The Flat Earth Society

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.

Blame The Victim

"Good morning," my better half always says cheerily as she walks into the kitchen each day at 8.22 am, expecting her coffee and soft boiled egg to be ready on the table.

     "Good morning," I always say, quoting Eeyore from Winnie The Pooh. "If it is a good morning. Which I doubt."

      It's been like that for over a year now what with the political news and the blizzard of alternative facts coming at me from all quarters of the cyber-world.

     Despite my love for Winnie the Pooh and Eeyore, I believe Leonard Cohen stated it best. "I don't consider myself a pessimist," he once said. "I think of a pessimist as someone who is waiting for it to rain. And I feel soaked to the skin."

     Likewise.

     Staring me in the face this morning as I logged on to my dilapidated 2007 Toshiba laptop was another depressing headline generated by the forsaken posse that passes for the government of our smiling land: Newfoundland inflation at 4.1%, the highest in Canada, screamed the CBC headline. The report goes on to document the litany of fees, income taxes, insurance taxes, levies, book taxes, gas and fuel taxes--all of which add up to a major threat to my personal and economic security.

     A few months ago, our Dear Leader, Duh-wite, provided a gloomy outlook to The Globe and Mail--that great national rag known for having little sympathy for anyone outside the glowing center of the universe, Toronto. Dear Leader took the opportunity to return to his theme that the blame for the dire financial situation lay with the citizens of the province and they, of course, must shoulder all the burden.

     In a classic understatement, the ex-pharmacist, disguised as a premier, agreed that people may not like his choices. (In fact, 83% consider him a serial liar, and a political misfit, intent on destroying the economy, or what's left of it.)

     That, of course, has been a constant theme since the first sitting of the current crop of scoundrels, double dippers, and ex-NDP opportunists. Need I remind you of the words of Dear Leader's yapping crackie, the illustrious Jerry Dean, MHA for the District of Exploits. In a classic case of verbal diarrhea wrapped in an illiterate tirade in the people's chamber, he allowed that all the people of the province were to blame because we somehow forced our government to borrow and spend like drunken sailors so we could support our sense of entitlement.

     In other words, something really shitty has happened to you, but it's your own damn fault.

     All of which prompted one voter from Cottrell's Cove to advise the privileged Mr. Dean that the people of the province know only too well how to live on a shoe-string budget because they have been forced to do so by elected officials that have run our province into ruin.

     That business of the Muskrat Falls 'boondoggle' and the disappearance of 26 billion in oil revenues: none of that matters, my friend, especially for you poor buggers in rural Newfoundland and Labrador--in the end, you will pay the piper or should I say you will pay the rich pensions, salaries, and perks of my cabinet ministers and MHAs plus the murderous interest rates imposed by the big banks on provincial borrowing.

     So, as Dear Leader, Duh-Wite has promised, you ain't seen nothing yet. There is more harsh austerity to come: sky-high unemployment, poverty, and inequality on a grand scale, devastated communities, hits on seniors and children, unplowed highways--the list grows by the day. The dark side of a premier and a government without principles.

     But I hearken back to Eeyore. "They haven't got brains, any of them, only grey fluff that's blown into their heads by mistake..."

     

The Zombie Apocalypse

Just before Christmas, I happened to be following an interview with our dear leader, Duhwite, on the CBC supper-time news hour. Curiously at the end of the show, I could not recall any significant word or phrase that he uttered. True, there was the usual I-feel-your-pain demeanor, reminiscent of Eeyore, the sad donkey, about to burst into tears. Sincerity and faux compassion dripped like turbot slime from his pharmaceutical face. He seemed neither to have an instinct for political self-preservation (I will continue to tax you to death) nor for rational thought (we will not plow the highways after midnight).

     Later, after my better half had departed for the Land of Nod, I prepared my pre-nocturnal libation of raspberry screech laced with bog-rosemary tea--essential to good slumber and restful dreams. I switched on Netflix and browsed to a preview of Night of the Living Dead.

