It had been raining for 12 straight hours. Solomon Tate stood behind his desk and stared out of the window of his 2nd floor walkup. He lit another in the endless barrage of cigarettes that had filled the ashtray beside the pack of Pall Mall. He had a wicked headache.It could be the rain. It could be the whiskey. But whatever happened at The Brass Parrot last night, clearly had added to the brass band that was marching in his head. He just couldn’t seem to remember any of it.
“Are you coming back to bed, Tate?”, he heard Ramona call out to him. He turned to look at her, as he popped 2 aspirin.
She called him Tate. Everybody did. She was beautiful, laying there. Holding back the covers, inviting him in to lay beside her wonderfully sculpted body. She was gorgeous, with legs that went from here, all the way up to there, and back down to here again. “Any idea what happened last night?”, he asked her.
“You really got shit faced, Tate.”,she said.
“I don’t remember a thing.”, Tate said.
“I’m not surprised.”, Ramona continued. “You were totally out of it. Farberman had to drive you home.”
Tate reached into the pocket of his jacket, which he had thrown across the chair, looking for a new pack of cigarettes.
“Farberman?“, Tate asked, lighting another cigarette, “I don’t remember. What time did I get in?”
“About 2:30 this morning.“, Ramona answered.
Tate looked over to the clock on the wall. “6:25.“, he thought.
“He left this for you.“, she added, walking towards him, holding a large, manila envelope.
Tate didn’t hear a word she just said. He was fixating on her body, the way her boobs danced as she walked towards him. Ramona handed him the envelope. “It’s from Farberman.“, she repeated. “He asked me to give it to you if you came to.”
Tate took the envelope from her, and, for some reason he didn’t fully understand, he held it up to his hear, and shook it. Twice. He placed the envelope on his desk, and studied it, making certain it was indeed for him, and from Farberman. “I didn’t know Farberman could write.“, he thought to himself with amusement, as he confirmed the packages’ authenticity.
“Are you going to open it, or what?“, Ramona shouted.
He sat down and carefully tore the top of the envelope, trying not to destroy any part of the contents inside. He reached in, and pulled out a stack of papers that he couldn’t understand. They were filed with mathematic equations and scribblings that were indecipherable to him. Ramona brought him a cup of coffee, and stood over his shoulder, as he lit another cigarette. “What is it?“, she asked.
Tate had no idea what Farberman had left for him. He couldn’t make any sense of it, but then, he could rarely make any sense of Farberman either. He continued to study the papers, looking for something that seemed familiar to him, when there was a knock on the door. Tate put the papers back into the envelope, and hid it under the calendar that had been on his desk since 2001. He walked over to the door and opened it, and was now standing face to face,with 2 very large men.They identified themselves as agents of The Canadian Security Intelligence Service. They had credentials. They had badges, and they had guns. “Are you Solomon Tate?“, one of them asked. Tate nodded in agreement.
" We would like to ask you a few questions about last night.” Tate walked over to his desk and lit another cigarette, while leaning against it.
“I don’t remember anything about last night.“, he informed them. “What is this about?”
" Were you with Martin Farberman last night, sir.“, one of the men said.
Tate told them the story of his drinking to excess, and being driven home by Farberman, but had no recollection of any conversation as he had passed out.
“Well, ” the larger agent said, “if you should remember anything else, or hear from Mr. Farberman, please let us know.” He handed Tate a business card.
“Is Farberman in some kind of trouble?“, Tate asked.
“We will be in touch, Mr. Tate.“, he replied, as they left.
Tate sat down at his desk and lit a cigarette. He dumped the overflowing ashtray in the trash can, and wondered what the hell Farberman had got himself, and Tate, into now. He didn’t need CSIS all over him. “Fuck you, Farberman.“, he mumbled under his breath.
Farberman and Tate had been friends since the beginning of time. They grew up together, attended university together, surviving the years of Keroac and Salinger, Ginsberg and Satre. They were friends thoughthework of Hunter S. Thompson, the acid years, as Tate liked to call them, and lost touch sometime in their 2nd or 3rd year. Farberman had decided that Tate had become the kind of person he just didn’t want to associate with, the kind of person who, Farberman was certain would end up in prison, or pushing a shopping cart up and down the city streets professing the coming of the end of the world. So he just walked away. It annoyed the hell out of Tate to know that Farberman thought that he was so much better than him.
Tate had read about him several years later, when Farberman had been appointed to a Government research institute. Tate had even written a piece about him and The Alternate Reality & Mortality Institute, or ARMI as it was referred to.And now, the Feds were hovering around. “What are you going to do?“, Ramona asked, as put her arms around his chest.
“Find Farberman, I guess.“, he said.
Tate headed out across Queen St., back to The Brass Parrot. He had a feeling that he was being followed. He looked over his shoulders, and there, among the denim and plaid wearing hipsters, who were carrying umbrellas high above their heads, was a figure that looked like he had just stepped out of a John Garfield movie. Dressed in a dark 2 piece suit, white shirt, and thin, black tie, he stood out like a wolf at a conference of sheep, soaking wet from the insidious downpour. By the time Tate got to The Brass Parrot, the rain had finally stopped.
He loved this place, from the antiquated atmosphere, the dank and dimly lit room, with the heavy scent of stale tobacco smoke, and beer, to the dancer’s pole that stood at attention in the centre of the room, aching for a pair of legs to straddle it. He had been a regular since his University days. He had met Ramona here. She was an aspiring exotic dancer. One night, during one of her shows, she was accosted by 2 drunken rednecks who were hell bent on having their way with her. Tate came to the rescue, whisking her away, covering her with his jacket, and reminding her that she didn’t have to do this kind of work. This had always been his place.
He walked over to the bar and took his regular seat, last one on the right, facing the front door. He knew why he chose that seat. It made him comfortable to see everyone who came in before they saw him. “Can I get a whiskey?“, he asked. The bartender turned around to look at him.
“Tate! You’re alive!“, he said as he poured the whiskey.
“Barely.“, Tate responded, as he rubbed his still throbbing head. “Barely. Any idea what the hell I was doing here last night, Drew?”
“Well, drinking a lot. You were a mess.“,Drew said. He told Tate that he was sitting in his regular spot, alone, as usual, drinking whiskey. A bunch of assholes at the corner table were espousing their opinions quite loudly. Tate was already drunk, and asked them to shut the fuck up, referring to them as misguided, microscopic mutants, which pissed the assholes off. Several of them got up, and moved towards Tate. Tate stood up, and some guy Drew had never seen before, pulled him away, and the two of them left the bar together. “That’s all I know.“, the bartender said. “But you were really fucked up. Must have been a good friend of yours though’cause he saved your ass.”
“Ya.“, Tate replied. “Some friend. Give me another one.“, Tate stated, and the bartender poured him another double whisky.
Tate spent much of the afternoon there, drinking Canadian Whiskey, smoking cigarettes, and trying to leave before the hipsters arrived. He walked out onto the street and lit a cigarette. His head was killing him. Maybe it was the whiskey. Maybe he should stop drinking. It wasn’t the first time he thought about it, and it probably wasn’t going to be the last. He looked at the cigarette wedged between his fingers, and thought that he should probably quit smoking too. He had. Many times. For about 10 minutes each time. Gave it up, and then lit another cigarette.
Outside of The Brass Parrot, he noticed one of the spy guys waiting for him, leaning up against a bus shelter, with a newspaper opened, as if to suggest that he was reading it. Tate wandered into Chinatown, through the crowded sidewalks, narrowed by the displays of luggage, and trinkets protruding far beyond the store fronts. As he weaved in and out of the pedestrian traffic, he kept looking back to see if theFederali was still on his tail.He ducked into Wong’s, where, as their sign so proudly proclaimed, they had ‘the best barbecue pork in town’. Tate didn’t care much for pork, barbecued or not, but Wong’s did have the best bubble tea he had ever had, and he wondered why there was no sign hanging in Wong’s proclaiming ‘the best damn bubble tea in town’. Whenever he was near Chinatown, he went to Wong’s for a large, fresh mango bubble tea, no tapioca. He had, on more than one occasion, told Ramona that this could be the perfect drink, if they would just add some alcohol to it.
He had been coming here since his University days, often drunk, and often in the company of some pseudo bisexual, freshman, English major, who had willingly agreed to give him a blow job. Most of these girls, as it turned out, had fallen in love with idealized obsessions of Hemingway, orPeter Frampton, and inevitably embraced their lesbianism by sitting on the edge of their seats and faking orgasms every time Gloria Steinem’s name was mentioned. Tate had written a book about those days, those girls, although his book’s central character was a crazed lesbian vampire,whocraved the blood of other Gloria Steinem fan girls. It was never published. Too explicit, they said. Tate always believed it to be the quintessential book on blood sucking, college lesbians.
