This is a short, PG (for topic) story I wrote last year after
the events of the labour day weekend. FYI, This takes place Sunday, Sept.
1/97. The Consulate is the new one, they are still setting up in it.
Its the middle of the afternoon. Comments welcome.
A Grey, Sticky, Crappy Sunday
Its a grey, sticky, crappy Sunday and one of the Canadians ends up at
the newest location of the Consulate because she don't know where else
It is like the sticky, hot damp weather - no matter where you are that
day it is still going to feel bad. Its still going to hurt. And, like
the weather, its not something that you have any connection with or control
over but it follows and haunts you all the same. This is the second last
day of a long weekend; a Tuesday is coming but she wishes it would get
here and stop making the extra hours ache as much.
She walks into the building and sees her Deputy Liaison Officer hanging
from the overhead light. "What are you doing here?" Thatcher
doesn't mean to sound as sharp as she does. It just comes out that way
sometimes, mostly with him, usually with others. Right now, it is just
force of habit, the hardest kind to break
Fraser is on the top rung of a ladder, with one arm reaching for a hanging
light bulb and the other arm groping desperately for anything to steady
himself. It is Thatcher's voice belting out that tips him over the edge,
literally and leaves him hanging from one of the overhead pipes.
"Oh dear," he worries, still remaining the unruffled gentleman,
even twelve feet from the floor.
"Let go, Fraser," Thatcher orders.
"Yes, Ma'am." Fraser obeys and lands on his back. The fall
is broken by a pile of toilette paper rolls.
"Get up, Fraser," Thatcher orders again, and extends her hand
He takes the help and gets himself to his feet. "Thank you, Ma'am."
Then, at the same time, they look at each other oddly and ask at the
same time: "What are you doing here?"
"Nothing," they then reply in unison.
"Fraser, stop talking when I do. Why are you here on a Sunday? We
have contractors' to repair our lighting fixtures."
"I just thought I'd have a go at it. Usually, the storage room is
the first place that is in the most demand."
And he didn't know where else he should be.
"Well, fine. Just don't kill yourself. The force isn't covered for
that kind of insurance."
"Yes, Ma'am. If I may ask, I thought you were going to the brunch
at the Italian Embassy."
"I didn't feel like it. Too many people." Too many other people
feeling as crappy as she did. It didn't matter where you were today,
she had decided. If it was going to hurt, she might as well be productive
I know what you mean, he doesn't say even though he wants to. He wonders
if he is supposed to excuse himself and leave her to her office, but
he doesn't because it is his Consulate too and he doesn't want to leave
yet. He wonders if she is thinking the same thing.
The kettle from the other room whistles bloody murder and wakes them
both from the uncomfortable silence. "I'm making myself a cup of
tea," Fraser explains. "Would you like some?"
The chairs haven't been delivered yet so they both sit on the carpet
in the main lobby. The curtains are up, a few of the paintings. They
sit across from each other, cross legged, like campers waiting for the
fog to clear before they can continue home.
"I take it you've had access to a television or radio," she
breaks the silence that ends when she can't stir her tea anymore. "I
mean, you still don't own a TV, do you."
"No ma'am, but yes, I did hear the news on the way home from a baseball
game on Ray's car radio. Did you hear about it on the television?"
"Yes. Just that there had been an accident; that she was hurt and
he had died. I suppose I thought that was that until I turned my radio
on. It must have been four o'clock in the morning. I landed on one of
those call-in show and I heard the man misread the topic when he said,
'Our topic: Reaction to the death of Lady Diana" and I thought,
'You silly ass, if you're going to do these sick call in shows, at least
get the casualty facts right - it was him, not her.' But then I knew
she had died. I went to the television and she had died."
"I can't believe it. Anyone else in the news or International circles
I could fathom, but not this. Not her."
"I know," Thatcher says. "I met her once, you know."
"Did you? When?"
"At a reception in Ottawa four or five years ago. We only spoke
for a few moments. She wanted to know what it was like being a woman
in the force. We talked a little. She was very nice. I think she managed
to speak to just about everyone there that night. People who were more
nervous than she was and she would just put them at ease.
"You? Nervous?" Fraser leans over to put his cup down on the
carpet but his eyes never leave her.
"Yes. Even me. Don't let it throw you. I'm past being nervous, if
you haven't already noticed." There's a suggestion of a smile now
and he knows she isn't offended. "Did you ever meet her?" she
"Once when I was a Cadet and being inspected in Yellowknife with
my troop. She stopped in front of me, looked down at my feet and asked
my how on earth I kept my boots so shinny. I think she may have been
a little nervous her self. Not as much as I was. Then she looked at me,
and I looked at her. She was smiling. I told her I didn't know. To be
honest, I don't remember what else I said. I blathered something about
using polish from the carcass of an -"
"Never mind, I think I've heard the stories." And this time
Thatcher is the one smiling at him. But the light in her eyes quickly
drowns in a haze of tears that threatens to pour, but won't. She looks
away and reaches for her tea, anything to get caught like this.
"I know how you feel," he tells her. And he does know, he just
isn't allowed to show it.
"Those poor boys," she is saying to herself. And that is what
is ripping at her the worst, at this second. Those poor boys. Two children
she's never met nor ever would, in all likelihood, but right now they
are the two people she fears for the most.
"They'll be fine," Fraser assures them both. "She left
them with enough strength. They'll be fine. They have a father who will
come through for them."
"I know, I know. Its not fair, though. So much that happens isn't
fair and we know it and we get on with it but once in a while something
public, tragic just happens and reminds us of what we can't control in
our own lives, let alone what isn't controllable in other people's lives."
"It's sad," Fraser says and these are the simple words Thatcher
has been looking for.
Sad, just plain sad and it hurts like hell.
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