     My brain cells quickly swirled into overdrive. My mind flashed back to the interview earlier in the evening. Could it be? I then recalled a conversation with a witch doctor in the highland jungle adjacent to Haiti whilst on a pleasure jaunt to the Dominican Republic. As we sat in the ghostly light of his flickering campfire he showed me his magical powders and told me stories about human creatures without souls--he often used the word 'nzambi' which in my peculiar Newfoundland dialect roughly translates as 'zombie'. "Their bodies are nothing more than shells which are controlled by powerful sorcerers," he whispered eerily.

     Aha, sorcerers, I thought. The backroom bagmen of the Liberal Party. It was all beginning to make sense.

     Because my mind was rapidly beginning to falter at the late hour, I called Google to the rescue.

     Definition of zombie by the Free Dictionary: Shambling slow-witted beings. The frontal lobe of the brain is missing. This is the part responsible for morality, planning, and preventing thoughtless behavior like burying the populace under burdensome taxation.

     Definition of Zombie Apocalypse: A zombie outbreak. A widespread rise of zombies engaging in a general assault on small communities and vulnerable people ie closing libraries, taxing books, enabling poverty etc (Muskrat Falls sprang to mind). A great disaster. A sudden or very bad event that causes much fear, loss or destruction.

     On recalling the interview from earlier in the evening (mixed with the raspberry screech and the Netflix film), I experienced a revelation. The whole government, the opposition, and the rump NDP were all in this together. Evil nanobots had taken over their collective political brain.

     We were now trapped in our own zombie apocalypse. What to do?

     Fortunately, there are various 'how to' coping strategies on the Google search engine, one of which is a defense plan which begins with a zombie apocalypse quiz which will help you decide if you will survive. The first question asks you to pick a tactic (from six possibilities): run, panic, have a stiff drink, hide in the basement, find a cure, build a fort. I clicked on the drink box. As it turned out, this option turned up in various forms throughout the quiz so for consistency sake I chose it each time. My profile then flashed up on the screen:

     "Congratulations, it's a coin-toss whether you survive. By getting drunk all the time, you are not really making good decisions. But, it's entirely possible it will all work out. Which would be nice. But don't hold out hope. Either way, you'll be drunk before it all goes down. So, it'll probably be fun. Your government will help you by jacking up the price of raspberry screech."

     I will post the whole quiz to Facebook so everyone can be better prepared in future.

     Zombie awareness month is coming up in May.

Breaking News

 

I am now free to descend from the frozen world of the Long Range Mountains thus bringing an end to my existence as a harried hermit, harrassed by our dear leader and his courtesans. It has solved nothing of course because the tax collectors dispatched by Cathy, Minister of McDonalds, sit in all corners of the realm, ready to filch and rob the unsuspecting at every opportunity.

 

Even a bottle of life-sustaining water is denied until you fork over an additional 15% tax.

 

And that copy of Dancing On Air that you really wanted to read? Forget it unless you have the extra $3 Ball tax. Oh, I'll read it at the town library, you say. Forget that, too. Remember Dr. Dale, Minister of Illiteracy, and his plans for rural libraries?

 

Al (The Pirate) Hawkins, Minister of Ferries, stands at every terminal, threatening to keelhaul any traveller who refuses to pay the extortionate increase in fares.

 

I won't get started on Big Eddie, Minister of Outports.

 

But all is not doom and gloom.

 

The Hag, radiant in her latest swamp fashions, has brought word that Mantracker Walsh's constabulary mount had died from eating too much gowithy (bogweed). Also Wimpy Warr has given in to his craving for Big Macs and they have both retreated back to the friendlier climes of Confederation Building.

 

All of which has stimulated my creative mind to new heights of ingenuity. As you may recall I am the proud owner of the latest Apple MacBook Pro (an ill-gotten gain garnered from two gullible American tourists in the grip of grey-goose grog, otherwise known as my raspberry screech/bog rosemary cocktail).

 

I have discovered that when the MacBook Pro is pushed to its limits, a quantum world takes over in which at a precise angle to the screen, a stream of photons is emitted which transform the human body into trillions of individual atoms. These same atoms are then transported on an intense beam of light, to a parallel universe, where all the atoms come back together as a human being once again. 

