The waiting room of a community health centre.

Alvin has a stitched cut on his cheekbone

Alvin: I expected more people.

Mona: There were more people here last time.

Alvin: Last time I had to explain what happened.

Mona: You’ll probably have to explain again this time.


Alvin: The whole story?

Mona: Probably.

Alvin: It’s embarrassing. And weird. And there’s too much meaning.

Mona: What?

Alvin: It sounds like a lesson. What happened to me.

Mona: What kind of nurse is going to say there’s too much meaning in what happened to you?

Alvin: I don’t know.

Mona: What did they say when they put the stitches in?

Alvin: I told them the whole story.

Mona: And they said it had meaning?

Alvin: The nurse said it was meaningful. It probably meant something.


Alvin: I know those two people. Over there. The old man.

Mona: With the old woman?

Alvin: The old couple. They went to my church.

Mona: When did you go to church?

Alvin: When I was young. Before. He was terrifying back then.

Mona: Why?

Alvin: Why was he terrifying?

Mona: Yeah.

Alvin: Just…volume, I think? He didn’t want to be there. He was a bully. He looks…

Mona: They’re clinging to each other.

Alvin: He looks shrunken now.


Alvin: The nurse will probably say to me, “How did you get the stitches?” And I’ll have to say, “Oh, a picture frame fell on my cheek.” And they’ll say, “How?” And I’ll say, “My grandfather’s fishing rod slid across the wall and hit the picture frame. And then it fell on my cheek.” And they’ll say, “Wow, maybe your grandfather is trying to tell you something.”

Mona: Maybe he is.

Alvin: “Maybe it means something.”

Mona: Maybe it does.

Alvin: That’s what they’ll say.

Mona: That’s a big assumption.

Alvin: “Maybe there’s a lesson to be taken from the past.” You can always learn from the past.

Mona: Do you think we’re all learning from the past?

Alvin: When?

Mona: At the moment?

Alvin: Those who do not learn from the past.

Mona: Are doomed.

Alvin: And those who have learned from the past.

Mona: Are also doomed. The main thing, I think, right now, is the doom.


Alvin: That man from church is not doing well. His sons…

Mona: He has sons?

Alvin: His sons were…not great as well. If I remember correctly.

Mona: Do you want to say hello?

Alvin: No. Oh, no.

Mona: What would his wife say?

Alvin: When?

Mona: When he was being a bully.

Alvin: “He’s got a right to protect himself.” Defend himself. I don’t know.

Mona: This happened at church?

Alvin: Maybe after church. Maybe at a family dance.

Mona: What’s a family dance?

Alvin: It’s when the community would gather and dance. They had a live band.

Mona: Would you dance?

Alvin: I would dance. As a kid. Kids like to dance. Kids are joyful.


[Alvin looks around the clinic]

Alvin: The lights are on.

Mona: Why do you say, “The lights are on”?

Alvin: The machines are running in this hospital.

Mona: Are they usually not running?

Alvin: Here they’re usually running. Elsewhere in the world, they’re not running. I don’t take it for granted.

Mona: Right.

Alvin: That mention of kids.

Mona: Right.

Alvin: The walls are standing.

Mona: OK.


Alvin: So what, if you had to game it out, if the power was out in this hospital, the walls were bombed, you’d have a generator hooked up to a power bar, and then an extension cord feeding the machines, right?

Mona: There’d be a pyramid of need. The ICU first.

Alvin: They said everyone in one ICU was dead.

Mona: Who said that?

Alvin: The news. It was just this throwaway sentence. No water, no food, shelled walls. It’s strange. We’re in the same kind of room. The same set-up. We’re in a hospital. These walls are standing. This glass isn’t broken.


Mona: I don’t know what to say.


Mona: He’s really leaning into her. Why are his sons not here?

Alvin: They’re probably off doing terrible things in the world.


Alvin: When I get the stitches out, I don’t think I’ll explain what happened.

Mona: To the nurse?

Alvin: Maybe I’ll just sit quietly. Maybe it’s just skin. It’s just cut skin. It means what it means.


The waiting room of a community health centre.
The visitor’s gallery of the European Parliament in Brussels.
A café in Paris, 20th arrondissement.
The paint aisle.
A downtown café.
A large hardware store.
A laneway.
A path through a forest of old cedars.
A cafe in Oregon.
A used bookstore.
In Christian heaven.
At the home of a crossword puzzle setter.
Outside a car dealership.
The Salish Sea.
A cafeteria.
In a forest.