Why Did I Come Here?

29 09 2008

Women Gone Mad 13

Women Gone Mad 13

WHY DID I COME HERE?

The Widow Murphy searched her purse. No notes. She searched her arms. Nothing written down there. Pulling up her skirt she leaned over. And ooking at her legs upside down. She noticed that she hadn’t shaved. And there wasn’t any message. Nothing. She looked up. A little too hurriedly. And became dizzy. And sat down in her walker. For a moment. To take a breath. Just to reconsider. She rubbed her head. Memories would not come back to her. There must have been a reason she came shopping. To the mall. On Wednesday. Normally, she avoided Wednesdays. They gave her a headache. Not remembering was giving her a headache. A blinding headache.

The stock boy, young Paul McGregor who was stocking the shelves with an assortment of vitamin pills. Stocking them with his usual flair. Alphabetically. Tapping his toe. To the song that came over the intercom. Shaking his head. Which did not affect his eyesight. He could see the old woman. Sitting in her walker. Looking like she turning into stone.

“Are you alright?” he asked. “You’re so grey.”

The old lady looked up at the young man standing in front of her. His face kept spinning around in front of her. Like her unmentionables. In the dryer. That cost her a dollar. Last time she was in the Laundromat.

“Of course I’m not okay,” she barked, attempted to stand up, found herself dizzy, and sat back down again.

“Can I help you?” Paul asked. Moved his hand to reach for. Her elbow.

“If you can tell me what I forgot.” She rubbed her temples. Thinking. Maybe there was something squirreled up in her head. Like a squirrel.

“How could I do that?” Paul asked. Realizing that the old woman’s statement was rhetorical.

“Exactly.” The widow angrily pushed her walker passed the stock boy and down the aisle to the cashier. She cut in front of several customers who were waiting in line. Bea, the cashier, looked at her angrily. Like two bulls. Kicking up dirt. Snorting fire.

“You have to wait your…” she began.

“Why am I here?” the widow asked.

Bea looked at her. There was a wild desperate look in the Widow’s eyes. Bea shook her head. A tear began to run down the widow’s face. Bea had no answer for the old woman.

The man, called Everest, who was standing nearby, stepped up to lend a hand. Always helpful. What was called a nosy Parker.

“That is a question we all have to ask ourselves in the tangle of time,” he said knowingly.

The widow looked at Everest with distain.

“Did I ask you something?” she barked.

Everest grinned.

“And take that stupid grin off your face,” the widow added. “It makes you look like a moron. Unless of course you are a moron.”

Wearily the widow moved her walker out of the drug store. Two girls, air cadets, were asking for donations.

“Are you alright?” the one called Luiza asked.

The widow turned to the two girls.

“I came a long way to get here this morning. I want to know why I came here. And now I’m leaving empty handed. It’s given me a terrible headache.”

Luiza shrugged her shoulders. Her friend, Madeleine, smiled and asked.

“Would you like to buy a tag saying you donated money to the air cadets?”

Madeleine held up one of the tags for the widow to examine.

The widow aimed her walker at the girl forcing Madeleine to jump out of the way as the widow moved on. She asked everyone she met. No answer was forthcoming. She leaned on her walker and stared across Bloor Street. When the traffic subsided she headed across the street and down Botfield Avenue towards home. A half hour later she stepped inside her house and struggled up the few steps to her kitchen. She sat down at the kitchen table, exhausted. And there it was.

An empty aspirin bottle.





Two Cowboys

26 09 2008
Two Cowboys

Two Cowboys

Two cowboys rode easily in their saddles. Sleeping. As the horses farted.

See more visual work at http://hallidd.wordpress.com/





Move Over Darling

24 09 2008

Women Gone Mad #12

Women Gone Mad #12

MOVE OVER DARLING

Big Bob bit down. On his lip and looked around. What a sight. The aisle of the drug store. All that product. Moving. As fast as it could be stocked.

