Thursday May 31, 2012 - 11:31 PM

So there Robbie and I were, sitting in the car, drinking rye. It had otherwise been like some sort of neat dream, hanging out with the coolest teacher I’d ever known, going to a book event, hanging out at a book store, drinking coffee spiked with Baileys then racing a car through downtown streets and then sitting back and drinking some rye from a parking spot that I realized gave a beautiful view of a moonlit Lake Ramsey.

But the tone in Robbie’s voice had a nightmarish quality to it. I’d never heard it from him before, and it frightened me.

“Peter,” he said. “That man, the man in the store. He’s my dealer.”

“Oh,” I said. It’s funny. Most teachers are supposed to tell you not to smoke, not to drink, not to do drugs. Okay, so of those, Robbie hadn’t pulled out a pack of cigarettes, but so far he’d helped break all those stereotypes. I know that teachers are human like the rest of us, but it was certainly refreshing to see that evidence first hand. And so what, my English teacher smoked pot. Big fucking deal. Who hasn’t?

“So. What’s the big deal?” I asked.

“I owe him a shitload of money,” Robbie said. “But there’s more. And I know I can confide in you, but I don’t know how to tell you the rest.”

“The rest? Of what?”

“The rest of my confession.” He drained his cup again in another single gulp and poured himself another drink. I think that was his third in so many minutes.

For the first time in our relationship, it didn’t feel like he was my teacher. He was suddenly just another friend, and a friend with a problem. “Just start from the beginning.”

“Fair enough. And I’ll actually start with a smaller confession. I’ve been reading your blog.”

“You have?”

“Yes. Since about the second day of class. I discovered it one night. Actually, a lot of teachers I know have started doing it, started doing Google searches on their own names as a means to see if students are blogging or posting comments about them and their class. I spotted yours almost immediately, and went back to the beginning.”

“So you know all about Sarah?”


“And the other deaths?”


“And about Miss Hamilton’s accident?”

“Yes. And also about Monica.”

Monica. Oh man, this was so embarrassing. Robbie had been reading my words. But what could I expect, really. There were tons of strangers out there, people I’d never met who were reading my online journal and making comments on it. Why did I think that people I knew wouldn’t find it and read it too?

I tried to think back to all the things I’d said about Robbie on my blog, and was slightly embarrassed about how much I talked about him, gushed about him. But it wasn’t quite so bad -- this was Robbie, after all, and to know that he’d had these insights about me almost from the beginning, yet he still wanted to be my friend, hang out with me -- well that was pretty darn cool.

“I don’t know what to say, Robbie.” I said. “I feel guilty about what happened to Monica. As if I could have prevented it.”

“Oh, Peter,” Robbie said, and tears started to roll down his eyes. “You have nothing to feel guilty about with Monica. What happened to her is actually my fault.”

“Your fault?” I said, completely perplexed. “How could what happened to Monica be your fault?”

“I know you had feelings for her, Peter. I know you were interested in her. That’s what makes this so difficult; so difficult to tell you.” He paused, put his head in his hands, then wiped the tears away. “I’m such a fool. I never should have done what I did. But I got caught up in the moment, carried away by emotions. I’d fallen in love with her from the first day that I met her.

“Peter, Monica and I were having an affair. We were sleeping together.”

Wednesday May 30, 2012 - 11:09 PM

So there Robbie and I were, in the store, finishing off the bottle of Bailey’s, and he was just finishing the recanting of the screenplay concept he’d been working on, revealing to me that one of his great passions was translating literature to a format such as screenplays so that they could be fully enjoyed by the masses.

But Robbie went on the explain that there was so much to literature that could be explored and enjoyed and discussed among the masses, but that the masses were often living lives too fast paced to fully comprehend them to the fullest.

“That’s the wonder of movies,” Robbie said. “When done properly, a good movie can be executed that, rather than take something away from the original book it was based on, can add new elements that can be revealed in a manner less subtle than in the book, but still powerful and rich.”

Robbie then explained that the director Rob Reiner had pulled this off brilliantly in movies such as Stand By Me (based on a novella by Stephen King) and again in Misery (based on another book by Stephen King).

That statement he made reminded me so much of my Uncle Bob. It’s funny, because, since Robbie was a father figure in my life (yes, I only realize that now), it made sense that I found something in him that reminded him of the man I’d known as my central father figure since the day my own father had been hit by the car and died.

