Ride Into Calgary
Excerpt from Butterscotch
by Temba Magorimbo
He confidently started for the exits taking a series of escalators as if he knew where he was going. The first thing he knew was that he had to get out of the rail terminal at least. It was then he saw his name in big bold letters being paraded 360º by a small figure of a woman. It wasn't his alone. There were other people with placards bearing names that read like Napoleon's entire general list. He approached the small framed female.
"That's me", he pointed at her sign.
If he was a secret agent then his cover was certainly blown. He was assimilating and learning a lot now that he had been in this foreign country close on forty-eight hours. No one had bothered asking him for his passport ever since he had cleared boarder control at Montreal international.
"Welcome to Edmonton, Alberta, follow me", she said.
She shook his hand briefly before folding the sign. The last he saw, the sign was in four pieces in a dust bin. He was led to the sunshine world through mechanical escalators. The sun or part of it which he could see through skyscrapers was out in a direction he had never seen before. How could the sun be in the north?
She was about a metre and fifty-eight centimetres tall against his a metre and sixty-four centimetres height. While he supposed she weighed about forty-six kilograms, he weighed in at around sixty-four kilograms. Not much of a difference but he had the upper hand on the issue of weight and height. In a gnome world he was bound to be a king. She knew where he was supposed to go. He didn't even have an idea where he was. He just knew he kept his bag across his shoulders as they weaved through human traffic.
"Taxi," she called.
She wasn't alone yelling and yodelling for a taxi. Others were almost getting into the roads to stop the taxis like traffic policemen. Several taxis were coming and filling up. He realised it was a special berth for taxis. He stepped up pushing past her to open a door of one Buick vehicle.
"Thanks," she had said. "After you and we are behind schedule."
"Not to mention."
"Bonjour monsieur, Madame. Where to?" the driver asked.
That opened a valve inside her head. She was soon rasping out in French a destination about three kilometres away where traffic lights were there to slow them down. At a certain point, the cab driver and she communicated in French.
The Chery A5 side parked while they got out. She paid the cab driver who started off before a bored traffic enforcement agent had arrived. They crossed two pedestrian street blocks with single lanes for traffic once in a while. He didn't know where he was going. They took an elevator after she had shown an identity document waving her hand that she was with him as if he was a deaf and dumb mute. It wasn't his issue to argue, he wasn't a prisoner neither was it a reality show for Jailbreak. She walked towards where a vehicle was waiting in an upstairs car park.
"The conveniences of a very large city, you can't park near where you want in case you get towed. You park and you are charged! We are running a tight schedule, I hope by the time we get to the vehicle park the truck will have come from delivering the samples it was supposed to deliver."
Dressed in black trousers and green waist coat like material, she could easily have passed for a small bodied man on the streets except for the facial features and the long hair. Her unruffled hair was what could have given her game away.
"I am Marie, I think you met Leonard."
She pronounced it in French not English. It was a cosmopolitan city after all.
"How do you do Marie?" he asked.
"How do you do Raphael?" she asked too. "We are running behind schedule so we won't wait for breakfast. We will have it on the hoof as they saw in cattle country. I hope you had a bath on the train because the guys out there are on edge."
"They are no edge about my bathing schedule?" he asked.
"Time," she said passing his humour out like a bouquet of flowers rejected by a woman. v He hoped he didn't smell. Had her applied men's perfume? He remembered that he had indeed brushed his teeth after his shower on the train.
"Yes I had a hot shower," he had replied.
His eyes were smarting from looking at the landscape that had been receding at the rate of a hundred kilometres plus an hour as the train pulled into the outer skirts of the city of Edmonton. He had not had his head out because by the rate of travel by the train, he would have left his brain somewhere out there. He had felt the train going through tunnels so long he had measured them at more than a hundred metres apiece. "Am I late?"
"No, their time out has been called in because of the weather outlook. It's clear now but no one can predict what will happen after two hours. We knew your arrival time. You were supposed to be collected and driven north for about two hundred kilometres to rendezvous with the team that would take you there by truck. However we had another team coming off their off duty days so they were around however the weather called their time in. That is the reason why we are in a hurry."
"At least I am not the late", he had replied.
"Yap neither am I yet."
They appeared bee lined for a cherry red dual cab that was cross parked in the seventh floor of a parking system.
"Hi," he said to the totally bearded Father Christmas who was in the driver's seat.
He filled the whole seat with his human body. He was so tall his head almost brushed the top of the vehicle. He was also stout with biceps that appeared like he had borrowed his upper body from Sylvester Stallone. The legs controlling the vehicle pedals appeared like double issues of tin foil that had been manufactured at night by someone was stricken with both night colour and blindness.
