Eric Colbourne

The Great Pumpkin

 

 

Wednesday, October 17, 2018: 9 AM

Spouse and I sat around our old chrome table in the morning, sipping on a second-hand Tim's, munching our stoner pumpkin bread, and sharing our dreams from the night before.

"It's that time of year again," said spouse. "I dreamed about the Great Pumpkin. Maybe it was because of that weird news report about the Goblin planet last night on NTV's The Carter File (Stuff About Stuff)"

"Maybe the Great Pumpkin is coming to these pine-clad hills to disappear Muskrat Falls," I said sarcastically.

"And every politician from Cape Spear to Cape Chidley," said spouse.

"You are becoming too cynical," I said. "But speaking of that magical being, only once did I really believe in the Great Pumpkin."

"Do tell," she said.

"I am speaking," I said, "about Danny(He-Who-Is-Without-Sin) Williams. The scene at the St. John's International Airport at 7.03 pm, Saturday, January 29, 2005, is forever etched on my brain. My hopes at that precise moment had reached as high as the highest peak in the Annieopsquotch Mountains.

"I developed a belief in the Great Pumpkin when I was a child in the 1950s and Joey Smallwood saved us from a fate worse than death. "Two Jobs for every man" (women didn't work back then). It all went south pretty fast as Joey, the savior, turned into just another rotten gourd from Gambo. But many still believed.

"Along came Moores. You probably don't remember him, nor do I. And Peckford in 1979, who tried to be the Great Pumpkin and turned into the Great Cucumber instead. It wasn't the same.

"Brian Tobin became the Great Turbot in 1996. Slimy.

"After that, I gave up on the Great Pumpkin--maybe old age and doubt were creeping up on me.

"Then the Great Pumpkin delivered. Big time. Captured live on TV. On the People's Network. He stood in all his goblin glory at the top of the stairs leading down to the airport lobby where hundreds of believers had gathered.

"He waved a slip of paper triumphantly. "We've got it," he shouted. Wild cheers. Flags waved. "He's our savior," said one. "Premier forever," said another, and, "yay, the Great Pumpkin!"

"We got 2 billion in cash, that's what we got," said the Great Pumpkin. "Prosperity forever. Jobs, Jobs, Jobs. F.U. Ottawa.

He had pinned Paul 'Steamship' Martin to the mat with a figure-four arm lock. I was proud to live in the land of the Great Pumpkin.

Spouse noted the tinge of nostalgia in my voice. I yearned for those days, few as they were.

Fast forward to October 2018:

For some time now, Spouse and I have been following with bated breath the meanderings of the Muskrat Falls Inquiry. As with all epic dramas, we hope in the end that the villains are laid low and the innocent taxpayers are freed from the shackles of levies and political trickery. Reality? You may well ask. Doubt should immediately cloud your brain like a toke of good weed.

We only think this way of course when we are enjoying the soothing stimulus of our favorite after-dinner libations. A Raspberry Screech for me, a sip of 50 Shades of Bay for her as we soak up the spectacle playing out on the screen in front of us. Being vulnerable seniors, by 9 pm we are off to the Land of Nod where our brains can flush the excrement of the day into the sewers of dreamland.

In my dream, all the characters are like professional wrestlers on TV. The steady stream of rogues and heroes play their choreographed roles in front of the referee, Commissioner Richard LeBlanc. They bob in and out of the arena of my nightmares.

"I see them clearly," I say to spouse: "the tag team of He-Who-Is-Without-Sin and his little bro, Tommy Williams, both dressed in Galway green; Wade Locke, the university economist in cap and gown, he who endorsed, then denied Muskrat, the rat; Andy Wells, general shit-disturber; naysayers Ron Penney and David Vardy; and a host of others both great and small--all backed up by their cheering sections and corner attendants from the legal establishment in the city.

"We should all be proud of Muskrat Falls," says He-Who-Is-Without-Sin as he body-slams the naysayers from atop the turnbuckles, and shakes his fist at Quebec. "People have to take the long-term view--50--75--100 years"

 

Then he trash-talks his opponents and questions their right to wrestle him. The commissioner intervenes and separates them. Then Danny tries a flying tackle on Vardy and calls him a carton of spoiled milk--beyond the best-before date. Fightin words. His headlock on the commissioner fails miserably.

Penney and Vardy(Concerned Citizens tag team) trash-talk the Muskrat in return. Andy Wells sneaks into the arena and throws sucker punches at He-Who-Is-Without-Sin and Bro Tommy. They both hit the canvas but recover and chase Andy from the ring.

Wade Locke, professional economist in cap and gown, enters the arena flashing his credentials, tangles with Bro Williams and some other no-name lawyer. Wishes he hadn't entered the arena at all. Doesn't like to fight.

"Anyway, now everybody wants to fight me--SHOULD HAVE LISTENED TO MY WIFE," he says, throwing in the towel.

"Coward," shout the baying fans.

