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Authors: John McFetridge

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BOOK: Black Rock
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Dougherty stood up and started to get some money out of his pocket, but Pete put a hand on his arm. “Since when you pay for coffee?”

They walked out of the diner, and while Pete was locking the door he looked over his shoulder at Ruth and said, “Come back some time for lunch. You ever have souvlaki?”

Ruth smiled and said, “Okay, thanks, that I'll do,” and Pete said to Dougherty, “You better show her a good time before someone else does.” He laughed and walked away towards St. Catherine Street.

“Next month he'll probably be a hippie,” Dougherty said, and Ruth said yes and they started walking towards de Maisonneuve.

“Why are you working on Friday night?”

“Dr. Pendleton wanted me to get your impressions as soon as I could, while they were still fresh.”

“In case the beat cop forgets the details?”

She started to say, “Oh no, it's not,” but Dougherty said, “It's okay.” And then they were in front of Station Ten and he said, “Some things you don't forget.”

She smiled and held out her hand. “Well, there are lots of things I forget, so if I remember something I should have asked would it be okay if I come back and we talk again?”

“Anytime,” Dougherty said, shaking her hand. “Anytime.”

She squeezed a little harder on his hand, then let go and walked away.

After a minute Dougherty walked into the precinct and saw Delisle at the desk. “Hey, what's the MacDonald Triad?”

Delisle said, “I don't know, sounds like a bridge, where is it?”

Dougherty said he wasn't sure, and then Delisle said, “
Bon
, we have a call, the girls are going at it.”

“Where?”

“Baby Face.”

“The night hasn't even started. It's still light out.”

“Crazy dykes. Get down there before it gets into the street.”

Dougherty started out of the station, then said, “Who else is coming?”

“You think you need help?”

“Last time it was six of them.”

Delisle said, “Call if you need backup,” and Dougherty waved him off, knowing if he called it would take half an hour for anyone to show up anyway.

Friday night, going to be a long one.

chapter

six

Sunday dinner in Greenfield Park. The Park, as everybody called it, a little English town surrounded by Ville LeMoyne and Laflèche and Longueil and the rest of the French South Shore.

When Dougherty's parents bought the house in the Park he had one year left in high school and thought it was the worst thing they could've done, but now, driving over the Champlain Bridge, he could understand the move to the South Shore a little better. A two-storey semi, three bedrooms, a front yard, a backyard. Dougherty helped his dad finish the basement, putting down black-and-white tiles on the cement floor and knotty pine up on the walls. It was
Leave It to Beaver
, or it would've been if Dougherty and his father hadn't been fighting the whole time about what Eddie was going to with his life.

Just off the bridge and past the sign pointing to the Eastern Townships and New York State, Dougherty took the Taschereau Boulevard exit and drove past the motels and bars, the Canadian Tire and the Burger Ranch, and turned left at the Fina station into the Park. It felt a little like the Point, a tight-knit community surrounded by what the people felt were outsiders, people they never really associated with, separated by language. The two solitudes, like that book Dougherty was supposed to read in school but never finished.

But unlike the Point, this part of the Park was almost new, red brick duplexes and triplexes barely ten years old, skinny little maple trees on the front lawns. It could be a thousand miles away, not just across a bridge.

Dougherty's mother was working in the garden, kneeling in front of a flower bed that bordered the driveway, his father's old Pontiac backed in and ready to leave for work Monday morning. She looked up when she saw Dougherty parking on the street and then went right back to work, and he was thinking, Shit, are they fighting already?

The house was on the corner of Patricia and Margaret — the developer who had bought the property from the city had smoothed things over with the councillors by naming the streets after their wives: Margaret, Patricia, Dorothy, Gail, Vivian, Doris. Dougherty opened the gate in the white picket fence and walked into the side yard. His father was bent over an aluminum folding chair, weaving new vinyl ­strapping onto it, and when he looked up he looked happy.

“Son, grab this, will you,” he said, and Dougherty took an end of the vinyl while his father got the bolt into the hole in the frame and looked around on the ground.

Dougherty found the nut and handed it to his father, who tightened it in place and then turned the deck chair over and sat it on the patio. “There you go.”

Dougherty started to sit down but his father said, “Would you like a drink, a beer?”

“It's kind of early.”

“Can't be that early, your sister's up.”

Dougherty laughed and said, “Yeah, okay, I'll have a beer,” and followed him up the stairs and into the kitchen, where his father rolled his eyes at the ceiling and said, “It's not Benny Goodman,” and Dougherty listened to the music coming from Cheryl's room and said, “No, I think it's The Doors.”

