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Authors: Terry Fallis

Poles Apart

BOOK: Poles Apart
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Winner, 2015 Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour

“As with his past novels, which include
The Best Laid Plans
The High Road
, Fallis employs an easygoing yet compelling writing style. The subject matter turns serious, at times, but Fallis keeps things light, finding humour in dark situations.… So what’s in a name? When it’s Terry Fallis, you know it means a good book.” –
National Post

“Terry Fallis is fast becoming a master of fiction writing.… In
No Relation
[he] employs his understated whimsy and sense for irony in a hilarious chronicle about a hard-luck fellow who loses his wallet, his copywriting job and his girlfriend one fateful day.… What delightful lunacy Fallis has concocted here, with a dollop of intrigue and even romance.” – Montreal

“Terry Fallis writes with a light touch and fine sense of the inherent humanity of humour, while still addressing one of the biggest questions we all have to face: Who are you? Who are you really?” – Will Ferguson, author of 419, winner of the 2012 Scotiabank Giller Prize

“Fallis fans, rejoice! Terry is back! … A humorous and heart-warming tale.” –

“Reading a Fallis novel is like watching
The Big Bang Theory
or some other well-scripted TV sitcom. You laugh, you are entertained, you return to your regular life slightly refreshed.” –
Quill & Quire

“An enjoyable romp.” – Kitchener-Waterloo

“Born of a cheerful mood and a clever mind, Terry Fallis’s
No Relation
is an endearing book with a big heart.” – Trevor Cole, author of
Practical Jean
, winner of the 2011 Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour

Also by Terry Fallis

The Best Laid Plans

The High Road

Up and Down

No Relation

© 2015

McClelland & Stewart is a division of Random House of Canada Limited, a Penguin Random House Company

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.

Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication is available upon request

ISBN: 978-0-7710-3619-4
ebook ISBN: 978-0-7710-3621-7

McClelland & Stewart,
a division of Random House of Canada Limited,
a Penguin Random House Company


For Nancy


“That the principle which regulates the existing social relations between the two sexes—the legal subordination of one sex to the other—is wrong in itself, and now one of the chief hindrances to human improvement; and that it ought to be replaced by a principle of perfect equality, admitting no power or privilege on the one side, nor disability on the other.”

John Stuart Mill                     

The Subjection of Women
, 1869


Grounding your wedge in a bunker is normally a two-stroke penalty. But for my father, only one stroke was assessed—the one that caused him to drop his club in the first place and crumple to the sand with empty eyes. This is how the whole thing started.

“Wait, Mom, you mean he just let go of his sand wedge in the middle of his shot and keeled over?” I asked.

“Sandwich? There was no sandwich involved. The doctor just told me he was swinging a golf club when it happened.”

“Mom, a sand wedge is a golf … never mind. When did this happen?”

“I just got off the phone with the doctor a few minu—?”

“No, not your talk with the doctor,” I cut in. “When did Dad have this stroke?”

“Oh, last Thursday.”

Last Thursday?
Hold on a second! My father has a stroke, and my mother waits nearly a week to tell me? What’s up with that?”

I was not happy. Apparently, neither was I in possession of the full picture.

“Whoa, back off, Ev. Don’t dump that on me. This is on your father. I just found out about six minutes ago when he called me from some rehab hospital in Orlando. Your dad and I spoke for a few minutes, but then he had to get back to his Jell-O, so he passed the phone over to his doctor. I called you immediately after,” she replied.

“Bizarre! Did no one think to call his next of kin? Isn’t that standard operating procedure at hospitals?”

I was upping my volume with each word.

“You know your father,” my mother replied, clearly exasperated. “It seems he told the doctor that his golfing cronies had already called me with the news. Then he told his posse to keep their yaps shut. They’re all idiots, your father included.”

“So he’s been in the hospital for nearly a week, alone, without telling us?”

“Well, he’s actually been in two hospitals,” Mom clarified. “He was golfing in Longwood, so the ambulance took him to, um, just checking my notes, to South Seminole Hospital. He spent a couple of days there but was then transferred to the Orlando Health Rehabilitation Institute and he’ll be there for a while.”

