Eric Colbourne

Shape-shifting Demons, and Salmon for Supper


The Virginia River trail snakes back and forth through woodland, marsh, and urban sprawl, in a slow climb from placid Quidi Vidi Lake to the height of land beyond the Waters. At the far end of the ancient path, on a gentle hillside, I finally spotted the elusive Hamamelis virginiana alias witch-hazel which I had stalked for many moons on my quest for a magic wand.

I surveyed the branches and settled on one of precisely nineteen and one-half inches in length. "Touch it not otherwise than with your eyes," said a voice inside my head. "Let it stay till next morning when you must cut it absolutely at the moment when the sun rises."

Damn, I thought. I have to walk all this distance again tomorrow in the darkness and ground fog of early morning St. John's enduring the fried chicken smells of Mary Browns all along the way.

At Daybreak, I headed back down the trail towards home, eager to return to the welcoming arms of better-half.

The faint smell of a campfire wafted on the still morning air. Absolute silence reigned in the forest glades. Not even the few winged creatures left in the city were yet singing in the treetops. Solitude and serenity, I thought. And then, while in deep contemplation and dark ruminations about Dear Leader, I felt a light tap on my right shoulder, at which point I shot like a rocket into the forest canopy and came back to earth speaking fluent Gaelic.

"We didn't mean to startle you, friend," said a weak voice that I recognized as RS from MP.

"We apologize," said his gaunt looking friend whom I recognized as the ex-senior civil servant cast out into the Liberal wilderness by Premier Duh-wite a few months back. "I can help you sue the government," he offered.

"We just want to know if they still remember us," said RS from MP.

"Big Eddie said he would strangle us if we ever came back," said the gaunt one.

"I'll strangle you myself if you ever frighten me again," I shouted in a mixture of high pitched Gaelic and Southern Shore faux Irish.

They ran from me in terror.

"Tell everybody we'll be back by winter," cried the gaunt one over his shoulder as they scurried into the undergrowth.

I arrived home after many such harrowing encounters at around 7.45 am, tired and hungry after my four-hour journey. The smell of yesterday's coffee heating in the microwave assailed my nostrils as I opened the door of our humble abode. Spouse's face betrayed her concern for my well-being and sanity.

"I just phoned the Constabulary and asked them to mount a search and rescue mission," she said. "They told me that a suspicious character fitting your description was reported on Circular Road early this morning. They might want to talk to you."

"I don't talk to the Constabulary," I said. "They work for the government."

"You are getting more and more paranoid every day," she said as she switched on the morning show on CBC radio.

"I think they're trying to poison us to death," I said.

Just then, CBC's Terry Roberts broke in on the 8 am update with a breaking news item on infectious salmon anemia (ISA), a deadly disease attacking the salmon farms on the south coast. It causes the salmon to sweat blood. He was interviewing Gerry 'Double Dipper' Byrne, Minister of Fisheries and Land Resources.

"I thought he was minister of laborers," I said to spouse.

"I forgot to tell you," she said. "They all shape-shifted last night. Big Eddie is now Minister of Environmental Destruction, Crocker is Minister of Ferries, Al 'The Pirate' Hawkins is..."

She went through the list. 

"What about Cathy Bennett?" I asked with an air of sympathetic concern.

"She's been disappeared by Dear Leader," said spouse. "Replaced by 'Solemn Tom' Osborne."

"All shape-shifted...all shape-shifted," I murmured morosely, thinking of the dire consequences.

"Apparently they can turn into anything they want," she said.

"But only demons can shape-shift," I said.

"Apparently politicians too," she said. "Some have turned themselves into repulsive rat-faced rodents."

"Don't get carried away," I said.

We turned our attention to the interview. 

"We've slapped a quarantine order on the salmon farms," said Byrne. "But that's just a marketing and precautionary move by the company. the fish are being harvested and sold to consumers. No need to even label it. You can pick it up at Dominion right now, on special. Eat away at it. Have it for every meal. There are no health risks to humans. The virus is naturally occurring, in fact, we think the wild salmon are to blame."

He sounded like a used car salesman selling a death-trap 1961 Corvair.

