Fifty: Lopun Alku


Episode 7, Part 1

Porvoo, Finland

Anna walked into the den and found Olaf staring wistfully oot the window in the direction of the grain silo at the far end of the property.

“Please tell me you’re not contemplating another useless overhaul of that decrepit silo, Olaf.  I don’t think I can stand another summer watching you toil the afternoons away on that eyesore.”

“Don’t worry, I wasn’t planning any new projects, just…thinking.”

“What aboot?”

“I got a very curious e-mail this morning from someone named Janice.”

Anna shot Olaf a look of mock suspicion.

“Oh yeah?”

“Yes, she lives in Vancouver and went to the same high school that I attended as an exchange student when I was 15.”

“Was she a friend of yours?”

“No.  She says she enrolled at Hillside the year after I left.  I never met her.”

“So what does she want?”

“Take a look.”

Olaf positioned his laptop so she could read over his shoulder.

Dear Mr. Koskinen,

My name is Janice Patel and I am the programming director at Broadband TV in Vancouver, British Columbia.  I understand that you attended Hillside High School as an exchange student for a semester in 1991, just before I transferred there.  My classmates spoke of you often and fondly.

My network will be premiering a new show featuring live music broadcast from a local club in Vancouver.  I am writing to cordially invite you to the performance, which will feature Canadian alternative supergroup The New Pornographers as well as a special guest performance by Black Well, a rock and roll ensemble fronted by one of your former classmates, Dylan Blackwell.

I know this is very short notice, especially considering the travel involved, but if you can possibly attend this special premier concert event, Broadband will pay for your airfare and lodging expenses.  If possible, please RSVP by April 16th so that I have time to make the arrangements for your stay.  I look forward to seeing you there!


Janice Patel
Programming Director
Broadband TV Corp.

“That sounds exciting.  Are you planning to go?”

Olaf let oot a pronounced guffaw.

“Anna, I think I would rather sleep in that damn silo every night than travel halfway around the world to see those people again.”

“Oh?  This Janice made it sound like they were your friends.”

“That’s what I don’t understand.  I mean, there were one or two people who were nice to me…or at least they refrained from mocking me every time I opened my mouth…but I never really got close to anyone.  I have a feeling there’s more to this than meets the eye.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, if Janice is anything like the rest of her former classmates, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least to find oot that she’s held a grudge aboot something for over a quarter of a century and intends to exact some kind of revenge at this concert.”

“On live TV?”

“You’ve never met anyone more addicted to melodrama and self-pity than these people, Anna.  I’ve always suspected it had something to do with the Vancouver water supply. If one of them has a chance to humiliate her former tormentors on live TV, I bet she’s going to take it, even if it comes 25 years after the fact and jeopardizes her entire career.”

“I see.  Well, if nothing else, it should be interesting…can we at least watch it on TV?”

“You know me, Anna – I love to see a good train wreck.  I wouldn’t miss it for the world!”


Echo Café
North Vancouver, B.C.

Courtney tapped the excess moisture from her umbrella and walked inside, scanning the café for a familiar face.

“Courtney!  Over here!”

Jake stood up and waved his arms until Courtney spotted him and made her way to the table where he was waiting with Arseman.

“Oh my God, it’s so great to see both of you!!  I can’t believe you’re really here!”

After exchanging hugs, Courtney took a seat across from her old friends.

“We really owe you an apology, Courtney.  Arseman and I have been in town for a couple of weeks, but we just assumed—”

“—that hanging around with a nun probably wouldn’t be a whole lot of fun?”

“No, no…we just thought that maybe you wouldn’t be interested in hearing from the old crowd.  You know, until we heard that you’d left the convent.”

“Well, you were wrong.  I would have been thrilled to hear from you no matter what!  But how did you know I left the convent?”

Arseman nervously twirled a strand of hair between her fingers.

“Matt told us.”

“Oh, you guys saw Matt?”

“Yeah, we did…um, when did you last speak to him, Courtney?”

“Friday.  We went oot to dinner.”

Jake and Arseman fell silent as Courtney tried in vain to understand their ambivalent reaction.

“Courtney…you remember Matt’s problem with…”

Arseman interrupted, deciding it would be best to rip this band-aid off as quickly as possible.

“His alcoholism.”

Courtney looked at her with surprise.

“Well, sure, but that didn’t seem to be an issue anymore.  I asked him aboot it and he told me that he’s been drinking moderately withoot any problems for quite a few years now.”

While Courtney was speaking, Jake pulled up the article from The Sun on his cell phone and passed it across the table.  As she read, her eyes welled up with tears.

“Courtney, I’m so sorry…we didn’t know how else to tell you.  Matt had some drinks with us, too, and it seemed like he had it under control but I still didn’t like it.  Alcoholism doesn’t just disappear with age.”