Sioban (I'm Irish) Coady, Minister of the Mighty Muskrat, shouts from the sidelines, "taxpayers will have to'supplement' the ratepayers when Muskrat comes online."

Nobody understands what she is saying except He-Who-Is-Without-Sin. "She means we'll take all our oil money and pay for Muskrat Falls," he says.

It still makes no sense.

"I was in a cold sweat all night," I said to spouse. "I couldn't shake the nightmare and I only woke up when Duh-wite told me not to worry about paying the cost of Muskrat Falls." Chilling.

"Yes," said spouse impatiently, "now, about the Goblin planet that I dreamed about. Glen Carter(The Carter File-Stuff About stuff) on NTV said it was smaller than earth but it takes 3600 of our years to orbit the sun which means that if we lived there, each year would have 43,200 months or nearly 1,320,000 days. Our monthly bill for Muskrat Falls for each and every one of us in this fair land would be only 7.2 cents. But who cares about paying power bills when you can live that long in just one year."

As I said, Spouse has a very mathematical mind. I'm not sure I got it. But then...

"Maybe that's what Danny was thinking about when he said we should take the long-term view of Muskrat Falls," I said. "and maybe, just maybe, he's from the Goblin planet."

"Crazy." said spouse. "Give me another slice of that stoner bread. We should go over and listen in on the inquiry. It's in that big building off Wishingwell Road."

Harvest Moon

 

I called upstairs at 7 am yesterday morning to awaken spouse. "Get up," I said, "Fred Hutton is interviewing He-Who-Is-Without-Sin on The Morning Show. Danny...Danny Williams. Danny is telling us we should all be proud of Muskrat Falls.

"Danny can go jump in Quidi Vidi for all I care," she shouted back. "Now leave me alone. I'm in the middle of a dream about the Merb'ys on Middle Cove Beach."

On occasion, she is totally in line with my political thinking.

The newscast shifts to Dear Leader Duh-wite who appears in a photo-op with volunteers struggling to keep a food bank open in Goose Bay. I began to mourn for the sorry state of our smiling land--a grinning premier hogging the spotlight from the few dedicated men and women trying to stem the tide of poverty that is threatening to become a tsunami.

The next story features Solemn Tom, Minister of Debt, announcing that the Liberal Government has awarded a million dollar contract to McKinsey & Company, a New York-based consulting firm, to flesh out The Way Forward and tell Newfoundlanders and Labradorians how to be prosperous again.

In line with the politics, these pine-clad hills have been rattled with wild swings in the weather during the indescribable season that poses for summer in these parts. Winter ended abruptly on June 30 after Jack Frost had taken one last swipe with his icy claw. On that day, a Christmas coat of snow covered the tiny garden we had wrestled from the stony ground in the backyard.

Summer finally came at noon on July 1 with rock-splitting heat and thereon for the next two months our smiling land was turned into a facsimile of the Gobi Desert. Spouse's experimental garden of select Mary Jane withered on the vine, so to speak. Only a lonely White Widow seedling survived in the shade and managed to produce two fine buds much admired by spouse.

She swore me to secrecy lest my loose tongue alert the constabulary.

Then as if exhausted by its own bombast--much like our politicians--summer took its leave at 7 pm on August 31. A strong northeaster, with a wintry chill from the glaciers of Greenland, drove us indoors. Next morning the birds had disappeared and in the words of the poet, all that was left were the empty nests. Hoarfrost covered the remains of our prize White Widow thus ending our plans for a small celebration on October 17.

Back to Raspberry Screech and Fifty Shades of Bay.

On September 24, with summer's promise unfulfilled, the Harvest Moon rose as a blushing orb as if embarrassed for the gods of weather and for the shenanigans of our local politicians as they infested every nook and cranny of our wind-swept land over the past several months.

Just yesterday, for example, as I was peacefully engaged in poaching a few partridges up on Mount Scio, a scruffy-looking Dr. Dale, former Minister of Illiteracy, leaped out of the bushes and wanted to know if they were still gossiping about him down in the city.

"Did Ches win the by-election?" he asked.

"Yes," I said.

"I'm doomed," he cried.

At that moment, a partridge flew by and I blasted away with my shotgun. Dr. Dale fled into the woods.

All summer on the People's Channel, spouse and I had followed the meanderings of the Liberal herd as they showed up in every corner of our fair land from Muskrat Falls to Muddy Hole. Dear leader Duh-wite reassured all and sundry he had accomplished more in three years than any administration in history (we laughed).

"We will grow and prosper under my Way Forward strategy," he said.

Not happening.

Yes, every last sheep in the Liberal herd appeared among the great unwashed, dining on baloney and baked beans and offering much the same back to overtaxed citizens--the election is just a year away.

For the most part, though, spouse and I have been taking it easy, lulled into a state of political apathy by the disappearance of Big Eddie, Dr. Dale, and the erstwhile Minister of Finance, Cathy Bennett. In a vanishing act reminiscent of the best spy dramas, Dear Leader Duh-wite has turned them into ghostly memories, leaving us wondering whether, in fact, all of it was a figment of our imagination in the first place.

