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Ortho 7-7-7 began with a set of whites then light oranges finishing with seven dark orange pills. Being French Canadian there was always the real threat of getting pregnant just by forgetting to say your rosary, so I took my pills religiously. Once while camping I found only white ones left. I panicked, thinking I had taken the pills backwards. Not only would I be pregnant, but my child would have three arms. To my relief, I discovered that the light through the orange canvas filtered out that same colour inside the tent. I was safe to fornicate with impunity.
The story was called Escape to Andromeda. A science fiction I penned myself. To create a buzz I wrote in parts for everyone in Mrs. Anderson’s grade seven class. And since this was puberty after all, I matched couples with specific roles. People who I thought should be together and job-sharing on this uber-cool spaceship. For example Denise and Greg, both diminutive and cheerful ran the science lab. Beefy David and Tough-gal Mary Jo were security. And the odious Zimbo was the officer who tried in vain to kill the intergalactic Targon with his puny laser but got eaten anyway.
I have heard the song In the Year 2525 since I was an amoeba and every time I do, it creeps me out. It was written in the early ‘sixties when all we had to worry about was Kennedy’s trigger finger and being overtaken by artificial intelligence. The song starts in the aforementioned year and runs until mankind has been around for 10,000 years. Sure Zager and Evans could have benefitted from a physical anthropology course or a glance at a Jewish calendar but still the lyrics are disturbing, something Nostradamus would have written if he tried the brown acid.
He grabbed her elbow before they entered the library, “Why….why not me? Why him?” “God, I don’t know, Mike, just because.” Jess knew this was coming. “But he’s such a sponger…” He regaled her with a litany of things Josh had borrowed and not returned. He’d loved Jess for years, ever since first-year university, and had tried for ages, with invitations to cocktails, rides home, and offers to proofread her essays. Then this prick waltzes in and effortlessly scoops her up. She could have told him it was because Josh had hair like Cary Grant but that was cold comfort.
It sounds like a cliché, but I saw the most stunning girl in the world in Florence. We were pulling out of the train station and there she was brushing a lock of brown hair out of her eyes and peering through the steam to catch a glimpse of her friend. Unlike we mortal girls, who maybe experienced a blip of pulcritude in high school or university, she was ethereal. I saw her for three seconds, twenty-five years ago and I can still remember the shape of her arms, her simple sleeveless blue dress and of course her beautiful face.
When our son was three he choked on a hard candy. The three of us were painting my office. Rich and I were distracted with the job at hand when Dan, blue in the face, came toddling over. Somehow I remembered what I read in my baby book, began the Heimlich for babies and after two fevered squeezes the killer candy flew out of his mouth, hit the wall and clattered down the stairs. “Wow! Look at that!” said Dan, his little face squeezed between the wooden balustrades. He returned to his Lego and I went downstairs to throw up.
When I was very young, Mon Oncle P’tit Cul brought me a fossil because he knew I liked rocks. It’s a huge black one with hundreds of brachiopods, a slice of the ocean floor from 500 million years ago. From the first I kept it close to me because it was a souvenir from my cherished uncle. I’ve carried that rock around for forty years and now Mon Oncle is a widower, like my father. The stone has its place on a shelf in our home, proof we exist for less than a second, the beat of a hummingbird’s wing.
As Cada’s field had a granite erratic, it had great potential as an archaeological site. It’s human nature to love big rocks. Since we hang out on them ancient folks probably did too. But I’d yet to find anything there until cousin Peter came surface collecting with me. After I finished my pedantic lecture about what to look for, Pete got out of his truck walked right up to that rock, stooped down and plucked a perfect triangular point from the ground, “Like this?” He said. Obviously, Pete had an affinity with Middle Woodland dope smokers I hadn’t counted on.
I have a medicine bag that I keep by my bed and I bring with me on airplanes. It contains things sacred to me including a small dream catcher, a rosary and some Catholic pins, their meanings so important to my mother but lost to me. And stones. Stones from England, from Christian Island, from Egypt. I have a beautiful black one, heavy and round. It’s the stone I hold when I need to think. We all carry some form of medicine bag around with us. A collection of coins from grandfathers or buttons from grandmothers. Our children’s baby teeth.
Suzette and Jocelyn were older than their cousin and well past the doll stage. “Hey Bern, did you like the Wizard of Oz?” “Oh yeah,” said the little girl recalling the ruby shoes. “Well, do you want to play it now, with your doll house?” This was Bernadette’s new Christmas present that her parents made from a grocery box, the tiny windows and doors and little picket fencing all hand-cut. But curiosity got the best of her so she consented. Shouting "TORNADO!", the two simultaneously jumped on the paper house, leaving Bernadette in a heap of tears and crushed cardboard.
