers on the outside of each of the eight lanes with a long white banner suspended across both the start and finish lines.

It felt like a carnival.

When Reid thought of all the effort and twenty-minute pieces they had put in over the season, the final race seemed to happen in a blink of an eye. It was the usual sequence of events: lining up at the starting line, hearing the gun and then the frenzy of splashing and the thrusting forward of the boat. The race was very anti-climactic. Most races in rowing are because it’s so intense that you can’t really look around during the race. He did remember seeing the finish though – it was close. The crew came fourth but all four boats were within half a boat’s length. Reid was happy that the season had ended because now he could finally sleep-in.

Looking across the river was a richly sunned bank of autumn maple trees, with its leaves bright orange, red and yellow. Reid resolved to enjoy the rest of the day and not think about his best friend still in the hospital.

All nine crew members stood on the riverbank with their gear at their feet and sipping schnapps while cheering on the remaining Queen’s boats. Even the coxswain Sanjay was partaking in the schnapps despite his season-long abstinence.

“Fourth is bad,” said Sanjay. It was strange to see a guy who hardly did anything other than study and be a coxswain suddenly blossom into a real flesh-and-blood person. With a bit of schnapps in him, Sanjay was transformed from a ghost of a person into his true self: cheeks rosy with a brown hue and an earnest opinion he was eager to share.

“Fourth! It was close as hell Sanjay,” said Taylor. All of them stood around Sanjay, the new man.

“We didn’t even get a medal though, and after all that training and all those twenty-minute pieces.”

“Not sure how tough it was for you, coxswain,” said big Harold, biceps bulging. The engine of the boat.

“If we were a half a boat length ahead we would’ve won!”

“Hell it was a good race. You guys should be proud,” said Orson Buggy, with a rare crooked grin. No schnapps for the coach.

“Did anyone see that guy next to us catch a crab?” asked Taylor all lit up. “He just flung out of his seat!” Taylor was the happiest of the crew, thrilled at the sight of a body flying through the air into the water.

“He did!” said Sanjay. “I saw it too! The guy caught a crab!” In the recoil stage of the stroke the face of the oar caught the water and jammed the handle of the oar into the rower’s chest, throwing him clean out of the boat.

“I thought he was going to land on me!” he bellowed. No one else had noticed the flying body except Taylor and Sanjay. Leave it to Taylor to find something in such a heartbreaking defeat, thought Reid. But it was Taylor who buoyed the spirit of the crew, which made them all happy and proud of their season. It was quite remarkable his power of optimism. Somehow, Taylor had grown in character throughout the season, despite all the parties and smoking and reading he did.

Soon spirits were high on the riverbank, more bottles of peppermint schnapps consumed. They attracted other rowers from different schools, including Reid’s old girlfriend from high school Erin Hopkins. It was a complete surprise.

“Reid! I can’t believe it’s you!” He squinted in the sun and only saw her ivory white teeth. From her white cross-trainers to her brown hair wrapped in place with a red bandanna, she was the epitome of the female athlete.

“I didn’t know you were rowing,” he said, holding his hand up to block the sun. She hugged him. It happened so fast that he was more concerned not to spill his little plastic cup full of schnapps all over her back, which he did.

“Of course not!” she said. “How would you?” Cheeks flushed, he wiped spilled schnapps off his hand onto his pants and then took a sip.

“Would you like some schnapps? We’re all celebrating.” She started to laugh, which made him feel about three feet tall. It was chilly outside but he was sweating.

“How did you do in your race?” she asked.

“We came fourth, but it was close.” Taylor, aware of his peculiar unease, stepped in with light-hearted bluster.

“We were fourth all right but only by a half a boat length,” he said. “Another half boat length and a bit and we would be sporting a gold medal.” Taylor, smooth as butter. And as usual lacking any fear.

“I didn’t see your race because we raced right after you,” she said. Reid damn near collapsed when she smiled warmly at Taylor. “Aren’t you going to introduce me Reid?” He was busy trying to think of something witty to say but everything was too hectic in his mind, dormant insecurities surfacing.

“This is Taylor, my housemate,” he said. “And number two seat on the crew.”

“I’m Erin, an old friend of Reid’s from high school.” Friend? You mean girlfriend!

“The name Taylor means poet in Old English. Pleasure to know ya.” Taylor glanced at him for a second. “How did your boat place?”

“We won.” Cheeks still radiant from the race.

“Well done!” Taylor, ever the gentleman, poured her a glass of schnapps. He raised his glass to her victory, Reid following suit but not really included. A roar of cheering slowly rose to a crescendo when the men’s varsity boats jousted by them to the finish line. Reid glanced at her glistening skin and saw the small blonde hairs on the top of her neck still moist from her race. When the roar died down a crewmember of Erin’s called for her.

“Oh, it looks like we’re going.” She looked deep into Reid’s eyes and put her hand on his forearm. “I’ll see you tonight.” As she was walking away she turned back. “Save me a dance like the old days.” In another moment she was lost into the crowd of blue and white jerseys of the University of Toronto Blues rowing team.

“Reid, she’s stunning.”

“Yeah,” he said, frowning. He put on his Patagonia pullover to fight off the northerly winds. “That’s the problem.” His end-of-season elation quickly turned into anxiety that churned his stomach, fuelled by peppermint schnapps.

Chapter 16

Sheer Recklessness


Despite the growing cold in the air, the elation of the crew remained high as they sipped their schnapps to keep warm. Amid the laughter and gaiety of the crew, Taylor’s festive light-heartedness soared as he and the crew cheered passing boats wearing their red-and-yellow-striped jerseys. In contrast Reid drank more schnapps and became morose. He was drawn to the water’s edge, his stomach full of nails pinched in a vice.

He was unable to let go like Taylor.

After the races finished the crew took taxis to the nearest bar before the big rowing party that night at the old armoury. They didn’t go to the Brock University athletic centre to shower and change, so they were all still in their rowing jerseys when they walked into a place they thought was a tavern but was actually a lounge in a bowling alley. The crew, now rambunctious and drunk, took over the lounge like a rugby team. Even Sanjay was having a ball. None of them wanted to give up what they had worked so hard trying to achieve. Nobody wanted to go back and face the reality of assignments and essays and Christmas exams. Reid knew it wouldn’t last because the misbehaviour kept getting worse, especially Taylor. With all of them now loud and sloppy, patrons began to leave the lounge. The roughhousing and play-fighting hit a crescendo in the bar when Taylor tackled Reid to the floor and the crew followed. Four or five bodies jumped on top so that tables and chairs were overturned. Everyone was in hysterics, enjoying their state of delirious fatigue, but the manager didn’t like it one bit so they were promptly kicked out by the bartender for their excessive display of crew camaraderie.

After the team had left through the accompanying bowling alley, Reid remained with Taylor for a moment at the bar because he was trying his best to apologize to the bartender.

“We’re just letting off a little steam,” he said. “We almost won today, man.”

“I don’t care,” said the bartender. “Get out!” He was really cross.

“Ah, c’mon man, sorry things got a little out of control. Really, I didn’t mean for it to happen.” He tried to explain but the bartender was unforgiving, so Taylor became frustrated.

Exiting the bar through the side door they walked beside a dozen bowling lanes. Taylor, a half step ahead of Reid, began to veer to the left toward a lane as if a vacuum was pulling him towards a row of bowling balls. Tormented by laughter, his quick mischievous glance back told Reid everything. He saw Taylor reach out and pick-up a ten-pin bowling ball by the finger holes, then in a smooth immediacy of motion swung it in front of his chest, covering the stolen evidence under his jacket. Reid did the same. They were almost at the door when Taylor heard a loud bang that echoed through the large bowling alley.

Reid had dropped the ball!

“Damn!” he yelled, no longer laughing.

When they hit the fresh air outside, the crew was milling in front of the bus waiting. When Harold spotted Taylor exiting the bowling alley in a cloak of malevolence, he and Sanjay were the first to notice the bartender walking out of the doors behind them.

“Boys!” he shouted, as he pulled out the bowling ball from under his jacket. “Retribution for an unyielding bartender!” A mumble of approval came from the bus.

“Could I have the bowling ball back?” the bartender said with provocative tight lips. Boy, he was mad.

“Bowling ball, you have?” said Taylor, mocking the provocative voice of the manager. All in one motion, he gave the manager a head fake and crisply rolled the bowling ball down the driveway toward the main road. Though the intersection was about eighty-feet away, the ball was gaining speed to a healthy pace down the grade of the pavement. The manager, stuttering from Taylor’s head fake, began running after the ball.

Running back to the bus, they all halted just shy of the doors watching the bowling ball continue to gain speed down the grade of the pavement. A dark silhouette of a man ran frantically towards the busy four-lane street. They could hear honking horns as the bus pulled away inconspicuously. Reid was aghast by Taylor’s sheer recklessness.

Chapter 17

Shattered Glass


After using the athletic facilities at Brock University to shower and change, the crew arrived late at the end-of-season dance. Most of the crew were drunk, which was all right because everyone else seemed to be in the same state. Rowers were a work-hard play-hard bunch. The old Lake Street Armoury was on the opposite bank of the river from where they had competed in races. All the competing crews from Ontario and Quebec sat at tables surrounding a makeshift dance floor.

Taylor disappeared when Reid and some of the crew took a corner table at the far end of the Armoury. The dance floor was already packed. Since they arrived late the music had already slowed down in tempo. Maybe the DJ figured all the crews had been imbibing with schnapps all day, as per the custom of regattas, and many were heading quickly for exhaustion after the final day of races. Reid was beginning to enjoy a newfound pride of his rowing experience and the spirit of the crew, as he surveyed the dance floor, keeping an eye open for Erin. When Taylor reappeared he had a bottle of Vodka with one of those pouring spouts on it stashed where he had hid the bowling ball.

He had somehow snuck behind the bar and stolen the bottle.

“Mix!” he said in his hyper state. “McFetty we need mix!” He darted back to the shuffling commotion of the bar again while he and the crew remained at the table and drank. He had placed a large bottle of vodka under the table. He was thinking of Erin when Taylor returned with a pilfered carton of orange juice and a handful of plastic cups.

“How?” He didn’t bother because he knew the answer. Taylor really did have a knack.

He poured drinks and kept the stolen bottle against the brick wall in the corner. They all sat at the table flushed with self-esteem when he spotted Erin. Standing up without saying a thing he went to her as if drawn by an invisible magnet. He looked into her sunlit eyes as she embraced him warmly like the old lovers they were. Inseparable, they danced and held each other for every song. Enjoined and oblivious to others, Reid couldn’t help thinking of how close they had been before they had slept together. After going all the way at her cottage things were never the same again. Instead of bringing them closer it put something between them. It was as if the smooth glass surface between him and Erin had shattered and could not be put back together.

Here at the armoury, he was aware that his feelings for Erin never changed. Erin felt like the panacea for his inner turbulence and the potential saviour of his unravelling life. After all, she had been his first love, or what poets call true love.

Maybe he wanted her too much there on the dance floor, and it was this that scared him, so when there was a break in the music he went back to the table in the corner for a swig of beer with his crew. Erin was a bit reluctant to return to her table but Reid was thirsty and wanted to join the esprit de corps with his crew. For him it was only a break in the music and a chance to have a drink with the entire crew one last time.

“Whew!” he said, picking up his drink. “Intense!”

“Rekindling some old flames are you buddy?” Harold said. There was fear in his gut. Reid couldn’t say why but it was there.

“I hate commitments,” he replied. Again there was an element of claustrophobia in his gut. When he said this he wondered if it was true with Erin. In his emotional state he realized he did want to commit to her, that he needed her. He was only being jocular.

The disc jockey announced it was the last song, so he walked over to Erin’s table but she wasn’t there. He found her on the front steps of the armoury talking to some guy.

“Erin! There you are. It’s the last song, shall we?” He reached out for her hand, bold with booze.

“Reid,” she said, “I’m talking to an old friend.”

“But it’s the last song.” He took her hand. Carefully, she pulled it away.

“No Reid.”


“Leave her alone will you,” said the guy. Reid narrowed his eyes on him.

“Who’s he?”

“Listen, ease up,” he said.

“You ease up you fucking jerk.”

“Reid, I’m talking to my friend. Do you mind?” She gave him a look so cold a chill blew down his neck. He began to shake, feeling like his entire world was about to crumble – that there was no one there for him.