The only break in the political doldrums came when Prime Minister Trudeau announced the taxpayer purchase of the Kinder-Morgan pipeline carrying Alberta crude across the NDP heartland of British Columbia. Other than for spouse and myself, the implications of what this meant seem to have gone over everyone's head.

Following the Herd

 

 

"I need some of that Bog Rosemary you mix with your Raspberry Screech," said spouse. "Go up to Mount Scio tomorrow and see if you can round some up."

She has been toiling relentlessly in the kitchen recently, experimenting with the free samples of weed handed out at her training session a while back, to see if she can come up with a drinkable version of Mary Jane that compares with the power of my usual midnight libation, Raspberry Screech with a splash of Bog Rosemary tea.

The results so far are promising except that whole stretches of my short-term memory have been erased. Just yesterday, she mentioned Eddie Joyce in a casual comment--for the life of me, I could not remember who she was talking about. But I experienced a tremendous sense of tranquility coupled with my vacant mind.

"We are making progress," she said.

There may be other reasons for my relaxed state of mind.

Now that Ball's lackeys have departed Confederation Building to spread glad tidings of great joy across our pine-clad hills, a serene atmosphere of peace and solitude has settled over our shining city. The whole Liberal herd has traipsed off to congregate in Gander and graze on canapes of farmed salmon, caviar, filet of Kobe beef, and cod au gratin. They have gathered to shout hosannas for Dear Leader Duh-wite.

Even George Murphy was filled with the spirit and welcomed back to the Liberal pasture by Dear Leader. Yes, THE George 'Oil Can' Murphy is now a voting member of the Liberal herd; he, who betrayed the NDP savior, Lorraine Michael, and denied knowing her three times before the rooster crowed atop Confederation Building; he, who wept bitterly on TV for his dastardly denial. George has a new messiah.

Those who demonstrated critical thinking at the gathering were declared to be apostates, enemies of the herd, and denied voting privileges.

Dear Leader's toadies have even circulated a story at the Gander gathering that he was born at the very top of Gros Morne, his birth being foretold by a bull-bird and heralded by sun-hounds. In another version of Duh-wite's origins, he was raised by a kindly farmer and his wife in Deer Lake who found him floating down the Humber River on a mat of swamp grass.

Later, at the age of four, Dear Leader hiked the Gaff Topsails all by himself. In grade six, he designed an engineering marvel, a tunnel under the Straits of Belle Isle. By age ten, he had invented 2000 life-saving drugs and then announced his intention to open a pharmacy.

 

Dear Leader promised the flock in Gander that he would be their eternal premier. Basking in the glow of adulation, he even issued a challenge to Donald Trump to meet him in New York although we are not sure why.

We heard not a peep about Dr. Dale, former minister of illiteracy, nor of Bullying Big Eddie, former minister of outports, since Dear Leader ordered that both be stuck in a corner of the House of Assembly like misbehaving school children.

Spouse is of the opinion that Dr. Dale and Big Eddie will be welcomed back into the fold after a suitable period of penance during which they will wear robes of sackcloth and ashes. In the meantime, I point out, they are both on leave with pay, pulling down $150,000 a year.

An eerie calm has settled over our household as well as households across the whole province leaving us wondering where it is all headed.

To complement the sound of silence, summer has delayed its appearance, preferring instead to linger in the badlands of Quebec and Ontario. Dandelions brave enough to raise their heads during the day are quickly decapitated by killing frosts at night.

"I suspect Dear Leader Duh-wite has the power to manipulate the weather," I said. "It's a plot to force everyone to leave so they'll have the place all to themselves."

"You are becoming more paranoid by the minute," said spouse.

"Well, just look at what's happening," I said. "Since Duh-wite came along we have lost nearly 20,000 people who have departed to escape destitution, unemployment is creeping up to twenty percent, and Muskrat Falls is just around the corner.

Whatever the reason for the tranquility, the constabulary has not knocked on our door lately except for that incident last week when they came to inform me that a neighbor had complained he had seen me coming up the street dressed as Davy Crockett with a brace of ducks over my shoulder. I suspect it was the same neighbor who also reported a strong smell of marijuana coming from our deck.

Speaking of weed, the owner of the convenience store where spouse worked part-time as potential manager of marijuana sales has been disappointed in his quest for a vendor's license. Only friends of the party can push weed on the street.

Spouse is now without a job and our source of supplementary income has evaporated, forcing us to visit the food bank down on Military road.

Just last week, I staked out a position outside Raymond's on Water Street, dancing jigs in my tight spandex swimwear and begging for loonies from the clientele--mostly politicians--who seem to be the only ones with money these days. But that venture was short-lived when people started complaining to city council.

