Cheeseburger Brown CHEESEBURGER BROWN: Novelist & Story-wallah
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Three Visits
A life-like adventure from Cheeseburger Brown
Three Visits, a free life-like adventure from Cheeseburger Brown, illustration by the author

One week at the Old Schoolhouse, three parties of visitors did come: from Cabbagetown, France and Everywhere.

One of the visitors reportedly experienced the best day in his whole life.

I had a good time, too.

French Tartan

Plaid, descended from Jews and Moroccan French, is alive and well and living in Paris. As far as I know his father is still collecting the foil-liners of cigarette packages and combining them into simple geometric forms of unusual size, and his mother still teaches. Plaid himself is a guru of *nix, on contract in the French capital and returning to Canada only to visit his dentist.

(The Jews have always had a great respect for dentistry, and will not idly switch practitioners even if it does mean crossing the Atlantic every six months.)

"You're looking great!" exclaims Littlestar as Plaid steps through the door into our old schoolhouse. I agree. "You've got European sophistication coming out the wazoo."

It's true. Plaid's new outfit is simple and unlogoed, with clean lines and nice fabrics. He's lost weight, and he's wearing impressive shoes. His English has been Frenchified somewhat by sustained immersion in the company of frogs, I notice as he tells us about his ridiculous, dysfunctional socialist workplace where getting fired is impossible and productivity is a foreign, inelegant notion held important only by lesser beings than the French. "I have a friend who does what I do," explains Plaid, "but he couldn't find work, so the French government pays him to sit around at home rather than risk having him go to find work abroad, like I did."

"But how can it be that you have work and a native working in the same field doesn't?" I ask.

"Oh, that's easy," says Plaid. "Since I'm not a French national I don't get the same perks they do -- I can be fired, for example, without their having to give me a year and half of severance."

"A year and a half?" Littlestar echoes, incredulous.

"Absolutely," says Plaid. "It's a bargain for them to hire someone like me who doesn't have French rights. I work for three months at a time, which is how long you can work without a visa, and then I travel somewhere for the weekend and then re-enter France, so I can start my three months over again."

"That's insane," comments Littlestar.

Plaid nods and smiles. He tells us about his French cousin who for years was paid to show up for work and do nothing -- so he spent his days going to the library, checking out compact discs and then burning copies of them with the office computers. His boss didn't have a problem with this, because his boss was in the exact same boat: a job with no duties, a wage with no effort. Plaid tells us about the pleasure of dining out with French friends (always a multi-hour affair of delicacy after delicacy) and the agony of listening to them gossip incessantly about who's blood is more important whose, and who acts like a member of which social class despite said blood.

Two of our big dogs meander over to snarf his crotch in an effort to determine what stuff Plaid is made of without tracing lineage. "They breed the ponies small around here," says Plaid, retreating further into the green easychair by the fire. The French prefer dogs the size of lunchboxes, apparently, and so does Plaid.

"Well," he says after a few hours of chat, "I guess I have to go to the dentist, now."

"If you're in the country next summer you'll have to come to HuSistock," I remind him as he slips a simply cut black jacket over his mock-neck. "Perhaps you could bring some putty."

"Absolutely," agrees Plaid.

We hug and shake hands and he hops into his rental car and zooms away. "He seems to be in a really great way," mentions Littlestar. "France has been good for him." I nod. Plaid's glowing brakelights slip away behind the fence, and the village darkens again.

Maritime Curry

Once upon a time there were three charming brothers from the musical island of Cape Breton who spent their days travelling hither and yon and chatting up all the people of the world.

And, while we have before played host to all three brothers at once, this time it is just the eldest: Bass Eagar. "Holy smokes howarya?" he beams as he comes through the door, pumping our hands and drawing us into hugs and craning his head around at the same time to take in the schoolhouse interior. "Isn't this some grand, hey? By Gad!"

Since last we've met the Eagars they have lived in England, Australia and Japan and in between have driven a rickshaw across India. It is this last excursion that they have documented with a digital camcorder, the results of which Bass Eagar is shopping around in Toronto in hopes of finding a broadcaster and/or a paying contract for a new video travelogue. (We watch the trailers on his laptop, since the Windows Media codec makes our Macs puke.) He joins our wireless network and spends an hour mailing back the contacts he's made with producers, arranging his meetings and burning CDs of sample footage.

