Chapter Two: Seeing An Angel

John woke up the next morning with Scott’s words ringing through his head; “I know nothing ‘bout any cocaine, man, you crazy.” It reassured him. The past is dead and buried, he thought, but then he remembered the bouncer who had blocked their way to the door…

“Yeah boss, there were two of them that ducked out into the alley before you split. One black and one white. They must have lifted the stash that you threw into the dumpster. They said they were underage, that’s why I let them through. Yeah, we’ll start checking the high schools right away.”

John quickly killed that train of thought and went to the kitchen to have his breakfast. His parents were already there, mother at the stove, father at the table. It was just another ordinary Sunday breakfast for them both. John’s sister Rachel was probably in London or somewhere in the air over the Atlantic. She was a stewardess for Air Canada.

“You were out late last night,” Mr. Poleshaw said, as John sat down to the table.
“Who, me?”
“Oh God, what am I supposed to do with a son who can’t keep decent hours?”
“You don’t have to wait up for me.”
“You know dear that I can’t get to sleep until you’re home,” John’s mother said.
“Your concern in my well-being is most touching,” John said, giving her one of his most sincere looks. She smiled and waggled a finger at him. His father let out a heavy sigh.
“We’re going to be late for church. Hurry up and eat that boiled egg of yours.”
“No problem.”

John got dressed for church, wearing a suit, tie, and shoes that desparately needed a polish. The family entered Mr. Poleshaw’s almost brand-new 1981 Saab to drive to church. It was his proudest posession besides his house. During the trip, John counted the number of drunks who did not make it home from the night before but rather decided to lie down on the sidewalk. John counted only two, a sure sign that summer was ending. That, or the police were cracking down.

At church the family took a pew right in the middle ranks (whoever shall be first shall be last…) and the service started. John sang the hyms that were required of him, and actually paid attention to the sermon for once. One time he had nearly fallen asleep because of a strenous workout the evening before, and had been made to pay dearly. So he behaved himself. However, halfway through the service a pretty brunette who John had never seen before turned her head and made eye contact with him. She quickly turned her head back, but it was too late. Infatuation.

The rest of the service passed quickly without John paying too much attention to it. Afterwards, John went downstairs to the fellowship hall for coffee. The brunette stood in one of the far corners. John strolled casually over to one of his friends, Timothy.

“Hey Tim, how’s it going?”
“Pretty good John, pretty good. And yourself?”
“Mediocre. The first few weeks of school are always depressing for me.”
“Yeah, I know what you mean.”
“Say, listen Tim, do you know the name of that brunette over there?”
“Yep, the name is Jennifer. She just moved from Montreal last week, her old man is some executive from some shipping company. Very rich. Father Federick is happy to welcome some new sheep to the flock, especially when they have so much fine wool available for plucking.”
John marveled at the comprehensiveness of Tim’s briefing.
“And how did you learn all of this?”
“She was at church youth group last week. She’s very nice, almost makes me wish I wasn’t going out with Susan. By the way, where were you?”
“I was lured into a house of sin and forced to consume much alcohol.”
“Do you like her?”
“Who me? She looks alright, that’s all.”
“Good, then you won’t be nervous. Hey, Jen!”
Tim waved Jennifer over. John muttered a curse under his breath.
“Hi Tim,” she said.
“How ya doing Jen? I just wanted to introduce you to our resident football demi-god, John Poleshaw. John, this here is Jennifer Montgomery.”
“Hello, Jennifer.”
“Nice to meet you.”
Think fast, you big dummy, John thought. Small talk, small talk.
“So I guess being from Montreal means you find the French classes here pretty easy eh?”
“I’m not taking any French classes here, it’s nice not to have to. In Quebec, I had to go to a French school, that’s the law. Here, I’m going to Sir Robert Borden and I like speaking English a lot better. What school do you go to?
“Laurentian,” John said, and winced inside. S.R.B. was one of the better prep schools in Vancouver, while Laurentian had a city-wide rep as one of the worst places to send your kid unless they knew karate.
Jennifer was about to say something but her little sister came over to tug at her sleeve and tell her the family was leaving.
“Oh gotta go guys; see you later.”
“Take care Jen,” Tim said.

After she walked out of earshot, Tim turned to comfort John with a sympathetic “Tough luck.” “Shit. Why did I have to bring up the subject of school?”
“Hey man, she’s no snob. Talking to her last week, she ain’t impressed by flash and dash.”
But Tim stopped for a minute and started to speak more carefully.
“Look John, why don’t you do the smart thing and transfer to a different school, instead of hanging your head everytime the topic comes up? God knows my school could use a good tight end.”
That was the position John played at in football. He was very good at it.
“Yours charges tuition, and my old man is tight,” John said.
“Then why not somewhere else, anywhere but Laurentian. Man, don’t jerk me, you got the grades.”
John shrugged his shoulders. “All my friends are at Laurentian.”
“Friends? They’d carve you up for a gram of brown hash.”
“No they wouldn’t. They’re not that good with a blade.”
Tim shook his head and turned to walk away. “See you at Youth Group. Are you coming?” “Yeah sure. Hey is Jennifer going?”
“As far as I know.”
“About transferring schools; I’ll think about it.”
“You do that mon, you do that.”
Now alone in the crowd, John suddenly felt very tired. He decided he needed a coffee.

