When Pigs Scry

“Time,” said Mr. Dreever, “is not an illusion, because illusions are as solid as this table, therefore time is no more intangible than thought. It is thought which is an illusion.”

Mr. Dreever was my high school art teacher. He had a porcine face, the features set in a permanent expression of piggy amusement towards the world, but with eyes lit by an internal bonfire of crackling delight and roaring madness.

“In fact,” said Mr. Dreever, inhaling deeply to stoke the furnace, “I shall prove Time is material by living all of next week three days in the future!”

Not a single word Dale Dreever said ever made sense, and he stocked his classroom shelves with bleached cow skulls and 1950s kitchen appliances to which he’d assigned names, personalities, love interests and occasionally soap-operatic, götterdämmerungian conflicts. There was a whole churning mythology invested in these skulls and toasters that he somehow kept continual track of, so you could ask at any time how Ragnarök was progressing and without skipping a beat he could respond, “Mitsy the Blender has taken the Ice Cream Bridge at Snøer-Snøer, but Barqnor the Bony is only a day’s grazing from the Field of Cactus Cheese.” If one felt inclined to check in the next day, Dale would pick up wherever he had left off, continuing until you’d groped blindly the doorknob behind you and escaped.

Dreever was trying to get kids growing up in Edmonton to think beyond who’s older brother was buying them vodka this Friday, and whose mother’s kitchen floor they were going to puke it on. We were sort of friends. The only thing that unnerved me was his fish.

Every year Dale cleaned out the huge fish tank at the front of the classroom, filling it with fresh water and fish. For their first assignment students would then make “Feelies”, hollow globes of clay decorated with marks or added bits of clay and fired in the kiln. Feelies unclaimed after grading he’d put in his fish tank. The noxious gases still contained in the clay would bubble out and kill the fish. At the start of each subsequent class Dreever would chitchat with the dead fish and sprinkle food over their floating, bloated, rotting corpses until by the end of the year the tank was stiff with noxious grey/green putrescence.

The fish unnerved me because, like the cow skulls and appliances, he named them, and no matter how unrecognisable as fish they became, he always knew which he was talking while they “gossiped” about who was sleeping with the bubbly scuba diver lately and who had their crooked fin in the ol’ treasure chest.

Mr. Dreever was less scary than Mrs. Bell, who taught English. Her husband was a magician and she had obviously dipped into the darker tomes in his library.

“Karl,” she said one day. She’d been writing passive past perfect tenses on the chalkboard when she suddenly turned round and in an inhuman voice summoned Karl’s attention back from the girl he was trying to seduce.

“Y-yes Mrs. Bell?”

“Karl. What’s your favourite colour, Karl?”

“O-o-orange?”

“Look inside your desk, Karl. There is a folded piece of paper there. Unfold it. What does it say?”

In a voice rich with nausea Karl croaked,

“…orange…”

“Thank you, Karl,” said Mrs. Bell, and resumed scrawling what appeared to be Norse runes on the board to explain the phrase: “I had heard the music/the music had been heard by me”.

Karl failed to score with the girl. His balls had crawled inside him up to his neck.

The day after Dreever claimed he was going to live the week three days in the future I went up to him at the start of class and asked if I could have an extension on my perspective studies.

“I don’t know,” replied Mr. Dreever, “but I guess he shouldn’t have left his shoes in the hall.”

“What?”

“I don’t really follow hockey– that’s the one with the puck, isn’t it? I think I heard it was the New York Rangers.”

OK,” I said, and backed slowly towards the door, reaching awkwardly for the doorknob.

For the next few days Dreever was more incomprehensible than ever. Those who considered art something to sleep through stopped coming altogether. Dreever noticed the diminishing number of bodies in his class, but whereas once he would smoulder powerlessly over their lack of imagination, now he just seemed sad. Resigned. I, on the other hand, who never gave a shit what anybody did with their time (I skipped most of French to hang out in pool halls and bars willing to risk serving underage patrons) became increasingly angry at the deserters. Mostly, I was angry at Dreever for his bloody-minded brainfuck scheme that gave these folks an excuse not to turn up.

One day one of the last meatheads left was screaming for blood. He was a jock who hated showering and whose shoes (amongst other items) therefore always stank. He’d leave his sneakers outside classrooms for airing, but today somebody had put hair gel in them. The next day the NY Rangers won a big game against the Oilers. Somehow, through a combination of observation, creepiness and sheer, blind luck, the gibberish Dale had been spouting was coming true! He was making the future! Well, maybe not, but he did guess the outcome of the hockey.

At the end of the week I was sitting by my locker avoiding math.

“Congratulations,” pipped Dale, but plainly forcing a smile.

“On what?”

“On winning the school’s art award! You’re going to art college next year, aren’t you? This should help. It comes with a cheque for $100.00!”

He handed me the little plaque and a cheque made out in my name.

“Mr. Dreever, we’re only halfway through the year.”

“Not in the future,” he said, and wandered off, humming some bovine opera along the lines of Wagner but made of moos.

Not long after came news that the school was shutting down half its art programme, ostensibly because not enough students were registered for it, but other creative electives were clipped as well. The electronic music programme saw all its instruments sold to buy basketballs and shorts for the various school teams. Strathcona Composite had won more art competitions over the years than any other school, and far more than its sports awards. However, the school had a full-sized pool, the best track and field facilities in the city, and two gyms. Corporate sponsorship, only just rearing its head in the secondary educational system, was just too alluring for the board of directors, and football is a bigger draw than Feelies..

Dale had seen the future, not just of the school but of everywhere in the arts. Today, Dale Dreever is an activist in Alberta fighting for funding in arts education and a hero to invisible cows across the universe.

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The Story of Archie Pecs: Part Four

My friends and colleagues at Elephant and Castle Underground Station where I was station assistant and First Aider were appalled at recent events at Pec Manor. Vince, with whom I’d done the Underground training course, had me stay that night with him and his girlfriend Dora. Dora Tiernay, something of a rock with a fierce left hook, was neither shocked nor worried at my story, but simply took charge of my rescue.

“Roight, so,” she said, matter-of-factly. “Me brother has a truck. Peter will be at Archie’s tomorrow at noon, be ready to go. Now, Peter is all right, but it would be best if ye tells him yer an American. We have family there and he loikes to think he’s half-Yank.”

“But why–“

“Jest do it, roight?”

Peter appeared almost at the twelfth chime of the porcelain poodle clock Archie kept on the fireplace mantle. We had my few possessions aboard in an hour and were away.

“So, Dora tells me yer from America,” says Peter. “Whereabouts, then?”