 

There are of course other portals into a parallel universe. One of these is the grand entrance to the Newfoundland House of Assembly through which political mob bosses of all stripes, along with their stooges, have passed in the last 100 years: Sir Richard Squires, Joe Smallwood, Alfred Valdmanis, John C. Doyle, Ed Byrne, Frank Moores, Brian Peckford, and He-Who-Is-Without-Sin Williams.

 

Supposedly, the majority enter this inner sanctum with good intentions but few good intentions survive the molecular transformation that takes place in the mordant realm of politics. They quickly lose touch with the great unwashed. Some become smarmy lying leeches. Still others, like the proverbial chamelion, change their colors (and their principles) as their mercenary makeups mature.

 

So, in the past year, taxpayers in our fair land have endured untold abuse from the aliens in this parallel universe as they shackled us with crippling levies, fuel surcharges, higher income taxes and school closures--to name a few. We have watched as millions of our hard-earned dollars were doled out in severance to the already well-to-do (Hello, Ed Martin). We have seen those same aliens engage in crass cronyism as they hired their drinking buddies, their relatives, and their supporters.

 

In the meantime, poverty levels in our smiling land have sky-rocketed. Unemployment levels are projected at 20%. Food banks and soup kitchens can no longer keep up with demand. The Salvation Army is stressed to the limit. Bankruptcies soar. Businesses shutter. Ball Brags. 

 

And in the parallel universe of the House of Assembly, the members have just given themselves an elaborate Christmas gift--the whole lot of them will receive a gold-plated pension plan at an additional cost of $3.6 million annually, compliments of the taxpayer.

 

Christmas.

 

 

Visions

Suddenly a bright light from heaven flashed around me and I fell to the ground...Acts:22.6

                                                               

                                                        The Desert Sands of Libya

It is with great regret that I am now alone in the Long Range. At night the twinkling lights of the endangered and impoverished communities stretch all the way to Belle Isle: New Ferolle, Plum Point, Reefs Harbour, Bird Cove and all the others.

     Winter is creeping in and with it comes the early morning mist over the Leg Lake Valley and down Castor River to the ocean. From the peaks one can see clear across the Straits to Labrador. All one needs to do these days is follow the long endless line of Nalcor transmission towers leading to Muskrat Falls in the northwest and all the way to Confederation Building in our fair city to the southeast. The leached bones of wildlife litter the valleys in between.

     Before I get too maudlin I must describe what has transpired in the last three weeks, since we heard via CBC podcast, the vile threats against our physical well-being and psychological health by Judge Andrew (Roy Bean) Parsons, Minister of Laws, who took to the airwaves to warn all peaceful citizens of our smiling land to be on the lookout, all the while casting nasty aspersions on my family origins as well as the likely nationality of my two female bodyguards.

     My loyal companions were somewhat depressed after the podcast and they took longer than usual to climb the Nalcor tower to search for any signs of Mantracker Walsh and Wimpy Warr. They returned as dejected as ever. I tried cheering them up with some YouTube Leonard Cohen on my newly acquired MacBook Pro.  "Who really gets to profit  and who really gets to pay?" He crooned. "Who really rides the slavery ship right into Charleston Bay?"

    Their depression deepened.

     Perhaps, I thought, they needed a change of scenery. Perhaps they were yearning for the bright lights and bustling bistros of Bartlett's Harbour.

     Perhaps we all needed a creative project to take our minds off our predicament.

     I needed a vision. That night I partook [L]iberally of my newly minted beverage--bog rosemary tea with several splashes of raspberry screech. It induced a serious onslaught of demons--giant big macs with frothing french bulldog fangs, frenzied flying pharmacists in fearsome white frocks, angry laid-off librarians with loose locks of long hair, and directing the whole lot, Al (The Pirate) Hawkins, Minister of Ferries, playing on his musical instrument--like a scene out of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

   

     And then another thought. Perhaps I should send Dear Leader, Duh-wite, some of this stuff so he can have better visions.

