My close personal friend Kurt Waldheim phones me up – lonely, everyone's ostracizing Kurt in his bunker aerie in Alberta's foothills, not as many Nazis as he thought. Can't I come visit? Kurt's got a keg of Big Rock Traditional Ale and the new Radiohead CD, some serious tuneage.
Come on down, Kurt says, come on down!
I hop the Westjet and Margaret Atwood is the stewardess, Margaret Atwood pointing out the four emergency exits, Margaret Atwood asserting that no one has ever really seen those plastic oxygen masks yet we cling to our belief that masks are actually there, waiting for us like a parent, our Lacanian masks waiting to drop.
Margaret Atwood says, Maybe my message is bleak because it needs to be bleak. She says the seat belt parts fit into each other like a hook into an eye, my hook, your eye.
She lights a smoke, mutters, Screw the pilot and his feeble No
Smoking light, it's a power issue, it's all political in nature. His phony blue uniform and drycleaning bills that could feed a third world village. Her monotone voice rises: If a stewardess ceases to be critical, ceases to judge her world she'll find herself in one infinitely more turbulent.
I sigh and peer out the plane's tiny window, look down miles and see Margaret Atwood's giant face on the side of an orange United Farmers of Alberta grain elevator. Her giant face is live, mischievous, moving, gnomish. The elevator is like a drive-in movie screen. Her giant face winks largely at me, but then a double hook punctures her giant eye and the UFA elevator bursts into flame, rocketing burning timbers and burning grain across the street of the hamlet, grey charnel smoke enveloping the town and time going sideways under dead light from the stars.
Our stretch Avro Arrow touches down at Calgary airport. Inside the busy terminal we are greeted by Margaret Atwood in a cowboy hat. On the PA I hear Margaret Atwood's voice droning: Mr. Burroughs to the white courtesy phone.
Kurt picks me up in his coffee colored Mercedes and as we pull away from the curb I see her again, head shaven, Margaret Atwood dancing with the Hare Krishnas in a peach colored sarong.
Kurt takes me to the Ratskeller Klub for pilsner and blood sausage. Margaret Atwood climbs on the stage with a big 12 string guitar and a Neil Young wig that looks to be made from the hair from a horse's mane or tail. She adjusts the mike, sings, Hello Cowgirl in the sand, is this place at your command.
Then kd lang leaps onstage with her Nancy Sinatra hairpiece and, holding hands, they belt out a bitching version of "These Boots Are Made For Walking." At the end of the song Margaret Atwood and kd lang hug, then start kissing like crazy, tongues and everything, whispering things into the mike like Sleeping with a man is like being in a river but sleeping with a woman is the ocean. Kurt Waldheim looks at me Kurtly while applauding politely. Atwood's husband Graeme Gibson snaps his fingers like a beatnik, but I suspect deep down he feels like Dennis Thatcher.
I duck out, check my messages: Margaret Atwood's recorded voice says, You have no new voice mail; you have no new voice, male. Message #2 is my mother asking, Why don't you write some nice Jungian ennui like that Margaret Atwood is so good at?
Then I'm chomping burnt ribeye steak and drinking gin and tonic screwballs way up high in the revolving restaurant with Leon Trotsky and Don Cherry. Don is cracking us up with stories about Eddy Shore taking a cat o'nine tails to him, until Leon Trotsky interrupts: Ach, it's that crazy woman again. I look out the window. Margaret Atwood is climbing the outside of the tower like King Kong, like Spiderwoman.
Don Cherry says, That Peggy! I tell ya! Great Canadian kid! Ya gotta love her! But I notice he tosses a twenty down and hightails it for the elevator.
A young woman peers out the window, says, We did her, we did Atwood, like last semester in, like, English 121.
The Stone Angel.
That's one of her best ones. Totally.
Margaret Atwood smashes through the windows, lands on all fours in the broken glass, locks eyes, purrs to me, Love what you're doing with your hair, that Brian Eno-Howard DeVoto-male pattern baldness look. She kisses my bare scalp, leaving giant smears of red lipstick, says, Big party in Hal's Portugese neighborhood, we'll crash it. She spots Jan Wong eating, gets her in a headlock: Let's do lunch. Tim Horton's, tomorrow. Noogie! Chinese haircut! Jan Wong's glasses fall off, her hair askew and crackling static.
I sneak out with Don Cherry for shinny hockey at the Rec Centre. Margaret Atwood is the referee: striped jacket, scraggly effort at a ponytail. I'm on defence with Don. She drops the puck and Rocket Richard flies straight at me, his eyes lit like a Halloween skull. I can't even see where the puck is, try to stand him up, but he's like a bull; we all fall in a big pile of bodies and she blows the whistle, calls a penalty.
I assume the penalty's to me, but she says, Rocket, two minutes for looking so good. A riot starts in Montreal; Brador bottles and smoked meat sandwiches whiz past my skull.
Margaret Atwood places her powdered skull against mine, Atwood's sudden tongue like a pink hook in my ear.
Welcome to the bigs, she whispers. May you live in interesting times.
Another bottle slicing by my head. Can I think of a witty reply? I cannot.
Then Margaret Atwood is fading, a statue folded into a blizzard, she is sinking under the ice, she is going west on a jet. It's snowing and snowing; snow is general over Canada. Peggy! Peggy! we call from our wretched snowcaves, shivering, shrinking into our winder skin. Don't go! Without you we are lost.