Chapter I

The day that prompted my transformation was uninspiring to me, a few scattered clouds in the August morning and coffee of the instant variety cooled with milk. I smoked a cigarette getting into the car, unfashionably dressed in suit and tie, responding to the area’s richest man, Paul McRose.

A letter was addressed to me a month earlier, requesting one Mr. Shannon Page, yours truly, to endeavor to join McRose at his office in Toronto to discuss matters to be disclosed in private. Obviously, I was curious as to what this powerful man could want with me, a young unaccomplished English teacher in a high school of less than a thousand students.

This was the matter I pondered as I drove to Toronto that morning from White Sands. White Sands is where I am situated, two hours northwest from Toronto, at the tip of Georgian Bay. I kept thinking about my shabby attire (the choicest of my wardrobe), brown corduroy sportsjacket, tan slacks and beige loafers for beat-up footwear, and how I would look getting out of my Chrysler to visit this celebrity of southern Ontario.

It was a funny image: my unfashionable clothes and tall, lanky figure, on top of the fact that my hair looks beyond manageability; at least, though, my eyes are a docile, least-threatening blue; maybe, I thought, that would make him forget that I was a little rough around the collar and unaccustomed to stringent business formalities and all that crap.

The drive, since I spent my time deliberating over the object of my summons, went by as though a dream, and I found myself kind of nauseated with the butterflies and all walking into the office of McRose after an elevator ride to the climax of the mirror-blue skyscraper, the whole building teaming with dryads, harpies, satyrs, mugwumps, goblins, Liliputians, Nephilim, yetis and other creatures of lore all wearing ties and checking watches and smelling of perfume covering animal stench.

And there to greet me was a woman–just one in the spacious office segregated from the hectic top floor–of extreme beauty, long blonde hair and greenish blue eyes, dressed very business-like, and apparently magnanimous to be addressing me at all–or at least she made it seem. The exquisite nymph splashing contentedly before McRose’s cave requested my name and confirmed my appointment, eyes behind real long lashes not even blinking fixed on mine, and invited me to partake of the arrangement of coffees and pastries while waiting for his highness to summon me before his throne.

Exactly twenty-minutes later, after drinking two Irish cream-flavored coffees and reading a boring article in Macleans on date rape on Canadian campuses, the secretary brought me before McRose. Until that day I had never seen him, although I was pretty familiar with the particulars surrounding his legacy. In fact, any person would have been if he happened to be educated in the same schools, and if he was as conscious as I was that the town’s identity was sadly mixed up with the fortune of one of its overachieving members. Who’s to blame them, McRose had erected himself as a demigod from a paltry body of white sand barely visible on the Canadian map.

The thing is, McRose always had the killer instinct, and this, at first, was most evident in his style of hockey. Not only did he score, but he was a savage competitor, and everyone in the hockey world took notice, especially his less talented, and too often pummeled, adversaries. His hockey skills, however, were nothing compared to the instinct behind his entrepreneurial spirit, and it all really came down to simple mathematics: much more carnage could be amassed quickly in the business world, and the dividends were more financially rewarding as well as the intensity of the rush of the kill.

Syzygy Corp. was McRose’s crowning achievement, a company specifically designed to acquire, reestablish and sell businesses on the bubble. It was this company, fashioned out of the single desire to dominate, that prompted his true colours to emerge in all their glory–allowed him to be demythologized once and for all, for undoubtedly McRose is the Cyclops, gorging and sleeping and lusting, fondling his sheep.

So here I was before him for the first time in my life, baffled by his surprisingly cordial demeanor and quite unable to speak. McRose was taller than me and quite wide, while his body moved from a thin waste to wide shoulders. Indeed, in contradistinction to his friendly disposition, he emanated the “danger” aura of the hunter, and I knew McRose had earned every bit of his reputation and more.

Examining me with dark eyes accustomed to quick analysis, he invited me to inhabit one of the chairs–he had two of black, comfortable leather, facing his desk–with a motion of his hand. I was not surprised when he sat on the desk in front of me, looking down upon my miserable self with a look no longer friendly, a look which I interpreted as contained disgust.

Silence . . .

Wow, I was so full of gratitude when this villain had finally condescended to extend me his hand, still without saying a word. It looked like he was struggling to contrive some way of communicating, though. Such formality. My immediate problem was trying to figure out the difference in quality between a suit worn by McRose and a normal man. What made his suit so special, especially his unremarkable, grey sports jacket?

