The Bukowski Agency - Son of a Trickster - Excerpt
Son of a Trickster

a novel by Eden Robinson


A few years earlier, Jared’s mom had been dating a guy nicknamed Death Threat, who’d left Kitimat suddenly, pushed out by a biker gang that moved to town with the start of the oil and gas boom. The gang had announced their intentions with a series of violent home invasions of the local drug dealing community. Death’d also left a trail of debts that one guy in particular expected his mom to pay. The guy’d dropped by The North Star when it was her shift and then left freaky-ass messages on their machine. One morning, he’d left a note pinned to their front door with a buck knife.

His mom yanked the knife out of their door and examined the note, rolling her eyes. She crumpled the paper and casually tossed it off the porch. “Richie is such a fucktard.”

Jared walked down to the bus stop and huddled into himself, stamping his feet against the cold. His mom stood on the porch, watching him. He’d caught her tracking him a lot lately. She lifted the buck knife in a salute before she went inside. The curtains twitched. He sighed, then cranked his iTouch until his headphones vibrated. That was the year the cats in their neighbourhood started disappearing because a family of wolverines had moved onto the nearby golf course and started snacking on them. Sad, crayon-printed signs offering rewards for finding Mr. Fluffy or Kat Mandu fluttered and faded on telephone poles. His mom had claimed she was worried when the wolverines ran out of cats they’d move up to kids but they seemed to have migrated south for the winter. He guessed she was really worried about the buck knife freak but didn’t want to admit it.

She’d had a tight circle of friends before she and his dad got divorced, but they’d all moved away when Eurocan shut down. His parents used to have something going on every weekend—barbeques or hockey parties or campground parties and the kids would watch movies in the basement or in someone’s SUV and the parents would get increasingly loud and sloshed upstairs or in the backyard or around the campfire. Now they were struggling to make the mortgage and their fridge was filled with scraps from work. They had a four-bedroom house, but when they were alone it felt like a one-room shack. She’d talk to him through the door when he was on the can. The red glow of her cigarette was his nightlight as she sat beside his bed in the darkness. He smelled her Craven M’s in his dreams. A trail of her texts followed him through his day.

Jared heard dogs barking loud enough that they penetrated his headphones and he looked up and across the street in time to see a tall, swaggering man pause and stare back at him. The man wore a leather jacket too light for the weather and had two pit bulls straining at their chains. His face was burnt brown, like he’d fallen asleep in a tanning booth and his head was shaved and unshapely, bumpy and folded. His nose had a crooked, off-kilter look, like it had been broken then reset in the dark. His mom had described Richie just in case he showed up when she wasn’t around, but Jared had never seen him before that moment.

Richie dropped the chains. The orange, black and grey pit bull leaped up and its legs skittered in excitement as it took off down the street, biting at the snow banks. The other dog, the larger one with dark fur and a yellowed eye, leapt over the ditch and took two bounds to cross the road.

Jared experienced the subjective nature of time. Party Rock Anthem played on his iTouch, a cheerful and jittery song dedicated to the party lifestyle. You should run, he thought. The pit bull had surprising flecks of gold in the dark fur. You should run now. But he knew it was too late to do anything. Jared dropped his backpack off his shoulder and flung it. The momentum made his headphones slip and dangle around his neck. Richie wore a big shit-eating grin as he followed his dog across the road to get a close-up view of the action. The pit bull was locked on the backpack when Jared’s mother hit it with her truck.

The dog bounced off the grill and hit the pavement, yelping. Jared’s algebra assignments broke free of the backpack and swirled down the street. His mom turned to look behind her, backed up a few feet and then calmly shifted gears and squashed the pit bull under the front passenger tire. The unmistakeable crunch of bones ended the yelping. As her tires spun, blood sprayed the snow and steamed in clots. His mom rolled down the driver’s window.

“Kindly leave my boy alone,” she said.

Richie stared at her like she’d surprised him with a lovely present.

His mom backed up, holding Richie’s gaze. She revved the engine. “This is grown-up business, wouldn’t you say? Something that should be kept between a man and a woman.”

“Yeah,” Richie agreed.

They smiled at each other. Passing cars slowed to gawk. A police siren grew steadily louder.

“Sorry ’bout your dog,” she said.

“I got another,” he said.

A police car parked behind his mother’s truck and shut off the sirens but left the red and blue lights twirling. His mom put her hand to her mouth and her eyes swelled with tears. Richie apologized and apologized and they lied like they’d been practicing for years: Damn mutt’s been acting up since he got that infection. Oh, God, I feel so horrible! No, I’m the one who’s sorry. I was so scared! Yeah, I know they need muzzles but my boys needed a piss in the worst way.

The cop tilted his head skeptically. Jared shook with fading adrenaline. His bus pulled up and let people off. He automatically tried to get on, but the cop put a hand on his shoulder, saying, “You might want to change your pants.”

He looked down. Blood and chunks had turned the front of his jeans red. And, of course, his homework was blowing down the street and he didn’t want to arrive late, get stared at for his dog-splattered jeans and not have his homework done. His mom wrapped him in her arms while the cop asked Richie to describe his other pit bull. She squeezed him until his ribs creaked.

“Richie could be the answer to a lot of our problems,” she whispered in his ear. “If you keep your cool and don’t take this personally.”

He choked on his answer, trying to pull out of her grip.

“I’d kill and die for you, Jelly Bean,” she said. “Don’t ever forget that.”



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