Core ValuesLouis Shalako / Actions & Adventure / Horror / Science Fiction
by Louis Bertrand Shalako
Copyright Louis Bertrand Shalako 2010
Cover art copyright Louis Bertrand Shalako 2010
No fear equals no experience
It started off just like any other day. Like the day hell froze over.
Brubaker had a bad attitude. But lately, when hadn’t he woken up in the morning with a bad feeling, a bad taste in his mouth? He was having a real hard time hanging onto his core values.
Like last Tuesday, when he found a neck bone from someone’s holiday turkey in the mailbox.
Or two weeks ago, when he found some dried-up old slices of toast stuck in between the screen and the grating on the aluminum storm doors; and hot dog buns and hamburger buns on every window ledge.
Or a month ago; when Mr. LaSally and a friend came home drunk, in the middle of he night. Walter’s buddy revved the piss out of his green Jeep, and cranked up the tunes. Then Bru, lying in bed barely twenty feet away, heard them laughing in there. Then they got out of the jeep and started banging on his bedroom window, uttering threats and curses. It was clearly no accident, or unintentional.
By the time he got some pants on and grabbed a flashlight, they were gone. They most likely went in LaSally’s house. How could he prove it? He couldn’t, ‘positively identify them.’ He knew what the dispatcher would say. Yet he knew LaSally’s voice when he heard it. The Jeep was still warm; the engine ticking as it cooled.
Chuck owned the house. On disability, there was no money for a phone.
How about that first summer? Every time somebody came or went, tires screamed, doors were slammed. Comments were made over the back fence; or just at the side window of his house. A side of his home that he learned to avoid, and to keep the windows closed. There was one problem. His bedroom was over there. That summer he dragged his mattress out into the far end of the living room and slept there. He had been sleeping there for over three years. The house had two bedrooms, both on the north side of the house. It was a half of his four-room house he couldn’t even use. He got the distinct impression that people were banging their fists on the side of the house when they left after a big piss-up.
Especially that really big party, the first summer; the night they were all out there.
Screaming shit like ‘cocksucker,’ at the tops of their lungs. He didn’t know if it was directed at him, but who else could it be directed at? At four o’clock in the morning?
Did they think he was gay?
Bru thought long and hard about buying that house.
As a single man, living alone on disability; owning a home in a distinctly working-class neighbourhood, he could foresee certain potential problems. But he was really more focused on the practical; the affordability aspects of the decision. It never occurred to him that people could be that ignorant. It was hard to believe this had been going on for more than three and a half years…
Analyzing it objectively, he was aware of his own little insecurities, for Christ’s sakes.
He walked over to the store. Thank God; the side door was on the opposite side of the house. The dispatcher picked up and asked what the problem was?
“I have a noise complaint,” he began.
“Is it really important? We’re kind of busy,” she informed him.
Bru really didn’t want to make trouble for people. How could he know that this would go on and on and on? He should have insisted. But he was unsure of himself. Chuck lacked the courage of his convictions.
“Have you tried to talk to them, sir?” she asked in a businesslike, disbelieving, and thoroughly jaded tone.
“No way! There’s like twenty-five or thirty of them, drunk as skunks, out in the back yard,” he blurted in disbelief. “I ain’t stupid. That’s why I’m calling you!”
“Sir, it is a criminal offence to misuse the 911 number.”
What a kick in the nuts.
Finally he let her go, hanging up in disgust. So the problem was his to deal with.
Clearly he wasn’t going to get any help from the cops.
Looking back, that was obviously his mistake. But he also really didn’t want to make it about the ‘gay’ stuff. That was a quick road to hell in this town. After only three months in the place, he realized there was a problem, but how could he know how far it would go?
But that was the first warm weekend of springtime. It was his first year in the place.
Later, his anger level began to build.
Okay, when people partied, tossing horseshoes and stuff, and someone missed a shot; they might swear a bit, right? Brubaker was awful leery about picking up the glass slipper and seeing if it fit his foot—didn’t want to be called Cinderella, right?
What was he supposed to do? Go out and crusade for gay rights?
‘Not my job,’ he figured. And it’s not like noise was unusual for LaSally and crew.