“Oh, Arseman…he was so kind and romantic…I guess I just didn’t want to face reality, so I took Matt at his word when he said it wasn’t a problem.  Why can’t anything ever…”

Courtney’s voice trailed off as Arseman reached across the table and grasped her hand.

“Courtney, it’s okay.  I’m sure Matt’s feelings for you are genuine…remember, he has an illness.”

Courtney wiped away a tear and sat up resolutely in her seat.

“No, Arseman!  His illness isn’t the problem.  The problem is that Matt Walker is a selfish, lying…asshole – just like everyone else!!”

She got up and grabbed her umbrella from beneath the table.

“Courtney, please, just sit down and let’s—”

“Forget it, Jake!  There’s nothing you can say.  Maybe becoming a nun wasn’t the best decision I’ve ever made, but at least it kept me far away from all this bullshit.  I know this isn’t your fault and I know you’re both just trying to help, but please…do me a favor and don’t ever call me again.”

She stormed oot of the café leaving Jake and Arseman in dumbstruck silence.


Vancouver, B.C.

Dylan walked into the bedroom where Ashley was packing her suitcase.

“How’s it going, Babe?”

“okay, i guess.  this is the first time I’ve ever had to pack for a monthlong stay in a mental institution.”

“It’s a rehab facility, Ashley.  You’re gonna be fine.”

“yeah.  i still don’t think you needed to skip rehearsal. i could have driven myself to the clinic. the show is just two weeks away, dylan.”

“Some things are more important than rock and roll.  Besides, the band is tight.  Jerry set me up with some first-rate musicians.  I just wish you could be there.”

“i’ll be glued to the tv.  if one of those drug addicts tries to change the channel, there’ll be hell to pay.”

Dylan smiled and put his arm around Ashley’s shoulder.

“I’ll visit you every weekend.”

“thanks.  dylan…?”


“i know this might sound silly but it’s been bothering me and i really have to ask. where were you last week when i called you?  you know, when you came home and i was…”

“Ashley, I already told you, I stopped by The Venue to have a talk with Jerry and I just lost track of the time.”

“are you sure?”

“Yes, I’m sure.  I swear that’s what happened, Ashley.”

“okay.  i’m sorry, dylan.”

Ashley glanced at her watch.

“we better get going.”


Provincial Court of British Columbia
Vancouver District

Matt and Craig exited the courthouse and made their way to the parking garage.

“Craig, thanks again for showing up today.”

“No sweat, Matt.  It was the least I could do.  So…28 days in rehab? That’s kind of a drag. Think you’ll get through it okay?”

“Rehab?  Please. I’m an old pro at that one, Craig.  It’s what happens when I get oot that worries me.”

“These judges are suckers for dedicated Twelve Steppers, Matt.  You’ll be fine.”

“I hope so.”

Options Vancouver…it kinda sounds like a gay dating app.”

“Well, I sure hope the name’s deceiving, Craig, because for the next month of my life, it’s home.”


Maple Ridge, B.C.

Brooke woke up in a cold sweat, the bedsheets clinging to her burning limbs.  Her temples throbbed mercilessly as she tried to sit up but found herself too weak to move.  Theresa and Eddie slept in the adjacent bedroom, but when she tried to call oot, her voice was too weak for them to hear.

She thought of Tabitha and garnered every ounce of strength she could muster to grab her cell phone from the nightstand and shoot off a quick text.

No matter what happens, I am always with you.  I love you with all my heart. 

Before she could send the message, Brooke was overcome with dizziness and the phone dropped from her hand.  Her eyes glazed over as she rolled off the edge of the bed and fell to the hardwood floor with a sickening thud.


Fifty: Morning Headlines


Episode 6, Part 2

Broadband TV Corporate Headquarters
Vancouver, B.C.

“Up for another extracurricular project, Barbara?”

“Sure, Ms. Patel.”

“Well, you really earned your afternoon off by finding me Jerry’s contact information last month, so I’d like to make you a similar deal.”

Janice pushed a sheet of paper across the desk.

“If you can do the same for every person on this list, then consider next week a paid vacation.  They’re all Hillside alumni, too, though I’m not sure who might be married or just using a different name.  You know the drill: e-mails, phone numbers, home or work addresses – anything I can use to make contact.”

“Consider it done!”

“You’re the best, Barb.”


Provincial Court of British Columbia
Vancouver District

The judge’s sober baritone permeated the cramped courtroom like the tolling of a funeral bell.

“Ashley Walker!  Please approach the bench.”

Dylan gave her shoulder a reassuring squeeze as she rose to face the judge.

“Mrs. Walker, in accordance with the Controlled Drugs & Substances Act, your case has been remanded from the Ontario Court of Justice to the Drug Treatment Court of Vancouver.  You are currently in my courtroom for violating the original warrant issued to you by the provincial authorities of Ontario and failing to appear at your initial appearance to face a charge of driving under the influence causing property damage.  Further charges that may be pursued by the local authorities will constitute a separate issue and are not pertinent to these proceedings.   Once these charges have been read, you have the right to retain counsel to represent you throughoot the case.  So again, Mrs. Walker, I am informing you that you have been charged with dishonor of a duly issued criminal warrant and failure to appear at a scheduled hearing.  Do you understand the charges?”

