Thursday, January 30, 2014

Yes Cecil, A Long Story Short, Part Sixty-Four

Backing into a parking space on boulevard St. Laurent, Pavor recognized a portion of a storefront that used to be an old bakery back in the 1970s, a shop where his Westmount Anglo-Saxon Protestant Father would politely request a dozen white seed bagels and a loaf of country style every other Friday to bring up to the cottage. As he sat there searching for change for the parking meter, he could almost see his Dad pulling into the driveway in his burgundy Volvo 245GL, and emerging with his brief case and the brown paper bag with its fresh baked aromas which would follow him down the hallway into the kitchen where he would inevitably praise the St. Lawrence Bakery as the finest purveyor of the tastiest, light bready bagels in the city. Having accompanied him on occasion, Pavor remembered the shop's simple unadorned window display areas, the dim overhead lighting, elderly cashiers and assistants, voices from the back in a language unknown to him, and the overwhelming fragrance of baked goods, an example of what his Father said used to dominate the street, a plethora of small shops selling meat, fish, textiles, hardware, books, leathers, dress goods, shoes, dry goods and groceries, shops now expanded and merged into larger spaces for restaurants, discos, bars and nightclubs. The old bakery was now part of an expanded space selling musical instruments and all the technological appendages and paraphernalia to accompany them.

As he walked up the street towards Schwartz's where he was to meet his agent for lunch, the international language of Graffiti graced the way like so much signage, though one of high colour and artistic accomplishment he had to admit. It was only the other night when he was further up on this hallowed street following Jerome into Le Bar Prufrock to happen upon Rough Draft performing their post-modern songs on a small stage in a small room. His ears were still ringing thanks to Livia Plurabelle, Adagio and Zoran. Passing the large space where Warshaw's Grocery used to be, now a Pharmaprix, he recalled a place where you could buy anything from cabbage rolls to card tables, figs to flatware, perogies to ping pong balls, but though it had vanished due to generational change, two institutions had persisted like guardians on either side of the street, Schwartz's Deli and Berson & Sons Granite Monuments with its open yard displaying slabs of rough stone beneath the rusted iron beams and uprights of the ghost of a building that once had been faced with bricks and mortar, and life within. Local street artists had adorned the inner courtyard and its balcony of the old building behind, with intrusive swirls of colour, a psychedelic contrast to the grey offerings on sale.

He checked his watch and saw he was a few minutes early. Looking through the window he could tell the lunch crowd had diminished, and being late October, the tourists were in abeyance. Opening the door, he felt his Father’s hand on his shoulder as he guided him into the restaurant saying it was a Montreal rite of passage to sit at the counter amidst the manic bustle and the noise of dish clangings, kitchen slicings, phone ringings, customer orderings, voice voicings and mouth chewings, surrounded by the competing elbows of business men in suits, taxi drivers, factory labourers, truckers, students, an overwhelming male milieu he had thought, a milieu that had been cramped and noisy but offered simple dishes of ambrosia, everything else was atmosphere. Natural atmosphere.

He spotted Luke sitting at a back table fiddling with his shiny smart phone.

“Texting Thomas Pynchon by any chance?” Pavor said as he sat down.

“Somehow I don't think he needs an agent,” Luke Newton said, unperturbed by Pavor's quiet arrival. “So, the Prodigal son returns. Don't worry, I've already ordered: two full-fat smoked meat sandwiches, fries, slaw, pickles and two cherry cokes. When you don't come here often, you have to do it right, seize the pickle, embrace the cherry coke.”

“What if I'd been delayed?”

“Oh, my friend,” Luke intoned touching his midriff like a carny at a sideshow, “it would not have gone to waste.” Luke appraised Pavor and wondered if he should hit him with the good news, or investigate the bad? “So, did you come back to Montreal for a special Halloween party or something? A chance to portray a six foot three, fair-haired Dracula and attend a dance party put on by Arcade Fire at a secret venue?”

Pavor turned sideways as the waiter brought them their meal, a balancing act worthy of a circus performer. “I'm impressed Fig. I didn't know you were up on the latest trends.”

“Kids, P. K., my kids keep my up to date. An ironic dividend for ageing me in other ways,” and he ran a hand through his thinning grey hair.

“No, as I said, personal affairs.” He bit into his sandwich and almost forgot himself in its succulence. Finding himself hungry, he finished off one half of the sandwich and then wiped his lips. “I proposed marriage to Melisande. We're to marry in the spring.”

Fig, in the midst of stuffing two french fries into his mouth, heaved as if on the edge of choking, a visualization of the contractions of his heart passed before his eyes, the diastole and systole ventriculations his Doctor had pointed out to him in the MRI images of his own dear heart. “A toast to the happy couple,” he managed, cherry coke in hand. “What precipitated this? I mean, I know you've been in a relationship with Melisande for some time. Why the sudden decision? Is she . . . ?”

Pavor bit off half of his crunchy garlicky pickle and wiped his fingers ignoring the unasked question. “When I was in Italy, I experienced a series of fortunate, and perhaps unfortunate incidents which helped me reevaluate my life. You know me Fig, I've not felt at home in Montreal for a long time. All my late Father's relatives live in England. My Mother now lives in Prague. I have no family here. Victoria and Tamara have been gone for a long time, and at 47, I'm starting to . . . waver in my isolation I guess.” He ate a few french fries with the concentration of an epicure. “After the tragedy, I moved to Toronto, yes, you didn't know that did you, but I didn't last. I felt alien there as well. All these years my sensibilities have been in a virtual space halfway between Europe and Montreal. I often considered moving, but concluded I'd feel just as alien abroad. But I can see now that Melisande is my grounding, my home.”

Nodding to Pavor's revelations, Luke decided he should tell him the good news. “Well, that's great P. K., I look forward to the wedding. Fabulous. And talking about fabulous, we've received a new option on your Olivaster Moon. I know the first one died in development, but you never know, this one might make it through.” Luke gave him a slip of paper with the amount paid. “So my friend, some nice cashola for your upcoming wedding eh!”

“That's wonderful,” he said, and as he stared at the numbers, the thought came to him that if he'd only known, he could have kept the inscribed Sir Richard Francis Burton book and offered it to Duncan to sell; as it was, he hadn't mentioned the book to Duncan for it would have caused him some pain to know he could have been the recipient of such a rarity to sell, an item to add prestige to his modest list. But then, how could he have known? “That's wonderful Fig, thanks so much. Who's behind it?”