He figured the day you try to prove to other people you’re not gay, that’s the day they string you up in a tree. You might as well start throwing punches before you let that happen. The day you have to account for your sexuality to the neighbours, there is a thick rope and a stout tree branch somewhere in the background. He knew this town, his knew his people. Or so he thought.
After a year or two, he was under the distinct impression that he was the subject of a witch hunt. As for the back yard, or the front yard, he never went out there except to cut the grass. He waited till they left in the mornings, and he came home after dark at night, carefully timing it to be able to come and go without the constant verbal sniping. Even the guy’s mother got into it. To be fair, his wife hadn’t. Brubaker went out every afternoon last fall and raked up his leaves. Only to see Mr. LaSally come home a half-hour later, get out the leaf blower, and then blow the leaves from his front lawn onto Brubaker’s.
Brubaker tried and failed to borrow a video camera.
In the end, he figured, ‘What good would it do?’
If he made some kind of a play and it failed, things were bound to get even worse.
Brubaker concluded, after some thought, that the man wanted to get his goat.
Walter wanted to provoke him. He wanted a confrontation, which was the exact opposite of what Bru wanted. Walter was suffering from ‘little man’ syndrome. With all of his friends, relatives, mothers-in-law, babysitters, employees, and friendly neighbours on all sides, Walter would always have the numbers where it counted, in court. Walter wasn’t too worried about the courts, obviously. Yet there was never any doubt in Bru’s mind; that he could whup any three or four of the little fuckers, drunk or sober, pretty much any day of the week.
Bru was better than that. He wasn’t going to fist-fight ten drunken neighbours under any circumstances! Even though he could probably handle them, big as he was and stone-cold sober as he would most likely be.
Bru lived alone. He had few friends. A naturally solitary person, he neither needed, nor cared about the validation of a neighbour. Bru never had any intention, when he moved in, of becoming a couch fixture in some neighbour’s home.
He simply didn’t need that. Not after living in ten different cities in the last twenty or so years. Bru didn’t live in a situation comedy world.
LaSally had lived there for decades. Walter bought his parent’s home when they moved out to the suburbs, or something. Brubaker didn’t have all the details. LaSally knew everyone. His kids played with their kids. Brubaker was a stranger in town, in their eyes. LaSally had a big chestnut tree on his section of city-owned boulevard, just as Brubaker had a maple tree on his. Was it really about leaves? Brubaker picked up the odd chestnut from his own lawn, but he didn’t have the heart to toss it onto Walter’s lawn. He just didn’t have it in him.
That was some kind of character flaw. The flesh was strong in Brubaker, but his spirit was weak. At some point he knew they were harassing him. And Walter was the obvious ringleader.
What was the man’s problem? Except that he was a drunk, not the best behaved of people. He had a wife and three kids, and a business; while Bru got $930.00 a month from the disability pension.
‘The fog of war is legendary—and it’s also true.’
When he sat and thought it all out, which he did quite often, he always came up with the same question.
“Why would a man risk everything, including a nice home and family, for absolutely no gain?”
Was some perceived gayness the problem? Was it about leaves?
What the hell was it all about?
“What a way to fuckin’ live,” he grumped.
* * *
Still, he seemed to have gotten away this morning. Every stinking morning, that guy came out in the driveway, and fired up the work truck about five-thirty a.m.
Then he went back in the house for half an hour or forty-five minutes, presumably to enjoy a long, hot shower; or bacon and eggs, or something. Bru just figured, ‘more harassment.’ He figured that out after roofing the garage, one square metre at a time. LaSally came to the rear of his house, the kitchen sliding door, and loudly spoke to his wife, making sure Brubaker could hear it. It was pretty revealing of his mind-set. The wife must have been right there on the other side of the board fence, by the pool.
“If Chuck falls, honey; don’t call an ambulance. I want to get the video camera. You know how I like to watch him suffer…”
Brubaker was suffering a serious sleep deficit, one that had gone on for about…fuck, it had to be three or four years. He got so tired sometimes; his mind was going like gangbusters. It was jumping all over the place. He had a real Mexican jumping bean for a brain, lately.