“Why don’t you take off, guy,” he said to Reid, this time with some bluster. He stepped towards Reid in fighting stance. He looked deeply into Erin’s eyes and saw a distance he feared at that moment more than anything in his life. Her eyes told him she didn’t want to know him anymore. Confused and juiced by adrenalin, he ran down the stairs and disappeared into the darkness towards the river. His whole body had the palsy. Blabbering, he couldn’t put a sentence together so he kept running. Like a little boy he yelled “Why?” over and over. In the darkness along the river he crossed a street and in his anger pushed over a motorcycle that was parked by the curb, just as he had been pushed away by Erin. Running past a house with a freshly cut down tree, the stump still bleeding with the odour of cedar, set him off so he punched a window in the screen door, cutting his hand badly. The sound of shattering glass scared him so he ran away, down the street until he felt blood dripping from his fingertips. When he saw a light on in a little house he knocked on the door and an old lady brought him inside her kitchen where she put his hand under the tap. There was blood everywhere but he didn’t feel any pain. The last thing he remembered was telling the woman what his girlfriend had done to him, and asked her to explain to him why she pushed him away. Then the police showed up. But by then he was calmer and the cops were all right and took him to the hospital. The Queen’s bus waited for Reid until well after their scheduled midnight departure, but there was no sign of him so the bus left for Kingston without the novice bow seat.

Chapter 18

In His Father’s Voice


The next morning Reid woke up in a sweat clinging to the hospital bed. He had just had a dream that he was trying to walk up a steep set of slanted stairs but kept slipping off until he was sliding sideways down a stairwell. He was determined to climb the stairs but gravity kept pulling him off. When he woke up he didn’t know where he was for a moment, but then it all came back to him when he saw the stitches in his hand and a few around his wrist. His stomach hurt from the booze and his tongue was like sandpaper. Thirsty and alone, he thought he might just stand up and walk out because no one was around, then a nurse came in with a cop and they stood at the end of his bed. The nurse was one of those ancient types with white hair in a bun whose face looked as if it never changed from being stern. She was all business but the cop in his uniform scared him more. Lots of thoughts passed through his mind when he saw them both looking at him. For all his own independence and zest for adventure, he felt like he needed someone there with him to talk to these figures of authority, particularly the cop. It was only then that he realized that his father lived in St Catherine’s. A few years ago he had retired and moved out of the city to a place on the lake where he bought a home with a pool because he hoped Reid and his sister would visit him and use the pool, but they never did. The one time he did visit he remembered the house being full of empty rooms. He felt no love in that house, just the deep chill of indifference.

Maybe that’s why he remembered his father, because the hospital room was cold too.

Reid thought about calling him to bail him out and get him out of here but then he realized that it would be the worst thing he could do. His father would take the opportunity to yell at him instead of helping him. Reid couldn’t take more rejection so he put it out of his mind.

“Feeling better?” asked the nurse. He said he was. No one had covered him with blankets. He was just lying there on the bed in his bloodstained shirt with stitches and splotchy iodine on his cuts. The nurse took hold of his arm and studied the handy work of the doctor, but she was rough. He had to ask why she couldn’t manhandle his hand with some finesse. She damn near ripped open the stitches.

“Reid,” said the cop. “I would count yourself lucky. The gentleman whose motorcycle you pushed over is not going to press charges for vandalism, nor is the lady whose window you smashed up.” Charges. That woke him up all right.

“I’m sorry about that,” he said, as if on reflex.

“I’m sure you are, but they are asking that you pay the costs of replacing the window and repairing the motorcycle. I believe it will be a few hundred dollars. Are you willing to do that?”


“That’s good. Then I will ask you to give me your contact information and sign a letter of intent stating that you will pay remuneration to both parties.”

“Okay,” he nodded.

“Since you are nineteen, we don’t need your parents’ involvement unless you want them here.”

“No, I don’t.”

“Do you have a way of getting home or back to university?” Thinking about it he calculated he had enough money to take a bus back to Kingston without his parents ever knowing about it. He reached for his back pocket and felt his wallet, making sure he hadn’t lost it in yesterday’s mayhem. Reid felt all grown up when he knew he could handle this whole thing without his mother or father ever finding out.

“Is the bus station close by?”

“It’s just down the street from here. I’ll give you lift if you want.” The cop wasn’t sporting a chip on his shoulder, like movies always suggested. He seemed like a decent chap despite the severe looking moustache on his upper lip.

“If I can walk there, I’d rather get there on my own. I need some fresh air.” He understood that Reid didn’t want to show up in a cop car with all the other passengers looking at him like he was a convicted felon.

“OK sport, then come with me and fill out this form and we’ll give you back your hospital card and you can be on your way. I just hope you’ve learned something from this little adventure of yours.” He got out of bed and went to the counter at the nurse’s station with the cop. He was wearing a bulletproof vest under his tunic. Cops get a bad name because they’re always eating donuts and stuff, but for some reason he felt safe with this cop. He had an overwhelming feeling to confide in him.

“Did you speak to the motorcycle owner and the lady?” he asked.

“No, the officer who picked you up last night spoke to both parties.” Parties. Definitely a cop word.

“I do need to get back to Kingston because I have exams coming up and the rowing team is probably worrying about me, so I don’t really have the time but-” He stopped his paperwork and looked at Reid right in the eye as if he cared. He damn near swallowed his words with emotion. “Can you tell them that I’m very sorry about what happened?” The cop’s eyes softened just a little bit.

“Yes, I can do that for you Reid.” Water went to Reid’s eyes so he had to look away. Took a deep breath and went on. “It’s just that I saw my old girlfriend last night and we sort of got together and then she basically told me to-“. He almost said ‘fuck off.’ “She told me to leave her alone after we danced all night together. It was cruel. But don’t get me wrong, I can take it. I mean I’m not a kid. But it was all so sudden and out of the blue.” The cop didn’t say anything but he kept looking at Reid with those grey eyes. “And my best friend was just in a coma and now he’s got brain damage and it may have been my fault because I didn’t give him CPR and my Dad doesn’t care about me. And I don’t want to call my mother because she’s so nice and would be really upset if she found out about this.” It felt good when it all gushed out. His voice was shaking all over the place but he trusted those sober eyes. He was shaking his head to shrug it off like a big man when the cop put his hand on Reid’s shoulder. That’s when it came out, the tears that is.

“It’s tough out there. And we’re all human and make mistakes. We all go through tough times. Just remember to learn from this. Okay sport? You’re not alone. Just don’t go off and punch windows again, or next time you’ll lose your hand.” Then he smiled and Reid thought he saw a bit of mischief in his eye.

So much in that one smile. That cop smile.

“I appreciate-.”  

“I know sport. And I understand how you feel. Trust me. I do.” When Reid reached out for the form his hand was shaking with palsy.

“By the way, when do I have to pay the damages?”

“It’s on the form there. I believe you have seven days from today.”

“Seven days!”

“And it must be paid here and in person. No cheques or sending money in.” A monkey wrench. Panicking, he didn’t want to show he might have trouble paying the money so he nodded nonchalantly.

“Okay, no problem.”

When he left the cop gave him his card with his office phone number so if he had any questions or problems he could call him directly. Reid left the hospital with the promise to repay the costs of the damages to the motorcycle and screen door, and walked towards the bus station, worried the cop would be watching him. When he made it to the station he sat on the bench and thought about the last 24 hours. So much can happen in a day. But paying for the damages trumped all his thoughts. He toyed with just leaving for Kingston but he knew it would come back to haunt him. Besides, the integrity of the cop had rubbed off on him. There was only one option. It was Sunday so his father would be at home. Reid didn’t have his telephone number so he looked it up in the phonebook at the payphone. Sure enough he found it so he dialled. His father picked it up after three rings. Hearing the sound of that voice brought Reid back to a state of weakness and doubt – to that of a timid, cowered child. All the confidence he had churned up in the morning with the cop vanished at the sound of his father’s voice. Memories in a torrent rushed through his mind and his heart felt cold and damp.

“Hello?” said his father again.

“Hi Dad. I’m in town.” He agreed to pick up Reid at the station in fifteen minutes. He bought a coffee and tried his best to regain that warmth that the cop had given him. He sat there on a bench waiting. Someone had carved “Fucking loser” on the bench. Funny thing was that when he read it he thought he heard it in his father’s voice.

Chapter 19

The Dreamstealer


Reid ate breakfast in the kitchen in St Catharine’s thinking about all the philosophy he had studied so far this term and what it all meant. He was aware that it was all words and ideas stagnant on yellowed pages unless they were applied and used, which required backbone and a certain type of focused courage. He wondered if he had that strength to assert and to live the ideas created by these great thinkers. Being the little boy swayed and pushed around had grown stale and it was now a time for him to become who he was inside: that budding individual who now had thoughts of taking a different path than the one he had thought he would take when he started the term.

If he was to take a whipping then so be it. It was time to stand up for what he believed in no matter what the cost.

As Reid was about the stand up to pour himself a cup of coffee, he glanced at the last page of the newspaper and felt the eeriness of co-incidence.

In one corner of the paper it read:

In architecture, the pride of man,

His triumph over gravitation,

His will to power

Assume a visible form.

– Friedrich Nietzsche, 1889

And then in the other corner it read:

The most beautiful house in the world

Is the one you build for yourself.

– Witold Rybczynski, 1989

Ideas he agreed with expressed a hundred years apart. Was it a sign? It was time for him to begin building his own house.

Overcoming gravity,” he said to himself just as his father walked into the kitchen.

“Good morning son.”

“Morning Dad.” He had spent the night after relaxing with his Dad yesterday.

“You’re drinking coffee now?” He was thankful his father wasn’t still pissed off about what had happened Saturday night. He only glanced at his stitches in his hand, choosing to accept it as a one-off incident and lover’s quarrel.

“I am. It’s a university thing.”

“I see.” His father smiled. He opened the blinds of the sliding glass door to let the sunlight in. The night’s rainfall had carpeted a sheath of water on the un-raked leaves in the corners of the backyard beside the wooden fence. The basketball hoop that his father had put up on the garage for him was hanging on by only a few strands of net. They had yet to shoot hoops together.

“There’s nothing in the paper except depressing news about the ozone layer and unemployment today,” he said. He watched his father pour himself a cup of coffee.

“Finding the papers depressing these days are you son?” His freshly starched collar contrasted against his red paisley tie.

“Well, there’s not much of real interest that gets by the censors.” Kyle McFetridge sat across from Reid at the kitchen table with morning eyes.

“Crime is on the rise,” he said adjusting his collar. “We have inner-city gangs now, have you heard?” A product of 1950s idealism, the white picket fence was still front and centre in his paradigm. The world was changing but he refused to adjust his perspective on it all. He remained entrenched in the 1950s.

“Yeah, I’ve heard.” Reid was still worried about his father’s reaction to his request for money, which he hadn’t brought up last night. He was still angry that he hadn’t told him about the regatta so he could come and watch, but he was angrier that he hadn’t told him that he was on the rowing team. Instead of being proud of him, he made it clear he thought it was unnecessary and a distraction from his studies.

“Toronto is starting to get those American big city symptoms.” Reid noticed a shoehorn by the bowl on the kitchen counter. “Soon St. Catherine’s will be swamped with the same degeneration as the States. Drugs. Crime. Homelessness.” Reid took a deep breath.

“Dad, why don’t you understand that I am developing other interests outside of school?”

“What are you learning?” he asked, lifting his coffee for a sip as steam rose from his extra-large mug.

“Well, other than the rowing experience that we talked about last night, I’m learning about philosophy. The professor is-“

Philosophy?” he interrupted, a hint of disgust in his voice. “Why would you ever take philosophy of all things?”

“I wanted to take something different from my core business courses.”

“Why couldn’t you have chosen something a little bit more practical like another commerce course to get ahead?” It occurred to Reid that philosophy, at least as taught by Bakhurst, was the epitome of practical because what he was learning he could every day of his life.

“Philosophy is good Dad. I’m really enjoying it.”

“You don’t want to be a philosopher do you? You don’t want to walk around with sandals stroking your goatee do you?” Reid resented the mocking tone. His father was picking a fight.

“Well,” Reid wavered, “I rowed this term and it was a good experience. The regattas were fun and the guys on the crew were cool.”

“Cool?” Kyle took another sip of his coffee leaving the word floating in the air. “Listen Reid, I’m sorry that your rowing season didn’t turn out so well. Finishing out of the medals must have been disheartening.” His pensive eyes were sincere.

“But Dad, that’s not the point.”

“Sure it is. What do you mean it’s not the point?” His lips parted slightly with the expression of an astonished disbelief as if embarrassed by his son’s lack of understanding. “I’m sorry it wasn’t more successful son.” There was no pride in his tone. Reid stood up and walked to the kitchen to the coffeemaker to pour himself another cup. He looked out the window at the pool drained and unused.

“I’ve met a lot of new people, some interesting people.”

“Of course that’s important. But the fact is that business schools look at marks not friends, and meeting new people is not measured by marks.”


“There are no buts son. All the other students have the same excuses.”

“It’s not an excuse dad.”

“What else are you learning?” With his hands, Kyle invited him to speak.

“I’m learning about the arts, about-” He realized he shouldn’t have used the word ‘arts’ as soon as he said it.

“Why, do you want to become an artist?” he interrupted, squinting through his heavy eyelids.


“Artists starve son. They live paycheque to paycheque, struggling to get food on the table.” Kyle’s upper lip stiffened. “Is that what you want?” His emphasis on the words chilled him under his grey sweatshirt, blood stains on his sleeve discreetly hidden by his arm.