Then he finally addressed me, his single-eyed vision holding me transfixed.

“A cigar, Mr. Page?” pulling out this silly wooden box, picking one of his offerings up and rolling it in his fingers before smelling it.

Silence was my only response. Honestly, I had never been so happy in my life as when I heard those words, although it had nothing to do with the words themselves.

“They’re cubans,” he went on, extending the box of stogies toward me. “American go crazy over these things, especially good ones like these . . . help yourself.”

Inside I contained my laughter: he had such an effeminate, nasally voice. This prodigious destroyer of so many unfortunate lives in the now in my mind “utopic” Ontario had a particularly offensive voice and I found that I didn’t envy his success a bit.

Because his voice conflicted with his appearance and reputation so strikingly (thus my urge to laugh), I became more comfortable inquiring about his business with me in a way that was able to placate his ego while undoubtedly indicating that I wasn’t planting my lips on his butt either. At any rate, it didn’t speed things up very much. McRose, it seemed, was unaware of the contempt behind my obsequious facade, and willed the tempo of our discussion to a deathly crawl.

It struck me that I should have demonstrated to a man of his accomplishment a little more patience, respect and deference. But he started talking about the superintendent of my school, Clint Dumoine, going on like he didn’t even hear me address him. I’m sure he didn’t hear me . . .

“Dumoine, you know him?” he asked. “He happens to be one of my friends . . . said that you direct the drama department at the high school, that you teach English and that you . . . have talent . . . said you’re a regular participant of Huronia players . . . where you wrote and directed an adaptation of a play from Shakespeare?”

I readily admitted to McRose my involvement in drama, particularly my direction of King Lear, where I inserted a couple of scenes and modernized the language somewhat–blasphemy, I know it–in a muddled attempt to gain even greater sympathy in the audience for that wretched character Gloucester.

“How did the audience respond?” asked McRose, actually looking intrigued.

“Maybe they were too bored to even notice . . .” I replied.

McRose laughed at my cynicism and said, “Dumoine gave me a complete list of your productions, and almost all of them appear to be tragedies.”

“Most plays I choose to direct portray the concept of the truly tragic.”

McRose looked puzzled. “What do you mean?”

(I saw opportunity: I thought if I canvassed my knowledge of drama with noticeable confidence I might find myself graduated to a higher production backed by cogent dollars).

“You haven’t noticed that an exceptional tragedy always seems to provide its own tragic contrast?”

McRose shrugged.

“The contrast is what I’m always aware of when I direct a tragedy.” I struggled, trying to pacify that glaze of irritation in my company’s eyes. “Think of Shakespeare’s tragedies: Macbeth-Macduff, Hamlet-Laertes, Lear-Gloucester, Othello-Iago . . . There are two sides to tragedy, mirror facing mirror, and everything of substance in a play can be deducted from this contrast.”

I found myself deflated, with reality settling in when McRose admitted his lack of interest in my literary theories, leaving me somewhat confused. But at least the pedagogical tour of my directing proclivities had driven him to the point where he had to disclose to me the significance of our encounter that morning if he was going to see my departure any time soon.

His business with me was disappointingly simple: being that his main residence was on the outskirts of White Sands (a huge white mansion Victorian in design, ornate and splendid in full view from the highway), he wanted me to personally introduce his son who permanently resided there to the wonderful world of English literature and poetry, and a few morsels from the classics.

McRose explained to me that his son had a knack for writing which demanded cultivating, which I believed was an honest reason, but he also felt it necessary to elucidate the “need” in high society for a certain comfort within the realm of literature, a comfort which he himself lacked and would never acquire for his greater fortune. Most importantly, I would be generously compensated for my tutoring.

* * * *

“Well, Shannon, no need for suspense,” said my friend Kent Charsmith in the cafe later that day. “Confronted with the emasculating moment, how will our righteous hero respond?”

The rain outside could be heard moving from a light drizzle to a downpour, and it felt kind of cozy in there, like a medieval tavern filled with travelers, only the room needed the blaze of a hearth. Also accompanying us were Jason Urchin, Craven Ridley and the man simply known as Euripides, all of us absorbing the smells of deep fried cooking mixed with the gourmet fare being served on the other side of the restaurant. We had wings, hoagies, home cut fries, and generous sized pitchers of beer in front of us that were nearly empty.

“Come on, it was a joke, Shannon.”

Turning to Charsmith, the big boy with the supposedly good looking face, clean cut, eyes of confident olive laced with energy, gregarious, my mind kind of went cloudy, and I lost my frame of mind, the denouement of my McRose account suspended in silence as I tried to gather my thoughts.