Inviting Jim and Jane to the same party illustrated a considerable lapse of judgment on my part. Jane was a stinging nettle, an acquired taste at the best of times, but with a windbag like Jim in the room she was insufferable. Jim believed he was the most charming man alive and anyone who didn’t agree was mistaken. He started with an innocent jibe about her shoes and she took it up several notches with a comment about his bald head. They were drawn to each other, but in a way that a drunk man heads toward a pot hole.
At ten minutes past twelve Rebecca realized she had made a mistake by snogging with that redheaded guy. Some New Year’s Eve, she couldn’t even recall his name and now she had to slink back to her table of friends, tail between her legs and put up with their good-natured teasing. These were very upright individuals: most of them were in law school and all of them steadfast virgins or monogamous. Only Rebecca and their artist friend Paco brought new people into the fold. But not this guy, a Ginger Tosser for crying out loud. And probably a business student.
Often I find that people do take on traits attributed to their respective zodiac signs. For example, I am a textbook Leo. The calm and frugal Richard is a perfect Taurus. Together we produced the King of the Aries. And then you have the Gemini. They are the avocadoes of the zodiac. Most of them are unpalatable; slow to mature and quick to go off. It’s very rare to find a good one, but when you do, it’s a celebration. Mary is one such fruit. Happy Birthday to you my friend and congratulations on putting the Gem back in Gemini.
Unless you’re like Ron Howard or Drew Barrymore or that guy who played Baretta, it is very difficult for child actors to make that transition to adult movie star. Our neighbourhood is loaded with film people, including child actors. There’s one nearby whose career tanked after a Quiznos commercial. Now he is reduced to a morose and slightly tubby has-been. Maybe it's just adolescence, but he hardly speaks anymore. Back in the day, we used to see him as a tiny boy, enjoying a gimlet with the wait staff at Domani, his little pudgy legs dangling from the bar stool.
A DJ from an American music station announced that residents in LA reported experiencing earth tremors but were relieved to find out it was just Kirstie Alley jogging. Hardy-har-har. I wish the media would leave her alone. What if she heard him say that? How funny would that be? It is perverse that such a fat country is so obsessed with losing weight. All those reality shows starring sobbing Chubbies and the succubae that chase them. The average weight for females in America today is 165 pounds. That’s a whole lotta Rosie. Or at least a whole lot of Sara-Lee.
It was set on Mackinac Island and dripping in atmosphere. A romantic tear-jerker date movie where a couple must travel through time to consummate their love for each other. And here I was with some ass who could not shut up. Jane Seymour and Christopher Reeves finally managed to get together for a fleeting moment, a gentle embrace and then a tentative kiss… “Oh come on, you know you WANT IT!!!” shouted my date to an unreceptive theatre audience. I prayed he would spontaneously combust, his smoldering corpse causing enough distraction that I could escape to freedom down Riverside Drive.
Madame Catherine, the Consecrated Virgin and choir mistress at Ste-Anne’s had the tiniest feet. I used to watch in awe as her teeny little black ballet flats flew across the pedals. She played like Veronica Lodge from the Archies, employing the tips of her toes to do all the work. The fact that Madame actually chose to be a virgin intrigued me. What woman would willingly do this? I could see it if you had one eye in the middle of your head or a debilitating skin condition, but she was reasonably attractive. Maybe she just preferred the church organ.
After twenty years of being a vegetarian I started eating animals. Since the oceans are dying and I don’t really want to be vegan, I decided that I would eat locally-sourced, humanely raised and dispatched animals, not all the time, but once in a while. That said, and I realize that this is ethical hair-splitting, I believe there are certain animals that really don’t need to be eaten. Veal and primates top the list, of course. But then there are quails, ostriches, alligators. I mean, why eat a quail? You might as well go out and bag yourself a sparrow.
Booboo is my cherished stuffed animal from 1964. He is now quite bald, and has had his set of pantaloons recovered more than once. Rich has his Woolley, a tiny English bear of the same vintage, cuddled to the point where it is now more owl pellet than plush toy. When Dan was three years old our neighbour Bhavnita gave him her black and white striped cat, a special toy that she loved as a child in 1988. Each Christmas the trio sit under the tree like Velveteen Rabbits reminding us that if you love something enough it becomes real.
I often wondered if all the things we have lost over a lifetime migrate to a room, and at the point of death we could enter and revisit them. My room would contain many things including my cousin Mary-Francis. Roy wrote about a professor who designed a pair of glasses which could show the wearer everything, presumably tangible, that he had lost. Could such a thing exist for those many missing intangibles like beauty, innocence, patience, resolve? Or in the corollary, could there be a pair of glasses that showed things we had found like wisdom or discretion or empathy?