But all is not lost. Spouse and I are hoping to patent Rose Mary-Jane Elixir by October 17. It deadens the mind so we can follow the herd.

Mary Jane

 

 

At 3:30 in the morning, the cell phone under my pillow vibrated impatiently like a trapped bumblebee. I place it there strategically to alert the constabulary in case Big Eddie decided to send his goons to our humble abode in the dead of night.

"It's RS from MP," hissed a whispering voice. "Where have you been the last few days?"

"I've been out to Quidi Vidi Lake harvesting a few of those fat spring ducks for the dinner table," I said.

"Well, all hell is about to spring loose up here on the hill," he said. "Dear leader, Duh-wite passed out free samples of weed to his Liberal yes-persons. They're hitting it pretty hard. I got a free sample from Dr. Dale. It gave me hallucinations. You should try some."

"Get to the point," I said. "I have to get up early in the morning and scrounge for some food in Sobeys garbage bins."

"OK, here's the scoop," said RS from MP, "Big Eddie's gone paranoid--he thinks everybody's out to get him and he's challenging all comers to a fist-fight out on the parkway.

Through Rose-tinted Glasses

 

 

 

"You never know who's who in government these days or what they're up to," I said to spouse as we followed the evening news on the people's channel. "Like demons, they shape-shift all the time. Double Dipper Byrne is now minister of turnips and spawny capelin, Al 'the Pirate' Hawkins is now minister of unemployment. Codfish Crocker gave up his job to Double Dipper Byrne and then took Al 'the Pirate's' job, and Al 'the Pirate' took Double Dipper Byrne's job. And poor old Cathy Bennett, we don't know what happened to her."

"Yes, I see," said spouse by way of asking me to pipe down and pay attention to the news. Unlike myself, she doesn't like to rage at mindless drivel on TV.

"Cursing inanimate objects relieves stress," I mutter.

Spouse, by the way, has taken a part-time job at the neighborhood convenience store. When the minimum wage skyrocketed by fifteen cents to $11.15 an hour recently, she jumped at the opportunity. The owner of the store advised her that as she demonstrates initiative and hard work, he may bump her up to be the manager of marijuana sales in the spring, but wages will be the same until Dear leader sees fit to bump the minimum wage by another fifteen cents.

With her advanced age and arthritis, part-time is all she can manage. But it helps to make ends meet especially when she comes home bearing grocery bags filled with stale bread and withered fruit. 

OUMUAMUA, THE SEQUEL

 

 

Location: Isolation cell on Starship Oumuamua, somewhere in the Pegasus Constellation. Earth distance:643,425,000 km. Sun distance: 546,000,000 km. Speed: 100 km/s (At that speed Dear Leader Duh-wite could get in his Audi A8 in St. John's, NL and be in Vancouver, BC in 1 minute 15 seconds.) Earth calendar: February 11, 2018, 2.20 AM.

Few people other than spouse are aware of my considerable experience with teleportation--the ability to travel great distances on earth or throughout the solar system by harnessing the power of ordinary AM radio waves--the things that bring you voices and music when you turn on your radio.

I have not shared this knowledge widely less some unscrupulous politicians like Dear leader Duh-wite and his gang find out what I am up to and send the constabulary over to my house to conduct a raid in the middle of the night. Spouse does not like to be disturbed when she is lying on a beach in the south sea islands of her dreams.

It all started back in the 1960s before spouse came along, interrupted my nocturnal fantasies, and according to her set me firmly on the path to a normal productive life. I learned at the time that big radio stations like WHRP, a 100,000-watt AM border station in Rosarito, Mexico, boomed in at peak power every night at 1 AM. There and then I got the idea of rigging up a satellite dish made from heavy duty aluminum foil to reflect the powerful radio waves in such a way as to beam myself up to any destination I chose. A few misadventures came my way and I nearly disappeared altogether in one incident.

Another time I accidentally beamed myself through a black hole in outer space which is like the whirlpool in a toilet when you flush it, only much bigger. That was the time when I beamed myself up in late 1965 and wound up 60 years into the future at the bottom of2025. I landed right on top of Muskrat Falls. As I flashed over Newfoundland that night, I saw long lines of refugees dressed in rags and moaning from starvation as they trudged through the snow towards Canada. And to think I could have warned people about all this but, nobody would have listened.

OUMUAMUA

 

 

My snitch, RS from MP, has been back in touch recently after many months of silence. "Government is a dangerous place to work these days," he whispered. "You never know when you'll be vaporized and replaced by a friend of the party. Yesterday, they disappeared Steve Winter, the CEO at the liquor commission. Lynn Sullivan, a failed Liberal candidate was hired in his place. She's..."

"Yes, yes, I heard the story on the news," I said impatiently. "Get on with it. The constabulary is probably tapping our wires now, just like they did to Donald Trump."

"Rumour has it," he said, "that Big Eddie and Double Dipper Byrne have now bought up all the diseased fish from the ocean farms in Placentia Bay. They have entered a price-fixing scheme with the supermarkets to foist it on the good citizens of our wind-swept land as 'gluten-free natural Atlantic salmon'."

