By Victor Schwartzman, with Mike Hammer
June 22, 2015
My throat was dry and the streets were wet. Toronto hadn’t changed and neither had I: we were both nice on the outside but there was something nasty underneath. Mike Hammer’s the name, solving mysteries is no game. This time it was no mystery at all but I’ll give you the puzzler anyway. See if you can guess who the suspect is before the big reveal.
Here’s the set-up. Big sports games are coming to Toronto this summer, including for athletes in Paralympic games. All the game events will be accessible but outside the stadiums, the new access Toronto’s offering is zilch. The mystery? The Government has $60 million it can spend on improving access in Toronto. The AODA Alliance wants a permanent “access legacy,” improvements in access beyond sports stadiums. It called me in to solve the mystery of why the Government won’t spend money in its budget for access. Got all that?
This mystery was easy. Not spending money wasn’t a mystery, it was a clue. I figured the Ontario Government found an advisor on spending for access and it wasn’t tough guessing who it was. I couldn’t slap around this suspect. I would need psychiatric help.
I asked him and Dr. Sigmund Freud agreed to be my wing man. Not the real Freud, who’s a wuss, but the sharper-than-a-scalpel Cronenberg-Mortenson Freud. I needed my suspect to change and this Freud was the guy!
We flew into Toronto and went straight to the Legislature. The night was dark and so was the building. My stealth skills and a few bucks got us in. I knew where my guy was: the basement, where there was a small underground swimming pool the politicians used.
Today the pool was filled with silver coins. Swimming among the loonies, as it were, was my “suspect” and I’d been right. Who else would the Ontario Government hire to advise it on access spending? We walked up to the pool and I said hello to the richest duck in the world.
“Mike Hammer,” Uncle Scrooge said, in his thick Scottish brogue or burr or whatever. “You’re interrupting my swim. Who’s that with you?”
“Sorry, duck. We have business.” I threw him a robe. “This is Dr. Sigmund Freud.”
“Hmmm. I would have preferred the real one or the Huston-Clift Freud.” My Freud smiled in acknowledgement. Scrooge continued, shaking loose coins from his feathers, “I can guess why you are here.”
“You’re not surprised,” I said. It was a statement, not a question. “Getting in here felt too easy.”
Uncle Scrooge shrugged. “The Alliance has used you before. My security anticipated this. They followed you down here. The gunpowder in your bullets was neutralized when you entered this room. My guards are outside if I need them.” He was not worried.
“You unlocked the doors. Why the invite?”
That was when Freud interrupted. I let him do his thing. “Mr. Scrooge, first, I admire your billing practices. We all use them. That said, I assume you are annoyed. You feel a need to talk about it.”
“Annoyed!” Uncle Scrooged squawked in agreement. “This Ontario Government! Look at this! A tiny pool and mostly pennies! Pennies!” He sputtered as he climbed out of the pool. “In Washington, they give me an Olympic pool filled with only silver coins!” He tied the robe around himself. “Not that I would turn down pennies,” he added.
“Respect is important,” Freud agreed. “But there is a larger problem here. And I believe you know what it is.”
Uncle Scrooge looked at him questioningly as we walked to some chairs. One of his servants offered us drinks. I sent mine back for one with punch.
“I don’t know what you mean,” Uncle Scrooge replied. “I love Canada, once mined for gold in the Yukon. And the exchange rate is currently very good. So I accepted the offer to be their spending consultant for access.”
I took a drink. It was cool and went down easy, like this so-called mystery. “The Government doesn’t want to spend money on access, so who else would it bring in?”
Uncle Scrooge looked at me, then nodded. “I suppose. They accepted all my ideas. I even told them private businesses don’t appreciate grants for access. I said, better spend no money and see if it takes care of itself, and Minister Duguid said great!”
I finished the stronger drink in one shot. The servant already had another. Freud quietly asked, “It is terrible what they have done, using you.”
Uncle Scrooge glared. “They haven’t used me. I’ve used them.”
“Oh? What do you have against access?”
Uncle Scrooge shrugged. “Nothing. In fact, there are plenty of places and things it’s difficult for a duck to access. It isn’t an easy life for ducks who aren’t rich.”
“So you believe in access, know it will help you and your fellow ducks,” Freud told him, “yet the Government brings you here, knowing you will advise them against spending money on access. Do you see the problem?”
Uncle Scrooge slowly nodded. “Access helps me and other ducks. I’m working against myself and other ducks.” Uncle Scrooge blinked. “I never thought of it that way. You’re right, Freud. What kind of duck am I? I should stop working for Governments. They make you cynical. I have to tell them to spend that money, and spend it now!”
Given it was Uncle Scrooge himself saying that, my day was made! As always, Freud was worth bringing along!
Next: Clive Owen and Spike Lee Are Inside Men Who Steal The $60 Million and Give It Away In Access Grants! That’s The Only Way The Public Will See The Money!
Victor Schwartzman has contributed this weekly satirical column to Accessibility News and the AODA Alliance since May 13, 2013. Check out the first nine chapters of his current satirical fantasy novel, King Of The Planet, for .99 on Kindle at http://www.amazon.ca/King-The-Planet-Victor-Schwartzman-ebook/dp/B00NE0CCRC, or for free on Facebook. The unpolished first nine chapters got a “4 out of 5 star” review! He is currently polishing the novel. His graphic novel The Winnipeg Weakly Herald (where each chapter is one issue of a community newspaper) is serialized on the great Canadian lit site, http://www.redfez.net. He has had poetry and short fiction published, has edited novels and his email is firstname.lastname@example.org.