Read The Gum Thief Online

Authors: Douglas Coupland

Tags: #Humorous, #Fiction, #Diary fiction, #Divorced men, #Humorous fiction, #Authorship, #General, #Fiction - Authorship, #Love Stories

The Gum Thief

The Gum Thief




Shampoo Planet

Life After God


Girlfriend in a Coma

Miss Wyoming All Families Are Psychotic

Hey Nostradamus!

Eleanor Rigby



Polaroids from the Dead

City of Glass

Souvenir of Canada

Souvenir of Canada


Douglas Coupland

The Gum Thief


First published in Great Britain 2007

Copyright © 2007 by Douglas Coupland

The moral right of the author has been asserted

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents, either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or locales is entirely


Bloomsbury Publishing Pic 36 Soho Square London WID 3QY

A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library

ISBN 978 0 7475 9188 7 (trade paperback) 109 8 76543 2 I

ISBN 978 0 7475 9448 2 (hardback) 109 8 765432 I


Mixed Sources

Product group from well-managed forest and other controlled sources

Printed in Great Britain by Clays Limited, St Ives pic

The paper this book is printed on is certified by the

© 1996 Forest Stewardship Council A.C. (FSC).

It is ancient-forest friendly.

The printer holds FSC chain of custody SCS-COC-206I

Brother; are you headed home?

A: Brother, aren't we always headed home?

-Question used by Masons to identify themselves among strangers


A few years ago it dawned on me that everybody past a certain age-regardless of how they look on the outside pretty much constantly dreams of being able to escape from their lives. They don't want to be who they are any more. They want
This list includes Thurston Howell the Third, Ann-Margret, the cast members of
Vaclav Havel, space shuttle astronauts and Snuffleupagus. It's universal.

want out? Do you often wish you could be somebody,
other than who you are-the you who holds a job and feeds a family-the you who keeps a relatively okay place to live and who still tries to keep your friendships alive?
other words, the you who's going to remain pretty much the same until the casket?

There's nothing wrong with me being me, or with you being you. And in the end, life's pretty tolerable, isn't it?
Oh, I'll get by.
We all say that.
Don't worry about me.
Maybe I'll get drunk and go shopping on eBay at eleven at night, and maybe I'll buy all kinds of crazy crap I won't remember I bid on the next morning, like a ten-pound bag of mixed coins from around the world or a bootleg tape of Joni Mitchell performing at the Calgary Saddle dome in 1981.

I used the phrase "a certain age." What I mean by this is the age people are in their heads. It's usually thirty to thirty-four. Nobody is forty in their head. When it comes to your internal age, chin wattles and relentless liver spots mean nothing.

In my mind, I'm always thirty-two. In my mind, I'm drinking sangria beachside in Waikiki; Kristal from Bakersfield is flirting with me, while Joan, who has yet to have our two kids, is up in our hotel room fetching a pair of sunglasses that don't dig into her ears as much. By dinnertime, I'm going to have a mild sunburn, and when I return home from that holiday, I'll have a $5K salary bonus and an upgraded computer system waiting for me at my office. And if I dropped fifteen pounds and changed gears from sunburn to suntan, I could look halfway okay. Not even okay:

Do I sound regretful?

Okay, maybe a bit.

Okay, let's face it-I'm king of the exit interview. And Joan was a saint. My curse is that I'd rather be in pain than be wrong.

I'm sad at having flubbed the few chances I had to make bold strokes in life. I'm learning to cope with the fact that it was both my laziness and my useless personal moral code that cheated me out of seizing new opportunities. Listen to me:
flubbed chances and missed opportunities:
I gloss past them both in almost the same breath. But there was no gloss when it was all coming down. It's taken me what-five years?-to simply get used to the idea that I've blown things. I'm grieving, grieving hard-core. The best part of my life is gone, and what remains is whizzing past so quickly I feel like I'm Krazy-Glue'ed onto a mechanical bull of a time machine.