“At this moment I couldn’t give a damn,” interrupted Craven. “I didn’t prepare all week for nothing.”

“Suffer, Kafka, you were the one who showed up halfway into the conversation,” Charsmith shot back without any sympathy. Kafka was the name Charsmith used to poke fun at Craven.

“Relax, guys,” I intervened, rubbing my temples.

Craven ignored me. “Forget the whole thing, Shannon, if you’re too distracted . . .”

“No, Craven, I’m interested to know what’s on your mind,” I urged.

Craven: philosopher, skeptic, our source of knowledge that collapsed all knowledge. He had dark hair and dark eyes, always wore a trench coat and compulsively smoked during our discussions.

He brought a smoke to his lips, caught in the guilt of achieving unreasonable demands.

“I’m sorry, Shannon, I shouldn’t have–”

“Don’t sweat it,” I comforted, “my story can wait. So what do you have to say for yourself?”

“A confession,” he said.

“A confession?” I repeated.

“Yes, I’ve fallen victim–to the vagaries of the professor’s discretion, the vitrification of meaningless academics, the vilification of . . . of those who absolutely strive for erudition.”

“What did he say?” said Charsmith.

Craven was not phased. “Let’s expose the lie for what it is. That’s why we get together, correct?”

I nodded, trying to remain attentive, but in the warm, comfortable atmosphere my mind was rising higher and higher in the clouds, dreamy-eyed. I felt nostalgic in a way, in a predominantly disturbing way. The music playing was “Further to Fly” by Paul Simon and this familiar sense of uneasiness swept over me with the rain falling and all, impressing me with memories of my once vibrant companion, Karis.

Craven continued: “I’m positive you guys will judge me, but I’m not going to sit here and tell you I’m wasting my life away aspiring to fuse my will to some universal harmony and that there’s a spiritual, grammatical, lexical structure behind all things influencing my perception of women, film, the sensation of taking a piss. Don’t tell me that if I knew every language of every culture that ever existed I’d have a better, more concise understanding of . . . of the various forms and nuances of rejection.”

“So it is true, rumor has it that you’ve been moping all summer because of a seventy on a philosophy paper,” joked Jason, curly-haired and bulimically thin, the one we’ve affectionately dubbed the parasite.

Craven, dejected, whispered his confession: “Worse, I–I’ve been denied academic probation and have descended to the lowest ring of cruelty, what you guys term general studies.”

Charsmith laughed out loud, and then recovered: “Sweet Kafka, I didn’t prepare all week to gain insight into your personal life.”

“Can’t you be nice?” I pleaded.

“To him, yeah right . . .”

“So are we getting together tonight?” I asked, changing the subject.

“Yeah, it’s all set, Shanny,” Jason assured me. “Infinity before us . . . cocktails and women . . . Charsmith our escort home . . .”

“Never call me that,” I warned, now fully emancipated from the painful-sweet reverie in the moment that no person can put a finger on. The song ended.

“Craven,” I said, “I’d say you should join us tonight for a good dose of distraction.”

“I’ll consider it,” Craven replied.

“And you, Euripides,” I added, pointing to the wordless one at the table slowly chewing his hoagie, “we’ll primed together before the club, right?”

Freckled Euripides nodded and took us by surprise by saying, “Ita primus veni in domum meam. Ego sum ​​unus cum timore.”

“Say what you mean!” Jason demanded.

“Leave him alone,” I said. “He got his meaning across.”

Jason looked at me in dismay and asked, “What’s the fun in going to his place first anyway?”

“He’s genuine,” I replied. “Besides, I don’t need him to talk to enjoy his company.”

In the meantime, Charsmith had quietly dismissed himself to secure a pitcher of beer, returned, sat down and emanated that “something” he always uses to extract a response from me, neither word or gesture. Like my seemingly telepathic understanding of Euripides, I just know Charsmith too well. Nevertheless, I didn’t finish giving him an account of my appointment with McRose earlier that day, preempted by the invectives of the fiery owner of the establishment, grease-stained and smelling of strong sweat.

“You know you don’t leave money for alcohol at this register, no matter how well you flatter my employees!” cried Silas to a Charsmith-pointing-to-himself in an air of disbelief. A girl could be seen blushing by the cash register in the background, almost out of focus.

Silas was a large, quick-tempered man not to be trifled with, a fact everyone but Charsmith was aware of.