Winter, spring, summer and fall, Bru figured no vehicle needs more than a thirty-second warm-up. In winter, five minutes should be more than enough to get some heat out of a V-8. Going without a hot water tank for eight months, LaSally couldn’t possibly have known about that, right? The fact that Brubaker hadn’t tasted bacon and eggs in ten years, LaSally could never guess that, eh? Turning down the thermostat to twelve degrees Celsius in winter, Walter couldn’t know about that, could he?
Using the bent coat hangar attached to the broken latch-lever, quite an ingenious device; Brubaker opened up his 1986 greyish-sky-bluish Ford Tempo, rolling both windows down because the heater wasn’t working. In the humid, March morning air, the windows would soon fog up.
His step-father gave him the car in some forlorn and misguided attempt to be helpful.
Brubaker could only imagine what the neighbours thought of that.
‘How can you afford a car when you’re on disability?’
Walter’s old man died and left him a pile of money. It was his birthright or something.
But that’s where the big, charcoal-grey Escalade actually came from. Ugliest truck ever made, a symbol of excess more than anything.
In the odd nooks and crannies surrounding area homes; piles of frozen crud which had once been pure, crystal white snowflakes lay heaped up. A couple of fresh flurries tumbled and swooped on their lethargic descent to earth. Grey, leaden skies hung low overhead, and the bare tops of trees beat and swayed in the thirty-five kilometre gusting breezes. His green work parka, the one with another man’s name stenciled on the back of the collar, the one from the Salvation Army, bulged alarmingly. But he managed to get the seatbelt done up, and his coat zippered tight up around the neck.
He fired up the boiler and slid her into gear.
Having scrupulously saved up about seventy-five bucks in cash over the last month, quite an achievement; he wanted new socks, underwear, and maybe some jeans. The cheapest place he could think of was the big new Whale-Mart out in the east end of town.
Acquaintances were raving about the size of the place, and the prices. Now would be a good time to check it out. Besides which, they apparently opened up at eight o’clock in the morning.
A typical male shopper, Bru figured he could be in and out in twelve minutes.
Brubaker was a safe driver. He had never been in an accident in his life. That is to say that he never went off the road and caused any serious damage. Mostly youthful indiscretions, where a couple of passengers could get out and push him back onto the road. Or that time when he was alone, drunk in the MGB, when he ended up safe and sound in the bottom of a big ditch.
He was attempting a U-turn on a narrow road with no verge. He got one wheel over the lip. The steep, grass-lined ditch sucked him right down, when he hit the gas.
Backing up until he had a good hundred-metre-long run, he accelerated up the steep bank. Shooting out of the ditch, he flew up and out onto the road, and escaped. Although he may have left a trail of empty beer cans in his getaway. Better safe than sorry. He had a feeling that he might have drawn some attention to himself. The barking dogs from nearby farmhouses were some indication.
That was a long time ago.
He felt warm enough in the balaclava. He soon took off the cheap cotton work gloves. After a long winter he was acclimatized. The trouble with little four-cylinder cars these days was that they had an automatic choke. The carb iced up easily under certain conditions. When that happened, you had to put it in neutral quickly, hopefully without accidentally shoving it into reverse. This was almost invariably fatal to the vehicle, at least in a front-wheel drive car. Perhaps it would clear up without stalling. He knew enough not to hit the washer fluid and wipers at this temperature.
He chugged out Vimy Ridge Road; meaning to stop at Blim’s. While it didn’t make a lot of sense to purchase his coffee, then go into a store for an indefinite time period; he wanted that coffee.
Feeling flush with cash, he wanted that coffee real bad.
Blim’s was on the left, a couple of kilometres east. He cruised at about the speed limit in the right-hand lane. Traffic was light, but he drove courteously. He made it easy for other drivers to pass. He knew he was going slow, for Christ’s sakes. As he approached the stoplight immediately before the Blim Blorton’s shop; he put on the left turn signal and began to change lanes. At that precise moment, the cellular phone buttoned-down in his right-hand vest pocket began to buzz and whir; and exactly then, the traffic light changed to yellow. His knuckle accidentally knocked the turn signal and it shut off.
