Wednesday, April 20, 2022

I NOSE YOU by Jackie Lloyd

 Noses intrigue me.

They're the first thing you see.

I'm drawn to a hooked nose.

Who wouldn't be.

Jean Vanier has one

shown forever on one of his book covers.

I like it so much

I drew it and hung it on my cabinet

next to my desk where I write

every morning without fail.

I titled it "I Nose You Jean Vanier"

I love noses, oh yea, oh yea.

I WEEP by Jackie Lloyd

 I weep for things I've done.

I weep for things I haven't done.

Why did I not listen?

Why did I not hear

What was offered to me?

What was there to be seen.

What was there to be heard.

Was it that man who said he loved me?

Wat it that child who wanted to hug me?

I weep for things I've lost.

I weep for me.

No one else should.

There's a grave waiting for me now.

No one should come.

I weep.

Friday, April 1, 2022

IS IT YOUR FAULT GOD? by Jackie Lloyd

 Is it your fault God?

or is it mine?

or people like me?

I heard on the radio

that only 4,000 had died

of the thousands who were taken.

Only one was too many.

They lived in residential schools 

where priests had forsaken their beliefs.

These were indigenous children from tribes far and wide.

They didn't need saving by priests who had lied. 

Who were you saving that day God when they took them away.

Oh God, I hope it wasn't me.

My tears now cannot wash away the pain.

Was it your fault God?

or was it mine? 

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

I AND MY SHADOW by Jackie Lloyd

 I and my shadow

go everywhere together.

We go in all kinds of weather.

When it's dry, my shadow

walks beside me, or

sometimes ahead or behind me.

When it's wet, my shadow

hides inside, me that is.

I and my shadow 

are always together.

I am never alone. 

TREES I'VE KNOWN

 I was born in Collingwood, Ontario, and have no memory of it.  My family, Mom, Dad, and their first three children moved to Orillia when Dad found work near there.  I had recently been born so they had to take me with them.

We moved into a two-bedroom wartime house.  It was already too small for our family.  I think it had a couple of bunk beds in one room which was fine for the three older kids.  I, being a baby, slept with Mom and Dad in their big bed in the other room.  No crib I suppose.

Our house, third up from the corner, was identical to all the houses on our street.  We had a small backyard with a small ramshackle shed slouched to the side just beyond the driveway.  The front lawn had unkempt grass and sloped gently down to the ditch and road.  Partway down the lawn was my first tree.  I didn't notice it then, of course, because I was a babe in arms.

I grew, as babies often do, and finally was on my feet and walking--sort of.  The tree beckoned me with its hanging branches a ways above my head.  They seemed to be waving to me.  The tree seemed big to me.  I could almost get my arms around its trunk, which I did.  I loved that tree.  People often say you don't forget your first love.  I didn't.

There was a bush behind our backyard which ran behind our street and the next one.  It ended at the last house on our street, and hidden behind it and in the bush, was a big tree.  We found it and called it our monkey tree because we could swing on its one low branch like monkeys.   The branch was the only bare one, the others were covered with bristles.  Our branch had a few bristles at its end  .

We begged Mom to come and see our monkey tree, but she wouldn't.  Monkey trees, she said, cannot survive in Ontario.  Our winters are too cold and monkey trees don't like standing in the snow.  It's probably dead now, as Mom said it would be, but my memory of it isn't.

I escaped from Orillia, like so many of my contemporaries did.  I chose Toronto and never regretted it.  I took my friend Betty with me.  We loaded up my car with all our worldly goods and set off the 90 miles south to Toronto.  Betty owned a small TV which she had to hang out the window during the drive because there was no room inside the car.  She didn't mind, she said, and she claimed to have a very strong arm.  Occasionally we would pull into a rest stop so she could rest her very strong arm. 

Up and down the streets of Toronto we drove, looking for Flat For Rent signs.  We knocked on a few doors but no luck.  The flats were already taken but the owner had neglected to remove the sign.  We spent one night sleeping on a couple of benches in the railway station.  Luckily, I can sleep anywhere and didn't awaken until noon.  One of my shoes was missing but I found it kicked under a faux bush nearby.  Betty phoned her sister who lived on the outskirts of the city in a place called Scarborough.  We stayed two nights.  All I remember about our stay was Betty's sister's little boy, Opey, who had a great slashing scar across the front of his neck  Cancer of the throat I was told and he's only four; we have to wait five years to see if the cancer returns.  Opey followed me around the house, quite taken with me for some unknown reason, and asked me eventually what I thought of his scar.  I told him it looked like a smile under his chin.  He liked that.

We finally found a flat on Markham Street, half a block before Honest Ed's which was near the corner of Bloor Street, a main artery.

The houses along Markham Street were detached and all different.  They looked old, Edwardian perhaps if that's the right architecture type, and were no doubt private homes when built.  They were all two stories high, although our flat felt like three stories because of the basement which the landlady called her wine cellar.  Part of the basement was above ground, leaving me to believe we were on the third floor.  Trees lined the street on both sides.  Ours was the only tree leaning close to the house.

Our flat was one of four on the second floor.  It was called, by the landlady, a one-bedroom flat which seemed adequate for us.  The price was $15.00 per week, each of course.  She escorted us upstairs to look at it.  

"Where's the bedroom?" I asked as we entered the flat and looked around.

"There," she said, motioning with her head to the left.  "The young fella who lived here before you, left his two blankets on the bed and a sleeping bag in a bag which he used for a pillow.  Use them if you need them but leave them behind for the next person when you move on, and you will, everyone does."

"That's not much of a bedroom" I said.  "The bed fills that little room and there's not enough space around the bed to make it."

"There's a bed and it's in a room....a bedroom," she retorted with a bit of a smirk.  Hideous hag, I thought.  

"Any sheets?" I asked.

"I don't do sheets."  Why am I not surprised?  "You can pick some up cheap at Honest Ed's at the end of the street" she added.

Betty and I stood in the big room looking around.  It had one window with a tree peeking in.  Overhead was a glittering chandelier of all things, dripping glass ornaments of every shape.  There was an old couch in one corner.  It had seen better days.  An equally shabby armchair was nearby and a hard plain wooden chair completed the furnishings.

"Where's the bathroom?" I asked.

"Where's the kitchen?" Betty piped in at the same time.

"They are both at the end of the corridor, opposite each other.  All four flat renters may use them.  You'll have to work it out between you, the times and all that stuff."

"OK" we said in unison.  "We'll take the flat."

She nodded and turned away, and then turned back and said "Before I forget, you are not allowed visiting boys, and particularly men, in your flat.  They will be turned away by me at the front door."

"Why not?" I asked.

"I don't want any hanky panky going on here." she answered.  "No boys, no men, that's my rule," she repeated. 

"Can we move in today?  We've got all our stuff outside in the car."

"Yes," she said.  "If you pay $15.00 each and $15.00 each for the last payment to stop any skipping out early."

We paid $30.00 each.  She was halfway inside when I hollered "My sister Susan is coming next week to stay one night before moving to her own flat with a friend.  Two nights at the most."

"$15.00," said our new landlady.

"But she won't stay a week, only one day or two at the very most."

"$15.00," she said again and left us to move in.

It took us two trips to unload the car and one extra trip for Betty to carry her precious TV upstairs to safety.

We discussed our new landlady as we went up and down the stairs, giggling at her terseness.  Betty thought she looked like a thin Hitler but without the mustache.  I leaned to Boris Karloff, the monster of course, with his piercing cold eyes and thick brows unbroken from side to side.