"Hi", was all that the driver said. He started the vehicle.
Marie opened the rear passenger door of the dual cab truck for Raphael.
"Thank you Marie," he had remembered his manners and courtesy for a lady.
"Not to mention," she replied. "I am from the meet and greet service while he is from the oil company you will be working for. What a combination? Where the heck did we meet?"
"Somewhere in the Atacama desert I suppose."
He sat in the back while Marie closed the door for him. She heaved herself effortlessly into the front portion with the bearded creature.
"His name is Stewart and he isn't my boyfriend or my type either," Marie had said. "I prefer my own female type don't even have a design on me."
That was blunt. That was a declaration which would have been like a secret code to activate the firing squads of North Korea, Syria and Libya.
Stewart grunted. Raphael would have held a competition for kids to guess correctly where Stewart's mouth was, all covered up by what people called a beard. The vehicle moved out gently as gears were engaged cruising down from the out of the seventh floor of the car park getting to the ground passing through a check point where the status and identity of the driver was compared on the computer console with the same information on entry to prevent thefts. He read that they were somewhere between 119 and 123th Street North West.
The Ford Ranger Wildtrak 8 cylinder diesel truck took them out of the city limits towards the skirts of the large city. She bought coffee and beef burghers at a fuel service station and diner for them which they had as they travelled. The coffee and burghers for that morning tasted like a mixture of honey and milk. The drive to the industrial complex involved turns and twists through major lanes of transport until they arrived. Radio contact was being kept with the other side somewhat impatient.
"I didn't invent the b---dy road network. I only travel on it," the driver had said over the radio. "You can't tell a train that it is late because it is on schedule right to the dot. What did you expect, that he should have run faster than the train? _____ huh? _____ boil your own nuts ______ What? ______ B—l- nincompoop. You wait, you hear me or I will pull out your b---s. Huh? Did you ever see a train blowing over the North Sea? What?"
"Stewart, your language!" Marie complained.
"I haven't even started yet, she is yelling at me like Marjorie does when I ________ okay? What?"
They seemed to be enjoying the conversation. As they left the city proper through a viaduct, the road opened more such that speed increased with fewer traffic lights. The driver for his big size was a very fast driver weaving in and out of traffic blowing his horn here and there. He made finger gestures without forgetting that there was Marie.
"And you too!" he bellowed at one time. "Move over dingo."
The Ford Ranger took him to an industrial complex. There a helicopter which had been delayed to allow his arrival by an hour was waiting for him. Raphael looked in surprise at the flying machine in its magnificent colours. The driver made the Ranger to skid as they came to the helicopter doing an 180? turn until they looked at where they had been coming from sliding backwards for about three metres.
"Is Gideon here?" yelled the driver. "The meal he just ate was the last he will eat before the rapture. Was there any protein in the meal because a dead body is bad without a balanced diet? Where is preacher boy? He would be good at saying mass."
"Do I dial 911?"
"That will be the last digits you ever dial if you ask me."
"Can the helicopter pilot do that on landing, skidding his chopper backwards?"
"He can do that seconds before you meet Apostle Paul the great."
For a man who spoke in monosyllables, he certainly had a temper. He walked out flaying his arms holding his truck keys. He didn't even greet the assortment of men standing there awaiting their flight. It was odd to Raphael that none of the passengers about to board the chopper restrained him. Not even the security personnel within the complex, complete with guard dogs. What type of industrial complex allowed a driver to commit murder?
Marie led him out to the helicopter crew where all the eight passengers shook his hands. She introduced him to a man with a clip board.
"This is Raphael whom we were waiting for. Raphael this is Charleston and the crew which were on edge waiting for you. Relax guys Raphael is a man like you, he won't," she had said. "For the mean time I am off."
"Nice meeting you Raphael, see you Marie and thank you for trying so hard to keep the time and schedule," Charleston had replied.
"Watch out for the moose, they are in season," Marie shouted back. "You could get trampled."
"They lack males," Charleston shouted back which was a mistake.
"You could pass for a moose bull," Marie had the last laugh.
Gideon and the driver soon appeared with Gideon's small head in the crook of the driver's elbow. Gideon held in the other hand a double palm sized beef pie in a crisp wrapper away from his body. Both were talking with Gideon head down looking at exactly where he was stepping while Raphael guessed that the driver was telling Gideon what to avoid. The driver was rubbing his fist in Gideon's auburn hair once in a while unruffling the well kempt hair.