“Shit,” he cursed, trying to get at the phone, watch the mirrors, change lanes, and cussing profusely, because he couldn’t possibly get at the phone in time.
The whole thing happened due to a moment of brain fade.
He was pissed off because it was probably his mom.
She was probably calling him up to pass the time of day, or to remind him of some little thing he promised to do. Virtually no one else ever called him. She gave him the old thing, practically an antique; ‘for emergencies,’ in the hope that her son wouldn’t feel so vulnerable to more harassment.
Stressed out, with a mind full of shit; Chuck’s hesitation was momentary.
Impulsively, with a brief, strident chirp from the tires, he tapped the brakes and went to the right, pulling into the entrance of a major strip mall. The big-box Zedco anchored two dozen smaller retailers, everyone from fish and chips, shoes, a pediatrician, and mini-bingo. He was boxed in by curbing and planters.
As he finally yanked the phone out of the innermost recesses of his attire; on about the seventh ring; he came to the front of Zedco, and pulled right again. He pulled to a stop in the centre of the empty lot. It was still about an hour before Zedco’s opening time. He snapped open the cover of the big, black, leather-encased Motorola Microtac-650 and hit the button.
Too late. Predictably, there was no one on the line.
“God damn it!”
He tossed the phone in disgust onto the passenger seat.
Before he got going again, he popped open the glove box to search for enough change.
He was pretty sure, but he hated digging in there with one eye on the line-up. It was hard on the back for one thing, and frustrating, for another. Belted in, big coat, digging for those thin little dimes in the glove-box was sheer hell. Like trying to pick one’s nose while wearing boxing gloves.
That’s when he heard incoherent shouting from off to his left, and when he looked, a couple of men were putting stuff in a dumpster. Now one of them was running, running directly towards him from fifty or sixty metres away on the other side of the parking lot.
“What the?” he mumbled; recognizing Walter LaSally, his neighbour.
In a bit of a shock, he saw another neighbour, Tim ‘Tiny’ Adamanaki, standing by the Escalade. He was jumping up and down and screaming profanity.
“Fucking God damn it all to hell...”
He just had time to say it before LaSally came pelting up to the open window.
“What the fuck are you doing here?” shrieked Walter, half out of breath; practically bouncing off the door.
His eyes widened and his jaw dropped in shock.
Already angry, Walter now became livid. Bru turned his head to see what he was looking at. All he could see was the open glove box, nothing unusual.
“Are you taking my picture, you fucking freak?” bellowed Walter, hopping up and down from one foot to another, working up into a real tirade.
When LaSally barked at him, Bru flinched, an instinctive reaction.
“At least I work, at least I’m not on the system,” Walter hollered, with white foamy specks of spittle flying off in every direction.
“I’ve never been on the system,” he kept shrieking.
The man was going ballistic.
(Reviewing it later, that was about the most revealing thing the man ever said.)
“Ah! The camera,” acknowledged Bru, wondering what the fuss was all about.
While they despised each other, no doubt; he had never seen the man like this.
“What are you going to do? Take my picture and rat me off to unemployment?” asked Walter in a cold, glittering rage. “Were you going to take my picture illegally dumping? Drop a dime on me, you fucking freako?”
He was clearly out of control. Fists clenching and unclenching at his sides, the man was practically hopping up and down.
“But you’re self-employed, Mr. LaSally! Surely you know this?” Bru mused aloud for the other’s benefit, hoping to defuse the situation, which was absolutely beyond his comprehension.
A quick sense of humour had sometimes gotten him out of a tough spot, and he had never seen Walter violent. But he was definitely border-line, at this moment.
“Anyway, you’re a landscaper, aren’t you? It’s the middle of winter,” added Chuck with some heat.
He just couldn’t help himself
It wasn’t too wise to drive off while the guy was standing so close, but he put it into drive, keeping his foot on the brake. He looked Walter in the eye, in as friendly a fashion as he possibly could under such circumstances.
“Stress is a silent killer. You need to relax, buddy.”
“Are you threatening me?” howled Walter.
Bru just shook his head in disgust, reaching for the window crank.