"We should dart over to Dominion and get some of that superb salmon for supper. I'll boil it with some of them nice dandelion roots I dug up in the ditch up the street," said spouse.

"But it's infected with ISA," I protested, "and it's bleeding through the skin."

"Mr. Byrne said that the virus is all natural," countered spouse.

"So is the bubonic plague in Madagascar," I said.

The Ghost of Sir Thomas Cochrane: Part Two



                                                   Government House, St. John's, built by Sir Thomas Cochrane






The Ghost of Sir Thomas Cochrane


Summers are known to be fleeting in this neck of the woods. Often, well into August, balmy temperatures hide amongst the palm trees of the equatorial Southlands, too timid to challenge the nor'easters buffeting our strand.

Seasonal pursuits are best not delayed. So it was that I sprung out of bed and hurriedly donned my threadbare attire for the great quest, leaving spouse to pursue her own adventures in dreamland.

I tucked a copy of Mack's Field Guide To Demons into my backpack just in case I encountered one of the supernatural beings which have been running rampant over our pine-clad hills since the last election. Identifying these malevolent spirits is the first step in defeating them.

Before departing, I sprayed myself (liberally) with Gwyneth Paltrow's 'Psychic Vampire Repellent' (PVR)--a noxious mixture of special elixirs, apple cider vinegar, charged crystal chips, and sonically tuned reverse osmosis water, which I had recently purchased on-line from Gwyneth's Goop site. For a king's ransom, I might add.

The PVR mist will protect my aura from political vampires who, in biblical terms, might lurk privily to extract the last drops of my fading financial life-blood.

Outside, the unkindness of ravens had gone silent. A dense pea-souper, like an enormous eiderdown duvet, had crept in through the Narrows to settle over the city and stick to the sidewalks. Schools of codfish chased shoals of herring along Duckworth Street. A pod of pilot whales flipped through the parking lot at Sobeys on Merrymeeting Road. A sultry mermaid waved her tail and beckoned suggestively from the Basilica steps. I averted my eyes and continued down Bonaventure Avenue.

Beware the Ides of March



On a dark and stormy night three months ago, a disembodied voice, like a witch's cackle, came from out of the gloom as I peeked outside our humble abode in the city. It seemed to say, "beware the Ides of March," but I couldn't be sure as my senses were somewhat numbed by the shot of raspberry screech which I always imbibe as a natural sleep aid just before retiring for the night--this was, of course, before Dear Leader Duh-wite's divine inspiration to raise the tax on iceberg ice by 2500%, thereby threatening the supply of my favourite medicinal drink.


     Lately, as you may have noticed, blinding storm gusts and wild waves have continuously lashed our strand, frustrating my good intentions to unleash the full force of the black arts on the Liberal demons in the dark castle on the hill. The past 100 desperate days of March have dragged their glacial chills into June. A mini ice-age had gripped our wind-swept land, thus ensuring the cancellation of April showers and May flowers.


     Eternal March! Very bad! I tweeted.


     The Donald (Trump) rubbed salt into the wound ...Your PM believes in climate change. Turn icebergs into water! Tax that! he tweeted from #realdonaldtrump at two in the morning. I get such tweets all the time from mini-Trumps in Confederation Building.


     We've got our eye on you, tweeted Big Eddie recently. We've just disappeared Bern Coffey and Randy Simms (RS from MP-HaHa)! Beware! He posted ominously from #realbigeddie. How about we stuff you down a crevasse on the South Side Hills, he tweeted just last week.


     Big Eddie was referring of course, to a recent report that scientists at the University had observed the formation of glaciers on the hills overlooking the harbor as well as another ice sheet covering the Bally Haly Golf Course. All of this has hindered my pursuit of the elusive Hamamelis virginiana, alias witch-hazel. Being in winter slumber, the tree is without its identifying leaves making it impossible to distinguish the witch-hazel from the common white birch. Unfortunately, I was forced to temporarily abandon my quest for a magic wand. 


     That did not mean I had abandoned the cause. Just two weeks ago, through various secret spells chanted over several bottles of Fifty Shades of Bay, I cast a very effective curse on the Liberal Party. Their poll numbers immediately took a nose-dive. Dear Leader, Duh-wite emerged once again as the most reviled premier in the entire country. "The whole gang is fading into oblivion," I shouted joyously to better-half.


