Return to Editor Eric's Greatest Literature of All Time

My First Five-Year Plan banner



He said he didn’t blame anyone for anything.

“It wasn’t Wesley made me do it.”

I didn’t know if I believed him.

“Wasn’t Petra or the cops or anything like that,” he told me.

I didn’t know if he believed it himself. How far gone he was.

“Something I heard made me think it’d be cool to go out like that.”

I asked him what the hell he was saying.

“You wouldn’t grasp it,” he said. It sounded vaguely sacrilegious using Petra’s language for his explanation of trying to kill himself.

You mean I wouldn’t grasp the issue correctly?

“I’m a fucking idiot. And you keep rescuing me.”

I didn’t know that I did.

“You kidding me? Look at us.”

I couldn’t do that of course. But I could look at him and look out at the world shutting down. We were on the beach, I should tell you. It was getting kinda dim, softly though, with the sun just ready to go down over the ocean or the strait or the island, those misty things out there.

After he’d fallen on the boardwalk, I’d kneeled beside him, saw he had only fainted, until he came around and I got him over there on the sand. A couple of freaks who camped on the beach helped me actually. They seemed to know him.

“You his friend?” said one, half as filthy as him. “He’s been hanging around. Just crashing in the open. Don’t think he’s had anything to eat for awhile.”

We propped him up against one of those big driftwood logs. I went to get some coffee, some sweet buns and things from a snack truck in the park. I gave some to Mark, offered some to the freaks who’d helped me.

“No, that’s cool. I don’t eat sugar, man,” one said and they left us alone.

It wasn’t good food but it worked. I sat against the log beside Mark as he sipped some, ate some. “That’s good,” he said. More of a croaking noise. But he had some more and he got more normal. Or I should say more like his old self. I waited for him to talk, if he wanted to.

“Guess this is as far west as we get,” he said after a bit.

“Where’s your stuff? I thought you had more things with you.”

“Gone. Everything cops didn’t take. Miss that hockey bag.”

“Your wallet, stuff in it and —”

“Ripped off when I was sleeping. I guess. And know what? I don’t even care.”

I wondered if that meant he was gonna try and kill himself again.

“Why’d you do it anyways?” Then, damn, I shouldn’t open that can.

It didn’t set him off or anything. He just said, “Hard to explain.” He actually smiled.

I told him I knew all about Wesley. I figured he did too. Maybe that, everything else that happened…. That’s when he said that wasn’t it and went on about me saving him again.

I told him, no, man, we rescue each other. In different ways maybe, but still. He stretched me, man. Like without him pushing me I never even woulda come out west. I wouldn’t do anything but stay in my proper place and job and everything for my whole life, never know anything else or have any of these experiences.

This time he actually laughed. “See where it’s got you?”

“Life of Reilly. Whoever the fuck Reilly is, but I bet he’s some guy who knew how to live.”

“Ended up in jail. Or starved to death on a beach.”

We sat a bit without talking, watching the sun go down. You know how when the sun’s real close to the horizon, maybe over water, you sense you can actually see it moving as it goes down. The glow around it and on the water gets gradually smaller and you think you can see all around you the land and air gradually growing darker at the same time as if someone is turning down a kerosene lamp across the camp.

“Okay, I’ll try to explain,” he finally said. “Don’t laugh.”

He talked slow, halting at first as the light died around us.