“yes, your honor.”

“Mrs. Walker, after reviewing the case history along with your prescription information from multiple medical practices forwarded as evidentiary material from the originating court, it is my opinion that before facing the criminal charges read to you today, you will need to complete a 28 day inpatient program at the Options Vancouver Treatment Center.  You will not be taken into custody today, but it is your responsibility to contact the facility within the next 48 hours, at which time the facility will confirm your scheduled check-in date with the Court.  Your admission date shall be no later than one week from today.  Do you understand this ruling and what is expected of you, Mrs. Walker?”

“yes, your honor.”

“Are you currently under the influence of any alcohol or drugs, prescription or otherwise?”

“no, your honor.”

“Then you are free to go under the conditions set by the Court.”

“thank you, your honor.”

Ashley walked back to her seat and collapsed into Dylan’s arms until the bailiff appeared, tugged lightly at her sleeve and directed them to leave the courtroom.


ARIA TV Studio
North Vancouver, B.C.

Matt tried to pull himself together before entering the studio, but he knew there was no hiding the fact that W Network’s up-and-coming celebrity realtor was a shaky, sweaty mess just two days ahead of the show’s scheduled premiere.  He took a deep breath and went inside where Craig was waiting in the lobby.

“Oh, hey.  Good morning, Craig.”

“Hi, Matt.  Let’s take a walk to the donut shop so we can talk for a few minutes.”

Craig’s usual boisterous energy was worrisomely subdued and Matt steeled himself for the worst as they strolled silently down the block to The Harmony Donut Shop.  They ordered coffees and took them ootside to the empty patio area.

“Listen, Matt, I’m not gonna beat around the bush.  I read in The Sun this morning aboot the little incident you were involved in over the weekend.”

“Craig, I don’t know what to say.  I mean, you know how it goes sometimes…when the drinks, the whole night…just sort of goes off the rails.”

“Yeah…of course, I do, Matt.  But there’s a dead hooker involved in this one…that’s gonna be a little tough for our P.R. department to spin.”

“I swear, Craig, I had no idea she was so high when we…”

“Matt, you don’t need to explain this to me.  I tried to go to bat for you, but their minds were already made up. They’re going to can the show.”

Matt bit his lip and stared at the traffic whizzing by on Lonsdale Ave.

“What aboot the premiere?”

“Sorry.  The station will just re-air a sitcom or something in its place.  I know this would have been something great, Matt, and I was really looking forward to working with you, but this…is just a bit too much.  This is the kind of thing that can end the careers of even the biggest celebrities.  You’re talented, Matt…but you’re not a celebrity and the network just doesn’t know what to do with this.”

“Right.  I understand, Craig.  Thanks for trying.”

“Do you think you’ll be heading back to The Six?”

“Probably…I mean, it’s the only place where I’ve established any sort of a reputation.  Well, a good reputation, anyway.  But uh…I’ve gotta stick around long enough to face the charges.”

“When’s your court date?”

“A week from today.”

“Call me.  I’ll be there.”

“Thanks, Craig.  I appreciate that.”

Craig got up and shook Matt’s hand.  For a long moment, Matt stared after him as he walked back toward the studios. With unblinking bloodshot eyes, he watched the opportunity of a lifetime disappear into a faceless throng of pedestrians.


Lonsdale Quay Hotel
North Vancouver, B.C.

Arseman and Jake sat in adjacent chaise lounges on the deck of the indoor pool.  Suddenly, Arseman gasped and handed Jake the copy of The Sun she’d been perusing, open to the Metro Crime section.

“Um, Jake?  Brace yourself, then read the second article from the top.”

Jake’s brow furrowed as he read.

“Oh fuck.”


“I knew something like this would happen.”

“You knew Matt would be picked up for DUI with a dead prostitute in tow?”

“I knew he’d fuck up royally.  Jesus, Arseman, why didn’t we say more to him at the bar?”

“And what do you think that would have accomplished?  You know how this works.  If Matt doesn’t want to throw his life away, he’s got to make that choice on his own.”

“We should get in touch with Ashley.  I mean, Matt said she was in town, right?”

“Yeah, but the last number I had for her is from over a decade ago.  I guess it’s worth a shot.  This is some seriously fucked up déjà vu.”

“Who says you can’t live your high school years again, right?”

“Sure, and then maybe we can even go back a little further and revisit our salad days of diaper rash and colic.”

“Well, this homecoming is sure shaping up to be one hell of a bummer.”

“We can always look at the bright side, Jake.”

“What bright side?”

“At least Brooke isn’t here.”

“Thank God for small mercies, eh?”


Vancouver, B.C.