“Seattle?” I lied. “Well, Seattle-ish, near Seattle. Very near Vancouver, in Canada, where I’ve never been, being American, but have heard about, being so near to it. It rains a lot there, in Seattle and Vancouver, both of them, it rains a lot, it’s a semi-tropical rain forest, the whole region, Canadian and American. Folks talk very similarly there, in both places, very similar accents, they’re a lot like each other, but I’m from Seattle, which is the capital of the state of Washington, or maybe Oregon, I dunno, I always did so badly in geography in high school in Seattle, America…”

I nattered on in this convincing manner for some minutes before Peter pulled the truck over the side of the road and turned a matching pair of cold, dead eyes upon me.”

“Sure, ye was never American,” he whispered. “Whar is ye from, really?”

“Canada,” I squeaked. “Vancouver. Very close to Seattle, very similar–“

Peter stabbed a scarred finger at me.

“Ye didn’t need to lie ta me. I’d’ve moved ye annyway. Never lie ta me again, roight?”

I lived with Vince and Dora for a year in the outermost London suburb of Croydon. They fought like cats and dogs but I think they loved each other, and I got on well with Dora’s family, though her brother never had much to say to me again. My strongest memory of Peter is actually from early on in my stay there, when Vince, Dora, myself, Pete, and Pete’s friend Mick visiting from Belfast were having a drink at The Goose, a local pub, and another Irishman hearing familiar accents gravitated to our table.

Paddy, clearly a puffed-up braggart, was soon telling us of the bad boys and villains he’d betrayed to the British police in Belfast. Paddy claimed to be “a bit of a supergrass”, and was surprised neither Mick nor Peter, who grew up there, knew any of the names he was mentioning.

“Are ye sure ye’ve never heard of So-And-So or Whatshisname?”

“No,” crooned Mick softly, “but tell us some more and mabbe ye’ll ring a bell…”

Vince grew nervouser and nervousest and quickly excused himself. Even Nora became uncomfortable and left, followed reluctantly by Peter, winking slyly at Mick. I stayed and egged Paddy on, finding it hilarious anybody could be stupid enough to declare themselves as so monumental a rat. Mick, however, became calmer and more focused, like a cat by a hole in the wall. Finally, something dawned on me and I fled too, leaving Mick pouring Paddy another pint from the pitcher.

Several weeks later Paddy’s picture was on the cover of the local community newspaper asking for information regarding his whereabouts. I showed Nora the story. She explained in embarrassed tones that her family, the Tiernays, were THE Tiernays of Belfast, known for quietly sorting out local problems without English involvement. Especially problems arising from English involvement.

“It would be better,” she said, “if you don’t tell this to anybody. Especially about Peter helping you away from Archie’s place…”

And that is why the names, places, porcelain poodle clocks and exact dialogue of this story have been changed. I’m moving back soon to London, and the last thing I need is for certain folks to get to thinking I’m a bit of a supergrass, too.

I admit for about a year after this I became homophobic. I viewed all men who showed an interest in me as predatory, and became instantly defensive and butch. Which simply made them think I was in the closet and needing encouragement to come out, which made me more of an asshole, and the circle spiraled. Was there something about the way I carried myself, the way I spoke, that screamed out ‘Queer’? Some subliminal body language that dissuaded women but drew men like flies to a fly-drawing-place? I have hung around artists, writers, actors, musicians and dancers most of my 38 years. My friends and those of my relatives I consider family are not the sort who would care if I were gay. But I know who and what I am, and if there was ever a glimmer in me that sought the larger blue/pink flame of man-love I have had umpteen chances to stoke the fire. It took a long time to realise the problem wasn’t me as a man, but the natures of men in general. Or rather, of a certain kind of man who ruthlessly victimises the world before it victimises him, and whose notion of love has been replaced (for whatever reason) by the dry orgasm of domination. And of another, who feels he must embrace the world unquestioningly before it will consent to embrace him.

Sometimes you have to say No to an adventure, confident that another, better, more beautiful one will come later. Say YES when it arrives, but be sure you have your parachute packed before you jump.

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The Story of Archie Pecs: Part Three

In the five years I lived in London it had become an annual tradition for me to sink my every penny into putting on a huge Canada Day feast, so my English friends could turn their noses up at “gourmet Canadian cuisine”. And the end of each was the ceremonial “Throwing Away of the Food” (except for the perennially popular yam chips) representing several days prep and hundreds of wasted pounds sterling. The only time my guests truly enjoyed themselves was when I splurged more than usual, bought 20 live lobsters, and let everybody kill their own. The hunting instinct has never left the British mind, and several people regretted forgetting to bring their dogs to chase the lobsters first.

Naturally, now living at Archie Pecs’s, I wanted to continue that tradition. It was the perfect venue. Chateau de la Pec had a modern kitchen, a huge back garden, a proper bar optics over the stove — the hanging taps pubs use to dispense from upside-down bottles of spirits — and steel grills over all the reinforced windows and doors. Every evening we fixed ourselves a double G&T or two and relaxed in the garden, safe from invading armies and Archie’s vindictive ex-boyfriends.

Now, Archie was convinced I was gay. Whether I am or not didn’t really concern him as much as the fact he wanted in my pants and it would be easier if I were homosexual. Archie felt all men are queer. That, in fact, sex between men and women was disgusting, and if only a straight could be properly ‘cured’, he would be bent by morning. As I’ve said before, the actual question of sexuality was irrelevant to Archie. If he were a horticulturalist he would say all plants are trees because trees are more likely to have knotholes to jam his cock into, and then proceed to have his way with the rose bushes. In other words, he was that variety of man who, if he were straight, would declare a woman’s lips may say “No” but her eyes say “Yes”, and she’ll get to like it eventually, and if not, who cares?

In the weeks I lived at Chez Pec, Archie’s stares were growing longer, darker, and his joke of pinching my bum becoming more frequent and painful.

The afternoon of my Canada Day dinner he came home drunk with his friend Maude. Maude was a lovely woman who had drunk her health away and now looked 80 when she was barely 40. Already she couldn’t get around without a cane. I was in the kitchen cutting, chopping, marinating, boiling and frying.

“Pour me a fackin’ drink, my li’l Canadian buddy!”

I broke from what I was doing to fix a quick tipple for my landlord, but before I could pick up my wooden spoon again he had downed the drink and was demanding another.

“I’m fackin’ starvin’,” he bellowed. He loomed over me, snapping his meaty fingers an inch from my nose. “Fackin’ Canada Day, ding ding! (Snap snap) Where’s me fackin’ food?” I foisted another drink, then another, and another, plus some starters on Archie and tried to get back to the stove, but got no further than a firm arms-length.