“Was this necessary?” Bob asked.

Tom Payne looked at the pile of paper towels. Stacked like the Alamo. Oh look, there’s Davy Crocket up near the air conditioning. Tom winked. And stretched. Reaching for the top package. But could not. Big Bob took a two step. Put one foot in between two of Tom’s. And grabbed the package. He handed it to Tom who put it in his cart.

“Was what necessary?” Tom asked and shook the long brown hair of his wig. Was there a knot? Was there something he had forgotten. To wear. To do up. To surrender.

“You!” Big Bob tried to explain. “Dressed up like…”

“You don’t mind me dressing up in the apartment.” Tom had his own arguments. Mostly aimed at excusing his behavior. And the was thirsty. Shopping did that to you. More than once Tom had felt on the edge of exhaustion. Should have brought a bottle of that bottomless well.

“That’s different.” Bob retorted. Bob was big on retorts. He’d always wanted to be a lawyer but his grade eleven marks weren’t up to snuff.

Tom looked at Bob for a moment and shook his head. Why can’t he enjoy this moment? Tom turned and grabbed a bottle of dish detergent then gestured to another stack of potato chips. Bob grabbed one, than two, of the packages.

“It’s not different,” Tom dropped the dish soap on top of the potato chips. Sure to crush them. Or make them into chicken feed. Tom checked his list again. “I think we’ve got enough cat food.”

“We should have,” Bob replied. “The cat died last month.”

Tom looked at Bob. His voice breaking. A tear ran down his cheek and slipped into his mouth. Where it hid. For the time being. Later to slide out and run down his chin.

“Why didn’t you say something?”

“What was there to say? Hair Ball was eighteen years old. She had her day.”

Tom took a tissue out of his purse and blew his nose. God, he felt like shit. He missed old Hair Ball.

“I would like to have known.”

“You hated the cat,” Bob said.

“No matter. Hair Ball was family.” Tom sniffled. “You don’t have to like family to feel close to them. You don’t understand what it means to be family. Brought up like you were. Almost an orphan. Eating food directly out of tins. Never cleaning pots. Couldn’t your father have learned to cook?”

“What else is on the list?” Bob asked impatiently. “Let’s get this over with.”

“Why do you have to rush me?” Tom shook his head. “You’re always in such a hurry. You miss so much in life if you don’t take time. All things are enjoyed slowly. That’s something else you could blame on your old man. God, did he ever take you to a ball game? A dad should take his son to a ball game.”
“This can’t be good for business,” Bob said. And wondered why he had said it. It wasn’t business they were talking about. But the argument still held some water. So Bob was reluctant to give it up.

“You’re always so worried about what other people think. You have to live for yourself, Bob. All the time we’ve been together and you never learned a thing.”

“This is so exhausting. You’re so exhausting. It’s like you purposely try to drain me of my last shred of patience.”

“You’re so afraid of intimacy,” Tom said, sniffling.

“And you’re living on Hallmark cards,” Bob replied. “Our life has come down to a series of melodramas. We’ve become the stereotypical flag raging faggots. It’s too stupid!”

“At least I’ve got my feelings.” Tom wiped his nose. “What happened to you, Bob? So cold. So out of touch with your…”

“Tom, you’re dressed up… in a dress.” Bob shook his head. “People suspect that we’re a gay couple but you don’t have to rub their nose in it. You’re not going to wear that dress in the shop, are you?”

“Of course not,” Tom responded. “I have a lovely pokka-dot item that I thought was more appropriate. And cross-dressing has nothing to do with one’s sexual preferences.”

“God, Tom. Wake up. We’re running a hardware store.”

“What’s that got to do with it?”

“Hardware!” Bob sighed. “Guys come in looking for nails, hammers, screws, don’t want to see you in a dress.”

“You don’t find me attractive?”

“I didn’t say that.” Bob took a deep breath. And looked around the drug store. “Could we have this conversation at home?”