The first thing we had to do when we left home and moved to Toronto was to get jobs, and fast.  We didn't want to slink back to Orillia in defeat.

Betty was first because she's a go getter type, unlike Sue and I who are not.

Betty rushed in one day shouting "I got a job.  I got a job."

"Where?" I asked.

"Winco," she said.

"What's a Winco?" asked Susan, looking puzzled.

"It's that Steak 'N Burger over on Yonge Street.  You know, the one where we had supper one time.  I had the burger, which was delicious, and you had the steak."

"Yes, I remember the steak all too well," said Susan.  "It was too over cooked for my taste, tough and tasteless, and very very small."

"Small is good in that case," I said with a chuckle. 

Susan was staying most of the time with her friend Burdie and intended to move in with her permanently once Burdie dumped her latest boyfriend.  Burdie worked at Bell, the telephone company, and thought she could get a job interview for Susan, which she did.  Susan was thrilled because Bell paid well.  I thought Susan was too young for Bell, just turned 16.  Susan said no problem, she'll lie about her age and say she's 18.  I didn't like the sound of that and said so.  What if they ask for ID like a driver's licence.  Susan said she'll tell them she doesn't drive, which is true.  Never mind that she's not old enough to drive, I thought.  Oh well, it's her life and I'm not her mother thank God.

Susan got the job and became one of Bell's telephone operators.  She had been working several months at Bell when she got "the" call.  She claimed she was the first person to learn that JFK had been assassinated.  She seemed proud of it.

I, in the meantime, contacted an outfit called Office Overload, hoping they could find me a job and fast.  My money was getting low  They had me in for an interview and tested my secretarial skills of stenography and typing.  I was a fast typist and accurate which allowed me to win some contest in High School.  I wasn't the fastest typist but my mistakes were a lot less than others.  Anyway, they took me on and found me a job immediately at the Parliament Buildings of all places.  Betty and Susan were suitably impressed as was I, and I guess it showed.  Stenographer for the Department of Public Works sounded better, to them, than telephone operator and waitress. 

An unexpected problem occurred.  Betty's TV would not work in our new flat.  It sat there with its blank face for days.  We didn't even have a radio, so silence reigned.  We were out a lot, checking sights in the City, but the noise of the TV when we got home had been a comfort.

One of Susan's many boyfriends, or should I say followers, Guy Vecchio, brought his friend Sal Ditta over to meet me at Fran's restaurant, our usual haunt for cheap food and coffee.  It was a blind date, something I never liked.  I didn't like him.  I preferred Guy but he was enamored of Sue.

Susan told Betty  that the boys, Guy and Sal, had met during a course they were taking about light bulbs and other electrical stuff.  She suggested they could check out Betty's TV.  Betty said that was a problem because our beloved landlady wouldn't allow boys or men in our flat.  I suggested she take her TV down to Fran's later that day where we planned to meet the boys.  Guy and Sal could take it home and see if it works there.

The next day we met Guy and Sal at Fran's.  They had the TV with them.  We looked at them expectantly, hoping they had fixed it because we were missing it a lot.  They said the TV worked perfectly in both their homes and therefore it must be the plug in our flat.

Sal handed me his tool belt which he would need to check the plug.  He said I could  carry his belt upstairs and Betty could carry the TV.  Guy pondered the problem and suggested they could sneak up the stairs when the landlady wasn't looking.

Looking is what she does best so I axed that idea  One of you will have to climb our tree.  It's the only way, I thought  Sal said he couldn't do it because he was acrophobic, a word I didn't recognize.  Trust him to have some unknown malady as well as his other failings.  He's a bit of a drip.

Guy became the guy to climb the tree.  He grabbed the lowest branch and tried to pull himself up.  His muscles strained and you could see them clench as he pulled and pulled.  He's a thin guy but wiry.  Halfway up he rested his face against the trunk.  Branches enfolded him, almost in comfort it seemed to me.  I galloped up the stairs with his toolkit so I could welcome him on his arrival.

Guy was faster than I thought he could be.  His smiling face was already at the window, his one arm linked around a handy branch, his other arm claw like against the window sill.  I smiled too, beamed really, and moved to help him alight.  He got one leg in and lost his balance trying to lift his other leg into position.  I reached out to help him.  We both crashed to the floor, arms and legs waving.

Guy was first to disengage from our tangle, gabbed his nearby toolkit and looked around for the plug.  He found it on the far wall, pried it open with his screwdriver and pulled some wires out.  He told me it was an easy fix, just one wire had come loose.  Minutes later the plug plate was back on, the TV plugged in and blaring with sound, and sporting a rather fuzzy picture which it always had.  We smiled mightily at each other, words were unnecessary.  

Guy told me he had a problem.  He climbed up the tree but down didn't work for him.  Could he use the stairs, he asked.

Betty told Guy that the landlady goes to the shops regularly, in about half an hour.  We'll wait for her to go and then, and only then, can you use the stairs.  She's been looking for a reason to evict us.

I suggested we eat those sandwiches I got at work.  There's two salmon and two egg.  The cafeteria in the Department of Public Works charges only 25 cents per sandwich, so I bought four for a dollar.  Guy looked suitably impressed, and hungry upon hearing about food.  Guys are always hungry, and he is a guy with a capital G.

Betty was sorry we had nothing to drink with our sandwiches.  She could find only one teabag and it had been used.  I told her to grab that Pouilly Fuisse from the fridge.  Guy turned a puzzled face to me.  It's a very fine wine, I explained.  Bring some glasses I shouted to Betty's retreating back.

A short time later Betty returned with the sandwiches, the bottle of wine clamped under one arm, and four thick water glasses.  She'd opened the wine thank God.  She's good at that and I'm not.  She said she found these glasses in the bathroom.  They're all she could find.  I hope she washed them.

Betty placed the glasses on top of the TV.  There was no table.  She filled them three quarters full and motioned for us to take one, which we did.

We lifted our glasses, clinked them, and Betty and I thanked Guy for his help.  Susan felt no need to thank him, she just expected it. We quickly devoured the sandwiches.

We downed our drinks and moved over to the TV to rest them and fill them up.  Up is the wrong word.  Good wine comes in such a small bottle, unlike the big cheap ones I usually buy.

I wandered over to the window, leaving Susan and Guy chattering away non stop.  They only had eyes for each other, and no doubt forgot I and Betty were there.

Hello, I mouthed to the tree, leaned in and placed my wet Pouilly Fuisse lips to the nearest branch.  I felt the tree tremble, but it could've been the wind.  I raised my glass of the excellent Pouilly Fuisse, and the best was required at this point in time, and said "My wonderful helpful tree, may you grow and grow into perpetuity.  May your branches reach out to our beloved oxygen filled sky, and may your foliage be plentiful and house many small birds.  I love you dearly, my beautiful tree, my friend."  

I gathered up the wrappings from the eaten sandwiches and trotted them out to the kitchen.  One of the other tenants on our floor had started a garbage bag which I used.  Those sandwiches were tasty.  We all agreed on that.  I'll buy four more when I return to work at the Department of Public Works.

I was lucky to get that job and it wasn't just for the cheap sandwiches.  The people I worked with were fascinating and some were fun to be around and best of all, they seemed to like me.  They laughed when I told them of my first day at the Parliament Buildings, sent there for a job interview by Office Overload.  I asked them how to get there as I was new to the city.  Take Wellesley or University.  It's not far.  You can't miss it, they told me.  