Popsicle the toddler is very impressed with Bass Eagar, and she wants to show him everything about her house. "Man!" she cries from the piano, "Hey, man!" When Bass turns to look she bangs on the keys a bit. Then she slips off the stool and runs over to pick up a kitten by the neck. "Titten! Man, look -- titten!" she narrates.

"Not by the neck, please!" calls Littlestar. "Put Hush down."

We take Bass Eagar on a brief tour that ends at the foot of Slozo's inflatable bed, in Littlestar's studio. (For those of you not in the loop, Slozo is my brother-in-law and he's staying with us while he saves up money to go teach English in Japan in the new year.) "Bass Eagar!" mumbles Slozo blearily, sitting up in bed and blinking. I don't remember in what part of the world it was that Travelling Slozo first met the Eagar Brothers, but it may have been Alaska.

"Hey there, you old Latvian Horse!" cries Bass Eagar, giving Slozo an enthusiastic two-handed handshake.

We continue our tour with the sleepy Slozo in tow. Bass Eager steps inside the master bedroom closet, looks around, and declares it to be somewhat larger than the flat he shares with another fellow in Tokyo. He steps out on the balcony and looks over the back yard. "Filthy!" he declares. "This is place is right filthy, CheeseburgerBrown. That's the only word for it."

"Is that a good thing?"

He nods. "Lard Jaisus Christ but it's a punishing place to visit right before going back to Japan, hey? How much land is it, all told?"

"Half-acre," I say. "Not much by country standards, but a lot more than we could get in Toronto."

"Shore," agrees Bass, eyes scanning the wild field on which our yard backs; "and about ten times more than a rich Japanese could ever dream of having."

Perspective is everything. The Eagars have perspective. They have known more people than I will ever meet, and seen the unedited daily lives of more cultures than I could easily name. Littlestar mentions this, and Bass Eagar shrugs. "The more you see, the more you come to appreciate the few things that are actually important, hey?" he philosophizes. "It sounds to me like you guys appreciate it here, and you should. This is paradise. This is exactly what I want for day."

"Where would you settle down? In Canada -- in Cape Breton?" asks Littlestar, joining us on the balcony. Down below the dogs run in circles, snapping at each other as they toss bits of wood around.

"No, I can't abide the winters," shivers Bass, his eyes glued to the orange and scarlet trees in the field. "I've been thinking about trying to find a place in Australia. The only problem is...I find myself not really liking every Australian, if you follow me."

"Don't get me started on Australians," groans Littlestar. "What about New Zealand?"

"Yeah," I chime in. "It's the South Pacific's answer to Canada."

"Hey, that's true," says Bass, nodding. "You know, thinking of the Kiwis I've met, that is precisely true. Maybe I should live in New Zealand after all."

We head back inside and break out the drinks after Popsicle goes down for her nap. Littlestar has been an aficionado of India ever since her own travels there, and so eagerly questions Bass Eagar about the details of their rickshaw adventure. Like Littlestar, the Eagars' previous travels in India had mainly been by rail, so they had been quite shocked by the state of the highways once they got there with the rickshaw -- engulfed in mud, washed out by rain, broken by time, splintered by development, cauterized by traffic accidents. "Fuck that was a hard road, hey?" says Bass Eagar, shaking his head.

At the end of it all the two junior Eagars went to London while Bass returned the rented video equipment by way of Tokyo. "The first thing I did was to go to a bath-house, hey? I scrubbed myself pink, trying to get those months out dust off of me. I don't think I've ever had a more thorough washing in all my life, no word of a lie..."

Bass closes his eyes for a moment, remembering.

"But the Japanese are a very clean people," he continues. "I mean, it borders on psychotic. They are super sensitive to any hint of dirt, especially odour. So I get out of this bath-house -- after this intensive fucking purification, fresh change of clothes, everything -- and head to a barber to get a shave. And you know what the first thing the little Japanese barber says to me? He says, 'You smell like curry.'"

Slozo and Bass Eagar take a green-striped GO bus into the big city to have an evening of debauchery and drink, so Littlestar and I go to see Team America: World Police in Newmarket. We get there early so we play a few arcade videogames, giggling and murdering pixelated people. I drive a Pod Racer that vibrates under my ass in an uncomfortable way. Littlestar pegs off assassins, peering through a little electronic scope. The main feature is somewhat underwhelming and the debit machine at the concession hub is broken so we can't buy popcorn. Still, it's a good date. In the car we kiss.

Popsicle wakes up the boys in the morning. "Unc'Slozo! Man!"

"Jaisus Gad but you're a gassy man," Bass Eagar chides Slozo as they roll out of bed. "What are you feeding this horse?" he asks me.

