The Day of the Jackhole

The Day of the Jackhole

Celebrating 40 years on this earth

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1992. Resurrection.

September 23, 2011

“I’ve got some bad news,” she says, in a tone low and apologetic.

I’m standing in the stairwell between the two dorms of Arscott House and playing with the metal cord of the pay phone. The receiver is black and heavy in my hand. There’s a decent heft to it. A weight. My brother’s girlfriend is on the line.

“Pa’s dead.”

There is a silence, a hollow chamber in my head as thoughts clang about and I absorb this news. I manage to blurt out a ‘what?’ but know I’m in a bad situation right now. That stunned will soon be replaced by ‘not handling this very well’ and man, I need to get off this phone and out of this stairwell.

Back in my room, I close the door and begin to implode. Pa’s dead. Waves. Crushing. Blanketed weight of disbelief. The pain in my throat from tears. Too much too much.

And then I sit up on the edge of the bed.

Something’s not right. Sniffle. Grab a tissue.

Think.

Why would my brother’s girlfriend call and tell me this devastating news? Why wouldn’t Dad? Or Michael, even?

Something’s not right.

A few deep breaths, slowly crack the door. I check the hallway. No one. Don’t want anyone to see my wrecked face. I duck out and across the courtyard to the building where they do the aerobics. No one is there, and the pay phone is a bit more private for this call. I dial my brother’s work number. Someone yells out to get him.

As I wait for him to come to the phone, I imagine his grubby face popping out from under a tractor. Wiping the grease off his hands with a piece of old rag as he slopes to the front office. In his grey overalls, with his name embroidered on the chest.

“Hello?”

“Oh… hey. It’s me.”

“Whaddya want?”

He says it in that tone he’s used all our lives. The annoyed tolerance. The ‘tell me quick or I’ll give you a dead leg’ voice. Where once I would have taken it at face value, I know the truth of it. The affection. And in this very moment, I find it very soothing. Relieving. A balm on my jangled nerves.

“Listen,” I say. “This might um, sound strange. But, um…”

Deep breath.

“Is Pa dead?”

“What?! No. What ARE you on about?”

I explain. About the phone call. About Pa being dead. I actually hear the lightbulb go on in his head. From hundreds of kilometers away.

“Not OUR Pa,” he says. He goes on to explain the Pa in question and although I know who he is, he’s not our Pa. There is a sense of relief. Of confusion as to why his girlfriend would have felt the need to call me (we barely knew each other), and that as far as he knows, our Pa is fine.

“I gotta get back to work.”

“Ok. Now, just to confirm. Pa is fine?”

“You’re an idiot.”

“Cool. Love you.”

“Yeah yeah”

I’m smiling as I hear the phone click. Resurrection on a weekday.

 


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