When I was in high school there was a phenomenon known as “The Canadian Girlfriend.” Every so often, someone in school would awkwardly excuse themselves from some social event by saying that they couldn’t go because they have a girlfriend who can’t come and they wouldn’t want to go without her. Upon further questioning, it was made clear that this girlfriend, of whom no one else had ever heard, was Canadian. She was usually a model, and because of exotic Canadian laws, the lucky boyfriend couldn’t show the rest of us any pictures, but she’s the most amazingly hot woman, like, ever. This Canadian girlfriend had previously gone unmentioned because he didn’t want to make us jealous. She’s that hot. Where did they meet? Well his uncle has a business in Ontario and he knows someone who knows someone and they started talking on the phone, etc. etc. etc.
Obviously, there never was any girlfriend at all and the poor kid thought it was better to lie then own up to the fact that he didn’t get a date for the Sweetheart’s Dance. The invocation of The Canadian Girlfriend is far more humiliating than having no girlfriend at all, and yet, it was used time and time again. She wasn’t always Canadian, sometimes she was from Chicago. Sometimes she was from a different school, but a religious one and her asshole father won’t let her attend school functions at any school but her own. She’s not always a model, but she is always the most beautiful creature to have ever graced the earth and there is never an accompanying photo –except in the most pathetic of cases. Once in a while, the Canadian girlfriend’s photo looks like it was carefully cut out of a magazine. In those instances, she looks exactly like Heidi Klum. In even more pathetic instances, she looks like the model from the fucking Target ad in this past Sunday’s paper.
Strangely enough, despite the general social awkwardness, lack of hygiene and general slovenly nature of the boyfriend, this vision of beauty found him to be so desirable, so charming that she had eyes for no other. Occasionally they were engaged. Sure, these crazy love-birds are only 16, but in Canada that’s like, ideal marrying age. Culturally speaking. The rest of us wouldn’t understand.
It’s not as if everyone else in school had dates or girlfriends or any hope for either. Sure there were some of us who found our way into relationships, but there twice as many who simply didn’t, and could tell that that was OK. The crippling lack of social awareness of those with Canadian Girlfriends kept them from realizing that to have a Canadian Girlfriend was far worse than to have no girlfriend at all. In one truly sad instance, the boyfriend was so committed to his fantasy that when challenged to call his Canadian Girlfriend, he stepped up to the plate, actually to the payphone, and dialed. In this case she wasn’t so much Canadian as she was Minnesotan, and with all of our Wisconsin-bred ears pressed to the phone we heard him explain his reason for calling and her shattering denial. Just because they were cousins, and even if they shared a bedroom at Grandma’s during Christmas, no, they were not boyfriend and girlfriend. In fact, she’s telling her Dad and she won’t be sharing a bedroom with him anymore.
Someone so committed to a fantasy life, or rather, so unsatisfied with the reality of their life, is a truly sad and pathetic beast. In other words, someone like Tiger’ish. It was for these reasons that upon hearing his claims of having a girlfriend, my mind went immediately from any thoughts of personal testicular safety and straight to the fervent hope that Tiger’ish had a Canadian Girlfriend. There was no doubting that he was talking to someone on the phone, and there was no reason to think it wasn’t a female, but I held out hope that whomever he had on the line, no matter how much they liked him, would bristle at the identification as his girlfriend. After all, he had put the phone against his shoulder when he told me he was speaking to his girlfriend; she might not have heard. I prayed it would be a misunderstanding akin to that of the Minnesotan Cousin.
If Tiger’ish had a girlfriend, that meant there was someone out there who thought of him -to cut right down to it- as a potential mate. I sat there, trying to listen to Tiger’ish’s conversation, but my mind kept filling with visions of returning to our room to find him fucking this girl and doing so exactly as the pictures had shown him fucking the goats. He would be behind her, holding her legs up and apart, while she held herself up on her elbows. Like a wheelbarrow race with only one naked team in the running. For whatever reason, I pictured her overweight and with severe acne on her back. I had no face for her in my vision of the damned because, of course, she was wearing an animal mask. Like some satanic rite, she was wearing the face of a goat. Just like at his computer, I would have the displeasure of seeing his orgasm. Even within my own mind, all of this was enough for me to dry-heave. I ended up leaving the room for a while; I was pretty shaken up. He just couldn’t have a girlfriend. I wouldn’t allow it. If the universe made any sense at all, there could be no one out there for him. Surely whoever was on the phone was a fucking furry, but even they have to draw the line somewhere, and Tiger’ish had to be beyond what would be deemed acceptable. Tiger’ish could not have a girlfriend. She had to be a Canadian Girlfriend. She had to.