You can’t live beside a guy for four years and not have any idea of what he does for a living. It was his excuse for the truck, after all. Bru didn’t get the chance to explain about the cell phone. Walter was sprinting back to his buddy Tim.
By the time Brubaker got to the exit of the plaza, and found himself at a red light, the big grey truck was right on him.
“Jesus fucking Christ,” he gurgled, pissed-off and at a loss for what to do.
The light turned green. They followed him. He turned left, having no idea of where he was going, or what to do. Walter pulled into the right-hand lane, coming up beside him, yelling and shouting curses, profanity, and threats. Tim was sitting up on the ledge of the passenger door, looking over the top of the cab and yelling too.
What should he do? Go to the cop shop? They would just break off a couple of blocks beforehand, wouldn’t they? Bru’s adrenalin was rushing, and he couldn’t think straight as the pulse of his heart beat up and around his ears. If he simply stopped and pulled over, there’d be a fight, right? And of course the cops would be on LaSally’s side.
He knew that. Walter drank at the Nautical Club, where wannabes drank with the cops and all their hangers-on.
They kept at him, dropping back, and making mock ramming attacks at the back end of the Tempo. When he changed lanes they zoomed up the other side.
He rolled up the windows, which made it difficult to hear everything they said.
It was pretty bad, pretty threatening anyhow. Oddly enough, Bru was not in a panic.
Not now. Sooner or later, they had to come across a cop in a patrol cruiser, right?
He just kept turning left when they were in the right-hand lane; or right when they were in the left-hand lane. They always caught up.
Chuck wasn’t willing to go eighty miles per hour, or really wring it out. He wasn’t prepared to jump a parking block and bolt across a public park; or anything like that.
Walter was driving real crazy, and about now Bru was feeling a little stubborn. It was time for the old man’s morning walk. No point in going there. Mushhead’s? He quickly ruled it out.
Mush would tell him, ‘Just get over it.’
He’d just about had enough of Walter LaSally and crew.
Several minutes later; with no place else to go, Brubaker pulled back into his own driveway, with the big truck screeching to a halt in the driveway right next door. Kids, five or six of ‘em; all standing there with a glazed look on their faces as their dads came storming out of the truck. Walter was standing on the edge of the driveway, picking up stones but not throwing them. Not yet.
At least two of the kids belonged to him. Didn’t he see what a spectacle he was making? But he was still ranting and raving, practically foaming at the mouth.
Brubaker snagged up the camera by its strap as it half hung out of the still-open glove box, and jammed the phone in his pocket. He made for the house with his ears stinging at insults from Walter, his neighbour on one side, and Tim, who was his neighbour on the other. He dumped the camera on the kitchen table, half expecting to hear a pounding at the door. But after a short time the shouting subsided. He slumped at the table, then got up and filled the kettle. Putting it on the stove, he sat back down again, mind a blur as he tried to think things out.
“Oh, man. Holy crap,” he groaned, more than once.
Now what? To try to leave again was taking a chance. What was he supposed to do now?
The vehicle next door hadn’t started up. They were still there. What was going on over there? He strained to hear over the noise of the burbling kettle, as it began to get going.
No new socks today. No new gotchies today. There were times when he absolutely cursed his decision to buy old Aunt Mildred’s house, and this was definitely one of them. How had things come to such a pass? He jumped up again, and went to the front door. He cautiously cracked it, and had a quick look. The Escalade was still there, but there was no one about.
Things were awful quiet for a change. He was just sipping at the hot brim of his tea when a thud came at the front door. An unfamiliar voice called in through the front hallway.
“You know why we’re here! We’re coming in, and we’re not taking no for an answer!”
Suddenly three cops were standing in his kitchen. A sickening feeling. Three cops, and worse; they were from Sergeant Oberon’s shift.
“Would you please stand up, sir,” he was politely instructed.
As yet, he hadn’t said a darned thing.
“That miserable, dirty, abusive son of a bitch! I will never fucking rest,” he told them.
Then he clamped down real hard and shut up.
“Would you please turn around, sir; and put your hands behind your back,” the cop told him as the others stood off, well off to one side and the other, hands on their holsters.
He felt the handcuffs being put on and they began to search his pockets. Brubaker sighed deeply as the biggest one began to perfunctorily read him his rights.