“The name and information is on the back of the paper, Grindel & Poe Productions. Looks good. Could be some big names attached. So, how's the new book coming along?”

“It's progressing. Getting there. Early days though.” Pavor finished his sandwich and dug into the slaw with abandon. Should he tell Fig his thoughts about knocking off his anti-hero Rex Packard? Three Rex novels was a good number. He could see a large trade paper edition, The Rex Packard Trilogy. “I've been thinking of leaving Rex behind after this one and trying my hand at something a bit more . . . literary.”

Luke finished his pickle while looking at Pavor for signs of jest. “You're starting to sound like an unreliable narrator P. K.”

“Aren't we all, consciously or unconsciously, unreliable narrators. Anyway, three Rex novels is a good number don't you think?”

Plying his french fries with vinegar, Luke tried to think of what to say. Why discontinue a good thing he thought? Why go from a sports car to a station wagon? “Three's a good number, yes, but there's a hell of lot of competition in the 'literary' world these days, all those twenty-somethings with their MFA's in creative writing pumping out novels only to be picked up by colleges and universities to teach creative writing classes in order to cultivate further crops of designated writers, creating an ever expanding literary loop.” He finished his cherry coke like it was a shot of whiskey.

“I know, I know,” Pavor said pushing his plate aside. “I didn't start by publishing poems and short stories in the small journals, making connections and confreres in the culture, no widening ripples of welcoming arms to embrace and support my efforts. I just sat in my corner of the boxing ring, no one behind me, no trainer with a swab, a stitch, a soft towel and a water bottle telling me to watch my left side, no family or friends cheering me on, the ring a blinding light, the imagined audience a series of dark outlines with murmurings of discontent, cigar chewing denouncements, snarky asides and derisive snorts.”

“But I've been there for you.”

“Yes, of course, but in the beginning I was out there by myself. The canvas of the ring was so thin I thought I'd go right through it and that would be it. Finis.”

“Don't you want to keep working towards one of those great awards, an Edgar, an Agatha, a Gold Dagger, an Arthur Ellis or what's that other one, the, the . . . Grant Allen?”

Pavor stretched with his arms behind his head, raised his eyebrows in response and breathed out slowly.

“Next thing you'll be telling me you're going to move to a small town in southern Ontario and try to get published by Highmore & Limbert. Do you really want to be gilded by the Giller, governed by the General, manipulated by the Man Booker?”

Pavor laughed. “Maybe we should have lunch more often so I can copy down all your bon mots and phrases of wisdom.”

“Well, you've got me thinking, on a full stomach no less. What's your Mother's maiden name?”

“My Mother's maiden name? Valasek. Why?”

“That's perfect. You could use her name for your literary work, and keep P. K. Loveridge for your crime series. Pavor Valasek gives off the the aura of a European author. Yes, I can see some of the titles already, Vespers by Pavor Valasek; Valour by Pavor Valasek; Vestiges by Pavor Valasek.”

“I don't know Luke, as I had one of my characters say, 'Where vanity raises its head, vulgarity is sure to follow.' Pavor Valasek? Really?”

“Why not? You can keep the sports car and also have the station wagon. Loveridge and Valasek. Win, win. You can knock off a book for each author every year. Brilliant. Why didn't I think of this before?”

Pavor finished his cherry coke and quietly, with his hands over his mouth, burped. “Sorry, no offence. Two books a year?”

“Just think of it Pavor. An Edgar and a Booker. In the same year!”

Outside, Pavor breathed in the cool refreshing air and waited for Fig to finish paying. Two books a year! He should have remained quiet and said all was well, the book would be in on time, blah, blah, blah, but no, he had to be honest. Then again, there was a certain appeal to such an idea. Pavor Valasek? It might work. A different set of clothes. Vespers had a nice ring to it. He looked across the street at the granite slabs and wondered what would be on his gravestone. Loveridge or Valasek? Then he shook his head. How ridiculous, Vanitas it would read. Vanitas.

© ralph patrick mackay  

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Yes Cecil, A Long Story Short, Part Sixty Three

Jerome couldn't see Thérèse's window, but he imagined her asleep, snug in the warmth and comfort of the Roquebrune's guest bedroom. Tired, he made his way up to his studio and sat before his preparatory sketches of Lucrezia. Tubes of Orpiment, Naples Yellow, and Vermilion lay on the table like vital medicaments, but he was bereft of energy. What little he had had, he'd left behind at Amelia and Duncan's apartment, all of their voices still reverberating in his head like a sinfonia by Vivaldi, violins, oboes and bassoons. He hoped he hadn't talked too much and bored Amelia with his knowledge of Dutch painting, though she seemed to have given herself up to his story of the vulnerable and much targeted Irish Vermeer and the secrets it had revealed after its long and arduous journey in the shadows of international art theft, and then his trump card conversation piece concerning the pigment known as Mummy, the ground-up Egyptian mummies that made their way into older paintings, and how an average mummy could last a good eight years to a seller of pigments. He walked over to his bookcase and from the jumble, chose his post get-together, post art-opening, post-after-all-the-small-talk-like-so-much-finger-food party piece of music to help him decompress and retrieve that inner balance and that quiet equilibrium. An odd choice, but Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf's Symphony No. 4 in F major, The Rescuing of Andromeda by Perseus, had a lovely opening slow movement which could quiet the buzzing voices in his head. He fed the CD player and within seconds, the long fluid oboe lines stretched out like an undulating view from a grand country house, a breathless bucolic scene, a serpentine landscape rolling away with a Capability Brown aesthetic; and as he reclined on his wicker settee, he imagined his head resting on Thérèse's lap as they lay in the shade of an ancient oak tree, goldfinches twittering above them, the gentle breeze caressing their skin. Declan and Lucrezia's country home passed through his thoughts: the maze, the sculpture garden, the library, the hidden Dark Room, the polished scrying stone behind the door, and then he remembered the series of paintings by Burne-Jones on the Perseus and Andromeda subject. He rose, weak at the knees, and made his way over to his bookshelves to retrieve a large book with reproductions of the painter's work. Turning the pages to the half-remembered location, he was enlivened to find that yes, his memory was correct. In two of the paintings where Perseus faces the sea nymphs, the three nymphs are standing on an emblem of water, a thin mirrored stone, which somewhat resembled the one on the back of the door of the hidden room. He ran his fingers over the reproductions, wishing he could be standing before the originals, drinking in the surface texture and colour. After a pause, he turned the page to find the artist's exquisite The Rock of Doom, and he was filled with an inspiration to reproduce it with Thérèse as Andromeda chained to the rock, and himself as Perseus come to set her free. He returned to his wicker sofa and propped the open book on his chest. The dark violet colour of Perseus's armour—an armour which he thought was much like a modern superhero's such as the latest in Batman's bullet-proof attire—was a favourite pigment with Burne-Jones. Such a rich contrast with the skin tones of Andromeda, naked with uncertainty before her saviour. Jerome's mind mixed burnt sienna, titanium white and yellow ochre, and his eyes recreated the brushstrokes as he painted her figure, feeling the resistance of the fine sable hairs, the liquid magic of colours merging, melding. Breathing deeply, he listened to the oboe above the expanse of the gentle strings, the book eased down upon his torso, and sleep gently withdrew his imaginary paint brush from his imaginary hand.

