Montreal Demons is at once a satire of a confessional novel and a real confession. The main character Adam is a sex-obsessed, workaholic biotech reporter who is always on the road. “Unable to feel anything,” he self medicates with carefree flings, antidepressants, and a mystery habit he refers to as “junk.”
Sent to Montreal to cover a major international genetics conference, Adam’s problems intensify when he runs out of his medication and is unable to contact his therapist, Dr. Di Dio, to obtain a new prescription. At the same time, he befriends Gabrielle, a French Canadian religious studies teacher and part-time waitress who senses Adam’s anguish and tries to help him find a way to get in touch with God.
Though Adam is convinced that God is a ruse, his snowballing troubles make him more desperate to find a cure for his out-of-control life. He is haunted by a family legend about an ancestor who saw a miracle in a Montreal church, and wonders if the same thing could happen to him.
Erotic and spiritual impulses collide as an intense quarrel with Gabrielle and a sleazy backroom encounter with a local stripper named Satanette send Adam to the top of the biggest church in Canada to seek divine intervention. Will he find a way to slay his demons?
“Hi, I’m sorry, I called before …”
“Well,” a deep sigh. “I gave Dr. Dio your message but he left here in a hurry about 20 minutes ago. He said he had a plane to catch.”
“What?” my hands start to shake a little just hearing this.
“I said that I gave Dr. Di Dio your message, but that he has left for the week, sir.”
“The whole week?” I almost drop the receiver.
“Yes, he always goes down to his condo in Florida this time of year.”
“But is there any way that I can get in contact with him? Do you have his cell number?”
“I’m not supposed to give out Dr. Di Dio’s personal contact information, I’m sorry, sir.”
“Listen, I am here in Montreal …
“Where are you?”
“…and I have run out of my medication. I have no idea…”
“I mean, I’m not getting back to New York until next Monday. I can’t wait that long. I just can’t. Please.”
The secretary seems to deliberate for some time. “Okay, I will try and patch you through to his personal number.”
“Just one moment.”
The sounds of classic music, a string quartet, then a ringtone that breaks and gurgles. At the end of the first ring, I hear a click and then his voice.
“This is Dr. Salvatore Di Dio,” he says. “I’m sorry but I cannot be reached at this time.
“Do you really believe in God?” I ask her. “You are wearing this.” I reach out and touch her crucifix, the dead Jesus sleeping on the ravine of her chest. My fingers tremble at the softness of her skin.
She looks down at the dead Jesus and I can feel her body react to my touch. It is as if I have stroked some deep, inner membrane of hers, but have only touched a piece of shiny metal.
She reaches up and grasps my hand and holds it over the cross. Her white fingers are cold and soft. Her eyes are now closed. Her figure smells of nature and soft linens and autumn moisture.
“Someday I will meet a man who represents God for me,” she says, eyes closed. Her voice is half tremble, half whisper. “And when I do, I will give myself to this man, completely.”
I study her features. The long eyelashes. The pretty nose. “Do you think I am this man?” I whisper.
I lie in bed surrounded by darkness. From a pinprick of light the devil brings forth a new reality. This tiny point of light grows, supplanting the black, until it is all I see, a street in Brazil, where a woman with long brown chestnut hair in a long black dress guides a man in black to an alleyway where he stays hidden in a dark corner behind a chain-link fence.
“Hold on, I’ll be right back,” she says. She guides a second man behind her, this one dressed in white, just a random pedestrian off the street, who gropes her breasts in the moonlight, while her partner looks on from his hiding place in the dark.
The second man now rubs himself against her, leaning her over a pile of rubble.
So I reach for her, the softness of her chest, and I can feel the hardness of her nipples on my fingertips, but what gets at me most is the look in her eyes as she arches her head back.
I follow her abdomen down and dive, dive deep, deep into her gushing flow, salty as the Atlantic, and her head arches farther back and her golden hair hangs about in tossed tangles. But something is not right. Her legs feel so cold. Her skin is so white, almost blue. Her fingers are like ice. And I know why, I know why she is cold. I look up at her and whisper, “We can’t do this anymore, honey. Don’t you know?
At last we reach the bottom, I can already see the flashing lights and the smoky mist and hear the crunchy, catchy electropop and hear men yelling in rough voices and whistling.
All around the club, I see red, red, and even more red, red carpets, red vinyl chairs. And in the middle of this red, I see them, their crimson backsides and legs lit up in the light that curve towards the top, manes of hair coming down, clear plastic heels and see-everything thong bikinis, smooth contours, and, yes, my heart does jump a bit in my chest to see them. My mouth opens too. Lukas studies my reaction. He laughs.
“My brother told me about this place,” he yells in my ear. “He says it has the best girls in Montreal.”
I start to climb higher, trying to get to the basilica entrance, which has a stone canopy above. As I climb, more words emerge and arrange themselves into sentences. I am not even sure where the words are coming from, but they come out all the same.
“There are so many of us out here tonight in the rain that would pray if we only could find the right words, but the words elude us and so we are mute and we cannot communicate with you. We cannot connect!”
I shiver. My hands are so shaky. Maybe it’s pill withdrawal or the cold, but, still, I have to go on. I must get to the entrance where I’ll be warmer and dry.
Copyright: Justin Petrone ja Petrone Print 2012
160x225 mm, paperback
Translated from English: Raivo Hool
Editor: Epp Petrone
Proofreading: Triinu-Mari Vorp
Illustrations: Diego Almeyda
Layout: Silver Sikk