Canada Votes

Sunday night I worked the overnight shift at the bakery in Cedar Point. I usually sleep all day Monday but this was Election Day. Had to set my alarm for three p.m. so I’d have enough time to wake up, go vote, and then drive up to Richmond to my brother’s.

The line to vote at the school was long, it extended outside to the street. I was glad I made the extra time. I would have done the advance polls but I’ve been working so much, it never worked out.

That’s why Mondays are good for me, even though I sleep all day. At least I know I’m going to be off. I need that. It’s rare that I’ll get a gig on a Monday night. I’ll take it if I do but if they came in all the time, I’d turn most of them down.

I do play in a rehearsal band that meets on the second Monday night of every month. Otherwise, I have dinner with my brother a couple times a month on Monday nights. Most of the time we go out to eat but since the Blue Jays were in the playoffs, Rich said he’d cook so we could watch the game and the election returns.

By the time I got to his house, the radio was already saying the Liberals were going to win, the only question was by how much.

“Did you vote?” Rich asked, standing in his doorway as if my answer would determine whether or not I was allowed to enter. That was Rich being funny.

“Of course,” I said. “You?” I just asked that to tease him. Rich is Mr. Responsible, there was no question he’d voted. He just made a face. We both smiled and he let me in. We hugged. I took off my jacket and laid it over a chair next to the TV, which was tuned to the election news.

“I wanted to go Green,” I said as the TV flashed the results of a riding somewhere in Quebec, “but Harper had to be fired, so I voted NDP, like always,”

“You were supposed to vote Liberal to kick Harper out,” Rich lectured. He was just teasing too.

“Hey, this is B.C.,” I protested, “How was I supposed to know everybody joined the Grits overnight? Who do I look like, Peter Mansbridge?”

Rich looked me over and then turned toward the TV for a moment, then back to me. “A dead ringer, it’s amazing!” he said with a smile. “Heck, I thought you’d go Lib just because Trudeau wants to legalize marijuana.”

“That would be a good reason, I guess,” I laughed, “but in Kingfisher riding we have Judith Wilson. Well, we had Judith Wilson, I just heard on the radio that the Liberal guy’s probably gonna win. Too bad. I played a couple of campaign events she was at, heard her speak, she’s really smart. A professor of something. She’s nice too, after one event she shook hands with everyone in the band, the caterer’s staff, the coat checker, she thanked everybody personally. I voted for her last time, couldn’t see any reason not to do it again. Plus I agree with her on the issues.”

Rich nodded. “Hey Mitch, change in plans, I know I said I’d cook burgers but I was over at Grams’ yesterday and she was making her seafood stew and — ”

“No way!” I said

“Yes way!” he said as he led me down the hall toward the kitchen. With every step the aroma of my grandmother’s glorious seafood stew wafted over me and into my nose and my mouth and into each and every pore. I could smell and taste and feel it all over.

In the kitchen, a smaller TV was tuned to the election coverage. Rich went to the stove, where a large pot sat on low heat. He lifted its cover and drew a deep breath as the steam escaped. I leaned closer and took it in too. We smiled at each other, two brothers being hugged tenderly by an invisible but giant clove of garlic.

“When I told her we were getting together tonight, she insisted,” he said. “I didn’t argue with her.”

“You’ve always been the smart one, Rich,” I said, smiling.

“Speaking of which,” he brought the conversation back to the original subject, “I voted for Harper the first time but not since. I went Liberal this time….”

Rich was interrupted by Peter Mansbridge’s voice from the TV calling a majority for the new Liberal government. “Wow!” Rich said. I don’t know too much about politics but I was pretty surprised too.

“This is historic, we should celebrate!” Rich said.

“But my candidate lost!” I said in mock protest. I don’t drink much but I wasn’t about to stop a celebration, no matter what it was for. Rich walked into the dining room and opened the lower doors of the china cabinet.