Tom stared at Bob. And then smiled.

“Oh you little devil,” he said and smacked Bob’s hand coquettishly.

Bob glared at Tom.

“Don’t push this, Tom. I’m begging you not to push this.”

“Oh, don’t be silly, Bob. You always overreact.”

“Quit dismissing me!” Bob cried.

Tom laughed and waved his fingers in Bob’s face. Bob turned and before he could stop himself, sent Tom to the floor with one blow.

Bob looked down at Tom who was out cold. His mouth dropped. He dropped to his knees and leaned over to make sure that Tom was breathing. When he discovered that he was still pushing germs out, he lay on the floor beside his friend.

“Move over darling,” he said. And fell asleep.





Drug Store Bandits: The Muscle

22 09 2008

Women Gone Mad #11

Women Gone Mad #11

DRUG STORE BANDITS: THE MUSCLE

Sean cracked his knuckles. Popped each one like cans of coke. Took out a package of cigarettes. Tucked into the sleeve of his t-shirt. Shuffled those little white tits. Popped one into his lips. That smile that sent a thousand girls to the moon. Lit one up. Glanced down. At the muscles on his arms. Smiled twice. Cause they looked so nice. Slumped against the pillar. Could have been a church. But it was a drugstore. Watched the ambulance attendants. Was the heart attack victim heavy? Bet he could have lifted him up. All by himself.

Chuckled.

“Last time we’ll see that fucker,” he muttered and chugged each of his words. With a pinch of glee. Who wants to forget the lips. Of someone who has just. Kissed the dust.

Mr. Martins. Always dapper in his Lightning jacket. Stood near Sean. Like a lumberjack next to his favorite tree.

“Did you know him?” Mr. Martins asked. Not that he was nosy. Just that he felt ashamed. That someone he could have known. Was so down on his luck. Could there be worse luck? Than having a heart attack. He’d had that old angina pains himself. And knew where that fear came from. When you see someone lowered into the twilight.

“Nah.” Sean smile. His teeth shining bright. As a shark. You may not have liked Sean’s attitude. But you had to admit. He was oozing with life. Not like the guy they were pouring. Like cement into the ambulance.

“But I’ll bet he deserved it,” Sean continued. Someone should wipe that boy’s brow. He was working up quite a speech. And here it comes. “Probably over ate. Probably didn’t exercise. Probably smoked. What can you expect?”

“Do you do all those things?” Mr. Martins asked. His eyes were smiling. But happiness was the usual liar. How could you smile in a world filled with so much grief.

Sean looked at Mr. Martins. And shuffled. His smile across his face.

“Do you think he was Christ?” Sean asked.

“He could have been,” Mr. Martins responded. His shoulders lowered. “We all could be.” Then moved on.

Sean thought about the Mr. Martins’ remark. And he didn’t like the inference. That maybe Sean didn’t have feelings. That maybe there was something he lacked.

“My father was Christ,” Sean yelled as Mr. Martins re-entered the drug store. Then his voice lowered almost to a whisper. “Every time he beat me.”

Several days later. Far passed that day with the ambulance. Everyone had already forgotten the man on the stretcher. Was he dead? Did he survive? Did his family have insurance? Would his son go to law school. Or would he have to quit school and feed his mother and his younger step sister who had braces on her legs? All these questions were lost in the brine. Where memories dissolve. No. The new day was America. Everything was possible as Sean moved through the sliding doors of the drug store. Love the way they opened up.

“I’d admire obedience,” Sean said as he stepped through the gates. Each of Sean’s stride was a statement. Which he was conscious of.

“You never know when someone is looking,” Sean added. Stepped into the infirmary. The girl behind the counter slid a glass door aside. Like she was receiving orders at a hamburger stand.

“Do you want to see the doctor?” she asked. Her smile was white. As freshly fallen snow. No overcoat. No high rubber boots.