There was one girl, Tate remembered, who found her lesbianism early. Farberman was crazy about her. He would follow her everywhere, waiting for her to emerge from one of the multitude of meetings of the Lesbians Committed to Political Change, or The Left Wing Lesbians Association. They became very close, although Farberman would never get into her pants. “Dee Cohn.“, Tate said aloud. “For shit’s sake, Dee Cohn.” He lit a cigarette, and chuckled. “You’re such a bastard, Farberman.” Now, all he had to do was find Dee Cohn.
When he got home, he pulled 2 pineapple custard buns that he got at Wong’s, out of his jacket pocket, and placed them on the table. “You could have asked for a bag, Tate.“, Ramona advised. “Are these from Wong’s?”
“Ya.Ya.“, he replied. He put his coat on the chair, and lighting a cigarette, told her about the bartender at The Brass Parrot, about being followed, and about Dee Cohn. Ramona had never heard of Dee Cohn, or of Lesbians Committed to Political Change, or any other pseudo socio-political group.She was one of the most apolitical people Tate had ever met. In all the time he had known her, he couldn’t remember them ever talking about politics. She was an Art major, with a passion for pineapple custard buns, Cezanne, and Middle Eastern food.
“What can I do to help?“, she asked him.
“We need to find Dee Cohn.“, he said. “I’m sure she’ll know how to get in touch with Farberman. But I don’t know where to begin, and those freakin’ feds will be following me. One of them followed me home. Guaranteed, he’s out there now, probably behind the bushes, in his trench coat and sunglasses.”
“Leave it with me.“, she told him. “I think I know where to look.” She left the room, and he could hear her getting dressed.
“Where are you going?“, Tate asked.
“Lesbian bars.“, she told him. She came back into the room. “Well”, she asked, “What do you think?”
She looked amazingly hot. Those legs of hers made him crazy. They always did. “Well”, he said, “if you’re going Lesbian fishing, you’ve got the right bait.”
“I’m not looking to catch one, Tate, just to get one to talk to me.”
“Well that should do it.“, he replied.
The whole time Ramona was out, Tate reviewed the papers Farberman had left. The writing was foreign to him, merely a series of scribbles from which he could get no frame of reference. He turned the pages this way, and that way, but it made no difference. It was like trying to decipher hieroglyphics. He poured himself a drink, lit a cigarette, and leaning back in his chair, looked up to the ceiling in his living room. He wondered why he even gave a shit about Farberman. It had nothing to do with him, and he had done nothing wrong. “This is just insane.“, he thought. Here he was, with CSIS on his ass, running around looking for Farberman, while Ramona is out, trying to seducegay womeninto providing her with information about an aging, lesbian political activist. “This is the stuff dreams are made of.” Tate laughed sardonically.
Tate almost fell off the chair when the phone rang. He picked it up, and walked over to the window behind his desk. “Hello.”, he said, as he peered out the window into the darkness.
“Tate, I found her.”, Ramona said.
From the window, he saw someone lurking around the trash cans at the front of his building. “Ramona.”, he said, “there’s a guy hanging around the garbage cans. Pretty sure he’s the one who’s been following me around. I wouldn’t be surprised if they had our phones tapped.”
“I think you’re being a little paranoid, Tate.”, Ramona replied.
“There is no such thing as paranoia, Ramona. Your worst fears can come true at any moment.”, Tate responded.
“Did you just make that crap up?”, she asked him.
“Ah,c’monRamona.Its Hunter S. Thompson. Read a book sometime.”, Tate stated. He lit another cigarette, and in trying to pour a drink, found the bottle empty. “I have to go and get a bottle. Meet me in front of Dwight’s in 15 minutes. I’ll be the guy with the 2 shadows.”
Tate arrived at Dwight’s and saw Ramona standing outside, waiting for him. The CSIS guy took up a position a few doors down. “See the guy by the ATM over there?“, he asked her.
Ramona took a quick glance. “That’s my stalker.“, Tate continued. “The spy who never comes in from the cold.”
“Should we go somewhere else?“, she asked.
“No. He’d just come with us. That’s his job.“, Tate replied. “So where is Farberman?“, he asked.
“I don’t know.“, she said, “But your lesbian friend wasn’t too hard to find. Just a couple of smiles, and an exposed inner thigh, got people talking.” Tate wasn’t surprised. He had seen Ramona’s inner thigh. He would have ratted out his own mother to get close to that.
“Well?“, he asked.
“Well, what?“. Ramona responded.
“Where is she?”
“Every Friday night she emcees some show at a place called Zippers.“, she began. “Its on Wood Street, near Sackville.”
“Well that’s odd.“, Tate said.
“Right?“, Ramona agreed. “I thought it was just me. I mean come on, Zippers, Wood, and SACKville. What are the odds? Can it just be coincidental?”
“I don’t know, Ramona.“, Tate said. “What I find odd, is that my shadow, the spy is gone. I don’t see him anywhere.“, Tate stated.
“Maybe he had to pee, or something.“, Ramona suggested.
“Those guys don’t pee. I think they’re trained to hold it for days.“, Tate said. “Do me a favor. Go into Dwight’s and get me 2 bottles of Canadian Whiskey.“, Tate asked as he handed her some money. “I’m going to look around.”
Tate walked over to where he last saw the man from CSIS, near the ATM. He found him,laying in a pool of blood. He checked the spy’s pulse. Nothing. He was dead.Tate couldn’t tell where the blood was coming from. There were no wounds he could see. Any yet, Joe Spymaster was laying on the ground, in a pool of blood, dead. . “Now this is getting fucked up.“, he said to himself. He looked behind him and saw Ramona standing there, her face frozen, her hands trembling. Tate quickly grabbed the bag of whiskey she was holding before she dropped it. He put his arm around her, and turned her away from the body.
“What do we do now?“, she asked.
“Now, we go home and pretend we didn’t see anything. We don’t know anything. Tomorrow night, we go to Zippers, and talk to Dee Cohn.“, he replied.
Zippers is extremely busy on a Friday night. Tate had no idea that there were so many lesbians around. He was amazed that there were different types. He had no idea what they were, but Ramona had once tried to explain it to him. Something about the bar made him uneasy. It had a strange aroma, an un-Godly mix of old maid, and old spice. “It smells like a baked apple rotting.“, he said to Ramona.
“Shhh. Quiet Tate.“, she told him. “Let’s just find the girl and get the hell out of here.”
“Okay. Okay,“, Tate replied, “But I need a drink for this.” Tate headed over to the bar, and asked for a whiskey.
“Still drinking that gut rot?“, he heard a woman say. He turned to look at her.
“Dee?“, he asked.
“In the flesh.“, she said. “How the hell are you, Tate?” She reached over and gave him a hug, squeezing tightly.
“I’m good, Dee. What about you?“, Tate answered.
“Can’t complain.“, she replied. Tate downed his whiskey, and lit a cigarette.
“I know why you’re here.“, she added. “Come with me.”
Tate followed her into a room behind the bar, and down a small flight of stairs. It looked like a fallout shelter. It looked like shit. It was filled with cases of booze, cobwebs, and miscellaneous crap that looked it crawled out of the 1970s. “Where is he?” Tate asked.
“Still as impatient as ever.“,Dee said. “He’s not here. But I can get in touch with him. I’ll let him know you were here. I’ll get in touch with you when I know what he wants to do.”
“What the hell is going on, Dee?“, he asked her.
“I don’t know.“, Dee replied. “I know that he’s in trouble, and that there are people looking for him. And that’s all I know.”
“I’m gonna get a drink, and find Ramona.“, he said, as he turned and went up the stairs.
“Be careful, Tate.“, Dee said as he walked through the bar, and seeing Ramona near the door, took hold of her arm, and escorted her out.
“What are you doing?“, she asked him surprisingly. “Did you find Farberman?”
“No.“, Tate told her. “Dee will set up some kind of meeting for me and Farberman.” Tate lit a cigarette. He was tired, and way out of his comfort zone. And he knew it. “I hate this kind of shit, Ramona.”
When they returned home, Tate took out the mess of papers that Farberman had left. He poured himself a drink, lit a cigarette, and stared at the indecipherable figures in front of him. “Do you want to take a look at this?“, he asked Ramona. “See if it means anything to you.”
