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Justin Campbell Justin Campbell
Recommendations: 6

Let the Good Times Roll


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She had a friend.

      The best thing about turning the key in the ignition and the vehicle roaring to life is the subsequent likelihood of the best part of your favorite song also coming to life on the radio, simultaneously.
It was the opinion of thirty-year-old courier Elmer Greene, who had been in the business since '78, when he'd decided that his ultimate love in life was driving, of all things. It was a lovely June morning, the year was 1985, and as he turned the keys in his ignition, the chorus of 'Strange Animal,' a recent song by Gowan, filled the interior of the van. It soothed him.


       Elmer was a quiet man, short but lean. He had a girlfriend he saw often, and a few other friends, but he otherwise kept to himself. He'd grown up in Bell's Corners with his mother after his father divorced her when Elmer was ten. He couldn't remember much of his life prior to that, though he still had good memories of his dad from a younger age, the most vivid one being of him cutting the ribbon on the then-new Donald's Foods down on Merivale when Elmer was only six years old. His dad had been an entrepreneur who also worked on a one-time basis with the business expansion team of the growing restaurant chain. Elmer had also had a friend named Mitchell Bowen at the time, a jovial boy two years older whom he often looked up to, though he hadn't been in touch with Bowen for several years now.


       He checked his delivery forms; he had several packages to convey this morning, all throughout both the cities of Ottawa and Nepean. Scanning the forms, he decided which destination was closest, then put the van in gear and pulled onto Clyde Avenue, heading south until it became Merivale Road. The fairly new asphalt was a welcome lack of noise for Elmer, as the 'Golden Mile' that some people referred the section of road to had only recently been widened; when Elmer had the old van (which was accessorized with a ladder), he'd been surprised out of his mind, five years ago, to discover it pictured in the Ottawa Citizen. While stopped at the mess of an intersection, a photographer had captured the construction for posterity, and he'd been sitting right in the middle of it, trying to listen to 'Misunderstanding' by Genesis in wait for a green light. Not having to deal with sawhorses and concrete jersey medians, he drove south towards Viewmount Drive, and then turned east. Gowan gave way to 'Shout' by Tears for Fears, and Elmer looked out for a street called Homestead.


       He was delivering a package to a Mr. Finkle, a man he knew very little of other than the fact that he couldn't have lived in his house for very long due to the neighbourhood's recent development. He pulled up to a pristine-looking house with a lawn that had been sodded out only weeks ago, the driveway an almost perfect-black asphalt. Turning off the vehicle ('Shout' had just ended a second before he'd turned the keys), he strode up Finkle's driveway and rang the doorbell.


       Several seconds passed without any internal noise from within the house. The trees sang with birds.
Just as Elmer was beginning to consider writing up the standard notice that was left in case a recipient wasn't home, thundering footsteps sounded from behind the door, and then it was unlocked and opened inward. A tall man with blonde hair, dark slacks and a straw hat appeared in the doorway.


       "Yes, what?" the man answered impatiently.


       "Package for delivery," Elmer replied, his voice bright and inviting.


       "Oh. Great. Where do I sign?"


       "Just here." Elmer held up a form held in a clipboard, and the man signed his full name - Derek Finkle - across the bottom. "Thanks," he said after handing the pen back, "this should help me get used to suburban life."


       "Oh, are you from the inner city?" Elmer asked conversationally.
      
       "No, I just lost my farm and pasture," the man said. "Goodbye now." He abruptly closed the door, leaving Elmer to head back to his van. He didn't mind Finkle's abrupt nature, especially if he was a disgruntled former farmer, because people entered and left your life so quickly that it was just a waste of time worrying about any grief they gave you in the process.


       As he sat down behind the wheel again, he paused to take in the scene and the fresh air that drifted through the open window: a clean, empty street, with tree saplings in most of the brand new lawns. The neighbourhood seemed to be stuffed together in general, with houses hardly a couple of metres away from each other, two-storey rectangles all lined up close in a uniform fashion. He supposed that was the way neighbourhoods were built now, though when he was a kid, where he grew up, the streets were wide, the properties were huge and the houses were roomy. Nowadays it was all built on the principle of population density and simple uniformity, how far children were expected to walk to school, etc., etc. As he sat there, his mind wandered off and he thought about his girlfriend, Heather. She was a clerk in the Nepean municipal offices in Bell's Corners, and they'd been together for nine months now. Her younger sister was already married to a prosperous man named Glenn, a typical yuppie who worked in radio broadcasting, though the AM news instead of FM radio. Elmer thought Heather was beautiful in every kind of way, and he was willing to commit to her completely if she was ready for it; all she had to be was ready.
--
       At the Merivale Donald's Foods his father opened, Elmer sat down with Nathan Andrews, a friend of his since high school - Andrews was four years younger than him, but they grew up in the same neighborhood.


       "The business treating you well?" Nathan asked.


       "Indeed it is. What about you? I thought you'd have been at a hotel or a travel agency by now."
      
       "I was originally going to, but I'm happy at Kresge's Goods, really," Nathan said. "The people are really nice. Yeah, maybe I have a certificate in hotel management, but I can still go far at the store."


       "That was originally to pay for the certificate, though, wasn't it?"


       "Yes," Nathan admitted. "But I'm comfortable and there's a promotion waiting for me next month. Manager of Toys."
      
       "Really? Well, whatever. I guess being happy is what counts."


       "Exactly. I mean, I don't see how anyone can spend the day driving, getting stuck in traffic, but that's what makes you happy, so we all win." By that point, the waiter, Robin, had delivered their meals - a salad for Elmer and perogies for Nathan - and each dove into their lunch.


       "How's Heather?" Nathan asked when they were finished.


       "Doing well. Still at the city office. Her sister got married recently.


       "Oh? To who?"


       "I don't know much about him, and I don't really want to know since it's not really my business, but I know Alia's new husband does radio broadcasting. His name's Glen."


       "Ah."


       "Yeah. I've met him once. Didn't really like him. Too self-involved and kind of demanding. Haven't you got a girlfriend now?"


       "Nah, but I do like someone."


       "Who?"


       Nathan grinned awkwardly. "Don't really want to talk about it. Anyway, my lunch hour's just about over, I gotta get back to the store."


       "Oh, okay. Well, I have a few more deliveries to make as well, so I guess I'll see you at the barbeque this evening?"


       Nathan smiled. "You'll see me there."


       The two men got up, disposed of their waste, and left the building.
      
       As Elmer started his van, 'Go for a Soda' by Kim Mitchell filled the vehicle. Smiling, he pulled away from the restaurant and turned north onto Merivale Road. He was an optimistic man, and being young as he was, he wasn't ready to say the day was even close to over for him, the day of life as he sometimes thought of it. He had a fulfilling job, a girlfriend he knew he loved, a good friend in Nathan, and great music, often Canadian stuff, to listen to as he went about his business.


       Let the good times roll, he thought happily. Let the good times roll.


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Justin Campbell's website: http://justincottawa.blogspot.ca/

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