“But why the silent treatment?” I asked, in a tone that was the equivalent of a pout.

“Come on, Ev. We’re talking about your bullheaded, proud-to-a-fault, jerk of a father,” she said. “A stroke is a sign of weakness,
a chink in his armour, a tear in his cape. He got his ass kicked by a blot clot, and he was sensitive about it. They also told him he was already improving, so he kept it from us until he was feeling better. It’s completely consistent with your father’s past behaviour. Isn’t it?”

“Well, when you put it that way, I mean with your impressive collection of metaphors and all, I guess we shouldn’t be surprised.”

“Well, I wasn’t surprised. I’m not sure why you were. We’re talking about Billy Kane, here. Remember?”

I suddenly realized that I’d spent time taking offence at my dad’s solo approach to stroke management before covering off a question that was certainly more pressing than my own bruised feelings.

“Um, is he okay? Will he be okay?”

She sighed and paused before continuing.

“It seems it was a minor to moderate stroke on the right side of his brain. That’s why his speech was not affected. Unfortunately, he sounds the same to me. But, physically, it’s done some damage. He has suffered what the doctor calls ‘physical deficits’ on the left side of his body. He has reduced function in his left arm and particularly in his left leg.”

“So it will get better? He will get better, I mean, over time, right?”

“Well, he’s now a resident of this rehab hospital and will be for a month or so at least, as he relearns how to use his left side. The doctor says he has to forge new pathways in his brain for walking and other simple tasks that were lost in the stroke. He’ll be in
daily physiotherapy sessions and is expected to do a lot of walking on his own around the grounds.”

“That doesn’t sound too bad. But I wouldn’t want to be his physiotherapist. That’s going to be ugly,” I said. “Hey, who’s going to pay for all this medical care? We’re talking Florida, here. It’s going to cost a fortune.”

“His Ford benefits cover the whole thing, so there’s no financial hit.”

“You mean for Dad. But his next Ford might cost a bit more,” I said.

“They can afford it.” She paused again. “So anyway, um, I need you to do something for me, for us, for the family.”

That did not sound good.

“Okaaaaay,” I said in my best wary, sing-songy voice.

“Ev, even though he didn’t call until today, your father needs you, and I need you, now. I’m asking you to fly down to Orlando and kind of take care of him as he gets through this. You just have to be with him and walk with him and talk with him. Wait, before you answer, I’m stuck here in Vancouver and simply cannot get down there myself right now. I’m in the middle of strat planning and if that weren’t enough, I’ve got a major, major $200-million deal on the front burner and my time isn’t my own. I need you to step up, Ev. Your father needs you to step up.”

This was not good.

“Gee, Mom, I’d like to help, I really would, but I’m a freelance writer. I can’t just pack up my life on a moment’s notice and fly
to Florida for an indefinite period. I’m in the midst of a big assignment right now.”

There was silence on the end of the phone, except for the not-so-silent sigh. Okay, the sigh was quite audible, loud, even.

“Ev, let’s go through what you’ve just said, step by step,” she started.

This really was not good. I could see her end-game already.

“I’d really rather not …” I began.

“You’re living in a condo that I purchased as an investment property and you’re paying no rent.”

“Just till I get on my feet …”

“Are you in any kind of a long-term relationship with anyone right now?”

“Well, um, I see my local Starbucks barista almost every day.”

“I think you know that’s not the kind of relationship I mean. Are you involved with anyone romantically?”

“Yes, of course! Well, sort of. Um, no, not really. No.”

“Oh, I’m sorry, honey. What happened to what’s-her-name?”


“Right, Cassie,” she said. “Wait, let me guess. You did it again. I can’t believe you did it again. What’s this? Three in a row, now? And after I warned you. Still, you went and did it again. Ev, just stop already! The poor girl never had a chance.”

I snorted, but there was no heart in it.

“Mom, that’s ridiculous!” Good, start strong, I thought. “It wasn’t like that at all …” Uh-oh. I could feel myself nearing the
ledge. “Well, not exactly … um, well, sort of …” I stepped off. “Okay, it was quite a bit like that,” I said, officially in free fall, as I watched the ground race up to meet me.

BOOK: Poles Apart
12.72Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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