Ramona sat down at the desk, and began examining the contents of the envelope. Parts of it seemed familiar to her, although she wasn’t certain why. There were what looked like scientific formulas, which she didn’t understand, and there were small sketches, which looked like something she had seen before. Tate just sat there, watching her crinkle up her forehead, and squint her eyes, trying to make something out of nothing. She got up and went to the bookcase, removing one of her books from the shelf.
“What is that?“, Tate asked.
“French impressionists.“, Ramona answered. Tate looked at her quizzically, as if he wanted to say something. “Painters, Tate, not mimics.” Tate chuckled to himself. He knew she knew that he had thought she meant comedic mimics.
“Some of these drawings, rough as they are, seem to be sketches of famous paintings. French Impressionist paintings.” She pointed to the papers she had placed on the desk. “This one here,“, she stated, “looks like Renoir’s ’Bal du moulin de la Galette”. She showed him the painting in the book she had taken from the bookcase. “And this one, this is Cezanne’s ‘The Card Player’“, again identifying it for him in the book. “And this one here, I’m sure its, ‘le Dejeuner sur l’herbe’, by Manet.” She closed the book of paintings, and placed it on the desk.
“Okay.“, Tate said. “And all of this means what?”
“All I know,“, Ramona tried to explain, “is that among all of this scribbling that looks like scientific formulas, or it could just be gibberish, are sketches of famous paintings. For some reason, and I don’t know why, so please don’t ask me, Farberman was working on something that involved French Impressionism. Somehow, these paintings are involved.” Ramona sat down, looking at Tate for some response.
“You’re pretty proud of yourself, aren’t you?“, was all that Tate could manage to say. He couldn’t understand the connection between Farberman’s government work, and 150 year old French art.
“Ya.“, Ramona answered. “Quite proud.” She looked at Tate, and remembered just how much he needed her. She had fallen in love with him when he got her out of dancing. He always treated her with love and respect, something that no one had ever shown her before.
Tate’s sleep was interrupted by incessant knocking on the door. “What the hell.“, he said to himself, as he got up, threw on some clothes, and headed to the door. His head was pounding again, “How much did I drink last night?“, he asked himself. Tate opened the door to find the rather large Federal Agent, wearing sunglasses, and displaying his credentials, on the other side.
“Hello, Mr. Tate.“, he said. “May I come in?”
“Why not.“, Tate said. “You’ve already got me out of bed.” The agent entered the flat, and stood by the closed door. Tate was standing by the desk, looking for a cigarette. He found an opened pack of Pall Mall, and lit one. He put his hand on a bottle of whiskey. “Can I get you a drink?“, he asked.
“It’s 8 o’clock in the morning, Mr. Tate.” the agent reported.
“And?.“, Tate asked, as he poured himself a drink.
The man from CSIS inquired if Tate had any knowledge about the dead agent found in an alley not far from where Tate had been. Tate stated that he saw nothing. He knew nothing. He had just gone out to buy booze, and he held up the whiskey bottle as evidence.
“Let me be honest with you, Mr. Tate.“, the agent continued. “We know you haven’t done anything. Not yet, anyway. We’re just looking for someone you know. Someone you were in contact with a few days ago. We believe he is a National Security risk, and we will eventually find him. I would like you to tell me everything you know. Have you heard from Martin Farberman recently?”
Tate thought about how he should answer. “Not since he drove me home that night.“, he said, lighting another cigarette.
" We want you to be truthful, Mr. Tate. If we discover that you have lied to us, and aided Mr. Farberman in any way, if you know of his whereabouts and do not disclose it, you will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law”
“I’ve already told you everything I know.“, Tate said.
“Well, your name keeps popping up in this investigation, Mr. Tate. Everytime we turn around, there you are. I think you’re involved in this up to your eyeballs. Either your involved Mr. Farberman somehow, or its one hell of a coincidence. And I don’t believe in coincidences. Am I making myself clear, Mr. Tate?”
“Crystal.“, Tate said as he poured himself another drink. “Are you done, or are you waiting for some help finding the door?“The man from CSIS, scanned the room one more time, and departed. Tate locked the door behind him.
“What an ass.“, he mumbled. He popped 2 aspirin for the pounding headache, and lit another cigarette. “What the hell has Farberman got me into?“,he asked himself.
He stood looking out the window that overlooked the street below his flat. He watched a couple of agents standing on the sidewalk, talking. “So,“, he mumbled. “Now I’m the subject of a stakeout?” He shrugged his shoulders, and chuckled, and went into the kitchen to make coffee.
“What the hell’s going on out here?“, Ramona asked. Tate was fascinated by this woman’s ability to sleep through anything, but the aroma of coffee brewing, wakes her up. For 20 minutes he sat in the living room, talking with a federal agent, opening and closing doors, and Ramona slept through it all. “Is the coffee ready?“, she asked. “Ya.“, Tate said, as he poured her a cup.
“CSIS was just here.“, he said.
“Really?“, she asked, as she sipped her coffee. Tate liked to watch her drink coffee. She sipped it so slowly, so gently, while he just gulped it down. She seemed to enjoy it, to savor every drop, while he just used it for its medicinal effect. He just wanted the caffeine. “What did they want.”
“Oh, hell,“, he told her, “a lot of ifs, buts, and get the hell out of my apartment talk. Some idle threats, and accusatory remarks, and then the agent talked.” Ramona tried not to laugh, but the mouthful of coffee, shot out of her nose. Tate found this making her laugh incredibly satisfying. “The spy guy just wanted to know what I knew, and if I knew something, and didn’t tell them what I knew, then I should know what they knew was going to happened, you know?” Tate paused only long enough to gulp down some of his coffee, and light a cigarette. “Then he left.” Tate turned to look out of the window. He just seem to get rid of the thumping in his head. “There’s another one standing across the road, next to the tree in front of Marco’s.“, Tate continued. “He thinks he’s hiding. Anyway, I am now, officially,being staked out.”
Ramona looked up at him over her coffee cup. Her eye widened, and a wry smile appeared on her face. “Really?“, she asked. “This is like something out of a movie.”
“Ya.“, Tate answered. “And I think I’ve seen it before. I don’t think there’s a happy ending.”
Ramona put her cup down and walked over to him. She put her arms around him, from behind. “It will be alright, baby.“, she said. “You’ll see.”
“Do you feel like going out?”, he asked Ramona.
“Where do you want to go?”, she inquired.
“Mars Food” he said. “I think I should eat something. That maybe why I’m getting so many headaches.”, he said. “I’m not really eating much of anything.”
Ramona squeezed him tight. “If you want to get something to eat, we can go.”, she told him.
“Okay.“, he said. “Let’s go.I just need to get out of here for a while.” He stood up, and got the envelope of Farberman’s papers. “We have to hide these really well, first.”
“By the way, Tate,”, Ramona stated, “the headaches aren’t from not eating enough. Its probably from drinking too much. “
“I’ll be alright,”, Tate responded, as he popped 2 aspirin. “I’ll be fine as soon as I eat something.”
They arrived at Wong’s after being followed the entire way by the secret agent, a name, as Tate liked to point out to Ramona, that is the definitive example of irony. “When I was a kid” Tate told Ramona, “we had a dog named ‘Lucky’. He used to follow me everywhere too. This Fed kind of reminds me of him.“They looked around for a table from the front of the restaurant, as an elderly man, carrying menus approached them.
“For 2?“, he asked.
“You’d better make that 3.“, Tate said. “Just in case he’s hungry.” He looked at the spy guy waiting outside the restaurant. He motioned for him to come in, and join them, but the agent turned away, pretending that he didn’t see Tate. “Maybe he’ll join us later.“, Tate said.
Tate sat facing the front door. He wanted to keep his eye on the spy. He lit a cigarette, putting the pack of Pall Malls on the table.
“And what can I get for you, today?“, a matronly woman asked, pen and pad at the ready.
“Dim Sum for 2.“,Tate said.
“You know I can cook for you, right?“, she reminded him.
“Ya.“, Tate replied, as he lit another cigarette. “I know you can. I’d just rather that you didn’t.” Ramona understood Tate’s sense of humor, most of the time. That was one of the 2 reasons Tate had said that he stayed with her. The other was, undoubtedly,her amazing body.
Tate ate until his stomach ached. Ramona barely ate at all, pecking away at bird sized morsels of food on her plate. Tate paid the bill, and popped another couple of aspirin. The food didn’t seem to help his headache much, and it had started to rain again. “Maybe its the weather screwing around with my head.”, he said to Ramona, as they walked out onto the street.
He was getting soaked. Ramona had covered her head and shoulders with her jacket to stay dry, which Tate found ridiculously hipsteresque. “It was just water”, he told Ramona. As my father always said,“You get wet, you get dry”.