On the fated day, I drove up, saw the building and it was impressive, and parked at the closed door.  It burst open and two uniformed men charged out with guns drawn.

One of the men tapped on my window with his gun.  I rolled it down and tried to look harmless, which I am in my opinion.  I smiled and explained I have a job interview at the Department of Public Works and I am looking for parking.  He pointed across the way to a tower of a building and muttered, that's what you want and there's parking over there.  I thanked him prettily and was ready to drive off when he told me only the Queen can park here.  I smiled again, thanked him again, and apologized for parking in the Queen's spot.  This is why it's called Queen's Park.  Right?  Both guards chuckled and holstered their guns.  

Office Overload had told me to go to the 9th floor and ask for Mr. Wyse.  He was the person who needed a shorthand typist and was expecting me.

I drove over to the tower to find parking.  There was a small hut with a sign "Parking Shack" so this must be it.  A man emerged from the shack.  He was old, probably in his thirties.  I told him I was starting my new job and he grinned and told me that in that case it was free parking for the rest of the week.  I was sorry it was already Thursday; Monday would've been better.  Months later he told me he had won the Irish Sweepstakes.  Cheapskate!! 

I'd never been in an elevator, so I approached the one in the tower with trepidation.  They had no elevators in Orillia where I grew up.  It was a poky little place and elevators were not needed.  I stepped into the elevator and pressed 9.  We shot up so fast I was breathless when I arrived.

I peeked out and then stepped out of the elevator.  Facing me was a wooly grey headed woman.  She'd turned her head from her desk, bare except for a phone and a small gold desk sign which said "Reception", and gave me a cool look.  A ways up the corridor was another desk and another grey haired woman.  She turned away from her typewriter to look at me but did not speak.

The receptionist stood and told me her name was Cassy, short for Cassandra, as if I cared.  She pointed to the other woman and said her name is Cappy.  She's the shorthand typist you will help, on a part time basis of course.  The names, Cassy and Cappy, didn't suit either of them.  I was ushered over by Cassy to a half door with a counter.  She knocked on it and called out "Here she is, Mr. Wyse" and left.

I peered in.  The room was large with rows of filing drawers lining each side.  There was an old man, probably nearing retirement, seated at a large untidy desk at the back.  Over the desk was one small window very high up and shedding very little light.  A smaller desk sat nearby with a massive black typewriter on it.  Crouched near the old man, shuffling through an open filing drawer, was a young man, my age, who jumped to his feet when he saw me.  The old man told him to unlatch the gate and called him John.

John unlatched the gate, swung it wide, and ushered me in with unexpected gallantry.  The old man rose from his desk and approached me with an outstretched hand, such a gentleman.  We shook hands, his gently, and introduced ourselves.  John hung back until he was beckoned forward for his introduction.  He held my hand a bit too long I thought and I detected a small squeeze.

Mr. Wyse sat me down at the small desk near his and assured me that typing noise does not distract him while he works.  He pointed out the office supplies in the desk drawers.  Any replenishments needed, I need only ask John.  That's one of his duties as filing clerk.

There was an ominous squeak when I moved the chair back from my new desk  Mr. Wyse said he cannot abide that kind of noise and told John to have it fixed, and soon.  I asked him if someone dictating to me at my desk while I took it down in shorthand, would distract him.  Yes, he said.  You will not do your shorthand taking here.  There is a big room on the right down the corridor.  The expropriation officers, Gillis the most senior, Rodberg next in line, and Spong the last one hired, have desks there.  That is where you must go to take down your shorthand.  I thought Spong was a funny name but didn't say so.  

We three sat in silence for awhile, not John of course because he had no desk.  Mr. Wyse completed the file on his desk, handed it to John for filing, and turned to me.  He explained to me there would be no shorthand required of me until the end of next week.  The expropriation officers were touring the Province, examining and looking for suitable properties to expropriate on behalf of the government.  Usually they are on the road four or five days.  Their notes are given to Cappy when they return.  She transcribes and types them up for me.  I use these notes for my weekly report which is required by parliamentary officials each Friday before noon.  Cappy types it for me and it must be perfect.  She finds this task nerve wracking and that's why we need you.  He then asked John to take me outside and introduce me to Cappy.  She has a visitor's chair next to her desk so you can sit in comfort during your conversation about shorthand and typing.

Cappy looked apprehensive when John and I approached her desk.  I smiled and she relaxed a bit, motioned me to the visitor's chair, and shooed John away.  He was sniffing as usual and it is most unattractive.  Maybe it's that postnasal drip I've heard about, or an allergy of some kind.

Cappy launched immediately into a long diatribe about the work I would do which Mr. Wyse had already told me.  I listened politely and asked her if she used Pitman shorthand like I do.  Yes, she said, she'd taken a course at University and asked me where I had learned it.  High School, I told her.

This is when I discovered, to my amazement, that Cappy could take down the shorthand etchings so beloved by Pitman, but she had trouble reading it back to herself for typing.  She handed me her latest scrawls and asked me to read it if I could.  I could and I did.  My shorthand skills have always been excellent although bragging about them is not my style.  I've never seen shorthand as much of an accomplishment.  

Spong is the worst for me, said Cappy.  He's a very nice young man but talks way too fast.  I asked him to slow down and he tried but soon he was blasting words at me as usual.  You'll start with him when he returns from his travels.  A break from his rapid fire dictation will be like a holiday for me.

Officer Ken Rodberg is another kettle of fish, according to Cappy with a bit of a smirk.  He's married, recently and happily, and regaled me unmercifully about his virility when his new wife immediately became pregnant, by him I guess;  she's a nice girl.  Anyway, Ken chats up every young woman who wanders unknowingly into his sphere.  Not me, thank God, I'm old and therefore safe.  He was quite the lad in his day, according to him.  Don't be taken in by his flirtatious comments.  That's all I'm saying.  One comment he makes, and often, and which I loathe, is -- "I Ken do this and I Ken do that". 

It was mid morning by now and I was dying for a cup of coffee and asked Cappy if I could get her one if she could spare me while I made a quick run to the cafeteria  No need, she said, as the elevator pinged, opened, and a motherly looking woman, whom she introduced as Agnes, emerged with a massive tea trolley laden with more delicacies than I'd ever seen in one place.  They're free she said as I reached for my purse.  I chose a bear claw which was hiding behind a big muffin.

As I munched, Agnes and Cappy also munched and talked.  Cappy told Agnes the boys were away for about a week.  Agnes said thank you but Neil always leaves a note on the door when they are away.  He's such a gent and so thoughtful about saving my old legs from the extra steps needed to open and step in to check the room for Officers.  

Cappy told me that Agnes only comes in the morning.  If we want coffee or tea in the afternoon, she'll get John to slip down to the cafeteria.  He's a nice boy and always willing to lend a helping hand, no matter what the task.  We continued with our munching and sipping.  Once we were finished, Cappy sat back in her chair and began to enlighten me about Neil Gillis, her favourite.

Neil is a good looking man, she said, some say sexy.  He comes from old money and lives to the north of downtown Toronto in a very posh area called Rosedale.  Here I'm thinking I wish my money could get old, but I need it for food and flats.  She continued and seemed to be enjoying her story telling.  Because of those attributes she mentioned, Neil is considered a catch by many ladies, even young girls she's heard.  His home is quite large and beautifully decorated with some very fine antique pieces.  He employs a cook, a housekeeper, and two or three maids who do the cleaning and serve meals if required.  There's an old geezer who opens the door.  Neil introduced him as Hemel, a German name she thinks, or perhaps it's Dutch.  She's wrong about that, Hemel is a Scottish name.