Brooke and Stacy rounded the corner and immediately stopped in their tracks.

“The Venue?”

“Huh.  Well, I guess that’s no surprise.  I mean, The Avalon was a shithole.”

“True, but it was our shithole.  Doesn’t it make you a little sad that it’s gone?”

“I’m playing the world’s smallest violin, Stace.”

“But you were the one who wanted to come here.”

“Yes, but not for a trip down Bad Memory Lane.  I was hoping I might run into someone who could get me in touch with Ashley.”

“Ashley Fraser?”


“Really?  I didn’t think you were very fond of her.”

“Exactly.  And I sure went oot of my way to make that abundantly clear, which is what cements her place on my…”

“…bucket list?”

“Right.  I appreciate the pains you take to express things delicately, Stace.”

“I’m sorry…but do we really need to mince words here, Brooke?  You’re the one who’s been talking like cancer’s already won the battle ever since we left Toronto, but you don’t exactly fit my mental image of someone who’s dying.  Have the doctors told you something I should know?”

“No.  I guess I’ve just been bracing for the worst by treating it as a foregone conclusion.  But some days are really bad.”

A tear sliced through the mascara on Brooke’s cheek as she took Stacy’s hand between hers.

“I need you to make me a promise, Stacy.”

“Sure, Brooke.  Anything.”

“If I don’t make it long enough to accomplish what I’ve come here to do, I need you to make sure it gets done.  All of it.”

“Of course.”

“Do you think you can pull it off?”



“I think you can pull it off.  But I’ll be right by your side, no matter how long it takes.  That much I can promise.”

Fifty: Reckonings


Episode 6, Part 1

Maple Ridge, B.C.

“We can’t submit the application withoot a Board of Directors, Brooke. That’s not how this works.”

“And I can’t make a Board of Directors materialize withoot an organization, Theresa.  I thought that’s what the first application was for.”

“The 4001 form just establishes the Articles of Incorporation. It’s basically a declaration of intent to the CRA.”

“What if my ‘intent’ is to choose my officers after establishing the non-profit?”

“There’s no organization withoot officers, Brooke.”

“And if we had ham, we could have ham and eggs, if we had eggs.”

“Stacy, if you don’t have anything sensible to contribute—”

“Brooke, you know this isn’t Stacy’s fault, so there’s no reason to act like a bitch.”

“I know. I’m sorry, Stacy.  I’m just a little on edge…you’ve been a great friend to me and I really owe you for this.”

Stacy smiled and gave Brooke an affectionate wink.

“Anyway, have you settled on a name? How aboot The Brooke Morgan Women’s Relief Coalition?”

“Theresa, who do you think I am, Donald Fucking Trump? This is a charity, not a vanity project. How aboot Empowering Women, B.C.?”

“Perfect. Now if you want, I can probably convince some of my colleagues at ICBC to act as Members.  That should help to pad your application a bit.”


“They’re like shareholders who don’t get a share of anything, but they get to vote on the election of directors and give input on projects and purchases.”

“Okay, great. For now, I suppose I constitute the Board of Directors, unless…”

Brooke raised an eyebrow and fixed Stacy’s gaze across the table.

“What? Why are you looking at me like that?”

“Didn’t you say you did the accounting for that self-storage place a few years ago?”

“Well, yeah, but it was just bill collecting, basically…”

“Theresa, fill in Stacy Collins under Treasurer.”

“And I assume you’ll be the equivalent of COO for the foreseeable future?”

“You assume an awful lot, Sis. I have cancer, remember? I’m here to get the ball rolling and put up some cash.  That’s it.”

“Right.  Sorry. So who’s running the show?”

“Kelly Lavoie.”

Kelly? You’re kidding, right?”

“No, I’m not. There’s a method to my madness, Theresa. You’ve gotta learn to trust your big sister. I know exactly what I’m doing.”


Vancouver, B.C.

Dylan hung up the phone, jumped oot of bed and hastily pulled on his pants.

“Shit! I’ve been gone for a fucking hour, Roxane.  Ashley’s freaking oot.”

Roxane chuckled under her breath.

“Oh, you think it’s funny, huh? Was that your plan all along, just to get your kicks by fucking with Ashley?”

“Your attempt at chivalry after the fact is adorable, Dylan. You’re the one who cheated on her, not me.”

“Yeah, well, it’s not gonna happen again. Got it?

“We’ll see. What the hell is up her ass, anyway? You’re not allowed to go oot for an hour?”

“Don’t start. She’s under a lot of stress lately.”

“Well, of course she is. Who wouldn’t be stressed after playing the same two guys against each other for thirty years?”

“That’s not true. Matt wanted the divorce, not Ashley. I love her, Roxane.”

“I guess there’s no accounting for taste. So what’s the melodrama du jour?”

“She’s got a little legal trouble in Toronto and it’s making her anxious and that’s already more than you need to know. When people care aboot each other, sometimes they worry, Roxane. But you probably wouldn’t know anything aboot that.”

