Saturday: An Ottawa Story - Seven


When still in school, David had spent a laid-back evening--another Saturday, by coincidence--watching the men's Olympic curling finals in the company of two other friends. The night, with its subdued atmosphere and general pleasantness, was one he remembered fondly and as often as he could: lager sipped without any sense of urgency, chuckles at the expense of a melodramatic CTV announcer, and a total absence of tension. On more stressful days, David focused all his mental energies toward projecting himself back to that evening--a crystallized moment, one that needn't even be augmented by nostalgia.

It would be a stretch to say this moment died mere seconds later, but it was tainted. David had sent out a celebratory text--"Canada: Fuck Yeah"--to those he felt would share a similar sense of celebration, Richard included. His friend had responded minutes later with a succinctly put, "i love curling, and im getting it on with some chick at the back of a bus!" David had sighed and texted "I'm flabbergasted"--not so much at the act in and of itself, but with the knowledge that Richard had currently been going steady with a girl at his school at the time, one David sensed almost immediately was not the girl Richard had referred to.

It certainly wouldn't have been a stretch to say that Richard made a habit out of casual infidelity. David had witnessed a few of these examples firsthand, though on all of these occasions he had been sworn to secrecy by whomever else had been in attendance--one of their friends or a companion of whichever girlfriend Richard had had at the time. He kept his mouth shot, regarding Richard's inconstant monogamy in the same manner as, unbeknownst to him, Alex regarded Richard's taste for recreational narcotics: so guided by primal urges he could almost be absolved of responsibility.

Nevertheless, Richard's romantic disloyalties rested heavily on David's mind as he somewhat impatiently watched his friend speedily devour a plate of fries. Following their uneventful adventure up and down the grocery aisles, they had agreed to grab lunch at an English fare pub just down the road. The two men now sat at a booth in a dimly lit corner of the establishment, having also agreed, albeit silently, to stretch out the afternoon for what it was worth.

"It's a fucking conspiracy, man," Richard said, his speculation muffled by the forkful of fries he was currently shoveling into his maw.

"What, 9/11?" David replied, doing his best to emphasize the disinterest in his voice as he stirred his glass of Coke with a straw.

"Don't be gay, I'm talking about the fries."

"I suppose blaming economic woes on fried potatoes is a first. Do go on."

Richard jabbed his fork toward then, on second thought, into his pile of fries. "Look at any pub entree: half of it is fucking fries."

"Or salad."

"That's besides the point. What they're trying to do is load up your plate, regardless of how hungry you may be or how many fries you can even bear to stomach, just so they can make you pay fucking fifteen bucks for your food."

David set down his fork in as bemused a fashion as he could manage. "Are you actually doing this? As in, expending mental energy and oxygen in formulating this theory?"

Richard grinned. "I'm not expending anything. I'm a Goddamn prophet, that's what I am. One day a real hard rain's going to fall, and the people will turn to me and ask for salvation, and I will say, 'Come on. I mean, seriously, come on'."

And like that, the damn broke. David let go of his straw, laced his fingers together and braced his elbows on the table. "Rick, we need to talk," he said, looking his friend directly in the eye.

"Haven't we been talking?"

"Oh come on, don't play coy."

Richard leaned forward, gritting his teeth and letting out a muffled "Ix-nay on the ocaine-cay in ublic-pay."

"No, no, not that. See, I think you were getting at something. Not with that whole 'French fry conspiracy' bullshit, but about being beside the point. Your... narcotic habit, so to speak, isn't the real issue--at least I don't think it is. In fact, it probably would have never been an issue at all if you hadn't opted to crash at my house this morning."

"--or if you hadn't looked through my bag," Richard interrupted, jabbing a finger in his friend's face.

"Point established, and taken. But you never explained exactly why you were kicked out of your humble abode, at least in any manner that would satisfy my criteria."

Richard shrugged. "PMS, you know how it is."

"I would, except I don't and you use that excuse no less than five times a month. So, let's forget about beating around the bush, or pussyfooting, or anything that might distract from the main point and establish why you're now a lover-in-exile."

For the first time that day a physical change could be seen in Richard, the man's shoulder's shagging as he slouched back in his booth seat, letting his eyes wander over his fries, which he now prodded with a noticeable lack of energy. "I may have fucked up a little," he confessed.

"Oh, really?"

"Fuck off." He rubbed the heels of his palms back and forth across his temples, blowing expelling a heavy breath. "I... may have done some stuff with one of Cara's best friends."

With this, David let his hands fall to the table, his eyes wide. "Oh, fuck me."

"Yeah, that's pretty much what I said." He picked up his beer, muttering into its bottleneck "Maybe not in the same context..."

"Please, no details. Jesus. I mean, I know you've had a problem with, I don't know, failing to end one relationship before you pursue another, but her best fucking friend?"

"One of them. And yes. I will admit I might have overstepped my boundaries this time."

"Might have. Let's not devalue words..." He trailed off, catching a look that he hadn't seen in a long while, if ever: legitimate regret. Richard ranted about Cara doing or saying this or that most of the time but whenever David saw them together they seemed a pretty happy couple--reminding him a little of Alex and himself early on in their relationship, though with noticeably less sarcasm. He thought again about his own treasured moment that night of the Olympic curling final and decided that Richard and Cara needed as many of those moments as they could get.

David exhaled and fingered his drink straw once more, watching the ice come apart in little rivulets, reflective fluid strands winding their way throughout the coloured, carbonated water. For better or worse, he found he didn't have the energy to act as Richard's chastising den mother once again. The man may be an idiot, he thought, but scorn wasn't helping. Guidance was needed.

A corner of his mouth turned up ever so slightly, he picked up his own fork, reached across the table, and plucked a fry from Richard's plate. "I've got an idea," he said, letting the deep-fried potatoes fill his cheek. "It may be unpleasant, mostly for me, but I feel morally obligated to give it a try."

"Chemical castration?" Richard asked with an expression so neutral it took David an added few seconds to formulate a proper response.

"That might be taking it a little too fast. If we could just ease up on those steam engines a little, I can offer you three things: a decent meal, free of microwaveable elements; good company; and a good night's rest, with proper blankets and such. How does that sound?"

Tentatively, Richard allowed a smile of his own to form--first one corner of the mouth, then the other, and finally his full range of teeth--and folded his hands behind his head. "You sure about this?"

David threw up his hands in half-submission, half-intrigue . "Why the fuck not? What's the worse that could happen?"

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