“I didn’t come to apply for a job.” Sean grinned. Proud of his wit. His smile was yellow. Nicotine stains. Like snow. Pissed on by a dog.

She. Her name was Annette. Named after a streetcar line. Handed him a clipboard. In the whirly whorl. Of information. An application to fill out. Might as well have been Nightall for Sean. He looked around the waiting room. A woman was there with her two kids. An old lady was sitting reading a book. A girl was there with a friend. Sean smiled at them. They smiled back. Sean loved kids. On the back of his hand.

“Will I have to wait?” he asked.

“It’s a waiting room.” Annette was proud of her wit. She had reached her goal. To piss someone off with a few unkind words. But she didn’t know Sean. He thought she was flirting with him. Couldn’t imagine that she was making fun. Of him and it was just as well. Never know what Sean might do. Not that he was violent by nature. Only by impulse.

Sean leaned against a wall. And smiled. At the young girls again. He said something else to the receptionist. Ducked out for a smoke. When he returned nothing had changed. So he took a seat. And fell asleep. And dreamed that he was in a hospital. Where they were cutting off his dick. He woke up with a start. He was next. Stepped into a small cubby hole of a room. And waited some more. Dared not to fall asleep. The doctor stepped in. Asked what the problem was. Sean flipped out his dick. The doctor looked down at the penis.

“I had a tattoo on my dick,” Sean said.

The doctor pulled on a pair of plastic gloves. He sat down on a stool and looked at the penis.

“It doesn’t look infected,” the doctor said.

“It’s not that,” Sean said. “Look closer, doc. They misspelled my name.”





Ballad of a Heart Attack

20 09 2008

Women Gone Mad #10

Women Gone Mad #10

BALLAD OF A HEART ATTACK

Looking. He lay there looking very much like he was dead. Like he’d found. The happiness he had always sought. A crowd gathered. Gathered around his unlucky feet. That pointed up toward the heaven. Not to say that was where he was headed.

Fu. The young man nicknamed Fu, whose real name was Alexander Dumas. Lay with his cheek on the cement. Stared from his parallel position. At the dead man. Was he really dead? One could always imagine. What it must be like. To be gone. Cold as a stone. Owning nothing. Except your last breath. That was headed toward Neptune. At full speed. Fu smiled. One of those Zen moments. As he explained it later. Hard to describe. There it was. There. The moment.

Mrs. McGuire moved over to the wall where she could get a better view. Isn’t that the point of watching a drama. There it was like television. A reflection of the drug store front window. She took a seat. Thought to herself. I wonder if he could see it coming.

Mr. Martins moved through the crowd and asked everyone to move back.

“Give the fellow some air,” he pleaded.

Someone laughed.

“I think he’s used up his share,” Louie added. Then bent down. Put his ear to the chest of the man. On the ground. He looked up. And pleaded.

“Go and call a doctor.”

Paul, the stock boy. Growing an invisible moustache. Untried as a man. Sent out by his boss to clear the crowd from the front door. Rushed back into the store. Slid down one aisle. Caught his balance. Stuttered stepped. Into the doctor’s office. Catching his breath. The receptionist cried. Take a number. But the boy pushed passed her. Into the doctor’s office. Who was treating a middle-aged woman. For wearing shoes two sizes too small. Grabbed the doctor’s gown. Begged him to come quick.

“Someone has had a heart attack!”

The doctor turned to his middle-aged patient.

“I can smell heaven,” he sang.

Outside on the sidewalk stepped Luigi Manco. Owner of the Canadiana. Was reassuring himself. Inserting his feet into the crowd wondering. If the poor victim was a frequent flier. He didn’t recognize his dentures. Or the skin that was now grey. Looked like he was turning into cement. Then he noticed Mr. Martins’ concern.

“A friend of yours?” he asked.

Mr. Martins looked up. There was a tear in his eye. “Could have been.”

