The townhouse went to a wily Amanda Jones, who outbid a smug Frank Fawcett and a timid couple from North Bay whose names I never did get straight. Amanda had just gotten a promotion at one of the pharmaceutical giants straddling Streetsville and had money to burn, not to mention two youngsters she was determined to have walking to the local grade school, which she already knew was four hundred yards to the south. The sparkle in her Yes told me she could burn another couple of husbands with ease, if needs be.
On the way home a Halton Region detective called to ask when he might come by and ask some questions concerning the activities of a certain Sandra Spencer and her ex Bill. My name had been passed along by my wife Gerry. I didn’t spew the c-word into the phone but I felt like it. That bitch, she could tell I was having fun without her. I suggested he come over right away and he was happy to comply. I’d always suspected detectives worked the 3 to 11shift. Another offer from the maybe Saudis as I was turning into the driveway, slightly up from their last. I said I would do what I could to get a response from Carlos, who’d been incommunicado for some hours now; strange as he’d previously seemed desperate to unload the place, and stranger as he’d always, until now, had a phalanx of assistants to respond on the first ring. Maybe his battery had gone done.
Derek Austin seemed pleasant enough; I don’t know why we expect cops to be gorillas, they hardly ever are. Maybe it’s television. I dunno, but detectives always seemed a bit like high school teachers to me; you know, always trying to convince you that just because they’ve got short hair and suits it doesn’t mean they’re cissies. He seemed to be digging about Bill mostly, so I spoke quite frankly about the enmity between us, his high class horsey set connections, and possessions and lifestyle accoutrements above and beyond the call of duty. It had always seemed a bit suspicious to me, but smelling a rat isn’t seeing one, unless you tromp on its head on the way out the door after a party, which I never did.
And yes, there was recreational pot smoking at their parties, but no more than anywhere else. And I certainly didn’t know about the high tech goings on in the basement. And no, I don’t think Gerry did either, but as we were definitely on the outs and had been for some time, her life was pretty much a closed book to me.
Derek thanked me for my assistance and said he had the feeling he’d be back sometime, as the fire and Bill’s disappearance were still under investigation. I said nothing about my sudden psychic suspicion that Bill was slowly decomposing at the bottom of Hamilton harbor, or my recent discovery of the meaning of life after a brief chat with a very witty and amiable god, why, just yesterday evening. And despite further revelations of both the criminal and spiritual variety, I still consider this a very wise choice in the circumstances. Derek did, however, want the scoop on Oakville, as his wife, freshly shorn up with a substantial inheritance, was mooning over it regularly. If four or five G’s weren’t a problem I could find him her dream home, not exactly in the old village, but darn close, on some very lovely and desirable cul-de-sacs. He smiled the wan smile of a man who could see his Mercedes melting in the mist and we exchanged cards and handshakes.
I resisted the snarly temptation to call Gerry and blast her into next week, reasoning that compassion and forgiveness ought to be the hallmarks of the post-enlightenment life. I then fell to considering whether leaving her to stew in her own juice, as she most likely would be doing at her mother’s, was in actuality compassionate, or reveling in vengeance at a safe distance. As these ruminations were accompanied by two Upper Canada dark ales and some crackers and cheese, I ended up not troubling myself overmuch, and finally broke down and called Clea.
She’d just finished listening to her ex, who’d had the unmitigated gall to phone from Barbados and whine, but assured me that when she returned with a glass of Moselle she’d be happy to be harangued with tales of local deities. What a nice girl, I thought, in my waiting silence. Who else do I know would welcome such divine crisis intervention?
That was why she was in my life, she added breezily on her return. No, she wasn’t there to shore up my crumbling sanity, she was there to be a sympathetic and educated ear. I had the nerve and the experience, she the background and the essentially coping nature. Plus the old witch inside had to learn empathy for the struggles of men. She was doing fine on that front, I assured.
