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Authors: Patrick Warner

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Double Talk

BOOK: Double Talk
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double talk

double talk
A NOVEL

PATRICK WARNER

LIBRARY AND ARCHIVES CANADA CATALOGUING IN PUBLICATION
Warner, Patrick, 1963-
Double Talk / Patrick Warner.
ISBN 978-1-55081-347-0
I. Title.
PS8595.A7756D68 2011      C813'.6      C2011-900439-9

© 2011 Patrick Warner
Cover Image: Michael Hitoshi

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the prior written consent of the publisher or a licence from The Canadian Copyright Licensing Agency (Access Copyright). For an Access Copyright licence, visit
www.accesscopyright.ca
or call toll free to 1-800-893-5777.
PRINTED IN CANADA.

We acknowledge the support of the Canada Council for the Arts which last year invested $20.1 million in writing and publishing throughout Canada, the Government of Canada through the Canada Book Fund and the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador through the department of Tourism, Culture and Recreation for our publishing activities.

BREAKWATER BOOKS
     |     
www.breakwaterbooks.com

To Rochelle

Table of Contents

I

Violet Budd

Baby Power

II

Violet Budd

Baby Power

III

Violet Budd

Baby Power

IV

Violet Budd

Baby Power

V

Violet Budd

Baby Power

VI

Violet Budd

Baby Power

Acknowledgements

I

Violet
Budd

Violet has almost finished the kitchen when she hears a gentle knock on the front door. She looks up, can't believe it's already dark outside. Her heart immediately begins to pound, but in a trippy, irregular pattern. She tries not to panic, tells herself it might not be him. It might be a courier delivery. There comes a more insistent knock on the living room window. She looks and sees the face of her one-time partner pressed against the storm glass, his nose tip flattened. She thinks of stocking masks and garden slugs on the underside of the patio table. She waves and walks towards him, noting as she does that with the windows stripped of their curtains and the lights on, she has been on display in her own home. Like one of those prostitutes in Amsterdam. In the back of her mind she hears Marta, her last counsellor, softly advising: Perhaps unconsciously you were feeling exposed all along. At the very least it would explain why she piled so many heavy boxes in the front porch, so many she has left no room for the door to swing in. She will have no choice but to hand him his stuff through the window.

“Hi, Brian.”

He looks the same, she thinks, only older. His hair is starting to show streaks of grey, though he still wears it long and swept back. He is dressed smartly, as always, that day wearing a hound's-tooth blazer and wine-coloured straight-legged jeans. Doc Martens shoes have replaced Doc Martens boots, which sometime in the late eighties replaced his beloved desert boots. More recently, he has started to weave into his wardrobe some grunge elements, ditching his Indian cotton shirts for T-shirts sporting the names and artwork of local bands:
Dog Meat BBQ
is splashed across his chest in black ink. He still looks boyish, she thinks, although not in a good way. His clothes now tag him as one of an ever-expanding group of men who use the idea of counterculture as an excuse not to grow up. He is wearing a silver circle and cross earring, and she guesses from this that he is dating a younger woman. Later, on the phone with Nancy, she will imagine this mystery girl to be a graduate student, a young woman who has mistaken Brian's laid-back ways as an endorsement of her feminism, while at the same time mistaking for love the degree to which he satisfies her repressed maternal instincts. Violet and Nancy will both cackle at this and for a few moments feel tight once again.

Looking down at Brian where he stands on the sidewalk, Violet feels the pressure of the one memory she has been keeping at bay all that day: the afternoon, two years earlier, when it all fell apart for them. She doesn't want to go there, but knows there are just some memories that walk into your life as if they own it.

On the day in question, Brian had just finished a small web-design job for a sexual health store and was on his way out to collect payment — five hundred in cash, some of which he had promised to give Violet for Lucy's school shopping. He was excited about the animation he'd done on the BenWa balls and was hoping he could parlay it into more design work. He told Violet he would be home by five, but then called and left a message to say he was going for a quick drink with Frank James. By midnight he still wasn't home.

Violet couldn't say how long she lay awake that night, her bed a rotisserie in which she took star turns as the next Lorena Bobbitt. She didn't remember falling asleep either, though she remembered waking up, startled by the sound of a body crashing down on the army cot in the office across the hall. She sat up in bed and peered through the half light at his open door. She could see a pair of green boots poking out the end of his bed — a puzzle because she knew Brian didn't own cowboy boots. More curious than freaked out, she tiptoed to his room to find him lying on his back, snoring, the air already rank with the smell of stale beer and cigarette smoke.

Bastard. Goddamn bastard, she thought, as she pulled off his new pointy-toed boots, slipping the soft leather over his bony heels. Brian half woke up and in a pitiful voice thanked her.

“Fuck you, Brian.”

“Don't be like that, Vi, honey.” He passed out again.

Violet went downstairs and placed the boots in the middle of the kitchen table. She leaned against the counter, arms folded, and stared at them. One boot stood straight up, while the other, no matter how many times she set it straight, kept flopping over at the ankle. Bright green — rattlesnake skin, the inside label said — with peach-coloured satin lining and little silver toe-cap protectors. They had personality. Yes siree, she thought, they had low-life written all over them. At the same time, she could see they were well made, expensive. A quick look in the junk room turned up the shoe box where he had thrown it. She opened it up to find his old trainers and a receipt for $350 from Ron Pollard Shoes. The rest of the money, she guessed — and rightly as it turned out — had been pissed down a drain.

It was in the junk room that she confronted him nine hours later when he finally appeared, all sheepish and swollen-eyed, his cheek sporting the bedspread's pattern. She promised herself she would remain calm. “Hey, mister. Tied one on, eh?”

Brian looked at Violet as if he had seen her somewhere before.

“These have got to go back.” She handed him the boots, which she had carefully cleaned and wrapped in crepe paper before placing them back in the box. “The receipt's inside.”

He scowled. His lips looked raw, blistered.

“Brian, for Christ's sake, that money was supposed to go towards Lucy's school shopping.”

“So?”

“So I want you to take them back, get a goddamn refund. And when you've done that you can get the fuck out of this house. We don't want you here anymore.” Things were not going according to script.

Brian snapped awake: “Those are
my
boots, bought with
my
money. And this is
my
house. And those children are mine as much as yours — where are the children, by the way?” He suddenly looked confused and guilty, as though he had been looking after the children and had completely forgotten about them.

“They're at Nancy and Keppie's.”

He took a deep breath and when he spoke again his voice was thin and papery as a wasp's nest. Violet knew he was about to blow. “Just who the fuck are you to tell me what the fuck I can and can't do? I'll do what the fuck I like. And you've got another fucking think coming if you think I'm going to let a cunt like you take my children away from me.”

Cunt
stung a bit. It always did, no matter how hard she tried to hide it. Violet thinks it's the ugliest word in the language. She felt a huge wave of sadness well up inside her.

“Oh that's it, go on, fucking cry.”

BOOK: Double Talk
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