     By morning my own vision was entirely focused. We would go down to the edge of Leg Lake and build a solar-powered, unmanned mini-ferry, capable of transporting two small cars (or one pickup) at a time. Shortly we had collected enough materials--roofing tar, discarded metal, tin cans, some good quality lumber and styrofoam sheets borrowed in the dead of night from friendly cabin owners nearby, and a set of propellers from an abandoned Yamaha outboard motor in mint condition attached to a derelict dinghy.

     In four days flat, our prototype was ready and I congratulated myself on my ingenuity and vision. Now, all we need do, was sail the craft down Castor River to the Straits, then around the northeast coast and into St. John's Harbour, with flags flying. The masses would meet us joyously at the waterfront. Anthony Germain would interview us for the morning show. 

     Old gripes would be forgiven. Our Dear Leader, Duh-wite, and the Lieutenant Governor would present us with the order of Canada.

     They could now sell the expensive Romanian ferries plus the MV Grace Sparkes and the MV Hazel McIsaac for a cool 500 million--or, they could transform them into a fleet of love boats--Mary Antoinette boudoirs, mirrors on the ceilings--cruises under the tropical night skies of Conception Bay all the way to Dildo--the whole nine yards.

     It was a win-win all around. I could patent my design and sell my boats to Al (The Pirate) Hawkins for a tidy ten grand each. They would be ideal for all the island runs in the province if purchased in large numbers. One can easily imagine the savings to our benevolent government and to our Dear Leader. I have estimated they would need only two (One for backup), in continuous operation night and day, on the Long Island-Pelleys Island run.

     So, late on the fourth day, our prototype was ready. We covered it with boughs to disguise it from prying eyes and retired to our alpine fortifications for the night.

     The problem with visions is that you can never predict the future.

     As I said at the beginning, all this happened three weeks ago. After completing the prototype, unmanned, solar-powered ferry, we enjoyed a fitful night's sleep in anticipation of sea trials next day. If everything went according to plan, we would break out and head for the open ocean and St. John's, one day later.

     When I roused myself with much belching and throat clearing next morning there was a noticable sound of silence from the two adjacent bough-wiffens of my bodyguards. My first thought was that they had been abducted by the mantracker in the murky darkness after midnight.

     I soon discarded this theory as there were no pony tracks around the campsite. After much searching, I came to the conclusion that they had flown the fort and I immediately went to the shoreline to search. The prototype ferry was nowhere to be seen. My two bodyguards had deserted! Bolted! Fled! Decamped!. They had absconded with my ferry!

                                       

     Ten days later I was sitting in my lonely bough-wiffen listening to Here and Now with Debbie and Jonathan. They ran a story about a strange craft that had washed up on the shores of County Mayo in Ireland. I knew immediately what had happened. My two bodyguards had gone home to Libya via the Emerald Isle.

     All this time, they had been pining for the desert sands of their homeland.

     

     

 

Damn You, Wikileaks

 

Mantracker. Hot on my Trail

Location: Somewhere in the Long Range Mountains. Newfoundland and Labrador.

 

     I am awoken at six in the morning by chirpy and gleeful voices outside my bough-wiffen. Such apparent sunny ways especially at this ungodly hour strikes me as extremely odd in a land where I hear continuous doom and gloom from our dear leader, Duh-wite. I peek out to find a young couple, dressed in hiking gear, seizing control of my flickering fire-pit to make a brew which I soon realize is Kenyan Class A Coffee.

     They introduce themselves as Ken and Barbie from Bowling-Green, Kentucky. They ooze happiness and cheer. I disliked them immediately. However, my jovial Newfoundland friendliness soon kicked in and I invited them into my humble abode to enjoy the fortifying brew to which I had furtively added a [L]iberal splash of Raspberry Screech--my last bottle.

     As the lacerating libation slipped down their throats their larnyx was temporarily paralyzed and five minutes passed before they recovered the power of speech. I must find a way to slip a copious amount of this into Dr. Dale's coffee, I thought.

     After their recovery, Ken and Barbie pulled an Apple Macbook Pro from their pack and set up a small satellite receiver. They desperately wanted their Donald Trump fix from CNN before the sun rose. Instead they accidently tuned in to CBC St. John's.