So far so good. But would she extend her graciousness to a personal interview with the deity? Yes, as it turned out. I had, she felt, ascended to the god consciousness level, likely under heavy protection, as my poor little spirit would burn out its circuits at such a high vibratory level otherwise. A few others in the coffee klatsch had reported similar experiences. Was this semblance of Eric always there? Sometimes, sometimes not. Some of them felt they were communing with their higher selves, which was almost god anyway. I queried this almost god thing. It was felt that higher selves, or monads, were sparks of pure divinity, from which souls emerged to make that traverse through the valley of the shadow of death, our life here that is. As she added that higher selves never actually incarnated themselves, but sent out souls as spies, kind of, I realized that I had this talk from Eric just a couple of nights before.
Clea asked if she might hear any of my actual questions. I ran down the list from my notes. Chuckling she said she approved of the lot. Couldn’t have put it better herself. Her favorite line was I not only love it, I am it. She also liked the way Eric and I worked as a team. I felt supported and teased at the same time. What more could a guy ask for? Clea agreed: she was just what I needed. The universe was like that, presenting you with just what you needed when you needed it. For a moment the urge to patronize presented itself, but I bravely resisted, knowing precisely nothing about this void thing that everything was supposed to emerge from. Later I cautiously recounted this temptation to Clea, who couldn’t keep from laughing, saying, knowing nothing about the void that’s just perfect, I love it.
She was also just what her son needed that night: he’d been bullied once again at school that day, and was feeling pretty low. And she was sure there was some boy he was in love with but he just wouldn’t say. She was more than willing to sigh and cite the teenage years, she said, if it hadn’t been much the same with her ex, just off the blower from Barbados, where his rich boyfriend had skulked off in a tantrum to Aruba, leaving him with the pool maintenance, a surly housekeeper and creditors galore.
Sometimes I think Frank Zappa was right you know.
How do you mean? I asked, trying to sound intelligent, knowing diddly about Zappa except some joke I’d heard at a party about going to Montana and raising some dental floss.
Well that thing about life being high school with money.
I’ll second that.
Despite myself I was trying desperately to appropriate something useful from my mother’s large stock of Beatles’ quotes, either to impress Clea with my pop worldliness or to keep her from talking any more about her gay son, I wasn’t sure. Maybe I should chat up my local deity and get his opinion on the matter. I made a mental note to that effect, and let Clea’s good sense charm me for the rest of the call.
Thus emboldened, I pressed Margaret’s number, madly hoping that Gerry had suddenly gone out for a walk. Sympathy for her tabloid scandal life seemed anything but available. Guilt wanted to advise me on my precarious position, but I shunned its seductive barrage. Margaret wanted to know where the hell I’d been all this time. I told her I’d been busy. Well, she didn’t think Geraldine wanted to talk to me anyway. Why didn’t I get her away from that Sandra bitch anyway? She wasn’t doin’ her no good. Been on the phone all damn day and night she had. Must be made of money that girl. Why didn’t I come over to visit once in a while, she’d be glad to make me some tea and some good rye bread and liverwurst. I said I’d come over just as soon as I got a spare hour; things had been busy for me. So I’d been selling lots of houses then, that was good. Was it to good law abiding citizens, she hoped so, there was so much crime and slime these days, even in Mississauga. The smoother the suit the slimier the man, she’d seen it with her own eyes, and it got worse every day. Look at that fortune teller fella, murdered in his own house a year back and still no arrests. Don’t tell her that wasn’t slime: she knew slime when she smelt it. And that counsellor takin’ bribes, he ain’t seen the inside of a jail cell either. It all stunk. Now what’s all this between me and Geraldine, over here all the time, I’m gettin’ so I can’t hardly stand it, could I not come and drag her out?
Margaret, I said, I can’t control her, she’s got a mind of her own.
Like stink she has, she’s a cunning bitch, and that’s the truth. You never shoulda married her, I told you already.
She was right there, she had told me, about a month before the wedding. My girl’s not right in the head, she’d said, get out while the going’s good. But I’d been well warned about the strokes and the wingy logic so I took her advice and placed it in the family dysfunction pocket, where it remained, along with my old man’s she’ll chew you to bits boy until sometime the previous year when I’d finally realized the utter hopelessness of it all and settled into a life that was more mine than hers. She didn’t like it: I wasn’t to be wound up or around anything anymore. I may not have been my own man but at least I was no longer hers.
