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Part IX




Testing testing testing. One two three. 

Quiet now, we’re on the air. 

And now — from the Imperialist Club Ballroom in beautiful downtown Kitsilano, it’s time for —

For what? Why I am making fun? Sorry about the levity, folks. You can cut it out of the movie version.

It seems I’m taking over from Mark.

I’m not sure exactly who he was making this for but I got an idea. I can make it work, carry out his last will and testicles. All right, settling down now. I’ll finish it up for him. The least I could do. There’s not much to go. I listened to it so far and the last thing he told was the cops spilling our stuff all over the yard, taking away our bags for inspection or some such bullshit. So we cleaned it up and —

Look, I’m sorry if I don’t do this like Mark. He did go on. He was getting pretty messed up. Sometimes I think he wanted to be messed up, just so he could go on about it. Me, I see a mess, I wanna clear it up, move on. Anyways you gotta hear the rest of it my way now. In my voice now. Mark made everyone sound like him, didn’t he? Didn’t get anything half right either. Not the bits with me. I come across so cool. Cold. Pretty dull, don’t you think? Was he jealous of me, didn’t want me to seem like a regular joe, but a bit of a nut like him? Hey, I loved the guy. In the way it’s acceptable to love a guy, not that kinda love, if you catch my drift. L-U-V love like on a valentine, one of those cards that keeps from getting too mushy by making a bad joke on itself. I’m sure he thought he was telling the truth about everything. But take some of it, take that whole dramatic story of what happened in Winnipeg, my version of it would be a little different to say the least. We might have to fix that up if this goes anywhere. But it was his story. I’m sure in his mind that’s the way it happened. It makes for a good story. To be fair, it is pretty accurate for the feeling of what went down. Probably we’ll shade it back a bit.

What blows my mind is how ordinary he sounds. That’s not the right word. How not-strange he sounds. It’s bizarre. Somehow he sat down with that machine, he became like a machine. So fucking reasonable. His whole story just came out one thing after another — sure, a little nuts at times, a little mixed up — but mainly just one thing after another like he wasn’t going the way he was going. The whole exercise, all that talking it out, musta been what they call therapeutic. Not therapeutic enough apparently.

None of that matters though. I won’t fret over any of that now. Just finish it up, then over and out.

Here we go.

Well, we cleaned up the mess the cops made but we couldn’t live in the shed no more. Someone said me and Mark and Billy could stay in Picket and Rog’s rooms till they get out of jail.

Then Loren pipes up. “Gus can stay in my room.”

That was awkward. But she says, “That’s not what I mean.” Could be it was what she meant but she changed it fast to she was saying us two guys could take the room she used to split with Petra. Too big for her now. She’d take one of the smaller ones. That was good of her. We still have a soft spot for each other, me and her, even if we don’t wanna be together like boy and girlfriend. Man and woman friend. I went with her a coupla times when she visited Jesse, just to give her a bit of moral support as they say. He seems like a great kid. Little mixed up too but that’s to be expected.

But sorry, once again I have to remind myself this story isn’t about me or my love life — L.O.V.E. life. Or my S.E.X. life. It’s supposed to be about Mark. I can always make my own tape later.

Probably not. Not my style.

So back at the ranch. Someone thought of Wesley’s space in the basement. No one knew where he was, so his corner might be available for awhile again. Norbert said he was gone and the big fraud was likely not coming back this time. He’d been the last to see Wesley.

“Told me to tell everyone he was sorry, it was out of his control, whatever that means. We’d find out soon enough. He was leaving us his car sitting in the drive, which didn’t work any more, but we could sell it to cover anything he still owed us. He was making a clean breast of things here, blah-blah-blah more Wesley talk about some vague thing he’s starting up somewhere else. He musta had some cash to get him there.”

He’d walked out the front door, walked down the sidewalk, walked down the road, was gone. Gone for real this time.

So we all had places to stay, till Rog and Picket got out and then we’d have to shift around.

It could be then we’d take off, Mark and me. We’d been talking about that again. Except for the small matter that we still had no money. Twenty bucks at best. We couldn’t pay our share of the house costs past this week. But we also had no sleeping bags to travel in, till we got them back from the cops. I wouldn’t count on that. So either way. Only thing I figured was to go for any work we could get, save up some bucks. Simple enough.

Not for Mark though. Nothing’s simple. He was like in this funk, I figure, over Petra and the other stuff that happened. Or us not having the bread. Or all this other stuff going on his head. I dunno, I didn’t get it. Could be he was still thinking that where we were going we wouldn’t need money, some freak paradise or who knows. He halfway believed all that crap. Halfway didn’t. Could be he didn’t completely wanna go. Could be he wanted to go home but was too ashamed? Who knows? Mark. Some crap like that always going on.