     There was breaking news. Andrew (Judge Roy Bean) Parsons, Minister of Laws, was making a special broadcast to all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians on land and on sea. In the background, my face prominently appeared on the green screen. "I have taken to the airwaves," said the minister, "to warn the public of a dangerous and seditious person roaming our pine clad hills and other areas of our windswept land." Ken and Barbie were flabbergasted as they connected the face on the screen with the vacuous visage in front of them.

     "This person is commonly known by us as 'Freeman the Fugitive," continued the minister of laws. He is thought to be a descendant of illegal immigrants who surreptitiously slunk into our smiling land in 1783. Since then these people have introduced barbaric cultural practices to all areas outside our fair city.

     "He is guilty of the following offences: insulting our Dear Leader, Duh-wite; sowing sedition in the outports; impugning the impeccable character of all dishonest politicians, and the NDP; engaging in vicious and vindictive attacks on our esteemed Dr. Dale, Minister of Illiteracy, and on Godfather, Big Eddie, Minister of Outports; undermining our loyal liberal government; and many other offences that we have not yet discovered.

     "A psychologist at our great university testifies that mentally, he is a person with a depraved and diseased mind. He lives in mortal fear of heights and of walking underneath ladders. Black cats terrify him.

     "My office has just learned from a reliable source in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London that he may be travelling with two companions of the female persuasion. This is their picture:

     "They were last pinpointed by Wikileaks in the vicinity of the Nalcor transmission line in the Long Range Mountains. We suspect the two female companions may be ex-bodyguards of the deceased dictator Gadaffi, the late ruler of Libya. As such, they, too, are wanted fugitives who are suspected of contemplating sabotage.

     "Once our Constabulary mantracker has cornered them, they will have a speedy trial and will be imprisoned in her Majesty's Penitentiary until further notice." He fondled his noose as he spoke.

     "I urge you with all the power of my silvern voice to be solemnly vigilant," he said. "God guard thee Newfoundland......and oh yes, Labrador."

     When I looked up, my two guests had completely flown the bough-wiffen. They left behind their Apple Macbook and an expensive pair of hiking books which fit perfectly.

     

     

Another Dispatch From Beyond The Wall

Conversion on the Road to Damascus

Location: Somewhere in the Annieopsquotch Mountains, Newfoundland and Labrador

     My miniature solar panel enables me to maintain contact via my trusty iPhone with political developments in our fair province. A week of enormous import has flashed by and a number of the Forsaken Posse in Confederation Building have, like the apostle Paul, seen the light on the road to Damascus, or shall we say Muskrat Falls.

     For those who have not been following the story, people power in the Big land has forced the mighty Nalcor and the inept Liberal Government of Newfoundland and Labrador to abandon their abominable scheme to flood massive tracts of the Churchill River Valley without clear-cutting and removing soil. Such a scheme would have resulted in a massive spike in methyl-mercury levels downstream and people would be exposed to the very real horrors of Minimata disease for generations.

     Two weeks ago, Premier Duh-wite claimed he had inherited the problem. "My hands are tied," he said.

     "If people in the area are told not to eat fish, seabirds, and seal, they will be compensated," said Perry (The Bunny) Trimper, Minister of Environmental Destruction to protesters in Goose Bay in June.

     "Eat less fish," tweeted Nick Whelan, the ham-fisted Liberal M.P. for St. John's East, mocking the people of Labrador.

     The people of the Big Land shut the place down. Not even the courts and the RCMP could stem their outrage. Premier Duh-wite's hands were indeed tied. After an eleven hour meeting with Aboriginal leaders, he cried uncle. The flooding scheme was shelved. His retreat was about one thing, he said, "the health of Labradorians." The Bunny repeated the meme on all the news outlets.

     All the drama and political sincerity was unbearable. I came down with a case of debilitating insomnia--the ideal conditions for a visit from the old hag. As I lay semi-conscious in my lonely bough-whiffen at two in the morning, I suddenly found myself in a state of total paralysis. Not a muscle could I move as my humble shelter filled with the overwhelming fragrance of the evergreen forest and the distant murmur of the pristine waterfalls of the Annieopsquotch.

