Man without a compass

Toronto 1970. Bill Mickle is sorting mail in the post office. This is his job until something better comes along. He handles a letter addressed to So-and-so, some house number, Smugglers Cove Road, Victoria, British Columbia. He takes the streetcar home to a small apartment in the west end. His wife is making dinner. His first wife, Crazy Nutcase. A baby boy is sitting in a high hair. This would be the one and only Willy. Mickle tells his wife about the letter and the address, Smugglers Cove Road. His wife says: “Sounds like a wonderful place.” He says: “Let’s move there.”

Detroit 1980. The young woman doesn’t want to lose him. Susie One, green-eyed ballerina, ten years younger than Mickle. She is looking out the window of her office and sees him walking along Lafayette Blvd with another woman. She goes down to the street and tells the woman to scram and leads Mickle into her building. They take the elevator to the third floor and she ushers him into an empty conference room. She is an intern at the company but she steps into the conference room like a member of the board. She says: “Listen asshole, I’m the love of your life, so I don’t ever want to see you with another woman.” That could have been a turning point in Mickle’s life, but he let it slip away. Didn’t comply. Kept seeing other women. Susie One ended up marrying a Park Avenue heart surgeon and living in a multi-million-dollar apartment  in New York City.

Victoria, B.C. 1990. Mickle and Willy, nineteen, are standing at the corner of Douglas and Yates. Crazy Nutcase is in a lunatic asylum in Toronto. Engraved into the sidewalk before Mickle and his son is a compass. North-south-east-west. Willy says: So, mad father of mine, where to now?

Poughkeepsie, N.Y. 2015. The question is still there. Not at the corner of Douglas and Yates, although it is still there too, but this time in a weekly-rate motel room on Route 9. Mickle is seventy-one. Willy is no more, his indestructible atoms having reassembled in an unknown form in an unknown place, possibly still on the planet earth. With Mickle in the motel room is his second wife, Suzie Q. She says: “So, mad husband of mine, where to now?” He looks at her and sings a refrain from the Boll Weevil Song: Gotta have a home, gotta have a homehttp://youtu.be/z5H6iwQGWl4. His wife says: “Tell me something I don’t know.”

Poughquag, N.Y. 2019. Mickle and his wife Suzie Q. are siting in separate armchairs in the living room of their bungalow. There is a coffee table in front of them. The television is on. Masterpiece Theatre or something. Suzie is dozing in the chair. Mickle looks at her. She looks like one of the last photos he has of his mother. She is old, certainly, but she has a dignity and a vulnerability grown more fragile with age. He leans forward in his chair and opens a drawer in the coffee table. Inside, among cigarette packs, cigars, matches, TV guide, take-out menus from neighborhood restaurants, is a revolver. He suddenly has a crazy thought: There is no transition between life and death. He takes the revolver from the drawer.

A room at the back of the bungalow has a view of the backyard, a rocky hill, tall trees, bird feeder swinging from a branch. A cat is hunched in a stalking position on the bed, her tail swishing back and forth, watching birds fly in and land on the bird feeder. The cat turns her head when she hears the shots.