“This is shit,” he declared, though the drinks went down well enough. The food wound up on the floor. I fixed him a couple more drinks, skimping on the alcohol, and let him shovel all the marinated but uncooked shrimp into his glazed, purple face.

Maude took him upstairs to bed. When she came back down, hobbling in an awkward hurry, she lurched into the kitchen and gave me a hug.

“I’ve known Arch twelve years,” she said. “I never seen him like this. You’re in danger, Alan. You ‘ave to ge’ outta ‘ere as soon as poss.”

I called my guests to inform them Canada Day was canceled this year, then cleaned up the kitchen and went to bed.

I wasn’t long under the covers before there was a knock on my bedroom door. It opened to reveal a swaying Archie in nought but his briefs.

“You dressed?” he slurred.

I gestured to indicate I was in bed so, probably no, I was not. I tried to gesture in a forceful, authoritative manner.

“There’s summat I want to show you.”

“Show me in the morning, Archie.”

Archie swung back to his room, directly adjacent to mine, and returned immediately holding a long, serrated meat-carving knife.

“Why do you keep a big fuck-off knife in your bedroom, Arch?” I asked, terrified enough to know that showing fear would accelerate trouble.

“Why, so I can kill people, darling!” he chirped, and staggered into his room, chuckling.

I lay awake the rest of the night, sweating. I had always considered myself an adventurer, unafraid to leap into stupid situations, knowing I could always think and talk my way to safety if things went wrong. I was smaller, smarter, more nimble than Archie, and could never be seriously at risk. I had always applied Occam’s Razor to Archie’s persona, which was that considered against the possibility he really was born of underworld celebrity, it was more likely he dressed up in roguishness as a protective cover for his sense of self-mediocrity.

Archie once told a story, that back when he was a tour guide working in Greece the male tourists used to pass out drunk at night on the beach and he would bribe the local police to let him rape them while they snored. He even claimed the cops would sometimes join in on the fun. So patently false and impossible a story I had always dismissed as absurd. Lying prone in my bed I continued to dismiss it, but had to at least acknowledge Archie considered rape to be good fodder for amusing anecdotes. Now he was flashing foot-long knives, kept under his pillow perhaps, and there is only one reason to display unbidden and inappropriately such a weapon: Intimidation. I am next door to where you sleep and I am armed. Suddenly (and, I hear Readers saying, incredibly fucking belatedly) I understood that it didn’t matter how clever I thought I was, or what protection the law supposedly provided when the perverse and irrational laws of alcohol and hungering desire are intertwined. I was to be, inevitably, some kind of victim.

This adventure to which I had blithely said “Yes” might soon be my last, ending with the thunderclap of a screamed “No”. I had to get out — escape without Archie having a chance to know. But how?

NEXT WEEK: I am rescued by the IRA under the cover of broad daylight! I watch a man talk himself to death and offer encouragement! I become an asshole and coward!

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The Story of Archie Pecs: Part Two

“Wha’ever you do,” said Julie, “don’t go to Turkey wif Archie Pecs. Tha’ man ‘as an ham hock ‘tween ‘is legs. It’s like a loaf of bread bu’ made of pork. ‘E WILL SPLIT YOU IN ARF, SO ‘E WILL.”

Julie was one of two lesbian drivers at the dodgy bus tour company I worked for in London. Julie and Diane adored me because they couldn’t figure me out. I chased women, but didn’t seem to mind that I never caught one, and I didn’t chase men, but didn’t seem to quite act straight — which is to say I wasn’t appalled when men flirted with me, I just found it funny.

And I tolerated, even hung out with, Archie. Which nobody could understand, because Archie was well known to be psychotic, paranoid and big enough to knock a giraffe over. Which didn’t make me gay, just inscrutable. And Julie and Diane found me more entertaining than a nunnery with an open window.

Even harder for folks to understand: I wasn’t afraid of Archie. Mostly because I’m too dumb to be afraid. I thought I was smarter than Arch, obviously smaller, faster, more nimble. Also, besides being (I thought) my friend, what was he going to do if I didn’t want to have sex with him in Turkey? Rape me? Ridiculous. I’d have him arrested. Which in Turkey is a death sentence. So, on such strengths I agreed to go on holiday with Mr. Pecs.

We almost didn’t get on the plane. After a pint at The Bag ‘O’ Nails pub, we wandered to Victoria Station, and while waiting for the train to Gatwick, we popped into the station pub for another quick pint and a half. And then another at another pub right by the tracks. Once on the train Archie summoned the roving bartender for two double gin and tonics.

“That’s a good idea,” I concurred. Archie raised his eyebrows and nodded.

“Two more, then,” he said.

At the airport we have a couple more or three, by which time I was sozzled. In the departure lounge I stumbled over to one of the airhostesses and accidentally poked her in the head.

“I really like yer hat,” I explained apologetically. Security arrived to ‘request’ we vacate Gatwick forthwith, but Archie stood his ground. Which was a lot of ground.

“Fack orf,” he suggested. “I know how it works. You puts us orf the plane you’ll have to find our luggage, and that’ll take hours, mate! You’ll never get in the air today. I DARE you to chuck us out.”

I was sober by Turkey, but after a day learning to impersonate a pickled lobster in the sun I spent a good deal of time in bed shucking skin like salami rind. Archie had his day in the heat, too, and I will never forget a field trip we made to ancient Ephesus — today called Efes — where, incidentally, the movie Spartacus was set. Arch was so toxic with booze and ultraviolet rays he became ill in the 2500 year-old Vomitorium, its first proper usage since the days of Christ. Supporting an eighth of an imperial ton of staggering Archie Pec back to the tour bus has left a permanent dip in my spine.

Christmas Eve/Morning a year later, around 2am, I had a dream. I was in bed watching a western on TV, and I sensed bodies swarming in the shadows behind me. The shapes began crawling into my bed. I was terrified. ‘Don’t worry,’ says one of them, ‘we don’t want to hurt you. We just want to watch TV!’ Then I heard somebody screaming, and I woke up to find it was me. My ceiling was caving in! A couple hundred pounds of centuries-old wood, plaster and bugs landed by my head, almost canceling Christmas. The room was blanketed in debris and scampering, Cretaceous insects. I threw on a bathrobe and ran upstairs to see what had caused this near catastrophe.

“My roof fell in!” I gasped to my neighbours above.

“Yes, yes!” the newly married couple commiserated. “This is a terrible building! Our kitchen is always drafty and the taps leak!”