Margaret had been barreling along during all this and when I plugged back in she was raving about pollution in the lake and how friends of hers had seen ufo’s out over the water at dusk. And I needn’t make fun as one of them even had film of them. I asked her if Gerry was there. She said yes, she was in the shower. If I waited a minute she’d go and get her.
Laugh, I thought I’d choke. Margaret’s apartment was just large enough to keep me from overhearing any washroom banter, but I could easily imagine the ansty exchange. Gerry would likely have been sleeping in the small bedroom which faced onto the adjacent apartment block, trying to ignore Mrs. Ufkiss’s nightly hymn recitals on one of those cheesy department store organs, while Margaret watched tv and called to her about every second snippet on CNN. By this point she’d likely be fit to be tied.
She scowled at me down the phone. What did I want, blood? No, I did not, I merely wanted to check in and see she was okay. She was doing fine thanks. Sandra had been bailed out and was staying at her mother’s in Milton and she was just on her way over there now. It sounded like a good move. As far as I knew the house was roomy enough for ten and Martha was still capable of something that could pass for polite conversation and civilized behavior. Gerry didn’t care for my good wishes, hadn’t a clue where Bill was, and wanted me to look into buying out her share of our home. That last I could take care of and pledged myself to the task. She seemed momentarily pleased with what must’ve been a small victory and was winding down the proceedings when I heard Margaret yell she’s a fucken lesbian slut from the other room. I wanted to chuckle but choked it, saying goodbye to my ex-wife with, oh, I dunno, steely reserve. The sudden fire at Bill and Sandra’s remained unspoken and somehow taboo. Then again, neither of us mentioned Derek’s little visit. Another time perhaps. Looking back, I think I just wanted to see if I could sail him into his wife’s dream home in the charmed dreamtime only someone like me can muster.
Ignoring some pressing paperwork, I watered the plants, sprayed off any bad karma with a hot shower and merged with my bed in a mute ecstasy of abandon. I don’t care what the endless generations of roughing-it-in-the-bush religionists say, a good night’s sleep is the best reward any society or ideology can offer. Or I could just be getting old. What reassuring human thoughts to be having, I pondered in the dark. How anti-omniscient and downright dull! Maybe I was just hypnotizing myself with all this little man humanity, but I was enjoying the charade and the sweet interlude it offered. All too soon I knew I would again be called as a witness for the divine prosecution, and that my anxiety would likely outpace my excitement.
Neither kept me from sleep however, and that blessed ablution washed over me forthwith. That’s right, the snoozers invaded and settled all outstanding debts to the day. I came to in some generic parliament type building, the type of place I used to think only pretentious people felt comfortable in.
Maybe I was joining the club, because my comfort level was way up. I wandered grand hallways smiling and nodding. Men, women, and what looked like aliens on loan, some with files and some not, glided by, giving off that unmistakable scent of purpose. I wondered where on earth I was. Not on earth was the answer. Galactic Federation Central was the reply to my where then? Sounded terribly sci-fi somehow. I found myself in a gallery overlooking a rectangular space engaged in a very civilized debate. There was no shouting or waving of hands, and truth be told, not much moving of lips either. I did not have headphones on, but it felt as though I did, as the comments of various delegates were, well, in my head, sort of.
What were they discussing you’ll want to know, despite what is probably an increasing desire to invoke psychiatric categories to silence any whispers of empathy. I don’t blame you: given the foregoing I’d do the same myself. But honestly, don’t you think full blown psychosis is marked by broadsides of earnest sincerity reeking of revelation rather than the kind of self-deprecating dither you’re getting here? The debate, such as I can recall it now, even with notes taken at the time, seemed to center around our, that is humans, readiness to be accepted into this Galactic Federation thing. Some thought we definitely were and should be encouraged in every possible way. Others believed a more measured approach was appropriate, a very gradual opening of some cosmic door so that the shock of the new wouldn’t scatter us back into the caves and forests. A third group, if you can call a medley of opinions pattering about my brain a group, seemed to favour some kind of moratorium on the whole issue, as our terminally corrupt and warlike ways would have us in their grip for at least another century. Why bother it’s a waste of effort seemed to sum it up.