John’s family lunched over tomato soup, sausage rolls, and celery. John hated tomato soup. “Who was that girl you were talking to at church today, dear?” John’s mother asked.
He paused between bites of a sausage rolls and feigned indifference.
“Oh. Her name’s Jennifer, she’s new; just came down from Montreal.”
“My son the stud,” Mr. Poleshaw said.
“Oh for God’s sake, I just talked to her.”
“Just make sure it stays that way.”
“Now what the hell is that? A hands-off order?”
“Look son, we don’t need anymore `incidents.’”
John lost his temper completely. “The kid wasn’t mine,” he shouted.
“That’s not the point.”
“Don’t you understand? The bitch was cheating on me! THE BLOOD TEST WAS NEGATIVE!” “Stop this, please stop.” John’s mother shouted, and started to cry.

That calmed John and his father down enough that the family was able to finish lunch. Nothing else was said, although the suspense was excruciating. John excused himself from the table barely able to contain the turmoil of repressed memories within him. It had happened two years ago, when John’s girlfriend had announced she was pregnant. John’s family had paid for her expenses to drop out of school and live in an apartment, as well as her medical needs not covered by insurance. John and she had had sex only three times, and he had never slept with her after knowing about the pregnancy. He had lost his virginity to this eighteen-year-old girl who had been kicked out her Mom’s house at the age of sixteen. After Mr. Poleshaw found out the baby wasn’t John’s, he cut off all financial support and forbade John from ever communicating with her again. That was easy, because John didn’t want to see her anyway. That bitch, John thought, that bitch. She put me through hell just to get first and last month’s rent. Only after two years did the incident start to fade from John’s everyday consciousness. But to remember was to feel hurt and betrayed.

The afternoon moved slowly for John as he idly flipped through the TV channels and lifted a few weights. By dinnertime the family had reached an unspoken agreement that the whole incident at lunch never happened. Buried under dirt and soil on unstable ground that shifted and turned over unless one trod carefully. But they could think of no other way of coping. During a dinner of excellent perogies and sausage, John announced that he was going to Youth Group and Mr. Poleshaw gave his ostensible approval, as if it would hide his unease. My boy is just growing way too fast he thought later in the night. Some evenings during the week, especially after a tough football practice, John would come home with lines on his face and a slow, shuffling walk. Sometimes he acted old too, adult, grown-up. No, that wasn’t it; he said cynical things sometimes like a bitter old man.

When John stepped out into the cool air of the evening, he relaxed for the first time that day. More than anything else, he enjoyed walking alone, away from the attention and expectations of others. The afternoon had passed slowly for him; even ABC’s Wide World of Sports had featured nothing more interesting than a badminton match. He arrived at the church early, and the few that had come before him nodded and said hello and then did their best to ignore him. This had already started before the scandal with his ex-girlfriend. He wore a jean jacket to Youth Group. He drank and every once in awhile smoke cigarettes. He did not fit in, he was a loser. John felt the ripples of disapproval in what he said or did, but he cared less and less. He felt like a planet in a slowly degrading orbit. Without knowing, he had developed a habit lately of staring through people.

Tim entered by the side door with Susan on his arm. John had wished for himself at one time but now the chance was irrecoverably lost. He bode Tim no ill will. “How’s it going bro?” Tim saluted John, then he disappeared into the meeting where everybody else started to gather. Tim and Susan and John were the oldest members of the group; there had been others but one by one they had left for personal reasons. The parish council had specific ideas as to how a youth group should be run, what could be allowed and what not. One member had been made not welcome because of a drinking problem. Another member had gotten pregnant. Others simply stopped coming. But lately the group had been regenerating, with the vast majority of the members now under the age of fourteen. John followed Tim into the meeting room, stopping momentarily at the door which was his unconscious habit. In this manner, he also drew attention to himself, making others aware of his presense. After John, Jennifer arrived fashionably late and he resisted the urge to stare. The leader of the youth group, a deeply religious man of twenty-seven with clerical aspirations, opened the meeting with a prayer. That was followed by general business, which consisted mostly of ideas on how to spend youth groups funds acquired through babysittings and car-washes. The discussion petered out unresolved, like always.

Bible study focussed on Romans. A hard epistle to understand. John liked the parables in the gospel much better. The mustard seed. The story of the talents. Every once in awhile the discussion would go off on tangents like why was there evil in the world? How can we have free will if God is all-powerful. What was it like in heaven? When John thought of heaven he always thought of the sunshine coast, the point on the beach where one had a clear view of the Georgia Strait and the coastal mountains. The day would be sunny but not entirely clear, with clouds hugging the mountains like a sheet. There would be salmon in the rives and oysters in the sand. When John was much younger, the family would rent a cottage on one of the islands in the sunshine coast and Rachel would take him out for a walk on the shore and hold his hand.

Twice during the meeting John caught Jennifer staring at him, but she always looked away when he tried to catch her eye. After the meeting she left in a hurry, and John was tremendously disappointed. It would have been a surprise to John if somebody had told him then and there that he would never attend youth group again. And later in life, when John looked back on what happened and why it happened, he couldn’t remember the reason why he had stopped attending, why he stopped believing. The memory would haunt him as he would think to himself: Here was a fork in the road. I went the wrong way.

Copyright 2008 by DJ Dunkerley. All Rights Reserved

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