27. Michel arrives in Vancouver.

Jesse tried to work out how having romantic feelings was socially suspect, when every critter on earth with a spine had some variant on romance.

“So you’re asexual,” he hazarded. “As a rule.”

George wagged a finger.  “Don’t start.”

“Okay. But —“ said Jesse.

“Don’t start.”

“One more question.”

“I don’t promise to answer it.”

“Your people call themselves something,” Jesse said. “I just wanted to know what it is.”

“We call ourselves many things,” George said. “But I tell you what,” he added, pursing his lips for emphasis. “You can ask Michel when he comes by.” He changed the subject with an emotional clang like a jail door closing.

Jesse let all thoughts of conversation drop as he started asking himself what Michel would be like.  He expected, as one does, someone much like George in appearance and manner, thinking that two of George would be something to see, like finding out there are two sets of Niagara Falls, or two moons orbiting the earth. Perhaps not two moons; that seemed too remarkable even for George.

So he was expecting someone about five eight, with sharp, vaguely eastern European features, Edwardian clothing and Old World savoir-faire in manners and expression.

Jesse was sitting up in the cab of the truck when Michel got out of the taxi. Michel looked directly into Jesse’s eyes, and smiled an evil, knowing smile, as if he knew not merely what Jesse was thinking, but the full measure of how silly he was for thinking that he, Michel, could be anything like that little squeaker, George.

“Holy fuck,” Jesse said.

“Impressive, ain’t he?” George murmured.

The person approaching him stood just under two meters tall and was wearing stained blue coveralls, as a professional mover would. His black hair had been shaped into a mullet, which increased his height with something resembling an afro on the top, and fixed his resemblance to a motorcycle club member with a long wild horsetail at the back. He walked like someone who had carried more heavy loads, been in more mosh pits, told more tall tales and courted more fine women than anyone in the world, and that he’d as soon punch your lights out as share a jug of beer.

George had mentioned that Michel had lived in Montréal for a long stretch, but didn’t mention that he’d picked up his accent there. Michel sounded like a Canadiens player from the sixties, attempting his first interview in English. 

Michel opened George’s door and pulled him out onto the ground, “Weak ass’ little bugger that you are, you have to call on me.” Jesse threw himself headlong across the truck seat to get a glimpse of what was happening.

The two of them thrashed around, first in the street, then in the gutter, then on the sidewalk for a minute, insulting each other the whole time as they writhed and sought purchase, if their tone was a sign. Jesse couldn’t understand a word and reached for his phone to record it.  As soon as he turned on the phone George laughed, and Michel said, “None of that,” and faster than Jesse could believe, Michel was laughing at Jesse through the truck window and stood with the phone in his hand. George’s hand came up to touch the phone.

For a strange second it seemed as if having wrestled, they would now dance. The phone rested between Michel’s hand and George’s, as they stared each other down.

Abruptly, Michel tossed the phone at Jesse.  It described a perfect arc and landed in his jacket pocket.

“That was bracing,” George said, smiling fondly at Michel.

“I’m doing this before I go see Kima,” Michel replied, furrowing his monobrow. “Allons-y, I got girls to bang, places to be.”

“Uh,” Jesse said.

“I texted you the address,” George said.


“Just now.”

Jesse looked at his phone.  Between the time he’d pulled it out to record the fight and the time Michel had tossed it back to him, George had texted him.

While he was wrestling on the ground with Michel.

“Uh,” Jesse said. “How —“

“Really Jesse,” George said, amused. “Have you never heard of multitasking?”

“Never touch the stuff,” Jesse said, fighting to maintain his dignity with a witty response. “It hurts your ability to concentrate.”

Michel said something, probably in Greek.

“English only,” George said. “Jesse’s a good man, very hard to fool.”

“Thanks,” Jesse said, with genuine gratitude.  Having extra help is great, but not if it means you have to listen to two other people giggle and pass notes in a language you don’t understand.

“That so?” Michel said, not impressed.

“I know you aren’t human,” Jesse said, tired of being the butt of this asshole’s rough humour.

Michel wordlessly turned to George.

“He guessed,” George said, shrugging.

“Timing’s the pits,” Michel said.

“No, not really,” George said. “Kima isn’t pregnant yet.”

Michel gave a shrug that seemed to span the roadway. “If you say so, cuz.  C’mon, let’s go, my balls are itchy.” He dashed around the side of the truck and hopped in next to Jesse.  Jesse felt his weight, and warmth, and realized that whatever the hell they were, they were quite different from each other.  And yet friends. And relatives.

Indecorously, inauspiciously, Jesse’s friendship with Michel had commenced.