During the, shall we say, experience, I was held, thumbs down, in a kind of musical spellbound, as each little speech spun through the reception area assumed by telepathy bubbled and curled in lilting droops and sallies. That’s all I can say and it’s probably too much, but it’s the best I can do after many minutes of thumb biting torment. The participants themselves were a variety of lights, some pulsating, some just glowing, and even, mercifully, a few with fuzzy outlines that at least suggested humanoid if not human.
By this point in my lucid dream pilgrimage I’d decided that no evidence was damning enough to warrant exclusion. I thought it was all relevant; the question was, relevant to what? The direction in which the evidence pointed was entirely up to the lawyer’s argument, at least the success of it, the lawyer being you, the interpreter of said revelation. Make of it what you will, oh makers and sustainers of your precious belief systems. And if you don’t mind me saying so, that’s my sole original contribution to this whole sorry mess. The rest just happened to me, but that the lawyer being you, the interpreter of said revelation, is my take on it. So there.
The cosmic parliament thing faded and I found myself in some kind of temple. No, make that cathedral. A cathedral made of crystals, if you can believe it. Shafts of brilliant light pouring in from all angles. Massed choirs calling out heartfelt thanks. An audience enraptured, an ocean of faces in ecstasy. And where was I? Amongst the beings floating overheard. That’s right, angels; angels with wings. Great big feathery things that weren’t nearly as clumsy as they looked. I was not an angel, you’ll be relieved to hear, but I had been allowed inside one. For a moment, just for the ride as it were. And what was that ride like? A cloud of divine bliss buoyed up by love and soaked through with joy. A dancing glint in the eye of god. A devoted servant of awesome destinies. That enough? The angel thought so, and probably with my sanity in mind, let me go. I fell out of bliss like a raindrop and wound up in the river of humanity being held hostage to praise. Some of them felt like they’d been there for years; some yearned for escape. I remembered what I’d been told: You don’t have to do god you have to be god, and for no reason I could recall later, I began to send this thought about me, a thought I barely understood. Don’t let praise hold you back anymore, merge with the divine. Almost lost amidst the surging waves of gospel praise, I watched as various figures popped out of their forms and floated up like brilliant balloons. Soon they were but points of light disappearing into the greater light above.
I next found myself on the grassy banks of a gorgeous river, basking in a light and fragrant breeze. How I got there I couldn’t say, I merely appeared, and those ecstasies of praise were still singing in my ears. Gently rolling meadowland with random stretches of wildflowers and the odd copse of beech, oak, poplar and some prettily unidentifiable others seemed to be the order of the day. The me that was here seemed knowing and patient, and although I was him I watched him with the greatest of interest as the me who was watching remained as clueless and fuddled as an actor without a script. In the parliament and cathedral I’d been too overwhelmed with the nowness of it all to dissociate and reflect. Here I was having enough of a breather to bother. Not that it helped much. So there was two me’s, the one who knew and the one who didn’t, but there seemed no chance of a profitable commingling.
A small pleasure cruiser came into view. Its stately pace provided me with the opportunity stretching into a pose, a pose that would undoubtedly be noticed by the many passengers seemingly entranced by the beauties of the landscape. Of course they were asleep and dreaming this scene, that I instinctively knew. But only some would recall this pastoral idyll, and they only in hazy fragments, and that was where I, the other one that knew, came in. As the craft approached I ran out to meet it, waving and grinning. Disbelief and shock ran through the faces on board. I ran around the boat laughing and then suddenly jumped up and onto the deck, gladhanding and chatting like the smarmiest politician. It was all a circus act, of course, and when I’d schmoozed sufficiently I jumped out and back onto the water, ran around the boat one more time and raced back to the bank, where I stood and waved until the travelers disappeared around a bend.
