Sunday Stories features original fiction every weekend by Langley writers.
My Friend Nutsy
Written by John Hurst
(continued from previous publication on Sunday, March 29. Read last week’s installment here)
Yours in Usury
When the time came to leave Dunnville and move to the nearby city of Welland for a job, I realized I would need money to actually do it. I had managed to rebuild a lot of my wardrobe and actually owned two suits I could wear for work. But I needed cash to get a place to live, so I got a loan from a local finance company for $100. In those days, there were no credit cards and the banks wouldn’t risk lending money to citizens who ranked below the status of lawyer, teacher and haberdasher. Few of us drove cars, because no one could get the credit.
Once established in a Welland boarding house, it didn’t take me too long to realize that I needed a car. In the driveway of the house next door, I saw a huge white car for sale ($250) and decided it would do. The owner thought it would suit me, so thinking things over, I walked to a branch office of the loan company I started with and asked to borrow money for the car. I was ushered into a small office, where a young loan officer welcomed me.
This was Nutsy, now known as Marcel Demers by the name on his desk plate. He was wearing new clothes now, but who knows where they came from.
“So Hurstie, you’re working for The Evening Tribune?”
“Yes,” I said. “I’m the new police reporter.”
He cleared his throat and gave me some loan papers to sign. He whispered as I was writing.
“The Tribune, eh? I heard half of them starved to death last winter.”
I shrugged and handed the papers back.
“You’ll be back,” he whispered. “I’ve got your ass now.”
As It Were
Old enemies never go away; they just seem to be gone away but they still have your back.
Brightening one of the lowest times of my life as a single father years later was my joyous experience with the adult singles group of a Pentecostal church. I was on welfare, scrounging household products from the occasional dumpster and wearing clothing courtesy of the Salvation Army. (Actually, while many claimed my mother dressed me, I created all of my wardrobe components from other peoples’ under-awfuls.)
One thing I liked about the adult singles was that very few of us actually held down jobs. Another thing was we all appreciated good jokes, except for the Bulgarians, who were very dour. That is where I got into trouble. I was joshing with them about nothing in particular while hiking up a mountain trail, when I heard these words behind me:
“Hurstie, leave those girls be.”
This was Nutsy Notker of course, but I barely recognized him. He was tall, tanned and had a buffed physique. They all knew him as Wim Vanderpol, a champion swimmer and once the owner of a thriving dairy farm. The story was that jealous Belgians had stolen all his milk cows and goats and burned down his barn. He was just as unemployed as the rest of us.
“Hurstie and Billy. You two. Over here.”
Somehow Vanderpol had become our leader. He looked us up and down and then instructed us, “Boys, these girls are sisters in the Lord. This is a Christian support group for suffering single parents and if I ever catch you asking them out on dates, it’s all over for you. Got it?”
We did get it, Billy and I, and to prove it, we involved ourselves eagerly in all the activities the adult singles group offered – hikes, progressive dinners, outings at the local wave pool and coffee meetings in restaurants. We played the game and Vanderpol be damned, it worked. We had barrels of fun and made many friends. I actually forgot about Wim Vanderpol over time and actually had been unaware for some weeks that he had left town. And when we learned the news, we shrugged enthusiastically. The truth is we were growing up internally and from our association with the other members, we had developed a social discipline of our own. It was much like kids in playgrounds around the world when the recess buzzer sounds.
Two years passed and suddenly, all of us were invited to the wedding of Wim Vanderpol and Fannie Miller. We wore our best thrift store clothes and waved him a big goodbye. As the couple drove away, two of my friends, both women, pulled me aside. They told me that even before Wim’s little speech to Billy and I, he had been dating – and proposing to – all the girls in our group. Then, he had moved on to two Canadian provinces and a neighboring state and started over with the same mode of operation. Finally, some girl had said “yes” and Wim disappeared from our lives forever.
I like to think I yelled, “Right on, Nutsy” as the bridal pair departed. But that’s bad luck and invites the proverb, “Make the same mistakes and the same old croakers will return some day.” I could invoke all kinds of curses on Ignaz “Nutsy” Notker and they would return to me on a very bad day.
So I think I muttered, “Good luck old bean.”
This concludes the short story My Friend Nutsy by John Hurst. Stay tuned for new stories by local authors – published by the Langley Advance Times, Sunday, April 12.