It was the briefest of rests, for, aroused by Dittersdorf's Presto second movement, he decided to make his way to bed; he was getting to old to fall asleep on sofas and chairs. As he brushed his teeth, he thought of Duncan's dilemma, the closing of his bookshop and family cordage business because of the condo development, and wondered if he passed this information on to Lucrezia and Declan, whose catalogue of rare books on magic had been the product of Duncan's hand, and whose company was forcing a final scene, perhaps something could be done to help him. As he rinsed his mouth, the thought occurred to him that Duncan might not want to be helped, but nevertheless, he would mention it to his new patrons. He sensed Amelia would find any offer of assistance a welcome one.

As he turned the light out and dropped his head to his pillow, he thought of Thérèse. He had freed her from her chains by bringing her back from Bergen, but he sensed he still had to slay the sea dragon, whatever that might represent.


“Well, she seems strong willed,” Duncan said. “I hope she recovers completely.”

Amelia finished rubbing skin cream on her arms and face. “Uncle Edward pulled some favours with his connections at the Neurological Institute. A specialist will be looking at her tomorrow.”

“Good, good.”

“So,” Amelia said, “how'd you get along with Pavor?”

“Nice guy. Quiet. Cards to the chest. We got along though. Bookish connections.”

“Great. The wedding at the McGill Chapel will be lovely, and a honeymoon in Venice . . so nice.” Amelia trailed off as she turned the sheets down on the bed not wanting to bring up the fact they'd never had a true honeymoon abroad in the classic sense. A week in the Eastern Townships, though enjoyable, wasn't Venice.

“Yes, Venice, very nice,” he said, and as his mind played over the words very nice, he realized that if he dropped the 'ry' in very nice, it became Venice.

Amelia propped and positioned her pillows, and the thought occurred to her that the older people became, the more pillows they tended to have on their beds. Youth, in contrast, a symbolic mattress on the floor in an empty room. Designers, interior decorators and magazines were influential in this trend of having a bed with cascading pillows in size and pattern from the headboard to the middle of the bed like an arrangement of diminishing returns, lovely to look at, pleasant to relax upon, but a style that created the dilemma of where to put all the pillows when you merely wanted to sleep. Stacks of pillows on side chairs, side tables, cedar chests and benches at the foot of the bed. She rolled her eyes at such a laughable dilemma, too many pillows. “Do you think we have too many pillows?” she asked.

Duncan surveyed the bed and wondered if it was a loaded question, like 'do I look good in this dress?' “I imagine we have the average number of pillows for a couple in a cold northern country. The hotter the climate, the less pillows on the bed the better. Unless you live in air-conditioned bliss, then I guess, you know, more pillows.” Pleased with his response, he made his way to his side of the bed and settled himself as did Hugh in his dog bed. “Why pillows?” he asked, and then wondered why he hadn't left the subject well enough alone.

“I don't know. Maybe it was Jerome's story about mummies.”


“Yes, he told me how they used to import Egyptian mummies and grind them up for a brownish paint pigment. The colour varied with the mummy. Some had better resins it seems.”

“Ah, resins, fascinating,” Duncan said, and he stretched out his right foot and caressed the bottom of his wife's left foot. “I guess they had to use what they could get. Lead, arsenic, cinnabar, ground-up mummy. Not the healthiest of professions.”

“Jerome told me that an Italian art teacher he studied under showed him old tubes of Mummy from the turn of the century, items that had been passed down through the artist's family—they were a family of painters—tubes of Mummy pigment kept in little individual wooden boxes, like coffins. Family heirlooms.”

“Hmmph, fascinating,” Duncan mumbled, lost in the image of this bizarre family memento mori, mummified Mummy pigments in little Mummy coffins.

“And Thérèse, I knew it would be a simple explanation. She used her Father's surname for her English language journalism. Understandable. No mystery. Paranoia need not apply. Tess Sinclair, journalist.” Amelia opened a new French novel and began to read.

“Hmm, yes,” Duncan said, as he too opened a book, a bed-side biography of Lou Andreas-Salomé he'd been dipping into for whenever he needed a change of perspective. His eyes scanned the lines of text, but his mind was not cooperating. Did Thérèse lie about being a friend of David's? Was she really just following a story, writing up the funeral business? Investigating the methods of grieving, remembrance, honour? Thanatos in the parlour? Digital innovations in the presentation of a life? Metal Rock selections in the Chapel service? Undertaking 2.0? Open casket make-up and the use of ground-up Mummy blush. And as his somewhat jaded thoughts spread upon the bed like recalcitrant Tarot cards, he thought of David's gravestone in the rose garden where his ashes resided—the complete opposite of being mummified—the one-eyed gardener with his pipe, and the mysterious blonde haired woman with her monthly flower offerings, and he thought he should bring it all to Pavor as an offering for one of his future crime novels.


As Melisande soaked in the bath, Pavor sat on wood chair across from Clio who reclined, arms curled towards her chest, staring at him from a cushion on a comfortable chintz covered chair in the living room. Disenchantment he thought. Clio, the calico cat was disenchanted. He took out his notebook and wrote, disenchantments of change and he wondered if his literary agent, Luke 'Fig' Newton, who he was scheduled to meet on Wednesday, would be disenchanted at his upcoming marriage, and the suggestion that he was thinking of killing off his character, Rex Packard, and writing something more . . . literary. He imagined a landscape of North Western Slovenia, a mixture of conifers, valleys, fast moving rivers, rocky gorges, the Austrian Alps in the distance, an evocation of landscapes found in The Prisoner of Zenda, in Eric Ambler thrillers set in the Balkans, or in The Lady Vanishes by Hitchcock. Disenchantment could be the title. He could use shades of character he'd gleaned from meeting Tullio, Carina, and Umberto, perhaps a dash of the recently met Duncan and Amelia.

