Saturday, March 27, 2010

Fragment 32: Concerto in F

You know what I always loved?

It was that outward pulse, that sense of anticipation, as I would stride down those long hallways that inevitably seemed to lead to the stage, blinding lights blocking out all identity except the profiles, the cheering cacophonous and growing louder until...

Exploding out onto the platform, they are chanting "Steven...Steven...Steven"....

Sometimes fifty, sometimes a hundred, but when you got those twice a year crowds of thousands...there was nothing quite like that.

What happened? I don't really know. I just remember that when I was young my Dad took me up to shake hands with Melvin Steven after the union meeting. Melvin had on an old suit, and he looked tired, but after watching over two hundred of the guys (and in those days they were all guys) go crazy about him for nearly two hours I thought he must be some kind of star.

These guys fucking hated rock-and-roll after all, so Melvin must of had something going on.

He just looked down at me, tie a little too low, breath a little too...

"So your father tells me you are named Steven..."

Fifteen years later and he is doing election number seven. This time the atmosphere is electric.

I did the phones and organized signs. Melvin hit every house in the riding.

"Putting People First". We loved the slogan. No socialist had ever won in South County but we knew that this was our time.

It didn't happen.

Cigarette smoke swirling near ceiling fans as four a.m. rolls around and the office is empty save the three.

Melvin, Cassandra and I.

I had been tapping Cass since campaign day five. We went to the Briar's Edge, drank a few C.C shots and next thing I woke up, no idea where I was till I saw her lying there, snoring tiny cute.

We just kept it going.

Mel looked over. Sad. Drunk.

"Its to you Steven. This is my last"

I suppose I should have felt bad for him. He was so close, but it was over.

In truth, I kind of thought that this was the time. It was mine, not for any legitimate reason maybe, but it sure felt right.

Many years later, after all was said and done, I remember that I was at some stupid fucking thing held by the Youth Socialists and they were trying to honour "my life-long commitment to the cause".

After listening to some whole list of shit I had supposedly contributed to, this one little prick got up and asked me "Mr. Lawrence, if you could teach us one thing, as young people, what brought you to this fight for social justice?"

Well, asshole, who the fuck knows? It sure seemed a lot better than shoveling dirt at some construction site.

Twelve days after I won my first nomination for parliament Cass and I got married.

I remember we were on our way down to California for the honeymoon when they called the general election.

I just turned that Mustang right-back around.

There was always next year.

Victory speech blending to caucus meetings to protests to watching as the janitors would fold up the chairs after the rallies in hockey rinks across wine country.

Ivor Wynne blustery, wind brutal on an October afternoon, and there were fifteen thousand union members ecstatic over our new government. For all the good that it did them.

The air was harsh and my voice echoed oddly but as it all wound up I looked over to Cass, eyes down...

Hotels, motels, I made Days Inn my hometown. There was no easier way to be away from...

Nineteen years and I was done.

We had long lost power.

I had hung on somehow.

The fight was gone, but what the fuck was I supposed to do? This was it. This was my career...I had nothing else.

They held some banquet for me as I was on the way out. Tables too close and three hundred fifty of them from across the province. Terrible wine and lousy dry chicken or fish. Speaker after speaker telling them what a great fucking guy I was, all the shit I had done for the working-class, my devotion to my wife...

(if only they knew, kinda plump, looking at me with those high-school eyes, make-up pretentious, thick, uniform issue stockings, stuttering as she said aren't you...)

So no more limelight. What to do?

I drank. Scotch, Vodka, Rye, fucking name it I drank it.

That subservient little fuck-face they got to replace me trotted up one morning, nine a.m. and asked me what advice a man of my stature might have...I told him I had yet to meet a girl who didn't look better from the right angle.

Eventually Cass was done. She didn't even bother to talk to me.

Empty bed and a lawyer's note.

Years blurring....

I saw Daniel, as I learned his name was, by the riverside even before I knew what he wanted to do.

He looked sixteen, though he was actually nineteen, and he had on a basketball jersey and shorts, knee deep already.

I was on one of the many walks I took to kill time and trim fat (though why, there was little left to be fit for) when I saw him wading out. We had had the rains and while clear the river was running fast.

I yelled to him.

Turning back he looks at me, and then I see the dog, twenty yards off, on some tiny island of accumulated wood pieces and junk, clinging for dear life. Nothing save front legs and snout above water.


"What the fuck are you doing do you want to get killed?"

Its my dog...I can't just let him die....

Daniel starts wading out. He has a trim, aquiline face, bristling muscles, brimming with health.

The brush is thick on this part of the river so I push through to grab at him.

"Look don't go out there...just call for him...what's the dog's name?"

He ventures a little further, buffeted now by unexpected waves, treading more carefully...

I was sixty-two, hardly sprightly, and I knew I could not possibly intervene.

He didn't even answer, he just kept pushing towards the dog until, about eight feet out, he was suddenly lifted off his feet, cartoon like.

His arms and legs started flailing and he kept yelling "fuck...fuck...fuck...", repeating it as a mantra, more-and-more frightened. I was running alongside but the current accelerated.

I know what you all think. You think I was gutless, that I should have at least tried, but you weren't there. You didn't live through this. There was no fucking way...I would never have even...

It was a moment, I guess five minutes past, that he just stopped...well, he stopped everything. I could still see him, his form at least, but nothing was happening.

I was running the whole time through the brush and foliage, and as we got closer to the lake I started to dread that he would simply be washed out, lost, as if not so now, but I held to these slender threads.

Eventually he drifted in. Deadwood.

I had to try for several minutes to drag him onto the bankside, face purple bloated, eyes turned back.

Pulling him, this perfect manhood, and I so worn away.

As the water gushed out of his mouth, caressing his head on my lap, slowly stroking his wet hair, the ebb of the meaningful long past.

Promise. Fortitude. Strength.

The tragedy of circumstances unforeseen. Inevitable collisions with futures preferentially denied.

Kissing the forehead of a dead man. Wishing.

As the sun started to fade, night menacing, I heard the distant crackling first as his dog approached and ran up, soaked yet energetic, to happily lick the now drying leaves from his face.