“You make a lot of assumptions yourself, Dylan. Now you better run on home and tend to Sylvia Plath before you find her with her head in the oven. See you soon, Rock Star.”

Dylan slammed the door behind him as Roxane sat down on the sofa and took oot her cell phone.


Whistler, B.C. / North Vancouver, B.C.

“Alright, Sis, spill it. And don’t you dare leave oot a single scintillating detail.”

“Cut it oot, Billy. I had a wonderful time. Matt’s a really great guy.”

“I’m sorry, I think I nodded oot there for a second. Matt squirted what in your eye?”

“Are you gonna let me tell you aboot my date or are you just setting me up for one-liners?”

“Sorry, force of habit. Please continue.”

“Have you ever noticed that he has the kindest eyes?”

“Sir, would you please step oot of the car?”

Matt’s vision was overwhelmed by the piercing beam from the patrolman’s flashlight.

“What’s this aboot, Officer?”

“You ran a red light at the last intersection, Sir. Have you been drinking tonight?”

The officer peered into the vehicle at the woman slumped over in the passenger’s seat.

“Ma’am, will you please step oot of the car, too?”

She didn’t respond, so another officer approached the passenger side of the vehicle as Matt was led through the field sobriety tests.

“Officer Nolan? This one’s unconscious, we’re gonna need an ambulance.”

“…and he was so compassionate and understanding aboot all the stupid choices I’ve made, Billy, that I honestly felt…okay. For the first time in years…he made everything okay.”

“Matt Walker the therapist! Who knew?”

“He’s got this TV show premiering next week and he’s going through all this upsetting stuff with Ashley, but the whole time, he only wanted to talk aboot me. I know it’s silly, but it almost felt like he’s been waiting for me all this time.”

“And you don’t think you’re worth the wait?”

“I don’t know, Billy. What did I ever do to deserve the attention of someone as smart and successful as Matt?”

The officer got into his car and called dispatch.

“We have a male Caucasian, possibly driving under the influence and an unconscious female passenger that may have suffered an overdose. No priors for the driver, but the passenger’s got a pretty lengthy record, mostly for solicitation. I need an ambulance oot here right away. Officer Raymore will meet them at the scene while I take Mr. Walker downtown for processing.”

“Well, hopefully, Matt will continue to resurrect your self-esteem until you finally accept yourself as worthy of affection.”

“It’s not that I don’t think I’m worthy, it’s just…oh, Billy, I feel like a teenager again! Why didn’t you tell me what I was missing all those years I spent hiding away in the convent?”

“Plenty of time to catch up, Courtney. So when are you getting together again?”

“I’m not sure, but soon, I hope. It’s so exciting, Billy – it really feels like my life has just begun!”

“Mr. Walker, you’re under arrest for driving under the influence and solicitation of prostitution.”

The officer pushed down on Matt’s head as he climbed into the back seat of the cruiser. As it pulled away, Matt looked oot the window and saw the body of the woman with whom he’d spent the evening lying motionless on the blacktop as an EMT drew a white plastic sheet over her face.


Vancouver, B.C.

After a hurried pit-stop at BC for the bottle of wine, Dylan’s rented Geo screeched to a halt in front of the house. He walked inside and called oot for Ashley, but there was no response. A gurgling sound from down the hall caught his attention, so he made his way to the bedroom where Ashley was splayed oot on the bed. His bottle of Valium was uncapped on the nightstand.

“Ashley! What the hell happened?”

Ashley tried to prop herself up on one elbow but collapsed back into the mattress.

“Dylan, I…I don’…whass…where were you?”

“Oh my God, Ashley, did you take that whole bottle of pills??”  He grabbed her by the shoulders and shook. “Did you take the whole bottle?!”

Ashley’s body went limp as Dylan was startled by a sudden roar of police sirens. He rested her head on a pillow and peered oot the window at the three VPD cruisers that had pulled up in front of the house.

Fifty: Belated Betrayals


Episode 5, Part 2


Aviation Gin & Broadband TV Present


With special guest Black Well

April 23, 2022, 8:00 p.m.


Jerry and Janice sat at the bar poring over a stack of paperwork.

“I feel like I’m signing my damn life away.  Maybe I should get a lawyer to look this over.”

Janice mustered all her remaining patience to explain the deal to Jerry for the fourth time this morning.

“Jerry, listen – I’ve already examined all the legalese in the contract ad nauseum.  Here’s what it boils down to: once a month, you will book a big-name Canadian act at one of your clubs and Broadband will telecast it live.  Our marketing department will assist you in contacting agents, negotiating fees and all that kind of stuff.  The Venue – that is to say, you – is guaranteed 25% of all ad revenue generated from each of the broadcasts.  That’s it.”

“What’s the catch?”

“There’s no catch, Jerry.  This has the potential to really boost Broadband’s profile – that’s what’s in it for them and for me.  Plain and simple.”