“No. It’s a good break from accounting and math, that’s all Dad.”

“If you want to study arts then you’re on your own financially.” A distant brewing passion was quelled by this single sentence. He had always thought his father would never outright verbalize the threat. But he knew he wouldn’t miss the opportunity to comment on the waywardness of his character. In that way he gets an A-plus for consistency. Reid was more like his grandfather, a man with a good heart who loved all of what life offered. Maybe that kind of thing always skips a generation.


“Reid please, keep your eyes on your work. Don’t fill your head with silly ideas. You have so much talent that it would be tragic if you wasted it. You know your grandfather always said to me, `those with the most talent are the ones who most take it for granted.'” He tilted his head and smiled. “I realize there are adjustments to make in your first year, I just want the best for you. You will make your old man proud, won’t you son?” He saw his father’s tiny chip on the corner of his coffee-stained front tooth he had seldom seen since he was a child, giving him that old paternal security he had had in his early childhood. He had to admit to himself that there was a strength to their father-and-son bond. Reid sighed and let go of his fight for independence. He looked closely at his father’s droopy eyelids that made his eyes look innocently sad.

“Of course I will Dad.” Reid smiled and looked outside at the falling rain.

After a while he knew he could now ask him for some extra money for an imaginary group project for his Introduction to Business class. As he finished his third coffee his thoughts turned to Michelle.

Chapter 20

The Vine of Resentment


Reid arrived in Kingston late Tuesday night without any money to spend on transportation, having just enough money to pay the 286 dollars for repairs to the motorcycle and to the screen door window pane, as well as for his bus ticket back. Once he had accepted the fact that his father’s earnest pleas were not based on spite but rather a deep love and concern for his welfare, he enjoyed the rest of his time spent with his father talking about jobs he could get if he graduated with his commerce degree and the kind of life he could have if he just stayed the course. His father sympathized with him that the courses were dry and boring at the beginning but that they would increase in depth and become interesting to him over time. Reaganomics was at full tilt and the wealth North America was generating opened limitless possibilities. His motivation was renewed and his faith in his path restored.

An übermensch bond trader he would become.

After walking the first three miles from the bus station to the student ghetto, he still wasn’t there. He didn’t have a coat or gloves so he was forced to keep his hands in his pockets, rubbing his stitches raw. As he passed the century-old brick homesteads on the way to his house he thought about school and Drake and his new life without rowing. He wanted to buckle down and spend less time with Taylor, who he blamed for his misdeeds. He knew it was easy to use him as a scapegoat but that was what he did. Then he started to think about Daphne. Cold and miserable walking in the cold night air, thinking of her comforted him and made him warm. Simple, not too complicated and she was sexy. He considered asking her out before she was snagged by someone else. He would put it on his agenda as a possibility.

When he finally arrived he didn’t think anyone really cared whether he was back or not so he left his grey sweatshirt in the front hall to indirectly announce his return from St. Catharine’s. He would deal with his housemates in the morning.

He tried to sleep but he couldn’t. In his overtired state he devised a plan to salvage his term by divorcing himself from social activities and burying himself in his studies. The only thing that worried him at school now was his philosophy term paper. It was crucial for his grade point average. He decided to show Professor Bakhurst that he was in to the readings and liked the classes, but that he didn’t have the necessary essay-writing skills. He had never learned how to write a decent essay.

After an hour of restless turning, he started to read his philosophy book. It relaxed him because the readings gave his mind something to chew on. But it was also the way philosophers wrote. Plato and Aristotle and Hume and Schopenhauer and Kant and Nietzsche; these were his surrogate fathers who provided the wisdom and direction he lacked. As hard as he tried to be democratic in his choice of readings, he came back to Nietzsche. He liked his silly ideas. But they weren’t silly; they were wise. Required readings for the course were boring compared to the dynamic voice of this sickly man who had become a professor at age 26. So to earn a high mark he made up his mind to go talk to Bakhurst in his office to confess his fears about writing the essay.

It was either that or to continue letting it bring him down.

A few minutes after he had closed his books for the evening, he heard the post-pub ruckus from his window above the street. Soon Taylor and some others came into the house and played the music loud. He could hear them laughing in the living room so he snuck back into bed. Almost immediately someone climbed up the stairs towards his room.

“Reid! You madman!” He knocked on the door without waiting. “You awake?” Taylor flicked on the light. Reid was slow to react.

“Turn it off. I’m sleeping.”

“You’re back!” He didn’t say anything. “We waited an hour for you after the dance until we finally had to leave. What happened?” He sat up.

“Ah, a little turbulence but ultimately not a big deal.”

“What’s with your arm?” Iodine and blood had soaked through the bandage.

“Well, I got five stitches here and two there. And one here,” he said motioning to the back of his right hand.

“What happened?”

“Well, there was a complaint about a glass door of a home that was smashed and I was at this other person’s house washing my cuts when the cops came in. It was all pretty weird, so I went to the hospital for stitches. It’s a bummer but everything’s okay.” Reid was as vague as he could be because he didn’t want to talk about it. He just wanted to be left alone.

“What?” He was quiet for a moment.

“I’m all right,” he said. Taylor let it go.

“There’s a party going on downstairs and your presence is requested.”

“I’m sleeping.”

“Oh come on you lazy cuss, we’re the hosts tonight.” Taylor expected him to join in with his usual tentative zeal.

“It’s a Tuesday night. I’ll pass. I have an early day tomorrow.” His first class started at 1:30.

“But never let school get in the way of your education. You know my dictum.”

Taylor! Don’t you listen?”

“Yeah, I listen,” he said, sounding genuinely hurt. “Sorry…  Ah, have a good sleep, I’ll see ya tomorrow.” He gently closed the door after him. A penetrating ambivalence weakened Reid’s resolve as the music played below. He tried to sleep but there was another knock on his door.


“Yeah.” What ever happened to privacy?

“Can I come in?” Michelle’s voice was noticeably tender.

“Well…” He sighed.

“Taylor said you didn’t want to come downstairs.” She stood for a moment at the door. “What happened to you in St. Catherine’s? Are you all right?” She walked cautiously towards him in the dark.

“I’m all right. I missed the bus, that’s all.” Sitting up he saw light of the moon reflect off her cheek.

“Sorry, I’ll leave if you want to sleep.”

“Well… No, it’s okay.” Tension in his stomach eased up. He could tell she had been dancing from the fresh smell of Ivory soap. Michelle sat on his bed.

“We missed you tonight.”


“I just wanted to say…” she turned her head and he saw a tear welling up in her eye.

“What?” Reid wanted to gently reach out to her.

“My-” She took a deep breath and exhaled, lightly showering him with the scent of beer. “My weekend has been long and tiring too.” When he heard this he dropped his head. He felt the wrath of impatience. Laughter from downstairs was heard. She looked up and saw the tension in his features.

“Sorry, I’ll let you get to sleep.” Waiting for a response that didn’t come, Michelle walked out of his room and closed his door. A few minutes later the music was turned down. Reid closed his eyes and heard a distant horn from a passing train somewhere on the dark horizon. Under the full moon the party soon began to die down as a nasty vine of resentment grew in him like a weed.

Chapter 21

The Golden Mean


In the morning the stitches on the back of his hand throbbed, the skin bright red along the perimeter of the cut. He still didn’t know what he was going to say when someone asked him how he cut his hand.

Still stubborn that he could figure out how to write the essay on his own without the help of Bakhurst, he forced himself to start his term paper in Douglas Library but on the way he bumped into Daphne. He hadn’t seen her since Drake’s heart attack. Her hair was all done up and she was looking pretty attractive so he stopped to chat.

“I love your jacket,” she said. Reid was wearing a Christmas present that is father had given him last year. He never wore the Polo jacket because of that God damn little horse on it, but he couldn’t find his other jacket this morning. Besides, today he wanted to get back into the fold of a student of business.

“I’ve been busy with rowing season and all that and now that it’s ended I wanted to ask you if you’d like to go somewhere for a bite to eat.” He hadn’t planned on asking her out. It just sort of came out. He didn’t know why but he wanted to be with her at that moment – just the two of them away from campus and away from all the social politics.

“Dinner? That sounds lovely.” He might have been a bit insane to ask her out but he felt the need to be close to her plump bosom housed under her duffle coat. There was an urge to know if they were compatible.

“How ‘bout tonight?” Rash. But he didn’t want to spend it at his house with Taylor and Alex.

“Okay. That sounds grand.” For a moment after hearing that word he had second thoughts. “And where are you going to take me?” Reid didn’t have the foggiest where they should go.

“I’m flexible.”

“I heard there’s a good restaurant downtown called Chez Piggy. Why don’t we go there?” He hadn’t heard of it.


“Come by my place at 6:30?” He said he would.

“I need to get to class. I’m late.” She glanced at her watch and looked at him like he was in trouble.

“Yes, you are late you silly boy.” His head was suddenly full of ideas as he walked swiftly to the library thinking of all the possibilities that dinner might bring.


Settled in the library he blankly read through words that he vaguely understood in Aristotle’s Nichomachean Ethics, staring but not reading. Finally in a fit of desperation, he took out a fresh piece of paper and began to write:

In a small carrel

Far from peril,

I sit and tarry

Soft and weary.

Reid sat quietly at his walled-in desk feeling the need to do something but had no idea what to do. Too many questions whirled through his mind every time he picked up his pen to write so he walked to the philosophy department and found Bakhurst’s office. His door was ajar so he knocked lightly.

“Professor Bakhurst?” he said through the opening.

“Yes,” a voice answered. “Come in.” He removed his jacket before opening the door gently.

“Do you have a moment?”

“Yes Reid, of course. Have a seat.” Reid was surprised that he knew his name because he had never raised his hand in class or for that matter ever spoken to him before. Unsure what the protocol was, he closed the door behind him and sat in the chair in front of the desk. It was the first time he had ever visited a professor in their office.

“How’s the paper coming along?” He raised his eyebrows.

“Actually, that’s why I’m here,” he said, looking into his intelligent brown eyes. Steady and trusting, he still felt awkward. “Well, rowing has taken up much more time than I had expected.”

“You’re on the rowing team are you?”

“Yeah. The season just ended. We came fourth, but just by a hair.” Bakhurst nodded.

“Did you enjoy it?”

“Yes, it was a good experience.” He shivered in his cold office. “I’m close to writing it but I can’t seem to find the right words.” Rows of books dominated the left wall and a framed painting of St. Paul’s Cathedral hung above his desk.

“I see.” He lifted his hand up to his face and grabbed his chin. “Do you know what you want to say in the essay?”

“Yeah, I think so.”

“Try to describe it to me.” Bakhurst’s request terrorized him.

“I want to say that Aristotle’s Golden Mean is like a work of art and, well, that each person’s Golden Mean is different. You know how Aristotle describes the Mean as the middle point of a circle?”

“Yes.” Bakhurst smiled and leaned back on his swivel chair and clasped his hands behind his head, giving Reid space to speak.

“Or better still, he says it’s like that of the number six between the two extremes of two and ten?”

“Yes.” Bakhurst’s tweed jacket hung off his outstretched arms.

“I want to say that as a moral theory it sounds good on paper but in reality it’s not really the case. For example, being brave for one person may be an eight instead of a six. And for another person, to be brave may only be a four.” Reid’s face was red and his palms were sweaty. “One’s Golden Mean is different for each person.”

“Right. I think I understand. Good show.” He lowered his hands to the desk.

“You know that passage in Book Two, paragraph six?” Reid reached for his book and flipped it to a marked page. “Thus a master of any art avoids excess and defect, but seeks the intermediate and chooses this – the intermediate not in the object but relatively to us.”

“Yes. It’s a classic passage: virtue as art,” he said. Bakhurst had opened his book to the same page.

“And he says,” Reid continued excitedly, trying not to rush his words. “`Virtue, then, is a state of character concerned with choice, lying in a mean, i.e. the mean relative to us, this being determined by a rational principle, and by that principle by which the man of practical wisdom would determine it.”


“One’s virtue then, is determined by one’s character, and not everyone’s character is the same. Do you recall the passage in paragraph one when Aristotle writes: ‘Thus, in a word, states of character arise out of like activities. This is why the activities we exhibit must be of a certain kind; it is because the states of character correspond to the differences between these. It makes no small difference, then, whether we form habits of one kind or of another from our very youth;’” he lifted his hand, “’it makes a very great difference, or rather all the difference.’”

Bakhurst sat back looking at him with raised eyebrows. “I think Aristotle would have no disagreement with you; this is what you should try to focus on in your paper.”

“Then why is there only one norm, one moral code for society? Why do people adhere to one way of behaviour dictated by authorities through the media? Why isn’t the morality of today to encourage multiplicity of individuality rather than mass conformity?” For a second Reid forgot he was speaking to a professor with a PhD from Oxford rather than to his housemate Taylor. He was scared that Bakhurst’s response might have a tremendous impact on him.