Bru’s in control, he thought to himself.
“You are under arrest. You have the right to a legal representative,” etc, etc, etc.
Just like a bad made-for-TV movie. The cop searching him held up a little package, a rolled-up and squished-down baggie with about a gram and a half of pot in it, and some Jiggy-Jag rolling papers. A roach clip, all rolled up in a red bandanna.
“What’s all this then?” he asked.
Brubaker grimaced ruefully and shook his head, despite being a lifelong Monty Python fan.
“Well, we’re not too interested in that,” said the cop.
“Give it back, then,” suggested Bru.
The cop just shook his head,
“Oh, we couldn’t do that,” he said.
(To be fair, his bandana, roach clip and papers were later returned. – ed.)
Brubaker never saw his home again. No, Mr. Brubaker was taken downtown in a police cruiser, which halted at the big overhead door on the back of the building.
Reaching for the microphone, the officer spoke briefly.
“Open sally port, please,” and the big door began to rise.
Taking him inside; they made him give up his wallet and keys, work boots and belt, and made him sign on a dotted line.
“You guys are the ones who should be signing for it!” he protested.
The big cop behind the desk just gave him a look.
He asked to make a phone call.
“You’ll have a chance when they take you over to the courthouse,” the cop said.
Then they placed him in a holding cell, which had a flat slab of stainless steel for a bed, and a one-piece stainless steel combination sink and toilet. He saw a depression meant to hold a roll of toilet paper, the short spigot coming out of the top of the tank, and buttons to make water flow. One button to make it flush; and one for the cold-water-only sink. There was no one else in the row of six cells. After the cops left him, silence reigned supreme.
Without his watch, he had no idea of what time it was, or how much time passed.
There was a sign on the wall across from his cell.
‘Monitored by video surveillance.’
After a few hours in there, they finally came to get him. They took him upstairs for booking; fingerprints and a photograph, the good old, ‘mug shot,’ so beloved of tabloid journalists.
They weighed him and measured him just like a trophy fish. From their perspective, he probably was. The cop was having a hard time with the height measurement. He kept going up on his tippy-toes, and was even bouncing up and down a little to try to get a peek at the big ruler, a kind of decal stuck to the wall behind him.
“How tall are you, buddy?” he finally asked in exasperation.
Brubaker was well over six foot five, but apparently the cops weren’t too good at the metric system.
It said, ‘197 centimetres,’ on his driver’s license.
“Six foot eight,” said Bru.
The cop wrote it down in gratitude, and then checked the weight of the captive.
“One-seventy-eight,” noted the cop.
That seemed awful light, but Bru figured he was losing weight lately.
“Or a hundred and thirty-two-point-five kilograms,” said Brubaker helpfully.
The cop carefully wrote it down in the appropriate box. Brubaker hadn’t shaved in a week or ten days. A pack of disposable razors was simply outside of his budget this time around. He went down in cop history as a man with a beard.
“Do you have any visible scars or tattoos?” asked the fuzz.
Bru awkwardly pointed at his left cheek, where if you squinted you might see the pale remnant from when he fell face-first off the slide in the park at about age seven. He tried to slide down while standing up. When his running shoes stopped suddenly, he kept going in a classic, ‘face-plant.’ The cop carefully wrote down, ‘scar on left cheek,’ while Bru grinned over his head like an idiot.
No one else seemed to be catching on.
Inspiration struck him.
“Oh, yeah! I have a tattoo of a unicorn on my left buttock,” he lied. “Want to see it?”
The cop shook his head, but then looked up.
“Really?” the fuzz seemed impressed. “That’s cool, man. So you’re like totally comfortable with your sexuality, then, eh?”
Ah! LaSally’s been talking up a storm, he decided.
“Yep,” smiled Bru.
“Okay, chin up. Cheese!” and a flash popped off in his eyes.
Then they led him down to the holding cell again. Brubaker had been up since dawn, with no breakfast except a cup of tea about six-thirty. His stomach rumbled and quaked. Yet all sense of time was quickly lost. Life stretched out forever, in a grim and dismal prospect.
