Chapter One


    Incoming from the east, parallel to the river, roll the tires of a red Tercel carrying a cargo of materials across the parkway. Boxes and building materials overloaded into the car; tubs of plasters, metal rods, wood in planks of different types, dusty bags of concrete mixture on the floor. I think I have everything says the driver while she reaches behind her to steady a box of different chalks and samples of stone; diabase, anorthosite, gabbro, syenite. 

Alleyway of birch. Bridge memorials. The wind picks up as the tires spin faster. The car swerves to the left, the drivers hand anchors it back to the right. A voice comes through the radio singing in a different language while the tires under the car roll faster and faster still, through the puddles on the asphalt, splashing onto the dead earth, splashing onto the ankles of runners, faster and faster while hugging the yellow line that continues parallel to the river. A hideous day. A terrible day. The leaves free fall into the water to disintegrate in the by-wash. The asphalt is a deep black and smells like a face full of dirt. The tires spin faster and faster regardless of their poor treads, skirting around a dead raccoon through the alleyway of maples, past the empty stables, up the winding hill. 

The driver goes over in her head again what is in the back seat while reaching into her coat pocket for a wrapped piece of candy.  

This is it, almost done, almost there, he won't be mad this time, I have everything. Jesus, I'm such an idiot sometimes. You're such an idiot. Everybody over there thinks so. 

She takes a deep breath, holds it, and exhales. 

Relax.  You're going to die one day. Oh man. I hate this. You have to relax, breathe a little.

Things are ok. It isn't that bad, I don't want to die. Maybe just take a break... is that a hammer in the road?        

    The roads are slick on wet autumn days. Near the end of the parkway where the bends in the road slither around tight corners is the scene of the accident.  The vehicles contents litter the wet grass. On its back with the front completely kaput, the red Tercels tire still spins and spins forward on its axle.  

An hour later, Frank Gator pulls his minivan up over the curb and onto the grass. He recognizes the Mountie directing traffic through the one lane while emergency crews continue to clean up. He gets out of his van and walks over to where the Mountie stands waving his arm like a windmill.  

“Frank, good to see you.” 

“Morning. What happened?” 

“Driver was going too fast when she hit the bend. Flipped over the curb onto its side and rolled a few feet before that oak tree stopped it. What a mess...I mean the inside of the car...she didn't turn out too well, Frank. I couldn't stay around it when the firemen showed up. There's also all this shit everywhere we have to clean up, there was a bunch of it on the road. We're lucky the oncoming lane was clear when she flipped. You see this stretch, eh? Way too fast".

Gator looks around at the police snapping photos and cleaning up the scene. Luck, or coincidence, would have it that she didn't hit anybody. There was trash everywhere, scattered on the wet grass in a loose system, like a constellation. Rocks and plaster and dust in piles suffocating the grass. A tow truck reaches the front of traffic and hops the curb to take the car away. 

Gator catches a whiff of blood hanging on the wind and it throws him off. It smells sour, rotten. Hot. He clenches his jaw and grinds his teeth trying not to think about the smell. 

"Weather's been strange. Can't believe we haven't seen snow yet. Won't last I bet." says the Mountie. 

"Won't be good for my health, when it really sets in." Replies Gator.

Gator can't take the smell much longer. He looks the officer in the eyes while he continues about the weather but he isn’t paying attention. His heart beats on an odd number. The words slip out of the Mountie's mouth and drift away like smoke, he isn't sure how long they have been standing there. He gets dizzy trying to keep up with the conversation while thinking about how little time he has left, all the things he has to do that day, that poor woman in that car; that damn smell.  He begins to take his leave. 

"Well, looks like you will have your hands full this morning. Just wanted to say hi when I saw you there. I have to get to the office."

"All right Frank I will see you later. Come over have a beer sometime...or we'll barbeque. I know you don't drink."  

"I'll visit you guys soon." Gator begins to take his leave.

"Hey Frank, wait a second!?"

Frank turned around pensively, what now?

"Did you get your paper this morning?"

"No, I don’t get the paper..."

"Oh, I didn’t get my paper...."

    Driving down Sussex Gator pensively checks his mirrors.  What was so important for her to speed like that? All that stuff lying around. All that blood pooled into the floor mats. Sickening.

He rolls his window down for some fresh air. He slows down at the roundabout and drives slowly the entire way to his office, splashing cool pools of water onto the curbs of Centretown.