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23# A raspy ramble

DAY - Montreal, QC. Canada - EXT

  • What's wrong?

  • We might need a boost

  • Uh-oh!

Rick woke up with a furred tongue. He opened his mouth and stared at the ceiling. He rolled his head to the left, to the right, and smiled; no migraine. Rick crawled out of bed and walked to the bathroom. “Morning”, he said to Eugene, scrolling on the sofa. Next to him was Manu, dozing. Rick entered the bathroom and put on his Magic System playlist. The music filled the air with joy, and brought Johann out of his room.

  • Johann: GOOD MORNING!

  • Eugene: Good morning

  • Johann: How are you doing?

  • Eugene: Not too bad, you?

  • Johann: Better than Manu haha

  • Manu: Nnnnnn

Johann pulled the curtains open, and a bright light entered the living room. Manu hid under the sheets. The music from the bathroom got louder. Rick slid out of the bathroom with a towel around his waist. He swayed his shoulders and hips to the beat. Rick was singing to the speaker, “On va gater le coin, c’est chaud, ça brûle!”. Eugene rocked his head from left to right. Johann mimicked him. He raised his hands and began dancing. Eugene held Manu’s shoulder and rocked it gently to the beat.

  • Manu: Nnnnnnnhhhh

  • Rick: C’est chaud, ça brule!


  • Rick: C’est chaud, ça brule!

  • Johann: C’est chaud, ça brule!

  • Eugene: C’est chaud, ça brule!

Rick began cleaning. Johann and Eugene helped him put things in order. Ten minutes later, the house was spotless. The only mark of the party was Manu, laying like a corpse in the living room. He was shitfaced.

  • Rick: Breakfast?

  • Johann: I went yesterday.

  • Rick: Guys, it’s your turn.

  • Johann: I’d like a sesame bagel with cream cheese, and a latte please.

  • Eugene: Rick?

  • Rick: Two blueberry muffins and a black coffee, no sugar please.

  • Eugene: Manu?

  • Manu: Nnnnnnhhhhh

  • Eugene: I’ll get you what I get.

  • Manu: Nnnnnn nnnn

It was a clear winter day: bright, blue, and cold. There was no one outside. Eugene grumbled as he put on his winter gear. The snow cracked under his weight. His feet were cold inside the boots. Eugene returned to the apartment empty handed, exactly two minutes later.

  • Eugene: FUUUUCK!

  • Johann: What!?

  • Eugene: My face hurts.

Johann reached for his phone. The thermometer showed -26 C, with a windchill factor of -38 C.

  • Johann: -38 C for you! Welcome to Canada hahaha

  • Eugene: It’s too much. How do the homeless do?

  • Johann: They die.

  • Rick: Haha they go to BC for the winter! breakfast?

  • Eugene: Let’s take your car.

  • Rick: You’ll have time to go and come back before the car heats up!

  • Eugene: I can wait.

  • Johann: It’s 2pm already. Let’s go to the mall, to hang out and get real food.

  • Rick: Nah man, too far.

  • Johann: Mall Champlain is 20min away if we go by car.

  • Eugene: He has a point. Plus, if you don’t get out, you’ll be as useless as Manu. Look at him.

The three heads turned towards Manu. He was sitting cross-legged on the ground, only one sock in, looking stupidly at the window.

  • Rick: Manu?

  • Manu: Nnnnnn?

  • Eugene: You’re okay?

  • Manu: I skip today, see you tomorrow.

  • Johann: Hahah alright, let’ go!

The three boys took the elevator down to the garage. With the dried slush on the sides, Rick’s blue Golf looked dirty and beaten. It was cold inside the car. Eugene shivered. Rick inserted the key and the engine coughed twice. The third time was the right one. Rick played C’est chaud, ça brûle while the car heated. Johann shrugged his shoulders to the beat. They moved to the beat, played the song a second time, and drove off.

Rick took the long bridge over the St-Laurent River to get to the South Shore. A 10km car ride would have taken them an hour by public transport. They parked at the mall fifteen minutes later, warm and light. Eugene stepped down first and shivered. He hurried to the mall, pushed the door, and embraced the blast of hot air. Rick and Johann laughed, and followed.

