Day Seventeen – Your Personality on the Page

“What’re you scared of boy?” barked the old man. The young man’s wide open eyes stared right back at him. “Come on, boy, there’s a fear in you, an I ken see it staring right at me. I may not know what it is, but I ken see deep down, you got a good fear sittin’ right behind them wide eyes of yours.”

I took a sip my whiskey, wondering how this would play out. This old saloon was right the place for the old man, and it would be the right place for the young man in a few years. It was no place for me. I was just passing through. I kept my head down while I sat at the bar, finished off my drink and ordered another, then kept eavesdropping on the old drunk a few seats down from me.

“I en’t scared of nothin’, ” I heard the young man lie.

“That ain’t true, boy, and you know it ain’t. Ain’t no one scared of nothin.’ All them kids who say they ain’t got a fear ani’t the ones who make it as old as you, and you ain’t that old.”

The young man’s eyes got wider again. The bartender was going to be scooping up eyeballs in a minute if the young man didn’t start to close them. Even just a little.

“You fearin’ me boy? You ain’t got nothin’ in me te fear. No way, kid.” The old man downed his drink, got another, downed that one, and got one more, but held onto it. This old drunk was just razzin’ the kid. Trying to get him worked up just so he could shut him down. Maybe he was just trying to get the young man to grow up a little quicker.

“En’t scared of nothin’ I already told you,” the took a sip of his drink.

“Well now, boy, one thing you is scared of is the fire that drink will put in your belly. Come on now, kid, drink it like you mean it,” the old downed his drink again, “and tell me what you’re scared of.”

The young man looked past the old man right into my eyes, tipped his hat and walked out. The old man turned around and gave me a once over. “You scared of this here vagabond? Is that what you been fearin’? Why, he ain’t nothin.'”

I looked down at my drink, avoiding the gaze of the old drunk. The old man ordered two more rounds and slid one over to me. “Tell me, son, what’re you scared of?”

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Day Sixteen – Third Time’s a Charm

They each walked up to the counter with the same slow pace. Every one of them dragging their heels, and every one of them carrying same sullen, but desperate, look on their face. At the counter they would ask the same type of question, “I am looking for black little box,” or “I can’t find the locket I had yesterday,” or “My bag is missing, is it here?” And each time the clerk would take the description, and rummage through the box under behind the counter.

Every morning, the was box filled to the brim with new lost stuff. And throughout the day it never seemed to empty. There was always something for someone. Sometimes the clerk would search through the box for three seconds, and other times for a few minutes. Whenever the clerk found something that matched the description, he would hand it over to the customer, and the customer always took a minute or two to look it over. They never handed anything back, or never said “this is not what I am looking for.” The clerk actually had no idea if he found the right object. Nor did he much care.

Each person searching for their lost trinket, bag, box, or what have you, never made any expression that they found what they were looking for. They just held their possession tightly in their hand, and with same slow pace walked out the exit on the right. The clerk would watch them leave the building, but never really paid attention to which door they took.

Late in the day on the clerk’s four thousandth straight day of searching for belongings for uncaring customers, a young customer walked up to the counter carrying them self in the same slow pace, and asked for a bronze pendant. The clerk searched for five minutes in the box of lost items, and finally found one matching the description. The young customer examined it and held it tightly in their hand and walked away. Near the exit, she stopped, looked at the pendant again, turned around, and walked through the exit left.

Day Thirteen – Serially Found

Part One – Serially Lost
What I Found

Turns out that losing a part time job was the best thing that ever happened to me. In losing a significant portion of my weekly income, after a couple of weeks I gained a sense of freedom. I was lucky enough to find my self with an extra $80 in the middle of that February and a random three day weekend.

Normally, a random three day weekend was out of the question. But now, I no longer had to plan weekends around a part time job that took one night a week from me.

It was the most liberating event.

 

Day Eleven – Size Matters, But Not in ‘That’ Way

The house was lucky enough to be on a quiet crescent in the burbs. A broad circle with a large green space in the center where the streets residents would gather for block parties. Us kids could run around freely from yard to yard, house to house, and lamp-post to lamp-post. You could almost hear With a Little Help From My Friends in the background. Maybe it actually was playing. Maybe it wasn’t. We were probably too busy playing to notice.

When one neighbour got a pool, that was where the kids from street would spend the three hot months of the year. Summer days were all the same, get up, watch cartoons, get in the pool. Rinse and repeat. Late June to late August. When the pool family left on vacation, we all took turns maintaining the water. And of course, in payment, we got to use the thing whenever we wanted. We just had to keep the water from turning green.

 

Day Ten – Happy Something

Kraft Dinner, KD, or in the U.S. (I think), Mac’n’Cheese. That was the meal of kings. And when we were young we were kings. This was the treat of the week. I never really liked candy and was never allowed soft drinks as a kid. But Kraft Dinner was a weekly treat. The most un-nutritious meal; crappy macaroni and dehydrated cheese. But, man, add a little a lot of butter and a little bit of milk, and you had the perfect meal for a five year old.

Saturday nights was the night I would be allowed mac’n’cheese for dinner. Sometimes on Sunday for lunch, depending on what my mom felt like cooking.

When I turned twelve (maybe ten or eleven, I’m not really sure), I was finally allowed to boil water on my own. My best friend would come over, and since I could finally “cook” water, the first thing we would do was plan when we were having our crappy Kraft Dinner lunch. We spent many weekends trying to come up with the perfect recipe. As much as a recipe is involved in KD. By the time were thirteen, we figured it out. Two boxes of Kraft Dinner, and boil that macaroni. Then, two giant table spoons of butter to mix in the disgusting cheese. Add few splashes of milk just to make sure the cheese spread out evenly. And there you have it. The perfect Kraft Dinner concoction.