     Despite my natural instinct to scream in terror as she sat sedately on my chest, I was able to ask in a whimpering whisper what her motives were. "I have come to warn you again," she cackled. "I bring news that Mantracker Walsh and Wimpy Warr are hot on your trail. They are both from the Constabulary."

     Only yesterday, she informed me, they left Dildo heading west towards Virgin Cove. Before I could offer my profuse thanks, she disappeared.

     At least she had offered more in the way of conversation this time. "Come again," I called after her, but the words were lost on the mountain winds.

     My iPhone rang at 3.30 in the morning. It's me, RS from MP," hissed a hysterical voice. The Mantracker is on your tail. Big Eddie now has me under surveillance too. He just hired Dr. Dale's drinking buddy to keep an eye on me. I can't talk any longer." He hung up before I could respond.

     Now that I was fully awake, I could think clearly. The new information would leave me plenty of time for a well-planned exit from my current location, I thought. I would be in no danger until they neared Eastern Tickle.

     

A Very Thingish Thing

"When you are a bear of very little brain," said Pooh, "and you think of things, you find sometimes that a thing which seemed very thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it."

Journal Entry from an Undisclosed Location in the Annieopsquotch Mountains, Newfoundland and Labrador:

     I have recently perfected a miniature solar panel from tin cans which have been castoff in copious numbers along with wads of other waste throughout the wilderness. The invention allows me to maintain contact with the outside world as I keep one step ahead of my pursuers. Just this morning I received a call from my undercover contact in the city.

     "Is that you?" said RS from MP. "I haven't heard from you in months. I thought they had vaporized you."

     "It's me," I said. "What's the scoop?"

     "Big Eddie, Minister of Outports, is sending Mantracker Walsh, Deputy Minister of Justice, out beyond the wall to trace your trail and hunt you down like a dirty dingo. She's riding a big black clydesdale from the Constabulary's mounted unit. Wimpy Warr, MHA for Green Bay, is with her on another horse. You must have ticked him off too. Run away! Run Away!" he whispered urgently. "And be careful out there," he hissed. "They're all out to get you. Stay away from the Nalcor transmission line. That's the first place they'll look. I have to go now, Big Eddie's cousin, Georgie (Corleone) is coming down the corridor. Jeez, that guy gives me the creeps."

     So I sit in my lonely bough-wiffen in these mountains contemplating the latest revelations from my snitch in Confederation Building.

     As I tuned in to the CBC evening news on my iPhone I learned that there is a minor uprising at the Muskrat Falls site in Labrador. Apparently, the population of the Big Land objects to being poisoned to death by Nalcor and Premier Duh-wite's Forsaken Posse.

     Perry (The Bunny) Trimper, Minister of Environmental Destruction, makes a muddled mundane meandering statement on the passionate protestors who are determined to fight. For once I am not alone, I thought.

     Premier Duh-wite makes a statement. "I inherited the problem," said Duh-wite. "My hands are tied."

     Or, as Pooh said: Don't underestimate the value of doing nothing, of just going along, listening to all the things you can't hear and not bothering.

     Winnie the Pooh is still my favourite book. I didn't discover it until I was an adult because we didn't have a community library when I was a child growing up on the island. If Dr. Dale, Minister of Illiteracy, has his way, nobody will have a community library. Period.

     I have read the book a total of 117 times since then and have it committed completely to memory.

     Damn, I'm running out of power.

     I love Pooh and tonight, under the bright hunter's moon, I miss him very much.

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CONTACT THE AUTHOR

You may contact the author at:

ericcolbourne1@gmail.com (or)

ericcolbourne@ericcolbourne.com

Dancing on Air: New Edition: New Publisher

Dancing on Air

The revised edition of Dancing on Air(Boulder Publications) is now available from Boulder -- boulderpublications.ca also from Chapters/Indigo and Coles bookstores across Canada as well as at Amazon.com. Book signings are being scheduled at various locations in the coming weeks. See Calendar section of this site for details.

