8. Sentiment du fer (client-free interlude)

George seemed to be obsessed with ranking their moving experiences. Jesse was perplexed. It was also not what he wanted to be doing while sitting in a truck in the middle of the night, waiting for a client.

“Da phoque, man.”

“Am I expressing something you find to be unnervingly non-normative?” George asked.

“‘Am I weird?’ covers all of that,” Jesse said. “Go for the short, not the long.”

“Your advice, then, is to experience the experience and then have the next experience, rather than perceiving a pattern, a useful pattern, in the succession of experiences and altering your behaviour in accordance with the pattern.”

“Experience to experience is the way life works, if you’re doing it right,” Jesse said, after an annoyed pause.

George did that thing with his eyes. He didn’t do it often, about as often as he genuinely laughed or smiled, but for just the shortest second you could swear his eyes were opening bigger than was humanly possibly and it was simultaneously sickening and cool and impossible to talk to George about.

Jesse looked away and down and gave himself permission not to react.  It felt too much like being with his mother, being in this mode, invisible, defensive, minimal. He set his ears to ignore George, and asked himself what was truly happening.

He’d take a breath to ask him to fill in some gaps, just idle talk, and George’d return something quiet and job-related or task-related. With a bump, Jesse was no longer in personal question land and had returned to man versus thing, or man versus cop, or man versus coworker (Jesse almost always lost) or, the ongoing ruling favourite and overwhelming nightmare, man versus client.

When he got to the end of the thought, Jesse mentally edited all appearances of man to person, and sighed.  Go for the short not the long is not great advice if you’re a settler talking to a native person. Please trim this name down for me, I’m used to English. Or French. Or Portuguese. Or Spanish. And it may not work for a woman, or transperson, or someone who’s young or disabled. We’ve fallen off a sociological cliff, pretending we’re not yelling ‘AAAAAAAAAAAH!’ all the way down. Nobody really knows what acknowledging equality will mean. What it will look like. How it will play. But we all can imagine who will try to stop us.

Jesse sighed again.  Our minds are structured by colonialism, and like hoarders, we unseeingly walk through, that being our walls and floors as well as our trash.

“You really don’t like it when I pop my eyes at you,” George said.  “I used to know people who loved it.”

Jesse shrugged.

“You were thinking about something else.”

“No, you were right, I don’t like it. You don’t look human when you do that, and if you have voluntary control over that behaviour, please don’t.

“I could tell you were angry,” George said.

You smug son of a bitch, Jesse thought. “Want an Iron Cross for that?” he said. Since George never ate in front of Jesse, not once the two months he’d known him, there was no point offering him a cookie.  World War II was a very sore subject for George, though, and Jesse noted the hit.

George said, after a bone chilling pause, “I can’t always tell.”

George was rarely on the defensive, so Jesse pressed him. “And sometimes you know a little too well. How’d you know about the blood alcohol levels on those two clownbags?” Jesse folded his arms, awaiting the predictable spin.

George was affable. “What’s this? I didn’t. I told them I called the cops as they drove up, mentioning that somebody had been arrested for assaulting a cop at that address two nights ago and these two gents looked like more of the same. I mentioned that I mentioned I could tell from that last swerve that the driver, at minimum, was plastered. Then I advised our two visitors they should figure out which one of them was least drunk and then he could deal with the cops and the next thing I know they’d fired up the Lexus and bugged out. Wish I knew Punjabi, they gave me quite a farewell.” He seemed almost nostalgic.

At Jesse’s expression, George said, “But it was a good move otherwise,” which was an error, because then Jesse remembered the skunk.

“What about the skunk?” Jesse said suspiciously.

“Haven’t you ever noticed that if you speak respectfully to creatures they respond better?” George asked, in his greasy, self-flattering voice. In a more sensible tone, he said, “I don’t know what happened.  I expected to get sprayed, which would have been inconvenient; it didn’t run off at my command.”

“So. Nothing could be proven either way,” Jesse said.

“Please don’t tell me you think I have magical command over animals?” George said in disbelief.  “I mean,” he said, and you could see him warming up to the idea,“if I could do that I’d be at the track, don’t you think? And it’s been ages since I watched the wiener dog races,” he added fretfully.

“You don’t need the money,” Jesse said, and his jealousy was plain.

“Maybe I need the experience of spending it,” George said.

For a second Jesse thought of punching him hard in the face, but a few months’ experience watching George deal with jackasses left him in no doubt what such an attempt would yield.

“Jesus Christ,” said Jesse.  “Did you wake up last year in a cave, ignorant of the ways of ‘spending money’?”

“It was a castle,” George said helpfully. “In Romania, in Transylvania actually. The castle basement to be honest, and it wasn’t last year, it was,” deep breath, “a while ago.”

There might be truth mixed in with the lies.  George had so much ‘give’ to him.  No matter how hard you pushed or pulled, he would not move in any direction but where he wanted to go.

Jesse lashed out.

“You know,” he said, “It seems pretty obvious you were raised in an abusive home.”

George looked at him.

Time seemed to sag into a hole and lodge there.

“Is it obvious?” he asked.

“Not right away,” Jesse replied, scarcely believing he’d landed another hit.  Then he asked the question yet again. “Why are you helping people move?”

“It’s very complicated, and any explanation would depend, for context, on a better understanding of my current situation.”

“It’s something illegal, isn’t it?” Jesse said.  He still couldn’t figure out what.

That barking laugh again. “Yes, but that’s not the sticking point.”

“That a fucking fact?” Jesse said, once again experiencing the strong desire to punch the living shit out of George. “What am I looking at? Conspiracy?”

“Conspiracy, while it has a certain ring to it, also implies the benefit of a jury trial,” George said.

“Jesus iced fucking Christ in a bucket. So, terrorism and treason?” Jesse asked, his voice swooping upward in an unmanly way. He felt sick and cold, thinking first that George was lying, and then that he was telling the truth, and then that he was telling the truth but that somehow he’d fix everything.  Jesse had watched him fix many situations, at least long enough to secure an escape route.

George said, voice wavering, “Well, no. Hang on, let me check the Criminal Code of Canada. I’ve got the app, you know.”

“Shit,” George said after a minute. With a great show of cheerfulness, he said.“Well, let’s hope it never comes to that.”

“What have you done?” Jesse said.

“It’s not what I’ve done,” George said. “It’s how it’ll be interpreted.”

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Born when atmospheric carbon was 316 PPM. Settled on MST country since 1997. Parent, grandparent.

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