War Poet.ca - A CFAP Project by Suzanne Steele

complainers (from may day)

o M,

J’s in a bad state again. “can’t stand it, just can’t fucking stand it,” he says when I meet him for tea (his new drink). his head in his right hand. his body slouched into the table.

“what the fuck’s wrong with them anyway?”

he’s listening to the radio in the coffee shop. it’s noon. CBC. talk-back. people calling in to complain. point the finger of blame.

“about what J? what are you talking about?”

“snow”, he said, “they’re fucking complaining about a couple of weeks of snow. what a bunch of wimps here on the west coast.”

and he puts on a funny voice and imitates what he hears,“‘I had to buy 3 weeks of groceries. I’m shut in. my neighbour stole the parking spot I shovelled out for my car. I’m depressed because no one will do anything for me. why doesn’t the city come and clear my walk, my drive, my fricking life?’” “can’t you hear them S?” his voice soft and normal, “I can’t bear it. all these whiners in their heated houses, fridges full of food, smart-ass eco cars, wide-screen t.v.s, Christmas trees shaking needles in their back yards, sitting on their soft, fat butts.”

and he’s shaking, M, J is shaking. with rage and some sort of fear. and when I ask him what’s really bugging him, he says, “complainers. haven’t a clue. how most of the world lives. what we’ve seen. or what we’ve had to do. for them. Christ S, when I think of it, it just makes me want to puke.”

and he looks around the crowded shop. Christmas crap still hanging. garlands. left over stocking stuffers. China-junk that didn’t sell. there’s a recession on here M, did you know?

“look at that stuff. land fill.” J says. “it’s just land fill in waiting. it’ll take generations to break down.”

“S, in Afghanistan, out in the FOBs, we take out the garbage and little men swarm. from out of nowhere. boys. 7, 8, 10 years old. scramble for anything good. old boots, tins of food past best-before date, laces, cigarette butts, rags, plastic bags, you name it. carry their finds home in sacks as big as them. kilometres. bare feet. old sandles.”

“sometimes I’d throw a couple of packs of beef jerky near the top for them to find. unopened. still good.”

“and you should see some of them. their skin. spotted. patchy. like leopards. or iguanas. some kind of desert fly causes it. scabs and weeping eyes. old way before their time.”

and I say to J, “ya, M told me all about that last year. breaks his heart. makes him think of his own kids.”

“it’s too easy here S. too beautiful too. look at the streets. paved. no IEDs. and trees. and buildings that don’t have holes in them. and stores filled with food. I’d just like to send those bitchers and complainers to walk in those kids’ shoes (or torn up feet). or some soldiers’ boots for that matter. just for one day. see acid splash on some young girl’s face. her teacher’s severed head in the ditch. cross a mine-seeded soccer field. a bus bomb blast. see the baby drowned in the wadi. let them smell the smell of death.”

and he’s out of breath. he’s straightened up. can’t seem to breath. big inhale. big gasp. and I put my arms around him. he’s stiff as an ironing board beneath his down vest, his checkered shirt. his eyes somewhere else. I whisper. “J, it’s okay.” stroke his blond head. his hair getting long. “I’m here. I’m here. let’s go. back to my place. you can lie down. or we can play cards. go for a swim in the salt water pool. take the dogs for a walk. anything.”

but he can’t hear me. he’s gone.

and the CBC complainers.
carry on.


2 Comments (Closed)


Great stuff Suzanne – I think you’ve really got something with May Day – music, dancing, poetry, theatre, conflict, great characters. I can picture the flamenco scene (esp. after Sunday!). Would love to read all you have before you head off.

Jan 06 2009 · 17:35

Helen Gress

I am struck by the powerful juxtapositions in this piece. Thanks for a very though provoking image.

Jan 10 2009 · 11:07

About This Page

The page you're reading contains a single diary entry entitled complainers (from may day). It was posted here on January 06, 2009.


Complete diary archive