Maybe it was kinda related to Wesley. Petra and others. But that wasn’t it. I’m not saying I was gonna kill myself cause anyone made me. This thing I read it in a book. I know how stupid that sounds. Didn’t read it myself. Only heard it was in a book. That’s even stupider. But there was some famous guy who’s dying. This was a lotta years ago. This famous guy is dying. And he wants to, like, solve the mysteries of life. And he works out this is his chance. So he gets his wife — he’s dying, hours before he dies — he gets her to shoot him up with acid. It was all legal then. And keep shooting him up, like he’s on a drip I think. So he can have visions and see what’s going on as he’s dying, really see behind all the phony stuff of life. I’m not saying it right. But maybe you get it. Like he wanted to see reality. The real reality. Have a beautiful death. I know what you’re thinking. All BS. You said you wouldn’t laugh. I’ll tell you when. Else I’ll never get this out. You can laugh all you want later. But now.… So this is what I’m thinking. I was always looking for that kind of experience, you know? Something more than just me in this life. In this world. In this head. Wanna be part of something bigger than all this. Higher. No, I don’t mean like religion and God and all that. Sounds like that a bit, I guess. But that’s still nowhere. Has to be more than that. Know what I mean? Bigger. I wanted to get above it all. Go all the way. No sex jokes, okay? A lotta things get me halfway there. More like a quarter way. Or a tenth or one-hundredth. Then they break down and it’s always, is that all there is? I thought coming here, this whole trip, was going to be like this beautiful thing. New adventures and people and ideas and things that were going to lift me there. And some of it was kinda tempting, you know. Don’t worry about Wesley’s crap. I always knew that was crap. It was just kinda fun to play with. A couple things he said have kinda stayed with me. But only a couple out of thousand things he’s said. Mostly I knew he was an ass. I didn’t know how big an ass he was but when I found out I wasn’t so shocked or upset. I was already going another way. And Petra’s stuff, like her and her political stuff — I kinda got into both of them. And I still kinda love her. But she’s gone. For better or worse. And I’m not made for politics. Thought I might be. For a bit. And a lotta other things I tried. We tried. Like this whole trip. And stuff. When it comes down to it, what does it matter where we go? Or do? Or if we go any further? And that story of that famous guy came back. I’d known that story awhile, I don’t remember when. And it came back to me and I thought why not? He was recording himself the whole time. Like reporting his inside experience as his wife was shooting him up and he was dying. His insights I guess they were. And I thought about that and Wesley’s recorder was there…. And the acid was there, I thought it was acid…. And Stanley Park would be a cool place and…. No, I didn’t think of anyone else, like how my parents would feel when they heard. No, not even Petra. Or you. Course not. Or I mean, yeah, I did in a way. But I thought I was doing everyone a big service. You were all fed up with me anyhow. And I was making this amazing tape that would blow everyone’s mind. Then it turned out to be just a nothing story of me showing everyone what an idiot I am. You were right to call me an asshole. No, really. Yeah, really. I’m okay with it now. I spent two days cleansing myself. Okay, maybe I’m not cleansed. I know I stink, I’m kinda disgusting. But two days of not eating makes me realize something really, really, real profound. I like eating. I’d rather eat than starve. I’m making garbage jokes. So there, I must be back to normal. But I worked it out, after you rescued me in the park — okay, you didn’t rescue me, but you did something and you called me an asshole and — anyhow I knew the only way I could get to where I wanted was if first I hit as low a point as possible, if I was reduced to nothing. I had to hit bottom. That rocky bottom. Sandy, wet, cold. Sick in the stomach. Bottom. Now you’re looking at me like I’m crazy again. That’s okay too. Cause I have hit bottom and I’m alive and it’s all up from here. I’m starting again. Just like when we left Toronto. Except now I’m sitting here, the other end of the continent, watching the sun going down — ah, it’s down already. It’s gone down on the whole country now. It’s gone down on Toronto and the other side of Toronto, and this way over Northern Ontario, those long lonely hilly roads we hitched across and I have dreams of, nightmares, and the light has gone from the hostels and diners and cops of Winnipeg and it’s gone down on those grain things in those ghost towns on the prairies and the mountains, our mountains I guess, and those lost kids and freaks making music, or trying to, and those kids and freaks living in houses and hostels and sheds and on the beach in Vancouver and out there on the island — it’s just sort of a dark hazy heap out there now or is that the night? Anyhow it’s all gone in the darkness now, the whole country and continent has disappeared. And no one knows what the next sun will find here in the morning. Or I guess we do. That’s stupid. It’ll be the same. But I’ll be starting fresh and I’ll keep going for it. Could be around here. Could be out there. Could be down the coast to California and Mexico. And I’ll think of you and Petra and everyone and even Wesley a little, but specially you, and I’ll be warmed when I think of you and I’ll keep going.


“That’s beautiful. Did you get it from a book too?”

“Pretty good?”

“Not bad for a paranoid messed up freak on the edge of death.”

“Maybe I did hear something like it. But it kinda fits. I’m gonna say it’s all mine.”

That called for sitting in the dark awhile not talking, listening to the waves from the bay slipping onto the shore a few yards past our feet. Picking up the scratchy sounds of people chatting along the boardwalk, the soft sounds of freaks trying not to draw attention to themselves on the beach.

When enough time had passed, I said, “You’re not asking me to go with you, I take it.”

“Like I said, dunno yet where I’m going or not going. Anyhow, you wouldn’t go with me, would you?”

“Probably not.”

More sitting in silence. We could make out some stars coming out now in the western sky where the sun had gone down. Neither of us would ever know what they were.

“You know those are the same stars shining on Toronto and the prairies….” he started.

“You’re pushing it now.”

I waited for him to ask me what my plans were. He never did.

“So I guess we’re even now,” he said very softly. “Kidding.”

It started getting cool. He seemed to be sliding back into being near comatose. I said, “Let’s go back to the house. You can get cleaned up, new clothes, maybe a good night’s sleep or two.”

He protested of course. Said he’d already told me what he had in mind. Not going back there. He couldn’t, not to stay. Also, he didn’t wanna to see anyone there.

