Welcome To the Neighbourhood

Monday, May 30, 2005


He looked out north over Burrard inlet and tried to remember why he preferred his Yonge St. office in Toronto. It was a wet, uninspiring Vancouver day as the rain lazily fell from the sky on the inlet and the city and Stanley Park in the distance on his left. The clouds merged into the North Shore mountains like a blanket of raw unbleached grey wool. He put his hands in the pockets of his navy blue suit pants and stared across the water to the rotating capital letter ‘Q’ that signified the Lonsdale Quay public market. It was a grey day but the inlet wasn’t sufficiently broad to obscure this popular landmark from view as the dutiful citizens of metro Vancouver chugged across the void on the equally long-suffering pair of SeaBuses that linked the expanse for the benefit of the commuting public.

The Cordova Street office was big and open but the concrete honeycomb nature of the design made the whole floor seem cold, damp and enclosed. He raised his hand and rested it against the floor-to-ceiling window and sighed wearily.

“I almost wish I could bring the whole operation here, Lowell,” he said with his back turned to the other man. Lowell sat on the corner of the desk with his suit jacket off, his wine-coloured tie loose and his shirtsleeves rolled up in wide bands. The thin red stripes in the fabric jogged off at an angle incongruous with the rest of the cleanly pressed shirt.

“Almost? Say what you mean Ted,” he responded.

“No. You’re right. I wish I could just bring it all here. Since Brenda and I …. Since the divorce, it has all seemed so pointless. At the office in T.O. I am just going through the motions and that is no way to run a business, Lowell. Sure I’m just the senior partner. They don’t really need me to do the day-to-day, but I need to be at headquarters and that is Toronto.” He looked back towards to middle of the room, to Lowell and the tastefully appointed executive office. “Still, even when it’s dark here, it seems light, you know?”

“You will always have an office here Ted,” Lowell reassured, “even if it is just for your visits. Besides, I prefer you far away. It gives me a job. Not much need for an executive regional manager if the Chief de Chief is across the hall, eh!”

“Regional manager.”


“It’s regional manager, Lowell. Don’t give yourself pretensions. I’ll decide what I haven’t got much need for and what I do, and right now you are my regional manager.”

“Uh, right, Ted. I just meant that…”

“That’s fine Lowell. Go home, will you. You don’t have to baby-sit me. I’ll be fine.”

Lowell left and closed the lightly varnished oak door behind him, wondering how he could repair what he had thought was an increasingly personal relationship with Mr. Theodore M. Oliver of Oliver, Beauchamp and Cohen: Barristers and Solicitors specializing in patent and copyright law.

Ted didn’t know why he did that. He didn’t know why he reached out and pushed away simultaneously. He didn’t feel bad for Lowell. He was what he was and part of him just had to ingratiate himself. He felt bad for himself. He had almost no one now. Just work, Just the work and…the others.

Ted turned again and looked back across the water to North Vancouver. It always seemed to him like he was coming home. Even after all those years since law school and articling in Toronto and his career. When he had his chance to go out on his own and start his own firm, that was in Toronto too, but his home was here somehow. He had insisted on starting a branch in Vancouver and it was he alone who oversaw its operations.

Theodore Oliver grew up in Vancouver in unique circumstances. His father was a carpenter and had enlisted in the Westminster Regiment during the war. He was killed at Monte Casino, fighting the Germans up the spine of Italy. Ted and his infant brother had been sent to live with his father’s employers when his father was shipped out. His mother had died during the birth of the younger son. It was a singular arrangement. Don Carlos and Isabelle Castel-Franco had fled Spain for exile in Vancouver during the Spanish Civil war and had lived in a sprawling Victorian mansion, renovated by the talent and skill of Ted’s father.

Ted and his brother Leo had lived there with their father and lived there still after his death. Playing among the heavily religious and grotesquely divine paintings, sculptures and icons, he and Leo had and austere and cloistered upbringing. Whether it was in deference to his father’s Protestantism or the Castel-Franco’s indifference, they were not subjected to what Ted first thought of as their guardians’ Catholicism. The Castel-Francos were patrons more than parents, funding the best schools, the best tutors, piano lessons, membership in the Locarno Sailing club, a bachelor’s degree at the University of British Columbia. And then the law and Toronto. The only truly human part of their interaction had been the food. The Castel-Francos spent almost all of their free time and social energy on food and entertaining. On her death, Isabelle had even written out the family recipe for Spaghetti Castel-Franco (Cadiz Seafood Pasta). He remembers it written out in her immaculate hand.