“Can I ask why it was so important that I offer Dylan the opening slot for next month’s show?  That didn’t make a lot of sense.”

“Well, Jerry…if my reasons for wanting Dylan to play on the first broadcast constituted the entirety of this contract’s indecipherable fine print, would you consider that a deal breaker?”

Jerry stared hard at Janice for a long moment.

“No, I guess not.  But it still doesn’t sound like a very good idea.”

“Let’s just say that every now and then, a business opportunity unexpectedly leads to a personal one.”

“Still hot for Dylan, huh?”

“If that solves the mystery for you, Jerry, then sure.  Let’s go with that.  Now crack those knuckles and get signing – I need to have this back to our legal department by 3:00.”


Vancouver, B.C.

Dylan sat on his bed playing guitar when Ashley appeared at the door.

“got a second, dylan?”

“Sure, what’s up?”

“i talked to matt this morning.”

“Oh yeah?  How’d that go?”

“okay, i guess.  he’s been so great aboot everything, but it feels so weird when we talk now.  we’re still married, technically, but it sure doesn’t feel like it.  he’s here in vancouver filming his new show.”

“Maybe it would be easier if you talked face to face, then?”

“no.  we’ll always be friends, dylan, but right now, we both just need to move on with our lives.  but that’s not why i brought it up.  matt told me something pretty disturbing.”

“What’s that?”

“chris is dead.  he was murdered in prison.”


Dylan put down his guitar and got up from the bed.

“I can’t believe she went through with it!”

“i’m sorry?”

“When I went to see Roxane in the hospital, she told me she wanted to hire someone to take Chris oot…Ashley, I thought she was joking – I really did!  You remember how Roxane talks – she hasn’t changed much since high school and we were both laughing when she said it.  Holy shit.”

“it’s scary.  why does life have to turn oot this way, dylan?  what did we all do to deserve this?”

“You can’t think like that, Ashley, you’ll drive yourself crazy.  It’s all chaos and all we can do is navigate the chaos until we can’t anymore.”

“i guess.”

Dylan walked over to the closet and grabbed his jacket.

“Fuck today.  I’m gonna go down to BC and get us a bottle of wine.”

“sounds good, baby.”

Ashley watched as Dylan pulled oot of the driveway, then walked into the master bathroom.  She slid the door to the medicine cabinet open and scanned the labels on Dylan’s prescription bottles until she found the one for which she was searching.

Diazepam, 10 mg., 50 ct. Take as needed for withdrawal symptoms.

With shaking hands, she clumsily screwed the child-proof cap off the bottle.


Osteria Savio Volpe
Vancouver, B.C.

“Okay, Courtney, I’ve gotta ask – what made you decide to become a nun?”

Courtney took a sip of water and cleared her throat as her leg tapped nervously beneath the table.

“You know, Matt…that’s something I ask myself a lot.  There wasn’t some great epiphany or anything like that.  I started having panic attacks the summer after graduation.  Bad ones, the kind that make you think you’re going to die of anxiety.  So I started to pray and…I don’t know…I guess when all was said and done, I didn’t know where else to turn but to God and I didn’t know what else to do but dedicate my life to the one thing that made me feel safe.”

“That sounds reasonable enough.  It also sounds a lot like what motivated me to propose to Ashley.”

“I don’t think I follow.”

“Familiarity.  Safety.  But that’s just an illusion, isn’t it?  We don’t get those kinds of guarantees.”

“I guess not.”

A waiter approached their table.

“May I get some drinks to get you started?”

“I’ll have a vodka martini, hold the lemon.”

Courtney poked her eyes above the drink menu and looked at Matt with surprise.

“For you, Ma’am?”

“Cabernet Sauvignon.”

The waiter collected their menus and disappeared behind the bar.

“Before you ask, Courtney, it’s fine.  I spent a long time on the wagon, but I’ve reached a point where I can have a drink now and then withoot any trouble.”

“What aboot A.A.?”

“What aboot it?”

“I mean, just last month you were at a meeting—”

“Just last night, I was at a meeting, Courtney.  If it weren’t for the support those guys have given me over the years, I don’t think I could have reached this point on my own.”

“Do they know you drink?”

“I try to keep that under wraps, mostly because they’ve been so indoctrinated into believing that moderation is impossible.”

“Isn’t it?  I mean…for an alcoholic?”

“Courtney, next week the first episode of a prime-time TV show starring Matt Walker, realtor extraordinaire, premieres on the W Network.  Do you think that I could have pulled off something like that if I didn’t know how to moderate?  Not to mention…if I didn’t have things under control, you’re the last person I’d be subjecting to it.”

The waiter returned with the drinks and took their dinner orders.  When he left the table, Courtney met Matt’s gaze and smiled.

“I guess I’m a little naïve aboot this sort of thing…living in a convent will do that to a person, you know?  Thanks for explaining it to me, Matt.  I feel a lot better now.”


