Sunday, March 21, 2010
The Hickory McCracken Chronicles: Montreal Moment
It had been a long summer and a cold fall. I had broken up hard with my summer love Melanie Moreau, a gorgeous girl from Montreal, a dancer, a violinist and a free spirit, a true free spirit. But wait, let me preface. I was working in the royal mountain for the summer as a co-op student at my uncle's pickle factory. My uncle Jack was a great guy, a bit of an asshole on the job, but generally a pretty good manager of people. I was placed there on a co-op program that worked in tandem with McGill U and my highschool in Ottawa. It was a tiring 10-12 hour-a-day shift, hauling pallets, skids of dill spice, salt and vinegar, broken boards, boxes of jars, and bigger jars, and sweeping up mountains of broken glass and rotten cucumbers. I worked pretty much non-stop and got 30 minutes for lunch. Most the day, while hustling for my lousy pay and even lousier "real world work experience," I spent trying to do three things: reciting Tragically Hip songs in their entirety, trying to get a glimpse of Fanny Miller's cleavage (my Uncle's receptionist) which would bounce all over the place when she would storm through the warehouse, walky-talky in hand, chasing one of the forklift operators who had obviously had a 5-pint liquid lunch, and thirdly, planning fun things to do with Melanie on the weekend. Man, the girl was a beauty. She had an angelic smile and was so sweet and gentle and smart with her quiet French-Canadian accent. We hit it off the very day that I met her at a work BarBQ. See, she was the daughter of the regional manager Gerard Moreau, who was the quintessential blue-collar prick, and resented my ass because I was my Uncle's (his boss's) nephew and because I was a "fackin' anglo" as he would shout about me within ear shot. All summer, Melanie and I would subway downtown, either after work or on Saturday nights, at various secret locations we'd meet up and would spend almost the whole night together. I would often accompany her to her ballet practices and violin classes. We would talk music, art, politics, eat at our favorite restaurants, drink wine and smoke herb in the park and sometimes just sit together under the Montreal lights and stars for hours. I would tell her that I loved her and wanted to be with her forever but she would just giggle sweetly and say in broken English that all of us "Anglo boys were so serious" and would laugh some more. I was 19 and didn't realize that my romantic dreams were about to get a serious wake-up call. One rainy Friday evening, with my Uncle out of town, I was left to clean and close the main warehouse, well, me and Gerard Moreau, the king of the pricks. I could see through the glass window to his office that he was drinking - he had been all day. Drinking and yelling on the phone, yelling at his drivers and workers, and then drinking some more. I tried to keep a low profile, finish what I needed to do and get ready to lock the main warehouse door. As I was locking the tool room I felt a hand on my neck and the smell of booze on stinky breath. It was Gerard. He grabbed me harder and threw me against the wall and said in loud broken english, "listen you piss ov shit, you go near my daughter 'gain and all bust yer fuckin' anglo face ok?" I felt like I was gonna piss myself under his strong grip, but I held it tight, though I could feel my legs starting to shake. Gerard stared at me for a good few minutes then left the warehouse with a slam of the door. I collected myself and grabbed my coat and locked up the main door. I thought about calling my Uncle and crying up a storm, telling him everything but I knew that I might be branded a pussy by the other guys, so I sucked it up and decided to treat myself to a smoked meat across the street at Molly's Inn. It was a quiet place, with just a bunch of old drunks, where I would often come to take a shit in peace. Sometimes, I would sit on the toilet and cry like a pussy. Tonight was one of those nights. I felt alone against these blue-collar tyrants who only knew about drinking, fucking and fighting and longed to be with Melanie who reminded me of the beauty of life and who made me feel strong. As I sat in the stall, with my head in my hands, I heard the squeaky door bathroom open and footsteps from big boots walk slowly towards me. I was too tired, angry and embarrassed to look up. The voice was hoarse but familiar and asked, "hey, you the one that gives free blow jobs?" "Fuck off. Leave me alone." I replied with my head in my hands. "Well, I just thought that I'd come in here and get you to give me one of them dandy free BJ's." At this point, I erupted and started shouting while looking at the floor, "I told you to fuck off, what part of...." but as I looked up, I felt a strong hand on my shoulder, "Easy bud. I'm just kiddin,' I like the ladies, don't need no man smoking my pipe." My sadness and fear disappeared. I was face to face with Hickory McCracken. He had less teeth than when I'd seen him last and seemed to be a bit chubbier but he still had that smug smile and gleam in his eye. "Hick!" I yelled in relief and laughter. "It's good to see you man," I said clapping our hands in a tight shake. "You too brotha," He said smiling. "So, I heard a fat frenchman's been giving you trouble," He said loudly. "Well...no...well not exact..." I began hesitantly but before I could finish, Hickory said, "well, let's say we have a couple of beers and take an order of poutine over to his house." I felt my heart began to pound and we began to laugh, Hickory out of the joy of anticipation and me out of fear...
Summer in Montreal had just begun.