CONTESTS

Fidelity

BILL ENGLESON

1969 – Taber

You drink enough beer, and the floor isn’t so bad. We had shekels enough for a motel but our new buddy, Charles, offered us tolerable accommodation. Lonnie got the couch. I got the air mattress. That was a moment. My well-oiled body loved that air mattress.

2020

I haven’t moved from this chair in fifteen years. Hyperbole, eh! But I spend a ton of time here. Pouring out reminiscences. Bits and pieces. Moments. Can’t believe they have kept so well. It’s all so clear.

Clear as a virus. Clear as memory.

Where was I?

1969 – a day later

The best thing I could say about Lonnie’s beater was that it was demolition derby worthy. And that’s being kind. An early fifties Austin. Or a Hillman. Brit jobbie, anyways. Burned oil like a tramp steamer. Conked out in the pretty little town of Wolseley. We dumped her on the main drag, scurried back to Highway 1, and hitched our way to the Peg. Lonnie knew a chick. Pardon me—a young woman. Dora. Figured we’d crash at her place. Catch a bus when we were good and ready. Once we settled into Dora’s digs, it turned out Lonnie wouldn’t be good and ready. They had history. First kiss. Age twelve. He was—she was thirteen. Older woman blues clung to him like a cobweb.

2020

I watch the travel shows these days: Beachfront Hullabaloo, that sort of show. Seaside condos. Getaway places. Even during this pandemic, people are trying to get away. Not me. Once, maybe. Cuba.

1969 – two days later

Splurged on a train ride. Safer. Easier. Lonnie said, “I can’t leave her again.” Travelling companions. Men of the road. Harpooned in Winnipeg. Too young. In my head, I was off to Cuba. Help Castro bring in the crops. No real plan. Just a big fat dream. Caroline and Pat were friends of friends. Caroline and Trish were once simpatico. Trish was acey-deucy. Sexually, I mean. Is that the term? Anyways, Caroline said, “Sure, bunk in. Love to have you.” A little apartment above a grocery store. Yonge St. No air mattress, though. A pullout couch. I adapted. Beggars can’t be … can they?

2020

I could count the number of years if I had enough fingers. My little joke. The years count themselves, don’t they? They’re relentless.

1969 – Summer

I couldn’t seem to find my feet in TO. Aimless, I suppose. Lazy. Early August, C and T left for Woodstock. Had the place to myself. They said, “Come with us. It’ll be a blast.” I said, “Saving to go to Cuba.”

That was a big lie.

I lingered on. In October, I headed back to the coast. Stopped off in soon-to-be Winterpeg.

“Lonnie’s gone,” Dora wailed. “He left me for Cuba a month ago.”

She looked broken.

2020

Lonnie and I keep in touch. Close, but distant, you know. Never quite adjusted to Dora and me. Here she comes. Bringing me my evening tea. Better wrap this up, pay her some attention.

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BILL ENGLESON

Bill Engleson is a retired child welfare social worker. He writes fiction, non-fiction and poetry. He is the author of the novel Like a Child to Home and the collection of essays Confessions of an Inadvertently Gentrifying Soul (Silver Bow Publishing). He lives at engleson.ca and on Denman Island, BC.


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