One of the characteristics of the Canadian Girlfriend is that no matter how unlikely the story, no matter how obvious the ruse, the boyfriend won’t admit his lie. In the instance of Minnesotan Cousin, no amount of debate will get him to see the truth. A friendly girl will be seen as a girlfriend until the friendship ends. For these reasons, I had no intention to even bother asking Tiger’ish about his girlfriend; what would be would be. Instead, upon my return, he had a question for me. He wanted to know if I was sure that my balls didn’t hurt.
Me: What the fucking hell! What are you asking me? No, they don’t fucking hurt and why do you keep asking?
Tiger’ish: Well, do they itch, do you have a rash?
M: Goddammit! I will punch you in the nuts if you don’t stop it! No, my balls don’t hurt, and you had better stop! What the fuck?
T: No aches or swollenness?
M: That’s fucking it! You’re done. Why are you even asking?
T: My girlfriend wants to know. I don’t care about your balls one way or the other, but I told her I’d ask, so I’m asking.
M: Well, and I can’t believe I’m even participating in this discussion, I already told you they feel fine. Stop asking. Why does she even want to know? Who is she and does she know that she’s your girlfriend?
T: She should know; she’s the one who asked me to be her boyfriend,
T: and it is really strange that your balls don’t hurt at all.
T: Because she’s a witch,
-Are you fucking kidding me?-
T: and she’s really good, too.
M: You mean she’s like Wiccan, or something?
T: What? I don’t know even know what that is. She’s a witch. A really powerful one and she cast a spell on you to make your balls hurt and that’s why they should hurt.
He went on to explain that the witch, Zebedorah, was in fact a fellow furry and that as a powerful sorceress, she was honing her craft. The problem was, much like Tiger’ish, she was entirely limited in her regular interactions with only fellow on-line furries. She needed a guinea pig that was both able to be observed repeatedly but not anyone she felt bad about harming. Tiger’ish suggested me. She could cast the spells, he could watch the results and thus, their romantic bond was forged.
Now, as I rule, I don’t consider myself superstitious. I find it hard to believe that if things like magic existed, that it would remain only on the fringes of society and not be fully incorporated into everyday life. On the other hand, I always went to parochial school, and every good Christian knows that magic is make-believe, but miracles are the work of God.
When I was in second grade I had a teacher who was a total fanatic about the occult and, more exactly, training her class in the art of combating Satan’s evil forces. When other eight-year-olds were learning math, we were watching films allegedly recorded in secret during Black Masses. Instead of science we learned how to detect Satan’s influence in rock music. We weren’t allowed to watch The Grinch during the Christmas party, but we were allowed to watch videos recounting tales of child-abduction and sacrifice. We wouldn’t know Abraham Lincoln from Albert Einstein, but we could all identify Anton LaVey. All of this was to prepare us. As good Christian soldiers, it was inevitable that Satan would come for us with a vengeance. I’m sure our teacher meant well, but we were too young. One kid freaked out at the grocery store because their mother tried to buy a magazine with Michael J. Fox on the cover. He was looking into a crystal ball to determine what new fall shows would be hits, and that is a satanic act. Another child couldn’t sleep the night without waking up in terror, convinced that he was going to be hung from an inverted cross and bled out. Needless to say, most parents got upset.
My mother, however, was all for it. My mom had a habit of cruising neighborhood garage sales in the hopes of finding Ouija boards. She fought her own little holy war by buying these board games and then smashing them to bits. Strangely enough, her righteous fury only applied to games she could buy at a bargain; she never bought the new sets at full price from Woolworth’s. At any rate, when most parents started to complain, my mother just rolled her eyes.
The school administrators, in their infinite wisdom, agreed with the parents and decided that the teacher was a bit intense for second graders, so they changed her assignment for the next year. Instead of warping the minds of impressionable second graders they entrusted her with the infinitely more mature third and fourth grades.
Yes, that meant she had the same students and we had the same crazy fucking teacher. For three years in a row. The occult remained a focus of her curriculum and that was that. I'm sure the parents tried their best, but only a couple kids were pulled from the school.
I mention this to stress that on a conscious, intellectual level, I knew that Zebedorah couldn’t be a witch, but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that being conditioned for so long at such a young age didn’t leave me with some concerns. I’ve always been around people who firmly believe in such things as the supernatural and that those who dabble with it are, in fact, dancing with the Devil. Willful participation in occultic practices such as witchcraft came with it the very real chance that you were opening yourself up to demon-possession. Dozens of examples have been cited to me over the years. That’s where I was worried. Regardless of what I believe, what happens when Tiger’ish and Zeb believe they are possessed? When they go on their inevitable killing spree, won’t I be the first to meet their wrath?