On special occasions, Neil throws big dinner parties and always invites everyone from our floor.  Let's hope you'll still be with us when the next one occurs.  His cook presents a buffet style banquet which could challenge that world renowned one at the Dorchester in London, England, if you've ever been there.  I wish, I thought. 

Cappy was introduced to many important people at Neil's parties.  One was the Governor General of Canada by the name of George.  She forgot his last name but intended to look it up, but never did.  Another important person from the neighbourhood was Gordon Lightfoot, the singer.  He had to decline Neil's invitation to sing one evening because he had a gig on the Yonge Street strip at a place called Steele's Restaurant and Tavern.  He performed nightly and needed the job he said.  I jumped in here and told Cappy I grew up with Gordon in Orillia.  We both wanted to move up in the world and chose Toronto.  Gordon acquired more up than I, a lowly stenographer typist, but that's another story.  Thinking about Gordon Lightfoot triggered a memory of mine when Betty and I were lucky enough to gain entry to see Ronnie Hawkins perform.  It was at another place on the Yonge Street strip called something like Cock a Door.

Because Gordon was sorry he couldn't make it to Neil's gala, he suggested sending along three young guys he knows who are trying to break into the music business.  He told them Neil invites a lot of important people to his do's so it couldn't hurt for them to mix it up with them. 

The one young guy was a guitarist and he sang too, which was a bonus.  The second guy played the violin and of course didn't sing along with that.  The third fella was a tuba player and said he was looking for an orchestra, in Toronto if possible.  It seemed an odd trio to Cappy but then she's not musical. 

 Neil's fireplace was big with a huge hearth made of bricks of different colours.  It was lovely.  Neil motioned the three musicians to step up on the hearth.  It would act as a stage for the guests.  They were on the stage in a wink, not having to be asked twice.  

The guitarist started first and then began to sing.  Several guests grabbed a partner and began to dance;  some danced without a partner.  The guitar was replaced by the violin and it was a haunting and melodic piece.  The tuba player sat on the edge of the hearth, his short legs dangling.  The tuba is a big instrument and needs to be held on your lap to play it.  The tuba guy's lips pressed against the mouthpiece, now within reach  The most beautiful and deep, very deep sound emerged, the guitar and violin mere whispers in the background.  The dancers stopped to listen.  Cappy said she'd never heard such a moving piece of music.  It seemed to touch her heart and made it swell in unison with the music.  She said it sounded like An Evening In Paris, and it was.

John continued to trail around after me.  It didn't help my plight when Mr. Wyse told me he wanted John to teach me his filing system so I could help when John was absent. The filing system was complicated.  It was all districts, municipalities, and maps of Ontario.  John of course was delighted to be given the task by Mr. Wyse, his boss.

The boys returned from their travels and I met them and took dictation from them over several days.  Sometimes they needed a file and would shout out for John to bring it to us.  He was delighted.  There were no other young girls his age on the floor, just me with my long waist-length curly chestnut-coloured hair and trim figure.  He thought he'd hit pay dirt, I guess.

Day followed day as it does.  Mr. Harland, our parliamentary liaison, came by a few times and began to take an interest in me.  He was fairly old but likeable and invited me out to lunch.  I accepted willingly as I only had one of those twenty five cent sandwiches to look forward to.  I would sometimes lie on the grass outside to eat it and be alone with my thoughts.   

Mr. Harland arranged a luncheon date with me, and with Mr. Wyse of course, for about a week hence.  He said it was a very fine French bistro, and was famous, so wear something nice.  I can't remember the name of the restaurant.  

I had very few nice clothes to wear for the occasion with Mr. Harland which was looming and needed to visit my sister Patsy for help.  She lives with her husband in Barrie, an hour's drive from Toronto.  When I visit the folks in Orillia, I stop on the way back to see Patsy.  She works in a dry cleaners and cleans my clothes for free and let's me take her clothes, nicely cleaned, back to Toronto.  People at work have commented on the number of outfits I sport around the office, and so well laundered they say.  As if I ever did any laundry!  Washing my few undies overnight is the most I do, and I do mean few, like two sets.  I washed a blouse once, of necessity. 

Like me, John had no money to go out to fancy places for lunch, and certainly not for dinner.  He still lived with his parents for God's sake.  He told me once his parents were very responsible people and told him when he was young that they could only afford one child, him.  He would've liked a brother or sister for company and comfort, or both.  I thought he was lucky to be an only child.  I was one of fourteen.

John and I were friends but I was not interested in him that way.  Neil Gillis was more to my liking and I looked forward to taking his dictation.  While gathering his thoughts and studying his copious notes from his most recent trip, I would sit there waiting and study his face like the besotted fool I was.  He had a mouth with the kind of bottom lip you knew would be good for kissing.  He never kissed me, or tried to, and I didn't know how to make him want to.  I never got much practice in Orillia. 

I tried to limit the times I spent with John when people in the office started to teasingly call him my boyfriend.  I didn't like that.  But, we were sent together on a number of tasks by Mr. Wyse so it was unavoidable, our togetherness.  Every afternoon we were sent to get coffee for everyone.  The cafeteria lady put the coffee in two small buckets with spouts she had, so we could pour easily into our cups back at the office.  There were no handy takeout containers in those days.  The condiments, cream and sugar, had to be carried separately so it made it a two man job.

One afternoon, Mr. Wyse gave me the usual two dollar bill for the coffee.  John and I headed immediately to the elevator.  The bill slipped out of my hand somehow and fluttered down and into the teeny weeny side of the elevator and dropped out of sight.  You couldn't do that tricky maneuver if you wanted to.  John and I looked at each other in horror.  John pulled a two dollar bill out of his pocket and said we could use that to get the coffee because people were waiting.  I said "No" this is my fault and made him wait while I got my purse.  I didn't tell him I only had two dollars in it.  John agreed grudgingly and told me Bob in the basement can probably find the dropped bill down there.  He'll give me Bob's number, which he did.  Bob said he would do his best to find our money.  Later in the day, Bob from the basement arrived at my desk and handed me the two dollar bill and handed Mr. Wyse the bill to find it.  It cost over thirty dollars because he had to remove bricks and mortar in the bowels of the basement.  John and I giggled later about this episode.  He particularly liked Mr. Wyse calling me a nitwit several times because I had always been the popular and cherished one.  I was no longer popular for many days, or was it weeks.

I loved working for the Department of Public Works in that big tower sitting alone in all its splendor for those who stroll by enjoying the delights of Queen's Park.  

I don't like the elevator and told John so as we left work one day.  We work on the 9th floor and the elevator makes an alarming shuddering noise just before it hits ground level.  You don't get that horrible noise when you go up.  John assured me the elevator was fine and has always made that noise.  I was not reassured and decided to start taking the stairs down.

John was dubious about my taking the stairs, looking at what he obviously thought were my inappropriate shoes, the small high-heeled ones I wear in the office.  I don't care what he thinks, or anyone else, I'm doing it.

The very next day I started my stair walking, and it was walking, while I scoped out the terrain.  The door from the 9th floor opened on to a flat landing and the stairs went downward from that.  The first set of stairs sloped a bit to the right and then turned to the left and went down to another landing and door leading to the 8th floor, and et cetera to ground zero.  There was a handy railing all the way down. 