I said it was just for the night. The next morning he could wake up in a more or less clean bed, have some breakfast, then go off to start his new life anywhere or anyway he wanted to. He wouldn’t have to go in the backyard or talk to anyone in the house if he didn’t want. It would be his first step up from the rock bottom. Then keep on from there, onwards and upwards.

It was like guiding a zombie but somehow I got him back to the house.

There we got him fed, as much cereal and milk and chopped bananas me and Billy could spoon into him. It seemed he didn’t mind Billy seeing him. Billy didn’t mind helping take care of him. Even put him in his own bed.

All right, that was some days ago. Mark stayed a bit, got a few things cleared up with Norbert’s help. Long gone now. Off on his new adventure, if that’s what you wanna call it.

I’m just going in now to get some work. I’m finishing up what I wanna say here, then I’m done with this tape too. I’ll leave it behind when I take off myself. If Mark ever comes back he can decide what to do with it. If he’s in any shape for anything. Two big ifs. I found his notebook too. Not much in it, but I’ll put it with the tape.

Hear that, guy? If you’ve come back, if you’re listening to this. It’s up to you.``

Or it could be you’re not listening and only Norbert and Billy and Loren and them will ever hear this, if they even want. When you’re listening to this, whoever you are, it could be Mark is dead. I’m not trying to be nasty. It’s just reality. It could be. So I’m talking to a dead guy. Or I’m talking to Norbert and everyone. Hi, Norbert. Hi, Loren. Hi, everyone. Maybe you’ll pass this on to Petra someday. She could do something with it. Things on here she might like to know. Hi, Petra. Or play it to anyone. Even Wesley, you ever find him. No, don’t. He might use it for a new book. One more rip-off.

It could be nobody’s listening. And nobody’ll ever hear this. Maybe by the time someone listens to this it’s like years have passed, everyone’s old or dead now. Does tape even last that long? Anyways, you get what I’m saying.

What does it matter? What does any of this prove? Nothing. Another nothing proven. Another accident. That’s all. Another bzz, bzz, bzz in my head.

Or here’s a thought. Maybe I should take the tape, give it to Mark’s family back east. Hey, Mister and Missus, sorry about all this.

But that might scare the hell out of them, specially parts of the tape, still not knowing if he’s dead or alive. Have to think more on that one. I hope it’s you I’m talking to, Mark. Just have to say I understand and everything. Even if I don’t see things the same. No shit.

So I’m doing this crappy delivery work for now, anything else that’s going. I figure I can clear enough in two or three months to pay my way back.

I can’t see any advantage to staying out here. Glad I came, real glad. I’m so glad I’m glad I’m glad I’m glad. That’s one of your songs, right?

But there’s a lotta crap to get me balled up here. Lot back east too, I know that, but I can handle it better there. And I got family close.

I’ll get a job in Toronto or starve there, as well as I can here. Watch me, I’ll be a real shit disturber this time. I’ll be a better shit disturber than I was before cause of all the crap we’ve been through. And I’m looking into this political thing. See if Petra’s thing is it. Or something like it. Or maybe not. I dunno if I’m any better at it, like suited for it. But that’s something to find out.

What we went through, there’s been some good things, things I wanna use, build on. Like the together stuff. The feeling we’re all together in this big change going on, just like you said. A lot of us. Some of us. Yeah, a big part of it is BS, to be sure. To make us feel we’re doing something important. I don’t have illusions. But there’s a good part of it too. We can overcome anything if we’re together. Don’t laugh. That kinda cliché is kinda true. This feeling of being part of something that could be good, could change everything, make us all better. Like beneath the music, beneath the bad drugs, the scary politics, the mystical shit, the godawful health food ... even beneath the hype and the paranoia and trying to get laid, beneath it all there’s this other thing going on. This hope. Man, I’m not selling this very well, am I? There’s this hope we’re doing something together to save ourselves. Even with Wesley — Wesley the crazy guru, not that other Wesley — what he’s appealing to. The something good that makes it possible for some types to take advantage. Beneath, running through it, there’s this. We’re looking at things different now, which has gotta be some kinda good. Could be it won’t last long. This could even be the tail end of something good, like it’s already over, done. I dunno. Then on to something more real. But there was this thing happening for awhile at least, so it’s possible, isn’t it? If we go about it different next time.

Hey, I’m not sure what it takes. Talking. Fighting. Trying things. Making a lotta mistakes. Definitely. Getting beaten back sometimes, but pushing on, trying to do the right thing. Or, I gotta be honest here, maybe it’s setting off in other directions I just don’t know yet. It’ll come. I hope I’m alive and kicking for it. You too. All of us. I’m gonna be fighting for it.

I know it won’t come fast. Could be years. I’ll give it five.

That’s my plan.



Part I





Part II





Part III






Part IV





Part V







Part VI







Part VII















Part IX



Part X