The old man used to take him fishing in the pouring rain, believing it was the best time to catch fish. It wasn’t. They never caught a thing. But it was nice to be with his father.He remembered how his mother used to pack them lunch for their trips. It was always the same. Salami on rye sandwiches, and bottles of Cream Soda.His father would also bring along a 6 pack of Carling, hiding it in the truck of the car, under the spare tire, the night before, so mom wouldn’t know. “Its funny the things you remember.”, Tate thought.
They walked down Spadina, and headed for home, holding hands. Ramona loved to hold hands. Tate often found it inconvenient, as he needed both hands to locate, light, and smoke a cigarette. Sometimes it felt like he was wrestling with her, yanking his hand away to do something, only to have her take it back, and hold on to it even tighter.
When they arrived at the flat, Tate saw the agent standing under the trees, just inside the small dog park that was sandwiched between Marco’s Fruit Market, and Queen’s Convenience store. The park always seemed out of place in this neighborhood to Tate, but he supposed that the dogs needed to run around somewhere. “Do you see him over by the trees?”, he asked Ramona.
“Ya.”, she said. “How long do you think he’ll stand there in the rain?”
“Forever.”, Tate responded. “These guys are professionals. They can withstand a torturous amount of rain, sun, and even dark of night, without flinching.”
“Special training, I suppose.”, Ramona postulated.
“Indeed,“, Tate agreed, smiling at the way Ramona was able to play along.
They went inside, and Tate took his jacket off, flinging it over the chair. He was dripping wet. “Get out of those clothes.“, he heard Ramona shout to him from the bedroom.
“Not now, Ramona. I can’t. My head is killing me.“, he answered.
“You’re such an ass.“, she said. “Take off those wet clothes now! Not only do I not want sex,butIalso don’t want you dripping all over the floor.”
Tate went to the desk, and poured himself a whiskey.He lit another cigarette, just as Ramona came into the room and tossed him a pair of sweats and a shirt. She was wearing one of his old t shirts as pajamas. He loved when she did that. He could see her tits jumping up and down with each step of her incredibly long legs. She sat facing him, with her feet up on the couch. All he could think about now were herthighs, thighs thatseemed to be calling out to him. She sat down with the papers, and started looking for other clues from the art world. “What do you think it all means?“, she asked him.
Tate was silent, lost in his thoughts about what lay between her thighs. “Damn it, Tate!“, she shouted. “Are you trying to look up my shirt again?”
“My shirt.“, Tate corrected her. “And, yes.”
“All you have to do is ask, and I would gladly show you what’s there.“, she said lovingly.
“I know.“, Tate replied, “but more than half of the fun comes from sneaking the peek.”
“Sometimes, you’re just so strange.“, she told him. “What do we do now?”
“I don’t know about you.”, Tate informed her, “but I’m going to get drunk and forget all about Marty Farberman, and his damned papers.With any luck, I’ll pass out. And when I wake, maybe, just maybe, I’ll find that all of this was just a dream.” Tate poured another drink, lit another cigarette, kissed Ramona on the forehead, and sat in his desk chair, looking out the window for some sense of normalcy.
The telephone was ringing. And ringing. “Can you get that Tate?”, he heard Ramona shout from the bedroom. “Who the hell would call here? No one ever calls us.”
Tate looked at the wall clock. 8:40. “Is it morning or night, Ramona?”, he asked. Tate couldn’t tell any more. Minutes, hour, days, all seemed to bleed into each other. He never knew if it was day or night, until he saw the sun. But today, was overcast, and raining, and Tate had no idea how long he had been sleeping. It might have been 5 minutes, or it could just as easily have been 5 years.
“Its 8:40 in the evening.”, Ramona finally reported. The phone stopped ringing, and then started all over again. “Are you going to get that?”, Ramona shouted. The agitation in her tone was apparent, even to Tate.
“Sometimes you’re such a bitch.”, Tate told her as he reached for the phone. “But, just so you know, I kind of like it.” He picked up the receiver. “Hello.”
“Good morning, Monsieur Tate.”, a voice said.
“Who is it?”, Ramona asked him.
“I don’t know.”, Tate replied, “some guy with a French accent.
“Who is this?”, Tate asked, now speaking to the voice on the phone, and lighting a cigarette.
“This is Jean Pierre Marleau,”
“I don’t know any Jean Pierre Marceau.”, Tate replied.
“That’s Marleau, sir. Jean Pierre Marleau. And no, you don’t know me. But I know you, Monsieur Tate.”
“Who are you, Marleau?”, Tate asked. “What do you want?”
“Questions.Always questions.Il demandenttoujours beaucoup de questions.” The voice said.
“What?”, Tate asked. “What did you say?”
“They always ask so many questions.”, Monsieur.
“You need to speak English.”, Tate informed the caller. I don’t speak French.”
“So typical.”,Marleau reported. “Where is your friend, Monsieur Tate?”
“Who?”, Tate asked.
“Let’s not play games, now.”,Marleau continued. “You know who. But I will make it clear for you, bien?”
“He’s talking French half of the time.”, Tate told Ramona as he covered the mouth piece of the phone with his hand.
“Let me talk to him.”, Ramona said. “I speak some French.”
“No, no.”, Tate replied, as he poured a glass of whiskey . “I can understand most of what he’s saying. I saw The Pink Panther. I get the Jacques Clousseau accent.”
“Okay, Clousseau,”, Tate asked the man on the phone.”, “what is it that you want?”
“If you continue to intentionally mispronounce my name, Monsieur Tate, I will begin to get quite upset. It is very rude, N’est pas? Yes. So, I want to know where your friend is.”
“I have no friends.”, Tate informed him.
“Please, Monsieur. I know all about you and Monsieur Farberman. I am not a stupid man. You will be greatly mistaken, if you take me for a stupid man. I know all the plans he has, and I will stop him. If I have to, I will stop you too. Comprenezvous?” Tate said nothing. “Do you understand, Monsieur Tate?”
“I understand the words, but I don’t know what this has to do with me.”, Tate explained.
“Why is CSIS tailing you, Monsieur?”,Marleau asked. They do not follow people for no reason.”
“Its all a mistake.”, Tate stated. “A misunderstanding.Are you CSIS?”
“No, Monsieur, I am not with CSIS. I am not with anyone.” Marleau said. “I am alone, Monsieur. Like you, I have no friends, or allies.”
“What is it that you want?”, Tate asked, fumbling on the desk to find his pack of cigarettes. Ramona spotted them, and handed him the pack. Tate took the last one out, and lit it.
“I want Monsieur Farberman. Martin Farberman. Your friend.Your college roommate. The man who drove you home from The Brass Parrot a few nights ago, when you had far too much to drink. Perhaps it is the whiskey that makes you forget things, Monsieur Tate.”, Marleau said.
“So?”, Tate stated. “Its no secret that I knew Farberman years and years ago, but I haven’t seen him in more than 40 years.”
“And yet, he drove you home when you were drunk, Monsieur Tate.”, Marleau repeated. “Why, after more than 40 years, would he show up at a bar you frequent, to do nothing but drive you home. I don’t think he would. A little suspicious Monsieur, n’est pas?”
Tate wondered what kind of shit he was in now. “Neck deep, and rising.”, he said to himself.
“I have nothing more to say to you, Marleau.”, Tate told him. I believe we are done.”
“Well that is too bad, Monsieur Tate. I had hoped that we could do business that would be beneficial to us both. But, c’estdommage. I will find Monsieur Farberman, Monsieur, and if I need to, I will take you down with him. No, Monsieur, we are not done.” And with that Marleau hung up. Tate put down the phone, and poured himself a double shot of whiskey.
“Is everything okay.”, Ramona asked. Tate didn’t answer. Nothing was okay. The government was watching him. Some lunatic Frenchman was threatening him, his head was pounding, and he was out of cigarettes, and just about out of whiskey.
“I have to go out for a bit, Ramona.”, he told her. “I need whiskey, and cigarettes. I’ll be right back.”
Tate walked to Dwight’s,wonderingwhatFarberman was doing, right now. He wondered how much longer he would feel like leaving the flat, so he decided to pick up 4 cartons of Pall Mall, 4 bottles of whiskey, and 3jars of aspirin.
“Preparing for the rapture, Tate?”, Eldon, the owner of Dwight’s Liquor & Sundries asked. He learned years ago that there was no Dwight, and Tate didn’t really believe in the rapture, so he just collected his bags, opened the aspirin bottle and popped 2. He set out for home, walking slowly to make sure the guy from CSIS didn’t lose him among the trees, and the lampposts.