I can't even escape in my dreams. My dreams used to be insulated by pink fibreglass, but maybe two jobs ago my sense of failure ripped a hole through the insulation and began wrecking them. I dreamed it was that Monday afternoon in the 1990s when my high school buddy turned vampire stockbroker, Lars, phoned me a week after my mother's funeral-a week!-and told me to put everything and anything I might have inherited into Microsoft stock. I told him our friendship was over. I told him he was a parasite. And if Microsoft had sunk into the earth's crust and vanished, I might have actually forgiven Lars, but that didn't happen. Their sack-of-shit operating system conquered the planet, and my $100,000 inheritance from my mother, put into Microsoft, would currently be worth a smidge over $13 million.

I get the Microsoft dream about once a week now.

But okay, there's some good stuff in my life. I love my spaniel, Wayne, and he loves me. What a name for a dog,
he's my accountant. The thing is, dogs only hear vowels. It's a fact. When I call Wayne in for the night, he doesn't hear the W or the N. I could simply yell out
and he'd still show up. For that matter, I· suppose I could also simply yell out
and he'd show up. At my last job, I told Mindy the comptroller how much I loved Wayne, and you know what she said to me? She said, "Dogs are like people, except you can legally kill dogs if they bug you." Which makes you wonder-one household in three has a dog in it, but all they are (from the Mindy perspective) is semi-disposable family members. We need to have laws to make killing dogs illegal.
But what about cats?
Okay, cats, too.
What about snakes? Or sea monkeys?

I draw the line at sea monkeys. I draw lines everywhere. It's what makes people think I'm Mister Difficult. For example, people in the ATM machine line up who stand too far away from the dispenser forfeit their right to be next in line. You know the people I mean-the ones who stay fifty feet away so they don't look like they're trying to see your PIN number. Come
I look at these people, and I think,
Man, you must feel truly guilty about something to make you broadcast your sense of guilt to the world with your freakish lineup philosophy.
And so I simply stand in front of them and go next. That teaches them.

What else? I also believe that if someone comes up behind you on the freeway and flashes their lights to get you to move into the slow lane, they deserve whatever punishment you dole out to them. I promptly slow down and drive at the same speed as the car beside me so that I can punish Speed Racer for his impertinence.

Actually, it's not the impertinence I'm punishing him f01; it's that he let other people know what he wanted.

Speed Racer, my friend, never ever let people know what you want. Because if you do, you might as well send them engraved invitations saying, "Hi, this is what I want you to prevent me from ever having. "


I am

And even if I was, at least if you're bitter you know where you stand.

Okay, that last sentence came out wrong. Let me rephrase it: At least if you're bitter, you know that you're like everybody else.

Strike that last effort, too. How about: At least if you're bitter, you know that you're a part of the family of man. You know that you're not so hot, but you also know that your experience is universal. "Universal" is such a great word. You know that we live in a world of bitter cranks-a world of aging bitter cranks who failed and who are always thirty-two in their own heads.


But bitterness doesn't always mean failure. Most rich people I've met are bitter too. So, as I say, it's universal. Rejoice!

I was once young and fresh and dumb, and I was going to write a novel. It was going to be called
Glove Pond.
What a
name-Glove Pond.
I don't remember the inspiration, but the words have always sounded to me like the title of a novel or movie from England-like
Under Milk Wood,
by Dylan Thomas-or a play written by someone like Tennessee Williams.
Glove Pond
was to be populated with characters like Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, movie stars from two generations ago, with killer drinking problems, teeter-tottering sexuality and soft, unsculpted bodies-from back before audiences figured out that muscle tone, not a press release, determines sexiness.
'Glove Pond's
main characters screamed and brawled and shrieked witty, catty, vicious things at each other. They drank like fish, screwed like minks and then caught each other in the act of screwing strangers like minks. At that point, they'd say even wittier things than before. They were wit machines. In the end, all the characters were crazy and humanity was doomed. The End.

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