How odd for him to have an Oxtoby & Snoad publication. If Duncan discovers his own Alacrity & Karma issued by the firm, he could plead modesty, not wanting to shift the discussion away from the Chapman book to his own volume.

Spring wedding. Preparations will take valuable time. So many details to cover. Invitations he remembered would set the tone. Opinions. Choices. Decisions. He would have to make another speech, one of many no doubt, and he began to think of opening phrases, writing in his mind. He flipped to the back of his notebook and began to write:

Shall we raise a glass, a velvety tonic for the entanglements of nostalgia, liquid evocations, vintage complexities compressed, for the veiled perceptions of time.

No, he thought. Too ornate, too baroque. It would have to be simple, honest, heart-felt. He closed his notebook and looked over at Clio, and thought, yes, it would have to have the calm serenity of a feline pose, with just a smidge of self-deprecating humour like the antics of Hugh the sausage dog. Eighty percent Clio, twenty percent Hugh. A few notes and then to speak extemporaneously would be the ideal. He rose and slowly approached Clio and offered his fingers for her inspection, and after the brief inquisitive wet nose investigation, he gently petted her from between the ears down her spine, saying how pretty she was, repeating the phrase with each comforting caress in his attempt to sooth her anxious concerns over his intrusion. Hearing the sounds of Melisande emerging from the likely now tepid waters, he straightened himself and began to look at her bookshelves. Women writers were well represented. No Alacrity & Karma in sight. He really should read more women writers he thought, and he reached out for a title unknown to him, The Spanish Decameron by Maria de Zayas

© ralph patrick mackay

Monday, January 20, 2014

Yes Cecil, A Long Story Short, Part Sixty-Two

From her office window, Isabelle Cloutier looked over the rooftops towards the east and spotted the full moon rising, a jaundice, sickly moon, the colour of a canine tooth, almost furtive and clandestine in movement. She wondered how many people in the city had noticed. Those few who could see the dark eastern horizon, were likely preoccupied with work, dinner, television, computers, shopping. She checked her watch, 6:35 p. m., and then she remembered she hadn't phoned her Mother last night having been busy at the office until eight, and then, not wanting to interrupt her Mother's favourite television show, Tout le monde en parle, she had let it go. Her Mother would now be in her room at the retirement home watching Le Téléjournal after her dinner. She had tried to convince her to avoid the television news, but no, she wanted to know what was going on in the world, it was part of her life she had said, the morning news paper and the evening news. To hell with stress and anxiety, she wanted to know. She paced back and forth before the window. She could phone her later this evening. Before nine at the latest.

The moon, the moon, like a spotlight scanning the prison yard, but of course it was as innocent as a wave lapping the shore, sincere as a bird calling from a tree, and yet, caught in an orbit of invisible authority, influence and sway.

She picked up a file and sat in the chair facing her desk, but her mind wandered. Her Father was telling her a bedtime story, cauchemauresque, of the Loup-Garou, the werewolf of Québec folklore. There were many versions written and told, but her late Father, the scholarly psychologist, had been fond of the realism and humour in the one written by Benjamin Sulte in his Mélanges d'histoire et de littéature, an old book she had inherited. The setting of the story was a lumber camp in the north, where hard-working men in the middle of January were loosing their woollen caps as the diable came upon them on the trail, and how the brave no-nonsense Mr. Lachance came to investigate and discover not a werewolf, but an enormous grey owl as the source of the mischief, its large nest, well-insulated with their woollen caps. She smiled to herself and remembered how her Father would tickle her when he revealed it was an owl, un grand hibou gris! She looked down at her owl pin on her blazer, ran her fingers along the edges and caught the gleam of light reflecting from the inset Baltic amber. She didn't know how many owls she'd collected over the years, but from stuffed toys as a child up to her adult jewelry, sculpture, paintings and photographs, many hundreds she thought. It was only later, as a teenager, she'd read the short tale and discovered Mr. Lachance had shot the great owl at the end of the story. Her Father had omitted that detail. She recognized that her life and occupation had been influenced by how Benjamin Sulte had chosen to make fun of the superstition by resorting to reality, and how her Father had chosen to conceal the harsh reality of man's relation with nature. Her desire to discover truth, the truths concealed, could very well be traced back to this bedtime story.

But she'd also learned that werewolves did exist, at least, their evil equivalents in human form. And superstition still persisted, emblematic of her daily choice of either a necklace, charm bracelet, ear-rings, broach, pin, or pendant depicting a stylized owl, eyes forward, penetrating, all-seeing.

She opened the file and began to read but she wasn't able to concentrate. She began picking over her conversation with Serge Lafond, a co-worker in IT who'd known and worked with David Ashemore. As soon as she had mentioned David's name, Serge had become very anxious, and asked her in a low voice to meet him at a local coffee place after work. She had arrived at 5:15 and found him in a back corner seat looking over her shoulder as she approached, as if worried she'd been followed.

“Why the interest in David?”

“I had an anonymous source stating that something might be amiss," she said.  "His death a possible . . . murder.”

He nodded his head. “I bumped into Dave at 6 o'clock one morning in the parking lot outside a gym I go to, and he wanted to talk. In my car. This was about two months before he died. He wasn't looking good, puffy dark bags under his eyes, one eye blood-shot, complexion grey, thinner. He said he hadn't slept well in over a year. I have to admit he sounded a bit paranoid and I suggested he see a doctor, take a leave of absence, but he told me the Doctors had only made it worse. What it was, he didn't say." Serge took a sip of his coffee, looked around and then in a quieter voice, said, "He wanted me to scan his car for tracking devices and his apartment for bugs. When I asked him why, he said he'd been investigating a company called E-Clipsis Four, an importer of electronics and computer components, but really a cover for a funded operation in Québec, an operation called Heavy Sum. Before he could elaborate, he noticed a dark car pull up behind his parked car, and he slipped down in the passenger seat and told me to drive away, and so I drove. I went around a few blocks and slowly made my way back to the gym. The car was gone. He asked me to drop him near the corner and I made my back to the gym.”

“Did you ever get to discuss this with him again?”

“No. When I approached him in the hallway a few days later, he told me to forget about scanning his place and car. He didn't want to involve me.” Serge shook his head. “Dave wasn't a field guy. I advised him to pass it on. He said he would.”