I sat back and reflected on a job well done. At least some of these night time lucid dreamers would recall a man who not only walked upon the water, but laughed and frolicked as he did so, and then encouraged them to do the same. On this I then lay back and slipped into some languid stupor which provided me with a silent springboard into that dark pre-dawn world of muted resistance to the struggles of the day.
You will of course be wondering if that is my definition of a good night’s sleep. I seem to be recoiling from defining anything these days, experience being as slippery as seaweed, but my body did feel rested in a peculiar way. My psyche, whatever that is, was energized to the max and I hastily sat up to scribble the basic outline of what you have just read. Somehow none of it felt quite so, well, dangerous as the god interview of the night before, but surely the walking-on-water tale would get me a less than desirable reputation in certain quarters. I longed to phone Eric and have him put it all in some kind of perspective. Well, it was Saturday: I could always offer to fund a leisurely brunch at the Glen Erin Inn. Until then, I decided to watch the progress of dawn, the bedroom window facilitating. So, properly bath-robed and relaxed, I watched light come to our world.
I sat still long enough to feel that humility was the only appropriate reaction, even if it was all an act. Maybe I should explain that. Marvelous really, as most of what has gone down here is as maddeningly elusive to me as it probably is to you, but I think I’ve got a handle on this one. In the slowly exquisite grandeur of the unfolding dawn I felt small and quite unnecessary, although the rather grateful humility which resulted seemed to resound with the knowing that somehow I was greater than it all, but to keep that glory pristine I had to submit. Bragging would be the tawdriest kind of black magic.
After I got that all sorted out and squared away I brewed some coffee and sliced some bread. Feeding myself the fruits of my labours seemed much more gratifying than usual, but I decided not to make too big a deal about it. Why? Oh, I dunno, in case my shadow found out. Was chuckling at your own jokes at this early hour a sign of anything in particular? A slight case of the weekend jollies? That’ll do for now.
I think I must’ve snoozed off in the armchair for a bit, because suddenly it was nine-fifteen. A nasty smelling fart followed me to the washroom, where a stingingly hot shower seemed to finally sever my psychic connection to the night’s secret navigations. Great, I thought, emerging freshly shaved and coiffed, I can talk about it as though it happened to someone else, which maybe, in fact, it did. There was a message on my cell. Mr. Lee asked if I might possibly meet him at the property at about three that afternoon. I tried to reply, hoping to put him off, but there was no answer. Then one of the Saudis rang. I told them that the seller had not answered my last few calls and apologized. I suggested they try again Monday. My man sounded frustrated but I didn’t let myself get hooked; I’d always had the feeling they were baiting a couple of other lines in the city and had already decided not to sweat over it. And as I’d already hustled my butt for some Arabs who’d been quite happy to wait out a dry spell at the Four Seasons for weeks while I scurried hither and thither on the rather empty brag that I been recommended, I took it all with a very large grain of sea salt.
Now it was my turn to use that modern mode of verbal communication: Eric did not answer, but his daughter Elizabeth did. She was already on her own cell to Vancouver and was not willing to spare me much time, never mind recognition. I never had liked the little bitch, always too snooty, just like her mother. Now her big sister Erica, a chip off the old block of course, she was much more my kinda gal, and I had to admit I missed her now that she was away at university. Elizabeth reported that Eric had his meditating sign up, and that meant do not disturb. I said I’d call back. She hung up.
It was the first sobering jolt of the day and I wondered if it would be the first of many. Let’s hope not. Well, did I really care at this point? I mean, once you’d talked to god, even if it was only some kinda regional representative, did anything else really matter? Well, I couldn’t decide and sat down to read over my notes.
I could see them winding up in the laptop sooner than later, if only to hide them more efficiently. A file name like Whoopee! might be the perfect disguise. And maybe with enough Eric editing and input I could convince the world it was really his, and go back to being a soon-to-be-divorced real estate agent currently residing in Mississauga who relaxed by listening to his beloved Beethoven and going for walks by the Credit river. Sounds plausible, doesn’t it?