     "Double, double, toil and trouble," she observed sarcastically. 


     But, I knew this success might be fleeting as voters are always susceptible to political skulduggery. I would likely have to bring out the big guns later on, when, and if, summer came.


     Lest I seem too pessimistic, summer made a dead-of-night appearance just a few days ago.


     I remember it clearly. It was precisely 3.46 am when I awoke in my fleece-lined underwear. The burlap quilt covering better-half and I, felt as warm and cozy as eiderdown. The chill of the bedroom had softened. An expectant silence reigned over the city. Suddenly, an unkindness of raucous Ravens began a riotous party up on Ridge Road. What were they celebrating, I wondered. Were they laughing at city council's new strategy to outwit them on garbage day?


     Then, continuous soft moaning sounds, like the siren calls of the mermaids off Maddox Cove, rose and fell from the twisted window sill above by head. I shook off the night vapours, assuming at first that better-half was whispering in my ear. Her peaceful snoring soon put that fantasy to rest. At that moment, I realized it was a mild southerly breeze whistling around the broken sash, reminding me of the melodies of the trade winds and the drowsy afternoon torpor of the tepid tropics.


     "Wake up!" I shouted to spouse. "Summer arrived four minutes ago. I must be off to Virginia Waters to search for the wily witch-hazel."


     Now, I know you are losing it," she said. "Go back to sleep. I'll phone your psychiatrist in the morning."




Sweet Spring



In my dream, I was skipping through Pat Murphy's Meadow 'in the sunny long ago' out by Torbay. The heat of the early morning sun sent me into an ecstasy of song as better-half waltzed towards me through the dandelions. She wore a bright yellow dress just like in The Sound of Music. We sang in bluegrass harmony the old ee cummings tune:

sweet spring is your

time is my time is our

time for springtime is lovetime

and viva sweet love


     Such were my bright and cheerful thoughts as I awoke sharply at 5 am to greet the new day. I shook off the drowsy vapors of the dream world and looked out over the slumbering city. Off in the distance, I heard a few gunshots as some desperate citizens down in the Waterford Valley harvested waterfowl and plump pigeons for the dinner table. Probably some of those civil servants laid off by Dear leader so he could make room for Liberal hacks, I thought.


     I am an eternal optimist despite spouse's advice of the night before that I should stop thinking about the purgatory between winter and summer, and the torment visited upon the toiling masses by their government. "You may not have your Raspberry Screech," she said, "but you have several bottles of Fifty Shades of Bay. So what, if they charge 2500% tax on iceberg ice."


     Alas, as I gaze out the window, sweet spring is nowhere in sight. A glowering grey blanket of sky, propped up by Signal Hill and Mt. Scio, hangs precariously over the city and sags down over the harbour like an old soiled mattress without springs. Ships and fishing boats stay locked in the safety of the ice fields just outside the narrows, unable to punch through the thick sheet of freezing drizzle at the entrance.


     The only bright spot in the entire metro area is a red glow coming off the dark castle on the hill--a sick joke perpetrated by Dear Leader Duh-wyte to show his support for the ailing, the lame, and the infirm, after Dr. (I'm a real doctor) Hagee, Minister of Seniors' Warehousing and the Disabled, has taken his scalpel to the health corporations of the province.


     "Don't get sick, believe me," I tweeted, before digging into my bowl of cold breakfast gruel.


     I switched on our 1960 black and white Motorola television set, recently acquired from the Thrift Shop over on Kenmount and tuned to the people's network. A picture of Bern Coffey, looking like the evil wizard, Lord Valdemort, of Harry Potter fame, is shown scurrying into his office on Water Street, pursued by the fake media, as the Donald would say. Apparently, his $183,000 salary as chief public servant is insufficient so he moonlighted by helping others sue the government that he works for. Nice. Dear Leader makes an appearance to defend his decision to hire the loathsome Liberal bagman. 


     "Very poor decision." I tweeted. "Bad."