"Table scraps," I tell him. "Orange peels and the classifieds."

Since Bass has been a guest to so many houses over the years he is the consummate good visitor. He is observant of when his presence is disrupting routine, and quick to speak up to offer suggestions about how he can make things easier for everyone. He is aware of how much of your food he is eating, and how much of your potable water he is directly or indirectly causing to be used. He would rather walk a few kilometers to catch a bus than cause you to go out of your way in driving him to the stop.

He is mindful of the footprint of his existence.

That night by a blazing hearth and over beers he tries to explain to us some of the subtleties of the East so often muddled by the West, but I'd be lying if I said I really understood all of the distinctions he was trying to draw our attention to. He tried to communicate the essence of Japanese female loyalty without speaking in terms of the Western understanding of subservience, and we tried our best to imagine it. But it's hard. In some ways the Japanese are very alien.

I take Bass Eagar into my laboratorium to watch some of my cartoons. "The Japanese would love this!" he declares. "Can you make me a copy I can take back with me? Would it play in Japanese players right enough?"

"Yeah, they use NTSC video, just like us."

West is alien to East and East is alien to West, but cartoons bridge the gap. Littlestar shows Bass Eagar her anime collection on DVD, and we all spend a moment extolling the virtues of Hayao Miyazaki. (What kind of a freak wouldn't enjoy Miyazaki movies? Myself I can't imagine.) Littlestar and I go to bed and the boys return to the big city to play.

The third day is a doozy.

After an episode of nighttime vomit and daytime quease, we wonder whether or not Littlestar and I have accidentally conceived Baby Two. Bass Eagar is frustrated in his efforts to pin down a meeting with a producer, and has sent a blunt e-mail while drunk in the small hours of the morning. We talk him into using our telephone to call the city, and he tries again to nail down a window with the important contact. Old Oak has decided to explodermarate his front door and remake it, so the air is thick with the yell of power tools and Latvian profanity and the whipping in the wind of an old tarp only half-tethered. Slozo is grouchy, and he wants to use my computer to check his e-mail but I've been delayed enough waiting for Bass Eagar to check his and now I've really got to get on with my own bloody work, my afternoon deadline looming.

Yes, and just then our old dog Jag pisses all over the floor.

"Mama, Dada, Unc'Slozo, Man: look -- dog peen!" Popsicle calls. She crouches on her haunches and points. The old dog looks over his scabby shoulder and furrows his brow pitifully, as if to say, "I'd stop if I could."

A monumental amount of urine is dispensed. "Wow," says Popsicle.

Bass Eagar makes a breakthrough on the telephone and scores a meeting, so leaving suddenly becomes urgent. Hilarity ensues when a grouchy Slozo attempts to negotiate the borrowing of Littlestar's car while she is cleaning up a small lake of dog piss. Informalities are exchanged. Ultimately however, since Littlestar is a generous soul, Slozo gets to borrow the car anyway.

The boys depart amid a scrum at the front door involving a depressed Old Oak coming up to vent about the sub-par Newfoundlandish construction job on the floor beneath the mudroom downstairs and a gaggle of dogs and cats. One of the dogs steps on my toe and so I become surly. A kitten escapes into the front yard. I call for help but Littlestar is in the washroom, peeing on a pregnancy test strip.

Thirty seconds after the boys leave Littlestar wonders whether or not they will notice that the car has absolutely no fuel in it before they attempt to get on the freeway.

An hour later the telephone rings.

It's Slozo. He's been pulled over for speeding (in order to get to Bass's meeting on time) and subsequently informed that his driver's licence had been suspended some time ago due to unpaid fines. He then hung up on Littlestar when something started to happen on his end.

We drink a glass of wine and bask in the negative result of the pregnancy test. The day yields more urine related success when Popsicle manages to pee a squirt into the toilet, instead of wetting her diaper. We applaud and cheer. Popsicle is so delighted with herself that she climbs off of the toilet and empties her bladder on the washroom countertop. Our applause falters. Asks Popsicle, "Good gol?"

When Slozo next calls he's in the city. Bass Eagar has driven the car to a Ministry of Transportation office after driving to his meeting, but Slozo doesn't have enough money to cover the fines. (Personally, I'm not sure how this can be possible since he's allegedly staying with us in order to feed his savings account.) So, the ministry people won't let him drive away...