Brubaker’s thoughts at this time were of the despairing nature, but how long could this go on? What crime had he committed? None that he could see. He was discovering that a clear conscience wasn’t much comfort in this situation. Dread, just plain dread, came creeping up on him.
What the fuck was going on?
Just as suddenly the cops got him out again. They put him in the back seat of a cruiser, with a young man of about sixteen years old on the other side of the back seat, who was also in cuffs.
They let him wear his boots, but they had all his personal effects in a zip-lock baggie.
Driving across town, the cops took him and the other fellow three flights up the back stairs of the courthouse, and placed them in a holding cell with a number of other males; other unfortunate; or criminal characters. The kid latched onto him like a straw to a drowning man.
“My mom called them cops on me,” he confided to Brubaker. “I’m wild and out of control. I hate her.”
He stared at Brubaker as if waiting for some judgment, perhaps to see if Bru was impressed. But Charles had problems of his own to worry about.
“Look, kid. In jail, you listen to the guards. Do what they tell you. Okay? Don’t lip off to the guards. Mind your own business. Don’t whistle in a jail, okay? Jail is not a happy place. It’s not a place for whistling, okay?”
He waited for the kid to ask what he was in for.
“What are you in for?” the kid asked.
“I don’t really know,” he admitted. “My neighbour thinks I took his picture, in the Zedco parking lot! What kind of a charge that might be, beats me. I have no idea.”
After a few seconds: “A bullshit charge, I guess.”
“I hate the Lennox cops,” the kid noted.
“Yeah. We all do,” Bru replied.
And for all the right reasons, he was thinking.
“My mom called the cops on me because I come home drunk and stoned, and tell her to fuck off, and when she throws me out I don’t come home for three days, sometimes a week,” said the kid.
He sat beside Brubaker on the bench, a small, slight, scared kid, his face agape in what looked like a cross between a grin and a wince. He didn’t look too drunk or stoned now, thought Bru.
A half a dozen other prisoners sat there as well.
A man with a shaved head, startling blue eyes and a poxy face; wearing orange coveralls and blue elastic-sided slippers; paced up and down the length of the cell, glaring at Bru and the kid. A couple of guys in orange huddled in the cubicle for what Bru assumed was the toilet. They were trying to light something. They appeared to have a lighter that was out of gas, a rolled-up twist of toilet paper and lint? Was that lint in the end?
Crack-heads, he surmised. A home made pipe. A toilet paper roll; and some tin foil.
“So that’s how they do it,” he said and a guy across from him grinned.
Three guys sat on the bench opposite, basically just looking bored and miserable, all in street clothes.
As desultory conversation occurred all around, Brubaker was thinking. What can one do under such circumstances? At this point, he still wondered if he would be charged or something. Since he had no criminal record, he figured he should be let out of here in a couple of hours or so.
But he knew nothing of the system.
In fact, after a brief ceremony, he was taken via an underground tunnel to the brooding maximum-security jail across the parking lot. He sat there for three days in the hospital ward, a row of four cells in a room of their own.
The guy on his left laughed and puked for the first two days. The guy on his right was transferred in from another jail, to face trial for murder. You could say they were all on suicide watch.
The three days he was in there, he felt a rising sense of dread. There is no other way to describe it. Just dread. At some point he asked a guard for a book. The one book they had in the building turned out to be about the hunt for some psycho killer. Some place really cold, like Minneapolis-St. Paul. While he knew it was a work of fiction, the thing was pretty disturbing. Present circumstances might have had something to do with it.
The person in the book was abducting female street people, young women. Then, (in no particular order, ) he raped them, killed them, tore the heads off the bodies by sheer brute force, and then poured gasoline on them and set them on fire. He had a thing for some female reporter, and the cops could only try to profile the guy and anticipate where he would strike next.
The last twenty or thirty pages of the book were missing. It was only months later; at the height of his anxiety attacks, the peak of his paranoia, when he began to wonder if that was really the only book they had in there. And why had they given it to him? Were they playing some kind of a game? He had nothing to do but think. The bastards were telling him he was mentally ill. What other messages were they trying to send.
The very walls around him were a message.