“I don’t care about your taps!” I shrieked, “I ALMOST DIED!” I stormed to the place corresponding with the spot over my bed. Which turned out to be where their bed also was. Whatever those newlyweds were doing at 2am, Christmas Eve, that brought down my roof, I asked them to stop. I returned to my own flat, looking now like Pompeii after Vesuvius popped. The young lovers were too joyful at starting a life together to stop. I slept in the kitchen to survive their passion.

My landlord dismissed my decision to not pay rent until everything was fixed.

“Sure, what’s yer problem, boyo?” he huffed. “Roofs come doon all the feckin’ toime. Pay yer bloody rent, so!”

When Archie heard of my misfortune he offered to let me the spare room at his house. £200 a month, plus chipping in for groceries, but no bills or bond. In London that’s like God coming down and giving free foot massages.

I was now living in Bermondsey in South London. A stone’s throw from the Underground Station where I was currently working, having quit the dodgy bus tour company. Archie and I often went to The Clarissa, a local pub. In Bermondsey it has been a tradition for generations for pubs to put out free seafood nibbles on Fridays. And not just a bowl of capers, either. Cockles! Whelks! Shrimp! Eels! Whole smoked or steamed salmon or mackerel! An incredible smorgasbord-de-la-mer, gratis. Brilliant!

One afternoon I was drinking with the regulars. Ronnie was nearly ninety and hadn’t a tooth in his head. A jolly old raisin, he was swapping me stories for pints about how the streets used to be made of tarred wooden blocks and every winter as a child he would steal whole sections of road for heat and his ma to cook over.

Archie leaned over.

“Careful,” he hissed. “Don’t get too friendly. ‘At’s Ronnie the Razor! And he ain’t called ‘Razor’ cos ‘e shave a lot…”

Turns out my new friend was an infamous cop-killer during the fifties. You had a problem with the law, or at least any honest, unconnected bobby, and Ronnie was the guy who sorted out your wrinkles.

NEXT WEEK! Canada Day in Hell! Archie threatens to tuck me in with a meat knife! I’m saved by the IRA and possibly condemn a supergrass to a long holiday under the Thames!

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The Story of Archie Pecs: Part One

This is the story of how I lost my gung-ho being threatened at knifepoint with rape by the drunken scion of an English mafia baron but was rescued by the IRA. Only the names have been changed to protect me from the guilty.

People often think my stories are made up. However, I learned a long time ago that adventures are like puppies. All you need do to invite them into your lap is open your eyes, give a big smile and say “C’mere boy!” I believe all a person truly has in this life are the adventures they make for themselves. I’ve always jumped first and thought later, enjoying in the meanwhile a leisurely gander at the ocean crashing against the cliff I’ve leaped off. It isn’t confidence or bravery, however, which lent me such grace and pluck. I was just too dumb to worry.

I learned to worry the night Archie Pecs stood swaying in my bedroom doorway, flashing a meat carving knife.

I met Archie while living in England working for a dodgy bus tour company. If you’ve been to London you’ve noticed these charming rogues, probably when they grabbed you by the neck, emptied your wallet and threw you on a double-decker bus to see the sights of Jolly Olde London Towne. To be fair, the tour itself actually was brilliant, with funny, knowledgeable guides and including a boat cruise down the Thames, but those ‘selling’ the tickets, the touts — well, even we referred to ourselves as ‘street scum’. I was a professional liar, thief and conman, out to cheat tourists of every tuppence remaining after the rest of London ripped off their ‘sausage and mash’. There were three bus tour companies operating like rival gangs, of which we were the largest and most ruthless. In daily pep-talk sessions we were exhorted to regard the other touts as subhumans, as Nazis, to be hated and killed if necessary. Fistfights and worse were common. Frankly, I liked my opposition better than most folks in my own gang.

My milieu, then, was the realm of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. In this environment Archie flourished.

Archibald Pecs was a gorilla. Bald and mountainous, I had personally seen him pick a man up by his neck with one hand. Born into one of the most notorious crime families of ’60s London, the Donaldsons, violence and fear were like salt and pepper on the dinner table. Back then the kingpins of the underworld were the Kray Gang, lead by twin brothers Reginald and the psychotic, homosexual Ronnie Kray. The Donaldsons were their biggest, most ferocious competitors. Archie was also gay, which meant, in the overwhelmingly homophobic Cockney world (and in Britain in general at that time it was illegal to be queer) he had to be twice as tough and ruthless as anybody else. Don’t misunderstand me, Archie’s gayness was secondary or even tertiary to his sexuality. What turned him on was domination. Archie was flamboyant, as camp as a jamboree, but his gayness was merely the rainbow-coloured human suit he wore as a disguise in the world. If he’d been straight it would have been incidentally women that he preyed upon.

In the Bag O Nails pub, immediately next door to Buckingham Palace, he once told this story to myself and a few of the guides:

“There was these two punks in a pub, right? Wondering how they could make a few bob and they sees this famous villain of the day holding court with his lackeys. ‘I know,’ says one punk, ‘Arch Pecs lives round the corner owes this villain a monkey (£500). We beats the milk and honey out of Arch, takes it to the villain and get in his Good Book. Easy peasy.’

“Now, back then, everybody knew everybody, where they lived and what they was up to. So they comes to my house — I was about 15 — and started kicking the Eartha Kitt outta me. Me ol’ mum, Rosanne, comes roaring outta the kitchen with a broom stick to knock their knackers off, so they starts pummeling her. ‘Archie!’ she shouts between punches, ‘get to the Red Lion, fetch the boys!’ So I scarpers all the way to the Lion — ‘Kin ‘ell I was fit back then! — to let the family know what’s happening and they swarm round with cricket bats and bits of plumbing.

“The punks is gone, so mum’s carried to the ‘family’ doctor and the boys sit down for a natter.

“Now, everybody knows everybody, where they live and what they’re up to. They know these two arseholes, they knows one of them just got married and has a baby. So they goes to his house and they chops up the baby.”

As Archie said this everybody gasped. We stared in shock, unable to determine if he was having us on. The idea of thugs chopping up an infant as some kind of local justice was horrifying, yet Archie continued drinking his beer as though this was merely a pit-stop on the way to a more amusing story. He stopped drinking and looked around the table.

“Wot?” he shrugged. “Don’t get all worked up, it was the ’60s. That sort of thing happened all the time!”

Perhaps the story was a lie, a wind-up to shock even hardened tour bus operators. Certainly, however, from books I’ve read about gangland London and the monsters that inhabited it the story is anything but far fetched. I’ve Googled Archie’s family history and found his mother was indeed Rosanne Donaldson, daughter of that notorious family’s patriarch. Regardless, the story indicates Archie felt comfortable dismissing infanticidal butchery as something not to get worked up about. At a bare minimum the incident suggests Archibald Pecs was somebody any sensible person would stay the hell away from.

