Eat Your Heart Out, Dallas Drake
by David Hickey
PART: THE FIRST
The whole time Brenda was pregnant with Silo, Jack had strange
dreams about human combustion and wheat. He saw his wife growing
next to him in bed until the blankets and sheets disappeared
from his body, lifted around the swell of her stomach. He would
wake up in a farmer's field, completely covered with grain,
only Jack had no real idea what grain looked like, having never
seen it up close or outside of television, so instead he lay
there, waves and waves of puffed wheat passing slowly over him.
* * *
Jack stops to wipe the sweat from his forehead. Despite the
temperature, his fingers are wet as he pulls them out from under
his blue Winnipeg Jets toque, a toque that reminds him of the
last game at Winnipeg Arena, the last time he and Brenda went
out together, took sips from the same beer, booed those Detroit
Russians and left misty eyed when the Jets lost 4-1.
During the drive home, Brenda's best friend Michelle asked her
the following question: "What will we do without those
Jets? I mean, who will I think about now when I'm with Henry?"
Michelle's husband Henry wasn't a hockey fan. When Jack thought
about it, neither was Michelle.
All the same, the thought took up roost in Jack's mind. Which
Jet did Brenda think of when she slept with him? She would go
with a bruiser, he thought---someone whose muscles covered his
bones. Someone whose hips wouldn't cause her those moments of
pain that shaped her face into an expression he liked to pretend
Dallas Drake. 13 pts. 5 assists. He thought of him then,
one of so many Jets players who had skated off into unrestricted
free agency. He wondered why his life couldn't be like that:
why, when the power company had let him go, he couldn't have
held a press conference to announce that his services were now
available. Reporters could ask him questions like, "Jack,
is it true your departure is a direct result of a disagreement
between staff and management?" to which he could shrug,
and say in a quiet, yet slightly defiant voice, "Well,
when you're growing up, dreaming of being a call centre employee,
you never really think of it as a business, but that's what
it is, a business, and sometimes decisions get made that are
beyond your control...I mean, I'm just going to keep doing what
I do best, which is what I've always done: answer telephones."
Brenda would lean in, her pregnant body affirming Jack's status
as a veteran who'd managed to retain his youthful virility.
She would put her arm around him, and when some hot shot from
The Globe and Mail tried to inject fear into their marriage
by suggesting that Jack's unemployment was untimely, she would
remind the reporter-turned-columnist that they had been through
worse, and that, like most professionals who suddenly find themselves
free agents, Jack has a nice little nest egg tucked away, which
he had been saving, unintentionally, for years.
* * *
Three beech trees hang in front of Jack like paintings in the
afternoon sky. They remind him of the lobby at work, so much
so that they look barren without the Hydro company's logo beside
them. He knows it so well, he could stomp out the letters in
the snow. He could do that, he thinks, closer to Christmas.
He could bring out some paints, maybe. Set up some lights. Throw
sparkles all over the glow.
* * *
The hose goes taut and stops him in his tracks. Jack takes off
his jacket, and hangs it on the branch of the nearest tree.
He picks up the hose and yanks on the nozzle. He leans back
and pulls with both hands, his face twisted into a grimace,
playing tug-of-war with the house.
From the driveway, the rest of the houses on his street stretch
out as larger versions of his own. As he walks around the corner
of his bungalow, Jack finds the hose caught on the bumper of
his new Mazda hatchback, the one Brenda convinced him they should
buy because of its safety rating. Jack thinks of the payments
that will have to be made in the coming months. He yanks the
hose off the bumper, leaving behind a small smudge in the salt
stains that formed there.
* * *
It hadn't been his idea to water the trees. Brenda had seen
it in a magazine, how white lights hung over icicled trees glow
like "small heavenly bodies." That was the article's
title, the one that Brenda had repeated to Jack that fall, in
the obstetrician's waiting room, as she held up a copy of the
magazine. It was the same week that Silo, their first son, started
the tenth grade. It was also the first fall Silo would go without
the Winnipeg Jets toque Jack had tried to give him, choosing
to go off to school instead with a full head of frosted hair.
In light of his son's decision, Jack had taken to wearing the
toque, not sure if his doing so made his son feel better or
worse about abandoning it.
Jack trudges back to the front yard, surprised to find the trees
where he left them. He points the hose at the middle tree and
holds it there, knowing the water will move slowly at first,
spurting unpredictably until it settles into a monotonous flow.
He'll surprise Brenda, he thinks. He'll ice the middle tree
first, then turn his attention to the others. He'll let the
trees dry, then pull out the basement window. He'll crawl into
the house, retrieve the lights from their boxes, and give the
house that perfect glow.
* * *
"Hello," Jack said one of the last afternoons he
was employed with Manitoba Hydro, "hello, may I speak to
"Who's this?" replied the voice on the other end of
It was a woman's voice. It was his wife, Jack thought. It was
Dallas Drake's wife and she's beautiful. They have children
that look like they belong in the Sears catalogue, and on December
24th they sit around a fireplace listening to Dallas read "The
Night Before Christmas."
No, wait, it's his girlfriend, a girl he saw doing a hula-hoop
routine at a strip club the night the Jets lost for the last
time to Detroit, and ever since he's flown her in after a tough
game. Or God, no, he's sleeping with the baby sitter. That lucky
prick, he's lying next to her right now, waving his arms, telling
her: I'm not here.
"It's Jack Martin," Jack says. "I'm a customer
representative with Winnipeg Electric. We were going over our
records and it seems we didn't close Dallas' account properly.
I was hoping I could ask some questions. To Mr. Drake."
"Well..." The voice hesitated. "Dallas isn't
here right now."
The thought of Dallas and his baby sitter sent Jack screaming
and dancing through his own head.
"Do you know where he is then?" Jack asked, trying
to regain his composure. "I mean, is there a better time
when I can reach him? Or maybe he can call us. Here, do you
have a pen? I'll leave my work number."
David Hickey is
not to be contacted until you have read the entire story. Two
or three days from now. So back off.