Pass it on. She wondered if he had. Isabelle looked up at the large framed photograph of a snowy owl behind her desk, its large yellow and black eyes looking down on her like she was prey. Taking a scrap of paper from her desk, she wrote down the words, Heavy Sum, and began to rearrange the letters trying to find some significance. Then she saw it. Heavy Sum, Yumashev, the Russian name that Thérèse Laflamme had mentioned to Edward Seymour under hypnosis. She stared at the letters and recalled the advice her old boss had left her with, 'be careful of revealing the right truth to the wrong person, or the wrong truth to the right person, for such a misplacement could be dangerous, if not fatal.'


Honeymoon, Thérèse thought. A honeymoon in Italy. She was happy for Melisande and Pavor. She rested her head on the firm pillows of the guest bed and closed her eyes. She was fighting jet lag empty handed, and her psychological struggle with memory loss she felt compounded her exhaustion exponentially. The glass of red wine over dinner didn't help, and she recalled trying to say the words: mind wanders, and transposed the letters and came out with: wine maunders, but everyone had been too polite to notice. She yawned, stretched, and then lay on her side, knees up to her chest, arms wrapped around them like she was doing a cannon ball off a diving board. She looked at the round dial of the alarm clock and thought of the full moon she'd noticed through the car window when Pavor drove them back to the Roquebrune's house. To honeymoon in Venice with a full moon would be ideal. Reflections of dappled white and silver upon the water as one dined on spaghetti in squid ink sauce. She'd never been to Venice, but someone had told her about that challenging culinary choice. She would give it a try. She wasn't sure about Melisande though. Was squid ink a vegetarian option? If Jerome asked her to marry, they could honeymoon as two couples. Jerome could be their tour guide to the architecture and art. . . Lucky Pavor, house-sitting in Villa Opicina. Such an offer, she thought, would have fit nicely with her lifestyle. Pavor's discussion of Trieste and the Slovenian countryside had aroused an old memory of wanting to make a trip to the divided city of Gorizia in Italy, and Nova Gorica in Slovenia. She could have written an article. Maybe it wasn't too late. After Venice, she and Jerome could . . . .

She then remembered the déjà vu she'd experienced earlier in the evening as she sat in the living room of her old apartment, a memory of a party she'd given around New Year's and she was telling Pavor a story. Duncan seemed familiar too, but he couldn't have been there, for they'd never met before this evening.

She breathed in deeply and felt something in her sweater pocket, something Duncan had given her, one of his book shop's bookmarks. She drew it out and looked at the design, a large orange cat reclining on a desktop, his left arm resting on a low stack of books in a most human-like fashion, his eyes looking directly at her, Lafcadio & Co., Fine Used Books, the address, email and website address underneath. No hours listed. She turned it over to see the small poem he'd had printed on the verso. Before he gave it to her, he'd read the poem aloud like a dramatic monologue, a bit of light verse he thought Pavor would find amusing:

The Author's Boomerang

He frowns with reason; he has always said,
“The public has no knowledge of true art;
The book of worth these days would not be read;
'Tis trash not truth that goes upon the mart.”

And then was published his beloved work—
Some twenty-six editions it has had—
And he his own conclusion cannot shirk:
With such success as this it must be bad!

-John Kendrick Bangs
Cobwebs from a Library Corner

Bangs. Did such a name still exist? Obscure, Duncan had said, a forgotten satirist, novelist and journalist. She closed her eyes, the bookmark falling from her hand, sleep pulling her in. But the story of Poe, Duncan had told a sad story about Edgar Allan Poe. She could see Duncan acting out the tale. Mr. Bang's father and a friend had left their club in New York one night, and had come across a man leaning against a lamp post, drunk, his hat in the gutter. Mr. Bangs Sr., had picked up the hat and offered it to the man, who eloquently thanked him for such an act of kindness. When Mr. Bangs asked him his name, he had replied with great dignity, “Mr. Edgar Allan Poe.” Bangs had then said, that was interesting, since his name was Tay and his friend's name was Toe, to which Poe had managed that they were well met, since their names made Potato, and then he had walked away. How sad to make fun of a great writer she thought. It seemed obvious to her that the author of such ridiculous verse had merely made up the story. Her head nodded with the weight of fatigue. She seemed to be circling in a whirlpool. Poor Mr. Poe she thought, and she imagined herself on the street in Bergen, adrift, alone, and friendless like Poe, her memory impaired. And as she fell into sleep, the last line of the author's The Raven, the only line she could remember, played itself across her thoughts like sky-writing, shall be lifted, nevermore, nevermore, nevermore. . . .

© ralph patrick mackay

Thursday, January 09, 2014

Yes Cecil, A Long Story Short, Part Sixty-One Part C

Pavor signed the books, finishing each by blowing upon the page to assist the drying process of the ink as it was absorbed into the smooth, seemingly fibreless paper. “These may not last as long as the Oxtoby & Snoad there,” Pavor said, “but long enough I imagine.”

Duncan, resting in the high-back reading chair behind him, caught the reference to longevity like a loose kite string dangling before him.“Yes, what I've learned of the publisher is they insist on the best quality of binding, paper, ink and thread. I read an article on the Internet about their choices. Supposedly their leather is derived from the best skins available, tanned slowly with weak solutions of Sumac as was the custom, followed by vegetable dyes for a small selection of colour variation, and then finished off with an oil or beeswax glaze. They should last . . . forever. The paper, thread and inks are of the finest quality. Non-acidic of course.”

Pavor turned his chair around to face Duncan, crossed his legs and leaned back. “As was the custom?”

“Yes, the tried and true methods. But as I'm sure you know, the booming demand for reading material in the Victorian age influenced the unfortunate changes in methods, the introduction of sulphuric acid in the tanning process, the use of non-vegetable dyes, the splitting of skins and the faking of expensive grains by embossing and blind-stamping, and of course the use of acids in the paper production. A double whammy eh? Yes, the middle-class explosion of reading influenced the search for cheaper and quicker methods of production, and voilà, red-rot in leather, and more seriously, the brittle disintegrating paper. Shelf-life diminished. Things fall apart.” Duncan swept his hand around the room with its overloaded bookshelves, the gilt titles glimmering in the lamp light. “Crumble & Dust rather than Oxtoby & Snoad.”

“And now we have digital. The ghost in the room.”

“Oh, I like that, the ghost in the room.” Duncan smiled. “I think digital is wonderful, but it worries me too. Millions of books held in a digital embrace, a distant humming of hard-drives in warehouses thrumming with cooling systems. Seems tremendously vulnerable.”

“Humming and thrumming,” Pavor said. “Sounds like Melisande's description of a Chakra meditation class.” As Pavor made a mental note to remember this for future use, he noticed two hard-shell guitar cases leaning in the shadows of an open closet door. “Speaking of sounds, Melisande mentioned you were involved with music too.”