 

 

Advance Reviews:

     "What a fascinating read this is. It has all the suspense of a true crime novel ...Newfoundland itself emerges as a colorful character..." -- editor, Friesen Press

     "In Dancing on Air, Eric Colbourne exposes the raw politics and behind the scenes intrigue of critical events in Newfoundland and Labrador history. In the process he has skilfully unveiled the human faces of tragedies which have remained with us for well over half a century."   --Mervin Wiseman, Political Activist, NL.

     "This is a great way to present history. It's emotionally engaging, highly instructive, and jam-packed with fascinating details."  --Editor, Friesen Press.

     Dancing on Air: A Tale of Vengeance, Mercy, and the End of the Death Penalty in Newfoundland, is a story of justice and injustice amidst war and political upheaval .

     On St. Patrick's Day, 1942 Herb Spratt, the youngest son of a prominent St. John's city councillor, murdered his girlfriend, Josephine O'Brien. A weak defence at a two day trial in the Supreme Court of Newfoundland resulted in a guilty verdict coupled with a strong recommendation for mercy. The chief justice pronounced a sentence of death on April 28, 1942 but that was not the end of the story.

     Six years later, on October 23, 1948 during a night of terror in the town of Norris Arm on the central north coast of the island, Alfred Beaton stabbed his girlfriend and shot to death another young woman. At least 10 other individuals narrowly escaped death as Beaton rampaged through the community with a high powered rifle.

     Beaton went to trial in the Supreme Court of Newfoundland on January 31, 1949. The jury returned a guilty verdict without a recommendation for mercy. The chief justice again imposed the death penalty.

Alfred Beaton (center) after death sentence

The incidents come together as a gripping account of a flawed justice system and of the impact of public opinion. With its cast of powerful characters, the story reads like fiction but what happened was only too real.  

The Dancing on Air Mystery: Who was Portia?

                  

 

On Monday, February 7, 1949, two days after Judge Emerson handed down the death penalty in the murder trial of Alfred Beaton, a mysterious letter appeared in the St. John's Evening Telegram. It contained an emotional plea for mercy and a call to action against capital punishment in Newfoundland. 

The eloquent letter writer persuaded thousands of citizens in the city and across Newfoundland and Labrador to demand an end to a barbaric practice. The final outcome was a surprise. Who was the mystery lady, Portia? For the first time in over 60 years it is now possible to identify her. ...but the reader has to pick up the clues in the text.

 

 

Bio

 

 

 

Eric Colbourne grew up in the small community of Lush's Bight-Beaumont on the northeast coast of the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada. His earliest memories are of the tales spun by village elders under the flickering light of oil lamps in the kitchen of the family home on the isolated island. This tradition of story-telling is captured in his first book Disappeared: Stories from the Coast of Newfoundland which has enjoyed international success.

 

His latest work, Dancing on AIR: A Tale of Vengeance, Mercy, and the End of the Death Penalty in Newfoundland, published in October 2016 by Boulder Publications, represents an enduring fascination with the issue of capital punishment which he has researched extensively over many years in this country and around the world.

 

Colbourne was educated at Memorial University of Newfoundland, The University of Reading in the UK, and at McGill University in Montreal. He has enjoyed a varied career in education, community development, tourism and senior management in the public service of Nunavut and the NWT. He currently devotes his time to writing and historical research.

Back Cover:Dancing on Air

Public Executions: Dancing on Air

At 5.32 a.m. on August 14, 1937 a young black man, Rainey Bethea was executed at Owensboro, Kentucky after his conviction for the rape of a white woman. A crowd, estimated at 20,000, gathered in Owensboro the day before and held 'hanging' parties throughout the night. One reporter likened the scene at the scaffold next morning to a sporting event. The hangman was intoxicated and barely managed to trip the lever. It was the last public hanging in the US.

The practice of public executions was abandoned in Canada in 1869 and in the UK in 1870. Many countries, notably Saudi Arabia, North Korea and Iran continue the practice to this day for crimes such as drug trafficking, witchcraft, disloyalty to the government. and homosexuality.

Comments?

