The Rusty Toque | Fiction | Issue 2 | February 27, 2012
Totally broke but creative. Finds a couple pairs of old jeans, and lays them out on the kitchen table over the toast crumbs. Cuts them up into pieces. Pins the pieces together to make them into floppy baseball caps. Doesn’t even sew the pieces together again, just uses safety-pins. Final touch, takes an indelible ink marker and writes some hectic words on the fronts. Cleans up and takes the bus to present his hats around to the different boutique areas in town. Granville, Main, Commercial. Goes everywhere, talks to anyone who’ll listen. There’s a store in Gastown across from the old empty Woodward’s department store that sells locally designed stuff. Screen-printed t-shirts and chunky jewelry. Girl who owns the store agrees to sell the hats for fifty bucks. Buys three for a hundred, and the cash is right there. Let’s see how they sell, might buy more.
Goes to a coffee shop on Water Street and thinks for a little. In the corner, a guy with the business section checks him out. Probably wants the hat. Rubs the pantleg where the money is. No change in the pocket to weigh him down. If a coffee costs that much already, no point carrying the change. They call it change, because you should be changing it into paper. Tips. Down to ninety-five dollars.
About to take the bus home. Sees the art opening across the street. People on the sidewalk are drinking wine out of plastic cups. Laughing at each other. The picture in the well-lit window he recognizes from his block in Mount Pleasant. That’s the same bench on 8th street, definitely. Goes inside to check out the rest. Whatever, it’s a bunch more people. Gets in line for a plastic cup of wine. Drinks it. Gets another. Drinks it. Gets a beer. Some kid nods like he’s here for the same reason: Free drinks. Gets a beer. Drinks it. The beer is imported and the pictures are all good. Every single picture is good. Finishes his beer. Strikes up a conversation. Kid wants to talk to him. Must be the hat. Tells the kid he’s an artist. Shows in New York mostly. Some major collections. Kid says he knows another opening. Want to check it out?
Half way there he changes the kid’s mind. Go looking for a dimebag to roll a joint instead. Man, I like your hat. Yeah, I made it. Lets the kid try on the hat. Man, it looks good on you, too. Doesn’t take much convincing to walk the five blocks to the store. Waits outside while the kid buys one. The girl gets fifty. She’s half way to breaking even.
Back on the street with the kid in their matching hats, one black acid-wash, the other dark blue. Both of the hats just safety-pinned together. Looking good. Looking for pot. Recommends the kid give him the twenty and he’ll get it. Takes about a minute and a half. Meets up with this girl a couple streets away who has some. They talk while her partner dutifully goes through the girl’s bookbag and passes the Ziplocked bud to the kid. Ten from the kid’s twenty goes in his pocket. Gets the girl’s number because maybe he’ll call her later. She seems up for a party. Laughing at his come-ons. Her number on a rip of paper next to a hundred and five dollars.
Leads the kid to a convenience store without a name. Brags about the matching hats to the owner, who only shakes his head. Buys from him some rolling papers and a lighter. Keeps the items and lets the store owner keep the change. That drops it to a hundred and two. Kid follows through the curtains to a store-room. After a guy in a denim jacket comes out, they step into the toilet stall to roll the joint. With a foot up on the seat, all he can talk about is making more hats. The paper in one hand, sprinkles the bud into the crease, rolls it up fast and licks it. Says thanks to the owner and shakes his hand before they leave. The owner only blinks. Outside the kid asks for his change and frankly, he’s a little insulted. Alright, never mind. Lights the joint in an alley. They stand and smoke it. It’s a beautiful warm night. The cement walls are orange from the streetlamps. What look like a cluster of stars in the sky are the lights of the ski hill on the black mountain. No, you have the rest, I’m already feeling great. The kid is having a good time. But you like the hat, right? That’s a good hat you bought. A hundred and two dollars in his pocket beside rolling papers, a lighter, a new girl’s number, one hat sold already, and he’s high. That’s a day in the life. Tell me a better one.
LEE HENDERSON has published two award-winning books with Penguin Canada—the story collection The Broken Record Technique and the novel The Man Game, which won the BC Book Prize and the Vancouver Book Prize in 2009. His essay on language extinction and corporate English was published in the anthology Finding the Words, edited by Jared Bland. Lee's fiction and art writing is regularly published in The Walrus and Border Crossings magazine, and other short stories have appeared in numerous magazines and journals. He has curated exhibitions of contemporary art and experimental music. Website: http://leehenderson.com