Chapter Eight

VIII

Lala Alberta, The Market

            “Look at this dress. Do you like it? I got it at a yard sale. It belonged to an old lady who died. Her children wanted to get rid of everything.” 

            “I like the polka dots. It’s a nice dress.”

            “I have the bag to match but I left it somewhere. I was going to put on red lipstick but then you said you were outside so I decided not to.” 

            It’s only them two in the restaurant. Outside is dark but it isn’t very late. Heavy snowflakes are coming down but they come down soft like feathers in the orange shine of the street lights. She wanted to take him out to congratulate him on all the good he has done for her. 

            “Joyce-Jackson-James. I like how your parents named you.”

            “I don’t, personally.”

            “You don’t like anything.”

            “That’s not true. I like money. I like to fish.”

            “What’s your favourite kind of fish.”

            “Marlin.”

            “What’s a Marlin?”

            He gestures to the wall, where a plastic Marlin is pinned to it.

            “Oh. We call them Pez-Espada.

            The waiter comes and re-fills their water; an awkward boy who looks like he would cry if needed to speak.

            “You know, I hated living here when I first came. I lived outside of the city in a room I rented from a professional couple. They were nice, but one day I brought a boy home to sleep in my room and they didn’t look at me the same way after that. Anyways, the house was across the river in Aylmer, far, far, away. At least it took three buses to get there and I would get there late in the winter. I was not ready for the winter time. I was all bundled up like a mummy and the bus would leave me down the street, about another fifteen minutes walking to the house. The road was pitch black. Black, black, black, so I would walk down the center of it with my arms outstretched, and because it was already so dark I would close my eyes. The only thing I could hear would be the wind blowing through my ears and for a few seconds I would hear all the voices of my dead friends, and I would think about a car not seeing me, and me not hearing it, instead listening to the familiar voices carrying over time, over the distance from here and back home. When I would open my eyes, it was still dark and I wasn’t sure if I had actually opened them.”

            “Once I went blind for a few minutes. Couldn’t see anything. Scary feeling.”

            “Yeah. I was never scared. I just walked.” She takes a sip of beer from a chalice before going on. “So, look, we need to talk. About him. About what it means for us.” 

            “What do you mean?”

            “I mean, how do I explain this? What he’s doing is important. What we are doing is important. Sometimes he will ask us to do things you might not agree with, but don’t worry because I will take care of it. I need you to keep doing what you’re doing with those boys. I don’t have time, I need you. I know I haven’t told you a lot but it’s very important for him, for everything. We will keep making money, it will all be better for the both of us.”

            “O.k.” He isn’t sure what to say. “What kind of things?”

            “Don’t worry about that.”

            “Because I would do a lot of things. In case you didn’t know.”

            “I know what you wouldn’t do. I found someone that will. But you will still be important to me.” 

            He still doesn’t know how to interpret this so he puts a bite of salmon into his mouth. She takes a sip of water. 

            “Let’s go for a smoke. Bring your jacket, it’s cold outside.

            “Really?”

            “Shut up” she says.