If you have comments on this site or reviews of Dancing on Air, please e-mail me at ericcolbourne@ericcolbourne.com.

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Advice for Writers

Elmore Leonard, a well known mystery writer who died last year offered a number of rules for good writing. A few of them:

1. Never open a book with weather.

2. Keep your exclamations points under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose.

3.Never use the words "suddenly" or "all hell broke loose."

4.Try to leave out the parts that readers tend to skip.

From the Ballad of Reading Gaol

 It is sweet to dance to violins

  When love and life are fair:

To dance to flutes, to dance to lutes

  is delicate and rare:

But it is not sweet with nimble feet

  To dance upon the air!

 

                       ...Oscar Wilde

Historic Vote

In 1948, residents of Newfoundland and Labrador decided their future in two referenda. In the first vote, held on June 3, Commission of Government was eliminated but neither Confederation with Canada nor Responsible Government received a majority, making a second referendum necessary. Voting was heavy, nearly 89% on June 3rd and 85% on July 22nd. 52.34% of voters chose Confederation on the second ballot.

Where to Buy Disappeared

     Disappeared:Stories From the Coast of Newfoundland is available in print and e-book from Amazon.ca and in e-book format from Kobo, Chapters etc. To locate it on Amazon, type 'Disappeared Colbourne' into their 'find' bar. Delivery is about one week.

     Author copies are also available directly from ericcolbourne.com. Click on the facebook link and send the author a message. Price is $15 plus postage.

     Due to the short print run the book will not be available in most bookstores.

New Edition: Dancing on Air

More Questions About an Execution

The case of Wilbert Coffin who was convicted of murder and hanged in Quebec more than 60 years ago raises many new questions. For the full story see: www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/wilbert-coffin-execution-cda-1.3441076.

Excerpt from Dancing on Air

(A Hanging in Quebec, 1902)

 

 

...Until the mid-1800s some 200 offences were regarded as capital crimes that carried the death penalty. In a modern age most of those offences now seem absurd.

 

John Dean, variously described in the records as a child of eight or nine, may have been the youngest to suffer death by hanging. On February 23, 1629 he was convicted of arson at Abington, England for setting fire to two barns in the town of Winsor. The judge saw evidence of wickedness in the boy's actions, an attitude which led directly to his death sentence.

 

In early August, 1814, an unfortunate William Potter received the death penalty at the high court in Chelmsford, England, for damaging an orchard. He had chopped down an old apple tree for firewood. To no avail at his trial, William pleaded ignorance of the law. The judge had second thoughts several days after sentencing, but with the wheels of justice already in motion, William was hanged about a week later on August 12.

From our Readers: Dancing on Air

I finished the book this morning and my only regret is that I couldn't read more....The exacting research gives real context in shaping the period, but it's Colbourne's ability as a writer that allows the reader to feel the crisp bite of the wind, smell the damp night air, and experience the pain and anguish of the characters. Colbourne's deft footwork in handling the historic record while giving life to the characters is to be applauded, and it separates this work from the pack.  (Glen Tilley)

 

An absolutely lovely read....The book reads like a richly textured novel but the story is flawlessly woven into the historical account (or borne out of it). It is clear that the book is meticulously researched...An excellent read on all fronts. Difficult to put down! (Monty Henstridge)

Disappeared

Excerpt from the story 'The Black Arts Book' in Disappeared: Stories from the Coast of Newfoundland.

 

...Old Meriam was indeed dead but no one seemed to know how she had died or where she was buried, all of which added to the mystery of her life  and the power of her witchcraft.

 

After her death, the old house seemed lonely more than anything else, sitting way out on the point by the landwash, facing the September storms and enduring the sad soundings of the ocean swells.

 

With each passing season it added a deeper tone of grey as the harsh weather of late fall and winter took its toll. Nobody in the village could understand how the old house could withstand so much punishment.

 

Disappeared: Stories from the Coast of Newfoundland  has been named a top seller on KOBO, one of the largest e-book distributors in the world. It continues to receive positive reviews in Canada and fifteen other countries. Disappeared is also available from amazon.ca and amazon.com in kindle and print format.