Slozo asks Bass to loan him the money, to put it on his MasterCard. Bass tells him he cannot. Slozo attempts to persuade him. Bass becomes angry, and reminds Slozo of several cogent points about his situation -- specifically the parts about his being nearly impoverished, on a daunting mission in an expensive city with no time to waste, and a day away from hopping on a plane bound for the other side of the planet.

(It's true -- Slozo somehow figured out a way to piss off a jolly Cape Bretoner. That's like making someone in a Santa Claus costume swear, or forcing a pixie to fart.)

It is an irritating quandary to retrieve Slozo and the vehicle from Toronto. Bass Eagar opts to spend his last Canadian night in a downtown hostel, so that he can make his appointments the next day without hassle. "Come back anytime," we tell him. "It's always a pleasure to see an Eagar."

Slozo mutters and mutters.

City Mouse, Country Mouse

Do you remember the Commodore? He and I experienced the Great Blackout of 2003 together, as I've mentioned before. He was a producer at the cool kids' downtown animation company. Myself I still whore for them now and again.

I spent the evening of the Great Blackout in the Commodore's neighbourhood pub in Cabbagetown, drinking warming beers by candlelight and talking anything but shop. He mentioned his mixed feelings about living in the core of a megalopolis -- on the one hand the charm of the familiar faces in the pub, the ability to live without a car, the proximity to entertainment and food; on the other hand the fact that people steal your garbage cans at night and the air tastes like cheese.

So the Commodore has had a long standing invitation to bring his woman and child up to enjoy the countrified air of our old schoolhouse. But he's had a busy year, working to keep his career propelled without the Cool Kids. But the day has finally arrived.

It's a breezy but bright Saturday morning. I drive down to the city and pick up the Commodore and crew in the Volvo. The Commodore's woman, Earthy Parker, has recently rescued an abandoned newborn kitten; since the kitten needs to feed from a tiny bottle every four hours, it sits in a box on her lap as we drive, mewling in its tiny voice. Earthy Parker's boy sits beside her. He's seven and three quarters years old, and I'm call him Li'l Commodore. "Are there farms where we're going?" he wants to know.

"Oh yeah," I tell him, swinging onto the 407. "All kinds of farms, but especially tree farms."

"Tree farms?" echoes Li'l Commodore, giggling. "All they grow is trees or something?"

"And fresh air, yes. Trees and fresh air."

The Commodore tells me he's been doing traffic reports for the radio. "And I'm even getting my driver's licence, so pretty soon I'll actually have some idea what I'm talking about."

"Way to go, Commodore," I say, accelerating past a dawdling geriatric nekton and finding a new niche in the animal of traffic we're riding. We're on the 400 now, shooting north past the Holland Marsh.

"Everyone is always calling him 'Commodore,'" comments Earthy Parker, rolling her eyes and smiling in the rearview mirror. "I forget, and for a second have no idea who you're talking to."

"You think of him as Johnny Samoa, of course."

"Of course. That's his name."

(And so The Commodore becomes Johnny Samoa. Global search and replace.)

At the schoolhouse Littlestar barbecues up cheeseburgers and franks and chips. We sit at the picnic table in the yard, chatting and taking turns taking Popsicle and Li'l Commodore for rides on the four-wheeler. I drive the kids around for a couple of circuits, and then Johnny Samoa takes over. Li'l Commodore throws up his arms as he rides, whooping with joy. The little red ATV bumbles over the junky back corner and roars around the swings, chugging up the hill and coming to a chortling stop by the picnic table again. "Wee!" cries Popsicle. "Vroom vroom!"

Popsicle shows Li'l Commodore where Frick is buried, and he becomes confused. "There's a cat under there?" he wants to know. And then, "Can I see it?"

Later on while the girls chat their girlie chats Johnny Samoa and I play catch with Li'l Commodore, spacing ourselves out in a triangle across the grass. We have to put the dogs inside, because they keep trying to eat the ball. I watch Johnny Samoa, a fatherless man, enjoy the fruits of his patient efforts over the years to become Li'l Commodore's functional equivalent of a dad. He does it well. As we toss the ball around he cloaks his suggestions for improvement with encouragement like a pro. "You've got a good arm, my man!" he calls. "Now put it right here."

Of course it doesn't hurt Li'l Commodore's sense of self-esteem that I so roundly suck. He finds my pitiful attempts to catch and throw to be high comedy, but to his credit he doesn't give me a very hard time about it. Johnny Samoa gently curbs the boy's aggression when he gets too rowdy, tries to channel it into the next throw instead.

