Chapter 30 (excerpt)
“We Miss You Timmy” had made the local headlines a week after the event. It had turned Bryan into a local celebrity and, in the words of many politicians and the police chief who had paid for the pizzas, a ‘fine young role model.’ Bryan had been granted an interview and it covered nearly an entire page of the paper with a notice at the bottom that read, “for the full interview, visit our webpage.”
Bryan had talked about the same stuff he had spoken to Conor about. He mentioned PMA and how he had given up on what he called self-destructive behaviours; things like alcohol, cigarettes, weed or hate. He said hate probably was the worst drug of them all.
“You can hate someone until it blinds you or you can hate yourself until you hurt yourself. Sometimes it’s not so bad, like drinking a little when you’re bummed out, other times you end up with tragic situations,” he said, implying Timmy’s apparent suicide. The journalist hinted here and there that he had rarely spoken with a young man who was so enlightened and composed. It was a breath of fresh air to see young people caring that way.
When pressed by the journalist as to why he had gathered so many kids in one place to have an improvised skateboarding festival, he simply replied, “Because we needed it. We effing needed it.”
Conor flipped the paper closed. He was in the back room on his fifteen minute break. He ate the last of his small bag of chips and drank the last of his Pepsi. He had his foot (and dirty boots) on the top of the receiving table, leaning back in a five legged chair that only had three wheels left on it. He had fallen on his back more than a few times and often managed to hurt his head in the process, but there was something comforting about the chair so he never threw it away. His dad had the same bad habit of leaning in that chair and falling asleep, dangerously dangling on the three wheels, ready to tip at any moment.
His mother couldn’t figure out why they didn’t throw the damn thing away, especially since she had ordered a brand new chair and it was sitting in the corner, waiting to be assembled.
“When are you going to assemble it?” she would ask her husband.
“I’m on my break.”
“You’ll assemble it after your break?”
“I don’t think so.”
“So when are you going to do it?”
“After the crops.”
That was in at least four to eight weeks. She’d leave the back room exasperated, knowing they would pick up the argument again tomorrow.
Conor, alone in the shop, had not run into his mother that day but he knew she would drop by at least once during his shift. She claimed it was to make sure he was alright, and part of him believed that. But another part of him felt she just wanted to make sure he was working.
He had picked up the list she had left for him on the desk. The first task was to water the plants, then refill the black soil that was on sale in the front of the store. She wanted him to sweep the floor after he was done with it and, if time allowed, he was to fill claim forms for broken pots and potteries.
“I’ll be there around noon so you can eat. Love you, mom,” she wrote.
He had completed the first half of his chore list and then took his break before passing the broom. Hardly anyone had come into the store. It was early on a Saturday and most people had taken care of all their gardening needs weeks ago. Conor had sold a grand total of $54 worth of merchandise in the last two hours.
Gerard was in the garage preparing the machinery that people would rent from the coop to gather the crops. Until then, there was not much to do in the shop.
Most of the fields around were corn but there was also a bit of soy, cauliflower and canola. So Gerard worked overtime to make sure there were no broken machines, no dull blade, and no flat tires. The farmers could not afford to miss an hour’s work; once the crops were ready to go, they were ready to go.
Conor’s family was used to this and right after the rush, some farmers would bring the family their best fruits and vegetables and they made a feast with it. They invited Angela and her family, Jake’s as well and any other friends that Conor might have wanted to invite.
This year they could count out on Jake and his family. Tim was dead and even if they could find Jake, Conor felt that their relationship could never be the same again. There was the issue of him dating Angela that had pulled the friends apart but there was something else as well. Jake had become bitter. He hated everything and anything and it had started even before Tim’s suicide. Jake was angry all the time; smoking all the time.
By no means did Conor think he was doing fine. On all accounts he was losing his PMA. Bryan would have probably been disappointed and Conor didn’t know what to think about that either. Bryan was a role model now; Conor was passing the broom. He was becoming jealous of Bryan even though he knew he shouldn’t be. He didn’t like it but he couldn’t shake it away.
Bryan had been given a job at the local youth center and he was going to put on some shows and events, gather support from sponsors and give kids something to do. That was Bryan now. Bryan believed in community. Bryan liked people. Conor didn’t like people all that much. Timmy didn’t either. Timmy hated the world. Timmy wanted out and music was his ticket. When that didn’t work, Timmy drank, Timmy drove. Timmy hated the world some more and now Timmy was dead.
