To the editor: Here it is. Whoop de doo. The latest installment. It’s not the Rez Notes we’ve all come to know and love and might be the worst piece ever written. It’s frightening. I hope someone out there likes it though and is deemed fit for our fine publication. Please, edit out all references, if any, to sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. Neil.
I ran into an old classmate I hadn’t seen for maybe 15 years late one Chisasibi evening. I was behind the community centre in the shadows under a hot air vent. “Why?” I asked suspiciously. “Give us a light,” a male voice said in Cree. He sounded familiar so I approached. “Who are you?” he asked when I addressed him by name. I told him who I was and he remembered.
He had been one of the brightest in many of my classes. Excellent in math and science. Good in English. And fair, even, in French. One of the first to master the phrase, “Moi aussi.” We would teasingly pick on him. He graduated from high school. I had left by then. Val d’Or, I think, and then Hull.
I heard of him in Lennoxville just outside of Sherbrooke from a Mohawk friend two years later. “You know that guy?” he asked with a big smile. “He’s wacky.” Out of several thousand students he was the only one who ever used the word, “wacky.” I had heard it used only on TV. “He was on the phone long-distance from my place once crying saying he was homesick,” the Mohawk confided on more than a few occasions. That was the last I heard of him. I may have bumped into him once in the past 12 or 14 years but, apparently, it was nothing memorable.
But there he was, years later, standing under a vent in Chisasibi late at night with a plastic bagful of beer and cigarettes in his pocket. I did not greet him properly right away because he seemed not the way I remembered him. After a few awkward what-are-you-doings and how’s-it-goings, I was glad I ran into him and gave him a friendly but “hip” handshake. And not only because he had a huge can of beer which he passed around generously. We stood for a while, barely talking. I bummed another cigarette just as representatives from the local constabulary drove slowly by. “What are they doing?” I asked. “Want another shot?” he asked casually. “Not right now,” I said. The police went behind the corner.
“You going to the big meeting tomorrow?” I asked later, once I had relaxed a bit. “What meeting?” he replied. I explained.
“You can’t say anything against them or you know what will happen to you,” he warned. “They were f* * * ing a* * holes when we were in school!” It wasn’t that bad, I thought, but agreed with him anyway. He nuzzled the girl he was with. For some reason he started getting paranoid about my situation and backed away from me a bit. “I guess I’m gonna leave you now,” I said. “Why?!?” he asked, offering me another shot of his beer. “It looks like you guys are getting…” I paused, “…romantic.” They both laughed. “No, it’s okay. Stay,” he assured me.
Seconds later, the same police cruiser stopped in front of us and a woman rushed out of the passenger side and headed straight toward my long-lost friend. “Where’s the money!?!?” she asked grabbing him by the collar and pushing him against the wall. “Where’s the money!?!” she insisted. The other girl took off. But the uniforms just stood by, picking up his plastic bag filled with beer and watching. “Bring the money,” she insisted. “Is that his wife?” I stupidly asked the cop. The scene (“Where’s the money?” “I don’t have it!”) went on for minutes, it seemed. Several trucks slowed down for a look. It got a tad violent at one point and the police stepped in but quickly backed off. Finally he tired of the pushing and arguing and walked over to the cruiser. “You’re getting me arrested?!?” he asked. “O.K. then, let’s go!!” He got in and she followed. They disappeared behind the cruiser’s dark tinted windows.
I lifted my arm in a hesitant half salute and walked into the pool hall as they drove off and wondered what the moral, if any, of that story was.