“It’s a good question Reid. And I don’t think I can give you a good answer. You may want to bring that question up in your paper. Just remember to be objective and address both sides of the argument. Don’t forget in your thesis and conclusion to say exactly what you believe. Keep your argument rational and you’ll find your way. I’m confident that you will. I think you’re on track. Write a first draft quickly and then re-read it a few times to ensure it expresses what you want it to say.”

“O.K., I can do that.”

“But you don’t have much more time. It’s due in less than two weeks you know.” He looked at his watch when there was a knock at the door. “Come in.” An upper-year student opened the door. “I’ll be with you shortly Arthur.” Reid reached for his knapsack at his feet and felt an immense sense of relief when he stood up.

“What seat did you row?” he asked.

“Bow seat,” he replied. “My main function was to have good technique and balance the boat.”

“Balance and technique, yes.”

“Did you row?”

“Once or twice. I played cricket mainly. Great sport, cricket. You know what Thomas Edison once said: Great ideas originate in the muscles, or was it Darwin?” Arthur was waiting but he still wanted to talk to Bakhurst because he still had so many unanswered questions.

“Have you been there?” He pointed to the watercolour of St. Paul’s.

“Yes. It’s quite something. The architecture is brilliant. I believe it was Friedrich von Schelling who said architecture is frozen music. That it is; that it is.” Reid felt daring for a moment.

“I’ve-.“ He stuttered. “I would’ve thought that architecture is frozen time.” Bakhurst looked at the Masonic masterpiece and nodded, a slight grin of mischief forming.

“So time would be music!” Bakhurst’s eyes brightened, showing his tea-stained teeth. “Brilliant.”

“Would that mean…that the facia would be the lyrics?” said Reid, hoping he wasn’t pushing it.

“And the turrets would be the melody!” When he let out his laugh from under the watercolour, Reid was startled at its ferocity.

Just as he turned to leave he noticed a portrait of Nietzsche hanging on the wall beside Bakhurst, with his patented moustache hanging off his upper lip like a dark waterfall.

“How come we aren’t studying Nietzsche?”

“Nietzsche! Well,” Bakhurst’s eyes livened. “Nietzsche is still somewhat misunderstood within academic circles, though recently there has been a new wave of scholarship and research of his work.”


“Yes. Professor Nietzsche was misinterpreted during the zeitgeist of the early part of this century, but now scholars are seeing that his philosophy was cohesive and even prophetic. This movement is producing some wonderful books.” Reid thought of Nietzsche’s words in Wallace Hall.

“The aphorism that I keep on hearing over and over is `Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.'”

“Yes. I like that one, but also `Life without music would be a mistake.’ Have you heard that one?”


“There are plenty of good aphorisms,” he said. “Just be careful because Nietzsche can be a bit strong for a freshman. I don’t discourage it, but just be careful you don’t become caught in a storm of nihilism.”


“Well because Nietzsche writes in a polemic style and can be taken out of context.” He rose. “But I’m happy to see you’re doing the recommended readings. Teachers are always glad to see that.”

“Thanks Professor Bakhurst.”

“Anytime.” He shook his hand. “Good. Bye Reid.” As he turned towards the door, he stopped and straightened his posture.

“Can I ask you something?”

“Of course.”

“How did you know you wanted to study philosophy? I mean when you were an undergrad?” He raised his Oxford chin slightly.

“Well the quick answer is that I didn’t. I started out in history, but philosophy just took me in.”


“Because it is the study of the world’s greatest minds. It is a record of thinking individuals who left their work behind for others to benefit from. And we all need the benefit of wisdom.”

“More than bread?”

“Well with wisdom we can know better how to sustain the making of bread rather than just empty consumption and profit-making. It is the underpinning of civilization. Philosophers are the engine of humankind. What one learns from the study of philosophy remains with them forever and helps them each day throughout their lives.” He looked closely at Reid. “But to whittle it down, it was truth that was most comforting to me. I found my home in truth. Truth and the study and pursuit of truth, became my religion and my God. It brought out my true self.”

Arthur opened the door. Reid looked at him impatiently because he wanted to talk to Professor Bakhurst more, but he knew he would have to return another time.

“Interesting,” he said. “And I think I see what you mean. Thank you Professor Bakhurst. “I appreciate it.”

“Any time Reid.”

Exiting Watson Hall into the crisp autumn day he felt something solidify within him as if an acorn had taken root and it had just been watered and sunned by the breath of a prophet.

Chapter 22

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 it was a monkey off his shoulders. The only procrastination he engaged in was to look up the words polemic and nihilism, 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 like he was caught in the swirling currents of a fast-flowing river rushing into the estuary of the ocean. And coupled with this his belief system was being wrecked and hacked down with a hammer so that he had forgotten how to swim.

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 he was also 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 an arrogant 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. How could I be so selfish?

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.

Permanent brain damage? What the hell?

“Well-.“ It was all so vague 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! Six weeks from now? “The dean has exempted Drake from his course load and has been awarded his marks at the time of the accident.” 

“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 unintended 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 was something 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’d lost. His neck was all gangly and showing veins and all those tendons and whatnot. It looked like he had lost twenty pounds on his slim frame.

“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.” Reid 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 to the bone. 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 not 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.

“Y’r 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. He looked at his oldest friend and again saw the crookedness in his eyes, and then noticed 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 had 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 Drake’s 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 his stooped and injured posture.

So stupid” 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 the rest of Drake’s toiletries in his defeated posture and his silly jacket. With sweaty hands he left the room, changed and went to pick up Daphne for their dinner at Chez Piggy.

Chapter 23

Missing the Middle Part


No one spoke about the old Drake, no one except for Reid, but he only spoke about him 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. This was a bad idea.

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 his racing mind he thought he heard more laughter. His 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 at him 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, as he were suffering from Tourette’s syndrome. 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’s 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.”

“Excuse me. 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 a pungent bile boiling up into his esophagus.

“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? And how was I to do that?” 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 shards of 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 Tourette’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.” His palsied hand grabbed his stomach to stem the bleeding.

“I don’t understand you.”

“Actually I’m in the wrong forest,” he said, flippantly. At the beginning of the term he thought he might have been more patient with her, but everything had changed since then. 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’s day.

“Let’s go,” he said.

“Okay 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 he 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.

Chapter 24



Arriving at class he took his place beside Michelle’s chair that was empty. He noticed that someone had written on the desk:


– Charlie, Class of ‘88

So Reid wrote:



He was feeling a bit peppy.

Bakhurst wrote a definition on the board:

Anima: 1. the vital principle; source of energy and creative action; soul; life. 2. An individual’s true inner self reflecting archetypal ideals of conduct.

He turned around and faced the rows of students.

“Could each of you please close your eyes please and try to imagine yourself in an extraordinarily dire situation, such that you are half-starved and on the verge of death, or in complete despair.” There were puzzled looks from some of the students. “Sorry,” he said in his characteristic British manner. “Pardon me but really, ask yourself: what would be the one thing that would give you the most strength to survive? What would that one thing be that would give you the most reason to live?

Looking at Reid, he said: “It was Nietzsche who once wrote: ‘He who has a why to live for, can bear almost any how.'” The class was quiet, waiting for him to explain.

“An individual’s anima is the source of the will in man. It is his base of power. The important thing to know,” Bakhurst said, taking a step away from the lectern “is that each individual’s anima is unique. Each person’s manifestation of creative energy is necessarily different than another’s.” Bakhurst taught with ease and grace as he sat back in his chair and relaxed.

Reid was beginning to see that philosophy class was his only luxury; that in this class was the only place where he felt authentic and true, where there was no bullshit and guile.

Out of the corner of his eye he saw Pyke put up his hand. He had grown a scraggly goatee and wore a blue T-shirt that had the words:


“Why are they different?” asked Arthur Pyke. He leaned back in his chair and stroked his burgeoning goatee.

“Why?” he confirmed. He sketched a crude image of a computer on the blackboard, and then beside it drew an image of a floppy disk. He labelled the computer hardware, and the floppy disk software.

“You see Mr. Pyke, the computer represents the unpolished energy that we all possess.” They both confirmed this with a mutual nod. “With the power turned on, the computer is just a raw energy, analogous to the electrical current that flows through the computer’s maze of wires and intricate microchips and whatnot.”

“Like the energy our blood supplies via the maze of veins and arteries,” said Pyke.

“Yes, and hopefully all the way to our brains, right Mr. Pyke?” He looked up at Pyke and read his shirt for a moment.

“Yes,” he said, nodding at Pyke’s blue t-shirt.

“An uncultured piece of hardware still needs to be channelled; it needs software. It needs an operating system.” He casually pointed at the floppy disk on the board while keeping his eyes on the students.

“In our computer analogy,” Pyke asked, “what would the operating system be?” Bakhurst, who had taken to stroking his hairless chin as he spoke, lifted his hand in thought.

“Experience as you know, is a function of one’s chosen environment and actions through time. It is our history. So the aggregate accumulation of the days in one’s life could, in our analogy, represent the algorithms in one’s operating system. An individual’s life experiences make up their software. It is written by ourselves through our history and upbringing. Since each person has their own sui generis history, each person’s software is different. It is our instinct that is our blueprint for behaviour, which is contained in our hardware. All people have instinct. How we harness our instincts with our life experience will determine the unique individual within us. It’s what makes us all different from each other. It’s what determines one’s software.”

“What about identical twins?” Pyke sipped from his coffee, which might have been his tenth of the day.

“By definition identical twins have the same hardware,” Bakhurst replied, pointing at the computer, “but they are both different in their experiences through time. These differences in personal cultivation can be subtle; for example one twin chooses to play chess and the other chooses to play cricket. These are our units of experience in our history, and it is through our history that we come to learn more about the world and how we become enlightened to what is within our soul.” Bakhurst, who looked like he was wearing the skin away on his chin, looked up at the class and saw Pyke’s hand up again.

“So the problem with most people is that they don’t customize their software to magnify their hardware?” The laughter defused the intensity in the classroom for the students who had been listening. Even Bakhurst let out a chuckle.

“I suppose the problem would be, Mr. Pyke, that most abort any attempt to get in touch with the particular flavour of their anima.” In front of the lectern he spoke looking upwards. “They don’t co-relate their a posteriori software with their a priori hardware. If one can open the door to their instincts, then they could customize their daily experience to develop a stronger sense of self.” He began to stroll in front of the chalkboard again, but then stopped to write:

Customizing your life experience

is to extenuate your inherent

cognitive bone structure

Bakhurst paused, trying in vain to suppress a smile. The moment passed.

“Viktor Frankl, in his classic Man’s Search for Meaning, which was your assigned reading for today, writes that if you can find the one thing that gives your life meaning, then you can survive the trials and tragedies of living. You must try to get in touch with that one thing that you find most valuable in your life. What is your dream? What do you most want to do if you had the free time and means to do anything?

Now is the time to find the answers to that question and use them as the driving force to customize your software.

“By finding that one thing you care about the most, and engaging in it, your will strengthens over time because you are spending your time on something that matters to you.” Bakhurst stopped, sat on the edge of a desk and surveyed the class.

“What I want to communicate to you is that you must take the time now to find this one thing that you feel gives you the most meaning in life. It’s important. Teachers, like me, love to teach. This is the most important thing to me. Others, like perhaps an athlete, it’s winning a gold medal at the Olympics. For another it’s helping people, or composing music, or for another it’s stopping the environmental destruction that is happening to us now at an alarming rate. Each one of you has that thing in you. Don’t think it’s insignificant. If you ignore it, it can bring you down and make living life almost unbearable.

“My father, who was a minister, liked to preach:

If you bring forth what is within you,

what you bring forth will save you.

If you do not bring forth what is within you,

what you do not bring forth will destroy you.

“You must find your why to get through the how of this life.

“The problem that many people face is that they don’t take time to discover their own conceptual geography in order to properly develop their inherited abilities.” Bakhurst stopped, sat on the edge of the desk and surveyed the class.

Where one is imperfect is precisely where one’s originality begins. Any questions?”

“Is anima more like the strength that springs from your will,” Pyke asked, “or is it like the music that comes from your soul?” Pyke shot a quick glance at Reid.

“I believe they are one of the same Mr. Pyke. An individual’s anima is the source. The important thing to know,” Bakhurst continued, taking a step away from the lectern towards Pyke, “is that each individual’s anima is unique to that individual. Each person’s source of energy is like a fingerprint; no two are the same.”

Just before the class ended, Reid looked over at Arthur Pyke and noticed what he had written in his notebook. His only notes were written in capital letters:


Most people looked like they were either in deep thought or confused. Reid was transfixed on his chair, keeping his eyes on Bakhurst. He had understood everything Bakhurst had said; it was a recipe against phoniness. The term conceptual geography stuck with him for the rest of the day hanging in his mind like a beautifully barbed arrow.

