A short story by Carl Dow
Editor and publisher
True North Perspective
Many twenty-three-year-old females had adventures in Montreal during the World Exhibition known as Expo 67, but we've only got space here to tell of Ginny's.
Ginny was the daughter of a multi-millionaire who had advanced the family wealth by continuing what her great-grandfather started in the nineteenth century-feeding the city's residential heating equipment with fuel. First by wood, then coal and coke, then coal gas, and now by natural gas. Ginny, in a moment of primary-school girlish giggle, would boast to a close friend that she had a thousand slaves working every day to maintain her as the richest bitch in the country.
The first time Gary Vezina saw Ginny she was seventeen. He was twenty-four. It was summer, half way between her last year at Havergal and first year at the University of Toronto. He was introduced to Ginny and a handful of others at Ginny's home in Rosedale where big money was planted firm and became more plentiful every year.
He wasn't there because he had money. He was there because he was unattached, and already well established as an award-winning journalist. He was there because Ginny and her well-kept peers were bored by the male company that surrounded them, and sought excitement even with someone socially inferior whom they would never be expected to marry.
His introduction was under the good offices of the spouse of a competitor who was an Upper Canada College graduate. The spouse came from modest background but at painful expense to her acutely class-conscious parents she had attended Havergal and, after surviving the inevitable hazing, her charm prevailed and she had been accepted. Her parents had hoped she would meet and marry money; instead she met and married one who had slipped from the ranks and had become a working journalist, a man who was a match in mind and temper. She had talked-up Gary Vezina with her rich friend Ginny who longed for adventure outside the bars of her gilded cage, and Ginny urged a meeting. So it was that Vezina was asked to give the spouse a lift one evening on some pretext not worth remembering, and then asked him inside for talk and refreshments with some of her friends. Good natured, and insatiably curious, he complied.
Ginny presented herself as the hostess. She was a slender five-six in her flats, all smiles and self confidence. In well-rounded tones she introduced her four female friends who responded in the best of Havergal manners, while leaving Vezina with clear sense that they were as brazenly on display as were hookers at Dundas and Yonge. On the surface, what he saw was attractive, as only late teenage females can be. They were immaculate, faces smooth and scrubbed to glowing, shining hair in the latest, they were expensively but tastefully dressed, their use of English was flawless, and their smiles and body language bespoke volumes of training. They were trim, well-formed, and eager to escape from boredom.
He was a farm-boy who had come to journalism as a natural. He was highly skilled at both the leading question and the outrageous statement to educe response from those he interviewed. He matched these techniques with a finely-honed ability to ask the same question at least three times without appearing to repeat himself.
Within fifteen minutes of his arrival and time spent with coffee and cookies, he concluded that these young women had lived very sheltered lives, played at being cute, had at best only bright average minds, and were just as boring as the men they woefully expected to marry. He was very jealous of the time he could spend in close companionship with women so he sought in them best minds, no matter what package they came in. Minds that could abstract, minds that could discuss ideas, not just events and people, and when they discussed the latter, it was with lush colour and analyses. So, in polite time he said goodbye, left the soirée, and never looked back. Therefore, it caught him short seven years later when Ginny said hello Gary on his office telephone.
She identified herself and asked if he remembered her. He thought hard but the name escaped him. She reminded him of the little party in Rosedale seven years before and told him how he'd broken five hearts by not following it up. He took a deep breath. Now he remembered, and said so while managing to put a face to Ginny who, after all, had been at least memorable as the consummate hostess.
She told him that she was in Montreal for the summer. That she had gotten a clerk's job at Expo but that she was being fired because her French wasn't good enough. Could he help? Of course he could, and would.
He didn't have to be told why she called him. He was now Montreal bureau chief for Toronto's Orange Tory newspaper, a daily that long had laid claim as the voice of prejudice of the good Protestants of the city, poor or rich. While her Daddy read the morning newspaper that was dedicated to men of business and profession, that for which Vezina worked was in effect Ginny's newspaper and it had a reputation for knock-down-drag-out journalism. He was neither Orange nor Tory so he took no pleasure to hammer the frogs. His sense of fairness would have been just as outraged if an employee had been told that her English was not good enough, especially when one was working on simple documents filled and signed in language of choice.
