About the Author

Adrian Michael Kelly

Adrian Michael Kelly was born in Timmins, Ontario, but grew up in Campbellford. After taking a BA at Trent University and an MA from Queen"s, he lived in South Korea, Switzerland, and Italy. He moved to Calgary, where he now lives, in order to complete his doctorate.

Books by this Author
Down Sterling Road

Down Sterling Road

also available: Paperback
tagged : literary
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The Ambassador of What




My molar, it hammered me. I groped for the clock and turned the yellow-green glow of its hands away. 3:15 a.m. Go and get some Orajel, or put an aspirin on it, but we had no hallways, only rooms. Dad would hear.


I waited.




We lived behind the Acropolis. Our landlords were the owners, and I could hear them in there now. Elena sang a song in Greek, stacking plates and saucers. Nik fried an onion. He always did that first. The smell of it bustled sharp and strong through the heating vent. I got out of bed. Any normal Saturday, we were already up an hour and slogging down the road.




Dad was having apnea. I peed loud and flushed, and had a look at my tooth in the mirror. The gum beneath it bulged. I pressed it and I tasted it, the poison of myself. A pair of aspirins in my palm. One I swallowed at the fridge with skim. The other I wedged in the cavity. My mouth knew to make more spit.




Onion filled the flat now. I opened the door and screen. Rain pocked the river. In for a landing on the embankment came a fat and filthy gull. It waddled underneath the deck, where torn-open bags of Acropolis trash filled the stinking big blue bins. Other gulls were scrumming there. That hideous heads-up gape-beak screaming.




Dad yawned and did a fart. I went to his door.






Cream of Wheat?


Eggs, how bout?


Hard or soft?


Soft, mine.


Soldiers too?


He did the English: I say, soldiers do sound jolly good.


I said, Indubitably, but when I filled the kettle up, my hand shook, my whole arm.




More tea? I said.


Time we got that car unloaded.


Raining pretty hard.


Made of sugar?




Right. Let’s get it done.


Dad was an odd combination, part-time on the ambulance, full-time painter-decorator. The Bel Air smelt of Varsol. Ladders rode the roof. We took them off and chained them to the railing around the deck. Rain dripped from our noses. Dropsheets big as sails and heavy, gallons and quarts and pints of paint, the machine for stippled ceilings, we unloaded all of that and plunked it on the kitchen floor. I pulled the cling of my T-shirt free.


Shower now? I said.


Aye. Don’t dilly-dally.


I stepped around the tools and gear in soaking wet sock feet. Imagine if I fell. All these hard, edged things.




Pink and clean as new pork cutlets. I put on my Wrangler jeans. The brown plaid Western dress shirt. Tomorrow I hadn’t decided. The one was a real Bill Rodgers singlet. It had a blue band across the chest. The famous BR logo. Dad got it me in Boston. The other was from my school. A gift from VP Evans. Heck of a thing you’re doing, son. Hope you’ll be our ambassador. The shirt was yellow as corn on the cob. Halfway down the front it had a tall green pointy star. Skinny letters in the star said p H s. No one would have a clue what they meant, but I had red shorts with a yellowy stripe, and none with any blue. The longest time I stood there, staring at one and then at the other. Finally went with yellow and green. Ambassador of what.




Dead leaves plastered Highway 30. We passed the Klaussen farm. Holstein cows, their udders and their arses caked, plodded up a slant of mucky barnyard. High in the air over Pine Ridge, a hawk tilted in the wind and rain. Dad rolled down his window. The wiper had started to stagger. He reached out, and gave it a flick. Then he sniffed.


Fuck no.


I looked at the gauge. The lean of the needle.


He banged the dash. Filthy cunt.


I sank in my jacket.




We pulled in at the Shell near Brighton. Dad got out and popped the hood. Squalls of steam escaped. Round to the back of the wagon he went and swung the tailgate open. Cool air rushed inside the car. He unlatched his first aid kit. Took out tape and gauze and swabs, a pad.


You, he said. Off your arse.


I met him round the front.


He said, Get your coat off. Hold it up and keep this dry.


The radiator hose had split. He swabbed it like a dirty wound. Applied the sterile pad. Wrapped gauze around it. Then tape. My arms ached. The back of me, soaked. He lowered the hood.


Wait in the car.


Came back with a brimming bucket. Uncapped the rad, and filled it.


To have talons and wings and far-seeing eyes. To think just perfect hawk thoughts.


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