The stairs in that old building were quite beautiful.  They were made of gray marble of all things.  I walked them for many days and then I began running, running, faster and faster, and a clickety clack, clickety clack sound enveloped me in that silent stairwell.  I'll never forget that clickety clack sound.  It gave me joy, a joy youthful of being alive. 

Not everyone likes sounds around.  I do.  I was intrigued by the sound Cappy made when she tap tapped quickly up and down the office corridor, to and fro, here and there.  The floor was some kind of hard wood and I liked to believe it enjoyed Cappy's tap tapping over its usually silent surface.  I tried to copy her quickness and tapping but to no avail.  I was a slow person by nature.  The Officers called her Tappy, not to her face of course.   

As the days grew warmer, I started having my twenty-five cent sandwich lunch outside.  There's a huge  uncut patch of grass in front of our building.  I lay down and press my body into the grass which seems to welcome me.  It was a bit lumpy from acorns scattered here and there.  I scooped them into a small pile next to me.  For many days I scooped and piled the acorns from my bed of green grass.

Some days later, John came slopping along, not him but two cups of coffee he was carrying by their handles.  I sat up, he handed me one cup, and stood drinking his.  I didn't ask him to sit down, still smarting from the teasing about him being my boyfriend, which he is not. 

Summer wore on and it got hotter and hotter.  Toronto is like that.  To cool the tower, they opened many windows, at least the ones that would open.  No air conditioning much in those days.  Hotter and hotter it got.

I didn't see John much for several days, outside I mean.  Mr. Wyse wanted John to go through all the files and take out ones of a certain age.  They would be archived, according to Mr. Wyse, and kept in a secret place for posterity.

For comfort, as I lay on my grassy knoll, I got an old blanket I keep in the car in case of a breakdown on a lonely road in cold weather, and spread it carefully in a good spot.  The sun at noon is high and hot, so I moved my old blanket into the shade of a big tree, the only one close enough and big enough for my purpose.  John told me later it was an Oak tree.  He knows stuff like that.

Days followed days as I lay on my wee blanket in my usual position, flat out and my face upward.  John came by to wish me goodbye.  Because of his excellent work on the archives for Mr. Wyse, he was offered a better position with more money at the Parliament building in a Ministry.  I can't remember which one.

John stood next to me and suddenly squatted down and scooped up the two small piles of acorns I had gathered.  I looked at him questionably when he scattered the acorns around the base of the tree.  Babies should be close to their Dad, he explained.

I didn't know he had it in him, being whimsical I mean.  I reached up to him, grabbed his hand and pulled him down to lie beside me.  My mighty Oak tree boughed down to us in our supine bliss.  My hand brushed John's and closed willingly around it.  I gave it a squeeze.  What the hell! 

"To John, the best dam filer I ever knew."  That was the toast I gave that evening at home on Markham Street with Betty.  I never saw him again.

Summer ended and took the heat with it.  Betty and I talked endlessly about our planned road trip over to Vancouver where my sister Fay lived with her husband and two young children.  Susan decided not to go with us.  She didn't like Betty and the trip in her company would be too long.

Betty wanted to go south and shuffle off to Buffalo as she called it.  I wanted to go north over the top of the Great Lakes.  A guy at work told me he had travelled that way many times and would recommend it.  He offered to give me a road journal for places to stop, places to avoid, and unexpected and long stretches of road that required careful planning, like getting gas before you run out.  It's a remote area and gas stations are not readily available, he said, not like in the city.

I told Mr. Wyse I'd be leaving for my road trip before winter comes.  Stay as long as you like, he said.  We need you.

Betty wanted to go home to Parry Sound to say goodbye to her relations and friends.  I drove her up, although she said she could take the bus.  No, I told her, you know I like driving.  We stayed two nights at her Mom's house so we had three days to say goodbye to everyone.  I was asked if I wanted my own room and said yes as I'd never had one.  Little did I know, her Mom thought I was putting on airs.

There were hugs and kisses for Betty as she said her goodbyes.  I got a few too and was told to look after our Betty, as if I could.  She was a bit older, and I, her friend, was a follower.  We were a good fit.

Betty's Mom didn't like me.  I could tell.  Betty, however, seemed oblivious to that fact.  I consoled myself that she's a Mom and felt she was losing a beloved daughter to me.  We chatted about Betty's relations as we drove away from Parry Sound and back to our home in Toronto.  

Betty is very close and loving to her family.  She can do no wrong because they love her, and her ways, unconditionally.  She admonished me for the comments I kept making to her relatives.  I questioned this as I am a shy but cheerful person.  Betty said I kept saying to her relatives to say goodbye because they may not see her again.  She said it sounded like I thought she'd die, or something.  We all die sometime, I said.  We just don't know when or where.  Only God knows.  Suddenly I took a curve too fast and barely managed to avoid the sheer rockface, which was close to the road wouldn't you know.  See, I said, it's not our time.

Life went on.  It usually does, or it doesn't.  Betty and I continued to have fun out and about Toronto  and its environs.  There was always something new to see and do.  We loved the clubs on the Yonge Street strip and spent many evenings there, trying to pick up men I guess.  Betty was better at that than I and collected a number of followers.

The last thing on our list of things to see was Casa Loma.  I decided to go home, pick up my youngest sister and brother, Jan and Blake, and bring them down to stay with me in Toronto.  They could sleep on the floor.  Casa Loma would be a real treat for them, I thought.  There aren't many castles in Orillia, well none in fact.  They were so excited when I told them and they told anyone who would listen "We're going to Castle Oma, we're going to Castle Oma."

The days grew colder, as it often does in winter.  My jacket was no longer enough to keep me warm.  It wasn't long enough and it wasn't warm enough.  My thoughts turned to the only long warm coat I owned which was stuffed in a big bag and kept in the basement.  A small storage cupboard in the basement came with the flat.

Two of the three of my old maiden aunts, Mary and Mia, gave Mom the dreaded coat.  Mom wouldn't wear it.  She doesn't like that kind of fur.  You take it, she said, back to Toronto.  It's cold there.  Only rich people buy a coat like this, she continued.  It's made of unborn lamb's wool and is called Persian wool.  As if unborn lambs was much of an enticement.  I did like the collar and cuffs which were made to look like animal print.  I drove back to Toronto wearing the coat.  I and it filled my small Austin Mini. 

Betty was busy at work, and play most evenings.  It was left to me to entertain my two young guests.  I'd picked them up from home yesterday and they both brought a small sleeping bag, gifted to them by one of my brothers, Shane I think.  He knew I had no bed for them in my small flat.   A thoughtful young guy for all his oddness.

When I told Mr. Wyse about my young visitors, he told me to take the week off.  The boys are on the road, he said, so take the time with the kiddies. 

The first day I took them on the streetcar to the big Eaton's store over on Yonge Street.  They couldn't walk that far and the streetcar conductor kindly let them ride free.  This was an unexpected bonus because I didn't have much money to spend on them.  They both enjoyed the ding ding the cord made when pulled by a passenger who wanted to alight.  Every time a ding ding went off I held them up one at a time so they could ding ding too.  

The next day, constipation reared its ugly head.  I'd taken Blake along to the bathroom we use at the end of the corridor outside our flat.  When he emerged, he ran to me and buried his face in my stomach.  It hurts when I try to poop, he muttered.

