Cassandra’s Tears

Tears of joy, tears of pain, we are reflected in the salt-water pools we create. So let us build a fleet of paper boats and sail them on our ocean of indecision, laughing at the wind-whipped white-crested waves that would wash over us, drowning us in our own despair, yet somehow never vanquishing us in the end.

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Location: Lennoxville, Quebec, Canada

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Not a Love Story

Sam was a farm boy, a country bumpkin, his whole world constrained by the fences that kept the cows in the pasture and the straight rows of corn he drove the combine through in the fall. He was 18 years old when this story takes place, tall, easy in his lean, well-muscled body and unselfconscious about his good looks. He liked to spend evenings with his family, and occasionally on weekends he’d go into town with the farm hands. But when he turned 18, in order to celebrate his coming-of-age properly, Jake and Bill agreed that he should go to a real bar and drink real liquor.

“Well, Sam,” said Jake, as they were finishing up after the final milking and the cows were back in the barn, “doin’ anything special tonight?”

“Hadn’t thought of anything,” answered Sam. “You and Bill doing anything?”

“As a matter of fact, seeing as how you’re 18 and all now, legal you know, we were wondering if we could stand you for a whiskey in town later.”

“Wow, that’s really nice of you,” responded Sam. “I should ask my Dad if he needs me for anything, first.”

“Sure thing, Sam. We’ll pick you up at 8:30,” and the plans were laid.

It was a bit of a drive into town. Bill came in his pickup and Sam slid in beside Jake. He had showered and shaved and was actually a bit nervous. He’d been drinking beer on the farm with his dad since he was 16, but going to a bar for the first time, equipped with valid I.D. he could whip out if asked, was a novel experience. His social skills were a little awkward, not really having participated in extra-curricular activities at school, his folks always needing him to come home to work. Still, he did like people, and looked forward to the outing.

Bill pulled up in front of The Black Mule and, after a bit of searching, found a place to park. It was a Friday night and a new band, Evidence of Beavers, was playing. Sam gawked like a tourist as he followed the older men to the bar. “Whiskey!” they ordered, and Sam found a shot glass in front of him. Jake and Bill both lifted theirs to their lips and downed the contents in a single gulp, so Sam did likewise. He was unprepared for the sharpness of the taste, the way it burned his throat on the way down, and the tears that sprang unbidden to his eyes as the warmth spread through his chest and into his stomach. The two farm hands were watching him, though, so he smiled and said, “Wow!”

“Another?” asked Jake. “Sure!” Sam replied enthusiastically.

The room was starting to get crowded and the volume rose as the band tuned up their instruments. People were shouting to be heard, which only raised the decibel level. Sam had lost count of how many whiskey shots he’d downed, and was feeling unsteady on his feet. He also needed to pee.

On his way back from the men’s room he saw her, the girl of his dreams, like an angel, her blonde hair a halo around her Barbie Doll face, backlit by the decorative lights hung behind her. She was alone, but it was evident that her solitude was only temporary, for the places at her table were occupied by half-filled beer glasses. Her companions must have gone out for a smoke.

Sam, emboldened by the whiskey, made his way to one of the vacant chairs next to her. “Hi,” he said, shyly, “I’m Sam.”

“Hi, Sam,” the girl answered, her low husky voice sounding amused, “I’m Sam, too, Samantha. Pleased to meet you.” She extended a slim hand with manicured nails for Sam to take. He had never felt such soft skin, being used to the work-roughened hands of his own family members.

He couldn’t take his eyes off her. She was beautiful, her golden curls cascading down her open neckline to the generous cleavage it revealed. He leaned forward and drank in her musky perfume, overcome. “Will you marry me?” he blurted out, before collapsing with his face on her shoulder.

Samantha laughed and pushed him off her. “Sorry, honey,” she said, “I’m not that kind of girl.”

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Ten a.m. smoking break

“There are so many people outside, it looks like a fire drill.”

Louie laughed, exhaling a burst of cigarette smoke, and then lapsed into a coughing fit. “Except the fire is out here,” he commented to Réal, waving the lit tip of his cigarette in his companion’s face.

Réal took another drag and squinted up at the sky, the sun now peeking over the tops of the downtown office buildings. “This is all right,” he muttered, “at least it’s warm out, and it’s not raining. But I hate having to come outside to smoke in the winter; and now they won’t even let us shelter in the doorways. Nine metres. Bah!” He spat on the sidewalk.

Louie looked at the cigarette in his hand speculatively. “They’ve put the price of smokes up again. It’s getting so I can barely afford them anymore. I ran a budget the other day to figure out what this habit is costing me.”

“Oh, yeah?” said Réal. “How much?”

“A lot,” answered Louie, “enough that I could take my wife and my girlfriend to the Bahamas for a week at Christmas. Not enough for separate vacations, sadly.”

It was Réal’s turn to chuckle. “That would be something, eh? Claudette and Marie in the same hotel room. I wouldn’t mind seeing that.”

Louie was quiet for a moment, gazing off down the street at all the smokers indulging their addiction. Some were talking with companions, like him and Réal, others were smoking alone.

“Réal,” he said, “I’m going to quit,” and as if to underline this decision he dropped his butt on the sidewalk and ground it out under his heel.

“I’ll believe it when I see it, Louie,” grumbled Réal. “You’ve been smoking forever. We both have been. I don’t think you can do it.”

“No,” said Louie, determination in his voice, “it just came to me. I could give those gals so much more if I wasn’t always nickle and diming it so I’d have enough for a pack of smokes. I could get rid of this lousy cough and I wouldn’t feel like a second-class citizen having to go outside every hour to have a cigarette. You ever notice how the others look at you when you’re heading out for a smoke? Like you’ve got a disease. I’m sick of it.”

Réal drew deeply from what was left of his cigarette. “I couldn’t do it. For one thing, I’d miss getting all this fresh air.”