He interviewed Ginny's boss, a women who spoke hesitant English with a thick French accent, made note of her argument, and then wrote a five hundred word piece that hanged the women with her own words. The story appeared the next day and Ginny was rehired before 5 p.m. With triumphant joy, she tracked Vezina down to his desk in the Expo press pavilion, pushed her way past security, and followed asked-for directions until she was standing firm and flushed at the side of his desk. She pointed at him and told him he was Gary Vezina. He stopped hammering the keys of his typewriter and told her that she had to be Ginny.
She asked if he remembered her. He said yes. He did remember the evening in Rosedale and in memory she stood out enough from the others. Here she was in vibrant life. She reported that she had been rehired. Could she buy him a drink, or maybe even dinner, by way of thanks? She had slipped in the proposal for dinner with a flutter that made clear that dinner was her preference. He told her, with a wink in his voice that he wasn't a journalist standing in line for payoffs for services rendered. Anyway, he didn't have time for dinner. He said he was a nighthawk and wouldn't likely be through until three in the morning. Ginny made an awkward motion and posture that made it clear that she was offering sex.
Vezina ran the palm of his left hand across his closed lips and their eyes engaged. She certainly was pleasing but when a man is enthusiastically well-fed at home, why beat the bushes. Anyway, he had never been interested in one-night lays. It took time to bring out the best between a man and a woman. For simple release it was far less trouble to masturbate. But he saw in her eyes disappointment that suggested that while she was willing to pay for it, she wanted something more than the pressing of flesh. He checked the time. He did have to eat. He could spare an hour or two. So he yanked the paper out of his typewriter, folded and slipped it in his inside jacket pocket. He had a good angle for tomorrow and he didn't want a browser to steal it.
They settled for the Soviet Pavilion. It was early and there was plenty of space between tables so that they could talk privately. Ginny drank wine faster than Rosedale and Vezina was sure that he'd not have long to wait before she would speak her mind. But she held back until cognac, B&B, and coffee. Now she had a mean, knowing look, as she spoke.
Ginny said that he couldn't understand what women like her had to live with. Those with brains went on To The Study in Montreal, a school for upper-class girls with intellectual pretensions. But she said that for most of the wealthy young women the light at the end of the tunnel was turned off before they even started. She said that from the moment they began school, right through to university entrance, they are trained like seals to serve their class. There's no other motivation. She graduated from university with a B average. Now she was twenty-three and it was preordained that she could no longer put off marriage. She must select from the available men about her age, one who would be her master, at least until the divorce.
She said the men they must marry are boring. All they talk about is how much money and property their fathers own. They are trained, just like the females, to serve their class. It's easier for them though. No matter how dumb they are, they get jobs that Daddy sets up for them. They get out to the outside world. But for women ... well, they're locked-in without any chance of escape.
Her peers, like Ginny, were bound by golden chains. Chains of class traditions. But she acknowledged that although they resented the restraint not one of them really wanted free of their bondage. They knew those chains gave them power and security for the rest of their lives. They wanted no part of what they knew about the outside world. Still ... to flirt with it, to try it on for size, even for a brief moment, was something the more adventurous in spirit longed for. Ginny had hoped the 1967 World Exhibition in Montreal would give her that one chance that she could treasure for the rest of her life. She wanted an experience that would be substantial enough to keep her sated as she settled on the prescribed footfall that was her kismet. So she put the heat on Daddy and Daddy produced a clerk's job for her right on the Expo site. But the clerk's job had all but robbed her of her sense of self.
Ginny paused in her rant and looked at him with narrowed, sly, inebriate eyes, and a sad self-deprecating smirk. She said she had a confession. She confessed that the real reason she had been fired was because she showed up late most mornings, took long lunch hours, and was negligent in her work. Of all the reasons that they had to fire her, they had picked the one least applicable. Je comprende français, at least enough, she said, then she laughed too loud for Rosedale.
