George S. Curfew, in his early thirties, stout, with a broad face, full lips, sunglasses, and short cut, spiky brown hair with just a tinge of purple, arrived at Chapters at what he assumed was the appointed time. It was a warm day, not as warm as recent days, but still, not the kind of day he was given to wear one of his favourite black t-shirts. That very morning, as throughout the past week, he had spent an inordinate amount of time picking out his clothes. He recognized this, and it made him feel as much like a teenage girl as could be reasonably imagined under the circumstances. His choice was a thin oatmeal short-sleeve collared shirt and his faithful army pants, the latter of which he had bought at an army surplus store in Kingston, Ontario, during the last cross-Canadian tour of his band, The Shadowy Scrub on the Knoll. Several of his black t-shirts were, in fact SSotK shirts.
He wore, also, one of his three pairs of Converse All-Star “Chuck Taylor” high top sneakers. He had been wearing this style of shoe since high school, and, barring a pair of Fluevog boots, had not owned any other style of footwear for five years. Today’s particular pair was his flashiest set, black with a red and yellow flame motif. As liable as not to stroll around town with, as they say, an unfurnished basement, George did invest in a pair of boxer shorts for this particular excursion, prompted in part by the realization that his well-worn army pants were getting a bit threadbare in the crotchal area.
George checked his dark reflection as he approached the glass doors of the Chapters. They were heavy, the doors; so heavy in fact that they forced the thought into George’s mind of some corporate conspiratorial mandate to keep the weak and elderly out of the boutique. What would they possibly need with books, he half-seriously imagined some Chapters executive sneering in a dark cabalist conference room. Passing through the trying-to-seem-innocuous-but-failing security pylons, George took a quick survey of the floor, ignoring the ubiquitous Starbucks adjunct, before he climbed the escalator. George’s philosophy of escalators was simple, if unkind to the tired or patient: Just because the stairs move doesn’t mean you don’t have to. He almost always climbed the escalator stairs as they ascended, or conversely walked down on the declension, but today he let slip his rigid escalator code of conduct, and simply leaned against the rail as it pulled him up to the much larger second floor. Only through this rare reprieve of self-imposed etiquette was he able to discover that the moving handrail and the moving steps were in fact moving at slightly different speeds, such that, were the trip long enough, a leaning passenger could be dragged down sideways if he didn’t check himself. A little overzealously, he decided then and there that such an engineering flaw was truly inadmissable.
This thought was quickly washed away for the paper sailboat that it was when George reached the top of the escalator and the overlit labyrinth of book and magazine shelves assaulted his senses. For a time he staggered among them, seeing everything but absorbing nothing, until he decided that the air-conditioned clam bore too thickly the tang of recycled human effluvium. He made a cursory walk through down the main aisle, eyes darting hither and yon, until he was satisfied enough to return to the main floor (walking down the escalator this time). He pushed his way out of the building into the hot Vancouver streets, waiting for inspiration. His faculties couldn’t seem to shake the remnant of drowse from a piecemeal sleep the night before, but he at last came to the conclusion that no, it would not appear too hang dog for him to set his ass down on the dubiously kept sidewalk. It would at least be in the shade.
Just as he was figuring out how best to settle in, like a hound circling on its favourite rug, he made out the familiar form of Yue Ying standing across the street. She was waiting decorously for the street light to change; for that liberating surge that comes only when the stern red hand surrenders to the white demi-man forever frozen in mid-stride.