“We serve you, Mr. Chinook, you walk around and pay on the other side. Comprehend?”

“I don’t see the big deal,” said Charsmith grinning.

“Just do it, Charsmith,” I said, sick of having to go through such nonsense every time we frequented our favorite hangout. “You know he could lose his liquor license.”

“You have money . . . you do what you want . . . you get what you want. . . women swoon . . . not at Silas’ . . .” muttered the big cook on his way back to the kitchen, still shaking his head as he disappeared around the corner.

Jason poured the golden liquid from the pitcher, apparently oblivious to the ranting man, and while half considering the golden image reflected on the polish of the table I discovered a certain satisfaction within the spectrum of my emotion . . . the setting . . . the prospect of a night flowered with women . . . and even found it gratifying to find Craven behaving in a manner intimating depression, noticeably taciturn and pouting, and I recalled his precarious academic footing despite being, you know, as distracted as I was.

Anyway, you know how some people when they’re agitated will press the tongue against the inner lining of the cheek, that’s what I found the man of the dark trenchcoat doing.

“Many of the most promising students struggle academically, Craven,” I said honestly.

“I’m soothed,” Craven replied coolly.

I added, “Maybe some careful introspection might unveil your block. If that’s not the case, unbind those mind-forged manacles and eat crow like the rest of us who have survived the process.”

“Bloody hell I will,” said Craven. “I refuse to make it my problem that professors don’t understand me.”

“But you already have,” I teased. “Even students of your brilliance have to meet the criteria of your assignments, regardless of how dumb you think they are.”

“Craven, don’t let him get on your nerves,” said Charsmith. “Our self-declared misanthrope has allowed himself to be Hellenized.”

“Christianized is more like it,” mumbled Craven.

“You’ve been waiting for the right moment to say that, haven’t you, Charsmith?” I pointed out, amused by his comment.

(Charsmith was quoting a conversation we had once had, incapable of restraining himself from getting a timely lick in).

“What do you mean by Hellenized?” asked Jason.

“It means that he loves and loathes the world in ecstatic proportions . . .” Charsmith explained. “He’d love nothing better than to kill himself, and he’d love nothing better than to live forever.”

“I’m one of those strange hybrids, you know, suicidally desperate for answers yet impassioned with life,” I laughed.

Nobody thought this funny.

So I illustrated my point: “Aurorian splendor at the grin of daybreak . . . grey, capricious sea . . . rising-falling zephyrs . . . insouciant sky . . .”

I ground my smoke in the ashtray bitterly, only to look up to find Craven glaring at me in his disapproving way.

“What makes you act like that?” Craven demanded. “You could at least quote someone like a regular jack-assed pedant.”

“Wait,” said Jason. “What was he trying to say?”

“Examples of self-contained symbols,” I said. “Able to melt hearts . . . and–”

“–And atrophy the soul,” Charsmith finished.

“That’s not a bad way to put it,” I said.

“Why does this bother you so?” asked Craven in a tone approaching concern.

“The unnaturalness of . . .” I started, “. . . of the contradiction inherent in the symbols, and what this says about the human state of affairs: how the same sky or sea or wind portrayed so beautifully can simultaneously be an auspice of victory and a sign and seal of the condemned, like in the Iliad when both Greeks and Trojans are trying to make sense of their fortunes or any normal day we live. It’s no big leap to consider the implication . . . how what can be experienced as the infinite good no doubt reveals itself as the source of infinite evil, to no redeeming end. Aesthetically, you start your life off in this world of nymphs, dryads and satyrs–you know, this lush, musical world–and the next thing you know your world’s collapsed into an isolated, gloomy city of insects, where even infants cry and spit up uncontrollably into the cold indifference of technology. And why, why would a person suffer this torment? So that you can never forget that it is the very same representation of good that is dragging you to your ruin.”

“Can one be more cynical?” remarked Jason.

“Wait, I know what he’s getting at,” said Charsmith. “It’s to . . . manufacture your own drugged state, live by it for so long, and then enter into life-long withdrawal, where the symptoms of withdrawal never cease and the high is always before you.”

“How would you know so well?” I asked.

“My father’s flirtation with religion couldn’t have ended any worse,” Charsmith admitted laconically, reaching for the fries.

“You see,” I continued, “that’s the thing: we all live by dream–that element of our psychology that allows us the contradiction of consciousness and emotional prosperity–some even posing as religious within the dream, but when we achieve this inevitable sobriety, we want to return to the security everyday dream had to offer.”

