Old Timer Talkin’

Geist - - Findings - VERON­ICA GAYLIE

From Sword Dance. Pub­lished by Ex­ile Edi­tions in 2015. Veron­ica Gaylie's work has been pub­lished in many pe­ri­od­i­cals, in­clud­ing Grain, Ditch, Room, Lake, Carte Blanche, thetyee.ca and Geist. She lives in Van­cou­ver.

Un­cle Tom lies in St. Paul’s Emer­gency pace­maker jump­ing like a sock­eye sal­mon while he teaches two nurses four verses of Danny Boy. They re­lease him and by the time the taxi pulls away eight nurses stand out­side wav­ing to him. He says, Cordova Streets the best home he ever had. Three square meals, a ra­dio and peo­ple who lis­ten to him sing Hank Williams: lawyers, hockey play­ers, priests and shrinks. My mother says, Ach. He does­nae see the neigh­bour­hood, he jist looks at the flow­ers.

He spends his days at the court­house, gets free cof­fee from the court cof­fee lady who never in her life gave away any­thing for free. But Tom has a way about him. He was in fact up to three free cof­fees a day, over­did it a bit, and the cof­fee lady had to say, Eh, Tom, I did­nae mean it quite like that. Said, I mean, I did­nae mean three free cof­fees noo, and Tom looks up at her and says: You’re right, mother. From now oan, it’s only wan.

By the time Mcsor­ley’s hockey trial hit he was back up to three and that day court packed, stand­in­groom only the guard said to Tom, Okay, big guy. Go on in. And Tom looked aroond, Big guy? Who’s eh talk­ing tae? The way Cana­di­ans say things, Tom jist loved it. Peo­ple in line looked at Tom, who was­nae tall, and said, Hey, why does he get in? And the guard stared back and said, Be­cause he’s one of the fam­ily. And Tom went right in.

Later Tom was in­ter­viewed on CBC about the trial from an old­timers point of view, ex­cept they got Tom who looked straight into the

lens with his blue eyes and snowy white hair. Stand­ing there with his free cof­fee, he said, It was tae hard te see oan TV Ye re­ally could­nae get a good an­gle oan things.

The re­porter told Tom to walk into the sun­set, an old­timer shot to close the show, Folks, there goes the old­timer; walk­ing into the dis­tance, walk­ing slow, but Tom, cam­era rolling, live TV walked slower than they wanted him to. Be­hind him the cam­era rolled, the re­porters voice slowed and slowed, tried to keep pace with Tom walk­ing slow: Folkss…there goes the old­timer…walk­ing…wal­l­lk­ingg…

But Tom walked slower than slow. Tried to drag it out, you know. By the time he pressed the but­ton to cross the street, they liked Tom old, but not so slow.

Now Tom has a way of walk­ing slow. Not like he was be­fore. The night he stag­gered in cir­cles around the back­yard, drunk, shout­ing, I’m a fuck­ing Scot! I’m a fuck­ing Scot! Be­fore that, he made ev­ery­one laugh. Found cig­a­rettes in his ears, made coins dis­ap­pear. Then, when granda died, he handed in his gloves at the bus me­chanic de­pot and walked and walked and did not stop. All the way to New West­min­ster.

They gave him elec­tric shock. (I did not care what the neigh­bours thought.)

Back in Glas­gow, he might have been the one with a foot­ball kick called The In­ter­na­tional, but in Canada, he did magic tricks, alone, on the liv­ing room loveseat.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.