A second federal agent was waiting for him, outside of his building, trying to look as inconspicuous as one could while wearing dark glasses, and leaning up against the graffiti covered wall of the building next door. “Good morning, Mr. Bond.”, Tate called out to him as he went up the first few steps of the concrete stoop. The agent pretended to ignore him, but Tate knew he had heard. The agent that had been following him to Dwight’s, took up a position, behind a large hedge that separated Tate’s building from an illegal marijuana dispensary, which had been raided on a regular basis, at least once every month.
He put his whiskey and cigarettes on the desk, and put the aspirin in his jacket pocket. He could hear Ramona in the shower, so he sat down, poured himself a drink, and lit a cigarette. He heard footsteps in the hallway, just outside the door, and when he turned to look, someone had slipped a note under the front door, into the flat. He sat there, looking at it, not wanting to know what was in it, but knowing he was going to read it sooner or later. He was pretty sure it was going to be later. He was also pretty sure it was nothing more than a food delivery menu.
Ramona saw the note as she came out of the shower. “What’s that?”, she asked Tate.
“No idea.”, he said. “It just showed up while you were in the shower. Probably pizza, or Chinese. I’d wager pizza.” He watched Ramona walk over to the door, bend over, and pick up the note. He could watch her all day. When she did stuff like that, it drove him crazy. She could see him watching her.
“See something you like?”, she asked him.
“I do.”, he replied.
“Well,”, she said, “if you want it, it is available.” Tate stood up, and took her in his arms.
“I know it is.” he said. He held on to her for an incredibly long time. He would have liked to have held her forever. He kissed her passionately,and looking into her eyes, realized just how much he really did love her.
“I think we should go to the bedroom.”, Ramona said.
“When you’re right, you’re right.”, Tate replied.
Tate had no idea where Romana had gone to. He had fallen asleep in her arms, and woke to find himself spooning a pillow. He went into the living room, and found her sitting at his desk, reading the paper that someone had slipped under the front door.
“Anything good in there?”, he asked her, as he went looking for coffee. Tate had learned many years ago, that nothing good ever comes in a letter. No one ever received good news by having it shoved under their front door, but he thought he’d ask, anyway.
“I didn’t make coffee yet.”, Ramona said. “And this is disgusting.”
Tate fumbled around in his jacket, looking for an opened pack of cigarettes. Ramona handed him the pack that was on the desk.
“What?“, Tate asked, lighting a cigarette.
Ramona sat up straight. “Read it for yourself.“, she said, handing him the paper.
“What the hell is Louisiana Pizza?“, Tate asked as he read the note. “I knew it was pizza.“,he added, cigarette hanging out of his mouth, as he looked out of the window. “Looks like we have some new agents, today.”
He watched as 2 men across the street took up their positions in the bushes that faced Tate’s building. “They look like rookies.“, he told Ramona.
“How can you tell?“, she asked.
“Neither one of them is wearing the official, government issued, mandatory spy sunglasses.“, Tate answered. “And that’s just wrong. Obviously, a rookie mistake.”
“Obviously.“, Ramona agreed.
As the agents settled in for a long, arduous day of watching Tate do absolutely nothing, Ramona got up to make coffee. A little upset that Tate didn’t do it, she was used to his absent mindedness, and his lack of focus. He had taken the coffee out of the fridge, and just left it on the counter, most likely forgetting why he had even taken it out. She had always known that he was easily distracted, and yet, there were times when it just made her angry. She got over it quickly, though. Sometimes, she just forgot how far away he really was.
“I think we should go see Dee tonight.“, Tate stated. “Are you up to watching some lesbian pole dancing?”
“Okay.“, she replied, “But I better be careful what I wear. Last time, I felt like a fish in a cat sanctuary.”
Tate would never have gone alone, and Ramona understood that. Not somewhere he didn’t feel comfortable. He was fine at The Brass Parrot, or Wong’s, and he could manage Dwight’s. But Tate just didn’t handle new places, or new people well. He was always including Dee in his plans. She didn’t mind, really. She loved being with him, and watching him interpret his environment, and react to his own reality. And she knew he loved her, even if he struggled with telling her, she knew.
“Maybe she’ll have some news from Farberman.”, he added.
“Well, you do what you want to do.”, she answered. “I’m gonna be watching those naked girlies grind a pole.” Tate laughed, and wondered if he installed a pole in the flat, would Ramona be willing to swing on it for him.
“Good idea.”, he blurted out. “Get some pointers.”
“That’s my plan.”, she said. “Are you planning on shaving?”
There it was. That tone. The one that really didn’t ask, but rather informed him that he was indeed, going to shave. Tate was fascinated by how she was able to do that. How could she ask a question, that wasn’t a question, but was a statement of fact, that he could only respond to by saying “Yes”. He could never understand why she just didn’t tell him that she wanted him to shave. It was all so confusing, yet intriguing.
Tate hated shaving. It seemed like such a waste of time to keep removing something that was inevitably coming back. Over the years, he had perfected a technique that allowed him to keep 3 days’ worth of growth on his face. Once a week or so, he would run a somewhat dull razor over his beard. No water, no shaving cream, just a dry, dull razor. He thought that paying for razors was crazy, and he calculated that he spent on average, about $6 a year on razors. So today, if he was going to shave, he was going to try to set a new Tate shaving speed record. “Under 1 minute.”, he thought. His previous record was 1 minute, 13 seconds, from start to finish.
Tate lit a cigarette, as he finished his coffee by the window. He watched the rookie Feds, peeking out from their indiscreet hiding places behind the row of bushes, talking on their radios. It struck Tate as humorously satirical. The last time he had heard about a talking bush, it involved God, and Moses. “You know”, he said to Ramona, “there’s a screenplay in all of this shit. I think when we’re done with it all, I’m going to write it.”
“That would be great.”, Ramona said. “It would be nice to see you writing again. You haven’t written anything in over a year.”
“Not true.”, Tate corrected her. “There was the birthday card I gave you a few months ago. And there was that letter I wrote to Ford.”
“Oh, right.”, Ramona stated sarcastically. “The Lincoln commercial, where you complained about Matthew McConaughey, and how he was a talentless hack, unqualified to convincingly drive a nail in the side of a barn.”
“Right.”, Tate said.
“Uh huh.”, Ramona responded. “It would be nice to see you write something of substance, again.”
“Ya.”, Tate replied. “I will.”
Zippers was packed. There was a line up to get in that stretched a block down Church Street. “Who knew that there were so many lonely lesbians, looking for a cheap thrill.”, he said to Ramona.
As they neared the entrance, Tate noticed the doorman. “Big crowd tonight.”, he said.
“Hell ya.”, the doorman replied. “Its always like this for Celebrity Stripper Night.”
“Celebrity Stripper Night?”, Ramona queried.
“Yep.”, the doorman confirmed. “Go on in and check it out. We’ve got Cher, Madonna, Jamie Lee Curtis, and a bunch of others.”
“Well.”, Tate remarked. “Jamie Lee Curtis you say.”
“Yep.”, the doorman replied. “Not the real one though. They’re impersonators, you know, look alikes.”
“Hmm.”, Tate commented. “That’s a little disappointing. But thanks.”
Tate and Ramona went into the bar. There was a tall woman on the stage, hanging upside down by her legs, calling herself Shair. She was completely naked, and looked absolutely nothing like Cher, which Tate thought was a point in the dancer’s favor. He told Ramona he was going to look for Dee. He left Ramona watching the show, and headed for the bar. He got himself a whiskey, and found Dee standing off to the side of the bar by herself, taking in the action. “Big crowd for the lesbian celebrity look alike event.”, he said.
“Hey, Tate.”, she replied. “Ya. There’s always a big turnout for this.”
“Got any Gertrude Stein look alikes in here tonight?”, he asked.
“Still trying to be funny, right Tate?”, Dee asked.
“No sense in changing, Dee.”, Tate advised her. “Any word from Farberman?”
“I heard from him yesterday. Things are starting to heat up for him. He wants to meet you tomorrow night. 11 pm, at ThePortlands.”
“The Portlands?”, Tate questioned. “That place has been closed for years. What’s going on at ThePortlands?”
“That’s all he told me, Tate.”, Dee said. “11 pm at The Portlands, tomorrow night.”
“All right. Thanks Dee.”, he said. She leaned forward and gave him a hug.
“Be careful, Tate.”, she told him.