Even spouse said she wouldn't put it past them after what they did to bread last year. I think she's coming around to my way of thinking. With that, she cracked open a new bottle of Fifty Shades of Bay and poured herself a (L)iberal drink. She promises to give up Fifty Shades when government weed comes on the market.

Spouse, though, is strangely silent these days whenever I relate my latest conspiracy theory with respect to the Liberals and their collusion with big corporations that provide large donations to the party (hello Kruger, EY, Grieg SeaFarms...). She seems more receptive when I throw a few aliens from outer space into the mix which happens frequently after my medicinal midnight drink.

Just last night, I partook of my usual after-dinner libation, Raspberry Screech laced with bog-rosemary tea, a potion guaranteed to induce nostalgia for better times in our frozen land. Yes, to my surprise and delight, Raspberry Screech has come back on the market at the NLC Liquor Store up on Kelsey Drive, a welcome change indeed after enduring many sleepless nights of silent suffering over the past several months. 

Fifty Shades of Bay is probably fine for that upper-class millennial crowd down at Raymond's, but I have more refined tastes.

I suspected right away that Big Eddie had unloaded his stash of Raspberry Screech onto the Newfoundland Liquor Commission at a killer profit before the government starts pushing marijuana. But that's just a thought.

"I can just see it now," I said to spouse, "Dear Leader will place a Liberal hack, a nasty narco, a sleazy street-pharmacist, a regular in-your-face crooked candyman, on every street corner in our fair land. We'll all be junkies by July."

"Don't get carried away," said spouse. "It's all legal. At least we'll be having pleasant dreams instead of Muskrat Falls nightmares."

We settled into our evening comforts and our usual entertainment from CBC on the old RCA Victor battery-powered radio we purchased for two dollars from the Salvation Army Goodwill store over on Kenmount--since we are regular customers, they gave us 10% off. That's the extent of what we can afford in the way of social media these days.

 

 

THE FLAT EARTH SOCIETY

 

I much prefer Raspberry Screech as an aid to restful slumber and as a tonic for late night hallucinations but it is a rare beverage these days as a result of the iceberg-ice tax crisis imposed on the toiling masses by Dear Leader and the gang last spring. Spouse and I now relax during the midnight hours over several glasses of Fifty Shades of Bay.

"Although the bouquet leaves something to be desired," said spouse, "It does have a certain je ne sais quoi."

I suspect that with the latest Liberal scheme to sell us on marijuana, there will be an alternative next year when we stagger around the Festivus Pole.

After struggling to finish her glass of the invigorating spirits, spouse departed for the Land of Nod leaving me to explore the bizarre kingdom of late night radio. Where better to start, I ask myself, than the latest local political news. I turn to CBC St. John's.

Big Eddie, new Minister of Environmental Destruction, announces that he will appeal the ruling of the Newfoundland Supreme Court that an environmental assessment should take place on the massive salmon farming operation planned for Placentia Bay.

"Trust-ah-me," he said in his best Godfather voice. "Is-ah-not necesSARY, I take care of it, okay. All-ah-dose-ah pesticides and antibiotics and ah-sea-louse and infectious disease and thousands of tons of salmon sh.., is-ah-all good for you. Jobs, jobs, jobs. Somebody mess wid me, Ima gonna mess wid dem."

As usual, I am skeptical. I give up on local politics and turn the dial.

After some static, I pick up WHAM Buffalo. The host was in the middle of an interview with basketball star, Shaquille O'Neil.

"It's true, the Earth is flat," said Shaq. "The Earth is flat. Yeah, it is. Yes, it is. Listen. There are three ways to manipulate the mind--what you read, what you see and what you hear. In school. First thing they teach us is, 'Oh, Columbus discovered America,' but when he got there, there were fair-skinned people with the long hair smoking on the peace pipes. So, what does that tell you? Columbus didn't discover America."

Shaq went on to state that he regularly drives from Florida to California and it looks all flat. It doesn't go up and down at a 360-degree angle.

Next up was another believer in a flat Earth, Bobby Ray Simmons Jr., better known as rapper B.o.B who tells us that he is going up against some of the greatest liars in history who've been deceiving us on this very question. He obviously was not acquainted with any Newfoundland politicians.

Be that as it may, B.o.B announced a gofundme campaign to raise a million dollars to gather evidence of a flat Earth. I immediately went online at gofundme.com and made a one dollar donation. I like to cover all the bases.

As I quaffed the rest of the bottle, I slipped into nostalgia for the golden era of sunlit days and starry nights when politicians like Joey Smallwood imposed a democratic dictatorship and his friends, Alfred Valdmanis, John Shaheen, and John C. Doyle ran away with the piggy bank.

In those halcyon days, I first encountered the theory of a flat Earth, an astounding piece of knowledge which has stayed with me all those years. Grade four was a milestone.