“This’ll do nicely while we wait for the stew,” he said as he examined a bottle of bourbon. Rich opened the upper glass door to the cabinet and pulled out two whiskey glasses. He brought them into the living room and placed them on the coffee table. Then he retrieved the bottle. I took a seat and he poured while Peter Mansbridge and his panel talked about the Liberals’ big win.

“Dad gave me this,” Rich said.

“Dad gives you bourbon?”

“Yeah,” he nodded, “expensive shit too.” Rich raised his glass. “To the new government,” he said.

“To the end of the campaign,” I added.

“Hear, hear!” said Rich. We sipped. It was smooth shit. “Thanks, Dad,” Rich toasted. I repeated it and we sipped again.

“Dad voted for Harper as usual?” I half-asked, half-stated.

“Not this time,” Rich said.

“No?”

He shook his head. “I talked to him last night. He said he was voting Liberal.”

I sat up straight, somewhat stunned. “I thought he hated Trudeau’s father?”

“He did,” Rich said, “but that was later. He voted for him once. You know he met Mom at a Pierre Trudeau rally?”

“Yeah. I heard her tell that story to Mrs. Menard once. But I was like fifteen at the time, I didn’t really pay attention. And Dad never…well, you know.”

Rich nodded. All I knew about my parents’ relationship was what I could remember from when I was a kid and what Rich has told me in the last couple of years. Dad never talks about things like that, at least not for long or with any detail.

“So Dad wanted to fire Harper too?” I was still surprised.

“Yeah, he voted for him the other times but…well, just like me…you know, time for a change.”

“Well, I guess he couldn’t vote NDP.” We both laughed.

“He wasn’t going to vote at all,” Rich said, adopting a more serious tone. “He was pissed off about Harper’s attitude and the secrecy. He used the word ‘disgusted’ several times. He said Harper’s like Richard Nixon without the intellect, just the flaws.”

I nodded even though I don’t know enough about past American presidents to appreciate the point. Rich brought me right back when he said,

“He did it for Mom.”

“What?”

“He told me on the phone that he voted Liberal because he knew if Mom were still alive, she’d be voting Liberal because of Justin Trudeau. And since he wasn’t going to cast a vote himself, he decided to vote for her…like…on her behalf. He said he knows it would make her happy.”

Rich’s voice cracked on those last words. I nodded. Wow. That’s a deeper thought about emotions than anything I’ve ever heard Dad say.

“After we hung up, I kept thinking about it. Cried a little,” Rich said. I reached over and put my hand on his. We just sat there for a moment.

Peter Mansbridge’s voice filled the void, “…not only are the Liberals winning big tonight but, here in Toronto, the Blue Jays are winning big, as well…”

“Hey!!! YES!!!” Rich and I both let out a cheer and raised our glasses to Canada’s baseball team.

“Mom would like that news too,” I said. “Yes she would!” Rich agreed with a smile. “Hey, that stew must be ready. Put the game on, I’ll get supper. You want a beer with it?”

“Hell no,” I said, “I’ll be working on this bourbon for the rest of the night. How about a Coke?”

“Coming right up.”

Just like the election, the baseball game was a blowout, so we didn’t need to pay close attention to either one. As we ate seafood stew and talked, Rich flipped the channel between the news and the game every few minutes.

We’d finished eating when Stephen Harper’s face came on the screen as he was about to give his speech to his supporters in Calgary. Rich grabbed the clicker. “We don’t have to listen to this guy anymore,” he said as he flipped back to the ballgame.

Later, we brought our plates to the kitchen. “Dessert?” Rich asked.

“Whaddaya got?”

He smiled. “When I stopped in to Grams’, she was getting ready for that Election Day bake sale at her polling station. Guess what else she’d made.”

My eyes lit up. “Not blackberry pie?”

“She sent me home with two huge pieces.”

“Oh man! Ice cream?”

“Got it.”

“This is great!” I clapped my hands and laughed.

We took our pie and ice cream to the living room and devoured it as we waited for Justin Trudeau’s speech. They switched to Montreal when Trudeau entered the ballroom to cheers and they showed him shaking hands as he made his way to the stage.