A quick read through the lot, although not nearly so smooth as you see them now. Boy that second one was so raunchy. Could that possibly have been me? I was never that lusty in my life, not even as a teenager. Eric had said we’re quite different on other planes. But didn’t that completely revolutionize any notion of this we? Yes, surely. Here we’re just the little guy, the low man on the totem pole, the kid banished to the basement. We’re always the last to know. I still didn’t get a tenth of what he said, and here I was, waiting for another chance to get bamboozled. I must be nuts. Maybe I’d be lucky and it’d be a kinder, gentler nuts, one that could be managed with pills and regular exercise. As long as I didn’t wind up monologuing like Margaret: of all the anxieties that seemed to be my itchiest. Maybe Eric’s nest of new-age well-wishers would keep me safe from the righteous storms of revelation.
I poured myself another java and sat by my two jade plants. Christened Craig and Elsie, they shared a calmness that sometimes suited me, and this morning seemed like one of them. I sat, absorbing, and without wish or warning, the panorama of my life came into view. I closed my eyes to examine it. Actors in landcapes, puppets in doll houses; unscripted emotions and riveting rehearsals. All very theatrical, especially for the actors involved. But was it a fully paid up card carrying member of the consensus reality that most of us liked to consign ourselves to?
I was tussling with that when the phone went. Eric: I was told you called. Frantic or merely fraternal?
Bit of both actually. I think I need my belief system strengthened. Would you care to do brunch at the inn?
Well as you can see I’m doing the daughter thing for the weekend and mum wants me on guard twenty four hours. It appears boys have been sniffing about. One I’d rather like to meet actually.
Why, they’re all skunks at that age.
His parents are Druze, and that’s the only reincarnationist Christian sect I’ve heard of. Of course, Aislin’s terrified he’s Palestinian and that his family is, you know, involved. Can’t seem to convince her that Lebanon’s not Palestine. I’m sure she thinks they’re all secretly Jewish, and that of course is the sine qua non of unacceptable.
Is she still reeling from Leonard?
Are you kidding, she still calls him Lenny the reptile and she was married to me for a decade. That’s when she’s not calling me Deepak Dipshit by the way. She’s even got Elizabeth onto it. Don’t you love it when your kids slag you off because their mother’s okayed it?
Well I guess I wouldn’t know, would I? Can’t you tie her to a chair or something?
I was thinking of a bribe actually, but her price has gone way up since she was thirteen. Here, let me enter some delicate negotiations, looks like she’s off the cell for ten seconds. I’ll call you right back.
I sat back, somewhat lightened and maybe relieved. Clea whizzed through my mind. With my newly minted psychic self I wondered if she was thinking of me right then. Then I thought of phoning to confirm. Then I laughed it off. Wasn’t she going to Kingston for the weekend? To see the daughter of a recently dead friend? Naw, not quite ready for that. The bereaved don’t necessarily need to know that you’ve just been talking to god.
Eric called back: it was all set. If Rami showed she was to call on her cell and let him know. If she did this he promised to keep it from Aislin. Classic Eric all the way: the mutual backscratch. I chuckled and congratulated.
With two hours to kill, I crept to the couch and snoozed. Just lovely: not a shred of a dream anywhere. I woke just after eleven and shocked myself with another shower. Arrived at Eric’s about twelve and we walked over to the Inn, taking a little stroll through the ravine woods on the way. Western Mississauga, it’s a country retreat, thanks to the Credit Valley. We can only hope Toronto never finds out: they’d only flock here in droves if they knew. That’s why I say let those Globe columnists snicker, if it keeps the sophisticates away, great.
Between the walk and the extended lunch I spilled the usual amount of beans. Eric smiled, chuckled, hummed and hawed, and generally kept a reassuring profile. He did sorta remember the spirit world hospital, and yes they did use magic to repair the wounded. But he didn’t think it black; it wasn’t to deceive, although it might look that way. Those folk were dead, but they been killed so quick they didn’t know it, thought they were still injured, and needed the appearance of traditional surgery to complement their old belief system. Often it was better to let the dead realize their state slowly. There were hospitals and nursing homes all over the place up there, all of them dedicated to making people’s transitions easier on the nerves.