If not for Duncan's thick dark glass frames, Pavor would have noticed the crow's feet spread towards Duncan's ears with the mention of music.

“Yes, but it's been awhile."

Duncan found Pavor to be very sympathetic, a valued possible friend, so he decided to open himself up, reveal the soft vulnerable past with its bruised failures. “My brother Gavin and I were into music when young. Our Mother started us off in the late 1960s in piano lessons with a neighbour up the street, a Mrs. Shellstone and her calico cat named Calypso. I had more fun playing with Calypso than the piano. Then we discovered guitars. We left the piano lessons and Calypso behind and began singing covers of the Everly Brothers, The Beach Boys, The Beatles. When a bit older we formed a group called The Splices, and we were starting to compose our own stuff, but Gavin and I, though twins, were so different, so opposite, a strange inverted symmetry. When I listened to music, I never paid attention to the words, it was always the tune, the melody, the architecture if you will. I was the instrumental guy. Although he had no use for books, he was the one who came up with the lyrics.”

“That's fascinating,” Pavor said, his writer's mind sifting for possible fictional applications of these revelations.

“Then Gavin began listening to Punk music, Iggy Pop and the Stoogies, New York Dolls, The Clash, The Ramones, and early punk bands from Toronto. He could feel their words and their energy while I just heard noise. We were splitting apart. Ironic for a band named The Splices. I remember I wrote a piece of music, and I called it 'Composition in D,' and Gavin called it 'Decompostion,' providing the extra vowel, his added touch.” Duncan laid his head back and laughed quietly. “Such a character. He'd be listening to Joe Strummer, and I'd be listening to Joe Pass. I'd go to the Rising Sun club to hear Jazz music, and Gavin would find his way to some grungy graffiti grotto to hear the latest I don't what.” Duncan shook his head. “Makes me sound like a snob, I know, but I never judge other people's tastes, we're all so different. Diversity is the great key to life isn't it?”

“Yes, that's good, diversity the great key to life.”

“Joe Pass was amazing. Did you ever catch him at the Rising Sun perhaps?”

“No, missed out,” Pavor said, wondering if Duncan was going to bring up his brother's death.

“I was sitting so close once, I could have polished his shoes. A short man, male pattern baldness, a moustache, a three piece suit, and you think, an accountant, a salesman or a barber. Just him on a chair, his Florentine cutaway sunburst Gibson—at least I think it was a Gibson guitar—and his breathless liquid bebop stylings. One of my favourite of his many recordings is The Paris Concert, where he plays with Oscar Peterson, and Niels-Henning Pedersen. The three P's in Paris”

Pavor took out a small leather pocket notebook and a pencil and began to write. “The Paris Concert? Joe Pass?”

“Yes, check it out. My good friend Yves, the bass player for our old band, runs Disques Deux Côtés, he might be able to get his hands on a copy for you. So anyway, after Joe Pass, I discovered Pat Metheny, Al di Meola and on and on as it goes.”

Pavor nodded his head, “Disques Deux Côtés,” he said as he wrote down the name. Underneath he also wrote, 'humming, thrumming, digital embrace, M's Chakra meditation class, ghost in the room.' “So, did The Splices break up?” and as he asked the question, he felt like a psychiatrist with a notepad, Duncan, his patient in the comfy chair.

Duncan sat up and leaned forward as if about to impart a whispered secret. “I became more involved in books. I was working at Grange Stuart's bookshop and studying Literature at McGill, and then . . .” Duncan caught himself from saying 'Gavin died in a car crash' as he remembered Pavor's wife and child had died in such a manner, a secret he was not to know. “Gavin died unexpectedly and the group fell apart like an old book. I'm still friends with the other band members, but we've moved on, created our own lives, families, kids.”

The silence between them held their respective secrets in balance. Duncan was thinking of having argued with Gavin over a girlfriend the day he died, and the discovery from the autopsy that he'd been high on a psychedelic drug, facts he'd kept to himself all these years. Pavor, though staring at the bookshelves, was examining the familiar landscape of his aggravated guilt, travelling the nightmare loop of his unmollified regrets, all while the shadow of Gavin's car crash stretched out to meet the shadow of his wife and daughter's car crash and the horrible visualization of their interaction.

“Is this where the séance is being held Sir?” Thérèse said, her head peeking in the door, Melisande behind her with a smile.

Duncan's wit was aroused. “The medium and the message, we've been awaiting your arrival,” he said, getting up and bowing to them. Thérèse left them with a sharp laugh and Pavor got up and joined Melisande in the hallway leaving Duncan to rearrange books and turn off the lamp thinking Thérèse was certainly a vigorous and quick-witted amnesiac.

“I'd like you to announce our engagement to them,” Melisande said, squeezing Pavor's hand. “The timing's good and I'll be inviting Amelia and Duncan to the wedding too.”

Pavor nodded, “Yes, yes of course.” And as they walked down the hallway arm and arm, he had a déjà vu moment, but one he quickly dismissed as a synaptic hiccup. He breathed deeply like an actor in the wings, and began searching for words. Speech, speech, speech, the spoon against the champagne glass, the guests craning their necks, the dry coughs at the back of the room.

“I can't recall,” Pavor began, when everyone was before him in the living room, “the source of the quote, but as an author of suspense and crime novels, it's always stayed with me, that is, to make a good story one should have a charm, a murder, a song and a ghost.” Was it Melmoth the Wanderer? Shakespeare? Brockden Brown? Poe? “But I would like to append this list, à la Jane Austen, and add . . . marriage.” He waited a few moments as everyone exchanged looks with Melisande. “Yes, I've asked Melisande's hand in marriage, she has accepted me, doleful though I am, and we do hope you will all join us for our special day, which I believe,” he said looking at Melisande, “we will determine in the nearest of futures.”

Hugh, overlooked and underfoot, tried to comprehend the loud congratulations, soft embraces, and the chatter of emotions that filled the room, but found himself overwhelmed, and so retreated to the dining room where beneath the table's three ring circus with its trilogy of pizza toppings, he sniffed out a camouflaged morsel of succulent smoked meat on the oak floorboards. Chewing, he looked at them with fading interest.

“So,” Duncan began, “in tying the knot, are there any dangers involved in marrying a novelist?”

Melisande looked at Pavor with eyebrows raised in embarrassed expectation. “Ah, well,” Pavor said, “I do tend to fall asleep with pencils on the bed. I can't tell you how many times I've awoken with a sharp pencil lurking in the sheets. Could be dangerous. Yes, could be.”

