NaNoWriMo – Sparks Street Mall 1969

Sparks Street Mall - Ottawa

Sparks Street Mall – Ottawa

I’m bringing a second part to the story which is drawn from Chapter 2. For those interested, I have completed Chapter 3 and more than 5,000 words for these first two days of the NaNoWriMo challenge. Let me know what you think so far.

– – –

The day was warm and sunny as Hubert walked through along the Sparks Street Mall. He had been dropped off in the city by his father who claimed to have his own prospects of work. Hubert still had about seventeen dollars left from a part-time job he had found in Vancouver. He bought a book of bus tickets and began searching for work. He checked out a number of grocery stores in which he had worked while in high school and soon found one that offered him a job at minimum wage, a dollar and hour. He was to report to work for the night shift and work in the produce section, restocking the counters while the store was closed. He was to begin work that night. He would work six nights a week from nine until six-thirty in the morning, eight hours of pay per night, forty-eight dollars a week with paydays every two weeks. It wasn’t a lot of money, but it was a job. Somehow he intended to save enough to pay back the money he had borrowed almost two hundred dollars.

A flower-child of the sixties

A flower-child of the sixties

As he approached the corner leading to the Canadian Press offices where his friend Derek worked as a copy boy, Hubert noticed a number of other young guys and their girlfriends who were oddly dressed. They called themselves flower children. There was always one in the crowd who would be playing folk songs by Dylan, Joan Baez and other folk musicians. He was tempted to go up to them and talk to them. Hubert had been playing guitar for six years. For the past three years he had played in his uncle’s band on Saturday nights in Legion clubs across the river in Hull and surrounding towns. Hubert had also been part of a high school rock group that played songs by the Rolling Stones and the Beatles, as well as other British groups that had become popular. Just last year, Hubert had begun playing folk music and had even been able to play in a few coffee houses in Ottawa with other young musicians. When he reached the corner, he hesitated and then finally turned to see if he could talk with Derek, perhaps arrange for having lunch together.

“Hey, Hughie!” called Derek as Hubert entered the office area where Derek manned the telex machines that were constantly printing out stories that he had to gather and take to the various journalists who worked for C.P. “Where the fuck have you been? Where’s Gisèle? At home?”

Corner of Sparks St. and O'Connor St. site of the CP office

The site of the C.P .office on Sparks Street.

Punching each other on the shoulder, their way of greeting each other, a guy’s way instead of shaking hands or worse still, hugging, Hubert and Derek re-affirmed their bonds as best friends. Hubert had met Derek when they were in grade five, in an English school in Hull just across the river. Hubert was the smallest boy in the class and the target of school yard bullies. Derek was taller and unafraid of everyone, but like Hubert, a new kid in the school and isolated because of that. Derek would come to school wearing lederhosen, leather shorts with straps over the shoulders. Derek was German, the enemy for the English kids in the school. I was French and that was perhaps even worse. It wasn’t long before they found each other and became friends.

“Gisèle is in the hospital. You know I hate being called Hughie, Dearie. Do you want to go out for lunch so that I can tell you all about it?” Hubert said in response to Derek’s questions. Derek’s mothr was always embarrassing Derek by calling him Dearie in front of his friends.

“Yeah, sure. Just give me twenty minutes and I’ll meet you, outside. I brought my lunch so get yourself a hot dog or something and buy me a Coke while you’re at it,” Derek instructed.

As the two talked while sitting on one of the benches along Sparks Street, Hubert told his story about the past three months, mostly talking about the last two days in Vancouver and the events back in Ottawa since his return.

“Your dad’s an asshole,” Derek confirmed. “There’s an opening at C.P. for another copy boy. You like writing. Why don’t you apply? It pays two hundred and eighty-eight dollars every two weeks.”

“Really? When can I begin?”

“Jeez, you have to get the job first. The poster says the job is to start on October first. It’d be neat if we actually worked together. I’m applying to become a photographer’s helper there as the last guy just got fired. I get the job if someone else gets hired to be copy boy.”

With lunch finished after some intense flirting by Derek with the girls passing by on the street, Derek took Hubert to meet the personnel manager. Once the job application forms were filled out, Hubert was told to come back in two days for an interview. Hubert couldn’t believe his luck. This would be the most he had ever earned if they gave him the job.


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