Our regular teacher had been canned after it was revealed to the local school board that he had been operating a medieval torture chamber in the classroom. A young emergency supply teacher replaced him. Back in the day, good teachers were hard to come by even before Dear Leader started closing down outport schools. But that's another issue.

Anyway, this earnest young replacement teacher breezed into our classroom a few weeks later. Expectant children with minds as malleable as modeling clay watched with consternation as he took a hammer to the globe on his desk. I remember all of us clapping enthusiastically and flying paper airplanes all over the place in celebration because we thought it was the end of geography which we hated anyway.

He then announced in no uncertain terms that we had been fed an untruth, a filthy falsehood, a dirty downright lie. The Earth, he said, is flat and furthermore, one of its four corners is located in our windswept land. Have you ever wondered why you don't fall off the Earth if its a ball, he asked. Good question, we all thought.

For the rest of that year many scholars studied the velocity and trajectory of spitballs launched from the end of a ruler. For myself, I experimented with Newton's Third Law of physics which states that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. During my research, I pinched the girl ahead of me and she delivered a painful counterpunch to my eye. We reveled in our new-found intellectual freedom and in the chaos of our new universe but we learned to question. 'Why' became our motto.

It was good while it lasted. Next year we returned to the old regime with another graduate of the Stalag who frowned on questions of any kind. Later on, he became a clergyman.

My attention returned to WHAM Buffalo. I was intrigued that after 2000 years of scientific thought and all the images from space there are millions of Earth-dwellers who believe that the planet is a flat disk like a hockey puck.

But then Kathy, a caller from Kalamazoo, threw a wrench in the works. "In fact, the Earth is not a disk," she said, "but a flat square."

"This fact is based on The Book of Revelation," she said, "chapter 7, verse 1: After this, I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the Earth..." Oh, never mind, I thought, this is going too far.

I turned the dial to the BBC World Service. Commander Shaun Dakin of the West Midlands Fire Service was reporting that a young 22-year-old stuck his head in a microwave. A group of his friends then mixed seven bags of polyfilla and poured it around his head which was protected by a plastic bag inside the appliance.

The polyfilla quickly set and his head was cemented in the microwave. Unable to free their friend after two hours, they called the rescue squad which spent another hour cutting him loose. All this happened in Wolverhampton, not in the Liberal cabinet room but what's the difference.

At that point I suspected the Fifty Shades of Bay was affecting my brain in a rather peculiar fashion. I turned off the radio and headed for bed. Spouse had run into a demon in the Land of Nod, a Duh-wite Ball look-a-like, who was trying to push her over Muskrat Falls. I rescued her from the nightmare and began to tell her about Big Eddie, the flat Earth, and the microwave man.

"Late night radio is very strange," I said.

"Don't tell me you've eaten all my marijuana plants," she said.

 

Don't Let It Get To You

 

 

Spouse was still softly snoring in her peculiar northeast coast accent, a cross between West Country English and the ancient Saxon language, a sort of cultural lag from the time her family was resettled from Ringwood, County Hampshire, UK, way back in 46, 1846 that is. The accent has become more pronounced lately. What with the debate about the bottomless pit of government debt and shutting down whole communities, she has begun pining for the outports.

As is my custom, I arose from fitful slumber at 7 am just as the sun was peeking over Mt. Scio, eager to catch up on all the stirring events that must have happened overnight. I had no sooner fired up my old 2006 steam-powered Toshiba laptop when the relentless nightmares from the last 12 hours came at me like thunderbolts.

CNN, NBC, The BBC, and CBC are my usual targets as I surf through cyberspace in an effort to confirm my continued existence in this dangerous world.

It's the usual fare: "Short and fat' Kim Jong-un, Dear Leader of North Korea trades personal insults with the 'old lunatic' Donald Trump, Dear Leader of the USA. It would be a joke except they have their fingers on the nuclear trigger.

"We'll all be blown to hell someday," Father used to say whenever he tuned into the CBC Radio news during the Cold War, "so it's best not to worry about it."

That kind of down-to-earth advice was what led Marsha Linehan, the noted American psychologist, to state that accepting reality is the only way out of hell. But Marsha also warned that the path out of hell was through misery--not much to look forward to in the next few years of Dear Leader Duh-wite and his Brighter Tomorrow.

The BBC has a story about the disappearing South Pole ice sheet. (For some reason it reminds me of the former minister of finance and a few Liberal hacks who have vanished into thin air in the past six months.)

A catastrophic rise in sea levels will wipe out our coastal cities, warns the reporter.

The melting glaciers in Greenland will worsen the calamity. The thought occurs to me that pretty soon the only evidence that the city of St. John's existed will be that little beacon at the very top of Confederation Building sticking out of the ocean. (Like the glow of good brandy, a warm feeling of intense pleasure rushes through my body.)