So he ends up wandering back down to Fourth by himself. Told me later when we were sitting around the fire, that last great fire we had, told me how he’d watched some guy on Fourth trying to sell acid. He’s looking at this freak — long-hair, headband, carnival vest, beads, the whole works. He’s thinking, he tells me, this so-called freak is just like any other capitalist, hawking his wares to everyone going by. Hyping, hawking and hiking the cost to what the market can bear — that’s my words, but same idea — like any other little businessman.

So anyways, this pusher — or he’s a dealer, I can never tell the difference, like the connoisseurs can, I’m not even sure there is a difference — this little long-haired businessman stops some skinny freak with hair in a ponytail, a face beaming like an angel, offers this angel a great deal on purple haze, or some such I think it was. And the angel says, “I don’t need it, man. I just got some stereo earphones. I’m naturally high on music now.”

Ooh, naturally high on music. A few weeks before, Mark says, he woulda thought that was beautiful. Now it seems just as stupid. Paying money to the electronics companies and the record producers to get you stoned on freaky music. And why is that any better than paying your dough to some dealer or pusher? There’s no way out of the circle of exploitation. Again, my words. Sorry, you’re just going to have to accept it’s pretty well all my words now.

Then he goes on to another time he’s sitting on a bench somewhere, downtown, watching the rubbies and the businessmen, the real businessmen in their monkey suits, the shoppers go by. I’m reconstructing here. This is the stuff he was going on about around the fire, he didn’t always make sense but I’m putting it together for you. He’s watching these rubbies and everyone, he’s thinking they’ve changed. They aren’t waiting for anything. Remember how on the tape he said how he got this idea everyone was waiting for something they knew was gonna happen? Now it occurs to him, a light goes off in his head: not any longer. No one’s waiting or expecting anything anymore. He can see this. They’ve given up. And he notices — this is a side thing, not the main thing — he notices one of the business guys going by looked kinda like Wesley, like Wesley might if he cut his hair, shaved off his goofy moustache, put on a suit. But not really. Wesley couldn’t have changed that quick. He isn’t real sure that’s what Wesley would be like without the hair and moustache. The guy glances back at him kinda funny but that could be cause Mark’s staring at him. Guy turns away, keeps going. So probably not Wesley.

Anyhow it’s night soon enough, he’s walking in the cold again. This is what he was telling me. Dunno why he was walking. Dunno why he didn’t just come back to the house like a normal person. He never told me more about what was going on his head that night. Just that he was walking.

Oh, yeah, one thing. A crazy thought about Petra being pregnant, that baby she was holding at the demo…. But that didn’t make sense. It was like a couple weeks ago she’d left, she wasn’t pregnant. The kid at the demo was all wrong…. Still, the more he thought of it — dreamed or fantasized, you tell me — the weirder it made him feel. Petra with a kid. They’d never used anything, unless she did without him knowing, probably she did, she musta had that covered, but he never thought he’d ever get anyone pregnant. Why would she leave if she was gonna have a kid? It doesn’t make a lick of sense. He liked to play with the idea cause it messed him up more. That’s my interpretation. “My kid. Petra’s and mine,” he told me. I thought he’d said that kid was Indian, like East Indian. “But what if we had made one?” he said. “We coulda made a kid. We could be creating a new life. A new person to go through all the crap.” So why bother thinking about something that couldn’t happen, that you didn’t wanna happen? That’s what I thought. He was just going off on weird tangents.

He told me all this when we were sitting around the fire. I figured it was gonna be our last fire for awhile, so I let him go on.

“And on top of everything tomorrow’s my birthday,” he said, like there was some connection. “Today if it’s after midnight.”

I told him happy birthday.

“Happy birthday to me. Used to be a countdown, watching the days to my birthday. Biggest day of the year cept Christmas. Now it’s just like, it’s here. Twenty. And so what?”

“So you’re not a kid anymore. The age of maturity.”

“I thought that happened at twenty-one.”

“In Ontario. Here it’s eighteen. So let’s split the difference. You’ve been mature for, what, six months now?”

The fire was dying. I was surprised no one had complained. I’d been expecting trucks, guys running up with shovels, firehoses, like that time in the mountains. You’d think the neighbours would call them. I asked if he wanted to throw something else on the fire, like the back steps or someone’s garage. He just answered no, he didn’t think so. He didn’t get I was kidding. Hey, it could be I was actually just as out of my head, sitting there making jokes with him, like nothing strange in the least.

And what’s so bizarre about it? After his evening of wandering all over thinking all the things he was thinking about, if you could call it thinking, he’d finally got back, gone to the shed, forgetting we weren’t sleeping there. Found the door hanging open. Boards inside all busted up. Some personal stuff spread around. And he had matches in his pocket, so he set it on fire. Perfectly normal. Nothing strange to see here.