Mr. Martins’ secretary put her arm inside his. Like they were shipmates. Whispered something in his ear. The two of them melted from the crowd. In the drug store Mr. Martins took a call. From his ex-wife. Who was sitting in her Lexus. In the parking lot, weeping.

“Take me back,” she cried. God, how she cried. “I promise I won’t show you so little disrespect in the future. I’m having so much trouble balancing the books. Your creditors have threatened to take away the house. Where will the dog sleep?”

Looking. Mr. Martins nodded. Across the drug store the widow pushed her walker Through the aisles. Slipping small bottles of perfume into her purse. But it wasn’t the widow that caught his attention. It was the golden cat. Prancing. Like a ballet dancer across the top of the hair colour shelves. And there were ants crawling up the glass of the counter. Thousands of them. And moths flew out of the vents. Of the air-conditioners. And a mouse skittered across the shiny floor. Between the legs of the cosmetologist. Looked up. Saw something that looked like home.

The doctor and the stock boy rushed down the aisle. Followed by two small children. Screaming for their aunt. Lost in another aisle. In her thoughts. Thinking about the lyrics that bled out of the speakers. And the father that had disappeared Christmas eve. And the last moments of her mother’s breath. At Grace Hospital. Where her mother had grabbed her hand from her hospital bed. And she held on tightly as her mother was lowered down into death.

Lifting his ear from the corpse’s chest, Louie looked up.

“He isn’t dead! Is the doctor here yet?”

And the stock boy arrived guiding the doctor into the centre of everyone’s attention. And the doctor pushed everyone aside, listened to the corpse’s chest. What was it saying? Then turned and gave his new patient a kiss.





Ghosts of the Six Points

16 09 2008

Women Gone Mad #9

Women Gone Mad #9

GHOSTS OF THE SIX POINTS

Mrs. Murphy legs trembled as she reached the pillar in front of the bank. She looked out over the parking lot. Her muscles began to spasm. God, I’m going to melt! She looked around. Betrayed by her own body. Lost in a world that could not see her terror. Or would not. A gentleman who exited from the bank glanced at the old woman, smiled devilishly, clicked his heels together and hopped and skipped on by. Two middle-aged women, huddled against winter’s howling wind which weren’t due for months, coming from the other direction noticed that the dapper gentleman exiting from the bank notice Mrs. Murphy. And pretended not to notice. Briefly. They had allies already. But shot their eyes toward her. Poor dear, their eyes said. Glad it ain’t me, their feet pattered.

“I cannot understand why Flora stays with him,” one of them said. The other nodded in Christian like agreement. And walked on.

Some spit that was hanging from Mrs. Murphy lip loosened and fell to the ground. Like the roofing tile in Ben Hur. That sent the Hur women to a leper’s existence. And Ben Hur to a galley ship. And Mrs. Murphy felt that her life too was headed in a parallel direction.

A young girl and boy who were traipsing by Mrs. Murphy noticed that she was having trouble holding onto the pillar.

“Are you alright, miss?” the girl asked stepping up beside the old lady. The girl was dressed in a school uniform. The skirt too short for Mrs. Murphy’s liking. But not for the boy who caressed her shadow.

\ “Why are you holding onto to that pillar?” the boy asked as he garnered her walker some feet away and brought it over to her.

Mrs. Murphy smiled gently and reached for the safety of her walker. She sat down. Exhausted.

“Just old.” Her false teeth slipping down. “But it’s nice you should ask.”

“You certainly looked like you were in some distress,” the girl said.

“You want us to call for an ambulance?” the boy added pulling up the pants slung low under his ass. Like a flag at half mast. In memory of those poor butts who had sacrificed themselves to the rapaciousness of prison life.

Mrs. Murphy shook her head.

“That won’t be necessary. But thank you for caring.” Mrs. Murphy turned to the young girl. “Is this your honey?”

The boy blushed.

The girl laughed and shook her head. “We’re just friends.”

The boy looked disappointed.