Goodbye and good riddance to that ugly bronze statue of John Cabot covered in sea lice and green crabs 35 fathoms down on the lawn. I mean, here's this guy who crossed the ocean in 1497 with that no-good son of his, Sebastian. They bumped into a foggy, dreary New-Founde-Land and went back to tell a whopper of a story to King Henry that it was an ideal place to resettle all of us peasants who were cluttering up the countryside. Couldn't those two silly buggers have discovered a tropical island instead?

Memo to self: Have to plan my escape to the Annieopsquotch Mountains. Wondering if spouse will go along with it. Too many Nalcor towers, she'll probably say.

The threats to my general well-being, of course, are not limited to rises in ocean levels nor to foreign leaders engaging in juvenile personal insults.

CBC is carrying a special rebroadcast of last night's newscast. The lead story is about an alarming rise in levels of 'food insecurity' amongst a large proportion of the Newfoundland and Labrador population. Someone from the government talks about ameliorating deprivation and pursuing mutually constructive conversations with low-income earners.

I assume it all means that a lot of people are starving to death and I think of Winnie the Pooh. "It's more fun to talk with someone who doesn't use long, difficult words but rather short easy words like "what about lunch?" said Pooh.

Then the second big story: Dear Leader, Duh-wite, with fake outrage and faux sincerity dripping down his chin, is announcing a special multi-million dollar inquiry on Muskrat Falls to tell everyone in Newfoundland and Labrador what they already know, that he voted for it, that it was a right cock-up, an incredible boondoggle, a colossal clanger of massive magnitude.

All of this he announces at a Liberal fund-raising dinner at the Convention Centre in St. John's as the guests tuck into $500 plates of farmed smoked salmon from Placentia Bay, duck confit from Paris, and Tiramisu from Italy, all washed down with copious amounts of Beaujolais Nouveau. The dinner has been hurriedly arranged to suckle the drooling business and legal elite of the province who stand to gain lucrative contracts from the whole charade. They are now lining up to enrich themselves at taxpayer expense as in the reign of He-Who-Is-Without-Sin.

I engage in a blasphemous conversation with my computer.

"Liberal hacks are lining up to loot the treasury," I shout. "The rural library study will be peanuts compared to this. I bet EY has been in touch with Dr. Dale (He's not a real doctor) Kirby already."

I can't take it anymore so I switch to a rerun of NTV news. Not a smart move.

I catch their lead story which features a formula to calculate my power bill in 2019--when Dear Leader pulls the switch for Muskrat Falls. I grab my calculator: A 208% increase over my 2017 electrical bill. Shocking.

I am being sucked into a whirlpool of deepening dark despair before the day has even dawned.

"Don't let it get to you," said spouse. She'd just returned from The Land of Nod as I was well into my early morning rant about the poor quality of Tim's leftover coffee grounds and the sorry state of the universe.

Her advice is all well and good, of course, except that whenever I make a new resolution to practice positive thinking, more dreadful demons/politicians materialize and smash down my doors. Then Pooh and Eeyore begin a wrestling match inside my brain.

But there is hope. Gwyneth Paltrow is offering a negatively charged copper ionized stress ball on her website for $200, guaranteed to stimulate anger detox and suck all that negative energy out of my system.

"I have an idea," said spouse. "We could make a tidy sum from that inquiry if we dressed ourselves up as consultants for those plunged into poverty by Muskrat Falls."

"You just might have something there," I said. "I'll get in touch with them right away. We're going to be raking in the dough on this one."

"While you're at it," she said, "order that St. Laurent Satin-Trimmed Wool-Pique Tuxedo Blazer for me for Christmas along with your stress ball. It's only $3500 and I want to feel like somebody for a change when you take me out to Mary Browns to celebrate.

 

Blue Days

 

If it sounds a little wintry, you'll have to understand

-song by Jessie Winchester

 

Spouse thought that my being down in the dumps lately was caused entirely by the slow but inevitable descent into the mini ice-age we call winter in this part of the world. I remarked that Sir Cavendish Boyle who wrote that song about loving a place with blinding storms fretting our shores and wild waves lashing our strand must have been a complete masochist.

"I think he wrote The Ode to Newfoundland out of spite," I said. "After all, he was born in Barbados."

"But there is one line about sunrays crowning our pine-clad hills," said spouse.

"Jack Frost is dancing with glee," I said.

With all the burdensome taxes on fuel oil and electricity (not to mention books), spouse and I face the challenge of keeping the thermostat above zero. We will spend most of the next eight months of 'shortened day and starlit nights' at the Avalon Mall.

To compound our misery, the online news sites and even some national papers have taken to kicking us while we are down. 'Newfoundland sinking to a new low,' crowed The Globe And Mail. Bankruptcy is staring the Rock in the face warned a professor from Carlton University.

Broke, and freezing to death is not a good combination.

Then the government's go-to economist, Dr. Wade Locke, chimed in. "The unemployment rate is soaring, young people are leaving in droves. The population is shrinking...debt is high. Muskrat Falls is a massive problem," he said. "On top of that, people in the province are older and sicker than anywhere in the country."

