His friends had little doubt Pierre Poutine was destined for a life of crime. Even as a small fry on the streets of Joliette, he was always getting into trouble.
He first got interested in prank phone calls when his friend Tony Tourtière stayed for a sleepover one night.
They called an unsuspecting grocer.
“Hello, Sir, do you have Robin Hood by the bag?”
“Well, you’d better let him go before he starts hollerin’!”
“Quoi? Qui est-ce?”
Pierre and Tony laughed hysterically.
As they got older, they got into more trouble, ringing doorbells and sticking gum on park benches. But prank calls were still their misdemeanor of choice.
“Madam, is your fridge running?” Pierre would say to an unsuspecting housewife.
“Then you’d better catch it before it runs out the door!”
Hit the road
By the time he hit 18, Pierre’s parents had had enough. They packed his suitcase and put him on a train for the big city.
“Get a proper job,” his father barked.
“Don’t forget to call,” whispered his mom.
Within days of hitting Montreal, Pierre landed a job at a call centre, troubleshooting computer problems. After one week, he was fired for tricking people into erasing their hard drives.
Before long, Pierre got mixed up with the wrong crowd.
Looking for trouble
He first met Smoked Meat Sally at the lunch counter in Schwarz’s. A hefty server in a sweat-stained muscle shirt was giving her a hard time.
“Lady, if ya ain’t gonna order somethin’, ya gotta leave.” The man snorted as he wiped the counter with a dirty cloth.
“She’s with me,” said Poutine. “Gimme two thick ones on rye, extra fat.”
“Babe, you are smokin’,” Sally cooed.
“Just looking for a little extra gravy, hon,” said Pierre, sliding onto the stool beside her.
Pretty soon, Sally had fixed him up with Bernie the Bagel. They met at a diner on St. Laurent. Bernie munched on a chien-chaud, tout garnie, as they talked business.
“I need you to do a little dialing for me,” said Bernie, a piece of cabbage dangling from his lip. “Tories need to goose the polls, if you know what I mean. But first you need to get a burner phone. ”
“No problem,” said Pierre. Not only did he know what a burner phone was, but he knew where to get the best price.
Back in Joliette, Pierre picked up the throwaway cellphone and bought a train ticket for Guelph. But he made a fatal mistake. On the registration for the phone, he’d used his real name and address: Pierre Poutine, Separatist Street.
Authorities tracked him down easily.
“I should have written Federalist Street,” Pierre muttered as he sat in the police station. “I could have been Zena Phoab from Parizeau Place. Or Shane Smoker from René Lévesques Boulevard. Quelle stupide.”
“Mr. Poutine, you are entitled to a phone call,” an officer said. “I suggest you call your lawyer.”
Pierre picked up the phone. This was it, he thought. I’ve got to turn myself around. I’ve got to go straight.
This is my last chance for redemption.
He dialed and put the receiver to his ear.
“Herb’s Cigar Shop.”
“Yes, hi. Do you have Prince Albert in a can?”
Peter Jackson is The Telegram’s commentary editor.