Moon in Leo
flight from reality had come to a bizarre and unfortunate end. Or
rather, depending on the nature of the plumbing in the cramped and
ramshackle gas station washroom, and the proximity of a qualified
plumber, an intermission, a pause, a waylay. Whatever you called
it, it was a most welcome time to stop, and consider. Jack knew
all too well that the elasticity of his life now fully extended
beyond the breaking point, was catapulting him back.
frazzled escape from his own life originated some three hundred
and twenty-two kilometres due south at the foot of Yonge Street
in Toronto, Ontario. Why Jack had set the odometer, he couldnt
say; perhaps he sought some quantifiable measure of the escape that
was taking him through darkened towns sleeping away a bitter winters
night. Every rattle and hum of Jacks rusty blue 1986 Honda
Accord was amplified by the emptiness of the streets -- all of which
seemed to be Yonge Street. Jack was reluctant to waver from the
first street he had taken north out of the city; any deviation could
turn him facing homeward. He must maintain escape velocity and break
the gravitational bonds with home. If Yonge Street was the longest
street in the world, it should take him far enough.
flight ended at 67,025 Yonge Street somewhere just north
of the boonies but not quite as far as the Algoma nickel belt or
beyond the arched back of Lake Superior and nowhere near as far
as a Tom Thompson painting, where gas was 68.5 cents a litre and
the attendants wore snowmobile suits and didnt care if you
paid up front for your fill-up.
escape had begun four radio stations ago. It had started with the
familiar drone of Billy Billows, nighttime disc jockey on CNOW 760.
For an hour, light rock and ageless a.m. classics played monotonously
through his driver side door speaker. When that signal began to
share bandwidth with a light oldies station featuring a Barry Manilow
retrospective, Jack found the scan button and settled on the closing
innings of a Detroit Tigers game blooping north into Canada
like a cracked-bat midfield single. And when Wade Boggs put the
Tigers down by four runs in the top of the ninth with a three-run
homer, Dr. Laura Schlesinger muscled her way onto the frequency
and belted out a few winning soundbites while setting lives in order.
If Jack had
had a cellular phone, he would probably have taken it out on the
passenger seat and tried to memorize the phone number with the intention
of calling Dr. Laura. He doubted very much that he would have called
in. His troubles seemed too numerous, too shiftingly amorphous for
Dr. Laura. When Jack started to read his own troubles into every
call that Dr. Schlesinger handled with such confidence and aplomb,
he poked at the scan button once more and settled on a station from
Peterborough that was trying desperately to satisfy an eclectic
90s audience. Jack turned the radio off by the Big Chief Sideroad
in Medonto Township, when he first heard the fearsome and sobering
sound of his back tires rubbing against the accumulated ice in his
rear wheelwells. With each disturbing rasping sound, Jack worried
that one of his diminutive 15 diameter tires would wear thin,
explode and unravel in rubber coils, sending him careening over
the edge of a steep icy ditch or headlong into a wall of ice and
Great Canadian Shield. He moderated his speed on the slowly curving
stretches of highway.
The last straw?
Hed had a bale full. Carols confession that she had
been visiting his mother every weekday for the last month. His bosses
advice that he take his holidays now, rather than lose them irrevocably
at the end of March. His fathers offer to buy him a new car.
That turn onto the Gardiner from Spadina, where the limosines and
cabbies darted illegally in from the left lane, and his own unwillingness
to drive his Accord straight into their stretched side panels. The
last pay cheque down again because of some benefits surtax
that was added to allow employees to receive chiropractic or other
alternative medicine services twice a year not to exceed $200 dollars
with some exceedingly prohibitive deductible. What the hell was
that? And how many hours had the business office devoted to that
No, that wasnt
it. He was spineless and his back was up. His horoscope he
was effeminately a Virgo that day had read If there
was a prize for worrying, Virgoans would win it nine times out of
ten then worry why they did not win it 10 times out of 10.
The recent Full Moon in Leo may have damaged your confidence, but
its time you snapped out of it. Youre getting just a
little self-indulgent. The whole glib and senseless snippet
had bothered him the awkward way that the o and
a clashed in Virgoans, the smarmy attitude
of the writer cum astrologist. Who wrote those things anyhow? Jack
was bothered by the truth in the horoscopes absurd contention
that a Full Moon in Leo, wherever that was, was puncturing his self-confidence.
It bothered him enough that hed carefully cut the horoscope
from the paper and had put it in his wallet to show Carol.