The kid is inexhaustible. He wants to play ball forever. We play baseball with a stray 2-by-4 for a while after Earthy Parker calls outside that using a shovel as a bat may not be such a hot idea. At last lunch is ready and we're called inside. "I win!" declares Li'l Commodore.

So, I think, this is what it's like to have a son.

At lunch Popsicle becomes entranced by the feeding of Earthy Parker's boxed kitten. Popsicle pets it and cooes, "Oooh, baby-titten, baby-titten." She wants very badly to pick up the kitten and hug it, but we have doubts about her ability to restrain her love.

Earthy Parker had found the kitten in the back alley a few hours after being born, lying prone next to a wasp-covered placenta to which it was still attached. She cut the umbilical and found a rodent-sized micro-bottle for feeding; she purchased animal breast milk with colostrum to fill it with, and proceeded to nurse the abandoned thing back to life. The kitten's eyes had opened for the first time just a few days before the schoolhouse visit.

Johnny Samoa takes the kitten so that Earthy Parker can eat her lunch, and Popsicle switches her affections to follow. She slips off of Earthy Parker's lap and starts making sweet eyes at her man. "Com'do -- up, prease," she says, petting his thigh affectionately. "Com'do -- up."

He melts. Who could deny an appeal like that from a little golden haired sprite less than three feet tall? He makes room on his other knee for her, and she resumes petting the kitten while it feeds. "Baby-titten," she sighs.

"You should be honoured," I tell him. "She called both Plaid and Bass Eagar just 'Man' -- you actually get a name."

Sure, and we play a game of Monopoly and eat nachos. Nobody is playing for real except Li'l Commodore, who takes the game very seriously. Popsicle interrupts by pushing herself between our chairs wearing her socks on her hands. "Heyyo! Heyyo, bubbet!" she says, flexing one hand and then the other.

"What is she doing?" asks Li'l Commodore, furrowing his brow and sucking his two front teeth suspiciously.

"Those are her puppets," I explain.

"Num-nums!" sings Popsicle, flexing her socked hand at Li'l Commodore. "Bubbet num-nums."

Li'l Commodore looks at me blankly, so I explain. "She wants you to pretend to feed her puppet. See?" I put a mime crumb in Popsicle's palm, which she devours by opening and closing her hand. Li'l Commodore is a good sport, and he consents to feed her puppet several invisible bits of food before the urgency of playing Monopoly becomes too much to ignore.

At the end of the afternoon we put Popsicle down for a nap with Plucky and Old Oak downstairs and pile into the car to return to the city. Li'l Commodore says to Johnny Samoa, "You know, I think this is probably the best day I ever had."

"Really, fella?" replies Johnny Samoa.

Li'l Commodore reconsiders the question, squinting and nodding slowly. "Yeah, yeah no, I think this is the best day I ever had in my whole life. I know that Popsicle is just a baby and she can't talk, but you know what? We had a really good time playing together anyway. And the dogs were kind of scary, but they were really nice too. Yeah, no, it was definitely the best day in my life."

If you're not any kind of parent you may not understand, but that kind of statement just melts hearts. Johnny Samoa and Earthy Parker live to hear things like that from their boy. That's what all their sacrifices are about: trying like hell to frame situations that can turn out to be best moments for his life. They do a lot to enrich Li'l Commodore's days (crafts and community and martial arts), but one thing they have poor access to is green grass, blue sky and room to run around with beasties -- which is a thing none of us should be deprived of for too long, especially if we're kids. Five minutes into the drive Li'l Commodore is asleep, leaning against his mother's shoulder as she cradles the kitten box on her lap.

I drive, I drive, and the megalopolis engulfs us as the sun sets. We drop off Li'l Commodore at his biological father's house and then proceed to Cabbagetown.

(Cue change-over.)

Littlestar switches the station, turns up the radio and speeds up the car as we push across downtown. I start rolling up a marijuana cigarette in my lap while Johnny Samoa directs her to the nearest liquor store...

The girls drop us off while they go to park. We negotiate a loose cloud of vagrants accumulated outside the busy LCBO orifice, Johnny Samoa heading directly to his favourite rack and picking out an armful of bottles of red wine. We use the debit machine standing between a party of giggling fancy-girls buying coolers and a duo of old Russians who are bickering in an affectionate way.

It's cold, so we huddle our jackets around our shoulders as we scurry between the clots of cars and people outside. We pass behind a bank of shops and then squeeze through a narrow brick passage to emerge at the side of the neighbourhood tavern. Johnny Samoa steps over a short hedge and onto his porch, and I follow. Through one door, past an office, through another door...

