Friday, May 29, 2009
Thursday, May 28, 2009
I drove to the trees with Mrs. Scurfield last night. She drank tea from a thermos while sitting on a green foldout lawn-chair with a plaid-patterned blanket on her lap. I sat on a stump with beer and whiskey in my backpack.
At Mrs. Scurfield's request I spiked her tea. She got a little talkative. "They make me sad, these trees," she said. "A bad kind of sad."
"I hate them," I told her.
"Do you?" she asked in surprise.
"Then why do you come out here?"
"I'd have to be a lot closer to drunk before I could tell you."
"Then drink up."
Saturday, May 23, 2009
Friday, May 22, 2009
I found a picture online of the place where I work, Hung's Restaurant. We serve Chinese food and over-the-counter pizza.
Restauranting is in Mr. Hung's blood. His father established a restaurant in San Francisco fifty years ago that is still around today.
Make sure to read the comments in here.
Two entries in one day.
Thursday, May 21, 2009
Sitting around with Clarke drinking beers last night in his kitchen, here’s the story he tells me:
“I was in Hung’s waiting for a pizza yesterday. This girl came over and stood beside me. She told me that, ‘If you accept Jesus as your personal saviour your name will be written in the book of life in the kingdom of heaven by the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.’
“So I told her, ‘Fuck yeah, I want to be part of that.’”
I smiled at Clarke, and laughed quietly through my nose.
He laughed hard, repeating the punch-line to himself.
Then I asked him, “Do you have any other poems? I really enjoyed the last one.”
“Sure,” he says, and hands me a piece of paper.
It was too obscene to reproduce here. Unless you're as interested in his poems as I am, in which case I could post it.
He also gave me an old cigarette lighter of his with a picture of Marilyn Munroe on it.
Saturday, May 16, 2009
You won't believe what happened this morning.
I woke up early and smoked my way through a Johnny Cash album and some scrambled eggs. Then, after closing my eyes and confronting the sad, massive boredom that sometimes blankets this world, I decided to go to church.
"Matthew Wilkinson," I heard Mrs. Scurfield say from behind me as I stood on the church steps after the sermon and songs.
"Hello," I replied, turning around.
Small talk. Then: "Drunk at the crooked trees. Must've been quite a time." She was smiling and inquisitive.
I can’t remember exactly what she said next, but the long and the short of it is that she goes to the trees a lot, and she said she’d like some company next time she goes.
“Okay,” I replied. “Yeah. Anytime.”
After church I had coffee and deviled eggs in the basement while the pastor’s ten year old son Jacob earnestly told me about a UFO that landed near Hafford last year. He wrote a link on my napkin. Here.
I'll tell you one thing: I don't believe in UFOs.
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
I meant to write about this earlier, but felt a little embarrassed.
I've been getting drunk at the trees a lot lately. Last week I woke to the feeling of a hand shaking me.
"Matthew Wilkinson," a female voice said. "Matthew!"
I looked up and saw the crooked branches against a morning sky. I flinched. "Holy God," I muttered. Old Mrs. Scurfield was standing over me. I sat up straight.
"Alright. Your shoulder is covered in vomit."
"Sorry," I said, with my head facing the misery.
"Come on." She pulled me to my feet.
We walked back to the road where my truck and her car sat in the May morning sun. "Mrs. