redeeming the old town

redeeming the old town

A Story by Kees Kapteyn



Redeeming the Old Town  
The old house seems to be in a state of metastasis, its cells having failed to regenerate over the course of years, not yet a ghost but certainly dying or dead. It’s a dispirited body with peeling paint on its siding, greying wood showing from underneath, baring nails and insulation at the corners and seams. We’re here to visit the town she’d lived in when she was married years ago, sitting parked in my car, looking at the old house from the curb. She’s surprised to see it still standing, having been told by her ex that it had been flattened by a tornado. It stands, against its own will it seems, ignored and passed over even by disaster.
“Wow,” she says again. “Í just can’t believe it’s still standing.”
To me, it looks forgotten and cast away, certainly a detached house, set away like a town leper on a street that is barely even a street; a dead end. I’m her new fiancé, here with her to see where she had been in her past life. “There’s one last thing I want you to make better.” she had said, referring to my job of obliterating the horrid parts of the past. She’s brought me to the old town to bring my own flavour of impression to the place, to have me see it through her eyes and conversely for her to see it through mine. She trusts my judgement to augment hers. We match in so many ways and this is just one. We overlap here and I’m a good cover, warm, like our sheets late at night, like her body over mine as we cuddle. I watch her as she looks appraisingly at the house. She shakes her head. I’m supposing that her appraisal figures in the negative, backwards, to the left, the sinister past. She’s told me stories of heaps of garbage in the living room, power shutdowns, frozen pipes. She’s told me stories of being thrown down stairs, through windows, being kicked in her pregnant stomach. She looks at her past with the same appraisal she gives the house; can’t believe it’s still standing. It should be flattened by now.

When she’s had enough, she asks me to drive on, back into the town proper. It’s a pretty little town, full of character and history (her story, too), a rich town; housing prices are high, as are taxes. We drive by a Tim Horton’s and she tells me about the block party the town put on when it opened. “People wanted that thing there forever.” she said. Cars were lined up past the intersection that day. Everyone wants a Tim Horton’s on their route to work.

We drive the short distance to downtown and park along the main street. Downtown is a state of art. Arts and craft shops are the theme here. She used to love window shopping along this street with her daughter in the stroller, to get away from the house, to get away from the husband. Her stories about the town are usually accented with the phrase “get away from…” and the word “without”. She was without, but now she is with me. Out, and with me. In a glass art studio, she cringes as I pull one piece over. I like to touch things to commit them to memory.
“Break it, you buy it.” she says.
“At 345, maybe one day, I will.”
“345 dollars?!”
My touch is gentle and appraising. The piece is like a large glass plate framed with black metal with shards of broken, smoother glass melted into it. These fragments refract the light from outside into splinters of spectral colours. I fall in love with the piece though I know it’s too much to spend on. I have to extract myself from the temptation and leave the store without it.

We hit the pavement, laying shadows on the sidewalk under the shine of the day. She is excited, holding my arm as we walk, planting a kiss on my cheek.
“I’m so glad you’re here with me!” she says, laying her head on my shoulder. I notice that the light is good and take out my camera. I want to get a picture of her here, reunited with her old haunt in a new light, on a new day. I let go of her and aim the camera. She sees me and starts to walk faster.
“Slow down!” I call out behind her. She laughs.
The picture I capture is of her laughing and refusing to slow down.

Further along in the walk, we stop at a bookshop and she buys me a book she catches me admiring. I ask her not to, but she wants to. I’m like a child in letting her, but as an adult, I don’t want her buying me things. I want to be the provider. The child in me wins out though because I love the book; The Forgetting Room by Nick Bantock. It’s only $10.00, a small price to pay. I thank her with a kiss and a hug and she sighs appreciatively with a moan. I think I might propose to her again when we return to the hotel tonight.

Back in the car, she’s a radio hog. She loves to lean over and station-hop for a song that she likes. I don’t mind. I like it when she leans against me, sometimes hugging my arm, sometimes running her touch along my thigh, resting her head on my shoulder. She likes to sing with the radio in a loud, lusty voice. Next to her in the car, I hear her strike octaves and reach falsettos with youthful exuberance. It makes me laugh. I spend longer moments than I should watching her sing as I drive, wanting to commit her image to memory. She catches my attention and scowls.
“Eyes on the road, Mister.”
She sings along with the Top 40, which changes with the flavour of the week; there’s always a new favourite.
“Oh, I love this song!” she shouts, then pouts when the song comes to an end seconds later. “Gawd, why do I always catch them at the ending?”
Sometimes coming in late is still good timing.

Come the night, we’re going to The Ranch, a country/western bar she used to go to with friends when the husband (then) would be on a work trip. She loves country music the most. There are stories in the lyrics that resonate with her, correlate even. Hurting stories, redemption stories, kick-off –your-boots-and-boogie stories. When we arrive, the bar is not full. There are only a few tables with patrons sitting at them. It’s not like a saloon as I’d expected it to be although there are wagon wheels on the walls and the doormen are all in black Stetsons. I look at her in this context and she doesn’t seem content. She’s looking around while she talks, looking for something other than me.
“I don’t know anyone here tonight.” she says, rubbing her thighs. “But then again it’s early.”
It’s a new crowd here at the Ranch. She’s wondering where her crowd is. I want to be introduced to her old friends. I want them to see her new life but instead we’re sharing anonymity here. Suddenly, her eyes widen and she gets up.
“Is that Rick?” she says to the air. I follow her line of vision and Rick is at the bar; a tall goateed man, not as tall as me, his hair shorter than mine. She floats up to him and throws a hug around his shoulders. He seems to recognize her too. I can see his smile and his eyes looking at her. They talk, picking up where they left off and I’m fuming in the audience left behind. Is it jealousy or envy I feel? The two are often confused. I’m feeling that my claim to something precious is being threatened. I have her and she’s talking to another man. I’m wishing I had something I don’t. I wish I had their past. I already have her, whereas four months ago, I didn’t. That’s the difference between envy and jealousy. There’s a certain chronological discrepancy that separates them. Time and possession, time of possession.  I’m not sure which one I’m feeling. Maybe it’s a combination of the two, or the threshold of one to the other.
I sip my beer now and wonder who Rick is, what their history is and of course, the heaviest thoughts sink to the bottom. I remind myself that she loves me. My imagination is not serving me well now, as my memory does. I side with memory and pull myself from the bottom. I know she loves me. She gestures my way now and Rick looks over. We see each other face to face and his look is of genuine surprise. I smile as I give a friendly tip of my beer bottle and he walks over to me, his hand outstretched.
“So you’re the man!” he says. He knows about me. She comes up between us as we’re shaking hands, looking proud of having us meet. I’m looking at her with expectancy in my eyes and she laughs. She introduces us with our names. I look at him and appraise him as… someone from her past. That’s all he is- legitimately distant and erstwhile, a denizen of this town far away from the one where we now live. They talk about mutual friends so she’s up to speed with their lives. Apparently, Jane is married now to the A*****e and they have a little girl now. Mike and Kat broke up and he’s taken off with some s**t he met on the internet. He asks her when she left the ex. “Two years ago.” she says. He gives me a smiling look that affirms that he sees me as her future. It’s a look that affirms that her life is now better.
“It’s good you left that son of a b***h.” he says.
“Hell, don’t I know it.”
She reaches over to my hand and grasps it tightly.

In the hotel room at night, I’m spreading tealight candles all over the room while she’s in the shower. My plan is to light them all, shut off the lights and propose to her on my knees when she comes out. I thought of this plan just now, rushing to implement it, though safe in the knowledge that she has a penchant for long showers. I’m jumping over the bed like a kid, placing candles wherever there’s free space. I laugh to myself, knowing she can’t hear me, sure she has no idea what awaits her on this side of the door. I grab the lighter now and swoop around the room, lighting candles, relishing the potent stretch of seconds that it takes for the wick to accept the flame. My patience is rewarded with a lit candle and I can leap on to the next. Suddenly I hear the shower stop when there’s two candles left. I know she wastes no time coming out; steps out dripping wet and wraps towels round her body and hair. I have scant time to light the one, forsake the other, shut off the lights and rush to wait at the door she will come through any second now, to propose to her yet again even though my ring has been on her finger already for some time now.


© 2008 Kees Kapteyn

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here is an illustration of what i meant and it is in no way derogatory. i enjoyed it but i might have taken this portion

In the hotel room at night, I'm spreading tealight candles all over the room while she's in the shower. My plan is to light them all, shut off the lights and propose to her on my knees when she comes out. I thought of this plan just now, rushing to implement it, though safe in the knowledge that she has a penchant for long showers.

Her showers are always long and the nighttime hotel room of spreading tea candles. My sponataneous plans of one knee proposals consoled by her penchant for long showers buffering me with a distant safety.

Anyway that is just off the top of my head and adapted from the visions you place in my mind with your words. So i think it is very good, and everyone has a different way of writing which is what makes it so interesting. These are just suggestions that you might work with on this or some other piece to maybe help you to envision the words and your ability to modify and adapt to reach your full potential. As i do believe that you have a lot to offer.

Posted 12 Years Ago

i really enjoyed this. it is simply put and yet eloquent enough to formulate vivid pictures in my mind. I think it may need to be cleaned up a little but all in all i rather enjoyed it....thank you

Posted 12 Years Ago

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2 Reviews
Added on March 13, 2008
Last Updated on March 29, 2008


Kees Kapteyn
Kees Kapteyn

Ottawa, Canada

Resides in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. Self-published his zine 'rhododendron' and two chapbooks: 'grubstreet' and 'coffee salt.' Has been published in,, Novella, Corv.. more..

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