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The young client-service technician stopped showing up one day after the dregs of his morning coffee slid down in the shape of music notes and he looked in the bathroom mirror and saw Glenn Gould’s face instead of his own. No more financial reps or wholesalers or confused clients asking if they were speaking to someone in Toronto.
For money the young man played the piano and for company he entertained individuals whose desire could not be contained at the sight of him. Every blood test came back negative.
That summer he was the headliner at Festival d’été, the music drifting over eighty thousand screaming fans weathering the cool rain on the Plains of Abraham. He appeared onstage with Sir Paul McCartney. He accompanied Lady Gaga. Billy Joel changed some lyrics to honor him during the encore. After all that, a former colleague came backstage with a VIP pass and told the young man he was cool for an Anglophone.
The young man had his former colleague killed, the body incinerated, the ashes scattered along the shores of the St. Lawrence River. He sent a fruitcake to his colleague’s family at Christmas and established a scholarship at Laval University as penance. All world-famous celebrities are allowed one murder, but he’d been a tad too hasty in using his.
He went out and purchased a sports car. Others’ lives flashed before his eyes on the autoroute: H.P. Lovecraft, Norm Macdonald, the back-up goaltender for the 1976-77 Nordiques.
He purchased a cabane à sucre on nearby Île d’Orléans and each night he swam laps in an Olympic-size pool of maple syrup in the hope that he could slow the transformation of his skull into an oversized cube, the rearrangement of his features. His eyes and mouth and nose faced front, while his ears shifted to either side. Everything flattened and appeared painted-on. He could have been from the Big Smoke or spent his life working the fields behind the house his grandfather and great uncle had built (shoddily, with their own hands) in Northeastern Alberta.
He sold his piano for a fraction of what he paid for it and was left with his millions and a case of HPV and the unbearable weight of his head. An aching neck. A bruised and tender face. The inability to pass through doors, like Mayor McCheese. The loss of balance. The embarrassment of being unable to pick himself up. The need to ask his personal assistant to draw his eyebrows back on with a marker after he washed his face.
He gave up on his maple syrup treatment and threw J.Lo’s get-well-soon card in the blue bin. He spent his days in bed, contemplating arson. Years passed before he discovered that if he closed his eyes and concentrated, he could leave his body with its cumbersome block for a head and shoot through the clouds and the atmosphere.
He was entertained by an astronaut’s guitar-playing, but it was tiring to maintain his presence outside his physical form and keep up with the speed of the International Space Station at the same time. He went still and slipped through the station’s shell, into the void, and orbited the earth until the silence became unbearable.
Upon his return he sold the sugar shack and the sports car. He moved to Ontario. Words that had come easily to him, albeit in a thick accent, eluded him. He caught up with friends and acquaintances, and they lamented the lack of squeak in the cheese curds in their poutine. They buttered the crusts on their pizza. They pronounced the names of certain hockey players in a way that made others think they were pretentious.
They were pretentious. And they loved it.
Touer Haines lives with his wife and daughter in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. His work has appeared in The Parliament Literary Journal.