I didn't like the sound of that word try.  He needs his Mom, and so do I.  Moms are good at that kind of thing and beloved because of it.  I'll pack the pair of them up and head home for Mom's attention.  She'll know what do do.  She helped me once with a similar problem.  I was older than Blake, of course, in my late teens.  She gave me a small bottle of some kind of oil and told me to drink it all and wash it down with orange juice.  It was terrible stuff, the taste awful beyond belief, and she had to fill up my glass with orange juice many times.  A gallon of orange juice couldn't disguise that oily stuff.  To this day, I don't care much for orange juice.   

Mom called to see how the kids were making out and no I told her we haven't yet been to Casa Loma.  When she heard about Blake's "problem" she told me to go immediately to a pharmacy and get some castor oil.  And don't forget a big jug of orange juice to wash it down, as if I ever forgot that part.

I left the kids with Betty watching TV and made my way to a nearby pharmacy.  The woman there was very helpful when she heard about the problem, questioned me about Blake's age and size, and said to give him only one third of the little bottle and no more than that.  I assured her I'd pick up the orange juice on the way home.

I poured the oil into Blake's cup and told him to drink up and then he could have as much orange juice as he wanted, and I knew he liked that stuff.  He refused.  He's an obstinate little bugger sometimes.  I wonder where he gets that rotten quality?  Mom said for you to drink it, I told him.  OK, he said, if Mom said, and he drank and drank and drank.  The power of Mom is so much greater than that old saying, the power of one.

Betty went out to find a food store that sells better stuff for the two kids.  They wouldn't like the twenty-five cent sandwiches, she said.  Kids like other stuff and she'd find something.  Get some grapes and cherries, I called out to her retreating back.  They like those.

I lay on the floor with Blake and Jan, waiting for the oil to do its magic. I hope, and soon.  We worked on a puzzle I have which is made up of great big pieces--good for kids and for me too.  I was never any good with those big puzzles with the tiny pieces. 

Suddenly, Blake jumped to his feet clutching one of the big puzzle pieces and waving it in my face.  Wouldn't you know it was a picture of a castle.  Castle Oma, Castle Oma, they both began to chant.  I held up my hands to stop them and told them we'll go tomorrow if Blake is feeling better. 

Betty returned after about an hour or more, shaking two bags of food.  The kids ran over and were pleased when she found some grapes in one of the bags and gave them three each.

The kids sat on the floor, happily chewing their grapes and spitting out the seeds.  I told Betty she should've gotten seedless, pointing to the number of seeds on the floor.  Who cares, she said, a few seeds won't matter in this dump.  Our nasty landlady may disagree, I retorted.  You know what a hag she is, and she was dubious as you recall about allowing children in her building.  Betty just shrugged her shoulders and ate a few grapes and cherries.  Have some, she offered.  You know I don't like fruit, I said.

Betty offered to arrange the food she'd bought on a couple of plates we have in the kitchen.  She said she'll put enough for us and the kids on each plate.  The stuff she got for them can be held in their hands.  The chicken on a stick they'll like and she can remove the sticks.  The chicken is thin and about two inches long covered in tasty bread crumbs obviously soaked in some kind of tasty oil. Sounds good, I thought, as we headed out to the kitchen with the two kids trailing behind.

Blake stopped, turned, and darted into the bathroom yelling "I've got to poop, I've got to poop.  Guests like this I can live without.  

About five or ten minutes later, Blake emerged from the bathroom smiling.  When castor oil works, it makes you smile.  I know.  Blake said when Mom calls, he'll tell her he pooped and pooped and pooped.

Why would Mom call, I'm thinking.  She knows I'll look after the kids.  She trusts me, I know that.  Blake continued to say Mom would call.  He's such a Momma's boy.  She called. 

Blake talked away to Mom non-stop about pooping and then I heard loose poop.  I didn't like the sound of that.  Castle Oma was mentioned many times before Blake handed me the phone.

Mom started right in with the loose poop Blake had mentioned.  Yes, I know what that means, I answered.  Yes, I've heard of projectile diarrhea.  Yes, I have cheese.  Yes, I know it binds.  Yes, I'll give him some.  Yes, immediately.  Yes, we'll rest up today.  Yes, I'll call you if it doesn't work.  Yes, we'll go to Casa Loma tomorrow.  Yes, we'll go to Honest Ed's the next day so the kids can buy some small Christmas presents.  Yes, I have enough money.  Mom's great if you agree with her.  A "No" doesn't work so well. 

The next morning the children began clamoring for breakfast early, too early.  Betty had bought a big box of those little boxes of cereal, mostly the kinds kids like--Coco Puffs, Captain Crunch, and Honey Harvest, the kinds that are coated with sugar.  Blake liked his with a slop of milk.  Jan did not.  She liked to eat her cereal dry.  This was all good as our milk was getting low and Betty had forgotten to get a new bottle.  We suspect that one of the tenants on our floor is helping himself or herself to our milk.

Our morning ablutions were fraught with difficulties.  The shower head was too high and the water too powerful and thundered down on you, making it too much for the kids to use.  Betty and I had trouble with it as well because you couldn't regulate the flow.  It was either on or off.  I watched the kids while Betty used the bathroom and got dressed with the clothes she'd brought in with her.  Then it was my turn.  The shower curtain was a thin plastic thing like an old garbage bag.  When the shower was on, the curtain wrapped around you like a shroud.  It was most unpleasant. 

We found an old bucket in a cupboard, cleaned it and filled it with warm water and a shake of Tide Betty used for washing her clothes at the laundromat.  It bubbled up nicely.  We stripped the clothes off Jan and Blake and stood them side by side in the big tub.  I used my face cloth to wash them down, first one then the other.  They giggled when I rubbed the cloth under their arms.

There was a hose thing that pulled out of the side of the tub.  I used that to hose them down.  It reminded me of my great grandfather who raised pigs on his farm.  When we visited, he would herd the pigs into a smaller pen and hose them down one by one.  He said they loved it; it cleans them and it cools them.  Like the pigs, Jan and Blake loved being hosed down.

A few hours later, we were off, ding dinging our way along to Casa Loma.  With every ding, ding, the kids chanted Castle Oma, Castle Oma.  Most of the other passengers on the streetcar smiled indulgently at their antics, others not so much.  They probably believed in that old out of date adage, children should be seen and not heard. 

We dinged to the stop closest to Casa Loma.  It was about a city block away.  Halfway there, the kids began to lag.  I spied one of those food carts with a few signs plastered up high so you could see what delicacies were for sale.  One sign, the biggest one, said Bavarian Sausages, the other smaller sign said Hot Polish Sausages.  That's too rich for the kids so I asked the young guy in charge if he had any plain old hot dogs.  He turned his cart slightly so I could see the grill.  On it were the various dogs which included about six regular ones.  They were revolving on the grill and were browned lightly all around.  I held up four fingers and told him just a bit of mustard and relish on each.  No need to heat the buns.  We four munched happily away towards Casa Loma.  Why do hot dogs taste so good when eaten outside?   

We couldn't believe our eyes and stopped to stare.  There was a field of dancers, maybe 20 couples, outside Casa Loma.  They were swooping and twirling and seemed to be having a lot of fun, something you don't see often these days.  The women wore floaty dresses of chiffon or silk perhaps, and the skirts billowed out in the breeze, showing their bodies.  I think that is called diaphanous.  The men wore tuxedoes or maybe morning suits.  I'm not sure.  The jackets were fitted and short to the waist.  The backs were tails.  Anyway, they looked very elegant dancing in that field.

I felt out of place in my garb of cotton pants, my dreaded plimsoles, and a black and red checked shirt.  At least Betty was wearing her best dress , in fact her only dress.  It was sunny so we'd left our coats in the car.

