It was the worst deal in human history, second only, perhaps, to that misty moment in our mythological past, when hungry Esau traded his birthright for some red lentil stew. But the delusional dépanneur-owning dreamer simply had to have it: the recipe for the best crumpets in the world.
So he traded the family business for a piece of paper: a dépanneur for a crumpet recipe. Although the crumpets were indeed sublime, David’s great grandfather couldn’t make a go of it. He died penniless. And the family never really forgave him for that manic leap of faith.
But I forgave him last night, in a dream, a really weird dream. First I was Daenerys Targaryen, flying through the air on my dragon. Then I was on stage at Metropolis, in a Willie Nelson cover band.
We were singing “To All the Deps I’ve Loved Before” to the tune of “To All the Girls I’ve Loved Before” when I noticed the old man. He was right there in the front row when I looked down at him, smiled, and somehow managed to make everything okay.
Then I was a kid again. Jonesing for candy. A ten-year-old Verdun rat on an epic journey to the dépanneur on Gordon (a dep which was, I now realize, barely a block away). Two roads led to paradise. The first, which took you around the well-lit block, was long and safe. The second, which ran through that poorly-lit sketchfest of an alley, was short but treacherous.
You had to watch out for neighborhood bullies who liked to tax the twerps, and boozy uncles who liked to touch the twerps. And you had to watch out for that crazy Cujo dog chained to the big truck: the one that bit the ass out of Sylvain’s welfare jeans. And you had to hope Guillaume was sober when you got there.
When Anna-Liisa and I wanted wine after eleven on a Saturday night, the dep across from Else’s on Roy was always willing to oblige. But locals called it The Crazy Place for a reason, and we had to steer clear of that stocky Taurus of a man, and his terrifying temper tantrums.
Everyone smiled on the first of November when she finally left him. And everyone cried on April 13th when fire and smoke destroyed Frank’s dep on the corner of Laval and Roy. Alas, though it still feels like cheating, we’ve been forced to switch to the Mastrocola mural dep on the corner of Pine and Hôtel-de-Tony.
When Judith Lussier said dépanneurs were sacred here in Quebec, that annoying guy from Manitoba said she was just being melodramatic. But here in Montreal, we knew she was telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me get some beer before eleven.
—John Faithful Hamer, From Here (2016)