He headed over to the stage, and found Ramona with her eyes fixed on a new performer, billed as Mad Donna. “You have to see what this bitch can do.”, she told him. Tate turned toward the stage, and saw this women hang upside down by her hands, with her legs spread perfectly parallel to the floor. “I’m never doing that.”, Ramona said.
“That’s a shame.”, Tate replied.
It took,2 subways, 3 streetcars, a bus, and almost 2 1/2hours to get to The Portlands. Tate didn’t drive. He hadn’t driven a car since Cory Hart wore his sunglasses at night. 1984. By the time he arrived at the abandoned warehouse, once the most popular concert venue in the city, he was exhausted. He stood by the main entrance, lit a cigarette, and remembered what this place was like in its prime. It seemed so very long ago, now. It had been vacant for almost a decade, and had been purchased by a real estate developer who had approval from the city to put up a 2 56 story condos. “So much for progress!“,Tate said aloud.
The windows were all shattered and broken, andmany were now boarded up. The brickwork was covered in indecipherable graffiti, and the side patio, overlooking the lake, was overgrown with weeds, and gull guano. He walked around to the far side of the building, and found a door, swinging back and forth in the wind that was blowing in off of the lake. He stamped out his cigarette, and stepped into the building. The moon shone in through the missing pieces of roof, and Tate could see a figure standing there, in the shadows. He lit another cigarette.
“Put that thing out.“, a voice echoed through the empty hall. “Do you want everyone to know we’re here?” The figure began moving towards him.
“Farberman?“, Tate asked. “Is that you?”
“I hope so.“, Farberman replied. “I’d hate to think I was someone else.”
“After all these years,” Tate said, “you’re still an ass.”
“Its good to see you too, Tate.“,Farberman said, now standing in front ofhim.
“What’s it been?“, Tate asked, “Forty years?”
“45.“, Farberman corrected him. “You look like shit.”
“Bad headache.“, Tate replied. “What the fuck is going on, Marty? What did you get me into?”
“Come with me.“, Farberman said, “I’ll explain everything.” Tate followed as Farberman headed across the hall, and up a flight of stairs that once led to the Private Boxes that overlooked the stage. “Have a seat.“,Farberman told him.
There was a small, round table, with 2 chairs, one on either side. On the table was a bottle of Canadian Whiskey, and 2 shot glasses. “I assume you still drink Crown Royale.“, Farberman inquired. Tate nodded, and Farberman poured them each a shot. “You might need this.“, he continued. “What I am going to tell you may be hard to believe, but it is the truth.” They had their drink, and Farberman sat back to tell his story.
“When I left college,“, he began, “I went to work for the Federal Government. My area of expertise was in alternate reality. Basically, mind control.The use of illusion in creating alternate realities. It was the early 1970s, and the Military was concerned with the continued anti government sentiment that they believed was undermining the implementation of their goals.” Farberman leaned forward. “Another drink?“, he asked Tate. “Help yourself.”
Tate poured himself a double. “And what were the government’s goals?” he asked
“Typical stuff.“,Farberman replied. “The ability to do whatever they wanted, without question and without scrutiny. I was asked by the Intelligence Service to design a program that would remove the threat of insurrection, by getting rid of the most vocal insurgents.”
“Are you fucking kidding me?“, Tate asked.
“No.“, Farberman added. “There were conditions. No one was to be killed. No one was to be hurt. The government began flooding the market with mind altering drugs, but the trouble makers continued to voice their disapproval of the government’s mandate. My team worked on a project that would involve having people voluntarily submit themselves to an alternate reality, one that coincided with their beliefs, and their values. We perfected a technique that would allow people, anyone really, to be placed within a painting.”
“No way.“, Tate exclaimed. “You’re full of shit.”
“I told you it would be hard to believe. Just listen to me, Tate.“,Farberman pleaded. “Anyway, in our trials, we were able to successfully transport people into several works of art, where they were able to live their lives, the way they wanted to live them. No government, no war, no pain, just one long, continuous moment within a painting that lasted for eternity. But, we discovered a problem after several test runs. It was more of a glitch than a problem. Because we introduced a 3 dimensional character into a 2 dimensional world, the painting itself began to take on a life. It actually began to come alive. We could see characters, frozen in time for over a hundred years, begin to move, and do things other than what they were originally painted to do. They were exhibiting free will. Luckily we used copies of the paintings, and so, when we could no longer control them, they were destroyed. The 3 dimensional people we had put in there, were destroyed as well. I approached the director’s and informed them of the problem. They strongly suggested that I keep working on it, and felt that even with its flaws, it was still a viable program. They had no concern for what happened to the innocent people who had volunteered. Because they were volunteers, the government felt that they would be exonerated without any liability whatsoever. And so, now, here I am. I took my notes, the formulas, and left the institute. They have been looking for me for years. If they find me, they will kill me, Tate.”
Tate poured himself another drink. “I need a cigarette.“, he said.
“I didn’t mean to get you involved in all of this.“,Farberman added. “I just needed to hide the papers for a while. The Feds were closing in on me, and I had to go into hiding.Deep.I tracked you down, and seized the opportunity. I knew I could trust you. I’m sorry if this has caused you any trouble.”
“Sorry?“, Tate stated. “You know I have CSIS showing up at my home? They’re following me all over the city. There was a phone call from a crazy ass Frenchman, making all kinds of threats. I don’t know what you expect me to do, but I can’t get in any deeper.”
“Marleau.”, Farberman squeaked out.” “Where are the papers, Tate?”
“How do you know Marleau?”, Tate asked.
“He’s an international mercenary, specializing in industrial espionage. He is a very dangerous man.”, Farberman said. “Now, where are the papers?”
“They’re hidden. They’re safe. For now.“, Tate told him. “What do you want me to do?.”
“Just hold on to the papers for a little while longer.“, he said. “It will all work itself out shortly. If anything should happen to me, I want you to destroy them. Burn them.All of them.If all goes well, I’ll get in touch with you in about a week. Go see Dee. She’ll get messagesback and forth. Can you do that for me?”
“What about the dead agent in the alley?“, Tate asked. “Did you kill him?”
“Ya, I did.“, said Farberman. “But it really makes no difference in the overall scheme of things, Tate. Its always a game of them or us, isn’t it? If I get you before you get to me, I win. Right?Its always been that way, Tate, since we were just kids. Since the beginning of time.”, he said. “Someone has to win, and someone has to lose. So, just keep the papers for me for a lilt bit longer?”
“I guess so.”, Tate told him. “55 years has to count for something. By the way, did you ever do her?”
“Dee.”, Tate replied.
“Still the same freakin’ Tate.“,Farberman proclaimed. “You know, there’s more to life than getting laid.”
“I doubt that, Marty.“, Tate responded. “I doubt that very much.”
And with that Farberman disappeared into the shadows again. Tate walked out of the building the same way he walked in. He headed away from The Portlands, and stopped near the old sugar refinery, lighting a cigarette. It had started raining again, and Tate could feel the drumming in his head worsen. He took the aspirin out of his jacket pocket, and popped 2.“Hell”, he said, “I should have taken the bottle of Crown Royale.”
As he walked across the empty field, he finished one cigarette, and lit another, thinking about the story Farberman had told him. He thought it was insane, if not impossible, and could very well be the ramblings of a man gone mad. Maybe it was simply a case of a top secret government project lead gone berserk. He reached the road, and hailed a cab. He was in no mood for streetcars, buses, or subways now. His head was killing him, probably painfully and slowly he thought, but it was killing him, none the less. He took the cab all the way home, reminiscing about the old days, and nights.
Ramona was awake, waiting for him, when he got home.
He lit a cigarette. “What next?”, Ramona asked.
“We hide the papers and hang on to them until Dee lets us know what to do next.”, he told her.
Tate told Ramona the story Farberman had shared with him. He told her of the government experiments, and the planned use of works of art to exile dissidents, and the inherent problems with the project. “I told you it had to do with French Impressionism.“, Ramona shouted at him. “I told you.”
“Yes, you did.“, Tate said. “Congratulations. Now, do I believe Farberman or not? That’s the issue. Is this shit real, or is he just out of his mind?”
“If you can think it, you can do it.“, Ramona said. “I think Einstein said that.”
“Actually, its ‘If you can imagine it, you can achieve it. If you can dream it, you can become it’. And it was said by William Arthur Ward. For Christ sake, Ramona, have you ever read a book that wasn’t about art!”
“Only yours.”, she answered.
“So, what do you think?”, Tate asked her.
“About what?”, Ramone asked.
“Farberman’s story.”, Tate explained. “Do you really think its possible?”
“I do.”, said Ramona. “The question is do you think its possible?”
