IT’S A FREE COUNTRY (2 Chapters)

The PUC building in Thunder Bay

The PUC building in Thunder Bay

1- You Can’t Stop a Story . . .  

I don’t mind civilization in small doses.

And I don’t mind wilderness, also in small doses.

So I don’t mind going to the big city for a day, or for a few days at most.

Olga and I started out last Friday from our home in bush, heading for the city, but before we got thirty klicks, the blizzard forced us to return.  I don’t mind a small blizzard, but this one got too big for its britches.

So we started out again Saturday, in a mild snowstorm, and by hovering near the centre of the snow-packed road (the centre line had been obliterated), we reached the city four hours later.

One of the perks of civilization is a Tim Hortons.  On Sunday, Olga and daughter Laura took off to Grand Portage, just across the border, to wallow in the temptations of the casino.  I took myself off to a Tim Hortons for a gourmet breakfast.

I ordered a ladle of hot oatmeal, cunningly flavoured with maple topping, and a medium café mocha, and a whole grain raspberry muffin served with two pats of butter.  Real butter.  We buy only margarine ourselves.

I slathered four thimblefuls of 18% real cream on the porridge and sank my teeth into the still-warm muffin, which simply oozed butter.  It was a blissful experience.

A blissful experience, marred only by the surly waitress.

Okay, maybe it was my fault.  When I stood at the counter and ordered my breakfast, I was muffled in a bulky parka.  Without asking me, she prepared an order to go.  By the time my meal was served up, I was stuck with a paper dish and a paper cup and a paper bag for the muffin.

And maybe surly is the wrong word.  She never said a word and she never smiled, so I was nonplussed.  Maybe she had had a bad Christmas.  Maybe her cat just died.  I don’t know what she was thinking.  I do know she detracted from the blissful experience.

I carried my meal to a small table and indulged myself – as much as a paper cup and a paper dish and a paper bag allow you to indulge.

I became aware of three gentlemen at a nearby table.  After a series of surreptitious glances, I had identified two Asian-looking guys and one Caucasian.  All young.  Which means, to me, they had not reached the half-century mark.  They were probably in their twenties.  Very young.

I detected phrases such as “in surgery” and “yesterday morning” and “good job”.  One of the Asian guys, the one with the trim beard, did a runner, and it was then just the Caucasian and the other Asian.  They stepped up the conversation.  They grew very animated.  I heard words such as “position in Sudbury” and “sounds good” and “yeah, yeah”.

The bearded Asian came back.  The Caucasian stopped speaking.  He listened to the colloquy between the two Asians.  He avoided eye contact with the beard.

And so I put together their story.  These young guys worked at the Regional Hospital.  They were starting their careers.  Possibly they were resident doctors.  Still had an eye out for opportunities in other hospitals.  The two Asian guys, however, had a shared experience.  They might be related.  Might come from the same country.  Maybe even from the same village.  But only one of them was reaching out to a new friend in his new country.  And let me assure you, they – the Asian guys – were definitely not planning to fly a Piper Cub into the Public Utilities Commission building in Thunder Bay.

I have no idea – no idea whatsoever – if that is their story.

It is my story.  MY story.

I am a writer.  And what I don’t know, I make up.

Sorry.  Sorry if that bothers you.

What I mean is, I am sorry for you if that bothers you.

I am not apologizing.

[Continued in Chapter 2]


About EJ Lavoie

Writer and independent publisher with website
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