The galactic parliament thing he’d only heard about from others, never been there himself, not that he could remember anyway. Yes, there’d been a bunch of loose talk in some new age books about the federation and our possible place in it. What Eric couldn’t fathom was why anyone thought a parliament there would be any better than one here. Wouldn’t they just argue about all the same old shit but on a grander scale? And we’d just be the new kids on the block, told to sit at the back and be quiet. I must say, he argued persuasively.
We dawdled through brunch, sampling all the tables in turn. I pigged out on fish, as is my wont on such occasions. Hell, salmon is for eating as well as admiring for its seasonal pluck. Seat me anywhere near a sampling and witness devotion to a cause. Eric seemed to be in a soup and salad mood, not to mention wily old teacher mode. He didn’t explain much, and kept prodding me for my own interpretation of the events, as he called them. He seemed to have this thing about revelation being quite useless without its partner interpretation, insisting that I plunge into mine before others did it for me. I’ll do it, Clea’ll do it, the group will do it, your readers will do it, you might as well start the ball rolling yourself.
This, I now see, was the beginning of his steering me towards publication. Many new age books were written by people who hadn’t a clue what was happening to them or why. Spirit just yanked them around and said, Here, smarten up! Car salesmen, housewives, driven executives, workaholic doctors, they’d all be startled when spirit spun them about. Spirit doesn’t take no for an answer. Spirit bowls you over and sniggers Well how’d you like that? And yeah, the walking on water thing, it was easy in the astral, once you knew a few ropes. So was I impressing newcomers? Possibly, but they could have been dreamers on a one day excursion. Happens all the time. Souls know they need the experience, even if it only comes trickling through in faded dreams. You were giving them an image to recall, a shock to the system. And how did I know all this, pray tell? I was active on the astral at night and had been for years. Only now was the time for it all to open up. I was ready; the world was ready. Well, some of the world.
I bleated that I had no idea how to put it all in order.
Any kind of an order, anything but this anarchy of overwhelming experience.
Well we could try boxing it in a book, he smirked. I’ll give you a hand.
I supposed he was right; hell, I’d been making notes all along. And I couldn’t really see it as a video somehow. Not without some serious financing.
We stuffed ourselves with cheese, crackers, cake and coffee. The bloating made me feel almost normal for a while. I would’ve scooted home for a nap, had I not remembered that Mr. Lee awaited my imminent arrival. I thanked Eric from the bottom of my heart for his time and understanding. He chuckled and said, most memorably if you don’t mind me saying so, we’re a long way from the bottom as yet, gave me a manly hug, the kind you never see in Irish Spring soap ads, and reminded me to keep in touch. Gossip’s what keeps me going, he offered on parting.
I thought about singing that terrible smarmy pop song You’ve got a friend as I drove off, but the idea alone was enough to keep me amused. I cruised into Clarkson about 2:50 and parked in front of my favourite bistro, but the huge brunch begged not to be bothered with further intake, so I donned my wraparound shades and power-napped for some much needed minutes. Clea said later I was guided to this by intelligences much concerned with my welfare, and she seemed right for the duration of the weekend until the welcome denouement, but then I just sat back, all portly and impetuous, to snag some shuteye.
And it worked, sorta. At 3:04 I awakened, groggy and refreshed in equal measure, and scuttled south on Clarkson road. I pulled in the driveway and parked beside Mr. Lee’s now shiny beamer. He was nowhere to be seen, and I wandered around back to where we’d chatted before. Some surprise sunshine warmed the back garden’s perhaps too measured serenity. I lingered, enjoying the quiet, and wanting time to stop, if only for a moment. Losing yourself, in whatever circumstance, is a singular treat.
