Friday, November 02, 2012

Yes Cecil, A Long Story Short, Part Ten

ex Packard was not his real name, but the dust on his $600 Cordovan Strand cap-toe lace-up Oxfords was all too real. How the hell was he going to get the dust out of the decorative perforations? He could see his shoe mender now, his skin darkened with age like the materials he'd been working with for over forty years, looking down at Rex's shoes with dismay and bewilderment. He didn't know a helicopter ride was on the agenda he could say as the enveloping smell of leathers, glues and polishes invisibly attached themselves to his clothes as he stood there explaining his dilemma to Georgios. Probably the best thing was to merely hand them over to the master with a weary shake of his own head and ask him to do his best.

He turned his back to the helicopter, and drawing out his gold coloured monogrammed cigarette lighter, which also contained his Powerpoint presentation on the built-in USB, he cupped his hand and tried to light his smoke. Being far enough away from the slowly moving blades, he succeeded and drew deeply wondering why he agreed to come along on this joy-ride. One of the Russians was relieving himself—marking his territory—against the metal fence that surrounded the ruin of the Michigan Central Station. The sound of the traffic on the Fisher Freeway leading to the Ambassador Bridge in the distance provided Rex with a fleeting image of where he and his SUV should have been by now, enjoying the pleasure of driving to the sounds of his favourite dance mix, relaxing with a cigarette, large hot coffee in the holder, it would have been just right, but now he would be late getting back to Toronto, late for the party at the night club his girlfriend had planned, late for his other life.

He turned around to make sure their transportation was safe. Why did all helicopter pilots look the same he wondered. Aviator sunglasses, headphones, white dress shirt, often short-sleeved, clean-shaven. Like clones. This one looked around slightly worried, anxious. Probably sharing Rex's state of mind. What if the police showed up? Would they be arrested? The Russians must have offered him a hefty sum to make the landing on the remnant lawn on the north side of Roosevelt Park. A tour from the air of Detroit's decay was one thing, but this was pushing Irish luck.

The Russians were calling him over now, gesturing with their cameras and cell phones. Rex took the devices and directed the dark-suited men to skitch in closer to each other and then he began to take their  photographs, egging them on to break out of their poker faces, “Za vas!” he yelled to them. No reaction. He thought of bringing up Luzhkov and his bees, but thought better of it. They might be friends with the mayor, the apiarist of Moscow. He thought perhaps of making a joke that they were in front of the mausoleum to the American Dream but his patience had already met up with his nerves at the acme of his fear. He took their photographs, like hunters in front of a kill, digital mementos of their visit to an icon of a metropolis struggling to get back on its feet.

Once more on board the helicopter, Rex tried to check his messages on his Blackberry while the others drank toasts out of hip flasks filled with Vodka. The pilot's voice came over his headphones instructing him to shut off his device before they took off and then away they went, carving the air in a smooth arc like a Nike swoosh on their way to the mansion off Lake Shore Road up towards Grosse Pointe yacht club, where the view of Lake St. Clair was like a grey carpet to the horizon on this overcast day.

It was going to be a long drive home. Perhaps he should stay one more night and leave in the morning. The mansion was at their disposal for the weekend, the Russians having planned a feast this evening before leaving on Monday for a week in the far North. He thought they had said Northern Ontario, but he wasn't quite sure. Moose, bear, polar bear. It had all been arranged months ago. Rex knew nothing about hunting though he was fairly sure polar bears were off the list of fair game. A joke perhaps. He could never tell when they were joking.

He didn't think Tina would be too upset. Business, that's what it's all about baby, he heard himself saying to her. His Sunday seminar in the plush conference room was a success and the Russians wanted to reward him with a fine meal. They said they had learned a great deal. Well, not in those words, but that was their drift. Yes, he would stay the night. A little work-out in the gym, catch-up with his favourite Youtube reality couple vloggers and their cat, and maybe a few pages of that Chuck Palaniuk novel on his Kindle.

The Youtube vloggers were so funky. He had thought of possibly starting his own Youtube reality vlog. I mean really, he thought, all the couple did was go out and do stupid things, or film around the house with their pet cat. They were seemingly making a nice living by, well, just living. But did he and Tina have the right stuff? Personality and character that would attract followers? Were they capable of being so goofy? Would Tina even consider the concept?

Back at the mansion, he helped himself to a cold beer. Pausing to look into the library, its floor to ceiling shelves glinting with gilt leather bound books, he sighed and took a sip. Nothing to read there he thought.  The Russians invited him for a sauna and a swim but he declined, gesturing to his Blackberry as he made his way up to his room.

He stretched himself out on the king size bed, turned the enormous flat screen tv on, and scrolled the channels, his brain falling into a diminished perception zone while the ever revolving circuit of talking heads and bad acting flitted over the screen. Coming  to a rerun of MacGyver, a show he had enjoyed as a kid, he threw the remote aside and began to check his messages. Tina had sent him one earlier in the day with a link to a cruise she wanted to book, it would feature a number of top DJs in the country, lots of dancing, drinking and fun. No family and kids. Rex saw that it could lead to some interesting connections. Networking was so important in his freelance work. The timing looked good, the cost just right. He sent her a message to go ahead with the cruise and that he was sorry for not being able to get back for the party. He would see her Monday afternoon.

Another email reminded him of a meeting in Montreal on Thursday. He wasn't keen on going. His old employers were fickle, ever wanting to keep tabs on his freelance activities. The Russians he thought, they probably wanted to know about the Russians.

© ralph patrick mackay

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