“Hey Mitch,” Rich said quietly, as if someone else might hear, “since we’re celebrating here and all…you got anything we might celebrate with?”

This was Rich Newmore saying this. Rich, not Mitch. Mr. Responsible. Mr. Straight. Mr. Take No Chances. Mr. Upstanding Citizen. Mr….well, you get my point. “Yeah. Of course,” I said. “You sure?”

“If I wasn’t sure, I wouldn’t be asking,” he said.

“Right.” I reached for my jacket and pulled a joint and a lighter from the left-hand pocket. “Got something we can use for an ash tray?”

Rich went into the dining room, opened the china cabinet and came back with a tea cup. Justin Trudeau began speaking and I lit the joint and took a long drag, then handed it to Rich. He took a long toke and then coughed a bit.

When Trudeau switched to French I spoke up. “What’s going on? You okay?”

“Yeah,” he said. “It’s this election. They called it a couple weeks before Mom’s birthday. She would have been sixty. I’d been thinking about her birthday for a few weeks already and then the election…and a Trudeau…and I don’t know. Every time I’d hear him talk or hear some news about him, I’d think how Mom would have reacted. She would have really been into it…a son of Pierre Trudeau!…plus, he’s handsome. I think she would have liked that too,” he said. Then he took a toke.

“I still can’t believe Dad went Liberal,” I said.

“Yeah, I know,” Rich said as he handed me the joint. “That phone call with Dad last night. And now this…” he pointed to the TV screen, “…this big victory. It’s history. Mom would have loved it. I can just picture her talking about it with Gramps…”

“Yeah,” I said, smiling at that image.

We stopped talking for a while but Justin Trudeau kept going. We just listened and smoked.

Rich held the joint for too long and it went out. He started to hand it to me but I gave him the lighter. He took it and paused for a moment, looking at the joint in one hand and the lighter in the other. It was almost as if he couldn’t remember what he was supposed to do. Then he lit it and puffed away. Rich used to get high when he was younger but only once in a while and, partly because he’s ten years older than me, we’ve only shared a joint maybe a half-dozen times…and not in years.

We finished the joint long before Trudeau finished his speech. It was a good speech, long but good. I don’t believe much of what politicians say but it was upbeat, positive…and they don’t have enough of those.

Rich was drinking a beer and I was still nursing that bourbon as Peter Mansbridge and the experts talked some more.

“That’s some good shit you’re getting these days, Mitch,” Rich was sitting back in his chair, it was obvious he was completely relaxed. “Man, I am zoned out. Mmmm.”

I chuckled and took the last sip of bourbon. “Hey bro, mind if I stay over?”

“Guest room’s all made up,” he said. “It’s yours, as always.” He smiled, a kind of trance-like smile.

“In that case,” I stood up, “I’m going to help myself to a beer.”

“Whoa,” Rich said as if in shock. “Two adult beverages in one night? Who are you and what have you done with the real Mitchell Newmore?” I laughed.

I came back from the kitchen with a bottle of some fancy craft beer. To me, beer is beer but Rich is a beer snob.

“Hey, you’re out of Labatt’s,” I said, teasing.

“I’m always out of Labatt’s, bro.” Rich smiled. “The last time I saw you have more than one drink or one beer was at that Grey Cup party at my old apartment. That was five years ago. You were slightly blitzed.”

“Slightly? To this day I still can’t remember who played in that game,” I said.

Rich laughed. “I’ll bet you remember that tall redhead babe who made goo-goo eyes at you all day.”

“Vaguely,” I said, laughing. “But I definitely remember her boyfriend, your buddy from work. He was built like a football player. He couldda been playing for whoever was in that game. He couldda kicked my ass if I flirted with his girlfriend.”

“Oh Carl, yeah he’s a stud, always with some lovely lady. And that was Montreal-Saskatchewan,” Rich said. “Alouettes, in a close one.”