Two couples emerged from the throng of dancers and approached the four of us standing there wondering how we could make it to the front.  One couple grabbed the kids, one each, and danced them away, held aloft to their delight.  If I don't see them again, what will I tell Mom?  The second couple approached Betty and I.  The woman grabbed Betty and danced her away.  The man, a tall dark-haired specimen, grabbed me and ignored my plea that I didn't know how to dance.  No matter, he said, and swung me in a dizzy circle.  He was a good dancer, good enough for both of us.  Follow me, he said, and pushed me back, first one leg then the other, draw one leg to the other, step to the side, again one leg then the other, then together.  Step forward the same three steps, then across the three steps, then back the three steps.  Just remember 1 - 2 - 3 and count them and then you have it.  It's like a box I said.  He laughed when I said this must be square dancing.  No, waltzing he said.  We did that funny set of steps all the way to the front of Casa Loma.  Once he lay me over his arm for some unknown reason, so I kicked one plimsoll-covered foot into the air.  I heard some clapping.

We reached the front.  My dancer grabbed Betty's dancer and they danced away.  I stood peering at Betty and the kids who had made it to the Casa Loma entrance first.  Jan pulled at my pants and asked "Was that your Prince, Jackie?"  "Yes," I said, "I think it was."  

A woman, not a girl, emerged from the Castle, her arms opened wide in welcome.  "I am Jule," she said, and "No, not a diamond" she told Jan, "and will be your guide."  She wore a long and beautiful dress of many colours.  Golden slippers peeped out at her feet which of course were in them. 

We see beauty every day, every minute, every second of our lives but not like this all in one place.  The room glowed with a golden hue.  It emanated from all the wood on the walls, Oak I think.  There was a high vaulted ceiling and wooden carvings crept up to it from below.  

We four stood and stared and stared.  Jule stood back so as not to impede our view.  We were speechless with the wonder of it, even the kids.

The wooden carvings, and there were many, beckoned to us.  We rushed around that beautiful room and felt the carvings.  They were as smooth as glass but seemed to warm if you held them long enough.  They made me think of Dad.  He was a carver and made longish round pieces for us children with a couple of holes on the end.  You could blow and hear such a sweet sound.  They were smooth to the touch, just like these ancient carvings in this beautiful place.  Dad called himself a whittler, a carver of a different name I suppose.        

"Before we begin," said Jude, "it is important that I give you the history of Casa Loma."  The kids ignored her and continued to caress the carvings within their reach.  "To this day, it remains one of the only true castles in North America with its soaring battlements and secret passages.  It paid homage to the castles and knights of days gone by."

The kids rushed over to us when they heard secret passages.  Jude showed them to them so of course they're not a secret anymore.

Only Jan was intrigued when Jude mentioned the Girl Guide exhibit on the second floor.  An older sister of one of Jan's friends was going to become a girl guide and talked incessantly about it.  As we mounted some hidden stairs, Jude told us that the wife of the original owner of the castle, Lady Pellett, arranged the exhibit because of her interest in the Girl Guides.  When we got home, Jan was relentless in her telling of the Girl Guide exhibit to anyone who would listen until, as is usual in our family, she was told to shut up.

As I lay on my bed that night, not the bed which I let Betty have because she's longer, but our lumpy couch, I could hear the kids snuffling into their sleeping bags on the floor which they had placed near me on the couch.  What to do tomorrow, I'm thinking.  It's the last day of their visit, then I'll drive them back home to Mom.  Inspiration struck, as it sometimes does just before sleep claims you.  Honest Ed's up the street, that's where I'll take them.  I'll give them five bucks each so they can buy some Christmas presents.  I will buy some sheets, cheap I hope because my money is dangerously low.

The next morning was bitterly cold, even for Toronto.  I wrapped the kids up in their little winter coats and I wore the dreaded Persian fur coat.  This coat has seen more action than I wanted.  It all started with a bet I lost to my friend Bill who worked with me years ago.  The bet was who could lose the most weight in one week.  If I lost, I would have to wear the fur coat for one whole week.  He cheated and stopped eating.  I don't know what his penalty was if he lost, but no matter now.

Honest Ed's was bustling when we got there.  I immediately purchased two sheets for $2.00 each so most of the time could be used by the kids.  There was a customer nearby complaining about the high cost of a pot she wanted to buy.  The saleswoman, a formidable looking woman of big proportions, told the customer the store could not possibly sell a pot like this for less than $3.00.  I left them to that argument and let the kids rummage through a big box of plastic figures.  They were five cents each.  Both of them chose animals, some house and some farm animals because some of their friends lived in town and a few of them on nearby farms.

There was a pile of small Christmas bags made of cloth with tie tops, good for wrapping their small Christmas presents.  I asked the saleswoman for ten for the kids' animals.  They're a penny each, she said, so I gave her a dime.  Nothing is free in this place, I thought.  They'll need the bigger bag for the necklace you've chosen for your mother.  It's five cents.  I handed her a nickel.  It's worth it, I told her, because that silver necklace has their initials on it--JB, and the three linked diamonds on top are a nice touch  That's the maker's mark, she said in that patronizing tone she uses.  JB stands for John or James Borden or Bowden.  There was a tag on the necklace about his jewelry but it fell off.  Mom loved that necklace with her favourite children's initials on it.  She wore it forever.

We left Honest Ed's and crossed to our side of the street.  It was still bitterly cold and the kids' teeth began to chatter between whines.  I grabbed the pair of them and pulled them under my big coat.  They gripped me by the legs and burrowed their faces into my body.  The chattering of teeth stopped but they were not inclined to move and walk.  The promise of hot chocolate and a few biscuits got them moving.  We minced along, not very fast, but at least we were moving.  I longed for the hot chocolate too, or soup if we have any.

A man appeared in the distance, shuffling towards us.  He was wearing a big wooly coat and one of those hats with ear flaps, not tied of course.  He stopped and asked me if I was a hexapod.  Not by nature, more by design, I said, sweeping open my coat.  He chuckled as he walked away, muttering to himself "I love this city--anything can happen here."

It was lovely having the kids for a visit but lovelier still to return them to Mom.  I guess Mom likes children.  She had fourteen of them.  I won't.

I went back to work on Monday.  Back to my life, as I see it.  So many people were glad to see me and Mr. Wyse said the boys were back from their travels and would need me, the shorthand taker and typer.  Mm bliss.

Tragedy struck.  Betty's Mom had a heart attack.  I could not take any more time off work so Betty took the bus to Parry Sound.  She stayed two weeks.  Luckily, Betty's Mom's heart attack was a mild one.  She returned home after only one day in hospital and was told to rest up and keep to a restricted diet, and no turkey dinner for her for Christmas.  She insisted that Betty return to Toronto as she did not want her to lose her job at WINCO.   She said, when the time came, Betty could share my Christmas dinner with my family in Orillia and she would be content.  Little did she know that she would outlive Betty, but that's another story.

A week or more before Christmas, Cappy was invited to one of Neil's gala dinners, not me of course because I was only temporary.  She could bring an escort.  Not everyone on our floor was invited this time.  Cappy didn't have a man so she thought I might do.

Betty returned less than a week before Christmas.  We caught up on our happenings apart.  She attended to her mother mostly and I was working and enjoying it very much.  I was alone in the evenings of course without her but I was invited to one of Neil's galas and that was very exciting.  "Did you get a Christmas kiss?" she asked, and  "Did you get it from Neil?"  "Yes and Yes" I told her.  "How was it?"  she asked.  "Wet," I said.  "It sounds like a French kiss," said Betty, and smiled when she said it..  "He's not French" I said, "I think he's Scottish."  I laughed when Betty laughed, but I didn't know why it was funny.  I didn't ask. 