It was shortly after this revelation that the creepy looking man I’d seen earlier reappeared from behind a tall set of bookshelves. This time, I think that Robbie must have seen him because, in mid-sentence he put down his coffee cup and said.

“Okay, Peter. Time for us to go.”

When I didn’t move, Robbie grabbed me by the arm and starting walking us quickly toward the exit, completely abandoning the small pile of books we’d accumulated, intending on purchasing them.

He didn’t say a word as we moved out to the car, but I could tell that he was stepping more quickly as soon as we left the bright lights of the store and were crossing the dark parking lot. I remember thinking how late it was and that we must have spent a longer time in the store than I’d originally thought. Sure enough, my watch showed that it was already 9:30.

As he was starting the car I finally asked. “What’s going on, Robbie? Who was that man?”

After putting the car in gear he turned to look at me. “Peter, I have a confession to make.

“But the first order of business is we need to get the hell out of here, now.” And he takes his foot off the brake, slams it down on the gas and the tires issue a high pitched squeal as we peel out of the parking lot.

I remember looking back, seeing a few different figures heading out the store entrance, one of them tall like the creepy man I’d seen in the store. An uncontrollable shiver ran down my spine.

We drove in silence as Robbie raced the car down the Kingsway toward downtown. We raced down the street next to city hall, then made a quick right, then a left, darted around a seemingly random route through the downtown core area of town before Robbie raced onto Paris street and then turned off again to the parking area near Science North.

He shut off the car and we sat there for a moment, just listening. I couldn’t hear anything other than the ticking and clicking of the engine as it cooled down, but the look on Robbie’s face suggested he was either listening to the traffic turning off Paris or perhaps to voices from the past, talking to him about the confession he was about to make.

“Robbie,” I said. “I’m a little concerned, here.”

He lifted a single finger into the air, saying nothing, and continued to sit quietly and just listen.

After what must have been ten or fifteen minutes, Robbie said, “I’ve got to get something. Just a minute.” And he got out of the car, opened the trunk, then returned to the driver’s seat with a mickey in each hand. One of rye and the other vodka. “Name your poison,” he said, reaching past me into the glove compartment where he fished out two plastic cups.

“Me? I’m starting with the rye,” he said, pouring some for himself. I said that I’d have that too and he poured me a cupful.

He took a long, slow drink from his cup, then refilled it before he turned to me and said: “It’s very likely you’re not going to like me much after I tell you this story.”

