Monday 5 March 2007

Stubborn Town, Part Six

Stubborn Town is a story of seven chapters, posted serially by me, your snowed in host, Cheeseburger Brown.

"The reason things are is because of how they were; the way they were is because of where they're going. Blame is an illusion, Mr. Mayor." -S. Mississauga

Preview follows:


The day is bleak and dim, hemmed in by a sky that looks like it's made of pounded metal.

The rusted orange schoolbus bangs over the potholed highway, easing over the crest of the low hill separating the old site of S. Inlet from the new. The bus exhales a ring of brown smog and then begins the slow coast home, brakes squeaking near the curves.

Aglakti's three cousins are waiting outside of the Elk's Head Lodge: the smiling one with coffee, the slight one with tea, the chubby one with chocolate.

The morning routine plays out with the familiar mumbles and yawns.

Mr. Mississauga is called to a meeting with the mayor, so Aglakti goes home to change her clothes and brush her teeth while the detective lopes over to the Hot Foo. It's crowded and noisy, though a bubble of hush surrounds him as he moves -- trailed by cleared throats, coughs and the clinking of cutlery. He nods to Bonnie as she sets up her grill, then takes a seat opposite Lyle MacDougal in his usual booth.

Lyle puts the newspaper aside. "Thanks for coming, eh?" He taps on the home-printed menu, his brow raised. "How do you feel about talking over some eggs and sausage? I just can't think on an empty stomach, you know?"

Mr. Mississauga sips from his cup of tea, plucked from Aglakti's cousin's tray outside. "I'm fine, Mr. Mayor," he says. His leather gloves creak as he releases the cup.

"How's the investigation coming along? Almost time for you to be heading home, isn't it?"

"It's a complex situation."

"Can you give me the bottom line?"

A match flares. "Yes," says Mr. Mississauga, puffing his cigarette to life. "I can't stop it. You need a physicist."

"So, like I said, you're going to be moving on I suppose," grunts Lyle. He drinks from his mug, leaving droplets of coffee in his beard. "I mean, you're no physicist, right?"

"That's right," agrees Mr. Mississauga.

"Well, you're a colourful character and it's been great to have you," he says quickly, mechanically. To Bonnie he calls, "Where are those eggs, Bon?" and then, looking to Mr. Mississauga again, adds, "Feel free to come back and see us anytime. Bring your friends. Hunt a bear. It'll be a beauty good time."

"You're not interested in a solution, Mr. Mayor."

Lyle coughs. "Of course I'm interested. I have a responsibility toward my community, and another winter's worth of waking up out there means a serious risk for, um, some of our older residents and such."

"That's not the reason."

Lyle flashes a nervous smile, folds his grubby hands on the table. "I'll level with you, Mr. Miniwaka. There've been some complaints. Father Gomez says you tried to badger him into talking about sex, and Gord Martingrove tells me you gave him post-traumatic stress dyspepsia or something by dredging up Korea. You've been handing out cigarettes to kids and you don't spend any money."

Mr. Mississauga leans across the table to reach the ashtray, tapping his smoke with a careful levering of his stiff left arm. Lyle flinches. Mr. Mississauga says, "That's not the reason either, Mr. Mayor."

The mayor scratches under his beard. "I don't need a reason. I'm not kicking you out. Your time's up and, like you say, we need a physicist so we'll just wait until Ottawa decides to send one. What kind of physicist do you recommend? One of them particle guys? Or, like a scientologist or what?"

Mr. Mississauga gives him a tight little smile. "Ottawa will never send a physicist, Mr. Mayor, and you're relieved. Don't bother to cover your mouth, I've already seen it on your brow. There's no need to dodge me: the truth isn't shameful."

Lyle sneers as he tries to fake a smile. "What truth would that be, exactly?"...

To read the complete novella get it for Kindle!


Anonymous said...

Best Line: It slams after her, the OPEN-OUVRE sign flapping madly, sending a shiver through the ranks of naked white women on the walls.

THE Danimal

Moksha Gren said...

Hmmm...we're suspecting Aglakti goes off to become CHerry Nuk Nuk...but what about Charlie's writing. What effect does his writing have on the universe, I wonder?

Excellent chapter, by the way, CBB. I was actually cringing the whole time poor Mr. Miss was being drugged.

I read this morning that the buildings in Toronto are attacking folks with huge sheets of ice. As if the icy roads weren't we have to cross our fingers and hope you survive the bombardment as well. Good luck!

Cheeseburger Brown said...

Dear Danimal,

Thanks. Those white women sure are jumpy, aren't they?

Dear Moksha,

You've guessed correctly that Charlie's fate will have to be taken up in the final chapter -- the final incongruous element, so to speak, in a nest of elements incongruous with the way the universe should work.

Yes, the CN Tower is trying to kill people on the Gardiner Expressway. Fortunately, this stretch is not in my usual route.

Poor Mr. Miss. I do hope he doesn't have too terrible a hangover.

Also, a minor announcement: the next story won't be the story I thought it would be. I just got a very exciting idea on my way to work today, and I think I'm going to be hashing it out next rather than dipping right away into the biography of Dr. Zoran. That'll have to wait a few more weeks.

Next I think we'd all like a little break from this old humdrum Earth. Don't you fancy a trip to Saturn? I know I do.

Cheeseburger Brown

Orick of Toronto said...

damn, how am I supposed to take my much needed break from the internet and get things done if you keep coming up with interesting stories?

The flipper karate line cracked me up.

Cheeseburger Brown said...

Dear Orick,

Paypal me some coverage for postage and photocopies and in return I'll mail you installments for the duration of your self-imposed exile.

What's it cost now? Fifty-three cents a pop? You're local to me, right?

Cheeseburger Brown

Anonymous said...

Ahh, I'm terrified for Mr. Miss! If he falls into deep sleep, how will the town deal with his screams??? That's awful...

I'm excited for the last chapter! Great work, CBB

Mark said...

Great installment. I, too, was going to declare the shivering white women the "Tic Tac Moment" of this chapter. Putting the reader in the scene like that deserves a standing ovation.

I always cringe at those situations when the reader knows what the lead characters wants/needs, but just can't get that through to the idiots surrounding him/her (CBB, can you invent a gender-neutral singular pronoun for us while you're at all this creative writing?).

Anonymous said...

Wow, what a bonus! I'm gone for two episodes and I get 'em back to back...

Didn't Cherry have a bodyguard (or something) named Charlie in Night Flight Mike?

Great job on the dream fantasy stuff; creepy, yet laced with reality. Poor S. Miss...