Betty wanted a tree for Christmas.  I didn't.  Why bother?  Guy at WINCO wanted to please Betty and said he would try to find her a tree, although it was late to find anything suitable.  All the good ones were gone.  A small tree, she told him.  That's all we need. Please Guy, please Guy, she begged, and so he did because he wanted so much to please Betty. 

The very next day, Guy called Betty who told me that his pal Sal had found a tree for us and that he would drive it over in his Dad's car.  His Dad is a miserable sod about his car but, because it's Christmas, Sal can use it this one time.  The tree, he said, is in a small pot filled with potting soil and fits nicely into Sal's Dad's car, lying down in the back seat.  We asked for small and I guess we got it.

Later that day, Sal came by, honked his horn and waited.  He knows our landlady doesn't allow boys or men upstairs.  Betty and I rushed down and arrived just as he was getting the tree out of the back seat.  He stood it up in its green bucket.  It tilted a bit to one side.  Who doesn't. 

Betty handed me her purse, grabbed the tree by its bucket and started up the stairs to our flat.  I noticed the tree was a little flat on one side and told her so.  We'll place that side to the wall, she said.  Problem solved.

Our landlady popped her grizzled head out of her door as we passed.  That tree will have to be out of here right after Christmas, she muttered, emphasizing the word right.  I don't like trees in my house. 

Betty placed our tree against the wall, turned to me and told me she was going to Honest Ed's for some decorations.  Guard the tree, she said, as if anyone would steal it. 

Betty returned shaking a big bag of decorations, looking very pleased with herself.  There were no lights of course as our only plug had only one socket and the TV needed that.  There's plenty of decorations for our little tree, she said, and one of our neighbours gave me this to add to our haul.  She held up a dangly thing with a bit of glitter on its end.  It looks like a penis, I said.  That's a bonus, she responded, and we giggled like girls do when the word penis comes up.

We were very very pleased with our little tree standing with its bare back to the wall, decorated in its Christmas gear.  Betty hadn't been able to find an angel or a star or something Christmassy to sit on top.  All the good stuff like that was gone.  It was too close to Christmas.  Inspiration struck, as it sometimes does, and Betty grabbed the hat off her favourite doll which she's had since she was a girl and carries it everywhere she goes.  It's a red touque with a fluffy green pom pom on top and fit nicely over the bare stick at the top of our tree.  It was cute, in a weird kind of way.  Some have said the same thing about my look.  

Laundromat days come and go.  This is Betty's task, I tidy the flat.  This week, wouldn't you know, WINCO asked Betty to work longer hours because of Christmas coming, and she had to skip the laundromat.  This was bad news for me as my clean clothes were running low.  In fact they had run out.

In desperation, I washed a blouse in our kitchen sink, wrung it out as best I could, and hung it on a handy hangar.  Where to hang it?  Where to hang it? I muttered.  The branch of that tree at the window would be perfect but we have a pesky pooping pigeon out there. 

I scanned the room one more time and then I saw it, the perfect place to hang my blouse, our chandelier.  I reached up and hooked the hangar in a suitable spot and breathed a sigh of relief.  By morning, my no-iron polyester blouse should be dry.  I'll have to do a laundromat run tomorrow after work.  One blouse won't see me through Christmas.

Betty returned from the bathroom dressed and ready for work.  I was standing in the middle of the room, shrugging on my clean shirt.  It came up nice, she said.  I smiled in satisfaction and stepped towards her.  Oh, Oh, she said, and pointed to the floor under the chandelier.  Oh, Oh, I replied as I spied five, maybe more, white dots marring the glossy wooden floor.

We looked at each other in horror.  Oh God, I thought, it's good we never have any visitors.  Betty repeated my thought out loud.  Then, she remembered something she heard at work.  One of the men there told her his Dad had stained his rocking chair with Scotch whiskey.  He was drinking, as usual I gathered, sitting in his rocking chair, fell asleep and dropped his glass of Scotch which dribbled on and down his chair.  Being a good son, he bought a small bottle of stain at the hardware store, applied it to his Dad's chair, and the dreaded marks disappeared just like magic.  Anyway, he offered to give Betty his little bottle of stain but he couldn't get it to her until Boxing Day.

The last day of work for me was the day before Christmas Eve, although not much work was done.  Much of the day was spent talking and wishing Christmas wishes to anyone who would listen.  Many people brought in bottles of drink to celebrate the occasion.  There was Gin and Tonic, Vodka and Orange, Scotch, and a big bottle of Cognac with a gold cross on the front.  The guy that brought that must be rich.  I'll keep the flask as it looks expensive and I could fill it with cheap cognac later on.  I'd never had that many drinks during the day in my life.  We stopped for lunch and Ken Rodberg corralled me and offered me a tray of hor dovers he called them, things on sticks, and plenty of them.  The day was waning, people were moving towards the door, when Ken grabbed my arm and pressed a small bottle of eggnog into my hand which he said he'd laced with rum to cheer up his two favourite girls for Christmas Eve.  He'd never met Betty and I avoided his goodbye kiss as best I could.

We had a nice lie-in on Christmas Eve morning.  Betty had brought a take out bag from WINCO for our breakfast.  It was scrambled eggs, scrambled with bacon bits and vegetable bits of some kind.  She placed the bag and our eggnog in our red "fridge" bucket which we hung outside on our tree.  It worked well as it was still bitterly cold here.

Evening came on Christmas Eve.  Betty got our eggnog out of the red "fridge" bucket and poured out two glasses in those awful water glasses from the bathroom.  We lay back on our shabby couch and sipped and were content with our lot.  We looked forward to a big turkey dinner tomorrow in Orillia.  Maybe we can wangle some leftovers out of Mom when I give her the beautiful fur scarf I found at Honest Ed's.  It'll go nicely with that fur coat she wears.  

Our peace was shattered by a knock at the door which we ignored.  We don't get visitors.  The next knock was louder and included our landlady's voice.  Let me in, she said, I want to wish you a happy Christmas.  This from a woman who won't wish you a good morning.  Betty grabbed our tree and placed it over the white dots on the floor.  Our landlady entered, wished us a Merry Christmas and asked why our tree was in the middle of the room.

Oh God, Oh God, what can I say?  what can I say?  And then, I came up with the comment most people are afraid to question in case they're thought to be anti something.  Betty rolled her eyes at me when I said "It's for religious reasons."      

  

  

 

 

   

   



   

   

 


  

  


   

 

  








 

      






 

    

  

     



 

 



  






    

  







 


Tuesday, March 22, 2022

I AM A STONE by Jackie Lloyd

 I am a stone.

I am mostly alone.

I lie on this beach,

the waves just out of reach.

A boy comes by

and he kicked me aside.

He's not a stone

and he's never alone.

His friend is there

and they do tear

along that beach

the waves just out of reach.

Sunday, February 27, 2022

MY WINTER DOVE

 You came to our house and looked in our window.

The branch you sat on was all aquiver 

with love I suppose as your weight is not great.

I'm Stephen and my dear wife is Patsy.

We love one another and need no other.

You brought peace and joy to our presence.

We welcome those things that we both have together.

A winter dove is a special being

created by God who knows such things.

Fly away my winter dove.

Find warmer climes to spread your peace, and freedom, and love.