Leaning forward, both arms on the table, she asked if he was angry with her. He shrugged with a quick shake of his head, saying that he had dealt with the official reason. In effect she had served a good cause.
Vezina saw that an hour-and-twenty minutes had passed. He asked her what she wanted. She said she wanted him to fuck her and get her a job as a stripper. Please!
With a face long-schooled in masking, he asked her if she was able to get home on her own. He had to get back to work. She objected, demanding to know why he wouldn't at least fuck her, never mind the job as a stripper. Wasn't she attractive enough? He told her she was very attractive, and that he would love to bed with her, but he had deadlines to meet. Perhaps tomorrow. About the job as a stripper, well, maybe he could fix up something for her tonight. Her eyes came round and glassy as her mouth dropped open.
She asked if he was serious. He shrugged and said yes, if she was sure that's what she wanted. Yes! she said. I'd give anything for a shot at that. She told him that many an evening alone, to sexy music, she practiced in front of a broad full-length mirror on the basis of articles and books she had read. Take me home, she said, take me home and I'll show you, and then you can fuck me.
His smile was friendly as he made a show of checking his wristwatch. With a quick shake of his head he reminded her that he had to get back to work. Would she be able to get home on her own? She shrugged yes. He said she should come to his Expo desk after work tomorrow.
Vezina filed his last story on the teletype beside his desk and broke off for the night. At two past midnight he found an empty seat at a long table at the rear of a twenty-four-hour deli opposite the northeast corner of the Mount Royal Hotel. His face was known and no one paid him any more attention than was due of any regular. During the next ninety minutes the chairs around the table were filled and emptied by strippers, pimps, prostitutes, bouncers, hustlers, nightlife impresarios ... the most stable, of the latter, Mario Bonchance, didn't arrive until three-twenty. He acknowledged Vezina and sat beside him.
Bonchance ordered coffee and smoked meat without the dill, then he filled his broad chest, shuddered as if someone had just walked over his mother's grave, sighed on a heavy exhale, and loud enough for only Vezina to hear, in a voice that suggested he was struggling with a worrisome burden, said that business was booming. Expo '67 was a gift from God. Maybe that goddamned priest Drapeau was good for something after all. Vezina listened.
Bonchance's order was quickly delivered. He said nothing more until he was alone with his coffee. Then he glanced at Vezina. You get around, he said, do you know any young women who'd like to be strippers? He said he was talking only of stripping down to bikinis. No sex. If the girls want to make extra conning drinks into the suckers that was okay but entirely up to them. If they wanted to go out too, that'd be their business. He'd give them no heat. He said all the girls needed was to look good. He'd give them a few tips, and a couple of practice sessions and they'd start work right away. Seventy-five bucks a night. That's not bad, Bonchance reminded him, when a good week's pay was one-sixty.
Vezina, without asking, had found that for which he had come. He told Bonchance he had one he could produce by six tonight. She was a good-looking twenty-three, but an amateur. Bonechance responded with a flat smile. They were all amateurs until they hit the big time. He wanted to know if he should pay her, or pay Vezina. That was cute, thought Vezina. It would add to the piquancy for Ginny, he was sure, if he took the money and paid her. So it was agreed.
Ginny couldn't wait until after work. She reached him by telephone just before three. When he told her what he had for her she gushed, saying she would quit her job right away. When he urged caution, she said she didn't need the money anyway. The job was just something to do. Let someone who needed it, have it. Besides, if she failed she could always fall back on being Vezina's private dancing girl.
Ginny didn't fail. The richest bitch in the country perfected one of Expo '67's most popular off-site one-woman shows to the masterful orchestral colour of Dance of the Harem Girls in Rimsky-Korsakov's Song of Scheherazade. Bonchance was hard-pressed to believe his luck.
One night when Vezina found time to watch her performance, the glow on Ginny's face was triumphant when their eyes locked. She was gloriously at home with herself. He thought back to the Rosedale encounter — Ginny I hardly knows ya!
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