NEXT WEEK: I go on holiday to Turkey with Archie Pecs! I buy drinks for a retired cop-killer! My house caves in on me and I decide to rent a room in Archie’s house!

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The Lumberjack Kidnapping

Years ago, while working at the University of British Columbia, I recall seeing a young man forcibly bundled into a car by several stone-faced lumberjacks while screaming “Help! I don’t know these men!” I continued walking to the campus bus terminal, chuckling to myself.

“Those crazy kids! What are they up to now?”

Very likely, I thought, they’re heading back to the cluster of frat houses near the Acadia residential complex. The innocent Pledge they’d “kidnapped” would probably be stripped, doused in maple syrup, or something flammable, and either spanked with barbecue utensils or set on fire. What a bunch of nuts! Still, good clean fun for monkeys and there’s nothing I can do about it until the students bring the sticky, smouldering corpse in to my office, tears in their goggling eyes, claiming they had no idea it would go so wrong.

And that was the last I thought about it.

Recently I was telling stories to our publisher Darren Atwater about my days as a Residence Attendant at UBC. I have dozens of stories, mostly involving late night patrols of the grounds and encountering raccoons engaged in rites of black magic. On this occasion I was chatting with Atwater, flitting across the “kidnapping” as a stepping stone between hilarious anecdotes involving wildlife and power tools, and I was approaching the climax when Darren asked to go back.

“When exactly did you say this happened?”

“Uh, little over ten years ago. Winter of 1997.”

“November?”

“Sure.”

“November 24, 1997, between 8 and 9am outside the Gage student residence?”

“Ee-yup… (?) (Hello, what’s the problem here? Funny story being told, okay?) So anyway, I’m tied to a tree and these raccoons, still dressed as me, have figured out how to use a jackhammer… What?”

Apparently, according to Atwater, I am one of only several eyewitnesses to the illegal arrest and detention by RCMP of activist hero Jaggi Singh on the eve of the APEC summit that helped kick off the worldwide anti-globalisation movement.

Not only did I do nothing to help, I think I might have waved back.

In defense of the indefensible, I had just come off a graveyard shift working from 11pm to 8am, and there isn’t a whole lot of electricity in a person’s head at that time. Also, while I was aware of the bad old world out there, there didn’t exist a mindset back then that easily imagined awful things could happen in Canada. Except, of course, for the near decimation of the original inhabitants, the relentless, ongoing destruction of the environment, and Premier Bill Vanderzalm’s mouth. However, my only real excuse (or nearest thing to it) is that sorting out students’ hijinx had numbed me to the notion that lumberjacks in a grey sedan with smoked windows could possibly mean harm to the skinny dude shrieking that they meant him harm.

RAs act as the first contact for students dealing with the massive bureaucracy that is the UBC Housing Department. It’s not just paper-shuffling. When things go wrong the RA is the person in charge until the fire engines, ambulances, squad cars or military helicopters show up. The RA is also the person who gets to see, day in and day out, what kids away from home for the first time with student grants burning a hole in their pockets and livers will do to themselves. And then repeat. And again, until the RA is inured to shock. Why did you drink a bottle of whiskey and scale the dormitory wall to your third floor window? Because stairs are tiring. And why did you chug a half litre of alcohol first? So it wouldn’t hurt if you fell. Good. Sign here then sit over there until the paramedics arrive.

Yes, yes, I suppose I was responsible for the students’ welfare. Tch! So was God, and if you’d seen some of the shit kids come up with, you’d understand most of the blame rests on Him. Like the time three lads came to my desk, one with a shaft of wood sticking out of his gut, blood everywhere, and explained they were playing football in a screened-off construction site and the goalie was only trying to make a killer save. Or the girl, whose medical file indicated allergies to every chemical on Earth, downing half a bottle of vodka in ten minutes and then collapsing onto her head on the stony section of Wreck Beach. Why did she have to drink so much before galumphing across a bunch of rocks? Her parents were strict and never let her drink, she was just cutting loose. But why there? Because she’s a small town prairie girl and the sandy part was covered with naked Hippies. Okay, sign here. I’ll call 911 and mention to the paramedics they can’t give her medicine because it’ll kill her.

In fact, I have nothing to apologise for. Singh was terrified, the entire country was shocked. The world was stunned. Ish. But that was one of the seminal events in the fight to regain our lives from the corporations and the politicians who lick their pinstriped crotches. It fired up the public’s indignation, its nascent political awareness. It forged Singh into an activist dynamo, an international hero against NeoCon aggression. If I hadn’t been too tired and apathetic to bother helping that frightened young man the planet might be worse than it is now. I am a hero, too!

So go ahead, Evil Lumberjacks With Miniature Radios Coiled Into Your Ear, give that Pledge a spank from me. Give ol’ Liberty a spank for me. I’m going to save humanity one yawn at a time.

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My Goldfish Obsession

So, to make a long story shorter, I had just had kidney surgery and was sleeping on the floor of my flat in Cardiff, Wales because the roof of my bedroom had caved in while I was away touring with the circus. Having brought you all up to speed, I can now reveal that I have a pathological obsession with goldfish.

I actually rescued my first goldfish from the circus. When I call E.L.A.N. (the European Live Arts Network) a circus, I mean that it is a physical theatre/mime/clown/dance/5-40 piece orchestra/acapella harmony/multi-lingual/improv/acrobatic “spectacolo”. To which most people go “huh?” and to which I reply, “it was like a circus without animals.”

In fact, in Britain it is illegal to have live animals in a theatrical production, precisely because of the sort of conditions Bob the fish had to undergo. The flashing lights, the thumping music, clowns dipping their big toe to check how wet the water is — don’t get me wrong, I love clowns, I am a clown, but if I were a goldfish I would be pretty freaked out. Maybe clownfish are different. Regardless, Bob the fish was appearing stressed. The Italian director of E.LA.N. is a genius, but considers fish happiest next to a wedge of lemon and was indifferent to Bob’s condition. My girlfriend and I felt obliged to spirit Bob away, clandestinely substituting a decoy fashioned from gold duct tape and a carrot. Nobody ever noticed he was gone.

Bob was psychologically damaged, however, and his scales looked grey and waxy. My girlfriend and I renamed him Sad Bob.