There was never any special event surrounding KD meals. Just the weekend. And we used to eat so much of it. Now, I can’t even look at the stuff.

Day Nine – Point of View

The Gentleman

He loved strolling through the park, holding hands with one star in his universe, just as young couples in love should. He walked her around the pond, up the hill, past the gazebo, and down back towards the pond. He first noticed the old lady sitting on the bench in the sun only because that was where he wanted to sit. It was his favourite spot. As they got closer he noticed the old lady was oblivious to the world around her. She was hunched over a red sweater, and he saw she was knitting with intensity. Nothing else mattered to her at that point. He got a glimpse of her face and thought he recognized her immediately. She looked like his grandmother. The lady who raised him when his parents were not able to any more. The lady who made his school lunches every day, cleaned his wounds, and saw him through his first love and the inevitable heartache. The lady who died while the gentleman was traveling, and before he could say thank you. The same lady who he yelled at in a fit of anger a few months ago, and the same lady who still left him a red sweater for when he returned from his travels. The unfinished red sweater that hangs in his closet right now. Countess, the gentleman whispered to himself. The lady looked up him, and smiled.

The Lady

She was holding his hand as strong as she could. This was not her favourite park, but it was his, and this day was more about him than her needs. When they came down the small hill, back towards the pond, she wondered why they were slowing down. She noticed a tear coming down his face, and then more. It was coming out now. Good, she thought, he needs this. She held onto his hand with a little more strength, but she was still confused as to why they walking much slower. She looked around, but could not see anything. No dogs, cats, or birds. Only the ducks in the pond. They had stopped walking and just stood there. She did not ask why, just held his hand while he stared into nothingness, with tears pouring down his face. Tears that did not come when he arrived back in town, and tears that did not come when they were in the chapel. The lady did nothing but hold him, right there in the middle of the park. She looked over when she thought she heard him say something, but he made no sign that he did.

The Countess

The countess saw them walking around the pond and out view. She continued with her knitting. It had to be done within two days, he would be back, and she thought he would need sweater for the fall. These days it took her almost three months to finish one. She used be able put together a sweater in a month, even when she was at her busiest. But now, her tired hands could not work the yarn as fast as they used. One week and this piece has not got any longer, she said to herself. She heard footsteps on her left on the paved path, and looked over her shoulder. There they were, the young couple in love, holding hands as they should. The countess was happy for them. They were perfect for each other. She held up the sweater as though she were fitting it to the gentleman, even though he twenty feet away. As she put it down, she gave him a reassuring smile, the one she gave when she used to clean his bumps and scrapes. But her smile was no longer what he needed. He found the perfect person to continue that. The countess stood up from the bench and walked off.

Day Seven – Give and Take

“They’re just beers,” I said looking at the number of taps lining the bar.

“Nah,” he replied, “they’re all their own art form. Each one of them.”

He was a self proclaimed beer connoisseur, where I was a self proclaimed beer drinker. We were meeting up for our usual Tuesday happy hour drinks at our usual watering hole.

“Each one is brewed with their own care, and by different artisans, giving each brew a distinct taste,” he continued.

“But they are all pretty much the same, take some hops and barley, let them do their thing, and there you go, beer,” I stated.

“Blasphemy,” he snickered, “There is more to each beer than just hops and barley. The purity of the water, the type of barrels used for fermenting. How long each step of the brewing process takes. It all comes together to create a beautifully delicious beverage.”

“I will give you that, most beers are delicious, but in the end most of them are the same, despite the brewing style,” I argued, “For example, take this dark stout I am drinking right now, it has the same after taste has as the porter on tap right beside it. Different brewing style, different brewer, but same alcohol content, roughly the same colour, and the same taste.”

We were both studying the taps, trying to decide what the next round would be.

“Bad example. Those two are coincidentally pretty much the same beer. They are brewed in the same region, and get their ingredients from the same supplier. The only real difference between the two is business. The owners used to work together and ended up hating each other,” he countered.

“Alright, how about this same stout, and the brown ale. Again, the same taste, and those two breweries are in now way related. They are even in different countries,” I said.

“Okay, that is a good beer, and very similar to the stout. It’s pretty dark, with good sweet taste, but doesn’t have the same coffee-like taste of the stout. I think your taste buds are shot,” he said.

“They might be. I had a Coors and a Molson the other day and didn;t even complain,” I said.

“Coors sucks,” he said.

Day Six – The Character

François is usually outside the grocery store down the street from where I exit the metro on my morning commute. Sometimes, he is sitting on stoop closer to the office, having a quick morning beer. And every morning he asks those who pass by him for some extra change. Except whenever I pass by, he asks for a smoke.

He will always ask with the most polite words with a caring smile. Everyday it seems that cigarette at 10:00AM is the best thing that happens to him that day.

“Merci beacoup, la journée commence bien au jour d’hui,” François always says (Thank you very much, today is starting really good). Or “Juste une petite cigarette pour commencer une belle journée” (Just a small cigarette to start this wonderful day). And always with the biggest smile on his face, as though everything will be OK from that point on.

François is always well dressed, not dressed up for Sunday church, or an important meeting at a bank. But dresses like any other professional these days, maybe even a little bit better. He carries himself with the kind of confidence that most who are experiencing better luck in their lives should carry. There joyfulness to his step, even if they are a little staggered before noon. It is almost playful.

I think François has a part time job as a busboy. And that is all I know about him. Conversations are short but always pleasant, and sometimes joyful. Every neighbourhood needs a François.