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Authors: Daniel Richler

Tags: #Fiction, #Literary, #General, #Humorous

Kicking Tomorrow

BOOK: Kicking Tomorrow
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“Wickedly funny but very pointed satire… Richler is to be congratulated for his sharp eyes, sharper wit and wonderful memory.”

– Kingston
Whig-Standard

“A combination of
Portnoy’s Complaint
and a gutsy
Catcher in the Rye
for the nineties.”


CBC-TV
’s
The Journal

“It’s a book that captures the hope that remains in the confusion of those terrible teenage years.…
Kicking Tomorrow
passes the most crucial test of these first novels of young angst: it rings true.… It’s a journey that’s rich in detail and in characters.…”

– Ottawa Citizen

“Vibrant, vivacious, daring.… Richler’s triumph is to convey the sometimes crass hedonism, sometimes unique genius, of the era with a bracingly astringent prose and a panache for language, setting, metaphor and empathy which is quite remarkable. The book coruscates, satirizes, surprises, amuses, informs and entertains.”

– Hamilton This Month

“Most men wouldn’t have the nerve to even show such a book to their mothers.”


Winnipeg Free Press

“Kicking Tomorrow
is a bitter satire of teenage rebellion in the ’70s, sometimes funny and often cruel – a cold, relentless gaze at people’s stupidity.…”

– London Free Press

“Richler has strolled into the room where they keep Canadian novels, kicked open the door, thrown open the windows and let in all the grit, grinding noise, despair, drugs, violence and humanity of the Montreal street. He has also lit a match that illuminates the decade of the ’70s, a time he calls ‘The Great Hangover,’ with unsparing and remarkable light.… Excellent.…”

– Calgary Herald

Copyright © 1991 by Daniel Richler

First published in trade paperback with flaps 1991
This trade paperback edition published 2002

All rights reserved. The use of any part of this publication reproduced, transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, or stored in a retrieval system, without the prior written consent of the publisher – or, in case of photocopying or other reprographic copying, a licence from the Canadian

Copyright Licensing Agency – is an infringement of the copyright law.

National Library of Canada Cataloguing in Publication Data

Richler, Daniel
Kicking tomorrow : a novel
eISBN: 978-1-55199-438-3
I. Title.
PS8585.1367K52 1991      c813’.54      C91-093644-7
PR9199.3.R49K53 1991

We acknowledge the financial support of the Government of Canada through the Book Publishing Industry Development Program for our publishing activities. We further acknowledge the support of the Canada Council for the Arts and the Ontario Arts Council for our publishing program.

Many thanks to Jack McClelland for his tough editorial advice and his fierce support. Also to Ellen Seligman, Jennifer Glossop, and Linda Williams for whipping this thing into shape; to Hélène Holden for the rah-rahs so many years ago; to Janet Turnbull for her hearty laughter, and to the Ontario Arts Council for keeping me in paper and typewriter ribbons.

McClelland & Stewart Ltd.
75 Sherbourne Street
Toronto, Ontario
M5A 2P9
www.mcclelland.com

v3.1

 

 

 

For my mother, Florence

 

 

DO YOU LIKE THIS GARDEN THAT IS YOURS?
SEE TO IT THAT YOUR CHILDREN DO NOT DESTROY IT!

– Malcolm Lowry,
Under the Volcano

CONTENTS
I
1

ROBBIE BOOKBINDER FIGURED THAT BATTLING OPPRESSION,
routine, mediocrity, and parents had given his eyes a gunslinger’s squint; they appeared to him to have been fried in the sandy skillet of some Mexican gulch – thousand-yard eyes,
El Topo
eyes, pale blue panes on an arid sky. But when he took his spread-legged square-jawed bell-bottomed stance in the doorway of the living room to confront his old man, he caught a reflection of himself in the mirror by the light switch and realized, sadly, that this magnificent stare was largely a figment of his own imagination. Not remotely like a Man With No Name. Not even close. Bummer. For he suddenly saw that in moments of conflict he had a pathetic kind of canine attention about him – the heavy bangs of mongrel-brown hair, the flat nose on the same plane as his forehead, his face as well-fed as a pedigreed pup – a dumb mutt pausing on the verge of comprehension, panting hard, wondering, Where’s the stick?

He barrelled on angrily anyhow, with all the taut collected energy of a little boy lolloping down a hill unable to stop; he stood in the door of the living room – which smelled of whisky and farts, like a saloon – fists on hips, and shot his question.

“Dad, what the fuck – pardon me – do you
do?
Exactly.”

Dad lay flopped on the couch, a bottle of Canadian Club on the carpet between him and the
TV
, the husk of an orange peel high up on his swollen beebody abdomen. He groaned his patented Groan of Ages, turning over, in Robbie’s slit-eyed view, like some spiced beast on a spit. Meanwhile
Lapointe’s at the blue line!
It’s so late in the season the ice is soft and steaming, but still
he winds up for the shot, he shoots, he
- no!
Off the goalpost!

“Look, aum, Robbie. Now’s not the –
OK
? Your timing is–I’m so tired I can barely – why don’t you come and, aum -”

“Chris
sake
, Dad–”

“All right, all -” He leaned up on one elbow. “Look, there’s nine, ahh, what do you – numbers, okay. And a zero for good measure. I jumble them up.” Then turned over into the hot pillows, and went back to sleep.