I bought some fish drugs to loosen Sad Bob up. The colour of goldfish is actually a by-product of their waste-management system, and when they go dull it’s because their pipes are clogged. The piscine weed/laxative caused him immediately to jet a stream of poop that he could drag around behind him like a toy. Like Theseus unraveling the sweater his aunt gave him for Christmas so he could find his way out of the Minotaur’s labyrinth, Bob could follow the shit trail and retrace his steps around and around his little castle and never get lost. He seemed delighted with his sudden freedom. His colour came back, but the scars ran too deep. When I bought other goldfish to keep him company he aggressively chased and nibbled at them, eating them alive and crapping on their floating remains. The pet shop guy who sold me the drugs commented I had successfully evolved my goldfish into a shark. An incontinent shark. We changed his name to Psycho Bob.

Psycho Bob didn’t put me off buying more fish. I bought a second, much larger tank, and then an even larger one, using the second one as a ‘hospital tank’ where I could isolate and medically treat my fish when they got sick. I treated fish for stress, cotton fungus, fin rot (a form of flesh-eating virus) and even anchor worm. Anchor worm are small, parasitic white snakes the size of staples that hook under the scales and feed until they kill the host. When my favourite fish, Max Beckmann, picked up anchor worms, I called my local vet.

“Doc! Max has anchor worm! What do I do? Can I bring him in to the clinic?”

“It’s two o’clock in the morning! It’s a goldfish! There’s nothing you can do, let him go.”

“Godammit doctor, I am not going to let this fish die! You’re going to have to talk me through this!”

By the way, did you know the phrase ‘goddamnit’ originated in Spain and actually meant ‘horse cock’? Anyhow, back to the story.

Dr. Evans patiently took me, step by frantic step, through Max’s surgery. Fish can last anywhere between 30 seconds and a minute out of water, which gave me that long to scoop him out, work the anchor worms out with a pair of tweezers, and dab his wounds with iodine. The pain must have been excruciating, but he never complained. Stoic goldfish. I dumped him into the hospital tank and dosed him heavily with pooping juice. Max lived, though not for long. He died two months later. And then I brought him back to life in my toilet.

Again, it’s not germane to the tale, but my girlfriend and I were sleeping on the floor of the living room, surrounded by a forest of our belongings, as the rest of the apartment was uninhabitable. The tank had not been cleaned properly for some time as we had been away touring continental Europe, and the water purifier was probably stiff with algae. The fish, therefore, weren’t getting enough oxygen, causing them to hang around the surface heaving huge gasps of air, making little popping sounds.

I had just had kidney surgery and was on some pretty interesting drugs of my own. Sprawled on the cheap carpet, dazed and only mostly senseless, I could still hear the popping, popping, popping, and remember wishing they would just stop for a minute so I could sleep. I promised the fish, in my head, that if they could just hold their breath for one night, I would somehow find the strength to scour their world in the morning.

The popping stopped. I smiled beatifically and plunged into unconsciousness.

When I woke up I saw why the popping had stopped. Max Beckmann, desperate, his little chest a-heaving, had jumped right out of the tank and now lay dead on the floor. He had been there for hours, his fins dried out and curling up. Two other fish, Giacometti and Jackson Pollock, both convalescing in the hospital tank, had also passed away in the night.

Miserably I took the withered corpse to the bathroom downstairs, and dropped him in the toilet. I looked down at him bobbing in the intense blue of the toilet bleach, and then went back upstairs to fetch the other casualties. When I returned I was shocked — SHOCKED — to see Max Beckmann splashing about, his eyes bulging in stinging agony, begging me through a complicated system of facial expressions we had worked out together to be rescued. The bleach had actually jump-started his heart! He was ALIVE! I tossed in Giac and Jackson, scooped Max into my hands and ran (my kidneys roaring abuse at the unexpected exercise) and gingerly released him to safer waters.

Max lived another year. We renamed him Lazarus. Psycho Bob lived another two. He never loved again. Giacometti and Jackson continued their journey to the castle with the waving scuba-diver in the sky, via the sewer and the bellies of Welsh rats.

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Dinner with Moochie

From the shadowy depths of the parlour squeaks an ancient wheelchair. It creeps, shrieking with rust, into the choppy light of the dying candelabra. The twisted corpse occupying the chair inhales with a rustling sound like dried leaves, then whispers,

“Moochie.”

A hairless baboon, stricken with eczema, dried semen thick as pie crust on its hands and crotch, breathing halitosis so toxic it hangs garlands of greenish gas upon the air, drags a club foot along the length of the oak table to its master.

“Aroo?”

“I’m hungry,” says the corpse. “Bring me a bag of eyes.”

Massive double doors at the far end of the room crash open with a sonorous boom. In sweeps a pudgy man with electric blue eyes wearing a black cape.

“Sorry I’m late,” he says. “There was an accident on the freeway and I had to stop and see if there were any ‘pickings.’ Have you eaten already?

“Moochie is fetching some eyes.”

“Good! Moochie, broil me a few of those marinated children’s hearts you do. Damn, I love that sauce. You’re an ugly bastard but a genius in the kitchen, I’ll give you that.”

Moochie the baboon bows as best his hunched back will allow, his ass flushed magenta with gratification. He limps through the pair of swinging doors leading to the kitchen. There shortly follows the thudding of a butcher’s knife and the absent whistling of a journeyman chef going about his business.

The blue-eyed man takes a seat near the corpse and puts his feet on the table, ignoring the dirty looks from the empty eye sockets of his host.

“Has he turned up yet?”

“Late as ever. Even compared to you.”

“Well, chances are he caused that accident on the freeway, the drunken blockhead, and needs to bribe his way out of it with the police. Shall we start without him?”

“Very well. I shall begin,” wheezes the moldering sack of flesh-jerky, biscuit-dry bones and maggots. “The 2010 Olympics are coming along perfectly. Another 20 million dollars has been siphoned from the public coffers to pay further ‘unexpected costs’. The general attitude towards the cuddly mascots we commissioned several stunted chimpanzees to design is one of overwhelming disgust. And the recent furor over Taser-related deaths has led nowhere. Ah, thank you Moochie, my eyes…”

The baboon deposits a greasy paper bag full of the gelatinous snacks in the corpse’s lap. The bag gives a sense of being at a baseball game eating peanuts, or wandering Victorian London nibbling hot chestnuts from a Cockney street vendor. The corpse is a romantic at heart. One after another Moochie stuffs eyeballs into his master’s face and works the jawbone by hand.

“Moochie!” the dead thing hisses angrily. “You know I prefer salted eyes! Take these away and season them properly!”

As the chastised ape hastens back to the kitchen, instinctively ducking the corpse’s fatal Stink-Eye Squint Curse, the enormous bas-relief bronze doors of the parlour yawn.