Monday May 28, 2012 - 11:17 PM

I’ve tried several times to write about this, to explain the events of the evening, and every time I try, I keep tripping on the words, keep getting ahead of myself.
I’ve decided to make a forced effort not to rush the events of the evening but to try to roll through them in the manner in which they happened -- because every time I get ahead of myself, I trip up and it’s a big ball of madness in my head and not a clean, straightforward narrative that I’m trying to map out for myself, to properly deal with it.
So here’s what happened, right from my last post during the early evening of May 13th.
Robbie came around the corner of a pillar near Starbucks and was heading toward me with two cups of coffee. I can’t remember if they’re called Verte or Grande or Lardass or whatever the hell Starbucks calls them, just that they were the large size.
He handed one over to me just as I was pushing the “publish” button for this blog on the Internet Café computer. I tried blocking the screen with my body as much as possible, as if I was preventing Robbie from seeing porn or something on the screen. (Although I’m sure that a public computer like this or maybe even one at the library wouldn’t allow people to browse through porn on it)
“What are you doing?” Robbie asked.
“Ah, just checking some email,” I said, thumbing the computer monitor off and then hitting the reset button that shut down the computer and ended my session. I thought back to the time he’d told me how he was an expert at reading people and wondered if the bemused look on his face meant that he knew I was lying.
“What next?” I said, sipping the coffee. It had an Irish cream taste to it.
Robbie smiled. “I had them add a shot of Irish cream flavour to the coffee. But then I also added a nip of Irish cream to it as well.” He lifted the flap off the laptop bag that he carried around on his shoulder everywhere, revealing the neck of a bottle of Bailey’s. He took a sip from his own coffee and then added: “Okay, maybe more than just a little nip.”
I laughed. “This is awesome, I’m having a great time.”
We then spent the next hour or so browsing through the store, Robbie pointing out countless titles to me that he’d read and loved. To be honest, if the rest of what happened that night and early into the next morning hadn’t occurred, then I imagine I would be writing a great deal about that conversation, because I remember it being so riveting. Like the best of the stuff that Robbie shared with us in class, but it was just me there. Just me he was talking to, sharing with, just me asking the questions that drew out more fascinating anecdotes and jokes.
I remember at one time, as we wandered past the graphic novel and local author section over to the wall of horror books, that Robbie pointed to a particular title by Bentley Little called The Store. He first mused about how Little’s titles were all so simplistic in nature, with titles such as The Mailman, The Walking, The Revelation, The House and The Town. He pointed out that Little’s short story collection itself was titled The Collection, as if Little was not above making fun of his own method of title creation.
“Titles seem to be really important for a book,” Robbie said. “But Little is a good example where you shouldn’t judge a book by its title. He keeps the titles simple, but invests his time and energy into writing memorable characters, plots and prose.
“For example, the first book of his that I read was The Store, and it’s the one that has stuck with me the longest.” Robbie went on the explain the premise of The Store, comparing the supernatural force that brings the store to a small town to the manner in which big box stores like Wal-Mart move in and completely take over. He explained that he often thought it would make a wonderful Hollywood movie, and if that were to happen, a deluge of movies based on Little’s novels would likely come out.
“But the problem with that,” he cautioned. “Is that they’d probably translate into schlocky horror movies that wouldn’t be produced properly and instead just be ‘straight to video’ quality. Laymon’s books fall into that same category. Great to read, and would seem to make a great transition onto the screen, but so easy to mess up, focus on the shock, on the gore, and completely miss out on the elements of cinema that could make the truly great films.”
By that time, we’d finished our coffees, and Robbie had found a quiet spot where nobody could see what he was doing to top up our coffee cups with Baileys. As we drank down the creamy alcohol, he started telling me about the screenplay he had been working on for several years now which had been based on and inspired by Bentley’s The Store. He’d given it the title “The Night Managers” and had focused less on the store itself, and more on the evil entities that ran the empire. His goal was much that the way the movie The Running Man was based on King’s novella, pretty might a high level concept with nothing other than a basic premise and some character names being used, his screenplay would also divert to a different path.
He was explaining the basic idea for the main character’s intense fear of big box stores, of the childhood trauma of being locked in a Canadian Tire store overnight when he was a child, having fallen asleep in one of the pup tent displays and not waking up until well after the store had closed. He diverted from that telling to explain that it was based on something that had actually occurred to him.
We were laughing about the story of how his father had been searching all over for him, thinking he’d run away from home due to a fight they’d had earlier in the day when this creepy looking man approached Robbie from behind.
I remember the odd leering look on the man’s face, (it specifically reminded me of the look on the face of the original Nosferatu in that old black and white German film) and the way in which he’d started walking towards us purposefully. And then, just as Robbie turned in the recanting of the fight between him and his father over the desired purchase of a basketball, the man quickly shifted, ducked behind some tall shelves, and was gone from view.
If I’d known the trouble this man was going to cause, I would have tried to get us out of the store sooner, before he came back.
But I, of course, had no idea, back then, what was going to happen.
Okay, I’m starting to get ahead of myself. But rather than just delete this and trying to start over, like I’ve done so many times, I’m going to stop here, take a break in the telling, and get the rest of my thoughts together.

Friday May 25, 2012 - 1:04 AM

Over ten days have passed since my last post, but it feels as if it’s merely been an hour since the tragic events that happened back on the early hours of May 14th.

I’ve gone over the details again and again in my head, my heart and mind swimming, practically drowning in the torrent of emotions. And it has mostly all stayed in my head, no matter how much people have tried to make me talk about it.

But I think I’m ready to talk about it now.

I have to ease into it though, take it slow.

So let me start with the thing that is killing me to talk about, the thing that has wrenched my heart from my chest. Maybe if I get that out of the way I can move on with trying to come to terms with what happened and properly relay the events that occurred that have put me here.

Robbie is dead.

It kills me to write those words, kills me to acknowledge it -- almost as if by typing in those words I’m making it real. But it is. It is real. I avoided going to his funeral, refused to talk to anyone about his death for over a week now. But I have to face the fact. He is dead.

Okay, so I finally got that out. Robbie’s dead. It may not seem like much, but to me that’s a huge release, a giant step. Now I can begin to talk a bit about how we got from hanging out at Chapters to how he came die in such a horrific way.