“So,” said Charsmith, unimpressed.

I was becoming emotional: “Don’t you see, it’s a mistake to think that we can go on this individualistic quest for an original emotional complacency, conjuring warm, fuzzy moments of the past and trying to re-connect ourselves to a deceased or vacated sense of rightness supposedly experienced in the past–all this in order to experience a semblance of rightness in the present.”

“I know what you guys are doing,” said Craven. “You’re positioning to defend for that idealistic, venomous argument about the whole person again. I’m telling you, to be human is to be broken. Both of you so are predictable . . . mystics of the basest variety, self-deceiving liars . . . in short, decadents.”

“Wanting to achieve wholeness isn’t base,” Charsmith replied coolly.

“Charsmith,” I interjected, trying to deflect an argument.

“No, I’m tired of his violent atheism, Shannon. Believing in the ideal of wholeness isn’t base. If The Refinement experiment showed us one thing, it’s that, you’re right, we’re fragmented, but we’ll do anything to attain wholeness, whether it’s idealistic or not. That’s not deception, that’s the individual being the individual in any given circumstance.”

(Refinement Experiment: in my high school group of friends it became socially anathema to have an exclusive partner, and if you did have a steady you played it down the best you could. Our high school was small, and as a whole we were unhappy and unanimously welcome to a philosophy where nobody really got emotionally involved enough to get hurt).

Craven frowned. “That’s high school nonsense. You’re a big boy now, ready to take his medicine.”

“Remember, you and Tusk Flatson were the ones who initiated the shift in social values in the first place,” Charsmith countered.

“Like I said, you’re both decadents,” and Craven leaned back cool and smug.

“I’d rather remain ignorant than be a sallow, tortured atheist!” Charsmith baited, suddenly preferring nothing more than a fight.

Ever the peacekeeper, I redirected the argument: “History has been furthering our understanding of Reconciliation by clarifying what actually needs to be reconciled.”

Craven maneuvered his disapproving glare in my direction.

“The Concept, I mean,” I added. “The Concept, God’s Son, accomplished in his short life what philosophy can’t explain. That’s the point of Reconciliation, between the eternal and the temporal, the mind and the mechanism, innocence and entropy, blandness and misery, dream and . . . and clarity.”

I felt like a prick when Craven grabbed his jacket and departed wordlessly into the falling rain.

“Craven, hold on!’ I yelled, but he was long gone.

“And the evening opens before us like bat wings,” muttered Jason.

“No, it’ll be all right,” I returned, not even looking at the parasite, and I got up to get some coffee, sitting back down contemplative.

(Symposium: a support group discussing philosophy and ideas on a weekly basis, founded by the excommunicated Catholic priest who passed the flickering, hungry torch to yours truly when the heat on his career became unbearable. Our goal, I think, was to pass time as uselessly as imaginable considering we never formed any conclusions. Craven, who took several years off after high school to travel, now a Bachelor of Arts student commuting to Toronto, agreed to join under the stipulation that religion kept its fallacious, dogmatic presence away from what he naively labeled the sincerest endeavor of those committed to be students of life).

With the personalities disbanded for the moment, I was alone again with my thoughts, now even more aware of the unsettling feeling slowly contaminating my life black, deceptively butterfly-like and elusive. As the feeling–year by year, day by day, hour by hour–was becoming more and more transparent, I was beginning to sense an echo behind its thrust–an aftertaste might be a good way to describe it. The feeling, I knew, wasn’t symptomatic of stress or a poor diet or anything I could diagnose really, but it was there, pulsating in the intestinal fusion of my core.

Vulnerable to the soothing massage of denial, I dismissed the sensation foreign to a healthy spiritual constitution for another rainy day to leave with Charsmith to get some cash from the bank machine. The gregarious dandy was wrapped up in an argument with a surly, contentious Jason over the probability of the Maple Leafs parading Lord Stanley’s Cup down Yonge Street at the end of the season.

The Leafs were the staple of White Sands’ conversation.

So Charsmith and I left Jason alone with silent Euripides, with Charsmith, ever the entertainer, making a crescent bow before his exeunt from the stage to the amusement of those who were unaccustomed to his antics. Silas was only too familiar. We ran out to his car with the rain washing our faces into expressionlessness: total acquiescence. The rain was cold and didn’t feel good.

As we were driving, I felt itchy wet all over, dispassionately observing the formation of fog gathering on the windows. Charsmith continuously wiped the window with his sleeve while the wipers went back and forth in wicked repetition, issuing a squeaky kind of rhythm.

