By G.D. Maxwell
At first, I thought my pocket was being picked.
The Remembrance Day crowd around the Cenotaph had been like crowds at so many Whistler gatherings. There were the Usual Suspects, faces familiar from town meetings, public hearings, fundraisers, volunteer efforts. It’s dangerous to call them activists in an age when ownership of a word so broad has been co-opted by a group with interests so narrow but activists they are; they make this town work and work better.
The Politicians were there, mostly, some officially, others for the same solemn reasons the rest of us turned out. Children were there, spurred on by parents and teachers who believe well-rounded necessarily includes connections to great sacrifices made in the distant past and hopeful lessons for a more peaceful future. The Wreath Layers, Singers, Mounties and Organizers were there, balancing their own personal thoughts of remembrance with their programmed duties. The Strangers, some in town for meetings, some for holidays, some drawn by a crowd, added an element of shared unknown to the celebration.
In such a crowd, even a reverential crowd, being jostled is just part of the experience, especially as the formal event ended and people milled, not wanting to dart back to whatever it was they were doing before stopping to remember. Old friends unseen for months needed greeting, dogs and children had to tap off energy built up through inactivity. But this wasn’t an inattentive bump, someone’s hand was in my pocket.
I grabbed a wrist and spun around. "What the…."
"Just seein’ if you had a smoke in there, Dude."
"You know I don’t smoke, J.J. And I can assure you there ain’t no beer in there either."
Generally, encounters with J.J. Geddyup only involved a metaphorical hand in the pocket. The cost of bumping into J.J. is always a couple of beers and not infrequently breakfast, lunch or dinner, depending on when he pops up, or, heaven forbid, more than one meal if I’m too addled to come up with a good excuse to shake him.
Whistler’s only private eye for years and, as he’s unnecessarily proud of pointing out, the only one in town who fits the seedy picture movies paint of the profession, J.J. belongs to the genus Fringe Character. His Re-Use-It, Descente coach’s overcoat, tattered and frayed, seems to stick out more than it used to when Whistler was still a town where hard-core skiers’ gear was held together with duct tape and ty-raps. He still puffs furiously on Gauloise Blues or whatever he can bum, infecting those around him with repeated, rasping coughs. And his voice still sounds like cement and gravel grinding in a mixer, awaiting water to calm things down. J.J. might just be, as hard as it is to believe, the perfect person to bump into after a Remembrance Day ceremony.