Arf arf, so funny Robbie forgot to laugh. Stamping down the stairs to the dungeon now, the walls there thick with posters pinned up one over the other – shredded skins of colour peeling like the lining of an acid stomach, as Dad once so wittily pointed out – plus a Canadian flag hanging from the ceiling, red marijuana leaf where the maple leaf should be. Robbie crouched down on his haunches, knees on either side of his ears, fingers sprung taut on the carpet before him. He looked up to burn a hole through the ceiling, heating the couch-springs to roast Dad’s prone arse, and singing under his breath,
All parents must die, all parents must die
.

This little pop ditty with major chart potential he’d made up himself, and it was the blistering bone-crushing opener as he pictured himself towering over Montreal on gigantic amplified billboards, driving adults mad with grief. This wasn’t music, this was
war
, and he churned hot saliva around in his throat to make it: he kicked holes in the walls of the den as the vicious viscous stuff spat out from the neon jaws of jean stores, head shops,
brasseries, and pinball parlours all along Ste-Catherine Street. He punctured the asbestos ceiling tiles with his broomhandle, yelling into the bristles, buzzing the sound systems of the Ritz Carlton hotel and the Place Ville-Marie shopping centre, making mincemeat of their PA systems. Kicking beanbag chairs across the floor he gave authority figures an instant headache wherever they were: down at Station 10, on the Métro, at Jarry Park as Tim Foli stepped up to the plate, in funeral homes even – as Dad had once said, this stuff was loud enough to wake the dead. At Saint Joseph’s Oratory the heavy vibrations of his amplified guts caused the crutches and braces discarded by the faithful to fall clattering across the flagstones, sending echoes around the great dome. In a snowstorm of polystyrene pellets his supersonic voice jammed cop cruisers, cabs, and airport towers, blitzed through banks to make the money jump in the trays, and disturbed the electrical currents of dental offices to grind the patients’ teeth unpleasantly. Ladies and gentlemen: the horrible
HELL’S YELLS
!

At breakfast next day, rising at the crack of noon, he found Miriam’s and Barnabus’ cereal bowls on the kitchen table, the oatmeal dregs hardened to cement, the spoons stuck fast, plus a memo Dad had left:

Re: your group. How about “Halitosis.”

Robbie read it over his Sugar Krunchies, an upward-curving line of milk forming between his lips in spite of himself. He could just see the old clown putting on his livid display of
Night of the Living Dead
gums, arf arf, going for an orange from the fruit bowl.
Braiins
, thought Robbie,
All parents must die
.

Slumping downstairs again. Through the mould-skinned mud-splattered window at the level of the garden’s rhododendron
bushes, a fine summer’s day glimmered greenly. Out there in the city the Olympics were setting up, hot on the heels of the Stanley Cup, and pageantry was in the air. But Robbie lurked. He’d already lurked there all winter – after his high school burned down and sweet Ivy was taken to hospital – wearing his attitude like so much rusting spiked armour; having drunk from the bitter cup of experience he was lording it these days, like Yertle the Turtle, over all he could see. He’d spent the lingering bleak thaw-months of winter mulling over the terrible things he’d witnessed, absently rubbing his prickling guilty skin, dropping Quaaludes in his beer. Xmas his parents had bought him a fifties-style Coke machine, which he’d since meticulously repainted to read, in the trademark wavy lettering,
Cocaine
, and stocked to dispense a pharmaceutical variety of drugs. There was a bitter pungency–the reek of hash oil – and a label that read,

REFRESH YOURSELF! ONLY 5 CENTS!

Refreshed, he’d brooded at the dungeon’s frosted, then dribbling windows, and listened to his hair grow, down to his shoulders by May, as long and tangled, as invested with puissance and vertu, as the manes of the exiled Merovingian kings of the Dark Ages. He stared into the smeary sun, cheerless as a plain aspirin dissolving, and planned on not ever being nice to anyone again.

Nine numbers and a zero. So it was corporate something. Or legal something. Or –
government
something? Or all three. Same difference; he worked for the Man. Unlike Robbie, who worked for no one. Like the Hell’s Angels (the knights of new, slewing and smoting in search of their Grail – the bottomless amphetamine-still), he was a one-percenter, riding outside of the law. He was free, he could do what he wanted with his days.

For instance, just on a whim, if he wanted, today he could pay a visit to Dad’s office – to bug the ass of the old geez more than
anything, score a free lunch maybe, try to talk about the school fire, unburden himself a little, provoke some concern, even seek advice re: Ivy, or at the very least, if his timing was – aum – get a lucrative kiss-off for the afternoon.

That morning a brief torrential rainstorm had flushed the mugginess of the city into the St. Lawrence River, leaving cars and buildings gleaming and the mountain benevolently green. Now he strode down Westmount’s steep streets barefoot, side-stepping the worms that wriggled on the sidewalks, rinsed up from the lawns. He descended into the city and, look, the good vibes were all around – like, check out this smiling guy with a headband and loon pants, handing out leaflets from a Navajo satchel.

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