Mrs. Murphy smiled. The girl was keeping a secret. She knew all about young girl’s secrets. She had another love. And it was not the young man she described as her friend.

“I have a secret to tell you,” Mrs. Murphy said. “That I’ve never told anyone before. May I tell you?”

The young girl’s eyes lit up. The boy looked bored.

“I usually tell people that I was brought up in the village of Freevale.” The old lady laughed. “Isn’t so. My life is much more checkered than that.”

The young boy started to move away. The young girl squeezed the boy’s arm holding him in place.

“You see this parking lot?” Mrs. Murphy said.

The two young people nodded although the boy with less enthusiasm.

“All of this parking lot. And the land over there by that church. I think it’s called St. Andrews. And the church itself. And the land on the hydro field. And all the houses over to Our Lady of Peace Church. That was all part of my great grandfather’s farm. Used to be a small village over there where Kipling and Bloor and Dundas streets cross. People called it the Six Points. But it never had any official name. I wasn’t born here though. My mother ran off. I was what they called in those days, illegitimate. A bastard by people with a harsher mentality. Later they married. My mother and father. All those people. Tears and laughter. Ambitions. Dreams. Disappointments. Some wonderful voices. Pretty faces. Hard workers. Mean spirited pricks. Low life. Classy people. Story tellers. Successful people. Failures. Quiet forgotten people. Now. No one remembers them. As if they never existed. As if they never mattered. They’re ghosts.”

“Ghosts?” the boy said skeptically.

Mrs. Murphy nodded.

“Ghosts are our forgotten past. They are the history that no one writes about.”

“That sounds so sad,” the girl said obviously upset.

Mrs. Murphy smiled contentedly. She had an audience.

“The plaza here has many ghosts. Mostly discontented shoppers.”

“I thought that ghosts suffered grisly endings,” the boy said.

“The movie rental store over there used to be an auction centre. I remember one summer a woman who lost a bid on a sofa because her husband kept pestering her that they couldn’t afford any more furniture. Days later she put a pillow over his face and suffocated him. She was a discontented shopper.”

The boy laughed. The girl nudged him in the ribs with her elbow.

“That is so sad,” the girl said. “Do you see the ghosts?”

The old woman shook her head.

“Not those kind of ghosts, dear.” The old woman licked her lips. “People around here call me the Widow. I guess I’m a kind of ghost. You see I was married once to my dear Harry. But he passed on. Well, my whole world passed on. I’ll be joining them soon. Forgotten by everyone.”

“Oh no,” the girl protested. “We’ll remember you.” She turned to the boy who nodded.

“Ya,” he said. “We’ll remember you.”

Mrs. Murphy reached out unsuccessfully to pat both of the young people on the hands.

“I’m sure you will,” she said. “But who will remember you, my dearies? Eh? Think about that awhile.” She turned to the girl. “Who will remember your tiny useless titties?”





The Gravy And The Broadloom

14 09 2008

Women Gone Mad #8

Women Gone Mad #8

THE GRAVY AND THE BROADLOOM

John Newton, the bank manager, sat on the bench his sleeve rolled up. There was a kind of twinkle in his eye. He looked up at the doctor and smiled. What a strange relationship between two men, he thought. There was something primitive about this association. There was nothing so intimate. In his own line of business. Banking. Unless someone were asking for a loan. Or was unable to pay back their debts. That was power. This was something more powerful. This was like a vision. The physician could see inside you. And kept it secret.

“Blood pressure is normal.” The doctor unwrapped the blood pressure strap. As if he had just opened a Christmas present.

“I’ve been seeing spots,” John said.

The doctor thought for a moment.

“It might be time to start slowing down a little,” the doctor added. “You can only push yourself so far. So fast. Your body is like a machine. It needs to rest awhile. You’d never treat your automobile like you treat yourself, Mr. Newton.”

John smiled. He hated automobiles. Only drove one because it was part of the status of being a banker. To drive the most expensive model off the lot. He would have preferred to cab it.