He wasn’t even mad about nothing. It just seemed right to burn it down, is how he explained it. It’d taken awhile to get it going. Got a small flame inside with some papers and stuff. He thought it’d die out, but the flame crept up a splintered board, then the wall caught and he had to back out. When it hit the roof it took off with a roar, from those tar tiles or all those plastic bags stuffed in the holes. Looked like it might catch on the tree overhead, until the shed roof fell in and the fire fell too.

That was around the time we looked out, the rest of us left in the house. We saw Mark lit up all white and orange, sitting on the ground beside the burning shed. Sitting around any old campfire, waiting for the marshmallows.

So I joined him. The others watched us from the back door.

I didn’t ask what the hell. Just sat down beside him, told him, “Nice fire.” We talked like you do around a campfire.

Later Norbert came out and said, “Everyone all right?”

“It’s his birthday,” I said.

Norbert stood around a minute, like trying to decide if he wanted to be one of the crazies like Mark and me. He decided he didn’t, so he went back into the house. Mark never looked up from the fire.

So we go back to Toronto? I said.

“Not Toronto.”

Somewhere else?


I still thought back east would be best.

“That’s giving up.”

It didn’t have to be.

“Should go on. Get into different things. Try things.” He didn’t sound like he meant it any more. “The ultimate trip.” I think that noise was a laugh.

We could be broke in Toronto as easy as in Vancouver or California, I said.

“So go on then. Why don’t you go all the way back to St. Mary’s?”

It was a possibility.

I expected him to laugh at me or make fun but we were both quiet. Then he said, “In Toronto you can’t have fires like this.”

No, you can’t.

Look, you don’t have to hear every idiotic word that came out of our mouths. We went on a long while. He wasn’t always talking to me anyhow. He wasn’t always talking sense.

“She had to explain it all away,” he said once. Related to nothing I could think of. It was probably from a song, a lot of what he said was from songs, probably more than I recognized but I didn’t know lyrics like him. I think he just lived in song lyrics, back in the day, like these pop and rock tunes were gospel. He was one of those people who read the lyrics, was always trying to work out what they meant. Like these rock stars had some insight into the world, the human heart, all that, instead of just being good rockers. Me, I’m kind of a literal guy. But, sorry, this is all about Mark….

When I asked him about Petra, he said there was no Petra no more. Never was. Which sounded insane but now when I think, after listening to the tape, it did make some kinda sense. No Petra named Petra at any rate.

When the fire burned right down, neither of us speaking for a long time, I said I was turning in. He didn’t move, so I got up, said, “Good night.”


If I’d thought those might be his last words to me, I woulda stayed with him longer. Done more. But I figured after whatever was going on in him had burned away, he’d come in the house, collapse like me.

I know now what he musta done then was go back down to Fourth. It was like one or two in the morning. He found a guy selling acid. Could be the same pusher.

Two bucks a tab was the going rate, or two for three bucks. I can see the guy showing him two kinds. Guaranteeing him they were pure. “Purple Hazes and Pink Floyds, man. Either one’s powerful enough but, you really wanna get off, take one of each.”

I can see Mark saying, “I got twenty bucks.”

See if I can figure out the rest.

He’d bought the acid. Next he got the tape deck. I figure he didn’t actually go looking for it, cause we all thought Wesley sold it like he said. For some reason Mark went through the Volkswagen sitting abandoned in the drive. Could be he was searching for a blanket to take with him. Guy’s gonna off himself, he still wants to be warm, comfortable up to the last moment, makes sense to me. Or some extra clothes. Or he just had a sixth sense about the tape deck, though I don’t believe in that kinda shit.

Wesley always left the car unlocked, so it musta been easy to get in and pull the lever to open the trunk at the front. There it was, the tape machine, under some clothes in the trunk. There was a long tape already on the machine, set almost at the beginning. Mark lifted the whole thing out, checked the battery. Looked okay. Some extra batteries rolling around in the trunk. As he took them out he found a large envelope under the machine, addressed to a Mrs. someone in Montreal. Felt like another tape in the envelope, so Mark took it too.

That was that, from what I can make out. He had the acid, the tape deck, he headed downtown one last time.


Before going, he left me a note. “Gone to the park. By the time you find me I’ll be gone.” What he thought was black humour I guess.

You know the rest.


Stanley Park.

A secluded place on the other side looking over the water and the hills.

Leaning against a tree, starting to make this tape, dropping the acid, one tab after another.


Continued >



Part I





Part II





Part III






Part IV





Part V







Part VI







Part VII















Part IX



Part X