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 7.45am. 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 the 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.