1 lb minced large scallops
2 heads fresh parsley, minced
10 large cloves garlic minced
1 TBLS dried oregano
1 cup fresh sweet basil, minced
2 TBLS good extra virgin olive oil
2 pats butter
1 lb Golden Grain Vermicelli
4 heaping TBLS grated parmesan or reggiano cheese plus more for passing at the table

At the time he had read the cooking instructions that followed with tears in his eyes. This was as personal as he could imagine Isabelle to be at the time. It was only later that he would read more in her cursive, careful hand.

Where Theodore was diligent and dutiful, Leo was impulsive, moody and rebellious. From an early age he seemed disconnected from the Castel-Francos. He mocked their nobility and chaffed under the school uniforms and choreographed success that they bought for him. Ted never understood it but guessed it was the working man ‘proletariat’ gene in his father that made the teenaged Leo break out and head east. Ted had always kept in touch and treated Don Carlos and Isabelle with gratitude and tenderness but Leo had never looked back. Ted hadn’t heard from him in thirty years, not since he told Leo that Isabelle had died and Don Carlos the year before. Leo didn’t care. He barely cared about the $800,000 they had left him as a legacy. Leo had paid for his rebellion though. He hadn’t got them. He missed out on the others and the book.

Ted watched the rain streak down the window and he turned to the desk and called down for the car to pick him up. He threw his blue wool overcoat over his shoulders, cleaned his glasses. Out of his desk he withdrew an old leather folder with his initials embossed in gold on the bottom corner and an image of a rose embossed in the centre. It had been given to him by the Castel-Francos’ lawyer after Isobel had died. Still, in it was the now-yellowed letter and the cold chain with the rose pendant. He cherished the letter but he would need the chain tonight.


  • Man, I thought you two were supposed to moving heavy boxes and stuff. I didn't think you guys would have the time to play Henry and June.

    Very well written, Will. If you tell me you just "dashed this off," I think I'm gonna quit my livelihood and become a truck driver.

    By Blogger Lowly Scribe, at 5/31/2005 09:31:00 a.m.  

  • He did - I watched him do it. Will mentioned over dinner that he might like to try writing something for the site, we came home and he wrote it.

    'Henry and June.' Ha.

    By Blogger Briana, at 5/31/2005 09:47:00 a.m.  

  • Can you imagine what the guy would come up with if he spent some time on it?


    By Blogger Lowly Scribe, at 5/31/2005 11:29:00 a.m.  

  • Come on guys, It took some scraching, and some help from Bree. I had been thinking about the links fo hours and hours.

    I am a little worried about the details. In fiction, do you include more descriptive detail of surroundings like in the first part of the post or is it best to cover a lot of ground like in the biographical section?


    By Blogger William, at 5/31/2005 11:59:00 a.m.  

  • With Bree, it has got to be Ms. Nin. With out a doubt, she is my favorite Little Bird.

    By Blogger William, at 5/31/2005 12:04:00 p.m.  

  • You are too modest, Will. I "helped" very little, just with spelling and a bit of grammar.

    And if I was Nin I would have to write sexier stuff. We haven't yet gotten into anything too smutty here. Not yet, anyway ...

    As for detail: it's up to you. I prefer the tone in the earlier bit to the latter because it "shows" instead of "tells." Others might have different preferences.

    By Blogger Briana, at 5/31/2005 12:13:00 p.m.  

  • Will said:

    I am a little worried about the details. In fiction, do you include more descriptive detail of surroundings like in the first part of the post or is it best to cover a lot of ground like in the biographical section?

    I like it when an author is set up within the surroundings before the biography starts. I don't know why, I just do.

    By Blogger Aaron, at 5/31/2005 05:12:00 p.m.  

  • In fiction, there are really no rules. However, if you want some help John Gardner's "The Art of Fiction" is a brilliant book. It is considered a classic and while being extremely critical, it is encouraging at the same time.

    By Anonymous Tommy Steele, at 5/31/2005 08:15:00 p.m.  

  • smut! smut! A call for smut!


    it's better that I don't get beyond my current level of lechery. Things will quickly degenerate into an area that most people aren't so comfortable with... :)

    By Blogger Donna, at 6/01/2005 10:01:00 a.m.  

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    By Blogger live2-die, at 1/28/2006 04:57:00 a.m.  

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