Eventually, some remnant of professionalism pushed me into deliberate mode. Lee had to be here somewhere. I checked the sheds, but all three were locked and empty. The thick bush at the back? Maybe. I stepped to the edge and called, Mr. Lee? No answer. Well, stupid idea in the first place. Lee wasn’t the kind of guy with time for trees. Some undergrowth seemed freshly disturbed and I peered in, not really wanting to see anything. But see I did: a dark sack of a shape pitched into a bush. I wanted to check, but knew I shouldn’t. Why? I dunno, just knew. It was Lee alright, as my eyes adjusted to the dim semi-forest light. Shoot there was his cell at my feet. I stooped but recoiled. Wild thoughts about shoe prints and DNA fibres. A kind of impersonal panic. An irrational retreat.
Phone logs. Appointments. Who was I kidding? There was no escaping this. So why was I starting my car and driving away? Because I’d been known to forget appointments before, because I got shit for it several times through the years. I’d been doing well for years, and sometimes just didn’t give a toss. Hey, I’d been unloaded more than once, but real estate is my blood, and I’d always bounced back. Let’s not kid ourselves, I knew what I was doing.
I drove to Jack Darling park and walked along the sandy shore, enjoying the sun, calm water and gulls. A few small pleasure cruisers pushed the horizon line. Some parents with small children playing in the sand. Lee was on the wrong side of the law: I’d smelt it on him right away, but an agent has to ignore these things. There’s crooked accountants, fraud doctors and scam artists of every stripe at any upscale cocktail party or charity fundraiser, but you don’t havta spit in their eyes. That’s for the law. Justice is, and sometimes will be, despite all connivances, served. Eric chirps a lot about karma, says it’s the Buddhist version of just desserts, but I don’t know enough to comment. But we all get what’s coming to us, that I do know.
Somehow managing to calm myself, I called Clea to see if there was still space for me on the Kingston trip. I just knew you’d call George. Yes, please come. You know I’m here for you. I’m just making final travel arrangements. Could you come in an hour? That was all I needed to hear.
No, I did not go home and get cleaned up and packed. Already feeling vaguely criminal, home seemed suddenly like a video surveillance trap. My tiny overnight case in the glove compartment would have to do. About six by nine, its zipper concealed carefully folded shorts and undershirt, toothpaste, toothbrush, nail file, shampoo, soap, razor, foam and aftershave. A gift from Gerry too. A gift never used till now.
The park, with its lovely lakefront strolls, was just what I needed. I wandered west and found myself in the middle of the Rattray Marsh. Some afternoon sun finally peeked out from behind the cloud cover and seemed to light up the place in a comforting edenic fashion. Some mighty fine shit was surely about to hit the fan, but for the moment I felt blessed. A small crew of white butterflies joined me to celebrate. I grinned at their antics. A kind of Charlie Chaplin goofiness got a hold of me and I felt like flapping wings and flying over the tops of the reeds. Well, the idea was fun.
I walked slowly back, feeling kinda blissed out about humanity. The park’s like that. If you can ignore the Toronto skyline off in the distance, you could almost be on vacation. Ordinary people strolling by seemed like god’s own children. I knew I was nutty, but why couldn’t every day feel like this? Maybe it was something to do with discovering a dead body in the bushes, a man I knew to be murdered.
Arrival at Clea’s was a complex affair. Her son, though still moping about, all melancholy, as she put it, was off to a friend’s for the night. But her wingy housemate was there with her mewling brood of cats, fresh from her mother’s Muskoka hideaway. I immediately wished they’d stayed hidden. Marjorie was exactly the kind of loopy pill-popping manic depressive divorcee Mississauga used to be full of, back in the nice old white days, posh girls with BA’s whose Bay Street husbands never let them work, and once the kids were up and outta there, wound up as frustrated old mares pretending the pasture was a playground full of possibility. I don’t know if it was feminism, drugs or the national energy policy, but their numbers seemed to dwindle in direct proportion to the ever swelling parade of those visible minorities so favoured by the Feds.
Chapter eight coming soon…
Fortunately I was only required to endure her palaver for a mere fifteen minutes while Clea finished up something upstairs. Once on the road I felt freed not only from her grasp but all grasps. Clea drove and chattered; I chattered back. Acting I might have been, but bliss it was to be with her again. Let’s leave Mr. Lee in the bushes, at least till Monday lunch. I briefly wondered if he would do the same for me, had he the chance.