“I don’t know.”, Tate replied. “I’ve known Farberman forever. He doesn’t lie. He’s a dumb shit, but he doesn’t lie. So either he’s nuts, or its all real.” Tate thought for a moment, and lit a cigarette. ”He didn’t act crazy. You know? He wasn’t ranting or anything.”
“And?”, Ramona said, trying to urge him on to complete his thought.
“And, it would be cool, if it were possible, to live in a world where people aren’t always pissing me off.” Tate added. “The only problem would be which painting?”
“That’s easy for me.”, Ramona jumped in. “Pont Neuf, by Renoir.”
“That was fast.“, Tate told her, “But I’m not sure you get to choose. I think they need to have a copy of the painting.”
“Who are they?“, she asked.
“The people Farberman works with, I guess.“, Tate replied, as he stood looking out the window, watching the CSIS agents watching him, and trying to think of a painting he would like to live in. “I don’t know much about art,“, Tate said. “I would have to see the paintings to decide.”
“Well, I was an art major.“, she replied. “And Pont Neuf is my favorite painting.”
“I need to get some sleep.“, Tate said. “It feels like I’ve been awake forever.”
“You have.“, Ramona told him. “When was the last time you slept through the night?”
“2007.“, Tate answered. “The year of The Spice Girls reunion. It terrified me then, and it still haunts me now.” Ramona laughed. She loved how Tate always seemed to be able to amuse her, without really trying.
“Let’s go to sleep.“, she told him.
Tate remembered how he and Farberman fell out. York University was an incredibly intense place in the early 1970s. The north campus, where Tate and Farberman attended, opened in 1965, allowing those who attended in the early 1970s, to experience this post secondary institution in its infancy. The campus itself was expansive, occupying a vast area of land, and included apartments, dormitories, lecture halls, and the notorious Central Square, situated on the main floor of the building that housed the school’s library.
Drugs were everywhere back then, and Central Square was the place to be if you were buying or selling, or just plain using. Tate had been living in the murky underworld of the drug culture since his high school days, but his journey into hallucinogens during his York years, would eventually define his life. He was an English Literature and Philosophy major, with a love of Kafka, Hunter S. Thompson, Aldous Huxley, and all things Existential. The reality altering, self medicating regimen he had put himself on, had opened his eyes to possibilities that Farberman could never understand.
As a scientist, Farberman required a clear focus, a completely logical, and concrete frame of reference. Tate, on the other hand, felt compelled to travel to places beyond this reality, to discover his own frame of reference which, he believed, would allow ideas, and perceptions to confirm the discovery of his own reality. While Farberman was calculating formulas, and mathematical equations, Tate was delving into mushrooms, and opium, and hits of acid. All of the sights and sounds of these journeys were recorded in his writings.
“You’re just a dreamer, Tate.“,Farberman once told him. “People dream when they’re asleep. You’re going to wake up one day, and find that you have dreamt your life away.”
“You’re a twisted shithead.“, Tate replied. “The world needs its dreamers. Without dreamers, there would be no hope. And without hope, we’d all just lay down and wait for the world to end. Have you ever read The Tao Te Ching?”
“The what?“,Farberman asked. Tate reached over to his bookcase, and pulled out handbook of Taoism. He handed it to Farberman.
“Read this.“, Tate instructed him. “And read Huxley, and some Nietzsche. They will open your mind. Maybe you won’t always have to be such a dumb ass. Maybe you’ll be able to see that life could really be what it is meant to be, if you and your scienteers only let it.” Farberman glanced at the book for a moment, and tossed it Tate’s bed.
“No thanks.“, he said. “I prefer Schrodinger, or Feynman. While you’re busy expanding your mind, I’m devoting my life to expanding man’s knowledge of the universe.”
“It’s the same damn thing, Farberman!“, Tate exclaimed. “What the hell are you people thinking? If that’s your idea of science, you can shove it. I will continue to try to find a better way, whether through dreams, or drugs. An alternate reality that moves us away from the world of bullshit, and ‘isms’. The dreamers are the ones who create worlds, Farberman. You’re just too much of a mindless fuck to realize that you don’t know jack shit.”
He managed to get Farberman high once. They went to see ‘Planet Of The Apes’, after smoking some opium. Farberman freaked out when he saw the gorilla on the screen begin to talk. He screamed, “Oh my God. Oh my God”, over and over again, and ran out of the theatre. Tate had to go to the Campus Police office, and get him out.
Tate was disturbed with Farberman’s limited vision of man’s existence. He realized, at that point, that he really couldn’t be close friends with Farberman any longer. At some point in time, Tate was certain that he would have to kill him. He was sure it was inevitable. He began spending less time with Farberman, and started hanging out at ‘The Cock And Bull’, the campus pub that was home to the artists, writers, thinkers, and dreamers that roamed the grounds, perpetually high.
Here he met Lillianne ,a Philosophy major. She was French, very French. She smoked Gitanes, drank strong. black coffee, and spoke openly of her passion for Nietzsche, and De Beauvoir. She was dark, she was fascinating, and she was hot as hell. Tate was all over her, like a moth to a flame, meeting her several times a week at the pub to talk about philosophy and literature. They would often return to her room on campus, take hits of acid, and have glorious French sex. Tate would write in one of his books, many years later, that French sex is just like any other sex, except that it is as close to meeting God as any human can get. He wrote that it is perversely perfect, culminating in an orgasm, having an orgasm.
Lillianne shared Tate’s vision of a better world, amid the socio-political ramblings of the campus’ neo left wing, lesbian, socialists. Tate never believed that the system needed to be changed. He felt that the people, thatindividual human beings, were what wasneeded to change. The system would take care of itself, if only those who created and controlled it, could simply see things the way they should be. His relationship with Lillianne lasted for 3 years, although they began meeting at Tate’s downtown bar ‘The Brass Parrot’,when the business majors decided to start frequenting ‘The Cock And Bull’, to talk about ledgers, and mergers.The Brass Parrotdidn’t changed much in all of the years between then and now, although they did add strippers, and the magical pole in 1997.
He dreamt his way through University, inhaling every breath of idealism he could take. He never had any intent of ‘changing the world’, he just wanted his world to be a place where he wanted to live. By the time they finished university, Tate and Farberman had completely lost touch with each other.
Tate remembered thinking just how sad it really was that they lost touch, but he knew it was for the best. He never thought he would see, or speak to Farberman again. And now, Farberman is in deep crap, and Tate is up to his eyeballs with him, once again.
Several years ago, when talking to Ramona about his college days, she had asked him what made him stop using drugs. He had stopped using drugs before he had even met Ramona, and in the whole time they had been together, he had only indulged once. One of his University friends, Michael Morelli, who was known as Dr. Mike, an on air personality at WSHOK Radio in Detroit, had come to town for some industry convention. They met at his hotel bar, had a few drinks and dropped a hit or 2 of acid. They wound up spending the night in Dr. Mike’s hotel room, fighting the dragons who were guarding the mini bar.
“I didn’t stop.“, He told her. “I simply discovered that it is far more affable to be an alcoholic, than to be a drug addict.”
Tate had his sleep disturbed by the sound of talking coming from the living room. Ramona was not in bed, so he threw on his sweats, and went to investigate. She was on the phone, curled up in a ball on the couch. “Nice to see you up?“, she said. “I’m sorry if I woke you.”
“Did you know that whispering is far more distracting to the human ear than speaking at a normal volume?” Tate asked. “But its okay.’, Tate replied, looking at the clock on the wall. “2:30 in the afternoon? Really?”
“Uh huh.“, Ramona told him, putting her hand over the receiver. “Let me just goodbye to my mom.”
Tate grabbed a cigarette off of the desk and lit it. He stood watching the not so secret agents watching him. He could see them near the row of hedges in front of his building, looking tired and worn, waiting impatiently for the next shift to arrive, so that they could go home to their families,or something like that. He waited for them to look up to his window, and he would wave to them. He primarily did it to piss them off, but at times, he actually meant it as a kind gesture. “They must be so damn bored out there.’, he said to Ramona as she came to see what he was looking at.
“Looks like it.“, she said. “I think the shorter one is asleep standing up.”
“With his eyes open?“, Tate sarcastically replied.
“Ya. Why not?“, Ramona replied. “My grandfather used to do it all of the time. He used to freak me out when I was a kid. I’d go into his room when I used to sleep over, to wake him and my grandmother up, and he’d be laying there, snoring, with his eyes wide open.”