Courtney ceremoniously lifted her glass.

“To TV stardom!”

“I’ll drink to that!  To TV stardom!”

Staring at Matt across the table, Courtney realized for the first time in over 20 years that she had never fallen oot of love with him.  She polished off her wine and promptly ordered another glass.


Vancouver, B.C.

Roxane was roused from a fitful sleep by a persistent rapping on the front door.  She threw on her bathrobe and trudged oot to the living room.

“Oh, hey, Dylan!”

“Hi, Roxane.  Can I come in?  I kinda wanted to talk to you aboot something.”

“Sure, come on in.”

Dylan stood in the foyer scratching his head.

“Sit down, Dylan.  Want something to drink?”

“No, thanks, I can’t stay long.  I told Ashley I was going to the store.”

“Oh, right.  I forgot aboot Ashley.  How is everyone’s favorite little mental patient, anyway?”

“Cut the shit, Roxane.  I guess you know aboot Chris.”

“Of course.  Forgive me if I have a hard time grieving for a guy that fucking shot me three times.”

“Yeah.  I guess that’s a pretty tough thing to forgive…unless, of course, you find a way to settle the score.”

“What are you getting at, Dylan?”

“Did you have anything to do with it, Roxane?”

Roxane smiled and slowly approached Dylan as she untied her bathrobe belt and let it slip to the floor.

“Roxane, what the fuck are you—”

She grabbed his face in her hands and kissed him lustfully.  Dylan tensed up and started to back away, but Roxane held tight.  After a few moments, he stopped resisting.

Fifty: Bars & Bistros

queens cross

Episode 5, Part 1

Queens Cross Pub
North Vancouver, B.C.

Matt, Jake and Arseman were perusing the menu at their patio table when a waitress came oot to take their drink orders.

“Peregrino with lemon, please.”

Arseman hesitated and furrowed her brow as she scanned the beverage list prompting the waitress to launch into an unsolicited lecture on the Queens Cross premier seasonal wines and the four-star entrees they compliment.   After a few moments, Arseman interrupted.

“I’ll have an Aranciata San Pellegrino, no ice.”

The server turned to Matt.

“Tanqueray and tonic, no rocks.”

The sound of a pin dropping several blocks away was audible in the awkward silence that followed.  Arseman nervously cleared her throat while Jake fidgeted with his hands.

“Um, Matt…I know it’s not really any of my business, but are you sure that’s a good idea?”

“What?  Oh, the drink?  Relax, Guys.  I figured oot how to keep this under control a long time ago.  You don’t become one of the most sought-after realtors in Toronto withoot indulging in a little liquid courage from time to time.”

Feeling obligated though not quite sure why, Jake proffered his two cents on the matter.

“When we were talking on the phone last month, you told me you were still active in A.A.  Right?”

“That was the truth.  A.A. is a great place to network…and it keeps me grounded, you know?  It’s fine, Jake.  Honest.  I haven’t given anyone a black eye in weeks.”

Matt’s attempt at a strangely nostalgic joke fell flat and the friends once again found themselves negotiating the tangible discomfort.  Finally, Jake threw in the towel and gestured at the waitress.

“Can I get you something, Sir?”

“Yeah, you can shit can the sparkling water and the fancy Italian soda pop and just bring us three Tanqueray and tonics, please.  And keep ‘em coming.”

Matt smiled and gave Jake a playful punch on the shoulder.

“It is so fucking awesome to see you guys!”


The Venue – Downtown
Vancouver, B.C.

Ashley and Jerry sat at a small table in front of the stage as Dylan finished up his audition consisting of a few cover tunes on acoustic guitar with an electric pickup clipped to the body.  As he performed, Jerry sat stone faced, but Dylan noticed with satisfaction that his foot was tapping in rhythm beneath the table.  He finished his set and Ashley clapped wildly as Jerry rubbed his chin.


“Not bad, Dylan.  You’ve come a long way since high school, I’ll say that.”

“Yeah, thanks.  But um…what aboot Wednesday nights?”

“Forget it, Dylan.”

Dylan slumped off the stage as Ashley shook her head in disbelief.

“Come on, Ashley.  Let’s get the hell oot of here.”

Ashley grabbed her purse and followed Dylan to the door when Jerry bellowed oot from the back of the establishment.

“Forget Wednesdays, Dylan!  I want you to open for The New Pornographers next month.  And get a fucking haircut and some clothes that didn’t come off a thrift store rack – you’re gonna be on TV.” 

Dylan’s eyes nearly popped oot of his head as Ashley squealed and threw her arms around his shoulders.

“congratulations, baby!  i told you it would work oot!”

“Thanks, Ashley…and thanks for believing in me!  I love you!”

Their affectionate celebration was interrupted by another bellicose shout from the stage area.