© ralph patrick mackay

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Yes Cecil, A Long Story Short, Part Sixty-One Part B

The couple who got out of the silver coloured four-door sedan exhibited a vitality in their body language, a bounce in their steps, buoyant and brisk.  She watched them as, arm and arm, they made their way along the sidewalk, then stop, laughing together, turn around and make their way back to the car where they retrieved three large pizza boxes from the rear seat. She recognized them now. Melisande and Pavor looking very much like young lovers. Turning around from the living room window of her old apartment, Thérèse found Jerome and Hugh staring at her as if waiting for an answer to a profound question. She knelt down and called Hugh over and patted his head and long back. Such an odd creation she thought. Humans finagling with genetics to create a functional companion for hunting. “You're a cutie, yes you are,” she said in an unselfconscious childish voice. Then looking up at Jerome, she added, “the apartment seems so different with all of their lovely belongings, but the views from the windows haven't changed.” The doorbell rang. “And that hasn't changed either,” she said standing up and walking towards Jerome who handed her a glass of wine. “How do you find the apartment?” she asked.

He kissed her forehead. “Much like you, slightly changed, but the views and the sound of your voice . . . the same. You're still my dear Thérèse, my dear Tess of Varennes.”

Duncan and Amelia hovered in the kitchen. They'd heard the bell but remained in place leaning against the Labrador granite laminate counter-top, arms crossed, looking down at the Greek key pattern in the floor tiles as if mapping out a route of escape. When they had answered the door to find Thérèse before them, Duncan's expression had been transformed from one of inquisitive pleasure to a mask of pallid stone. It was as if he had just opened the door to his Mother's ghost. Tess Sinclair, the young woman who had attended the funeral visitation for his long lost friend, David Ashemore, was standing before him. After the awkward introduction, Duncan looking vacant and troubled, had pulled his wife into the kitchen on the pretence of checking the stove.

“She doesn't seem to remember you,” Amelia said. “Follow your nose, play it by ear.” She took a few steps forward, turned to the right, and then walked in a half circle as if following the figure of a question mark. “I'll try to get Melisande into the kitchen to ask her if she knows the name. Alright? Don't worry about it.” She squeezed his arm and marched off reluctantly to open the front door.

Duncan caught his reflection in the bevelled antique mirror over the small kitchen table and sighed. What connection did she have with David? Why the pseudonym? What was she after? Did she have a multiple personality disorder? A twin sister? He lifted his eyebrows with the thought and sighed again. An amnesiac with a mysterious life, and a painter who likes to moonlight as a Dickensian street character! He adjusted his glasses, swept a hand through his thinning forelock, took a deep breath and made his way down the hallway to play his part, supportive husband, helpful friend, forgotten shadow.


Like slender birch trees on the edge of a forest, Jerome thought. He tried not to rest his eyes on Amelia's random grey hairs as he listened to her discuss the challenges of translation. He nodded at the mention of a well-known local translator of literature and looked down at his glass of wine.

To capture the fine silver strands in her hair, his Kolinsky red sable fine point brush would be ideal.

Were the grey hairs signs of stress and worry?


Roistering the pizza cutter in the air like a surgical device, Duncan looked down upon the remnant Vegetarian, Hawaiian and Reuben pizza slices and thought maybe just half of a Reuben would clinch the meal for him. He breathed in the aromatic warmth of tomato spice with the hints of pineapple and smoked meat, as he quickly ate while standing at the dining room table. He noticed Amelia and Jerome deep in conversation as they sipped their wine before the living room window, and he wondered if she was seeking out information about Thérèse who was now in the kitchen with Melisande accompanied by the sounds of plates being scraped and water running in the sink, evanescent evocations of her past tenancy. Was she responsible for the strange manuscript he found in the bottom kitchen cabinet? He wiped his lips with a table napkin and after pouring more wine for himself, approached Pavor who was perusing one of their living room bookshelf units.

“Nice set of Mark Twain you have,” Pavor said as he closed the green cloth volume of Following the Equator.

“It's not bad,” Duncan said, “but it's not up there with The Autograph Edition of 1899, or the many other finely bound limited edition sets which were issued. Do you like Twain?”

“Not especially, no. But when I was in college I wrote an essay comparing Twain's early story The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County, with the that old cartoon featuring Michigan J. Frog, remember that, One Froggy Evening, all cornerstones, continuity and largo al factotum. I also brought Poe's tale The Businessman into the essay. I've forgotten what I concluded, if anything.”

“Hmm, sounds like quite an essay. Where did you go to school?”

Pavor hesitated, took a sip of wine and tried to decipher the meaning behind the random overheard phrases issuing from the kitchen: 'unreliable perception,' 'someone who can't forget anything,' 'frustrating days.' “After Selwyn House, I attended Marianopolis CEGEP, and then McGill. What about you?”

“Followed in my Mother's footsteps,” he said. “That is, I attended the same elementary school in N. D. my Mother, Kensington Elementary, which had been built in 1910. She went there in the mid 1930s, and my brothers and I followed in the mid 1960s.” His mind drifted as he recalled walking the same way to school as his Mother, following the sidewalks with awkward strides to avoid stepping on the cracks, past Knox-Crescent-Kensington Presbyterian church where his parents were married and where they attended as a family—all cubs, choirs, Christian homilies and committees—then over one block to the exterior stone stairs of the school, up the inner grand wooden staircase creaking into the darkness above, hands slipping along the darkened bannister polished by countless hands of students and teachers. . . . Duncan was looking towards his wife and Jerome but his focus was inward, distant, foggy.

“That's very special,” Pavor said, thinking of his own Mother's distant education in Prague. More overhead kitchen phrases, 'I thought I detected a spring in your step,' and 'what other secrets?'

“Ah, yeah, well, the school was turned into condominiums about twenty five years ago now,” and as he said this, he realized for the first time how greatly condominiums seemed to purse him like shadowy demons in a story by M. R. James. The older apartment building where he catalogued the 'Dark Room' had probably been transformed into condos as well he thought. “I remember hearing that a former teacher had been one of the first to move in.” Duncan sucked a tooth where a peppery remnant resided in the receding gums around his molars. “She must have had fond memories of the classroom. I can imagine her with her back to the old windows, a yard stick in her hand, a piece of chalk in her apron pocket, glancing towards the mantel clock,” he said gesturing dramatically with his hand.