          Better-half is resting comfortably on the straw mattress upstairs, snoring contentedly in her St. John's accent. I take the opportunity to secretly upgrade my knowledge of the spirit world. Such wisdom has become somewhat rusty in the last fifty years after I turned to other pursuits after departing the ancestral home. The island where I was born fairly reeked of spirits, fairies, witches, hags and imps. I remember on many occasions having to shush them away when wandering in the forest glades. Now that I need them to put spells on Dear Leader Duh-wyte and his Liberal gang, they are nowhere to be found.


     My attention is drawn to the Black Arts book lying on the five-gallon plastic tub which serves as a coffee table in our humble abode. The book mysteriously opens to page 3.


     "Witchcraft," the author states, "is the study of how to harness energies as well as how to unleash the powers within. With the right tools and a little practice, the words in this tome will allow you to channel aspects of the spirit world that are beyond the common man or woman to even understand.


     Sounds like something my grandmother would have said.


     Then the page turns by itself, as if by an unseen hand. As everyone knows the indispensable tool of the wizard or witch is a magic wand. Fortunately, these are fairly easy to come by if you are the adventurous type and prone to early morning activity.


     "You must find a rod of wild witch-hazel which has never borne fruit; its length must be nineteen and one-half inches," the author instructs.


     Where to find such flora in our fair land, I am thinking. Then my gardener knowledge kicks in. It is, of course, Hamamelis Virginiana, and tends to grow on the eastern slopes in order to catch the first rays of the rising sun. Curiously, it is also known as winterbloom because it blooms in January and February--no mean feat considering the rigors of the Newfoundland winter.


     "When you have met with the wand of the required form, touch it nor otherwise than with your eyes; let it stay till next morning, when you must cut it absolutely at the moment when the sun rises, using an enchanted knife, if possible"--which might be a problem but the 'if possible' part seems to indicate that I might get away with using an ordinary splitting knife given to me by my late father who used it for cutting the sound bones from cod.


     While I am deep in such thoughts, spouse skips down the rickety stairs to inform me that spring must be just around the corner. "I've just had a dream," she said, that you and I were dancing and singing through Pat Murphy's Meadow 'in the sunny long ago' out by Torbay. I was wearing a bright yellow dress, just like in The Sound of Music. We sang that ee cummings song in two-part harmony."


     This was definitely a good omen.

Black Magic


April has been a tough month in this wind-swept land. Just when you think you have turned a corner to a sunny springtime, a frigid windy stench emanates from the seat of the Liberal government and in the words of poet, Robert Frost, you are two months back in the middle of March.

     The month started with two significant stories making Canadian headlines on the CBC National at 9.30 pm, just as spouse and I were ready to retire to our straw mattresses for the night. I had just finished my third nightcap of bog rosemary tea with a liberal splash of Raspberry Screech when we were transfixed by the breaking news.

     The first story, out of St. John's and Twillingate, Newfoundland, posed a personal and immediate shock to my system and a dire threat to my psychological well-being. The Auk Island Winery, a thriving small business in Twillingate, had been advised by Dear Leader Duh-wite that henceforth the fee for harvesting iceberg ice for use in wine and liquor production would increase by 2500% over the previous year. The new levy would be retroactive to 2016. Famous brands like my Raspberry Screech would be discontinued, as a result, said the owner.

     The danger dawned like a dark demon. I had hoarded just two bottles of the stuff, confident of a never-ending supply at the Newfoundland Liquor Corporation store over on Kelsey Boulevard. "Get my snowshoes and my caribou skin parka," I shouted at spouse. "I must get to the liquor store immediately."

     "Don't be a fool," she said, in her soothing voice. "The store is closed for the night and there's a raging blizzard outside. And another thing, you made soup out of your caribou skin parka. Lord protect us," she intoned, looking towards the heavens. "The man's going bonkers."

     I immediately understood her logic and whipped out my mobile device. "2500% tax on iceberg ice," I tweeted. "The balls of the man. A disgrace. Sad!!!"

     Peter Mansbridge followed up with a more riveting report--a disturbing story in all the major papers that a psychic operating out of Toronto, Master Raghav, had been arrested for "pretending" to practice witchcraft. He had allegedly conned a father of four out of $101,000 in return for promising to free the family from the clutches of an evil spirit. The criminal code is quite clear on this: Anyone who pretends to exercise or to use any kind of witchcraft, sorcery, enchantment, or conjuration, is guilty of an offense punishable by up to six months in prison.