We climb a narrow, steep stairwell with dark red carpeted steps. At the top is the flat that Johnny Samoa and Earthy Parker share. We join the girls in the kitchen, and bust out the spirits. We smoke the marijuana cigarette and then forget whose wine glass is whose. "I don't have any known cooties," I assure Earthy Parker, to make her giggle.

She tells us about an occasion years ago when she and her girlfriends had visited New York and decided to go to the Algonquin Hotel so they could pretend to be Dorothy Parker and play Round Table. They dressed for the night, and when they arrived just as tea was ending they noticed they were attracting some stares -- because the nice evening clothes of regular folk look a lot like the uniforms of expensive call girls, and in a swanky environment like the Algonquin that's exactly what everyone was assuming they were.

"Wrong kinda girl-power."

Two of Johnny Samoa's other friends arrive, Nitz and Chronic. More wine is poured, and introductions are made. I'm sitting beside Nitz, a quiet, affable fellow with a blue baseball cap and sideburns; he studies political science and economic development, and hopes to work building a functional democracy in Bosnia. I mention to him my conversation with that artillery sergeant last summer, who is the only person I've met who has spent a lot of time working for the UN over there. We also talk about my friend the Black Serb, who would have me believe that Nitz's Croat blood was made thin by the unholy treachery of his ancestors and kin. Nitz's stance on ethnic hatred is considerably more liberal.

He talks a lot about an idea called "a tradition of democracy" -- in contexts like the West "imposes democratic systems on cultures that lack a tradition of democracy" and so on. I was confused by this whole tradition-of-democracy idea, but Earthy, another student of politics, seems to know all about it. She speaks in terms of human priorities co-opted by institutions driven like clockwork machinery by perverse, inhuman mandates of ceaseless growth. Down with the West, up with people!

I pour myself another glass of wine.

Chronic is a loader for the Canadian Pacific Rail, and he tells us about how the strange hours of his shift give him access to the cold, peaceful hour before dawn. He smiles a lot. He has a bag of mushrooms, and they're magical. Earthy Parker puts water on to boil for brewing up some mushroom tea. Johnny Samoa signs up for a cup but Littlestar and I demure on the grounds that we have to wake up at toddler o'clock in the morning.

...Which is in about four hours.

The Volvo has been parked in by a gaggle of other cars in the labrynthine alleyworks behind Johnny Samoa and Earthy Parker's place. I follow Johnny Samoa into the basement of the local arts and community centre, where about a hundred black folks are celebrating somebody's birthday with jazz and bourbon. I meet a nice man with two teeth and a fancy hat who agrees to move his car so I can get out.

While I wait for him to find his keys I loiter in the hall, near a series of photo-collages depicting children and ethnic associations, hobby clubs and crafts nights. One of the pictures is of Bean, my long ago girlfriend of three years -- my highschool steady before the strange days of Hawky and Ruxanna (another story, already told). She's a violin teacher at the centre. Small world, dense city.

In the end we do manage to extract our car, nuzzling past other cars in a complex operation guided by Johnny Samoa standing in the middle of an alley conducting us like a runway signaller.

"This was great, this really great, we're doing this again really soon," he tells us at the window. Littlestar is driving, because she's Latvian and it takes more than a few bottles of wine to make her drunk. I'm a medium-sized man who took no account of intake, so I'm unsteady in my chair and I have the hiccups.

"Aye aye, Commodore," I say.

And then it's rushing country blackness ahead and the glowing gridwork forest of megalotropia behind. We stop at a roadside Tim's for bagels and tea, giving me an opportunity to once again rant about the way today's modern War on Terror bagels lack the poppy seed density of yesteryear, even at Tim's. "If we can't count on Tim Horton to make good with the opium bagels, who can we count on? Stinkin' nobody, that's who."

Littlestar has heard it all before. She rolls her eyes and drives on. (She prefers sesame seeds over poppy seeds, but I married her anyway.) We're dashing alone along 89, dried husk cornfields sussurussing in the wind of our wake. Leaves skitter.

Soon it's all fog and crickets outside.

We get out of the car. The schoolhouse is a quiet shadow. We kiss in the doorway, Littlestar and I, cats twisting around our ankles.

It's the cold, peaceful hour before dawn.


A Cheeseburger in Paris | Ode to Littlestar | HuSistock | Lipgloss Gypsy | The Wrap Party | Schoolhouse Rock | The 25 Day Loaf

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