Once I told my new friend, Rod, that we were going to see the ghost of Wilford Brimley, he braked the car so hard my head snapped forward. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised. This was a guy I had just met, and who agreed to come with me as I searched for the person who tied me up and tried to drown me in a lake. Telling him that he was about to meet a ghost was probably just a little too much to handle.
“I’m sorry, did you just say we’re going to see the ghost of Wilford Brimley?!” he gasped.
“Yes,” I snorted as I glared at Rod for giving me whiplash.
“The actor, Wilford Brimley?” he asked.
“Yes,” I replied.
“From the Waltons?”
“The guy who was in those Quaker Oats commercials?”
“For the last time, yes,” I said. “Now, I’m going to try to get some sleep, so just head east on highway seven. I should wake up before we need to get off.” Then I closed my eyes and muttered. “Hehe. Get off.”
“Grow up,” Rod tried to say authoritatively. He then continued. “So where are we driving to?”
“A haunted diabeetus research facility,” I responded as straight-faced as I could before I started chuckling under my breath.
My friend’s expression changed from surprised to disgusted as he realized the joke I was playing on him. “Ugh. That’s terrible.”
“But funny,” I insisted. “No, we’re not really going to see the ghost of Wilford Brimley. Besides, Wilford Brimley isn’t dead. We’re just going to see someone who looks an awful lot like him.”
Rod thought for a moment before speaking again. “So you had sex with a guy who looks like Wilford Brimley?”
It was my turn to sound authoritative. “No! Just… ugh. Wake me up in half an hour.”
“Fine, fine. Have a good sleep,” Rod said.
I most certainly did not have a good sleep. Instead I dreamed I was drowning again, but this time I couldn’t get out of the ties that bound me, and the calming sensation I felt as I began to accept my fate transformed into a feeling of dread and despair that sucked the remaining air out of my lungs. All the while I could feel myself sinking to the bottom of the lake.
Then I would feel nothing.
After about a moment’s peace, the dream would start over again. I must have had the dream a hundred times in those 30 minutes. Drowning. Dread. Nothing. Drowning. Dread. Nothing. Over and over again.
The cycle finally ended when Rod shook me awake. “Okay, Chris, it’s been half an hour.”
I peeked out the car window and surveyed where we were. “Good timing,” I yawned as I sat up and rubbed the sleep out of my eyes. “Take the second exit and head north. He’s not far.”
We were heading towards a farmhouse in the area surrounding Guelph, Ontario. The person I was looking to confront had moved back into his parent’s house after he dropped out of school.
“So what’s the deal?” asked Rod. “If he’s not an ex, and he’s not the ghost of Wilford Brimley, who is this guy?”
“His name is Lawrence, and he’s a friend,” I told him, but then I corrected myself. “Was a friend.”
“Does it matter?”
“It might,” insisted Rod. “We’re out here in the middle of nowhere, about to confront someone who may very well have tried to murder you. Before I face the real possibility of being killed and buried in the woods, I think I have a right to know what I’m getting into.”
It was hard to argue with him. “Fine,” I began. “It was the summer of 2006-”
“You mean last summer,” interrupted Rod.
“Yes,” I confirmed.” Lawrence and I were looking forward to the new Superman movie that was coming out-”
“The one with Brandon Routh?” Rod interrupted. Again.
“Yeah, that’s the one,” I confirmed. Again. “Anyway, we were really excited. Especially Lawrence. He loves Superman more than anyone, and it was really important to him that we have the best seats for the premiere. So we waited outside the theatre for days, and of course it rained, and it rained, and it was unseasonably cold for June. It was completely uncomfortable, but Lawrence didn’t notice. He was just so excited for a new movie with the Man of Steel. I, on the other hand, got more and more pissed off. I mean, I wanted to see the movie too, but it had to be pretty damn great to make up for how miserable I was becoming. And then, finally the time came when we could finally go in and watch the movie.”
“And how was it?” asked my new friend.
“It. Was. Awful,” I told Rod. “But what made it even worse was that Lawrence liked it. He actually liked that piece of cinematic garbage. It made me so mad that I just unloaded on him, berating him for liking such a stupid movie and for liking such a stupid character in general.” Then I smirked a little bit. “Hehe. I said unloaded.”
My companion tried to be authoritative again. “Grow up.”
And I of course resisted. “No. Anyway, the point is after that he hated me and we stopped being friends. We lost touch.”
Rod seemed puzzled. “That’s it? You and your friend stopped talking because of a movie? You think that’s enough to make him want to kill you?”