     Spouse wondered how anyone could fall for such a swindler. She searched my face looking for unqualified support for her opinion. I tried to look away with a casual air of nonchalance but she has this curious ability to read my mind. She must have sensed the wheels spinning inside my brain.

     "Don't even think about it," she said. "There will be no witchcraft in this house."

     As most people are aware, I come from a long line of conjurers, sorcerers, wizards, witches, and enchanters. My grandmother and her sister, Lucy-Mae, were both on friendly terms with the fairies and subsequently were both granted the gift of second sight by these magical creatures. Second sight, of course, is the ability to foresee the future, and alter events as necessary, a rare talent indeed, especially if you wish to cast spells on politicians.


The Winter of My Discontent





For the most optimistic amongst us, winter has waned but in the words of the eloquent Sarah Palin, it still rears its head in our airspace from time to time. Nevertheless, it has been a glorious eight months of snow, bitter cold, and savage hurricanes during which the political class has, for the most part, taken to their lairs beneath Confederation Building and left us alone in our misery and misfortune. Not a peep from any of them for months (except for Dr. Dale threatening to disembowel himself). Thank God for small mercies.

     Yes, this winter has been an especially cruel season, made worse by the cold-blooded politicians intent on sucking every last dollar from its starving citizenry. Jack Frost has been at his most vindictive towards seniors like ourselves. The pleasures of a sunny week of banana daiquiris and burnt flesh in the equatorial regions have now become a wishful fantasy.

     With the criminally high gas tax, we can't afford even a day trip to the Avalon Mall, a few blocks away, where we spent so many happy winter days during the reign of He-Who-Is-Without-Sin Danny. So, here we sit in our frozen living room, wrapped in caribou skin parkas, yearning for those lazy hazy two days of summer in the doldrums of August.

     A week ago, though, in a rare one-day respite between blizzards, I set out to replenish our bare pantry. I parked my dilapidated 2002 Toyota Corolla on the Dominion parking lot up on Blackmarsh Road to scrounge for food in the large garbage bins behind the store--one can stretch the mediocre senior's income supplement to untold heights of luxury with a little initiative.

     I have also been researching on the internet, certain methods of sucking power from the Newfoundland Hydro transformer in our backyard. Better-half, who is blessed with more Christain tendencies, refuses to engage in such practices despite my warning that we may wind up as street people on Duckworth.

     Such furtive activity is not without risk, as I recently learned to my great chagrin. I was congratulating myself on my latest midnight sojourn to Dominion when, on returning to my vehicular transport, laden with buckets of beef bones, Maple Leaf baloney bits, and unopened bags of Robin Hood flour, I noticed two individuals dressed in black, attacking the front end of my Toyota. They ran off as I approached but I could clearly identify one individual as tall and lanky, just like Jimmy Stewart with a large chin. The other screamed obscenities liberally like a demented librarian.

     I suspected immediately that they must be government undercover operatives, intent on my destruction. How did they know my location, I wondered. And then the realization that they must have tapped my wires. Sad (or sick) people!

     On my return to our modest dwelling, I related the entire sorry episode to better-half, pointing to the mangled fender of my Toyota as proof. "They're out to get me," I said.

     " And just who do you think 'they' are?" she responded.

     "They are the ones who are out to get me," I said.

     I suspected she had read Catch 22.

     With her unalterable faith in the goodness of humanity, she allowed that I had made up the whole story and perhaps I needed psychiatric care. Be that as it may. She then cheered me up with the latest political fodder from the CBC evening news.

     There was an update on the whereabouts of the fake premier and his phony cabinet ministers. Last week, Duh-wite was spotted in West Palm Beach--golfing with Trump.

     "Worst premier in history (golfer also)," tweeted Trump. "Sad! Go back to Bally Haley."