“But he was laying down.“, Tate reminded her. Ramona went into the kitchen to make coffee for him. He liked the way she looked after him, and she knew exactly how strong to make his coffee. Over the years she had grown to like it that way, herself. Tate sat down at his desk, and opened her art book, flipping through the pages, looking for somewhere he would like to be. Something caught his eye. “What’s this one?“, he asked Ramona.
“That’s La Goulue Entering The Moulin Rouge’.“, she told him. Is by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.” Tate looked at painting with an intensity Ramona had rarely seen in him.
“I could be there.“, he said. “I’d pick this one. What does La Goulue mean?”
“The translation would be ‘the glutton’.“, Ramona said. “It was the name of a late 19th century, Parisian Cabaret performer, Louise Weber, who is said to have had a voracious sexual appetite.”
“Ya. “, Tate stated, as he closed the book, put it down on the desk, and took another Pall Mall, “I could be there.”
“Why am I not surprised?“, Ramona asked, with the biting sarcasm Tate had grown to love.
He continued to watch the 2 CSIS agents from the window, as they attempted to make themselves as indiscreet as anyone wearing a government issued dark gray suit, and sunglasses, crouching in the bushes could be. Tate had always wondered why the movies always depicted government agents, and police detectives dressing like this. He assumed that the stereotype was at least in part true, as he had the dick twins bobbing up and down in his hedges, as living proof. They were entertaining to watch though, particularly when one of the tens of thousands of squirrels that called this city home, scurried through the bushes, scaring the crap out of one, or both of the spy guys. Tate wondered if they were permitted to shot one of the rodents, or were they bound by the ‘protected animal’ by law that made it illegal to harm squirrels, pigeons, or gulls. Tate called the law a bureaucratic enema, and had remarked at a town hall meeting some years ago, that he would have no trouble doing whatever he had to do in order to stop one of those furry, little bastards from trying to run off with his nuts.
“Do you want something to eat?“, he heard Ramona ask. “I made you a sandwich if you’re hungry. Salami on rye, with mustard.”
“She remembered.“, Tate thought. He turned away from the window to look at her, just as the sound of 2 gunshots rang out. He grabbed Ramona, and pulled her to the floor, shielding her with his body. He could hear screaming, and hysterical crying. He heard a car speed away, with tires screeching, and the general pandemonium that he had heard so many times at the $1 blow out sales held at Honest Ed’s, just before Christmas. “Don’t move.“, he told Ramona. He listened to the sound of sirens wailing, getting louder as they came closer. When he heard the police outside the building, he got up, and went over to the window. “Stay there.“, he said.
He leaned against the wall, and stealthily peeked out the window. People were everywhere. There was a middle aged woman, on her way to the dog park, holding on to her Maltese so tight, that Tate thought the poor dog’s eyes were going to explode. He saw a couple of kids standing beside their bicycles, pointing at the agents, who were now standing, talking to police. One of them was holding a dead squirrel, with blood dripping onto the sidewalk. “You can get up.“, he told Ramona. Tate wondered why it took the agent 2 shots to kill the rodent, as Ramona came over to the window.
“What happened?“, she asked, visibly shaken. Tate put his arm around her, and drew her close.
“You’re not going to believe this.“, he answered. “Maxwell Smart over there shot a squirrel. Took him 2 tries, but he killed it.” Ramona looked at him quizzically, not sure if she should believe him or not. “I’m serious!“, Tate continued, as he reached for the pack of cigarettesthat were on the desk, and took one out.
“Is he an idiot?“, she asked.
“Well,“, Tate replied, “I think that question has already been answered. And now, he must face the wrath of the city’s ‘protected animal’ by law.”
“I thought someone was shooting at us?“, Ramona told him.
“Me too.“, Tate replied. “I figure we’re either not important enough, or far too important to be killed. One or the other.“He looked around the room. “What happened to my sandwich?“, he asked.
“I’ll have to make you another one.“, Ramona said, as she tapped him playfully on the arm. Tate watched her walk away.
“Nice ass.“, he thought. He poured himself a whiskey, and watched the scene outside his window. He couldn’t wait for the investigation to get under way. “I wonder if CSI is going to get involved?“, he commented to Ramona.
“Its only a damn squirrel, Tate.“, she remarked.
“Its that kind of attitude that forced the enactment of the law to protect those damn squirrels.“, he told her. “You can’t fuck with city hall.”
The police were canvassing the buildings in the immediate area, and an officer came to Tate’s door, asking questions about what, if anything, Tate had seen, or heard. “I really didn’t see the murder of the squirrel.“, Tate said. “I heard the gunshots, and that was pretty much it.”
“Why would anyone want to kill a squirrel?“, Ramona asked.
“And why did it require 2 shots?“, Tate added. The officer snickered.
“We don’t believe the squirrel was the intended victim.“, the cop said. “Did you hear a car speeding away after the shooting?”
“I think so.“, Tate answered.
“Uh huh.“, the cop remarked.
“So, Tate asked, “who was the intended target?”
“Well, sir,“, the officer answered, “It looks like it was the 2 gentlemen who were just across the street. But I’m not a detective, so I guess it could be anybody. The detectives will be here soon, and they’ll take over the case.” He explained that the squirrel would be taken as evidence, and the bullets would be removed for ballistic matching. ’In the meantime, just relax, and keep yourselves safe.”
The cop left Tate wondering just how someone could miss a person, and shoot a squirrel. He tried to remember if he had seen a car on the street before he looked away from the window, but he just couldn’t. He poured himself another whiskey, knowing that it wouldn’t help his memory.
He watched the 2 agents, looking like they had had their feathers ruffled, speaking with what looked like an extra special agent. Tate assumed that it was their supervisor, or deputy director or some other bogus position, given to someone who has held the same job for 20 years and, out of a sense of obligation from his employer, is given a bigger office, a bigger expense account, and a splashy title with the word supervisor, manager, or director in it.
“I don’t care what the cop said.“, Tate informed Ramona, “I am convinced that Mutt & Jeff, the spies who have been hiding in the bushes shot the squirrel. You should see how much crap they’re getting from their boss out there.”
“It really doesn’t matter, Tate.“, she told him as she brought him his sandwich. “As long as it wasn’t us someone was trying to kill.“Tate said nothing, but taking the plate from Ramona, sat down and started to eat. “Its not us, is it Tate?“, she asked, her voice trembling.
Tate thought that they could very well be the target. In all likelihood, if the squirrel was not killed by the agents, the only other logical, potential victims were the CSIS agents, and them. “No. Its not us?“, he told her. Its just a conspiracy thing. The idiots shot the squirrel. The cops come. The idiots don’t want to look like idiots, so they make up some bullshit story, and the police have to investigate. They will solve this, easily. They just have to match the bullets in the squirrel, with one of the agents guns.”
Tate started eating his salami on rye, with mustard sandwich. He hoped he was right. He hoped it wasn’t them. But he knew, he really didn’t know for sure. he also knew there was no sense worrying about it now. Not with a salami sandwich, with mustard in front of him. “You wouldn’t happen to have any cream soda, would you?“, he asked Ramona.
Tate sat at his desk, staring at the emptiness in his computer screen. He lit a cigarette. It was time he wrote something, anything. His publisher was asking to see what he had written of the new book so far. He hated publishers. He once told Ramona that “Publishers are just vampires with mobile phones.“, he told Ramona. “They just suck the soul right out of writers.”
He decided to go out and look for inspiration. Nothing was happening inside. Two hours, and not a word!He stepped out onto the street, and looked over at the scene of the grizzly, squirrel murder. The agents stood up from their bushes, and readied themselves to follow him. “Good morning, gentlemen.“, Tate said.
“Good morning,“, one of them replied.
“I’ll be stopping at Timmie’s this morning, if you want anything.“, he added. “And, to enhance your travel experience, I’ll be taking the scenic route today. Our altitude will be just over 6′, except for you shorty, which will probably be 5′7” or so. Our route will take us across Queen St., to Bay. Up Bay to Dundas, and then over to University Avenue. Smoke ’em if you’ve got ’em.” Tate lit a cigarette, and the trio headed out.
The agents followed him like Mississippi blood hounds. When he went into Timmie’s, one of them went in with him. “They have never done this before, Tate thought. This is very weird.” He bought them coffees, and they headed towards their destination. Tate stopped to light a cigarette, and the agents stopped alongside of him. He wandered around the city for hours, taking in the sights and sounds of the pockets of diversity he wandered in and out of along the way. Ramona was asleep when he got into the flat, so he took his cigarettes out of his jacket pocket, tossed it over the chair, and sat down at his desk to begin writing the first chapter of his new book. He lit a cigarette, and poured a drink. He sat at his computer, and started typing.
’The Morning Will Come
By Solomon Tate