The boys ate and wandered around the shops until closing time. At 5pm, it was night already. Their car was the last one in the parking lot. The wind felt sharper. Eugene was hopping from side to side next to the car. He shouted, “RICK! Please, I’m dying!

Rick unlocked the car and Eugene jumped to the back, his entire body shaking. He curled up and sat on his hands. Rick slid the key in and twisted. The engine coughed. He repeated. The engine coughed again.

  • Johann: What’s going on?

  • Rick: I don’t know, probably the cold. We may need a boost.

  • Johann: That’s bad. Everybody left.

Rick tried the engine for the third time. It coughed a bit longer, but did not start.

  • Rick: Shit!

  • Johann: I’m calling a cab.

Johann reached for his phone. The rubber case was hard and cold.

  • Johann: Uh-oh!

  • Rick: What?

  • Johann: My phone died. Eugene?

  • Eugene: My battery died.

  • Rick: Shit! I’ll call CAA.

Frost formed on all windows. Johann scrapped the ice from the inside, drawing a big SOS on the windshield. Rick called CAA—road assistance—and waited for instructions. The towing truck would come in 30min but it had only one passenger seat. As they were figuring out a solution, Rick’s phone turned off. He exhaled deeply. His breath cleared a circle on the windshield. The mood was heavy. Johann broke the silence.

  • Johann: You guys watched that movie where the family gets trapped in the cold? They all die, the baby too.

  • Rick: Relax, there is a gas station on the highway. Plus, we’re only 10km from home.

  • Johann: I don’t think Eugene can endure 10K. Eugene?

Johann looked back. Crystals of thin ice have formed on Eugene’s eyelashes. He was quiet in the back, keeping his shaking under control.

  • Johann: You need to move your body.

  • Eugene: Vvvvvvvvv

  • Johann: Come on! On va gater le coin! C’est chaud, ça brule!

  • Rick: That’s the spirit! Think of hot water, the sun, the heat, the bikinis on the beach. C’est chaud, ça brule!

Rick and Johann rocked their head and shoulders to the beat, singing On va gâter le coin. C'est chaud, ça brule! Eugene did not react.

  • Johann: You’ll wait for CAA?

  • Rick: Yeah, nothing else to do. You guys need to call a cab. Go to the gas station we saw on the way. I don’t think it’s that far.

  • Johann: Okay, Eugene?

  • Rick: Eugene, moving your body will keep you warm. Go!

  • Johann: I’ll see you home. Good luck! Eugene, let’s go!

  • Rick: Thanks, I'll be fine. See you home.

The boys stepped out of the car. The windshield was covered in ice, with a backward SOS in the middle. They waved Rick’s goodbye, tightened their hood, and started towards the highway.

Johann led the way. The roadside was uphill, icy, and slippery. He tried different footholds before moving forward. The yellow and red lights of the gas station gleamed in the night. It was far away, but attainable. They moved slowly along the metal barrier.

Eugene was in constant pain. The cold swelled his fingers and hurt his toes with every step. With each inhalation, his chest tightened. The wind whipped his cheeks, leaving them red and cold. He looked down to protect his face, and focused on Johann’s steps, following in silence.

An eternity later, they reached the gas station. They hurled themselves inside. “WE MADE IT”, cried Johann, smiling. Eugene was numb with pain. He leaned against the wall and dropped to the ground, blowing hot air into his hands.

The walk in the cold was the most painful part of their expedition, also the shortest. They called a cab, waited, called a second one, and managed to get a ride back home, at 10:33pm! Johann pushed the apartment door open. Manu and Rick were watching music on TV.


  • Johann: Horrible!

  • Rick: It's good to see you! Take a hot shower, it will do you good.

  • Manu: You're okay?

  • Johann: Yeah, better than Eugene haha.

  • Eugene: ...

  • Rick: Eugene, jump in the shower. You'll feel much better, trust me.

Eugene floated the bathroom, his boots still on. He did not close the door.

  • Rick: Fuck man! What happened to him?

  • Manu: It’s the cold man, it fucks with who you are.

  • Johann: It was brutal.

  • Rick: I’ll make tea.

Rick played C’est chaud, ça brule! and boiled water. From the kitchen, he peeked at the bathroom. Eugene was sitting on the toilet like a marble statue, with all his clothes on, and looking stupidly at the open door. He left Canada a week later.

There is little in life as disheartening as constant cold.

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