“Sounds like the makings for a Gothic suspense story,” Pavor said.

“It's all yours. You could call it, The Classroom. . . .” They both smiled. “Anyway, then it was French Immersion for grade seven. I was in the second year of that experimental program. They plucked students from various schools—God knows how they made their choices—and threw us together, mixed us up, tossed in some spices and herbs and hoped for the best. It was a great year. I fell in love with my teacher, a raven-haired beauty with Cleopatra eye makeup and a weakness for long velvet dresses. When I look at the old classroom picture, I can see she was lovely and buxom and quite broad hipped, but it was her eyes, they got me every time. She was quite beautiful in a Sophia Lauren kind of way. I remember we had to memorize French poetry and recite it in front of the class, and when I had my turn, I made the mistake of looking over to her desk. She was sitting at an angle towards me, and when she looked up, I stared into her eyes and just forgot the poem cold. I'm sure if someone had asked me my name I would have floundered. Embarrassing for me, but very amusing to my friends. Yes, it was a good year.”

“Sounds more exciting than my old Harris Tweedy teachers at Selwyn House.”

“Yeah, I bet. Then after a local high school, it was Dawson College and McGill, but I'm about six years older than you so our paths would never have crossed.”

“I remember seeing you at Grange Stuart Books back in the day.”


“Yes, yes, I remember seeing you through the glass windows of the inner office where you sat with piles of old books stacked around you. And a big orange cat.”

“Yes, Lafcadio, a stray I adopted. A one-eyed lovable old thing. That reminds me, I have a few of your books I'd like you to sign. They're just in the study if you want to follow me.”

“Certainly, no problem.”

As they passed the kitchen, Pavor looked in to see Melisande and Thérèse sitting at the kitchen table in quiet conversation, Hugh lying beside his water dish.

“Are your ears burning, P. K.?” Thérèse asked with a wink.

A slight blush came to his face. Did women really exchange secrets so willingly? “Yes, red hot” He winked at Melisande and left them quietly laughing.

Pavor sat down at the desk before the small stack of his novels to sign, but his eyes were drawn to the fine binding of an Oxtoby & Snoad publication, a surprising rarity, resting on a side table. When Duncan went in search of a desirable pen, Pavor couldn't resist the draw of the dark brown supple leather with gilt tooling, the marbled endpapers, deckled edges, the fine type choice and handsome title page, The Shadow of Night, Containing Two Poetical Hymnes by George Chapman, with Notes and a Critical Essay by Noel Welwyn Gough. He fanned the pages and breathed in the rich scent of the printer's ink which aroused the memory of visiting with the eccentric Sebastian and Claire Bishop, the proprietors of Oxtoby & Snoad. Sebastian with his waxed moustache, and the inevitable ink under his fingernails, 'eclipsing what was clean for what was real,' he'd said, always seemingly in search of the choicest of papers, and Claire, followed around by her chubby Corgies, forever making tea and quoting obscure lines from obscure poets, her fair hair swept up in a bob like some kind of avant garde flower arrangement.

“I haven't gotten very far with that one,” Duncan said as he entered with the pen. “Chapman's meaning is a bit obscure, though I imagine the essay and notes will help.”

“Lovely binding. An obscure publisher, a bit scarce for showing up in Montreal. How'd you come across it?”

Duncan felt like he was fly casting, whisking the line out to the cold shallows to see what he'd come up with. “Noel Welwyn Gough is a good friend of Amelia's uncle. He was in town recently and mentioned this book. It belongs to her uncle. Just a loan. Yes, I know, never a lender nor a borrower be. Have you heard of the publisher before?”

“Chapman,” he said as if he'd not heard Duncan's question, “was believed to be the Rival Poet of Shakespeare's sonnets. Connected with the School of Night and all those melancholy souls shrouded in the mysteries of the universe.” He looked down at the open volume in his hands and began to read aloud. “Now let humour give seas to mine eyes, that I may quickly weep the shipwreck of the world: or let soft sleep (binding my senses) loose my working soul, that in her highest pitch she may control the court of skill, compact of mystery, wanting but franchisement and memory to reach all secrets.” He closed the book and placed it back on the side table. “Sorry, couldn't resist picking up such a fine looking book.”

“Understandable. Actually makes me want to give it another go. Maybe it's best read aloud.” And he thought of poor Amelia bearing with his recitation before bed. “Here's the pen I was looking for.”

“Just my name, or should I inscribe them to you?”

“An inscription please, yes, to Amelia and Duncan would be very nice, thank you.”

“Words and rhymes,” Pavor said as he began his inscription on the flyleaf of Olivaster Moon, “over four hundred years old and we're still drawn in by the desire for . . . connection, connection with other times, other meanings, other perspectives.” He paused, the black flourishes drying on the page. “The world moves on, and science makes such works seemingly redundant, and yet we're still fascinated, still given to opening ourselves to other possibilities and subtleties of understanding, other selves, other worlds.”


Melisande thought Thérèse still retained her tenacious drive and perception. It reminded her of Clio with her cat-nip mouse, holding fast, biting, scratching with the hind paws, not letting go. Deep instinct strong and unbroken. How she could tell they'd been intimate before picking up the pizzas was like a Sherlock Holmes moment. Was it that self-evident? They hadn't planned it. Pavor picked her up from work, they drove home to feed Clio and order the pizzas over the phone, and then they found themselves stumbling towards the bedroom in a modern dance choreography, shedding clothes between embraces, spinning, bending, falling. And that glimpse of Clio sitting in the open door, watching them before turning away in disgust at the sight and sound of their lovemaking.

“It feels like home again,” Thérèse said, as she came back from using the bathroom. “I could close my eyes and walk around the apartment and imagine the past.” She sat down at the kitchen table and they both looked at themselves in the bevelled mirror, with its reflections of energy and light, and both felt it could be a year ago, the two of them still in a pas de deux with their respective partners, Jerome with his brush, Pavor with his pen.

Melisande nodded her head in acknowledgement, “Yes, that's good.” But her mind was elsewhere, She was recalling Edouard Lock's dance film, Amelia, with its breathtaking choreography. She'd gone to see it with Jerome years ago when Thérèse was away on some assignment. And the next day they'd met at a Sushi restaurant on Boulevard St. Laurent and there was the choreographer, Edouard Lock, all dark eyes and handsome striking angular features, having lunch by himself, a can of Coca Cola beside his plate of sushi, a combination which she thought much like his creations, juxtapositions of classical and modern, intimate and frenetic, the interior wastelands of emotion revealed.

© ralph patrick mackay