“Yup, pretty much.” There was a brief pause between us before I continued. “And I banged his mom.”
“There it is,” Rod said as if he expected it.
We pulled up to Lawrence’s family’s farmhouse just as the sky began to dim to a purplish hue. The house was located on about 25 acres of land, most of it taken up with soybean plants. As both my new friend and I exited the car and headed towards the front door it occurred to me that we were about five kilometers away from the closest neighbours. If something happened, no one would be around to help us. This was not lost on Rod. “Is coming in the front a good idea?” he asked. “I mean, if this guy did try to kill you, aren’t you about to make it easy for him to finish the job?”
I tried to keep a brave face. “It’s important to face your fears head on. Otherwise, they’ll always keep sneaking up on you.”
“That’s… actually good advice, Chris,” Rod said, impressed.
“Thanks. Oh, and Rod?”
I smiled. “You said coming in the front.”
Rod wasn’t as impressed with my wit. “Spending time with you is like spending time with a child,” he said.
Once we made our way up the three squeaky wooden planks onto the porch, I reached out and pressed the little white button next to the door. This caused a booming DONG sound to vibrate through my bones. It wasn’t long before we sensed movement inside the house. My heart started to beat a little faster when I heard a series of thundering steps approaching us. When Lawrence opened the door, I was reminded that while he looked like Wilford Brimley, he was a six foot, three inch tall Wilford Brimley, with a big bushy brown moustache that made it clear that he was a much younger version of his clone.
The moment he saw me I was hit with that fiery gaze of his. It was the kind of look that an alpha lion might give a sickly member of his pride if it was foolish enough to try to eat a scrap of gazelle before its turn. I was certain my chest was going explode. That, or Lawrence was going to finish what he started and punch a hole in my head.
This was a bad idea, I thought. We shouldn’t have come here. Confronting Jin was easy. I could take him in a fair fight if it came to that. If Lawrence did try to kill me, I should count my lucky stars I survived and I should get as far away from him as possible and hope he assumes I drowned in that lake. What am I doing here?
I started cringing as soon as Lawrence opened his mouth to speak. “Chris, is that you? Hey man, how are you? It’s been a long time. You look… damp.”
I was relieved that my brain didn’t explode. “Thanks. And yeah, yeah it has been a long time.”
“So what brings you out to my neck of the woods?” Lawrence asked. “I know how much you hate the country.”
“Oh, you know,” I started without really knowing where I was going to finish. “Something happened today and it made me think about you and I thought it would be a good idea to come by and see how you are doing.” That could have went worse, I thought to myself, proudly.
Lawrence paused for a second before responding. “That really doesn’t sound like you.”
“Yeah,” Rod chimed in. “I just met you and I know that isn’t you.”
Alright, maybe it wasn’t perfect, I conceded.
“Who’s the guy in the tux?” Lawrence asked, sticking his thumb at Rod.
“Oh hey, yeah, this is my new friend, Rod. New friend, Rod, this is old friend, Lawrence.”
Lawrence and Rod exchanged nods.
“You know, you look a lot like a younger Wilford Brimley,” Rod felt the need to tell Lawrence.
“Yeah, I get that a lot,” Lawrence replied. He really did get that a lot.
After a few minutes of looking at each other awkwardly, I decided to try to end the conversation. “Well, this has been fun, Larry, but we oughta be going. We’ll talk soon, kay?”
I tried to leave, but Rod decided to stop me. “That’s it? Aren’t you going to ask him?”
Lawrence looked puzzled. “Ask me what?”
I came this far, I figured. I may as well ask. I tried to mutter as quietly as I could. “Um. Did you try to kill me?”
“What did you say?” asked Lawrence.
“Did you try to kill me?” I said a little louder. Oh boy, I thought. Here comes the death punch.
“What the hell are you talking about?” asked Lawrence, sounding a little insulted.
“Someone tried to drown Chris today,” Rod informed him. “Tied him up and dumped him in the lake in Waterloo Park.”
Lawrence looked a little flabbergasted. “And you think it was me?”
“Well, maybe,” I answered, sheepishly. “You know, after how things ended between us.”
“What, the Superman thing?” said Lawrence. “Dude, I don’t hate you for that.”
“You don’t?” I said, finally feeling confident that the Wilford Brimley looking dude in front of me wasn’t going to bury his foot in my ass.
“Of course not. I mean, Superman Returns is the most underrated film of all time-”
“It’s not,” I interrupted. “But continue.”
