Almost everybody could’ve greased the Canadian Tire Guy

As soon as I got to work the captain called me into his office. A missing person case. The Canadian Tire Guy. My partner was already there. Eddie Torrial. I’m a hack. My name’s Friday. Not the man who was Friday. The man who writes Friday. Captain fishes out a mug shot of the missing guy and he looks vaguely familiar, like a hundred guys you’ve met but can’t place. Sorta nice-looking in a harmless but simpering way, no particular age, not tall, not short, bland but irritating, plaid shirt, salt-and-pepper beard, weak chin, kinda guy you wouldn’t notice was missing and when you did notice you wouldn’t care. But it’s my job to find him anyway… or what’s left of him.

This mug who does the TV beat for the Globe, he fingers the frau. Says she put up with a lot, always had this forced smile, figures she snapped. “Many Canadians expected to wake up one day and read that the Canadian Tire Guy had been found dead,” he types, “the victim of a severe beating with windshield-wiper blades. His wife was being questioned.” But it ain’t that simple.

Word on the street is, this guy had a lot of enemies. Like this Globe ink slinger also says: “He was everybody’s idea of the irritating neighbour… the smiling, smug, know-it-all guy with the cool tools and the always-working, automatic garage-door opener. ... His hobbies were camping and bothering people.”

Camping, tools … strange he never seemed to have trouble affording it all, including a real nice boat. Could be an angle, so I’m wanting to put a price on the fancy stuff in his house but when I get there it’s all gone. Anyway, the problem wasn’t jealously, at least not mostly. I find one neighbour cleaning a big dark stain off his driveway with a brand new pressure washer, he tells me sure, that guy was always helpful. A little too helpful. And I notice his knuckles go white on the handle of the pressure washer.

Fellow across the street, wiping down a set of shiny new awls and picks and chisels in his garage, says the worst part was how he always seemed to be one-upping you. Oh sure he was smiley and bouncy and eager to help. But he had a knack for making you feel like a real jerk because you didn’t already have the solar panel or the super wrench. Another guy, who does have a solar panel hooked up to an industrial air freshener down in his hobby room, squints and says you show up late complaining about winter driving and Mr. Smiley hands you this one-piece windshield wiper like you shoulda known.

Some bad vibes here. Sure it’s a nice neighbourhood, quiet, friendly looking. But you know how it is in suburbia; behind the picnics and perfect lawns and big plastic windows folks mess around and take pills and seethe with hatred and resentment and start thinking wouldn’t it be just about right if someone did in that annoying guy with the latest saw with reciprocal action and splash guard, (“Hey neighbour bet you ain’t seen one of these before”) then put him in some cement they mixed themselves all creamy and smooth using the patented double-blade action Mix-O-Tron and voila he’s in the foundation of some perfect little backyard gazebo finished artistically with a ergonomic foam-rubber-handled trowel. About five houses on the street got new gazebos.

Another press monkey makes like the guy was a high school geography teacher. So I’m thinking could be a disgruntled student did it. But that didn’t check out. Turns out no one can remember their high school geography teacher at all, let alone hate him enough to do murder. But how does a high school geography teacher have all those tools and hobbies? I’m back to an angle like maybe he’s in deep with the loan sharks, and when they threaten to break his knees with a hammer he shows them a better hammer and kablooey.

Especially ’cause then I run into this big coverup. Chief yanks me off this case to check out some ridiculous yarn about a dispute over who really rolled up the rim. Seems word came down this missing guy “never really existed,” it’s all a front, just some “ad campaign” involving some “actor” who has a deal where he can’t talk about it. So instead of a guy who’s missing some other guy who looks like him that nobody ever seen is missing and we should just get an easy-drawer-action filing cabinet and a set of brightly coloured folders with convenient tabs and open one on each of them then quietly close them both and get back to our hobbies.

Seems that’s what the neighbours are doing. One has a new boat and another has an ATV and as they’re putting them on trailers Mr. ATV sidles up and tells me just forget it. This guy wasn’t too popular but we all hated him so much it gave us endless stuff to talk about at the rink and cocktail parties and over the back fence (painted with smooth-action atomizer sprayer). Fact is, he says, we miss him.

Then he winks and walks away, leaving me looking at these windshield wipers I bought on this missing guy’s say-so that I already had to fix with a pair of needle-nose pliers and they still don’t work right. I figure that know-it-all had it coming. Trouble is, about 15 million other people figured the same. Too many motives, too many suspects.

This is a true story. Only the facts have been changed.

[First published in the Ottawa Citizen]

ColumnsJohn Robson