Monday, November 15, 2004

Chapter Two - 2

Harry was halfway down the hall before he realized he didn't have his shoes. A shrill scream brought his head up in time to see the terrified face of an elderly woman peering out into the hallway. She ducked back into her apartment and slammed the door shut, fumbling frantically with the chain on the inside as she tried to throw the bolt.

He looked down at the gun he still held in his hand.

"Great, just great!" Harry shook his head, pissed off at himself. He tucked the gun away in his jacket holster. Now he could hear sirens in the distance . He swore and punched viciously at the elevator button three times with his middle knuckle.

"Just...fucking...great!"

The street below was filling with a small group of curious people as he stepped out of the apartment. They slowly cleared a space for him as he descended the steps to the street. Every eye seemed to follow his footseps intently as he walked through the crowd. Some kid had a boom box with the sub-sonics dialed up way too loud, the bass thumping hard off the concrete apartment walls behind him.

Harry had to yell: "All right everybody, there's nothing to be alarmed about, just move back now, I'm a police officer - move back there please!"

He looked down to see what the crowd were staring at so damn intently and groaned inwardly as he saw Christine's hot pink smart socks flashing on and off on his feet, keeping perfect time with the kick drum ricocheting of the building and back down the dark street.



Officer Henry "Higgins" Bartholomew stood at the 24 hour order window of Ye Olde English Fish and Fries Shoppe next to the government wharf in Deep Cove. It was a cold night, and a thick wet fog sweeping down off Indian Arm was beginning to obscure the end of the wharf.

Henry liked things that were old, that had a sense of history about them. He liked the diner because it had been there for as long as anyone could remember. It had a faded look to it, like an old postcard. Even the little rectangular hologram of the British Union Jack that hung, flickering over the doorway was old. The red and blue of the flag dissolved at its failing edges into a thin pink halo and the painted backup flag on the wall behind it was peeling and flaking.

"Fish and chips , please," Henry said. "Cod - and plenty of ketchup."

"I'm sorry sir, but I don't think we have anything called chips here."

Henry pointed at the picture of fries on the menu he was holding. "The proper English name for them was chips, young lady. How many times have I told the staff here - it just seems to fall on deaf ears."

Henry liked words as well. Not the words of the wrap channels that were forging the new mass culture he disdained so much. Not the words of the hundreds of specialty langauges that had evolved to deal with all the dedicated Net applications in the workplace. Not the cool young chat of the school hallways or the swaggering, bravado lingo of the mall gangs. But the older words that people weren't using much anymore.

You could still find them waiting patiently to be discovered again in the dictionary if you ran your finger up or down an entry or two off the beaten track. That is if you had a dictionary at all.

"UNIT TWELVE - RESPOND TO GUNSHOT AT HARBOURVIEW APARTMENTS AT 326 SEA SHELL LANE!" The squawk box bawled the message out across the parking lot from the open window of the police cruiser.

"I'm afraid I'll have to cancel that order, my dear." He sighed and rolled his eyes in mock exasperation.

"You'd think they'd be kind enough to wait until I finished my meal now, wouldn't you? Nothing ruffles an officer of the peace more than being denied his dinner. I'll be thin as a leaf if this sort of thing continues on much longer."

Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. Henry Bartholomew was a fat man. Mysteriously fat, as only some fat men can be. In fact, Henry Bartholomew was as mysteriously fat as any fat man could be. No one ever saw Henry eat much. He was always the picture of restraint when it came to dining.

"Higgs, help yourself. Have some more."

"No thank you, no more please, I couldn't possibly. I'm quite stuffed thank you very much, appetite of a bird tonight," Henry would always say whenever Norm Stern, his shift partner, invited him for dinner. Norm and his wife Sally would both glance suspiciously at Henry's bulging waistline as he passed the dish on.

He hadn't always been fat. In fact, in high school Henry had been a reed thin, pimply-faced kid who had needed all the help he could get just to be noticed in the great cruel crush of adolescent society. At that age, it seemed the qualities most respected were physical attributes, all of which Henry lacked in abundance. He needed something to set him apart from the crowd. Something to make him special in at least one way.

He stumbled upon it one day quite by accident when he found his grandfather's collection of books and letters. They had been stuffed into trunks in his parent's attic after his grandfather died and had been forgotten about - until the day Henry had sneaked up there with a screw driver and pried the lock on the big old blue trunk. What Henry had opened was a door into another world.

Henry had never held a real book in his hands before and he fell in love with their dusty perfume and the heftiness of them. He understood most of the 20th century English, but some books were even older and were difficult to comprehend. There were also some books there in languages Henry could not understand at all.

He soon noticed that the Encyclopedia Britannica available on the electronic-pages of any good virtual library was very different than his grandfather's edition. The articles in his grandfather's edition seemed more informative and the maps, especially of his home state, caught his attention. The e-pages of the virtual edition seemed smoother on the coastline and a lot of the little towns, rivers and lakes were missing. There were also some big islands missing off the west coast called the Queen Charlottes.

His state, he knew, had once been a province of Canada called British Columbia; that was before the union. Now it was a Virtual Nation's state called Northern Columbia.

Henry was fascinated by his grandfather's letters as well. He had never seen a letter before, except in movies, and was shocked not only to find that his grandfather had a mistress, but by the fact that the letters had survived with their messages intact for so long and in such good condition. He wondered who the woman with the beautiful handwriting had been. There were no pictures, but a hint of some sweet scent still lingered within the folds of the pages and Henry's poor heart ached for a taste of what his grandfather had obviously enjoyed to the fullest.

These things became his constant companions throughout the loneliness of his adolescence, and Henry parlayed them into a currency of sorts: a small cult of outcasts surrounded him, eager to share his unique findings, giving Henry back a small society over which he was the undisputed governor.

"HIGG'S! Get your ASS moving!" Norm was leaning out the window of the police cruiser waving him back.

Henry put his head down and did his best impersonation of an Olympian, targeting the patrol car across the lot. He was most of the way there when he decided it wise to begin braking. Henry's massive backside had other plans; the inertia built up in there was now greater than the capacity of Henry's legs to stop in time. His ass swung passed him like a great moon freed of its orbit and carried on towards the car, Henry now being pulled along backwards by the weight of the thing. He slammed into the side of the patrol car right on target, still going full out, shrieking as the air was vented from him.

From his new vantage point on the pavement he could make out the fresh dent in the door of the cruiser and above that, Norm's head hanging out the window, peering down at him in amazement.

"Get in the car, Henry," Norm whispered in shock.

The cruiser was accelerating before Henry could get his door closed. Red and blues flashing, they came down hard off a speed bump as they gathered speed, fishtailing out onto Dollarton Highway before the tires grabbed, chirping. The powerful engine startled the quiet neighborhood as they roared off down the winding highway into the early morning darkness, siren silent.

2 Comments:

Blogger BUGGER blogger said...

more! more! i want more!!!! good writing

December 2, 2004 at 4:54 AM  
Blogger BUGGER blogger said...

(in an ah-beng singaporean accent) wei... long time no update... how leh? i everyday come here, no change wan.. i know very difficult lor, but abit impatient leh... ( i hope u understood that, i am having my Accents Galore Day!)

December 20, 2004 at 8:53 AM  

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