They went back outside and sat on deck chairs, Dougherty's the newly repaired one and his father's looking like it would be next to go through the process, and Dougherty said, “Is Mom fighting with Cheryl again?”

“Again? You mean ‘still'?”

Dougherty shook his head and looked at the newspaper. “The posties going on strike?”

“Everybody's going on strike.”

Another thing they fought about. Dougherty couldn't understand his father, one minute defending all these guys going out on strike, going out on strike himself with the lineman's union at the Bell, talking about building the country from the ground up, the solid foundation, and the next minute going on about how Eddie needed to get a university degree and not be part of it.

“Well,” Dougherty said, thinking he should leave it alone even as the words were coming out, “maybe we'll be next. Marcil is trying to get us the right to strike.”

“After what happened last time?”

The Murray Hill riot during the one-day police strike the year before. A million dollars in damage and one off-duty cop from out of town killed. The army was called in, but by the time they got there it was all over.

Dougherty said, “Springate says, ‘Why ask for the right to strike if you're not going to use it?'”

“I knew Hanley couldn't hold his seat in the Point forever,” his father said, “but I never thought he'd lose it to a guy from Westmount.”

Dougherty thought about rising to that one but there was no way he was going to talk politics, and for once his father didn't press it. But then his father said, “Did you hear Mayor Drapeau talking about the bombs?”

“He's against them, right?”

“He says we have to admit there are no more freelancers — those responsible are well-paid professionals.”

“Yeah, he's been saying that,” Dougherty said. “Says they've been brought in from somewhere — Algeria or Cuba or something.”

“And Americans. He wants to crack down on draft dodgers again — says they're behind the bombs.”

“He keeps saying that, but we've never run into any yet.”

“Then he said that last year when Saulnier said there were groups out to destroy the city and the country, the whole thing, that people laughed at him.”

Dougherty said, “It was funny.”

“Oh, but now he says he's been proven right.”

“Is he finally going to get his royal commission?”

“He said they only aim at destroying for the sake of destroying — they have no new ideas, no better ideas.”

“Well,” Dougherty said, “they're getting us a lot of overtime.”

“Your mother's worried.”

Dougherty followed his father's look to the backyard and watched his mother work in the garden, pulling up weeds only she could see, and after a moment he said, “Did she talk to Cheryl about Brenda Webber?”

His father was lighting a cigarette, a Player's Plain, and before he could say anything the back door to the house opened and Cheryl came out onto the wooden balcony with another girl Dougherty didn't recognize. Cheryl's friends all looked the same to him these days, long straight hair, jeans, t-shirts, dazed expressions. Cheryl was saying, “Will it happen, do you know? It'll happen, won't it?” and Dougherty said, “What?”

“The Festival Express, it's coming, right?”

“I don't know.”

Cheryl and the other girl came down the stairs to the patio, and Cheryl said, “There's a rumour the cops are trying to stop it.”

“At least you didn't say pigs.”

She shook her head at him. “Are you going to stop it?”

“What, me?”

“The cops.”

“I have no idea, that's not my department.”

Cheryl said, “Typical, don't take any responsibility,” and Dougherty said, “Wow, I didn't think you knew that word.”

She ignored that. “They're saying because it's going to be on Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day there won't be enough cops for security.”

“Well, that's possible, Saint-Jean-Baptiste always takes a lot of us.”

“But why do they need so many cops? It's just a concert.”

Dougherty shrugged. “After what happened at the Autostade last month.”

“They called in the riot squad for no reason.”

“Seemed like a good reason at the time,” Dougherty said.

“Do you know who's on the Festival Express? Janis and The Grateful Dead and Mashmakhan and Robert Charlebois.”

“He's not going to be at a Saint-Jean-Baptiste party? Then there is going to be a riot.”

“We already bought our tickets — they were ten dollars.”

“Cheryl, I have no idea if they're going to let the concert go on or not.”

“It's going on in Toronto.”

“Good for them. They don't have bombs going off all the time. They won't have a parade and a riot on the same day as the concert.”

“I can't wait to get out of this stupid city.”

“So, you're eighteen — who's stopping you?”

“Screw you,” and she walked back up the stairs and into the house.

The friend stood there for a minute, smiling her dopey smile at Dougherty till he recognized her. “Frances Massey?”

She said, “Hi Eddie,” but then Cheryl said, “Franny, come on.” Franny kept smiling at him as she slowly walked back up the stairs and into the house.

