Saturday: An Ottawa Story - Five



Richard's Car: A Shitheap's History.

Discovered nestling against the fence at the rear of an Orleans used car lot, the Geo was Richard's most prized possession, purchased after a particularly rewarding night at a casino. On a streak at the baccarat table--aside from dropping in at incredibly inopportune times, Richard was also proficient in styles of poker rarely seen outside of the Sean Connery Bond films--he pledged, quite loudly, to purchase no small number of drinks, an elegant yacht and "...a bag of Goddamned gold."

The following morning Richard awoke to learn that not only had he spent a fifth of his winnings on Singapore Slings and a month's worth of scratch tickets (the winnings from these in turn amounting to $5.75), but the original amount wouldn't have bought a decent motorboat, let alone a satchel of Spanish doubloons.

Nonetheless determined, he had a friend drop him off at the car lot and, after a disturbingly short period of time, departed in the driver's seat of his new means of transportation. Asked later how much he had haggled down from the asking price, Richard responded, "Haggled?"

For Richard, buying the Geo was as though some hitherto unseen chains had been removed, allowing him to pursue any exploit or misadventure on his own time, rather than having to wait up for somebody else. For most other people riding shotgun, it was a death-trap in waiting, a jalopy in dire need of maintenance or at least an oil change. Its brakes were intermittently responsive, its muffler was in dire need of its own muffler, and it accelerated at such a rate that it could go from zero to semi-guided missile in thirty seconds flat.

With this in mind, it was with great reluctance that David persuaded Richard to take their heated discourse to the road. Being stuck in tight quarters with his friend was the least effective way to cool the air but David wanted both Richard and his cache of illegal stimulant off the premises. Thus, he was riding shotgun with a man in possession of a moderate quantity of cocaine, down a busy city street regularly patrolled by police squad cars, and in a speeding wreck-in-waiting nearly two decades past its inspection date to boot. Strategic thinking, to say the least.

The above concerns were but a portion of the anxieties ricocheting off each other in David's mind as the Geo careened through the 417 highway underpass and sped through a yellow light. Pressed against his seat and clutching the passenger door handle in a death grip, he stole a look at Richard, who was grinning from ear to ear and enthusiastically bobbing his head to the Rolling Stones' "Street Fighting Man."

"I'll shout and scream, I'll kill the king, I'll rail at all his serrrrrvaaaannntts," he intoned, drumming on the steering wheel in beat with the song. When the final repetition of the chorus kicked in he cast a glance in David's direction, the lyrics dying on his lips and his brow furrowing as he caught sight of his friend's borderline-terrified expression. "You all right, man?"

"Please slow down," Richard murmured, now eyeing a public works truck and imagining a variety of scenarios involving the term 'pancaking.'

"I'm going to be blunt: your near-constant state of panic is really harshing my groove," Richard confessed, his features emoting what resembled, and probably was, sincerity.

"Do people still say that? I know it sounds petty but I like to think idioms have evolved since the mid-70s."

"Hey, fuck you, man!" he said, hurt. "Criticize my lifestyle all you want but I like to talk five minutes without you going all Leonard Maltin on my vocabulary."

David shrugged half-heartedly and said, "Forgive me. My fear of dying in a speeding car wreck tends to bring out the pettier aspects of my personality."

"Oh, come on. What doesn't bring out your petty-bitch? You saw me barely five seconds this morning before telling me to screw off." Richard paused to turned down the car stereo so he wouldn't have to shout. "Bitch at me all you want for my taste for the powder--"

"'Taste for the powder'? Is that even a proper phrase?" David interjected with a muffled tone.

"--bitch at me all you want, but at least save it for something that matters instead of erupting every time I lift a finger. I swear, sometimes you're like a ticking time bomb of impotent rage."

David took advantage of Richard's lessened assault on the gas pedal and pried himself away from his seat back. "Excuse me, I didn't invite myself over to your place for an overnight stay. I didn't bring a drug dealer's stash of cocaine along for the ride. And most importantly, I'm not playing it off like it isn't any big thing." He sighed and gave into g-forces again. "And let it be known how much of a favour I'm doing you by not telling Alex--not now, not ever."

"Excommunication from the Merrick household? Fuck me, I didn't even have to tear up a picture of the Popeohshit." Richard slammed on the brakes, throwing Richard nearly two feet forward in his seat and turning several loose items from the hoarder's nirvana that was the Geo's back seat into low-flying projectiles. The car stopped a metre short of the public works truck, leaving both men shaken and nearly speechless.

Richard, as was to be expected, was the first to speak. "Huh, look at that. We nearly died."

"I swear to Christ, being within ten feet of you is tantamount to courting death," David murmured, shaken.

"I'm rather proud of me, too," Richard replied, popping a stick of gum into his mouth as he pulled off to the side of the road to collect himself. That accomplished, he sighed and looked around the mess that constituted the interior of his car. "Where we going someplace?"

"Grocery store," David breathed.

Richard cocked an eyebrow. "There's a grocery store around here?"

"Three blocks ago, actually. I'd be more pissed at you missing the turn except I'm too distracted by our recent near-death experience." He exhaled and grabbed a stick of Richard's gum. "That and I don't think I told you where we were going in the first place. I figure my getting pissed would be a dick move at this point."

Richard nodded. "You're learning well," he said, and with David turned his attention to the cars passing them by.

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