Saturday: An Ottawa Story - Ten



In and around 5PM David descended the basement stairs to find Richard tooling around at the computer, his leg jiggling as though it belonged to a rabbit with ADHD. The wayward schoolteacher had multiple tabs open on the web browser, alternating between flipping through Facebook, performing various Google searches of--David hoped--an innocent nature and, oddly, looking at a long-range weather forecast. He turned with a start as one of the lower stairs creaked with David's weight.

"Oh, yo," Richard said, his voice having taken on a distracted tone despite his jumpiness seconds earlier. As he hadn't packed for a nice, sit-down meal, Richard was garbed in one of David's old sweaters, a navy blue piece with a black Charlie Brown zig-zag running across the chest. Due to his difference in build, he seemed awash in the fabric, explaining--in David's mind, at least--why he looked more gaunt than usual.

"Alex said they'd be here in a couple of minutes," David said, buttoning up his cuffs. "We probably won't be eating for another hour, so if you want to hang out down here, avoid all that small talk and chit-chat, no sweat off my back."

"Nah, it's cool," Richard replied, clicking off the weather website and pivoting in the chair to face his friend. He rubbed one hand up the side of his face, tugged it through his hair, and let it slide back across his cheek, repeating this gesture a couple more times as he continued to speak. "As you said, fine, fine ladies await."

David's eyes narrowed. "I never said that."

Richard brushed him off with an aimless wave. "To-may-toh, to-mah-toh."

"That saying in no way applies to this conversation."

"Whatevs." Casting an apathetic glance at the computer monitor, he clicked off another tab. "Dude, am I a dick?"

This, more than anything--well, maybe not anything, given the powdery surprise from earlier that day--threw David for a loop, so much that he fell, rather than sat down on the couch, gravity having taken over as a lazy autopilot in his surprise.

Pulling himself into a more comfortable position, David pondered an answer: Richard, near as his compatriot could tell, lacked a certain measure of self-awareness when it came to his own reputation, having developed a habit of gliding through life without the knowledge that others might have a word or two to say about his behaviour. David had prepared a fairly short answer to this query some time ago, in the off chance it might ever escape Richard's tongue, but now the elephant in the room had sauntered out from behind the sideboard with a sheepish posture he found himself at a loss for words.

"Uh, what?"

"A dick. A jackass, motherfucker, son of a bitch, the like."

"Wow, quite verbal."

Richard nodded, drumming the index and middle fingers of one hand against his temple in a tic that David assumed signified impatience. 

"I suppose there's no point in beating around the bush: you are quite proficient at pushing people's buttons." He switched a low mumble. "Today being a perfect example..."

"Yeah, sorry about pissing your old lady off."

David raised a hand in protest. "No, no. That's my fault as much as yours."

Richard nodded and relaxed a little bit in his chair. "Good, that feels a little better."

"Note how I indicated it's still partially your fault..." He trailed off, noticing that Richard had turned his attention back to the laptop, now starting a game of spider solitaire. "Nevermind, miles away."

He pried himself off the couch and shuffled over to the desk to peek over his friend's shoulder, trying to engage with a man who was otherwise unable to shut up but now at a conversational standstill. It could be guilt, it could be fatigue, but for all intents and purposes Richard wasn't operating on his usual wavelength.

"So... you coming up?" David asked.

"Oh, fuck no. I've never been good with that small talk bullshit."

"Well, neither have I."

"Hey, it's your house. Just call me up when dinner's ready." Having run into an obstacle in his spider session, Richard quit the game and reopened the web browser. "In the interim, I'll be searching for potentially illegal porn."

"'Potentially'? I imagine porn is either legal or it isn't." He paused, thought about this. "And that's not cool."

Another non-committal wave. David waited a moment longer, trying to gauge a reason for Richard's oddly disconnected behaviour. He knew the answer was there, something concrete and very close, but for all his attempts he couldn't see the forest for the trees. He supposed he was just too tired to give a damn, and glanced at his watch only to realize in mild horror that he was already physically and mentally beat by 4PM.

Steeling himself, he turned to the stairs and prepared for the next hour. Dinner would be the tasty reprieve he needed. Clearing his throat, he ascended, as Richard continued to idly browse the Net and rub his face in the semi-darkness behind him.

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