Chapter 25

Taylor Not Afraid


In the morning he was up a little earlier than usual because he had a lot on his mind. He didn’t sleep well because he was having fits of impatience thinking of the St. John’s Ambulance certificate he had found on Drake’s dresser. And despite the shallow nature of Daphne and her ways, she did have a point. He needed time to work through it and see how his lack of action had contributed to Drake’s cognitive dissonance. The truth was he wasn’t crazy about seeing Drake again. He knew Mr. Ketchum would be at the hospital today. There was something about the way he looked at him now that made him feel uncomfortable as hell, maybe because he knew he had chosen not to take the course with his son. And every time he saw him, because he was a successful psychiatrist, Reid felt he was making his own diagnosis of his own psychological state. And to be honest, that’s the last thing he wanted – for someone to be delving into his thoughts. He just wanted to be on his own and away from all these complicated matters. He wanted to talk to his grandfather because he would have the words to make his turbulence dissipate into the ethers so he could return to his old self.

Taylor was up early too. He was in the living room reading The Razor’s Edge by Somerset Maugham because of that 1946 film they saw together. Reid wanted to read the book too if he could only clear his head a little. Taylor had been there for a while because he was ready to take a break. He asked Reid if he wanted to go for breakfast at The Rose and Crown. He went there sometimes because they have a great bacon and eggs special on all day and they served a bottomless cup of coffee. Reid’s stomach was still a bit dodgy but he said I’d go with him.

“I need to go by the hospital this morning to see Drake, and drop off some things for him. He’s leaving Kingston in the next day or so and Mrs. Ketchum has asked me to drive Drake’s station wagon back to Toronto.” Taylor sat up on the couch. He could see his interest was piqued.


“I haven’t decided yet.” So they planned to stop for a breakfast special of bacon and eggs at The Rose and Crown on their way down to the hospital.

For some reason Reid was content to sit there in the crowded restaurant, sipping his coffee and anonymous, and hearing Taylor speak. He was in good spirits because he related to the main character Larry Darrell wholeheartedly. As he spoke he kept referring to the Rose and Crown as the Rosenpenis.

“We live in an age of the shrinking garnish,” Taylor said looking at his plate. “Say McFetty, whaddya say we leave the Rosenpenis and go on a road trip to New York City?”

“Um, I don’t know Taylor.”

“Drake’s parents asked you to drive Drake’s station wagon home, didn’t they?”


“So we have mobility. We can go up through Montreal and down Highway 87; it’ll only take nine hours at the most. It’s ten now, and we could be out of Kingston by ten-thirty thus putting our arrival time in New York at about seven and a half bells, just in time to hit the pubs. Whaddya say?” Mischief exuding from every pore.

“Well, it’s a bit far, man.”

“Come on von Betty. How can you say no to a spontaneous post-Rosenpenis road trip? It’ll be fun. We need a break.” Drinking his third cup of coffee, surprisingly he considered it. He could use a break. Taylor’s enthusiasm didn’t alleviate Reid from his growing claustrophobia. He felt trapped in Kingston because of the constant reminders of running with Drake – during the days of innocence. The thing that pushed him over the fence was the idea of stopping off in Montreal to visit his grandfather, who he knew was in the hospital having an operation on his hip, and was taking it hard. To Reid his grandfather was a real Renaissance Man. He had been all over the world and could take anything that life had to throw at him. The idea that he was bummed out in some hospital in Montreal bothered him. He was probably the only person Reid really looked up to. As far as male role models go, his father certainly wasn’t around. And every time he tried to get his approval he only hacked off his legs at the knee. But his grandfather wasn’t like that. He used to tell Reid how he hung out with the Three Musketeers in Paris during the twenties and rode his bike all over Europe. He was buddies with Rene Lacoste and Jean Burrotra and the other tennis master, who made up France’s national team and had all won the French Open. He was a real McCoy man-of-action who had lived life as a verb. He had seen and lived life.

“You’ve become a bit of a Nietzschean right?”

“I like his ideas, yes.”

“Well then you know his aphorism: There are no philosophies, only philosophers.”

“No. I haven’t heard that one, but what does it mean?”

“It means stop muckin’ around thinking so much and become a philosopher.”

“And how does one do that?”

“You know sometimes- No, wait. It’s a damn fine question padre. I think it means get off your ass and do things you want to do that defy reason. It means create your world of what you value, not what others value. It means to learn for yourself by making mistakes. It means live your life like a work of art! It means take chances man! Don’t be cowered into a corner waiting for something to happen. It means follow your gut, chase your fears, strive for your dream, harness your passion, do now what you could do tomorrow. It means let’s go to New York City!”

“I get it.”

“I have money so we can split the cost of gas and whatnot.”

“I have so much work to do. It’s so close to the end of term.”

“There’s always a lot of work to do. There’s always something. That’s what a spontaneous road trip is.” The notion of visiting Drake again exhausted any patience he could muster. He wanted to be with Michelle but she was in Vancouver. Besides he thought, it was his birthday tomorrow. Taylor’s eyes were swamped with alacrity.

“All right Tailpipe, I’m in.”

“You’re in?”

“I’m in.” They paid the bill and walked to the hospital together. Mr. Ketchum was there and to Reid everything was crowded and intense. He nodded at Drake’s father but he avoided his eyes. Reid had to protect himself from what he said by the way he looked at him. Taylor sensed it so he took up the reigns.

“So Mr. K when is Drake leaving us?” Taylor asked.

“Tomorrow.” Taylor put his hand on Mr. Ketchum’s arm and steered him towards the door, out of range from Drake. He spoke to him man-to-man.

“Well, is he going be all right going forward? What I mean is, could it happen again?” Drake’s father told him about Marfane’s syndrome and being supervised to take his pills, all of which Reid could have told him over breakfast.

“But we’re hopeful he will be back in his classes in January,” said Mr. Ketchum.

“Classes!” Taylor was moved closer to him. “Don’t you think that’s a little too soon? Attending university classes is not like sitting in a high school classroom you know.” Taylor softened his voice. “Is he going to be ready for classes? That’s less than eight weeks from now.”

“The doctors say there could be some permanent brain damage but my feeling is that the sooner he’s back in the saddle, the better it’ll be for him to remember things and getting back his memories. I think his cognitive dissonance is only temporary. He’s a tough kid and I don’t want him falling behind. He’s improved more than they expected, so there’s little reason to think he can’t make a full recovery.”

“Why the rush? Even if what you say is true, why not nurture him back to full health before throwing him back into the mayhem of university life?”

“Why not?”

“It’s been thirty years since you were at university Mr. K. I think it’s changed a bit since the fifties. It’s pretty hairy sir. I’d hate to see him feel left out. Life now moves pretty damn fast. All of us will be here next year. The worst thing is that he’s going to feel inadequate.” It was a though Mr. Ketchum took the last comment personally, but that didn’t affect Taylor’s posture at all.

“You can think what you want Taylor, but the longer he’s away from what he likes to do, the worse it’s going to be for him.”

“Mr. Ketchum, I’m not afraid to tell you I think you’re wrong.”

“Your opinion son. That’s your opinion.” Righteous, Mr. Ketchum stood his ground against this young know-it-all upstart when Taylor shook his head and looked at Reid. He could see what was going through his mind: Couldn’t they see that he’s not the same? Couldn’t they see he needed more time?

Reid handed the bag of toiletries to Mrs. Ketchum. She put them in a large suitcase and then took a tissue and wiped Drake’s nose, blocking him from Reid. It depressed the hell out of him to see that. He had been given a sedative and couldn’t keep his eyes open.

“It’s time for him to rest Reid. Thank you for bringing his things.” She wouldn’t even let him shake his hand before he left for Toronto. To complete the block, she gave Reid a hug. He could tell she was holding in a cry.

“Drake, I’ll see you in Toronto. Okay?” He nodded but it was exaggerated. To Reid he looked desperate and scared with so many people in the room. Reid walked through the door where Taylor and Drake’s father were standing.

“You’re driving the car are you Reid?” Mr. Ketchum all business.

“Yes, I am. It should be there within the next week or so. I’ll bring it by before exams start.”

“It’s appreciated. And be careful. You’re not insured.” He was looking deeply into Reid’s eyes, which made him squirm. He and Taylor said good-bye and walked away, sensing something wasn’t right.

Chapter 26

Beyond the Monoperspectival Norm


He felt lousy after seeing Drake in the hospital. The idea of him being back at school in January was troubling because of his strange lack of coordination and mental drowsiness. He could imagine some bastards at school cutting him down behind his back. Some guys are like that: they’d cut him down until there was nothing left of the guy. He could try to protect him but he couldn’t be there all the time. Life isn’t perfect but all the more reason for asking why there was such a damn rush to bring him back here. Throw him into classes and he’ll find it tough because he will have missed the second half of first term. He was impressed as hell Taylor had had the balls to say exactly what they were both thinking.

Back at the house they grabbed their things and were off by eleven. Reid nipped up to Drake’s room to borrow his tweed jacket because he thought he’d need something decent to wear in the New York pubs. But he also knew Taylor would get a kick out of him wearing tweed. Reid didn’t bother calling his mother to tell her he would be in Toronto to drop off Drake’s car in a few days. He just wanted to take off and be done with it, so they sped past students on their way to classes, their bags full of books and minds full of stress. Before hitting the highway he and Taylor purchased large coffees and a bag of day-old doughnuts for the road. With music playing from the radio and sunglasses on, they hit the road with that feeling of infinite possibility. The air was cool outside but the sun was hot through the windshield. With hardly any traffic midday on a Friday, he sipped coffee while Taylor did all the talking.

“You know McFetty, Swampa is really cool.” Taylor had been spending more time with her and had, as a result, been seeing more films at the student-run theatre he liked so much.

“I agree.”

“I mean she was really confident with herself, even in her sexual gig. I like that. She’s someone I can talk to. I don’t think I ever had that back in high school. She’s open-minded and listens to everything I have to say. I know sometimes I talk a bit too much and say some pretty out there things, but she doesn’t seem to mind. She doesn’t judge. So there’s some freedom there, which I think I need right now. I don’t think she’s politically correct either. I like that too. So she’s not so constrained. There is a lot of lateral movement available with her.” That was the big thing on campus these days: political correctness. Reid didn’t really care one way or the other, but Taylor had a beef with it.

“It’s good she doesn’t judge,” he said to encourage him.

“Last night she was telling me about her version of a George Orwell passage from Nineteen Eighty-Four, when he writes:




Swampa said that she thought it should be:




“I’ve been pondering it and I think she’s onto something.” Reid experienced the familiar pang of fear because this was another shortcut he had taken during high school: he had elected to read only the study notes of Nineteen Eighty-Four instead of actually reading the novel itself, which made him doubt his true worth. In the court of his mind, there was again more evidence for the prosecution. He was slowly realizing that his foundations were built on sand, which ate at the core of who he was.

He promised to himself that one day soon he would read the novel Nineteen Eighty-Four.

“Sounds right,” he said, not venturing further.

“I’ve decided that I’m not politically correct; I’m personally correct,” Taylor said. “Or should I say personally true, that is, true to myself. I’m not going to adhere to what is considered objectively correct by the majority. I’m looking beyond the dominant monoperspectival norm.”

Monoperspectival? There’s a word you don’t hear every day.”

“If you really think about it the concept of political correctness is conformism of the worst kind: it’s intellectual conformism. I’m telling you, it’s really just Big Brother incognito.” They passed a patch of pine trees that had been planted in long straight rows. “Keeps the thoughts of the masses in line. I’d say a cultivated intellect is a strong weapon against the powers that be. It’s done so stronger individual’s don’t assert themselves and develop their own beliefs that could potentially cause a threat to the power structure. What did Eric Blair say? Some are more equal than others.” Reid didn’t want to ask who Eric Blair was, but it was Taylor so he did.

“Who is Eric Blair?”

“That’s George Orwell’s real name.”

“Listen, you want to take the Heritage Highway to Cornwall? It’s more scenic and we’re making good time.” He thought Taylor would prefer the scenic route.

“Sure, good idea.” They took the turn off and after ten minutes saw an old fort by the water as they approached Prescott.

“Cool, check out that fort.”

“Now that’s a fort,” said Reid. Built on a mound of earth at the base of a shallow peninsula, it was a modest compound with only one wooden blockhouse surrounded by a fortified fence of sharpened logs with pointed ends. Halfway up the mound were more log spikes jutting out of the earth at an angle designed to stop troops attacking the fort.

“Let’s pull over and check it out,” Taylor suggested. Reid pulled off the highway and parked beside the fort. They got out of the car, walked up to the front gate, and read the historical plaque by its entrance.


The first Fort Wellington was erected on this site during the War of 1812 to shelter British regular troops and Canadian militia defending the vital St. Lawrence River transportation route. In February 1813 these soldiers crossed the ice to capture Odgensburg N.Y. When rebellion threatened Upper Canada in 1838 the fort was in ruins. Construction had scarcely begun on the present fort in November 1838 when a band of Canadian rebels and American sympathizers attacked; they were defeated nearby at the Battle of the Windmill by troops assembled at the fort.

Reid looked across the river at America and stroked his chin in thought. Looking downstream he could sense whispers of history hidden in the waters of the St. Lawrence River.

