Don Gregory was by all accounts a level-headed and even-tempered kinda guy.
But there was two issues that got his goat. One was when his thieving old hag of a landlady got into his groceries. The other was when his pack of maritime hillbilly flat-mates didn't clean out the bathroom properly at the rooming house they all shared with the aforementioned thieving hag.
Don was the first guy I got buddied up with when I arrived in Saint John New Brunswick to make my contribution to the Canadian Frigate Program in the early 90s. Mr. Irving was a firm believer in the "buddy system." To me, the buddy system was pretty much limited to that bit of growing-up wisdom that said "never go swimming without a buddy."
I suppose that it was possible Mr. Irving was coming from the same place. If one of his drydock workers should, in the course of an extended walkabout, happen to stroll off the end of a pier, he might just drown. If there were two of them, one could possibly save the other, or vice versa.
Don was from "the Island." I originally assumed that to mean Newfoundland, or possibly Cape Bretton, but it actually meant PEI. Don hailed from a long line of bootleggers on the Island, which to my understanding continues to be an honourable trade there to this day.
Don used to commute to Saint John from his place in Pictou County with a few other lads that had families up there but jobs at the drydock. On a Friday night as many as seven of them might squeeze into somebody's Hyundai Pony or pick-up truck for the six or seven hours drive to visit the home side. Sunday night they'd all pile in again for the return trip.
In the course of a winter the price of fresh vegtables could take quite an unfortunate turn in Saint John. It was nothing to see a plump red tomato, a single one, going for upwards of three dollars at Sobey's, and I'm talking twenty-five years ago. Don would treat himself to a tomato or two, only to find the tomatoes long disappeared when he was ready to fix himself a tomato sandwich a day or two later.
One day he tells me this story;
So Neumann, I been tellin' ya about the great fuckin' disappearin' tomato mystery... figgured it must be Reggie or one a them cunts. But no, it's fuckin' worse than that!
I get home last night, and the landlady is walkin' round the house eatin' a fuckin' tomato sandwich, Neumann! Ya! The old crow is fuckin' eatin' a tomato sandwich right in fronta me, and I just bought two fuckin' tomatoes last night, so I check in the fridge, and fuckin' right, no tomatoes!
So I says to her, Neumann, I says right to her face, do you know what happened to my tomatoes? And she looks me in the eye, in the EYE Neumann, and she's got fuckin' tomato juices dribbling down her chin, and the lyin' old crow looks me in the eye and says "no!"
I could see where Don was caught on the horns of a moral dilema. This is where honour and justice demand that he give his ninety year old landlady a punch in the face. Except of course that you just can't do that! Calling the cops because the landlady ate your tomato just makes you look like a dorkshit. Having her call the cops 'cause you gave her a poke in the beak for eating your tomato just makes you look a thousand times worse!
I'm afraid I wasn't much help to Don over that quandry. Dude, suck it up and buy yourself another tomato... let it slide, man. You're not going to make a lot of friends in jail when word gets round you're there for beating up the old girl who filched your tomato...
The deal with the flat-mates did however end in violence. Like I said, the deal there was their inability to clean up the bathroom, and nothing disturbed Don's equimanity more than walking into the shared bath after a hard day's work with a hot bath in mind, and finding other men's pubic hair, or "pupil hair" as Don had it, festooning the sides of the tub.
The climax was weeks in coming. I gathered there'd been a couple of stand-offs and harsh words had been exchanged more than once. Still the reprobates were careless about cleaning up their pupil hair.
Neumann, I swear, tonight's the night. If there's a single fuckin' pupil hair to be seen in that bathroom, the boots are gonna fly...
That night the boots did fly. Next time I saw Reggie his smile was missing a couple more teeth. Couple other fellas were looking for new rooms. And Don was making new arrangements for that weekend commute to Pictou County.
And oddly enough, the old crow left Don's tomatoes alone after that.