by David Halliday
Part One of The Invisible Man
1. “We Want To Film You.”
That’s Robin talking. A tall thin youth with a mop of blonde hair falling carelessly over his eyes, looking like a Greek god against my pale blue Plymouth Horizon. With his casual youthfulness, the swagger of innocence and bravado, he reminded me of the way all youth looked from a distance. Digging his hand into the pocket of his jeans, ragged and filled with holes, Robin pulled out a rolled up piece of paper. He unraveled it and handed it to me. I adjusted my bright yellow crossing guard jacket and read the paper. Humber College, Television and Film, English Class. After that there was a mishmash of information about the details of an assignment. God, I wasn’t about to read the whole thing.
‘Be nice, Sam.’
That’s Margaret talking. My beautiful young wife. She likes to chat. Describing it as one of the hallmarks of higher civilization. I have to be careful with Margaret’s chatting. She’s dead. As a door knocker. For about a year now. I’d like to mourn but she keeps hanging around. People said that we were the ideal couple. Wonder what they think now. They’d think me certifiable. Especially when they catch me talking to Margaret. Hell, maybe I am.
Margaret laughed. ‘Don’t talk like that, Sam. You’re not made. You just have a few loose screws, that’s all.’
I looked at Robin. “How tall are you?”
Robin blushed then swept his hair out of his eyes.
I raised my eyebrows and smiled. I handed the paper back to Robin.
“Look kid. I don’t want to read through all of this stuff. Could you give me the short version?”
“This is getting us nowhere!” That’s Oshioke Smith talking. A petite Asian girl, braces on her front teeth, long straight black hair running down over her shoulders. Oshioke put one hand on her hip and pointed the other at me. She was a beauty! If I was twenty years…”
What! I did know women before I met you, my dear.
‘But they paled in comparison to your lovely wife!’
Of course, my love.
“I am Oshioke Smith and the giant,” Oshioke gestured to Robin behind her with her thumb, “is my temporary boyfriend, Robin.”
She turned her finger back on me. “Got it!”
I looked for a moment at the finger pointed at me.
“Is that loaded?” I asked.
‘She’s quite a handful!’ Margaret giggled.
Oshioke took a piece of gum previously hidden behind her ear and stuck it in her mouth. “This is the way it is.” Oshioke popped her gum like a punctuation mark every time she finished a sentence. “We’re making a film for an English course in college. Why we aren’t writing an essay for this course is a mystery to all of us. Personally I think our professor is either incompetent or has some demented notion that this will be a wonderfully creative experience. Our film must be about heroism in modern society, especially those unsung heroes who make civilized life possible. There are the police of course. Would you like to deal with drug pushers, psychopathic killers, hopped up juiced derelicts?” Oshioke shook her head. “I think not. What about social workers? Would you like to have to deal with dysfunctional families, illiterate trailer park trash, abused children, paranoid parents? I think not.”
Margaret nudged me in the ribs. ‘Isn’t she awfully clever, dear? Don’t you think that she is awfully clever?’
I adjusted the yellow hat on my head.
“Oh, Sam!” Margaret shook her head. ‘She’s got spunk.’
She’s a pain in the ass!
‘She’s young. You be careful,l Sam Kelly. I don’t want that little girl’s spirit broken. You don’t know how a thoughtless sarcastic remark can deflate a young girl.’
I don’t think this little girl is any porcelain figurine.
“We could have chosen a fireman or a man of the cloth but that’s been so overdone.” Oshioke switched hips and jabbed toward me again, continuing her rant. I kept dodging the jabs, with Robin standing behind his girlfriend enjoying the moment. She continued, “If I see another picture of a fireman carrying a kitten down a ladder, I’m going to cough up a hair ball. And there was no way we were going to do a teacher. I mean that would be so kissing up.” There was a puzzled expression on Oshioke’s face. “Do you have Turrets? You keep moving around. It would make a great angle. Man with mental disability keeps our children safe.”
‘Tell her you’re a retired cop, Sam, the most famous law officer in the west end of the city.’
I will not. It would only encourage her. Last thing I need is two kids putting me on film. I still have friends at the station. If this ever got back there, I’d be the laughing stock of the Force.
I shook my head and smiled at the girl.
“No, I do not have Turrets. I’ve got this tune in my head. Ever had that? I can’t get rid of it. It has a driving beat. The last time this happened I threw my back out. Had to go to a chiropractor.”
‘What did I tell you! You’re messing with her head, Sam.’
Oshioke glared at me. She was not amused. I liked that. A dump truck rumbled up Kipling Avenue kicking up dust. Some stones jumped out of the truck and skipped across the street. Robin stepped in front of Oshioke to block their path. One of them hit his leg.
“Jesus!” Robin grabbed his leg and massaged it.
‘That was so brave, Sam.’ Margaret sighed. ‘Didn’t you think that was brave, Sam?’
They were stones, dear. Not bullets.
I took a pad and pencil out of my back pocket and jotted down the license number of the truck. Oshioke stepped towards me and pressed her finger into my chest.
“Will you be our hero?”
I stepped back and rubbed my chest.
I moaned. That’s going to leave a bruise!
‘Don’t’ be a wimp, Sam!’
I looked at Oshioke. “I’m not a hero.”
‘You’ve got to help these kids, Sam.’
I do not have to help these kids. There are lots of heroes out there they can film. What about… dentists? They risk their fingers every day.
Oshioke jabbed her finger into my chest again forcing me to take another step backwards. “That’s just the point, Mr…”
“Mr. Kelly, we’ll make a hero out of you. That’s what the media does. It makes the news. It’s a challenge, but Robin and I are up to it. Have you ever read Catcher in the Rye?”
I thought for a moment as I rubbed my chest.
“You’re not going to jab me again, are you?”
‘Is this the Sam Kelly I fell in love with? Picking on a little girl?’
Shut up, Margaret. You’re dead. You might try and keep that in mind.
‘I may be dead, Sam Kelly, but at least I’m not insensitive.’
Oshioke looked at her finger and stuffed her hands into the front of her jeans. Robin stood behind her still grinning, enjoying each of his girlfriend’s antics.
I rubbed my chin. “Catcher In The Rye? Nope. Can’t recall any such book. Is it a baseball book?” I turned to Robin and gestured toward the grey Horizon parked across the street on Mattice Avenue. “Is that your car? Same as mine.” I pointed to the pale blue car that Robin was leaning against. Robin turned and looked at my car.
“You’re right, Mr. Kelly. They’re the same. I got mine cheap, at a junkyard. My dad helped me to get it going. He loves working on old cars. Bit of a hobby.”
I reached over and patted my car gently on the roof.
“I’ve had Bessie since she was a baby. When you two were still in elementary school. She’s my little girl. That’s what I call her – Bessie. Last year someone broke into Bessie and stole her back seat. Broke her little heart. Police told me that there were a slew of similar break-ins across the city. Apparently Horizons are very popular in South America. I had a hell of a time finding a new back seat. The insurance company didn’t want to pay up. Said she wasn’t worth it. But what can you do when it’s one of the family? Do the cops pull you over a lot?”
Robin nodded. “They keep threatening to take it off the road. I never thought about giving my car a name. Sort of a neat idea.”
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The Trailer is a novelette, Part of a multi series of books under the banner THE INVISIBLE MAN. This story concerns a retired cop who now works as a crossing guard and has become the object of two students' school assignment. They want to make a movie about him. He is not enthusiastic but his dead wife who talks to him everyday is. Bleeding out from this story are the other novelettes in the series. The series itself is a kind of Bosche like landscape of stories. Some stories are comic, others dramatic, some even ridiculous.