“You know my great-grandfather was a colonel in the British army,” he said. “I remember my grandfather telling me how he fought in the Boer War with Churchill.” That was when he remembered to bring up the possibility of visiting his grandfather in Montreal.

“Cool. Awful war they say. Those Boers were a harsh foe.”

“Taylor, my grandfather lives in Montreal and I was thinking we could stop by to visit. The reason is that he’s in the middle of a hip operation, and knowing him he’d appreciate a surprise visit.”

“Hell, I don’t mind. Give him a call. Have his number?” So unselfish.

“Yeah. Actually I do.”

“Alright, call him.” There happened to be a public telephone beside the historical plaque at the information window, so he took out his little book of numbers and called his grandmother.

“Reid? Is that you?”

“Yes Gramma, it’s me.”

“Ah-” there was a brief pause. “It’s so good to hear your voice.”

“How are you?”

“I’m fine, dear; just fine. Grampa is at St. Luke’s recovering from his surgery you know, he’s finding it tough.”

“That’s why I’m calling. I’m on my way to Montreal and I’d love to see you and Grampa if I can.”

“Oh! Your grandfather will be so happy. I’m on my way over to see Grampa in about two hours.”

“We’ll be in Montreal in two hours Gramma.” He looked over at Taylor at the station wagon amazed at the co-incidence.

“Will you meet me here dear?”

“Why don’t I meet you at St. Luke’s just in case we run late? My friend from university and I are driving to New York so we’ll be able to have a visit but won’t be staying overnight. I remember where St. Luke’s is Gramma so I can meet you there.”

“That’s fine dear.” Back in the car they hit the road again driving beside the St. Lawrence River.

“Did you know Beluga Whales are found in the St. Lawrence?”

“No,” said Taylor.

“Yeah, and the whales that are found dead in the St. Lawrence because of the pollution are treated as toxic waste because of the level of toxins in their system.”

“That’s sick. Pollution is way out of control. How could our parents let this happen?” Taylor shook his head as they sped by the riverbanks of the mighty waterway that flowed into the Atlantic Ocean. “We live in the polluted hangover of the Industrial Revolution and the smoky haze of World War Two.

“And chilled by the suspicions of the Cold War,” added Taylor.

“Wonder if it’ll ever stop.”

“My brother sent me another letter this week,” he continued. “He loves Thailand. He said he’s braving the sun since we now have a hole in the ozone layer that causes skin cancer. These days being a beach bum isn’t safe anymore. And that’s what I always wanted to be, to be honest. I’ll tell ya, it ticks me off royally.”

That’s a gip.” Reid leaned against the driver door, sat back and put on the heater. “The death of the beach bum.”

“Seriously. Our generation, those of us who were born in or close to the Summer of Love in ’67, are inheriting an entirely new piece. There is so much change from technology and the sharing of information that we’re in some sort of in-between stage in history. We have to deal with affirmative action and a divorce rate that’s at forty percent. Television has brought history and science and even live wars into our living rooms, like an electronic window that looks out to affairs of the world so that now we have an information overload. We’ve grown up with this constant onslaught of information which is resulting in some sort of decision paralysis.”

“Yeah, I know what you mean.” Decision paralysis.

“We’re crossing from the fifties to the 21st-century in one great leap, from one set of values to another. Nihilism is a dangerous thing.”

“That’s a word I’m hearing a lot these days. What does it mean exactly?”

“It’s when you make the transition from old beliefs to new beliefs, for a society or an individual. It’s the leap off the fence of deference to the side of belief, which can be a struggle.” Taylor looked solemn and serious. “That movement between niches can be deadly.”

“I have been wondering what it meant.” His usual scepticism of Taylor’s dubious opinions vanished when he saw the meaning in his words: his grammatical metamorphosis. He knew instinctually that was what he was going through: from that of a noun to an adjective via the verb.

“Nihilism is prepositional: from the stream to the banks.”

“Without crossing the terrain of nihilism there can be no creative evolution; only a stagnation in growthless time.”

“Heavy, but I can see that.”

“Being a renaissance man these days is so rare because things have become so specialized, or should I say hyper-specialized. I refuse to categorize myself into some well-defined label in a system that is way out of whack. No thanks.”

The division of labour syndrome.”

Exactly. I’m not going to narrow myself into a specialization just when I’m hitting my prime.” Bitching like this felt healthy.

“I recently read that modern North Americans work longer hours than serfs did in the Middle Ages,” said Taylor. “I wrote it in my journal.”

Slave labour,” he replied shaking his head.

Nearing Montreal they drove over a small rodent already splattered on the tire-marked pavement. Its guts left a trail in the traffic’s wake. Taylor let out a laugh.

“I’ll let you in on a secret McFetty.”

“What’s that Taylor?”

“For those of us who wear tweed, the rat race is finished: both rats made lots of money but one of the rats lost his family and the other rat died of a stroke.”

Hearing all this from someone else reassured Reid that he wasn’t insane in a world gone mad.

Chapter 27

The Hip, Not the Grip


They drove along the highway through light traffic crossing onto the island of Montreal, which cued an onslaught of memories. It brought him back to this time when during a family visit he had brought his new baseball mitt. He asked his father to play catch but his father was too busy inside the house. When my grandfather heard him Reid remembered him scolding his father for saying no. So his grandfather, who must have been about 70 years old, agreed to play catch. His old baseball mitt was one of those Joe DiMaggio jobs with huge fingers and the pocket that was right on the palm of your hand. He called it his Charlie Brown glove. Reid was halfway through his baseball season so he could throw the ball with accuracy. When they started to play catch he was throwing it pretty soft to Grampa because he was afraid he’d hurt his hand or break a finger or something because of that ridiculous Charlie Brown glove of his, but he said he should learn to throw the ball harder. So Reid started to really chuck it. He kept catching it easily in his Charlie Brown glove with the big fingers and encouraged him to really throw it. After a few more chucks, Reid threw the ball as hard as he could. He remembered him catching it as if he was lobbing the ball. He couldn’t believe that his throws weren’t hurting his hand. Then his grandfather asked him to pitch with the whole wind up and everything, so he started chucking fastballs all over the place. Even if he missed the mark the old guy was able to catch them with his long arm. Knowing he could throw as hard as he could and they would be caught, Reid soon found his groove throwing at maximum velocity. Every time it was a good ball he yelled: “strike!” It seemed like he could do everything, his grandfather. Reid became so tired after a while he had to tell him he needed to stop because his arm felt like a wet noodle. When they finally stopped he put his arm around Reid’s shoulders and said: ‘well done lad.’ Coming from his grandfather, it meant everything to him. Life seemed perfect that afternoon on the front lawn. It was one of those times that stick with you your whole life.

They drove through Point Claire and the old homes by the water past some restaurants and cafés that lined the boardwalk. Past the old seventeenth-century Catholic seminary on Mount Royal and then Redpath Library and the weathered turrets of McGill University, they watched students in duffle coats stroll between university buildings and the ivy-covered fraternities.

“The frats” said Taylor. “There’s Sigma Chi, and that one’s Delta Kappa Epsilon.”

“There’s my Dad’s fraternity right there: Delta Upsilon.” He looked at the doorway and somehow felt the presence of his father. To him the fraternity looked desolate and void of life compared with the overt vibrancy of the Student Ghetto.

Taylor glanced at his watch. “We’re making good time.”

“Yeah. We’re in no rush.”

“You know my grandfather is really cool.”

“Oh yeah?”

“He cycled all through Europe when he was my age. Apparently he took off to Paris after World War One when he was sixteen, played tennis, toured on his bike and went to the Sorbonne to perfect his French.”

“Your grandfather went to the Sorbonne?”

“Yeah. He loved the French language.”

“He just missed the Great War?”

“He did, but all his older brothers fought in the war. I think he was born in 1906. He was the youngest of six sons in a family of eight.”

Around the corner and down the road was St. Luke’s Hospital where they pulled in to the parking lot. Inside they asked for his room number.

“Room 707,” said the nurse with a strong French accent. “It’s on the seventh floor on the left, in orthopedics.” They stepped off the elevator on the seventh floor and went past the nurse’s station to room 707. From just inside the doorway, Reid saw his grandfather lying in bed without being noticed. Taylor had enough sense to hang back for a minute. His grandmother was there standing beside him. She looked the same but his grandfather looked pale and his hair was now pure white. Seeing his trimmed white moustache and his hair combed back with Brylcreem made Reid feel like he was home – like this was his family.

That’s when he stepped to the foot of his bed.

“Oh! Reid!” said his grandmother when she saw him, but he kept his eyes on his grandfather lying in bed.

“Hi Grampa,” he said. It was strange because for a moment he didn’t recognize him. He had shown up completely unannounced so no wonder it took him a second.

“Reid!” His bright blue eyes squinted into laughter. He said his name so loud that a nurse entered the room. “See Blondie? Here’s my grandson. And you thought I was just feeding you a line!” He looked at him with such obvious pride.

“So this is your grandson Mr. McFetridge? He looks like you, but he’s more handsome.” He watched his grandfather’s eyes well up. Reid walked to his side and held his big hand in a grip of a handshake. Tears began to roll down his cheeks.

“You certainly have grown son, hasn’t he Ma?” He looked at Reid’s grandmother, who had her hand over her mouth.

“He is always talking about you,” said Blondie. “Your grandfather is like a broken record.” She slapped his leg in a friendly way.

“You’re taller than your old man now aren’t you?” He pretended his eyes weren’t wet and kept on smiling, amazed at seeing Reid.

“Yeah, I think I am.”

“Yes, I can see it. Over six feet. Maybe six-foot two?” Reid held his grip around his grandfather’s hand shaking it and about to release it. “My grandson Reid Edward. Name after me.” He looked at his wife of more than fifty years. “Did you arrange this Ma?”

“No dear,” she said with her face fully wrinkled with a smile. They both laughed which was contagious enough to make everyone laugh. Taylor stood in the doorway looking at the wet cheeks and McFetridge features of Reid’s grandfather. The blond nurse stood in awe at the transformed patient.

“Amazing,” she said to herself shaking her head, and then nodded at Reid’s grandmother, sharing the special moment of transformation.

“Grampa” he said, squeezing his hand a little more, but his grandfather increased the strength of his grip.

“It’s the hip that’s bad, not the grip!” Laughing aloud, Reid’s grandfather just stared at him, his face glowing.

“You’ll be out of here in no time Grampa.” He unashamedly squeezed Reid’s hand and let out a cry.

“Oh God.”

“There’s just one more Mr. McFetridge,” said the blond nurse.

“You’ve already had one?”

“Ah…” He let out a deep breath and shook his head. “They buggered it up son.” The strength of his grip weakened.

“There was an infection,” said the nurse. “This one will only be a simple operation.” Suddenly he began shaking Reid’s hand in a gentlemanly hold.

“It’s good to see you old boy, eh, Reid. Have you ever grown up.” The tears had left salty paths down to his chin. In a moment his icy strength returned.

“I love you Grampa.” It was as if his tears hit his eyes so suddenly that his face still held the same look, almost as if he were unaware of the water swelling in his eyes.

“Ah, I’ll tell you…ha!” He stopped shaking Reid’s hand and just held it. “I’m proud of you Reid, we’re very proud of you son.”

“Thanks Grampa.” Reid went to release his grip but was again held by his grandfather’s big hand. For a moment Reid didn’t have a grip but then grasped his hand with a renewed strength. His grandfather’s hand felt twice as big as his own.

“Look at you two” said the blond nurse.

“That’s my boy Blondie, the youngest of the McFetridge clan.” With a nod he released Reid’s hand. Calmly, he took out his handkerchief from somewhere and blew his nose.

“This is a friend of mine from Queen’s,” he said, pointing at Taylor at the door. “Taylor Goth, one of my housemates.” He waved at my grandfather.

“Hello Taylor.”

“Hi Mr. McFetridge. Nice to meet you.”

“Ah, the damn hip you know.” He sat up more and got some of his old swagger back.

“Hello Taylor,” said Gramma McFetridge turning to him. “I feel like he’s family. Come here dear; let me give you a hug. All of this is so emotional.” Taylor awkwardly bent down and let Reid’s grandmother embrace him.

“Why do you let this character call you Blondie?” said Reid, looking at the nurse playfully and pointing at his grandfather. She smiled and watched the patient let out the distinctive McFetridge laugh that shot to ends of the corridor, which caused strands of white hair to fall to either side of his head. The weak muscles in his neck were fully exposed through his light blue hospital gown.

Taylor stepped to his bedside and was greeted with the disproportionately large hands of Grampa McFetridge. Taylor turned his arm with body English to sway the strength of his hand.

“That’s a fine grip Mr. McFetridge.” Taylor’s eyes gleamed.

“You’re a strong young lad aren’t you Mr. Goth?”

“Sure.” The confidence of Reid’s grandfather contrasted against Taylor’s bashfulness.

“Yes, I can see it.” Reid looked at the diagonal contours ingrained in his grandfather’s forehead, a mark of distinction that bore a common familial bond.