     She then told me that RS from MP had left a message on my iPhone: "Where the hell have you been?" he said. "I thought they'd vaporized you for sure this time. I've been trying to reach you for months. I can't say much. Big Eddie is on my tail all the time. A big scandal is brewing. Some members of cabinet have spent their free time attending 'industry' conferences in exotic places like Beijing, Mexico City, and Oslo, Norway, at taxpayer expense. Eat your heart out, you poor bugger. High flyers like Codfish Crocker, Double Dipper Byrne, and Al (The Pirate) Hawkins racked up, between them, over $100,000 in travel in the last six months of 2016."

     The great Will Rogers once made an observation on the high cost of politicians traveling overseas. "It might be worth it," he said, "except they keep coming back."



Kirby Hatches the Egg: With Apologies to Dr. Seuss




I now know what Dr. Dale, Minister of Illiteracy, has been reading all those years in preparation for his ascendancy as First Lord of Education in our wind-swept land. The tell-tale hint came several years back when a rumour swept through these pine-clad hills that the community library in Lord's Cove had issued an all-points bulletin for the return of its vintage copy of Horton Hatches the Egg by Dr. Seuss. The book had gone missing under suspicious circumstances. The prime suspect in the caper was one D. Kirby last seen in the company of shadowy NDPers and shady Liberals.

    Far be it from me (as better-half can attest) to ridicule anyone who has a bosom relationship with Dr. Seuss. During the holiday season, I have been known to repeatedly watch the film version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas, as a strategy for getting in the festive mood. (One man's toxic sludge, is another's man's potpourri.)

     Even the Trumps are getting in on the act. Just last night, a clip on the people's enemy, CNN, showed Melania Trump reading Oh the Places You'll Go to a group of children in the pediatric wing of New York Presbyterian Hospital. I had difficulty with the accent but heard distinctly: You'll get all hung up/In a prickly perch/And your gang will fly on/You'll be left in the lurch. Sad!

     Political abuse of Dr. Seuss. I'm mad, bigly, and I'm not going to take it anymore!

     Since better-half was away, I immediately cracked open a bottle of raspberry screech. "Make Newfoundland and Labrador great again," I said, as I toasted my imaginary audience.

     After further liquid inspiration, I re-enacted The Cat in the Hat in the middle of the living room. When better-half returned around midnight, from visiting the neighbours, the wiggling goldfish on the carpet were a dead giveaway.

     Before I get too carried away, I must inform one and all that just last week in the People's House of Newfoundland and Labrador, Dr. Dale raised his posterior from his comfortable cushioned commode to respond eloquently to a query from Hon. David Brasil, Tory MHA for Conception Bay East-Bell Island.

     Brasil wanted to know if it was still the minister's intention to end his mortal existence by leaping to his demise from the top of Confederation Building and impaling himself on the flagpole below, just as he had promised a week earlier.

     Dr. Dale had pledged at the time that any further teacher cuts would be over his dead body.

     After many muddled and mystifying words about task forces, comprehensive education plans, and the mangle left by the Tories, the minister of illiteracy responded directly to Mr. Brasil's question: "I said what I meant. And I meant what I said," thereby muddying the issue even further.

     Unless of course, you are a disciple of Dr. Seuss. Then it's all very transparent--as Dear Leader, Duh-wite, is fond of saying.

     You probably remember the lines from Horton Hatches the Egg. Horton, the elephant, agrees, after some sweet-talking by Maysie, the bird, to sit on her egg while she gallivants away to enjoy the sunshine, way off in Palm Beach. Despite misfortunes and distress, Horton remains steadfastly on the egg. In the face of every calamity, he renews his pledge:

     "I said what I meant. And I meant what I said./An elephant's loyal, one-hundred percent."

     Aside from the issue of stealing material from Dr, Seuss, the line that Dr. Dale didn't repeat is most significant.

     By the way, Dear Leader, Duh-wite, was recently spotted enjoying the sunshine in West Palm Beach. Coincidence? I think not.



Over My Dead Body



Rarely is the question asked: Is our children learning?       ...George W. Bush



While not a great fan of George W., I have always admired his folksy charm and his ability to mangle the English language. I always forgave his faults and his 'wits and wisdoms' because at the very least he hated exorbitant taxes. For that one reason we became soulmates. "Not over my dead body, will they raise your taxes," he once said. I was reminded of that puzzling statement today.