Joyce was unlike some women who unabashedly whipped out a teat in public daring anyone to say anything. Instead she chose discrete places to breastfeed. On this occasion she sat herself down on the only park bench within sight. Two elderly women were perched on the other end. “How disgusting.” Hissed the one closest to her, now staring in disapproval as she prepared to nurse. Joyce snapped. When she felt her milk coming in all it took was a deft pinch of her right nipple and the stream of milk made a perfect arc into the old crone’s withering eye.
Gerry and Lawrence ran booze to the local reserve. One night they hit the jackpot with a pickup full of Black Label. The job was risky but after this run they could quit the business. Then they spotted the cops. Dumping the cases, they drove on to the blind pig to tell Big Tar what had happened. And then it rained. It rained all night and into the morning. When the two men returned to recover their cache the water-sodden cardboard boxes had melted leaving 480 bottles and any hope of an early retirement to wallow in the Wallaceburg mud.
Several times a year we drove from Tecumseh to my aunt’s place in Michigan, and each time Dad got us lost. The 1968 New Yorker transformed into a powder-blue vomit comet as the journey, which should have taken less than an hour was stretched to at least ninety minutes. Years later several forays to find York University all ended on the Arrivals’ ramp of Lester Pearson. I tell my father that it was due to his family’s retarded sense of direction that the Leclairs never made it to the treaty, and were left with only a spurious whiff of a Métis past.
I had just broken up with a cad who recently went to Africa. As this tiny man was nowhere near trustworthy I feared he brought something back with him other than a lion-skinned codpiece. But how to tell? Lainey suggested I give blood as the Red Cross screens for STDs and she would accompany me for moral support. Once in line and swayed by the feel good sensation of collective blood-letting, Lainey too decided to donate. They tested my blood. Clean as a whistle but too low in iron. Lainey’s, like Goldilock’s baby bear, had blood that was just right.
One urban myth promises that if you chew wintergreen Lifesavers in a pitch-black room sparks fly out of your mouth. A good myth to test with friends, as it was far more socially acceptable than setting your farts on fire and yet produced more or less the same results. I tried the candy experiment once when I worked at a daycare. I would gather small groups of kids into the closet and we’d all chew like crazy. No sparks. I got much better results in the same venue pulling apart their synthetic cot sheets after they came from the dryer.
As a junior Paleontologist I had my haunts around Webbwood Estates including one vaguely sepulchral pile of limestone that yielded good fossils. One time I lost my ring at the head of the pile. Cocking an eye I looked into it and saw an eye gazing back at me. I swear to God, an eye! This was how they found bodies. I thought, “Oh my God, I discovered Jimmy Hoffa!” I ran home and returned with a fellow trailer snipe and channeling our inner Nancy Drew we slowly, bravely picked away at the stones. A marble rolled out. Some caper.
Richard had to work at Fort York during the G20 summit. All was pleasantly quiet unlike the sad events at Queen and Spadina where cops sent both Black Bloc morons and polar-fleeced Vegans flying. I watched it all unfold on CP24 and wondered if I am the same person who sat with the Mohawks at the Oka standoff and sent donuts to the natives holed up at the Revenue Canada building? I attended Animal Alliance meetings and sent money to pro-choice groups. I’m not sure why I’m so derisive of the G20 protestors, but it all adds up to forty-seven.
The difficulty with political convictions is avoiding all the irony and inconsistencies that naturally fall in front of you. Life is so complex it is impossible for anyone to be totally true to his beliefs. Catholics use birth control. Econazis floss. We shop with hemp bags sewn by Indian children or buy organic apples flown in from Chile. We’d never hurt an animal but have Proctor and Gamble in our medicine chests. How genuine a Vegetarian was I with my leather shoes, the rennet in my cheese, or the rest of the hidden mono and diglycerides of my everyday existence?
I am responsible for denuding my neighbours’ back yard. Angela is away until August and in a passing word to Sam the landlord I mentioned how overgrown the garden was and that I would help them clean it up before she came back. Not wanting to trouble me, Sam and his wife completely cleared it: currant bushes, butterfly bushes, mulleins and dozens of other perennials ripped out along with the weeds. Now only scrubby grass, three hostas and two apple trees are left. The rest is hardpan. My cats, having lost their oasis are appalled and won’t speak to me.
On July 1, 1960 Dief the Chief delivered his famous “I am a Canadian” speech, praising Canada’s inherent freedoms: freedom of speech, freedom to worship, freedom to govern. The words are beautiful and as a child I had a poster of the speech, a freebie from the Big V drug store. But Diefenbaker should have added “freedom to donut ”. We all know that Tim’s is the gold standard for these places, but Galaxy and Country Style coexist to service both smokers and the less fortunate. Where else can you make a butt and a maple-dip last all morning? Sweet.
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