Even without any attempts from Tiger’ish to carve a pentagram into my chest, this new wrinkle in our lives proved to be a great annoyance. First, there were the interrogations. Is my hair thinning? Have I discovered any new teeth, and if so, were they in my mouth? Did my ass hurt? Was my vision blurry? Have I received any visits from a dead relative? Was I pissing blood? Shitting blood? Was I attacked by a squirrel?
As near as I could tell, Zeb didn’t have any resource or spell book that she was consulting. Based on hearing Tiger’ish’s half of their conversations, she was trying to compile her own tome of original recipes. Which leads me to the second annoyance: their phone conversations. They spoke on the phone a lot. Most of the time, it was furry speak (complete with conversations comprised entirely of animal sounds), but almost as often it was about me. Evidently, Zeb needed to really know me to fuck with me. Tiger’ish didn’t really talk about me, though. Instead, he gave a running commentary about me. “He’s checking his email. He got a drink from the fridge. Dr. Pepper. A can. He’s looking at me. He’s flipping me off. He’s leav--.” Another side-effect of their conversations was Tiger’ish couldn’t use the phone without standing right next to its wall mounted cradle. The cord was more than long enough to reach anywhere in the room, but he stood stock still next to the wall where it hung. Doing this, he’d get fidgety, and without fail, he would turn the ringer volume down to zero. It took me a good two weeks to figure out why I wasn’t getting any calls but tons of voice mails. He didn’t have that problem because she never called him; they’d arrange a time for him to call her because our long distance was built into the room costs.
I began to compulsively check the voice mail every time I returned to the room. The campus phone system was really shitty and there was no way of knowing if you had mail; you just had to call the voice mail box and find out. There was call-waiting on our phone system, but Tiger’ish never knew how to use it and wouldn’t give me the phone even if he did. Luckily, the voice mail would take a message even if the phone was in use. This led to one of the creepier moments of my life.
I don’t know what happened exactly, but I think someone had called our number while Tiger’ish was on the phone with Zebedorah. My guess is that the caller hung up just as the voice mail kicked in, and the result was a voice mail recording of Tiger’ish’s conversation with his witch. Prior to this, I had never heard her voice. I never answered her calls because she never did call. When he called her I could hear just enough to infer that she was in fact female. Now I had the chance to hear them both, and during a time when they thought they were completely alone. She spoke like the fucking wicked witch of the west from The Wizard of Oz. Like a goddamn joke, she really was playing up the hokey, over-the-top, broom and pointy hat witch identity. He was speaking normally, but much lower, like he was trying to seduce her with his voice. It was what they were saying that was really bizarre. For five minutes straight –the time limit for our voice mail box –they were just repeating the phrase, “Tonight is the night of pain.” They repeated that over and over and over.
Suitably creeped out, I was more than happy to be going to the final dress rehearsal for our school’s production of the opera The Ballad Of Baby Doe. Being a theatre major, I, like most other theatre majors, took the biennial opera as my opportunity to fulfill some of the backstage requirements for my major. The opera always attracted vocal performance majors, and they are easily the worst people on earth. Worse than witches. Rather than spend weeks in daily rehearsal with assholes that wear scarves indoors and constantly sip hot water with honey, I chose to limit my exposure to tech week and the two weeks of performances of the opera. I had snagged a pretty sweet spot as an assistant stage manager, which was much preferred than being tasked with costume or makeup work on these narcissistic assholes.
The Ballad Of Baby Doe features an off-stage gunshot and the director wanted an actual shot with an actual smell of gunpowder instead of an obviously fake recorded sound effect. Part of my various duties as ASM, I was responsible for retrieving and loading a starter pistol. When cued by the Stage Manager, I fired the pistol off stage and then left the back stage area to unload and replace the pistol in its lock box, which was kept in a locker –also locked- in the Technical Director’s office. Every previous night, this was no problem. I had more than enough time to follow procedure and return to the backstage and my communication headset to be ready for my next cue. The night of the final dress, however, was very different.
Our school was fortunate enough to have a state-of-the-art fine arts complex. While a lot of the cash for this building came from alumni donors, a pretty sizable chunk came from the city. The sole condition on which this cash was given was that whenever the city desired, and always assuming the school wasn’t already using it, the city could use our building as a banquet hall. In fact, the final design of the lobby was created for this purpose, and a full catering-ready kitchen area was added to the plans.