"The Liberal Party's better tomorrow looks worse than the PC Party's shitty yesterday," I said to spouse. "I think it's all a conspiracy against old people and baymen. They want us to feel 'have not' and then we'll be no more, just like Brian Peckford said."

"I don't think our Brian said those exact words," she said. "Someday the sun will shine," is what he said."

"And that's why he retired to BC," I said.

Since we moved from the outports, we have adopted some ingenious strategies to survive in the big city. Spouse and I have discovered for example that sometimes used coffee grounds are actually an improvement over the fresh stuff. Just yesterday, I snuck behind the Tims over on Torbay Road and retrieved a garbage bag of used coffee dregs which I took home and meticulously dried for winter brewing. The odd poached Mallard from Mundy pond sometimes graces our table as well.

Yesterday morning as we sat at our collapsible kitchen table sipping our recycled coffee, spouse again expressed concern about my mental state.

"You have to focus more on the positive," she suggested.

I knew immediately that something was up.

"Maybe you ought to apply for that new job in Dear Leader's office," she said. "They probably haven't read any of that bad stuff you said about them. Besides, it would rid your mind of all those dark thoughts and put your creative side to good use."

She was referring to an advertisement in the job's section of the Telegram. Needed: A political assistant to add detail to Dear Leader's brilliant plan 'The Way Forward.' Are you an optimist, inquired the banner ad. Can you blue-sky the future? Are you a dyed-in-the-wool Liberal or an NDP opportunist? Then this job is for you. Serious applicants only. 

"But I am a political agnostic," I said with my nose in the air. "I won't stoop to being a petty political hack. But then...on second thought...it pays a decent wage...and there's a full pension after one year. ...and who knows how many rogues are out there who might want to pad my pockets with cash to get an in with Dear Leader. I might even need to open a secret tax-free account in Trinidad just like Bono and the Queen."

"You see what I mean. The position has you written all over it. All you have to do is wave your magic wand," she said with a hint of sarcasm.

Like Muskrat Falls in flood time, a torrent of creative ideas cascaded through my mind as I pondered the possibilities.

In line with The Way Forward, I would start with an ambitious project, a model, if you will, for elders like myself. I would then expand to other areas of our fair land. Money would be no object. I would market the idea as a public-private partnership just like the Corner Brook health care center. Dr. Dale's buddies at EY would drool over it.

I sat down with pen in hand.

Notes for my plan:

--begin with a pilot project in St. John's. Danny Breen, the new mayor, would have to be brought on board. He controls the city council secret slush fund he used to bankroll our dearly departed professional hockey team owned by He-Who-Is-Without-Sin (Williams).

--advance a plan to create an adventure park for seniors in the ample space recently vacated by bankrupt Sears in the Avalon Mall - a Disneyland for the deprived.

--Temporary name: Avalon Escapades. Featuring:

--interactive rides through the twilight zone of Confederation Building: Construct a model of the building.

--in the lobby, surround sound video of the life of Dear Leader, Duh-wite, his heroic childhood going to kindergarten in Deer Lake, getting knocked down by bullies, getting right back up again (his 'true' story). Drama. --segue to the present--a premier, with no idea who he is or what he is doing, finds himself in an eerily empty province. Lonely calls of loons as the film fades...

Audience moves to next venue:

--the Department of Finance Chamber of Horrors: the mysterious disappearance of Cathy Bennett, Minister of Finance. Is she a prisoner in the bowels of the dark castle on the hill? Is Big Eddie involved? And why does Solemn Tom, the new minister, have such a sad face? Is he next??? Terrified shrieks echo through the corridors.

Next attraction:

--Finding Codfather, a submarine voyage through the future Placentia Bay dead zone created by the Grieg Sea Farms mega project, complete with barren seascapes and ghoulish Frankenfish, covered in sea lice, peeking through the portholes. --narrated by Double-Dipper Byrne.

In the main theatre:

--a 3D musical entitled Kill the Outports starring Molly from Mount Pearl, soundtrack by CBC, and cameos from all the cabinet ministers dressed as pirates with eye patches and pantaloons. They do a rendition of Yo Ho (A Pirate's life for me). "We extort, we pilfer, we filch, and sack," shout the pirates (cabinet ministers). -filmed on the deck of the MV Veteran at its permanent location on drydock in St. John's.

Next feature:

-- a scale model of the Muskrat Falls boondoggle complete with scenes of the entire population of NL in rags, trudging through the snow towards a bleak horizon-- a giant image of He-Who-Is-Without-Sin overlooks sad scene. -- a heaven-like panorama of Galway Development emerges from clouds.

I'd better run some of this by spouse before I start blue-skying my plan for the outports, I thought.

"It's ok," she said, patting my head gently. "Now, get your jacket on and let's go to that appointment with Dr. Freud."

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