But not tonight. It’s taken a lot out of me just to admit that much. I’m going to leave it at that, regroup my thoughts and emotions, and on my next post talk a little bit about the wonderful evening that so quickly and strangely turned into a nightmare.

Sunday May 13, 2012 - 3:14 PM

Why can’t things just go right for me? Why can’t they just be normal?

I’m pretty fucked up right now over what happened.

And I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to write about it.

All I know for sure is that I can’t write about it right now.
Why, Robbie? Why?

Saturday May 12, 2012 - 7:04 PM

Holy shit. Did I ever have a lot of fun at the book event today. Right now I’m logged on using the “internet café” computers at the Chapters book store. Robbie is in line at Starbucks getting us a couple of coffees.

We had an amazing time at the book launch. The readings, the entertainment, everything was just awesome. Robbie bought me a copy of Sean Costello’s updated version of Captain Quad. It was the 20th anniversary edition of the book, this one published by Your Scrivener Press, a small Sudbury area publisher. I can’t believe that I finally met him. He seems like this normal, friendly guy. You’d never know that he wrote these frightening, creepy tales of nasty people doing awful things to one another. This is the first time that I’ve ever met an author whose book that I read or had a book signed by anyone. It’s awesome.

Robbie brought in all of the Costello books that he owned to have signed.

Anyways, Robbie and I had a great time hanging out, mixing and mingling with all the people there. I just don’t want today to end. We’re going to hang around here at Chapters and browse for a bit, then we’re likely heading over to the Kelsey’s across the way for something to eat.

Oh. Here he comes. Gotta post this and go.

Thursday May 10, 2012 - 2:04 AM

I’ve actually felt pretty good since last Friday. The weekend was low key. I ended up cutting the lawn and playing video games on Saturday and then just chilling and watching a movie with my Uncle Bob Sunday afternoon -- some old black and white movie that I don’t know the name of. I wasn’t really paying attention. I was pretty much sleeping with my eyes open. Maybe that’s why the movie was more like a dream that I had and could only remember in fleeting memories of sight and sound.

I felt relaxed and barely thought back to Monica or Sarah or any of the guilt that I’d recently been focused on over Chad, Miss Hamilton or Sarah’s father. Robbie helped me turn that around, that’s for sure. Having gone back and typed in my hand-written journal entries reminded me of just how important that was.

Robbie was sick and not teaching on Monday and Tuesday of this week. I was a bit worried about him. But he was back in class today, and in full form.

He was going through a lesson on Wednesday, read us a few scenes from a book called The Handless Maiden. It was by a Loraine Brown. It was her first novel, and after he read a few scenes from it he explained how the author of this very powerful story had worked at it over the course of something like ten years. He held it up as an example of something he remembered hearing W.O. Mitchell saying during a reading he’d done in Sudbury almost thirty years ago. It was a statement to the effect that any novel that took less than four years to write wasn’t any good.

The class debated the issue back and forth, and I’m sure it was interesting. But I wasn't paying all that much attention at that point. I couldn’t help reflecting back on one of the scenes Robbie had read to the class and how it reminded me of Monica.

The heroine in The Handless Maiden is a talented pianist who loses her hand in the events surrounding her rape. In her I sensed this feeling of utter loss, the loss of her ability to create beautiful music -- I compared that with the loss I sense whenever I look into Monica’s eyes. I started to wonder if I had imagined that sense -- if perhaps I was reading something in to her look that I expected.

After all, I really wonder if I could ever truly understand what it is like to be raped. Yes, despite the guilt that I feel, as if my curse is what caused this to happen to her, despite the dark feelings and the grief, I’m still nothing more than an outsider looking in. I’ll likely never truly understand.

At the end of class, Robbie and I chatted for a bit. He mentioned to me that this weekend there would some sort of launch event from a Sudbury publisher with a few different authors which included a teaser for Sean Costello’s forthcoming novel Let It Ride. He said it was taking place on Sunday May 14th starting at 1:30 in the afternoon and he was wondering if I was interested in joining him in attending the event.

Wow. That was really cool. I can’t wait to attend the event. When I got home I started reading the latest book Robbie had loaned me. Costello’s Finders Keepers.

It still hasn’t helped keep my mind off of the upcoming event this weekend. I just can’t wait.