Well, when the front office of the Fine Arts building got the call asking if the building was available for that particular Thursday night, the calendar seemed all clear. Sure the opera would be opening the next day, but Friday is not Thursday. So the building was booked. When they realized their mistake, the building managers decided it would work out. We, the opera, would remain enclosed in the theatre spaces, while the guests had the run of the lobby. Theoretically we wouldn’t even know each other was there. Of course none of these decisions were made by people who knew anything about the actual requirements of this opera. Requirements like returning a gun to the TD’s office, which was next to the catering kitchen.
When we got to rehearsal that night, they told all of us about the event (as if we couldn’t tell by the lobby being set for it, and the caterers running around), and stressed that we weren’t to leave the theatre spaces. When I asked about the gun, they told me to do the same thing I always did. As long as I stayed away from the lobby, I should be in the clear.
Now, you might be wondering why any of us would even bother wanting to go to the lobby. Most of these events were either city parties, or the occasional wedding reception. This night however, was unique. It was the spring of 2001, and the crown-jewel of Indiana, the great city of Gary, had won the honor of hosting the Miss USA Pageant. Gary, Indiana is a filthy stinking shithole and the pageant organizers knew it. The sole venue that even began to match what the organizers wanted was booked for the pageant itself, so they had to look elsewhere for a pre-show venue. Somewhere that looked elegant, somewhere nice that the pageant host could have his traditional pre-show dinner with the contestants a few days before the actual event. Somewhere befitting the level of celebrity of their esteemed pageant host and dinner guest-of-honor. They found that venue in a small college town just 25 miles away from Gary.
The host? William Mother-Fucking Shatner.
Now I suspect if you asked anyone at our school, the concern was that we would try and sneak a peek at the young beauty queens. On the other hand, I can only imagine that Captain Kirk wouldn’t travel with a twelve member security squadron unless he felt he needed to. All I know for certain is that what these twelve men lack in reasoning ability they make up for in brute strength.
I had fired the shot, and was on my way to return the gun to its lock box. As luck would have it, right as I was heading down the hallway that granted access to the TD’s office, there too was Bill and his men, waiting just outside the kitchen for his proper introduction to the contestants. The twelve all eye-balled me, and Shatner gave me a quick nod and turned back toward the curtain they had set up through which he would enter the lobby. I just went ahead with what I was supposed to do, and unlocked the office door. I went in and unlocked the locker. I entered the combination on the lock-box. I pulled the gun out of my pocket. Faster than any human movement I could imagine three of the twelve came through the door and slammed me right into the open locker door. It hit my ribs with the narrow edge of the door and the pain was intense. Next thing I knew I was face-down on the ground, with one dude standing on my neck, while the other two were each standing on my wrists, with my arms fully extended out from my body. The gun was lying by the door to the office. Like the fucking Secret Service, they start talking into their sleeves and the other nine rush in. Nobody says anything to me, and I can’t talk because my face is shoved into the ground and I can’t really breathe anyhow. A moment later, out of my peripheral vision, I see Shatner’s shiny tuxedo shoe enter the room. He steps on the gun. He picks it up. I hear it open and see the remaining seven starter blanks fall out onto the ground. I hear him say, “Jesus Christ you shitheads. Don’t you know a fucking starter pistol when you see one? Twelve of you gorillas and none of you’ve ever gone to a track meet? Lift the fucker up.”
I get lifted up by my shoulders and turned to face Shatner. He asks me what I’m doing, and I tell him. He tells them to let me go and they do. By now I’m so mixed up and in pain that I just squat down and start picking up the blanks. I put them in the locker and I feel a nudge on my arm. I turn to see William Shatner pointing the gun right at me. He waits a moment, turns it around so I can grab it properly and I take the handle. I put it away and he says, “Kid, your lip's bleeding and I’m sorry for that. I’d offer you an autograph or a cup of coffee, but I’m late for an appointment with 50 beautiful women and you’ve got a show to do yourself.” Still barely able to breathe, I just nodded and he left. I went back to the backstage -luckily with enough time for my next cue- put on my headset and leaned against the wall and tried to catch my breath.
The locker slam bruised a rib and I felt every breath I took, as I would for days afterward. Tiger’ish’s phone call kept coming back to me while I finished the rehearsal. It truly was a night of pain. When I got back to our room, he immediately interrogated me, “My girlfriend wants to know, was tonight a night of pain?”
I didn’t want to admit that it was and encourage them, so instead I said, “Fuck you dude. Stop asking because I won’t answer one way or the other from now on. Man I wish your girlfriend was Canadian.”
“She is. She’s from Toronto.”
Fucker’s girlfriend really was Canadian. Just like William Mother-Fucking Shatner.