This is a post that was put on the first iteration of the Fat Dog blog. I wrote it in my first few years of trying to figure this thing out, possibly even the first year. I’m a better writer now, but the story in it is worth sharing. I’ve touched the post up a bit, but I’ve left it mostly unchanged from when I wrote it, which would be in 201. Probably. Enjoy.
As with all my posts that involve the stories of others, names have been changed.
My shiny red Cavalier sat frozen to the street outside my townhouse. It was the somewhere in the grey, early months of 2010 and I was supposed to be on my way to work at the steakhouse. My bedroom window was frosted over and at the time, I had a rare burst of ambition and drive to get to work. Problem was that the drive wasn't in a car. I had forgot to plug it in and found myself on the phone with a dispatch woman.
The cab appeared in about 10 minutes, ready and warm. In a city overwhelmed with taxi companies, it was rare to get a cabbie who was fluent in English, but it was a rare type of day. I hop in up front with my bag on my lap and we exchange names and pleasantries about the weather. I tell him I'm going to the steakhouse, but I need a pack of smokes first.
Gus was a warm old man who the cab seemingly grew out of. His beard was long, and his voice was welcoming. He had the stereotypical bead covers on both his seat and mine, and the cushion itself was so well loved that it swallowed me whole. Both the man and the car smelt of cigarettes and coffee. He had his radio turned down low, inviting the conversation like the cab drivers you see in movies.
We pull up to the Mac's on the corner by the house and I get my smokes. He has a pack in his hand when I get back in the car, and tells me if I need one, have one—just keep it low, 'cause technically it's still illegal. We share a light and take off down Resources Road while he begins telling me something that never left me.
His name was Gus, and he used to be the biker type. Looking at him that day, I believed it, he had the grizzled Santa look going on—but he was working it, as the old biker crowd is want to do. He would ride from town to town with nothing more than a bed roll and his guitar, living the life. And I mean it: women, drinking and the hardest of drugs.
After decades of the life, Gus found himself hooked on the junk. Mr. Brownstone, so they say. The H, smack, Harry Jones, and so on. After years he found himself burnt out and in need of a change, so he checked into a rehab facility in southern Alberta. While in the support groups, he met a young kid. I was about 20 and Gus said the kid was maybe my age at the time, himself pushing 40.
The pair became an unlikely duo and used their friendship to pull themselves towards better lives from within the facility. They had the same taste in music, their senses of humour gelled, and they seemed to flourish together. Wanting to know more about his companion, Gus inquired to the whereabouts of the kid's parents.
He said his mom raised him alone because dad was the vagabond type. She was young and hand a fling with a biker who left town the next day and she was left without even an address. Just a picture. The kid didn't have it with him, for obvious reasons, but he described the photo to Gus in detail.
Gus' words were, "as he started telling me what his dad looked like, I wanted to stop him. I knew exactly who his mother was." The kid's dad sat on his bike 20 years ago in the photo, his guitar strapped to his back, flipping off the camera. The kid, was indeed, Gus' kid.
After all those years and all those women, all those kilometres and all the shit he had gone through, the universe handed him something to explain the way he felt about the young man. That feeling in your blood when you know that somebody is something else to you, something else you're completely unaware of until a moment like that.
He and his son graduated their program together and as will happen in life, they went their separate ways. They kept in touch with the occasional phone call, always exchanging addresses and stories, but Gus said that the kid just lived too fast. It was almost like the universe put aligned again them so father could bury son.
Gus managed to keep his nose clean, at least until that day in 2010. I never saw him again, but I think about his story from time to time and think of the way the world works. I don’t know if I’ll ever understand.
See you tomorrow.
Writer, performer, producer and musician from Alberta.