Dougherty drank some beer. “Franny's sure changed; she's looking grown up.”

“How long till she's knocked up?”

Dougherty said, “Well, at least Cheryl's too crabby, you don't have to worry about that,” and his father shook his head and smiled a little.

Eddie lit a cigarette. “Is she going to CEGEP this year?”

“She's still upset about it.”

Dougherty said, “Well, what else is she going to do?” but he was thinking how he couldn't really blame her — imagine being a year away from finishing high school and the government brings in a whole new college system, CEGEP, which was a French acronym and Dougherty could never remember what the letters stood for other than college. Two more years before you can go to university and it pretty much makes your high school diploma worthless on its own.

“She's always talking about moving out,” his father said, “but I don't see any signs of it.”

“You don't want her to.”

“Not until she has some idea where she wants to go, what she wants to do.”

Dougherty left that alone and drank a little more beer and watched his mother finish up in the garden and walk towards the patio, looking like she could go either way, acting happy to see him or complaining right away.

“How was it, the funeral?” she said, and Dougherty said oh, realizing he should have expected that. “Good, you know, Protestant, looking for the good side.”

His mother scowled a little, then sat down on a deck chair and shook her head. Dougherty knew she just didn't really understand the Protestants and their Good News Bible and guitars in church. She still wasn't happy that mass wasn't in Latin anymore.


Mon dieu
, Millie must be going crazy.”

Dougherty didn't say anything and neither did his father. After a moment his mother said, “
Bon
, you have laundry?” and Dougherty said, “You think that's the only reason I visit.” She just stared at him and made a face until he said, “It's in my car, I'll get it.”

When he handed her the bag, he said, “I think you'll have to bleach the uniform shirts.” “You telling me how to do laundry?” she said, but she was mostly joking.

A minute later, though, as she was going downstairs to the basement, Dougherty could hear her yelling at Cheryl to turn the music down and Cheryl yelling back about it being the middle of the day and no one's trying to sleep. Then some more yelling and then the needle scraping across the record and a minute later Cheryl and Franny stomping out the back door with records under their arms, Cheryl saying, “We're going to Franny's,” and Franny saying, “I told you, my sister's there, we can't play records,” and they were out the gate and gone.

Dougherty and his father didn't say anything for a few minutes, enjoying the quiet on a summer day, and then Dougherty said, “Hey, I heard something on the radio — isn't it the D-Day anniversary today?”

“Yesterday, the sixth,” his father said.

Dougherty said, “Right, twenty-five years ago,”

“Twenty-six.”

“Yeah.” And Dougherty realized he didn't know very much about it, just what he'd seen in the movies. He said, “Where were you on D-Day?” realizing he didn't even know that.

“On a corvette in the English Channel.”

“Carrying troops?”

“Not on a corvette, too small. We were with the sweepers, looking for U-boats and mines.”

“Must have been something.”

“Yeah, something.”

Dougherty wanted to ask more questions but he didn't know where to start, and then Tommy came through the gate saying, “Hey Eddie,” and throwing a baseball that Dougherty managed to catch without spilling any beer.

Tommy was still on his bike, with its banana seat and high handlebars. “You staying for supper?”

Dougherty said, “Yeah, of course,” and then he said, “You playing ball?”

Tommy's baseball glove was hanging from the handlebar and he said, “Just throwing it around in the schoolyard.” He dropped his bike in the middle of the patio and ran into the house, the door slamming behind him.

Dougherty was thinking of something to ask his father, something about D-Day that might get him to open up and talk about it a little, but before he could come up with anything his father said, “It must have been hard to see Brenda Webber.”

Dougherty almost sighed with relief and said, “I thought it was Arlene. The last time I saw Brenda she was probably younger than Tommy is now.”

“She looked like Arlene?”

“Her face was bloated and purple, she'd been strangled and left in the field for a couple of days but I guess because I knew it would be her …” His voice trailed off and it was quiet for a moment. Then his father said, “It's a shocking thing to see a dead body.”

“Have you ever seen one?”

“Sometimes we'd hit a U-boat with a depth charge, bodies would come up to the surface.”

Dougherty finished off his beer and said, “What about guys you knew?”

“A few.”

Dougherty wanted to ask but he really had no idea what to say. He was starting to think he understood why there were no mementos of his father's service in the house, no pictures or medals — he was pretty sure his father must've had at least service medals — and why his father never really talked about it. But now he was thinking maybe his father never talked about to him because he wouldn't understand.

BOOK: Black Rock
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