“I’m happy you came boys. What, you must be here to chase the French girls then eh?” He gave Reid a wink.

“Actually, it looks like you’ve done that yourself Grampa!” It was strange: his grandfather’s character coming out in him.

“Did you hear that Blondie?” They laughed again except this time Reid looked into his grandfather’s eyes and didn’t look away. For the first time his grandfather was seeing Reid as a man.

“Oh Mr. McFetridge, what it would be like if you were fifty years younger, and single!” She grabbed his forearm as their laughter filled the room with the same unique cadence.

“If I could only turn back time, eh old boy?” Blondie took her cue and left. That’s when Grampa leaned closer to Reid. “Remember what I always told you Reid: don’t let anyone ever tell you life is short because it’s not. It’s long.”

“Yes, I remember Grampa.” He was proud as he looked at Reid standing beside him.

“You’re just like I was,” he said with a tear in his eye. “You’re just like me when I was twenty.”

Chapter 28

Visigoths in Tweed


Taylor’s loquacity had settled down after they had crossed the longest unguarded border in the world, but when they turned onto the main feeder street into New York City he revived back to his usual gregarious self. Approaching the metropolis the sun was like a tangerine suspended in the dirty white haze covering the city’s skyscrapers. Compared to Kingston, the full radiance of the sun was hindered by hanging smog.

“Let’s go straight to a pub in Greenwich Village,” said Taylor on the edge of his seat.

“What about accommodation?”

“Ah, we’ll worry about that later. If worse comes to worse, we’ll crash in the car.”

“The car?”

“Who knows? If we wear our tweeds maybe we’ll get lucky. After seeing your grandfather I’m beginning to see that you might have it in you.”

“Some what?”

“Some game.”

They didn’t have a map of New York and Taylor only had a vague idea of where Greenwich Village was. The first thing they did upon Taylor’s insistence was pull over to grab a six-pack of Michelob from the closest corner store. Reid then made a turn that looked like it went toward the east end of Manhattan but instead it took them into Spanish Harlem. They crossed a short bridge and passed a deserted street with an abandoned car on fire.

“Did you see that?”

Reid nodded as he slowed the car. They watched the flames burn from its interior. Moments later, when they were stopped at a stoplight, an old black man approached them with a bucket. He washed the front window so they both scrambled for some money. When the light turned green, the windshield was smudged with bug guts and dirty water. It was in worse condition than before, but Taylor gave the man a Canadian two-dollar bill. As Reid hit the accelerator they heard an angered muffle from the man with the bucket.

On their meandering way to Greenwich Village they rode through an industrial sector that was a wasteland of abandoned factories and rusted machinery. Old railroad tracks were hidden among weeds between graffiti-covered buildings. In time they found Greenwich and a place to park underground, where they changed their clothes in the parking lot, supplied their wallets with condoms and put on tweed jackets. Locking up the car, they walked to the hotel above the underground parking to exchange currency. With money in their pockets, they found the infamous Bleaker Street with bars above and below ground. An over choice.

“Let’s go into this mead hall,” said Taylor. It was called Darwin’s. Inside, the dull brass pipe along the long wooden bar was packed with people wearing black. Behind the bar were rows of bottles magnified by a large mirror and backlight, with a sign in the corner that read:




There was some wisdom in that little sign, Reid thought to himself. Not wanting to just throw back booze and get into a frenzy like another rowing regatta, he sought to get away from the drinking norms of the student ghetto and merge into the culture of New York: the headquarters of the United Nations and the soul of America. For some reason it was important to understand this place; it was part of his education. This was the kind of classroom he wanted to be in: to entwine himself into the fabric of New York’s Greenwich Village for a night just like his grandfather had done when he moved from London to Paris in the 1920s. This was what he thirsted. Reid was tired of living in a school bubble.

They ordered beer and sat down at a corner table in front of a live band where the guitar and drums vibrated his pant legs.

“I have a problem when it comes to music,” Taylor said.

“You have a problem? I’ll say.” They were both looking around, soaking it in like a sponge. People kept coming in but there was no more room.

“When I listen to it I can’t help tapping my foot to the beat. It’s a compulsion. When I took music in high school my music teacher said that I had what they call perfect pitch. It means that I could pick a C out of the air just like that, without hearing a note beforehand.” Taylor’s foot tapped to the beat of the band under the table.

“I thought that was called relative pitch?”

“That’s when you can pick out a C when you have just heard a note to give you a frame of reference. Perfect pitch is when you can sing a C out of the blue without any reference.”

“I never took music in high school.” There was a man sitting at the next table who still had his tie done up. He was looking at the elbow patches on their tweed jackets.

“See? He’s admiring our tweeds. He can tell we’re university students because the tweed tells him we’re cultivating the little barbarian within us.”

“I doubt it Taylor.”

“The soul of a barbarian is a deep well, and its cultivation is the refining of a finely tuned instrument.

“A barbarian? C’mon man.”

“Everyone is a barbarian prior to education. Applying the wisdom you gain, not from school but from living life, cultures one’s little barbarian. And cultured barbarians wear tweed.”

Taylor spotted two women who came into Darwin’s with three guys trailing behind them. For no reason Taylor waved at the women to join them. It was the blonde, not the brunette, who responded by approaching.

“Didn’t I just see you at the corner of 13th and 14th St.’s?” asked Taylor, extending his hand to the blond woman. Thirteenth and fourteenth streets didn’t intersect.

“Oh? Who are you?”

“That’s a good question. We’re Norsemen from Canada,” Taylor said with a proud smile as if were an achievement.

“Horsemen?” the brown-haired woman asked with interest. Standing up, Taylor’s multi-dimensional mind swelled in youthful inspiration.

“No, we drove actually, but we have a good buddy who’s a horseman.” Taylor held his deadpan for a moment. “We’re from the Great White North.”

“The north?” They stood uneasily with blank looks on their faces. “We’re from North Carolina.” It appeared as if they had already been pub-crawling.

“I’m Taylor.”

“I’m Reid.”

“We’re Visigoths.”


“Yes, we’re western Goths currently displaced in Canada.” The woman with the blond hair sat beside Taylor.

“Oh, I see. Canada.”

“Where are you from Yellow Hat?


“Where abouts are you from?”

“North Carolina,” she repeated.

“But where in North Carolina Amber Helmet?

“Excuse me?”


“Charleston actually.” One of the men offered to buy a round of drinks and promptly left for the bar.

“So what do you do with your time Sandy?” asked Taylor, rising to the demand of spontaneity.

“What did you call me?” she asked, smiling.

“What do you do with your time Sandy Summit?

“I’m a bank clerk.”

“Bank clerk? Well Flaxen Cap, my pal here is a banker.” She moved closer to Taylor. She didn’t really understand what he was saying but she liked his smile when he spoke.

“What about you?” Reid asked the brunette.

“I’m a chef.”

“Saucier?” He couldn’t suppress his smile, and added: “Hazel Nut.”

“Yes, a saucier. How would you-, oh never mind.”

“Plenty of sauce,” Taylor said just as the round of drinks arrived. The beer flowed until Taylor and Reid were in full stride. The women kept laughing as Taylor and Reid, unflinching and charismatic in delivery, spoke of their exploits with sweeping embellishments. The four of them gravitated towards each other while the other three men sat awkwardly, buying rounds until the table was crammed with drinks eventually left untouched.

With the seasoned guitarist strumming his guitar, Reid and the brunette followed the rhythm of the band to the Dionysian-charged dance floor, carefully weaving through sweaty bodies and shuffling their way up to the foot of the stage. The sharpness of the notes filled him with an immediacy of spirit, tasting the sweet intermingling of music and philosophy as if a honeycomb of barbarian truth.

Returning to their table, they noticed that the three guys had left.

“Who were those guys?” asked Reid.

“Friends of ours.”

“They probably went to another bar.”

“How would you like to come back with us to our hotel suite?” said the sandy-haired woman to Taylor. “We’re sharing.”

“Sure Sunflower Toque.” Taylor gave Reid a subtle frown.

“Want to go to Time’s Square?” asked Reid, looking at Hazel.

“That’s a good idea,” she replied. “Let’s check it out.”

When the two couples separated, Reid and Hazel hopped in the taxi and toured around Manhattan eventually making it to Time’s Square, but neither of them saw anything. They groped with zeal in the back seat with the stringed notes of music still playing in their heads. By the time they stumbled to the suite, Taylor and his dance partner had passed out in the huge king size bed. Giggling, they spread a comforter and other blankets that had been left out for them on the carpet in the far corner behind a table. They slipped under the covers and at first were cold but soon warmed up as they continued dancing in a horizontal manner. As Reid fell asleep, he dreamt that his prophylactic had come off somewhere in the shuffle.


The following morning Reid woke up under the covers with Hazel. Slowly he arose, slipped on his clothes and beheld the shapely dancer lying under the blankets. Stealthily, he negotiated around the flung clothing scattered on the floor and looked over to Taylor, who arose without a word. He gathered his clothes and gingerly sidestepped the sleeping bodies on his way to the door out of the room into the hallway. Once out of the room and into the elevator, Taylor couldn’t control his laughter.

“Thrust-” Taylor began, trying his best to say something but unable to complete his sentence. “Thrust-” he said again but stopped. Reid was hunched over in the elevator crippled with laughter looking at Taylor’s puffy eyes and lipstick-smudged cheeks. “Perry!” In an instant there was just the soundless convulsing of pure hysterics. Tears swelled. Their two frames, shaking in their creased shirts, were like two leaves fluttering in the wind. Reid almost wet his pants he was laughing so hard.

Landing on the ground floor they tried to look dignified in their tweed jackets despite their unknowingly dishevelled appearance and conspicuously slipped on their sunglasses over their red watery eyes. The doorman opened the door for them as they strolled out the lobby. Walking the few blocks to the underground lot, they grabbed the car and drove south towards to a pier jutting out to the Hudson River. Outside, Reid and Taylor rambled along the old paved waterfront passing an assortment of piers extending out into the New York harbour. The skyscrapers dominated the skyline amid the ruckus of honking horns. Straightening his posture, Reid looked up across the river where there was a boatlifting crane at the water’s edge.

“We made it happen, eh McFetty?” Taylor looked at Reid from behind his Ray Bans as they walked out onto the pier.

“We took a chance-“

“And the results were serendipitous,” he said with characteristic knavery, causing Reid to see that Taylor was not just a poet but an adverbial dilettante: an artist blessed with a penchant for adventure.

Looking like two Visigoths in tweed who embodied the vigour of warriors in the aftermath of sacking a city of the ruling empire, they enjoyed the sight of the Statue of Liberty down the river at the estuary where the fresh water flow met the saltwater tides. Reid filled his lungs with the salty ocean air feeling the vital forces of freedom shoot through the haze of his soul reaching an inner depth of clarity where the past faded into a hollow echo as the future blossomed into fresh possibilities. The pale orange sun above him strengthened an emerging character out of anxiety and doubt; his shaky foundation was finding solid ground.

Experiencing the vital force of freedom, an inner fire had been fanned.

Chapter 29

The Unseen Hand


The ride back in the station wagon to Toronto gave Reid the opportunity to think. His imagination flourished with ideas of trips to foreign lands and exotic cities around the world, aware of all the options that lay at his fingertips. He thought of Taylor’s brother in China and Thailand, his grandfather’s life in France after the war, and Michelle’s upcoming year in Australia. His wanderlust and hunger for adventure threatened his old paradigm but also lured his thoughts away from his old template of what he wanted. It was only when they approached Toronto that despair started creeping in on the party he was having in his imagination.

When they arrived at Drake’s house he wanted to keep it simple and drop off the station wagon, see Drake, get the money for a train and then leave. He knocked on the door.

“Reid, thank you for coming,” said Mr. Ketchum. “Oh, you both came?”

“I needed to do a few things in Toronto this afternoon,” Taylor replied, sharp as a tack. Mr. Ketchum nodded doubtfully, giving them a suspicious look. Maybe he smelled the booze from last night.

“Here are the keys,” said Reid. They had their knapsacks and had cleaned out the car of any evidence from their road trip to the States. He took the keys but didn’t say anything.

“Is Drake around?” Reid asked.

“No, he’s resting right now.”

“Um, resting? I wanted to see him.”

“I don’t think the timing is right. He’s just taken some medication and is adjusting to his room.” Reid had the courage to look at him right in the eye and what he saw disturbed him. The accusatory vibe was still there.

“That’s too bad because exams are coming up and I don’t think we’ll have the chance again to see him until after the term is over.”

“I guess it’s tough luck then,” he replied. Taylor looked at Reid with an eyebrow raised.

Tough luck,” Taylor said, incredulous. “Is that what you said?”

“Yes Taylor.”

“Okay, well it was no problem driving the car back,” said Reid. “We were able to talk about some of our assignments on the road so don’t think it was an imposition.” Mr. Ketchum, who seemed to be fluent in this doublespeak, replied in kind.