Pissed as a newt’s fart, a half-man/half-lizard enters and weaves a woozy path to the table. An eruption of puke spills down the front of his tuxedo, splashing horny bare feet and providing a personal carpet of vomit escorting him to his seat.

“I’m late,” acknowledges the sodden reptile. “I hit a Winnebago and had to eat the family so there’d be no witnesses. I can’t get another DUI or I’ll lose my license…”

“Think nothing of it!” chirps the blue-eyed man accepting a steaming bowl of grilled hearts from the monkey. “We’d only just started. Care to make a progress report?”

“Well,” belches lizard man, grabbing a glass and the entire bottle of Chateau de la Merde sparkling gasoline from Moochie’s silver tray, “I haven’t managed much since I shut down the human rights commission and gave the forests away to the American lumber industry. (hic!) But I did pull one over on the greeny treehuggers making a deal with that robot governor down south to open a hydrogen highway stretching from the North Pole to the South. Hydrogen-fuelled cars spew a quarter of the carbon dioxide but the new freeway and marketing campaign will encourage four times the traffic, plus we can charge tolls every couple miles. (BURP!)”

“Pathetic,” sneers the corpse. “I’m turning a two thousand year old celebration of human achievement into the most blatant cash-grab in the games’s history, and the best you can do is mere half-hearted do-goodery? Sir,” smiles the corpse repulsively at his other guest, “I’m presuming you have better to offer?”

“Naturally,” smiles blue-eyes back. “Ahem. I am busily pushing this country into wars so ridiculous even vultures are embarrassed. I have derailed a Commonwealth of nations from capping industrial carbon emissions (hopefully making up for your hydrogen highway). Every day this land’s economy is pushing towards Milton Friedmanesque lunacy, despite such brutal theories having resulted everywhere in financial devastation for all but the rich. And tomorrow I begin my new health regime of eating only the freshest children, dredged in sodium and lead paint from China, then fried in prairie crude. I feel on the verge of greatness!”

“Bravo!”

With the help of Moochie wildly flailing his limp arms, the body manages to clap at least once every four swings.

–

–

Clap!

–

“With luck and public apathy we’ll reduce Canada to a socio-economic moonscape in a few years,” grins the corpse. “Then we’ll be ‘forced’ to declare a state of emergency and apply ‘shock doctrine’ policies as our brethren did in South America, Russia, Poland, China and Easter Island. Excellent work, gentleman. And now, Moochie, you may serve dinner. I have a special treat for you fellas! Roast thunderbird, seabear-stuffed sasquatch, and my piece-of-resistance, jellied babies! Pour another round of Chateau de la Merde! Let’s celebrate like there’s no tomorrow!”

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Winged Mutilation

The first time I killed a pigeon with my bare hands it was an act of heroism.

Actually, the second time I killed a pigeon with my bare hands was also an act of heroism, but the old lady watching, cheering me on, panting supportively, making suggestions — it was upsetting. Unpleasant for the bird, too.

It was years ago. I was young, filled with a love for all things verminous and diseased. Walking along Granville street downtown I passed a crowd facing inwards and staring down at their feet. Curious, I joined the ring.

At the nucleus, pushing itself in pathetic circles, was a pigeon with a broken leg and wing. I watched a while, then finally said, “We’re going to have to kill it, you know.”

The crowd looked at me, nodded, and resumed their vigil over the shivering mess of feathers. I sighed, and picked the poor thing up gently.

Now, my friend Tea grew up on a farm near Prince George. She’d once told me the quickest way to kill a chicken was to twist and break its neck — ZUP! Dead. I took firm hold of its head and gave a sharp turn.

The pigeon hardly noticed, so I gave it another zing. Its good leg kicked feebly in protest, and one wing made as if to leave. It suspected something was up. I gave two more spins, like turning a faucet, until the head had come around 360 degrees. The bird’s bulging eyes had fogged over. Its little beak, a globule of spit and blood collected in each corner, opened to gasp a final breath, and in that final breath I thought I heard the word, “MURDERER…”

I sort of freaked out, giving an involuntary yank that ripped the head clean off. Warm, salty blood streaked up my arm, into my face and gaping mouth. I could taste it, feel the giant, poisonous microbes and bacteria­ as though they were big as my thumb, crawling about my gums.

I threw down the head, tossed the body into a garbage can and stormed off.

I don’t know what made me turn around. Remorse? Curiosity? I looked back and saw the circle of people look up at me, their eyes screaming ‘Killer!’ The severed head on the ground stared after me, its tiny beak pointing as a final clue to the police which way I had made my escape.

I stumbled into the nearest pizza slice joint. In those days some of these places were pretty rough. However, as I stood there in the doorway, chalky, wild-eyed, streaked with blood, giant microbes slithering between my teeth, the room ogled me in terror.

“I need a bathroom,” I mumbled thickly.

A sea of tattoos and scars parted making a path to the stinking sewer-closet in the back. When I came out I was given two free slices, a can of coke and a subtle hint to leave as I was scaring away customers. Soon after this event, I left the country.

To make a long story shorter, I eventually returned to this country.

My mother had just started dating the man who was eventually to become my stepfather. I was living with her and my two sisters again in a one-room apartment. Being Scots-Irish we possess a genetic propensity to survive being cooped up together, an entire family tree crushed into a bed-sit without loss of dignity. For example, every morning they’d sit outside the toilet listening to me orchestrally farting and when I came out pretend to be absolutely fascinated and engrossed watching bacon cooking.

However, at this time mum and boyfriend were shagging morning, noon and night, so my siblings and I were basically homeless, wandering the streets until we thought it safe to sneak in.

All this is by the by and making a shortened story long again, so I skip to the point.

One afternoon, walking along the sidewalk outside the apartment waiting for the screams to stop emanating from the window, I came across a little old lady staring intensely at a pigeon. The pigeon was broken and shaking with agony. I watched a while, then said, “We’re going to have to kill it, you know.”

“Yes, I suppose we must. But look! There, under the bushes! A kitty cat. Surely it will put the poor creature out of misery.”

“Yes,” I nodded, “but not quickly, or humanely…”

“Oh. No. No, I fancy not.”

The old lady chewed her white gloves fretfully, and the way of things was clear to me. I picked the bird up, cooing sympathetically to calm it down, and started digging for a neck.

Years earlier I had told my friend Tea about the debacle of my last assassination and she just laughed at me.