Come to think
of it, Carol was a Leo. So was his mother. Perhaps they were the
culprits, emasculating him with their intimate plot -- over the
course of a month never you mind -- to set him right. His boss was
a Cancer. Maybe it was that small hard lump on his buttock. Carol
said it could be a boil. His mother liked to remind Carol that he
was prone to boils as a child and regale her with fond memories
of Jacks quiet fortitude displayed when she would lance them.
Why Jack was
in retreat from his life didnt matter. A myriad of reasons
had become a solid lump of discontent before Jack left the lights
of Barrie behind him. And just to show them that he meant it, he
resisted the strong temptation to grab a drive-through coffee at
the roadside McDonalds. And imagine Jacks resolve when
he took a nervous glance at his fuel gauge and hazarded that his
fuel efficient Japanese import would get him to the next gas station
alley near Orillia!
Jack did not
stray from his retreat at the Alliston turnoff at 89, where he could
search out new Canadian-made Hondas. Nor did he veer from his path
when the Park and Drive sign alerted him of the proximity
of the Rama Casino (which certainly would be open at this time of
the morning). No Jack would be stoic and show them all. He
threw caution to the wind when he by-passed the next two gas stations
and put his faith in the Accord to get him to the next flootlit
splash of a gas station somewhere in the darkness beyond. In a way,
it was exciting. Jack had been north of 169 only once in his life
as a pimply teen en route to Vancouver Island in the back
of a camper.
under a Full Moon, where Leo and Orions Belt poked through
fleeting clouds. Where and when few were listening to the tune that
put Conway Twitty on the road to Nashville. On a street that was
still Yonge Street, but very different from the Yonge Street at
Front or the Yonge Street at Bloor or even the Yonge Street south
of Aurora. Some time after Jack had held back his urgent need to
urinate, and much after the point where Jack had been tempted to
stop or at least drive-through for a coffee and banquet burger and
fries with malt vinegar and shortly after Jacks frequent shifting
in his seat made him painfully aware of the cancerous tumour on
his bottom rubbing against his ergonomic Accuform Back Saver and
after Jack regretted having bought it before the new benefits package
had been instituted. Somewhere inexplicably beyond Dr. Lauras
help and out of Wade Boggs range. Sometime after a pothole
in the road had dislodged the steel hard icy accretion from one
of his Accords wheelwell. Only then.
of Jacks bladder, and the lack of gas in Jacks tank
conspired against him. His flight was over, and he was forced to
continue on foot. Jack later recognised the significance of his
choice of direction southward, to the restaurant and gas
bar hed recently passed. Later, Jack would be bolstered by
the fact that he'd walked the six kilometres in his double breasted
blue blazer. Luckily, hed worn his winter boots that day.
With the silk
lining of Jacks blazer pocket in tatters, Jack reached back
and slipped his keys into pants pocket, making sure that it was
on the non-cancerous side of his bottom. Jack couldnt wait
to pee, so he went on the one remaining back wheel, relieving himself
while relieving his Honda of its icy stalagmite. And in relieving
himself, Jack realized that he was need of a toilet for more.
With the stern,
icy embrace of a northerly, originating, Jack thought, from the
Algoma nickel belt, Jacks resolve to escape weakened. It gathered
some strength when Jack found the Gas Bar to be manned by an middle
aged woman throwing snowballs angrily at the outline of the gentleman
on the mens washroom door. Judging by the clod of wet snow
matted to the mans midsection, she was a good shot.
me. Could I have the key for the washroom? Ive run out of
gas just north of here. I have a credit card. Could I have lend
of a tank of gas.
she said, dropping the snowball she had wound up to throw. Not
he smelled liquor on the womans breath, a sweet mediciny trace.
Jack took the key in his cold fingers. He fumbled his way into the
washroom. All the while, the attendant simply stood there, watching
him. It made him uncomfortable to squat down on the cold rim of
the toilet with her eyes boring down on the door. As Jack stood
to pull his trousers up, the door of the washroom, not eight inches
from Jacks nose, exploded. Jack who was already unnerved,
lost his balance and fell backward onto the toilet tank. His car
keys rattled off the rim of the toilet and somehow for he
kept about ten keys on his ring -- followed the flush of water down
the drain. Right here in a frigid and cramped washroom in
what was technically still Southern Ontario, Jacks flight
ended, and the familiarity of Jacks complex but normally safe
and complacent existence reasserted itself. Jack pulled his elasticized
briefs up around his hips and pulled on his pants. He straightened
his shirt and fastened the button on his blazer. Jack sat back down
to plan his return flight home.