Acaphlegmic showed up a week or so ago and hadn’t returned back to wherever it was he had returned from, remaining cagey about where exactly that was.
He sat across from me, feet up on my desk, reading the Toronto Sun. Turning pages with a frequency that suggested he wasn’t reading much of the material, he’d occasionally let out a chuckle. A chuckle that sounded, to my ears at least, entirely insincere.
Heh, heh, heh, heh. Heh, heh, heh, heh. Heh. Heh. Heh.
“Why are you pretend laughing?”
“Would you prefer to hear me pretend cry?”
Yeah, OK. I got it. He was winding up for a Sun ablution. It was probably the only reason he came back. In fact, I was somewhat surprised it had taken him this long to get to it.
I let out the requisite sigh. There was an order to this ritual.
Followed by a longish pause but hardly Mametian in scope. A couple ..s Not …
“Why do you bother? Seriously. You can’t be surprised by anything in there.”
Acaphlegmic gave the newspaper a flick before setting it down, still open on his chest. He stared at me for a long time, long enough to think that he’d forgotten how this chat went. His eyes then turned back down to the paper. He brushed some stuff off of it into his lap.
“It’s hardly surprise I’m looking for here, my friend. Repentance. Repentance is what I want. What I demand.”
He then picked up the paper back up and began flipping wildly through it.
“I want Saul on the road to Damascus repentance from the Toronto Sun. Struck blind by the light of reason and true seeing.”
“That’s more conversion than repentance, wouldn’t you say?”
Continuing to flip back and forth between pages, clearly on the hunt for something in particular, he shook his head as if he were trying to get rid of a disagreeable image.
“You can’t convert without repenting first. There has to be an admission of past mistakes and misjudgements. That’s just basic biblical law.”
Really? I wasn’t versed enough in religious studies to know if that was true. Acaphlegmic had always claimed to be a former seminarian. That could mean anything, of course.
Finding what he was looking for, Acaphlegmic folded the paper in half and set it down in front of me. Toronto councillors quietly boost office budgets by Sue-Ann Levy. Ah, yes. Back At the Trough.
“You know of this lady’s work, I trust?”
Heh, heh, heh, heh. Heh, heh, heh, heh. Heh. Heh. Heh.
Did I know this lady’s work.
“Yeah. So what? If you’re looking for repentance, you’re barking up the wrong tree, bucko. That lady ain’t for turning.”
Acaphlegmic sat back in his chair, shaking his head. He didn’t believe what I’d said. Small movements, big refusal. Like De Niro had just before he smashed a glass into your face.
“But with so much going on, so much the city faces, how long can you hold on to such minor matters before you just burst into indignant flames of self-loathing and contempt? How does it not eat through to your inner core?”
It was a fair question to be sure. How is it possible to remain so righteously small-minded for so long? Don’t you ever itch for a shot at the bigs, tackling weighty issues and getting truly involved with matters of real import to the city’s future?
Instead of the bleat, bleat, bleat, a hundred thousand here, a hundred thousand there, porkers, gravy, shameful and a fusillade of alliterative name-calling to bring it all home.
That’s a whole lot easier, I guess. Demeaning and giving the raspberry rather than contributing to a robust dialogue about the direction the city has to go, the measures that need to be taken in order to build a place we all want to continue to live in.
Get your hands out of my pocket, you porkers. Find some other trough to feed at.
I held my hands up, shrugged just a little.
“It’s the mayor’s bread and butter. Speaks directly to the base. They want to seethe not solve.”
Acaphlegmic seemed unconvinced. He was doing his De Niro head shake thing again. I found it surprising and somewhat endearing that he still could summon that much belief in people. In some people. In Sun people.
“No one wants to be ignorant, said the Lord.” (Did He?) “Some may want to remain in the darkness but no one wants to remain in the dark.” (Said the Lord?) “No one would willingly, wilfully embrace the surely self-defeating premise of self-delusion. You just need to give them a reason to say `yes’, my friend. That is your job. That is your quest. To dream that impossible dream.” (Said Miguel De Cervantes via Joe Darian and Mitch Leigh?)
With that, Acaphlegmic swiped the Sun from the desk and onto the floor. He stood up, thrust his hands into his pockets and looked at the door. I leaned back over the desk toward him.
“Some people just…” I began but wasn’t sure how to finish. Some people what? Do they really believe that you can fix the kind of problems Toronto faces right now by reeling in hundreds of thousands of dollars in councillor office expenses, the tiniest of tiny fractions of annual costs? By keeping our taxes low and throttling our revenue stream when the solutions being put forward need to be counted in the billions of dollars?
Acaphlegmic looked back at me.
“Some people just what?”
I leaned back, shrugged.
“Just need to be convinced otherwise, I guess.”
“You’ve got truth and facts on your side, right. So it should be easy.”
“How long it takes to find me some jerk chicken. Maybe fried plantains…”
With a finger swipe of his nose, he was gone.
It really shouldn’t take him long at all, since there was a place not far up the street with the menu he was looking for. But as always, you could never be certain how literal Acaphlegmic might be playing it. For him, sometimes jerk chicken wasn’t just jerk chicken.
But there was something you could always count on from Acaphlegmic. Leaving you thinking about something that had nothing to do whatsoever with the story at hand.
— spicily submitted by Cityslikr