And as much as Bryan wanted to influence Conor in a positive way, Conor wasn’t all that positive. Conor hated the world. Maybe not as bad as Timmy, but he hated it still. Most of all, Conor wanted out of L’Assomption and he knew most of the kids around him wanted out just the same.
All they really wanted to do was fuck around, be creative, listen to music, skateboard or go to a show. People kept telling them growing up was supposed to be tough but it was not like they didn’t know that already. Timmy had listened. Timmy had finished school and got himself a job. That didn’t stop him from running his van into a pillar one night so what was the fucking use? Nobody seemed to have an answer.
Am I going to end up dead as well? Conor started thinking. Sometimes he felt like it would be easier that way, that Timmy had shown him an easy way out.
He didn’t want Angela or his mother to feel that they were responsible for his death. He didn’t want them to even know he was thinking about it. That would start something ugly and he didn’t want that. He couldn’t run a van into the same pillar Timmy did, people would get suspicious. But there were other ways to die.
Dying was easy. He had just found a way to kill himself right there as he was sweeping the floor. He was sweeping up fertilizer. They were small pellets of fertilizer that had dropped one by one from bags. These small pellets, that were inoffensive by themselves, would kill you if taken into larger doses. They would leave you dead on the spot.
The problem with that was that it would clearly have been a suicide. There was no way he could accidentally swallow that much fertilizer. So the poison was out.
He could go up to Rawdon and swim in that piece of the river over the waterfall where kids go to swim. Three or four of them drown every year going through the waterfall. They are always ruled out as accidental. The town put up signs and fences and warnings and gates. Still kids go and swim there. Maybe Conor could have a swim there; just like one of the locals so often do. He could slip downstream by accident.
He was fed up sweeping the floor and stacking shelves. He had picked Social Sciences in spite of his mother and his coach’s advice, but who was to say that he would like Social Science at all. He ’ll end up working a job he may or may not like, fall in love and get married, and have 2.2 kids, save money to send them to school so they could study and get a job they may or may not like? It felt like a long and, well, circular circle.
There was not much to life, not these days anyways. He always felt he needed more, wanted more. He wanted to break the loop, get free. Sweeping the floor certainly didn’t help free him. Maybe music would make him free, books or cinema would make him free. Maybe he would hitch a ride to Toronto and work on some books or movies there. Maybe he would join a band and tour the East Coast. Maybe someone somewhere would see in him something more than what his mom saw in him, that he wasn’t meant for small town life. Maybe Conor was going to be the next big thing, a new Kurt Cobain or that guy from the Dharma book, Noah Levine.
Maybe Bryan would still be here, in L’Assomption, taking care of kids at $16 an hour while he’d be in New York or Frisco at some art show with Angela, if only she’d wake up and bail with him.
She could be a world famous artist and he could be a world famous thinker, writer or singer and they could live their lives away from the claustrophobic town of L’Assomption.
Maybe that would happen. Maybe it was all bullshit. Mostly it was all bullshit.
That shit only happens on TV, he thought.
He felt he’d be stuck with a shitty job he didn’t like. Angela would end up a cashier or a clerk, only painting for a few more years before boredom caught up to her and she’d give up on it. That was the most likely scenario. That was what Conor was seeing all around town anyways.
Maybe Conor would wait for winter to come, take the car for a lone snowboarding trip at St-Côme Village. He could end up in a snowstorm on the way back, end up in a ditch. The roads were pretty deserted during a good blizzard. Maybe the snow would blur his vision and he’d drift on the ice as the plow was coming the other way around.
“There’s always a plow,” he thought. “Always!”
“What are you thinking about?” his mother asked him as she walked into the store. She rested two bags on the counter, checked the company mail.
“Nothing,” Conor replied but he was still thinking about that god damned plow. It’s heavy payload to keep the truck steady, the sharp metallic edge at the front of it, the sheer weight and speed of it.
She looked at him, uncertain of what to say. There was something odd about Conor, but maybe she had just taken him by surprise. He probably had forgotten to do something and was trying to get away with it. Who knew?
“Nothing,” he repeated.
“Alright,” she said.
He got his feet off the desk, threw the empty bag of chips in the garbage can next to him. He got up and went back to work without a word. Nothing, he thought. That was one of the biggest lie he had ever told.
Genre - Literary, Coming of Age
Rating – PG13
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