     Unless you've been sleeping, it's been another one of those weeks of inspiring commentary from Dear Leader, Duh-wite, and the forsaken posse at Confederation Building:

     The Minister of Spawny Capelin, Steve Crocker, outlined his vision for turning the pine-clad hills of Newfoundland and Labrador into an endless expanse of rolling farmland--a vision replete with idyllic green fields of watermelon, vast orchards of mango trees, and meadows filled with contented cows. Agriculture dominates the soilless expanse all the way from Cape Chidley in northern Labrador to Cape Spear in the frigid north Atlantic, with nary a rock or a bog in between. The smell of pig manure is so strong that the House of Assembly can only sit when wild northeasterlies blow the stench out to sea.

     Later in the week, Dear Leader, himself, denied once again having any knowledge of the Muskrat Falls boondoogle and the state of the economy before his election. In an act of self-pardon, he also denied any responsibility for costing the taxpayers an additional six million for Ed Martin's severance package. Alternative facts indeed.

     But the award for absurdity this week must go to Dr. (He's not a real doctor) Dale Kirby, Minister of Illiteracy, who emerged from underneath the boulders that prop up Confederation Building to make an appearance at a Kindergarten class in St. John's. A press photo has him showing the disinterested girls and boys some pages from his favorite coloring book. His earnest demeanor, for me, was a paradox.

     The photo absolutely intrigued me.

     I stayed awake all night, studying the picture intently. With the help of some bog rosemary tea laced with liberal splashes of raspberry screech, I tried to divine the hidden intent behind the inscrutable face.

     He looked not at the children but at the door as if readying an escape route should an irate librarian waving a slimy sculpin suddenly appear out of nowhere. His beady eyes betrayed that far-away look of someone contemplating a glorious future--replacing Dear Leader perhaps, or maybe morphing into the Donald Trump of Newfoundland. Believe me.

     Then again, it might just have been a flicker of conscience awakened by nostalgia for his tranquil days as an obscure member of the NDP, labouring in the drowsy afternoon haze of the House of Assembly listening to the dreary dronings of Lorraine Michael.

     Then it occurs to me that he is thinking about how fortunate he is to be hauling in a cool half million from the taxpayers every four years. How many bottles of 1941 Inglenook Cabernet Sauvignon is that? He wonders.


     Such were my thoughts, until Better-half found me slumped over the coffee table in the morning, with the rich vapors of raspberry screech wafting through the living room.


     The melodic voice of Dr. Dale fills the airwaves as she shakes me awake. Anthony Germain, the CBC host, is asking the Minister of Illiteracy about the massacre of public servants announced by Dear Leader the previous day.


     Dr. Dale announces that he will not stand for any more teacher cuts. "Over my dead body," he shouts into the microphone, and then the caveat: "but I will not resign."


     What does it mean? I rush for my copy of the Urban Dictionary.


     Definition: Over my dead body: A verbal objection to a proposed action, claiming that the speaker is willing to fight with every ounce of his life to prevent the action.


     I shout with glee and dance on top of the coffee table. At long last, we have a working-class hero who is willing to die for his beliefs. Now, there will be blood on the cabinet room floor. The whole Liberal gang will go at each other with pitchforks and broken Black Horse beer bottles. They'll all be found stone dead by the constabulary in the morning. There will have to be a coalition of the Tories and the NDP.


     My reverie was rudely interrupted.


     Better-half reminds me that Dr. Dale, as an afterthought, said that he would not be resigning. I have plunged once again into the dark depths of despair. There will be no cadavers in Confederation Building, after all.


     And then, later in the afternoon after Dear Leader has a heart to heart with Dr. Dale, there is a clarification. It seems Dr. Dale has misspoke. He didn't mean to say what they said he said. His comments were misunderstood by the entire English-speaking world and the fake-news press who are the enemies of the people. He believes in the little children. He believes in Dear Leader. He believes the Liberal Government is on a mission from God.


     I remain in my sea of gloom.


     George W. Bush found himself in Dr. Dale's position in a 2001 meeting with the press in Rome. "I know what I believe. I will continue to articulate what I believe and what I believe--I believe what I believe is right."