“But thanks to you,” continued Lawrence, “I realized that the Man of Steel isn’t everything. By challenging me on my blind devotion, you forced me to think more critically about my interests, and realize there are more things in this world to appreciate. As a result, you helped me find my new passion. I no longer need Superman to make me happy.”
“Oh, that’s great, that’s really great,” I beamed. “What are you into now?”
“Green Lantern,” replied Lawrence.
My beaming turned to rage and confusion. “Green Lantern, are you shitting me? Green Lantern is even worse than Superman!”
“What are you talking about?” Lawrence insisted. “Green Lantern is incredible! He has a ring that can create anything he imagines, and it runs on willpower!”
“Yeah,” I mocked. “And all he ever imagines is boxing gloves and fishing nets. Green Lantern is incredibly stupid and lame.”
“Well, he’s definitely cooler than Batman,” said Lawrence, as if it wasn’t the stupidest thing that anyone had ever said in the history of everything. Everyone knows that Batman is the greatest superhero of all time.
“You take that back, you son of a bitch!” I yelled as I took a step towards Lawrence, ready to punch the giant in his stupid moustached face. Thankfully Rod got in between us, because Lawrence probably would have ripped me in two.
“Whoa Chris,” Rod said, his warm eyes calming both Lawrence and I. “I think it’s pretty obvious Lawrence here didn’t try to kill you. But let’s go before he starts thinking it’s a good idea.”
“Fine, fine,” I agreed, but I still wanted to figure out who was responsible for trying to take my life, so I decided to ask Lawrence if he had any ideas. “So Lawrence, any thoughts on who would want me dead?”
Lawrence didn’t hesitate. “Well, I imagine most people want you dead, but there is only one person I can think of who would actually take steps to make that a reality.”
“Really? Who?” I asked Lawrence.
He answered with a single word. “Her.”
A chill ran up my spine. It was so obvious. Why didn’t I see it before?
“Her?” asked Rod. “Her who?”
“I’ll explain on the way, c’mon,” I told Rod before turning to Lawrence. “Thanks, Lawrence. I’ll see you later.”
“See you. Nice meeting you, Rod,” Lawrence said as he started to wave goodbye to us.
“Nice to meet you, too. And by the way, my name is-” Rod started to say before I grabbed his arm and pulled him towards the car. Why would he feel the need to repeat his name? I thought. Did he hit his head when I wasn’t looking?
Rod and I had started to take our leave, but it still really irked me that Lawrence thought Green Lantern was better than Batman. It bothered me enough that just as we were about half way back to the car, I turned back towards the farmhouse.
“Geez,” I said. “Where are my manners? Hey, Lawrence?”
Lawrence was now back inside the house, but had yet to close the door. “Yeah?”
A Cheshire cat-like smile stretched across my face. “How’s your mother?”
Lawrence’s fiery eyes appeared again. Now I was the gazelle. “You son of a bitch!” yelled Lawrence. “I’m going to rip out your arms and beat you to death with them!”
As Lawrence started to bound towards us, my companion and I hightailed it back to the car, and barely managed to get out of there before the younger, burly version of Wilford Brimley could catch up with us. We took a few moments to catch our breath as Rod drove away before he started up with his questions again. “What did you do that for?”
“Because I’m a gentlemen,” I answered matter-of-factly. “It would be rude to not ask about a woman I had relations with.”
“Yeah, right. So, who is this ‘Her’ you guys were talking about?”
“She’s my ex-girlfriend,” I told him.
“I take it things ended badly,” Rod guessed.
“You have no idea.”
“So what happened?” Rod asked.
I really didn’t want to talk about it. “I really don’t want to talk about it,” I told him.
“Listen, Chris, I’m happy to help you on this adventure of yours, but if I’m going to continue you’re going to need to give me something here. What am I about to jump into?”
“You’re about to jump into a hornet’s nest,” I said. “It makes sense that she would be the one behind this. It should have been obvious from the get go. Maybe I just didn’t want to believe it.” At that moment I hung my head and started looking at my still damp shoes.
“Alright,” Rod said. “I’ve come this far already. Guess I may as well stick with you until the end.”
I smiled a little, but I didn’t lift my head up when I responded. “Thanks. I appreciate that.”
“So, where are we heading?” Rod asked.
I raised my head to look at my companion. “To the hornet’s nest.”
We continued driving for a few moments before Rod decided to break the cool silence we had going. “So, is that, like, a bar or something?”
To be continued.