I thought about my past with Karis, how I thought she cared. Sometimes when we were approaching intimate horizons she would stop and circle my mouth with her finger as I looked beyond the liquid grey of her eyes; something was almost tender about our relationship but it wasn’t. The problem was that I couldn’t convince myself it wasn’t.

“You’ll have a good time tonight, you’ll feel better . . .” said Charsmith in concern, but I could tell that he was cloaking his congenital jubilance. The guy couldn’t contain his happiness; it oozed from him and he couldn’t plug in the leaks of his eyes or the corner of his mouth, even when he was trying to be serious.

“Whatever,” I responded, playing it real cool, but I wanted his promise to come true in a bad way. The problem was that he was kind of acting nervously as we drove, uncharacteristically fiddling with the stereo and smiling weakly at me when I’d raise suspicious glances. He was distracting me from the running narrative in my head, the grinning buffoon with the boyish face.

And the whole time we drove the stereo was playing the Doors:

Show me the way to the next whiskey bar,
Oh don’t ask why, Oh don’t ask why . . .

As I was mellowing to the music a bit and restoring my focus on my state of discord, Charsmith requested to unfetter his nagging thought.

“Shannon, I need your honest opinion.”

This seemed a lie. Charsmith never required anything from me, or anything from any person for that matter. He pretty much lived for himself and didn’t bother with what he considered triviality, which was everything external to himself, including my opinion.

All he needed to assure himself of himself was his trophies, you know, the drawer at home filled with lingerie from his ladies, or the wall in his living room lined with antlers and fish frozen in time.

It’s hard to concentrate even on your best friend, though, when you realize the impossibility of escape–that everything inside of you seems to have conformed to the bleakness of your surroundings, having no place to go or look, slowly suffocating in your mind’s failure to find a little alcove to breathe in some fresh air.

The rain was splashing against the fog on the window, while the temperature rose concurrently with this familiar sense of spiritual claustrophobia. Opening the window, I concluded, couldn’t give me the refreshing oxygen I needed to be a good friend.

Good things happen for some people on ugly days, too. That’s what I kept thinking about. That’s where I was searching for solace, in this one refreshing but dissolving thought.

Can you believe it, though? Some days start off in breathtaking tones, only to be streaked in grey until the grey becomes insurmountable, just like feeling. Some days it just doesn’t matter, the world can be a canvass of autumn colour yet it takes great concentration even to swallow a mouthful of cereal. How to make sense of contradiction . . .

“I just wanted to ask you . . .” said Charsmith, “you know . . . the way we talk and all . . . I just wanted to ask you if you thought that the idea of God was rational?”

After thinking about if for a second I told him that the concept of God was a viable human exigency for psychological purposes, and that much of the world pointed to creation.

“Besides, we all have to believe in an eternal,” I added, “so it may as well be a cosmic intelligence who serves as the first cause of all else.”

“I think God spoke to me,” Charsmith confessed quietly, kind of distant. “And I’ve seen spiritual things out of the corner of my eye that I can’t explain.”

“Maybe it’s time to lay off the drugs,” I suggested with a grin.

“That’s not funny. I don’t know what’s going on, but it’s not easy, you know, grasping and reaching for some being whose existence is impossible to believe in or not believe in.”

“What did God say to you?”

charsmith seemed hesitant for a second, then he said, “The righteous will live by faith.”

“That’s from the book of Habakkuk in the Old Testament,” I explained.

“Oh . . . I’ve never read it . . .”

After a second or two of uncomfortable silence, I changed the subject: “So McRose offered me an exorbitant sum to enlighten his kid.”

“There you go, Shannon. One flashes his means of appropriation in the harlot’s field of vision–suppress the conscience–you took it, right?”

“I told McRose, if he appreciated my talent so much, to send his boy to the high school when he was of age, and that was how the McRose and Page episode unfolded.”

Charsmith pulled into the bank parking lot and I ran out to the machine, got some money and came back freshly soaked. I got in the car and he started to drive me to the garage where my car was perennially being repaired.

“Would it have been so hard for you to accept his offer given your financial strains and all, I mean, given the likelihood of the strike at the school? It’s just a question of empty male pride.”

I told Charsmith that for a man emasculation occurs when pride is forfeit for a price.

“I must have whiskey, oh you know why,” sang Morrison in the background and in my heart of hearts I disagreed: in life, intoxication can only keep the onset of chilling sobriety at bay for so long . . .

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