It was only later, when he tried to draw conclusions, that he realized what a big impression the whole incident made on him.
* * *
They took him and some others back to the courthouse, chained together in pairs.
Through the tunnel, and run ‘em up the stairs.
After an hour or two, he was led out into the prisoner’s dock. Never having been in trouble before, Bru looked around in simple curiousity. The novelty of his situation made it hard to take seriously. It was hard to believe they were talking about him! Surely he would be let out soon now, as he listened to the so-called charge; what passed for information in this courtroom.
“…Sergeant Oberon called his doctor and according to his doctor, Mr. Brubaker suffers from paranoia, and Doctor Treadmill has been treating him for this for some time…police say Mr. Brubaker is dangerous, out of control, and an unexploded bomb waiting to happen. He is paranoid and delusional. Mr. LaSally has made a 39-minute video statement. He told the Crown that he fears Mr. Brubaker and that he also fears for the safety of his family…asking no bail be granted to Mr. Brubaker…Mr. LaSally says Mr. Brubaker is basically a nice guy, and he really likes him, and cannot understand why Mr. Brubaker would feel that Walter is harassing him…”
“Counsel?” asked the Judge, some guy Bru had spoken to.
They called the lickspittle, toadying, curtsying fool, ‘duty counsel.’
In their brief consultation, he tried and tried to explain to the guy, that LaSally had been harassing him for years.
Counsel stood up.
“Mr. Brubaker indicates that he cannot return to his home after this incident, and will in fact be forced to sell his house due to long-term harassment by Mr. LaSally. Mr. Brubaker has no criminal record; and no history of violence. He’s done everything in his power to avoid Mr. LaSally and denies taking his picture.”
“Dr. Treadmill never told me that…”
Chuck had a hand raised just like in school.
Bru wanted to ask the judge about that mental illness thing, but didn’t get too far. She preferred speaking to duty counsel.
“Remind me never to speak to duty counsel again,” Chuck noted. “For the record.”
“Who made this diagnosis?” the judge asked, eyebrows raised.
“My frickin’ neighbour,” blurted out Brubaker, and they all laughed.
She cut him off.
“A kind of he-said, she-said thing, eh?”
Apparently they were charging Bru with criminal harassment.
Interesting…interesting. Charles was in some kind of shock.
The duty counsel nodded objectively, obviously not wanting to get too involved, or arouse the judge’s ire too much.
But then; he had a lot of cases that day.
Bru only had one.
Bru remembered the lady from the paper. She was the one with five years in family law and then they appointed her a judge. Firstly, she was a Progressive Conservative, having been appointed during the Mike Smegma years. Secondly, (and this was just Brubaker’s personal opinion,) she was a bitch.
The terms of the bail agreement stated that he would reside until trial date at his father’s. It was the only place he could reasonably think of, and he agreed not to go within three hundred metres of Mr. LaSally’s address, (his own house was right next door.) He agreed to be at ‘home’ after 10 p.m. except for purposes of work, or medical visits. Then they let him out through a little gate. He sat with his mom and dad while waiting for the papers to be drawn up.
It was only later, when Bru wondered what would have happened if he refused to sign? Would they have held him for nine months? What if he was acquitted then? He could have sued them for a million bucks, right? Yet he also knew, deep down inside; he couldn’t have survived nine months in jail.
The next case was ready to go. Voices lifted up and filled the courtroom.
Just like in a church, he realized.
“You look good in orange,” his mom whispered.
Finally the clerk signaled; and he hoped to get his pants back very quickly. After three months of not smoking, Bru planned on heading straight to the store and buying a pack.
* * *
It didn’t take very long for Brubaker to figure out that he couldn’t pay the mortgage on the house and pay rent somewhere else on his tiny disability pension. He couldn’t even go near his own home for up to a year, or for however long it took to resolve the court case.
That fuckin’ LaSally was doing a real number on him. He figured that much out when he went to sell his house and the ODSP cut off his pension. The ODSP cut off his pension five times over the next year and a half. But then Chuck was also trying to build up a business at the same time. He was just starting to show some results—something the Ontario Disability Support Program apparently just couldn’t abide.
Two years later; a ride along the boardwalk…