“I’m sure you didn’t mind the break from the library. And judging by the way you look, it appears as if you were able to have a good time.” He took out his wallet slowly. “My wife said that she would give you the money to get back to school. Here it is. I hope it also covers the gas for the ride.”

“Thank you.” Then he looked at Taylor.

“I’m sorry but I didn’t know you were going to be here as well Taylor.”

“No sir. How would you? But you’re right: it was a nice break from the library. I have enough for the ride back to Kingston.”

“Is Drake all right?”

“As far as it goes, he is.”

“Are you sure we can’t say hello?”

“It would be best for him to rest. I know you understand.” There was that look again. Pure guile.

“Okay, please tell him we wanted to see him.” They said bye and left for the bus stop, but as they were walking away Reid turned back to look at Drake’s bedroom window. He wasn’t sure but he thought he saw something move in the window – a hand maybe. For some reason Reid didn’t wave back. Instead, the two of them ran for the bus that was approaching, and made it to the train station downtown, leaving on the next train for Kingston.

During the train ride he thought about everything that had happened since September and it occurred to him the only things he had really liked were the new things he’d done, like philosophy and rowing and the New York trip. Everything else was boring. He wanted to keep doing new things and learn all those unwritten rules that nobody had bothered to teach him. Sick of doing the same damn thing all the time, he wanted to break the chains that were holding him back. He wanted to be a Visigoth in tweed and explore, like his grandfather had done, who broke away from England and lived in France and learned French and cycled around Europe. The times were different but the instinct to explore wasn’t; the environment might change but the instinct in man remains constant.

Chapter 30

The Ice Bridge


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. It was a kick for him to write it out and argue that way he saw it. And it helped that he had started keeping a journal that Taylor had given him, writing down his thoughts to help him with expressing his ideas for the essay he had to write and to write down his ideas.

It fostered his true voice.

The end of term came and went and he managed writing his exams but without a lot of heart. He was an expert at regurgitating what needed to be filled in on end-of-term tests, which was how he was able to get into the best university in Canada. But he was proud to hand in his essay to Bakhurst. The time he had over Christmas was quiet. But what bugged him the most was that he wasn’t allowed to see Drake. His parents had kept saying he was busy recovering and that he would see him back at school in the New Year. They had left for Kingston early to find him a new place for him to live where a nurse would come and see him every day in order for him to focus on his studies. Both Reid and Taylor still harboured concern at his returning to university so soon after the incident, thinking it was too much for him to undertake. They both visited him in his new room in a big house near the hospital, but it was void of any warmth. It was a huge room with a kitchenette but lacked any comfort.

Both Reid and Taylor were fearful for him and both knew he was going to struggle with his studies. He still walked with a limp and had issues with his motor skills, which was tough for Reid to see. But he visited him regularly and tried his best to help him out whenever he could.

During the third week of the new term he went to visit Drake as he usually did after his philosophy class twice a week, always eager to discuss the latest Bakhurst teachings, but when he arrived there Drake was nowhere to be seen. It was strange because Drake had been on his mind all day for some reason. He figured he was at a doctor’s appointment. But instead of returning to his house, and since he was so close to the lake and there had been a deep freeze for over a week, he decided to see if it was possible to cross the ice to Wolfe Island as Drake had said in the fall. The sun was shining and the day was too young to return home. Besides, something inside him whispered to him to go forth and cross the ice across the mouth of the mighty St. Lawrence River where it meets Lake Ontario.

He did it for Drake.


The orange sunset was a stillness of humbling power, glimmering against the cloudless sky over the western shores of Lake Ontario. Reid had chosen the huge stone church on a hill on Wolfe Island as his point of orientation to navigate across the ice to Wolfe Island. He stopped and eased his rubbery legs on the rocky shore, and warmed his near frozen fingers as he looked back across the ice to Kingston and the fort. The emerging twilight came from the pewtered orange hue on the western horizon.

“Well I wonder how many people have done that?” he said aloud to himself, standing on the bank.

Reid had successfully reached the shores of Wolfe Island after walking across the ice from Kingston near the hospital despite there being some broken up slabs of ice near the island.

“An ice bridge,” he said, feeling the flush of pride from a feat so few had ever done. “I just walked across a Canadian ice bridge.” The flat white surface spread for miles between the mainland and the island, connected only by the below-zero winter winds. While Reid stood on the shore with frosty toes, a large brown heron stopped on a branch just above the rocks. He enjoyed the quiet tranquility he felt from the darkening blue sky fusing with the flat white horizon.

Reid spoke to the bird on the overhanging branch.

“Yeah, it’s a cold one but it’s beautiful.” The bird watched Reid with one eye. Moments went by without a sound until the wind bit his eyes and cheeks. “Become who you are, eh my winged friend?” Speaking had become like a bird’s song; the way the words were spoken gave the words a higher definition of communication. He didn’t care he was speaking to a wild bird. The heron looked inquisitively at Reid in the light of the sunset. Amazing there were still birds in this cold.

Reid began to walk to the road along the shoreline when he was overtaken by a raging thirst. His eyes burned when he reached the intersection at the road going south towards Cape Vincent. He saw the limestone church he had followed, poised on the hill beside a two-hundred-year-old cemetery and, without any hesitation, crossed the road. Reid’s legs felt like chilled toothpicks in the crosswinds. Over a small frozen creek and past the tombstones in the cemetery was the church. Amid the bare maples he approached the old oak door darkened with shellac. It was covered with black claws of metal fastened to the wood connected to the handle. He pulled it open and walked into the church, the air still and the stained-glass windows radiating dark colours from the setting sun on the horizon.

It was eerie and surreal how it was so still inside after the violence of the crossing.

With the sounds of crunching snow still echoing through the yoke of his ears, Reid quietly walked down the aisle to a pew feeling like a wolf from the steppes. He sat down, putting his knapsack at his feet full of philosophy books. He sat solemnly with his hands together warming his fingertips and felt the divine energy that fuelled his conquest. His thoughts again turned to Drake, then he recalled his crooked look. Aware; unaware. It was all still so sad.

The silence creaked in the corners of the church as he looked up at the altar. He saw in the stained-glass window an image of one of the prophets and was reminded of the words he had written as he crossed the ice, so he took out his journal from his knapsack and flipped it to where he had written:

In a one-manned übermensch tribe

I hike with the sword of the scribe,

Having escaped from classroom eulogy

Into Nature’s raw ontology.

The whiteness is a mirror to the sun

And I feel the power of the star,

Side-leaping in rhythmed lightness,

I strive for the island afar.

The silence of the journey makes me sad

But the beauty it brings gives me strength.

As my soles crackle over the frozen water

In a blinding clarity of thought.

A glimpse of a true colour

And a feeling of unity,

Is all one is allowed to discover

As an individual of multiplicity.

Meandering tracks on this desert of ice

Tells of a history frozen in my wake,

I turn to look at my footprints behind

A testament to the effort I make.

Reflected from the carpet of snow

‘One’s cant is their truth’ I say,

Energy radiates from the sun into my eyes

Into the field of ultra-violet rays.

In the tradition of pioneers

My pupils search for the line,

I conquer a new frontier

Between ice and treeline.

Flat and white and too bright to squint

I trample over the rippled grains of ice,

My existence is a crisp glow

In a purity that will forever be with me.

He looked at what he had written and knew it was crappy but that didn’t matter because he could polish his words, improve his skills of expression and perhaps – eventually – master the art of writing. What he now knew was that he liked self-expression and creativity. It was all there for him to do. He just had to take the step.

Reid sat in the now dark church and could somehow see a flickering of lights through the church window from the winds of the lake. Standing up and walking down the aisle to the door, the cold air rushed over him like a blanket of God.

Reaching Marysville he went to the old general store where he bought a half pint of chocolate milk to satisfy his craving for something sweet. When he spoke as he paid for the milk his words were broken and almost incoherent, like that of a child learning to speak. The woman behind the cash register understood what he meant from the movement of his eyes. He went outside and quaffed the pure sweetness of chocolate. With the deep chill of winter settling in, the chocolate milk soon froze around the edges of his mouth.

Walking past the General Wolfe Tavern to the ferry dock, he wasn’t surprised to see the boat just pulling up to unload the cars and passengers to the island. He was aware that serendipity was in play that had ushered the way safely for him. He watched the icy cars drive onto Wolfe Island, savouring the fact that he had chosen to brave the walk. He boarded the ferry and went into the heated cabin, letting the warm air defrost his extremities. Sitting down his could feel the burn on his reddened cheeks and his frozen toes begin to throb.

Soon he descended the stairs to the platform where he faced the last of the western glow, the sun having graduated to a dark purple bordering on black as it radiated from beyond the horizon. The northerly wind now blew off the ice in its rawest bite. He looked out to the natural land bridge and wondered about its history and its victims, as the ferry broke through the crushed ice on its way back to the mainland. Reid looked across the ice and could still make out the red roofs of Fort Henry and the Royal Military College on the little peninsula in the mouth of the Cataraqui River. The fort stood poised behind its earth walls and canons.

“You’re a mighty wind Mr. Fox,” he said unto the oncoming winds. His cheeks burned in the ice cold but he didn’t care. The weathered steel hull battled through the broken slabs of ice with the frostiness of indifference navigating to the icy dome of city hall amid the chiming evening bells of the old limestone churches that peppered old Kingston.

Chapter 31



Reid was elated by what he had done, and was excited to tell Drake of his exploit. But when he arrived old tensions returned when he saw his father’s car in the driveway. 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 leaves 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 what he had just done or 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. His 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 when he was a young boy returned. But now, for some reason facing him, 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 about to burst. “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. 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 countless times he had hit him with that wooden spoon on his bare ass 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 hated 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 walked down the streets not knowing where he was going until he 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 and the ice bridge he had just crossed. It was dark already but the lights of the city lit the surrounding area as if it were Christmas Eve. 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 skies filled with fluffy snowflakes, the ground all around him soon covered 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 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 concrete wall of old Fort Henry and left for her house in the student ghetto.

He made it to her front porch 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. 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. 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. No one. 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 late-night study hall, 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.

Chapter 32

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 him to the core.

“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 finally been extracted after months of festering. He thought of a quote from Nietzsche that he had written down in his journal: Nothing brings a man down faster than the passion of resentment. So true that was.

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 good arm feeling her body against his and her fine hair on his closed eyes. She pulled him tighter; he could smell 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. From the pouring heavens of Valhalla, he no longer feared to love as it snowed among the rubble of headstones and snowdrifts.

Chapter 33

So Then…


That’s pretty much what I have to say. I suppose I should say that when I went to the hospital they told me I had a dislocated shoulder, and the weird thing was as soon as they put it back in the socket the pain disappeared. All that suffering and it was gone in one second.

Now, a few years after all this stuff happened, Drake is dead and my Grampa is dead and Erin is married and Taylor is making films and Bakhurst is still teaching his philosophy classes and Michelle is here in the other room near the University of Sydney. I guess I could say that if there is a universal justice in the soul of man, it’s only in that we all have today, and maybe that’s good enough. I suppose if you can learn that, then life isn’t so bad. And if there’s an irony to it all, it’s that I miss those days just as tomorrow I’ll miss writing this down today. It’s raining outside but I still have time for a ride on my mountain bike down to the beach before dark. Might as well because you never know what’s going to happen tomorrow.

In Sydney. Michelle took the photo.

Excerpt from Reid’s journal


About the Author

Peter Higgins was born in Vancouver but grew up in Toronto, graduating from Queen’s University in 1990 and then with a master’s degree from the University of Hong Kong in 2004. Mr. Higgins worked as a professional writer in Taiwan, the Philippines and Hong Kong for ten years before he returned to Canada to write. He currently lives with his family on Manitoulin Island, Ontario Canada.

Editor’s Note

More about the Visigoths:

The Visigoths were attacked by the Huns in 376 and driven southward across the Danube River into the Roman Empire. They were allowed to enter the empire but the exactions of Roman officials soon drove them to revolt and plunder the Balkan provinces, assisted by some Ostrogoths. On Aug.9th, 378, they utterly defeated the army of the Roman emperor Valens on the plains outside Adrianople, killing the emperor himself. For four more years they continued to wander in search of somewhere to settle. In October 382 Valen’s successor, Theodosius I, settled them in Moesia (in the Balkans) as federates, giving them land there and imposing on them the duty of defending the frontier. It was apparently during this period that the Visigoths were converted to Aryan Christianity. They remained in Moesia until 395, when, under the leadership of Alaric, they left Moesia and moved first southward into Greece and then to Italy, which they invaded repeatedly from 401 onward. Their depredations culminated in the sacking of Rome in 410. In the same year Alaric died and was succeeded by Ataulphus, who led the Visigoths to settle first in southern Gaul, then in Spain in 415.

While persistently trying to extend their territory, often at the empire’s expense, the Visigoths continued to be federates until 475, when king Euric codified laws issued by himself and his predecessors. Fragments of his code, written in Latin, have survived. The first of the Germanic tribes to invent their own twenty-seven-letter alphabet, they prospered until the Moors of North Africa defeated them in 711.