Excerpt: Mysterious Dreams of the Dead
Mysterious Dreams of the Dead
One of those rootless, forgotten nights. I leaned against the giving rail of a “large table,” surveying the debris field of reds and prized colour’d balls with their multiple point values, trying to put my long-ago-high-school geometry to good use. The lacquered wood and twenty-ounce weight of my pool cue felt secure on the bridge of my left hand, its solid heft cool against my cheek as I calculated angles and aimed.
Playing pool was a good way to relax after a week of teaching classes at the University of Toronto and tutoring spoiled kids from “Upper Canada” families three evenings a week. I also edited professors’ books from time to time. I made enough for entertainment expenses anyway. I had graduated with an MA in English in the early 1980s and was bidding my time, a long time, before starting the PhD program. I needed the break from study.
While the Friday night crowd slid and squirmed around the room of Curly’s Billiards, the RCA-Victor TV set with the fading and distorted picture blared out a newscast in a wretched last gasp.
Police arrested four men of Armenian background today on suspicion of planting a bomb on the northbound Yonge-University TTC line last Tuesday morning. The Metro Toronto Bomb Squad found explosive material in a gym bag on the lead subway car. Witnesses became suspicious when they saw four men leave the bag under their seat before quickly exiting at the next stop. The bomb did not explode, and no one was hurt.
Four blurry men covered their faces to get away from the intense fixed stare of the cameras. The images flickered, distorted, and sputtered within the black & white screen of the pool hall TV, a decrepit cathode set elevated above the fray for advantaged viewing. Yet the four were clearly identifiable as the guilty parties.
Their dark skin and slicked back hair burned through the static of the television image. I imagined the garlic and parsley sweat-odour exuding from their bodies. I thought I was obvious-looking in this white-power-majority-town. My mother would never call them “Canadians.”
I turned to concentrate on the bright-green sheen of the table; nothing could disturb me, not even the distraction of the PA system that suddenly crackled to life above me.
“Line one for Mike Shintani,” growled a voice that sounded like a hung-over Tom Waits.
I ignored the summons and continued lining up the shot, sliding my cue back and forth between my fingers, again, taking aim as I peered through the cigarette smoke-fog.
“Yo Shintani, answer the phone!” Waits insisted away from the mic while slumped behind his counter.
Dave Watanabe, my opponent, partner and ride, backed him up. “You’d better get that.”
I scratched off the pink. Minus six points.
“Yeah, this is Mike,” I answered on a convenient wall phone. “What is it?”
“Hi, it’s Cathy…”
“Oh, hi Cath. How did you know I was here?”
“Where else would you be on a Friday night? Dave with you…?”
“Yeah, he just finished a double shift –”
“Did you read about Boku?” she said unusually quick on the draw.
Another pocket of silence. “In tonight’s Daily Star.”
“Boku’s in the paper?”
“Yes, listen to this,” she insisted after her characteristic pause. Cathy read the article slowly in that precise yet hesitating way she had, like the way she sits upright, so straight she puts a ruler to shame. She always stopped cold between sentences as if thinking about what to say next. I scratched my forearm in anticipation.
A Toronto Canadian-Japanese man says he robbed the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce at the corner of Dundas and Spadina to defend the honor of his grandfather, who was interned during World War II. The twenty-five-year-old Kenneth Sugiura told District Court that he is willing to go to jail for ten years to protest the treatment 20,000 Japanese Canadians received in World War II. Sugiura had quit the faculty of architecture at the University of British Columbia in order to come back to Toronto to begin a business based on a new computer program he had developed while living in Vancouver. Bail has been set at $100,000.
“Are you kidding me? Are you saying that’s Boku?”
“It sounds like him…”
“Yeah, but…I can’t believe it. Has he lost his mind? What kind of loser –”
“Michael!” Cathy chided abruptly.
“This has got to be some kind of joke. You know Boku…”
Cathy started crying softly, her gently curved eyes squeezed shut, I imagined. Her ex-fiancé was known for his practical jokes, but this was beyond the pale. Kenneth “Boku” Sugiura was born in a working-class neighbourhood of the city but raised in an unremarkable suburban area, even for Scarborough, known as Agincourt, an enclave of accidental parks, split-level bungalows, and well-equipped schools, far from the ghetto of Spadina and Dundas where his family started life in Toronto. Like me, he made his way through a conventional education through to university.
“Cathy don’t cry,” I said. She could be a pill sometimes. “There’s gotta be a logical explanation for all this. Let me talk to Glenn. Maybe he knows something.”
“You’ll let me know what you find out…?” she sniffled.
“Yeah, sure.” I forgave her verbal flaw for the moment.
Dave just sank a two-ball combination when I returned with the bizarre story.
“You shitting me?” my buddy asked. “He’s not that kind of guy. Is he?”
“Well, the paper says he is,” I confirmed, as I pointed to the article in a stray copy I picked up from a refugee chair by the phone.
“Let me see that.”
“That guy had everything going for him,” I declared to the air as Dave ruffled and folded the paper smooth. “He was gonna be the next I.M. Pei for Christ’s sake. How many guys get that kind of opportunity?”
“Why are you so pissed?”
“I’m pissed… I’m pissed because…,” I stammered. “He had it all and a fiancée…er…girlfriend.” I faded for a moment of reflection. “You know Cathy?”
“For sure. She’s a 10,” he pronounced emphatically. “Maybe an 8.”
“Well, he’s thrown it all away now,” I observed.
It was true. Boku Sugiura had “had it all”. He was the poster boy for Sansei of the Year. Now what?