Both of you – get the fuck oot of here before you make me puke.  Dylan, be here tomorrow night at 8:00.  Some session musicians I have on retainer are gonna back you up, so you’re gonna need to rehearse with them and get up to speed…fast.  And don’t make me regret this.”


Granville Island
Vancouver, B.C.

Kelly poured three packets of sugar into her cup of blonde roast and joined Brooke and Stacy at a corner booth.

“So…let me see if I have this straight.  You have cancer and you discovered that your husband’s been cheating on you and that’s what prompted this little homecoming?”

“More or less.  Listen, Kel…there comes a time in everyone’s life when a little introspection is in order.  For me, that time is now, obviously.  I wasn’t always very nice to you and I just thought—”

“Brooke, we were in high school.  Are you honestly trying to tell me that you’ve been harboring guilt aboot that shit all of these years?”

“No, not at all.  In fact, until recently, I hadn’t given it as much as a thought.”

“But now you’re facing your mortality and trying to get right with God or something?”

“I don’t believe in God, Kel.  I’m trying to get right with myself.”

“Okay.  So you’re sorry for being a high school bitch.  Big deal.  I could say the same thing, you know.”

“This isn’t aboot you, Kelly, and it’s not aboot settling scores.  My daughter is starting high school next year.  Naturally, she gets a bit anxious aboot it sometimes, so I try to give her guidance…and that’s when I remember that I’m the last person in the world who should be advising a child on the best way to deal with peer pressure and unrequited crushes.  I may not be religious, but I do believe in karma…and setting a good example for Tabitha.”

“Well, you know, that’s all very inspiring, Brooke, but let me fill you in on the last 20 years of my life.  I married a drug dealer who beat the shit oot of me on a daily basis, knocked me up and split.  In order to keep a roof over our heads, I schlep tables at a shitty bar while drunks leer at me and smack me on the ass.  My reward for all this was to get evicted from my apartment for being a week late on the rent, so now my daughter and I live on my sister’s couch.  What kind of example do you think I’m setting for my daughter, Brooke?  Is it time for me to engage in some introspection?  Do I need to work on my karma?”

“I wasn’t saying—”

“Forgive me if I’m not exactly in the mood to indulge your belatedly guilty conscience, Brooke.  I’m sorry all this shit happened to you.  I am.  But some of us don’t have the luxury of traveling across the country to redeem ourselves at the drop of a hat.  Some of us are too worried aboot how the fuck we’re gonna manage to feed our kids for another day.”

Brooke stared silently at her folded hands while Stacy nervously picked at the plastic lid on her coffee.

“You’re right, Kel.  I hadn’t thought aboot any of that, as usual.  Can we at least keep in touch?”

Kelly sighed as she got up from the booth.

“Sure, Brooke.  Maybe we can get together again after I get my shit together and figure oot what me and Nia are gonna do.  Take care of yourself.”

“You, too, Kel.”

A cold wind rushed through the door as Kelly exited, blowing a pile of napkins from the table.

“That was a little harsh, don’t you think?”

“No, Stacy.  She was right.  What good did I think an apology was going to do?  But I got what I needed.”

“What you needed?”

“Just enough information to make things right.  Finish up your coffee, Stace.  We’ve got work to do.”


Whistler, B.C.

Courtney’s anxiety had finally dissipated when Billy and Isabelle returned from Australia last night, the house once again filled with activity and friendly voices.  They sat at the kitchen table drinking wine and catching up.

“I’m so jealous of you guys – I would die to be able to just hop a plane Down Under whenever I want!”

“Really?  Great, then next month when I have to go back and spend 15 hour days filming scenes in the fucking bush before telling the associate producer that he’s fired for being an incompetent boob, I’ll send you as my proxy.”

“If you’re trying to make it sound like a drag, you’re not succeeding, Billy.”

“Enough aboot that…let’s talk aboot your decision to get back on the horse, eh?”

“Back on the horse?”

“Didn’t you say you’re gonna meet up with Matt tomorrow night?”

“Well, yeah, but—”

“But nothing.  I saw the way you were looking at him ootside of the church.”

“Come on, Billy.  We haven’t seen each other in over 20 years.”

“You saw each other three weeks ago.”

“You know what I mean.  I’m not exactly ready to pursue a romance, Billy, I spent the last two decades as a nun!”

“I fail to see your point.  Wait…oh shit, now I get it!  You’re afraid you won’t know what to do, right?  Sheesh, Sis, I leave you alone in my house for two weeks and you didn’t even sniff oot my porn collection?”

“That’s not funny, Billy.  Mostly because it’s not too far off the mark, I guess.”

“Courtney, Matt knows your story and it was pretty clear that he was excited to see you, too.  If you can just relax and cut yourself some slack, I think you’ll find that the secular life is a fucking blast.  If you wanna get laid, you gotta act like a lay person.”

Courtney chuckled and smiled warmly at her brother.

“One thing at a time, Billy.  Let’s see if I can actually manage to pull off a dinner date first, okay?”