     "I don't have the slightest idea what I was saying," George said later.




Rage, Rage, Against the Dying of the Light...


The thermostat registered five degrees Celsius in the house--an attempt by Better-half and I to save on electricity and tax rates and to experiment with energy conservation to see if we can survive the highway robbery that's coming when Dear Leader, Duh-wite, throws the switch on Muskrat Falls. The fact that it is minus twenty outside with a windchill of minus seventy, forces us to don our caribou parkas left over from our days in the Arctic. Lately, we have been toying with the idea of scraping off the hair and using the skin for soup.

     It was one of those mornings when I wished I hadn't switched on my dilapidated Toshiba laptop. It takes about fifteen minutes to boot up--after all, it is 2005 technology and I can't afford anything better. I took the time to prepare our one meal of the day. Stale coffee grounds, I have discovered, are reusable, though the brew is a little tepid after the third day. My fousty slice of bread from Walmart tasted a little better with a (L)iberal smear of Crosby's black mollasses. Better-half was not impressed with my culinary improv.

     After the sumptuous meal, I was ready for my morning routine of surfing my favorite websites for all the fake news and alternative facts of the day. Normally, the People's Network gets my attention first. Bad decision.

     "Tensions flare. Minister gets earful at budget meeting in St. John's," read the first headline. A video clip showed an angry Charlene Blake, one of the participants, shouting down high-school-graduate-McDonalds franchisee-cum-finance minister, Cathy Bennett, who is doing an imitation of the faux sincerity-dripping face of Dear Leader, Duh-wite. Bennett assures the audience that there will be no new taxes (Read my lips). Where have we heard this before?

     Another participant in this sorry excuse for consultation, Mark Croft, wears a t-shirt with the logo, 'Resign Today. Save Tomorrow.' Voters are beginning to wake up.

     "Surely to God, this Liberal gang of crackies, cretins, and carperbaggars, can't bamboozle us once again," I screamed. I waved my fist in the air and a shower of caribou hair fell into Better-half's coffeeish drink.

     The whole thing caused an eruption of feverish rage which rose from a fathomless font and flowed furiously through my body. Better-half was concerned for my sanity. "Calm down," she said. "It's just a nightmare."

     I then began to reflect calmly and philosophically on the nature of rage. For me, the emotion reached its peak back in late October, last year, when I was driving from the island to the city for medical attention. Unbeknownst to Molly from Mount Pearl, many of us from the outports do undertake such journeys at our own expense.

     I arrived at the ferry dock at eight am, only to find that the fare had increased by 130% overnight. Rage started to simmer. Once across the tickle, I filled up my decrepit Toyota only to find that gas prices had also increased overnight and it would cost me double to get to the big city. Rage started to bubble.

     I placed a Nora Jones CD in the player. Her soothing voice always has a calming influence on my otherwise volatile demeanor. (Better-half wanted to stay at home.) Rage went back to a simmer.

     Just before Grand Falls, on the TCH, a huge pothole, containing a smashed-up ATV and trailer, opened up in front of me. I swerved frantically, narrowly missing oncoming traffic. Rage went to a full boil.

     In Gander, I stop at Mary Brown's. They have a special for financially strapped seniors--two chicken gizzards, no fries, fifty cents. With this kind of fare along with baloney, the pharmaceutical fiend in the premier's office won't have enough bodies to fill his private seniors' complex.

     Nora Jones sang Come Away with Me. I began thinking it would not be such a bad idea. But what about Better-half? I tuned to CBC Radio just outside Clarenville.

     Stephen Lewis, the famous diplomat, aids activist, and member of the Order of Canada, is being interviewed by Piya Chattopadhyay on Out in the Open. "I have often said to my audiences," he stated, "that my entire emotional range moves from rage to rage with almost nothing in between." He summed up my feelings exactly.

     I stop at the Irving to fill up and buy a bag of chips. Wanted a bottle of water, too, but it was $2.00 plus thirty cents tax. Rage is on rolling boil now.

     I try to focus on the advice of a favorite storyteller, Rick Yancey. "It isn't fear that will defeat them," he said. "Not fear, or faith, or hope...but rage."

     I'll keep my rage for now.

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