“Oh Christ! You don’t twist its head! That’s awful! You put your thumbs and fingers on either side of its neck, like this, and give it a sharp jerk — ZAP! Just like that. It’s over in a second. What you did sounds horrible!” she said. Laughing and laughing. Thanks. So now I knew.

I rummaged greasy feathers for a knotted string of gristle I assumed was a neck. You’d be amazed how little neck there is to these things; just a thin bridge between blinking head and fidgeting body. I arranged my lethal fingers there and — ZAP!

The bird winced. It looked confused. Put out, even. Where are the lullabies now, mister?

I snapped again and again, but it was just getting dizzy, not dead. Finally there was nothing else but to put all my strength into crushing its throat.

“Oh,” breathed the little old lady. “You’re doing ever so wonderful a job. I’m so thankful you came along. Yes, that’s it. Oh, oh yes, just a little more and I think you’ve done it. I’m so grateful, really…”

At last I could stomach myself no longer. I hurled down the body, which the cat pounced on before I changed my mind. The old lady thanked me profusely, but I brushed her aside and stalked off.

Sometimes I see pigeons clustered together, and I wonder if they know who I am. If pigeon mothers put their burbling brood to bed with threats that if they don’t go straight to sleep the Pigeon Killer will come and give their delicate pipes a squeeze.

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The Future of Superficial Beauty

SkinEthic produces its own form of reconstructed skin, RHE, while L’Oréal holds the patent to Episkin, which its scientists developed in Lyon… To make Episkin, donor keratinocyte cells, collected after breast and abdominal plastic surgery, are cultured in tiny wells of collagen gel, immersed in water, amino acids and sugars, and then air-dried for 10 days or aged to mimic mature skin by exposure to ultraviolet light….Cosmetics are tested by smothering the almost babylike skin with the cosmetic material.

- From the New York Times, Nov 20, 2007

Decorating your person as local society considers most alluring has been a pillar of civilisation for thousands of years, but this overwhelming obsession with appearing youthful is a relatively modern phenomena.

Now, to qualify that: The desire to appear young has being a going concern since Pleistoscenic Neanderthals invented The Friday Night Square Dance Mixer and The Diplodocus-Pie Singles Social, but it was a minority of rich indulgers. Cleopatra bathed in ass milk, but the common Egyptian was just trying to figure out how you milk an ass so they’d have something to put in their tea. Most folks were more concerned about being eaten by tigers than fretting about looking tasty enough to eat.

Today, however, women in their early 20s are having plastic surgery so they can look like their mid-to-late teens. There are even children in Australia between the ages of 11 and 18 having or considering plastic surgery to be thin or have bigger breasts or look like they are in their late 8s or 9s.

Men around the world, as well, are increasingly looking to the knife to keep their edge, as well as the paint pot.

Global sales of cosmetics is expected to top $300B by 2010, but by 2009, only companies which no longer test their products on animals will be legally allowed to sell in Europe, the largest market in the world. The race is on to invent animals nobody cares about in order to have living canvases to shellac with Tahitian Sunset eyeshadow and Liqui-Face!â„¢ head-balm.

Or, more correctly, the race is on to invent the skin of an animal nobody cares about, since few people are yet so manical in their pursuit of faux-immortality to care how svelte and fresh-looking their spleen or gall bladder is. Never mind their lungs or heart. Though it could happen. There may come a day when trendy consumers want their internal organs to look good on x-rays, regardless of how much tar they’ve inhaled or cheeseburgers ingested.

Nowadays EVERYbody wants to retain or improve their good looks, and they’ll pay any price to do it.

And I am prepared to take their money. You aren’t happy with your skin? Then I invite you to try mine on for size.

While other kids contented themselves drying smeared glue on their hands and grossing each other out peeling the ‘skin’ off, when I was young, I took it to the next level: Actually making other kids puke by burning myself pink in the sun, then peeling my dead flesh off in strips. (When I had enough pieces I made crafts out of them, lampshades and such, the fleshy gauze handling like papier mache but more attractive to flies.)

That sort of dedication allowed me to corner the market on childish behaviour. Other tykes had to move on and ‘grow up’, wasting their time and energy growing hair, exploring genitals, developing job skills, finding love, securing spouses, producing more children and ‘living’. By the time I hit my early thirties, I owned that playground.

Remember: “You Are Only as Young as You Act”. I believe that was Socrates. Or maybe Ashley Simpson, I get the two mixed up.

My business plan is simple.

When sun is available, I will slather my body with a 50/50 mix of moisturising lotion and olive oil—otherwise known as Pam—and stretch myself out on a giant sheet of aluminum foil to nap. After baking myself until indistinguishable from lobsters, I’ll go somewhere cool to recuperate and avoid butter. Delicately unraveling the gossamer strips from my arms, back and face, I can courier these Swiss rolls of eternal beauty anywhere my customers require stopgap patchwork done on their crumbling mugs.

I will even pre-apply whatever traditional cosmetic patrons desire. Lippy, rouge—I understand there’s fellas out there airbrush-stenciling designer stubble on their rough-hewn lantern-jaws. I can do it all, then rip it off and mail it to your home, COD. All I ask is a little trust and a working credit card.

In the winter, autumn, spring, or what passed in Vancouver this year for summer, I’ll bribe suntan parlour attendants to repeatedly roast and shuck me like a marshmallow.

Once my peeling technique is perfected I’ll take the time to develop my piece-of-resistance: slipping the outer layer off my entire head. I’ll market the stretchy tube as the ultimate cosmetic convenience. Rather than spend hours in front of a mirror, women and men will be able to pull on the ‘Face Sock’®©™ secure it with scotch tape at the neck, and spend the night on the town. And in the morning, keep the fleshy ski-mask on and go hit the slopes of Whistler.

When you get bored of wearing me on your face, don’t forget, I’m edible. This stuff is basically the same as prosciutto. Wrap asparagus spears in about fifteen or twenty layers and bake for ten minutes, serve with a wedge of lemon and smelling salts. Mmm! Zesty! Hey, if your friends like weenies breaded in pork-scratchings and fried in Nivea cold cream they’ll love these! Alternately, try frying it like very thin bacon and have it with your eggs for breakfast. Remembering, of course, to first wipe off the rouge, eye shadow, lipstick and mascara. The last thing you want, Saturday morning having a greasy fry-up to sort out your hangover, is to look down and see Anna Nicole Smith’s face on your plate.

All of this, to some, may seem distasteful. But I’ve watched a couple of these extreme makeover shows. I don’t think I’m so far off the zeitgeist, nor the barometer of seemliness. Someday, ladies and gentlemen, hunkering in front of your mirror putting on your face, you might actually be putting on mine. Your money will ensure it has a smile on it.

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