“Well, I was wasted. And drunk. The only thing I remember about that game is the whole gang dancing in the living room, during the halftime show.”

Rich pointed at me and shouted, “Bachman-Turner Overdrive!”

We both jumped to our feet and started dancing, pointing at each other and loudly singing, “B-b-b-baby, you just ain’t seen na-na-nothin’ yet!” And then collapsed into our chairs in laughter.

“Now I remember that redhead,” I said. “At least, I remember her ass movement on that song.”

“She could dance,” Rich said. “I definitely remember her ass. I think about it from time to time. It’s one of the truly great asses.” We both laughed.

“I wonder what she’s doing now?” I joked.

“I wonder if Carl still has her phone number?” Rich was joking too.

“Hey, seriously, you should get that phone number. Or somebody’s phone number. You gotta get out man, meet someone,” I said, “Before you get too old!” I was joking but I wasn’t.

“Yeah, yeah, I know,” Rich said. “I get busy with work and… I don’t know. I gotta get motivated, I know.”

“You gotta get laid is what you gotta get.”

“I do, yeah. You’re right, damn it!” he slapped his hand on the arm of the chair. “Seriously, I know. I’m lonely. I gotta do something about it. Now.”

“Well, I’m glad to hear you saying it,” I said, with affection.

Rich nodded. “Yeah, thanks, Mitch. I appreciate your concern.” He sat up a little. “There’s this woman at work, probably twenty-three, twenty-four –”

“Whoa, bro. You ARE taking action!”

“No, no,” Rich laughed, “no I’m not interested in her. I mean, heck, she’s very cute,” he laughed, “but too young for me, no, no…it was something she said the other day…about this very subject, me going on a date, getting out there. I had a meeting with a big client and I had to change ties. I got soup on my tie at lunch, anyway… I have two emergency ties in my desk. She just happened to come in, Ellie, she was bringing me some paperwork and I said, ‘Ellie, I got a meeting with Markiewicz, which tie do you like?’ And she says, ‘You should wear the brown one.’ Okay, I says. And she says, ‘But I like the purple one.’ That caught me be surprise. She says, ‘Save that one for the next time you want to impress a lady.’ Oh, I says. Okay, thanks. I was a little embarrassed. And as she’s leaving she turns and says, ‘Mr. Newmore, I probably shouldn’t get involved…but…you know the insurance company on the third floor? The office manager there is Donna. She would like that tie.’ Oh? I says. ‘Trust me,’ she says. And she walks out.”

“Wow, that’s…unusual,” I said.

“Ya think?” Rich said.

I laughed. “So…are you going to do something about it?”

“Well…yeah, I think so, if I don’t wimp out,” he said. “I made it a point to go to the cafeteria at the time that I’ve seen people from that office go in. I wasn’t sure who Ellie meant. I got my lunch and looked for a table.” Rich sipped on his beer.

“And…?”

“I sat down and had lunch.”

“That’s it?”

“Well, yeah. But I figured out which one is Donna.”

“Oh?”

“Yeah, this one woman looked my way several times. She was trying to hide it. I’m sure she’s the one,” he said, “Attractive too.”

“Cool. So…?”

“Well, the last couple days, I’ve been trying to figure out some excuse to go into that office. Today, I thought of one. Tomorrow, I’m going in.” He said it as if he were embarking on a military mission. For emphasis, he saluted me.

I returned the salute. “Good luck, Captain,” I said.

“Thank you, Corporal,” he said, “that will be all.”

Peter Mansbridge had signed off awhile ago and the B team had come on to repeat everything for those of us on the west coast. It was after ten, Rich had to go to work in the morning, the night was winding down.

I was going to tell Rich about my run-in with the police but there was never a good moment for it. The whole thing was a case of mistaken identity anyway, there’s no record of anything. And they caught the guy they were looking for a couple days later. It’s almost like it never happened. There’s no reason to tell anybody about it. It freaked me out for a couple days. I told Patty and I’ll tell Rich next time. Otherwise, I’d just rather forget it.

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