“I suppose you’re right, doc. I know I work hard. Well, that’s the way I was brought up. And I always intend to eat properly. But late nights and you find yourself gulping something from a fast food joint.”

“And stress?” the doctor asked.

“Stress? What the hell is life without a bit of stress?” The banker smiled. His all knowing smile. That he used in his office. In the midst of a venturesome transaction. It didn’t work here.

“Is there anything that bothers you lot? Something you could change.”

“Change my wife.”

“What about your wife?” the doctor asked.

“She’s driving me nuts.” The banker rubbed his eyes. “Sometimes she seems like she has all this life in her. So bloody optimistic. Cheerful. I love ya, I love ya. Sings it all day. To a fault. Then I see the charge bills. It’s like she gets stoned from shopping. And when she isn’t shopping, she’s depressed. Mopes around the house. Sleeps all day. If you break my heart, I’ll die sort of shit. She’s been on anti-depressants. I’m worried about her, doc. Afraid that I’ll come home some night and find her draped over the dining room table. Mouth open. Gravy spilt over the table. Dripping slowly down on the broadloom. Something so sad about broadloom sucking up all that gravy. Oh God, doc, would you talk to her?”

“This is a clinic, Mr. Newton.” The doctor folded his arms. Leaned back on his counter. “We don’t offer psychiatric services. Sounds to me like she might seek out professional counseling. I can give you a name.”

John Newton shook his head.

“She won’t go see a shrink. The last thing she wants to hear is anything about mental health. Her mother killed herself. Cut her throat. Her own throat. Her brother has been into counseling for years. Alcoholic. Personality disorder. More like no personality. Sits all day on the front steps staring into the street. Like he’s stoned out of his mind. When my wife sees him. Like looking into a mirror. Afraid that all this madness might be genetic. She’s terrified of going nuts. Of being locked up. Of being stretched out on a bed, her hands and feet strapped to the railings. Like she was a pot roast. Going cold on the dining room table.”

The banker shook his head. He looked down at the floor. The checkered tiles. Worn down in places from patient’s shoes rubbing across them. Like his were now.

The doctor nodded. “Okay. Send her to me.”

The banker muttered under his breath without looking up. “I appreciate it, doc.”

“And take care of yourself as well. I think you should pay more attention to your life style, Mr. Newton.”

John laughed. He looked up. There were tears in his eyes.

“Life style? I make money. Nothing wrong with that life style.”

The banker began to recover his composure. He rolled down his sleeve and slid off the table.

“One more thing, doc.” He was ashamed.

“Yes.”

“This is going to sound… odd. Do we have doctor patient confidentiality?”

“Why do you ask?”

“I’m asking,” John said impatiently.

“As long as you’re not planning to do something of a criminal nature, yes we have confidentiality.”

“It’s like this, doc. I was thinking of taking out some more life insurance. I met this guy the other day. Small non-descript fellow. Ford Harvey. Well, that’s neither here nor there. Do you think it would look funny if I bought a lot of life insurance on the wife and then she kicked the bucket?”

“It would look suspicious,” the doctor replied.

The bank manager sighed. “It’s not like I want anything to happen to my wife. God, I don’t know what I’d do without her. And it’s not the money. Not really. But this is my business. To take advantage of opportunities when they appear. I preach that tune to my customers all the time. And now an opportunity has arisen. And if it appears that I haven’t followed my own advice, it could be the end of my… banking career.”

“You want people to think that you’d take advantage of your wife’s failing mental health?”

“Well… yes.”

The doctor shook his head.

“What if she doesn’t commit suicide, Mr. Newton? You’ll have wasted all that money on insurance.”

Mr. Newton shook his head.

“Not really.” The banker put on his jacket and straightened out his collar. “You’ve got to look life straight in the eye. I don’t have to like it but there’s no flinching from reality. Like Mr. Harvey said. It’s gonna happen. It’s only a matter of when.”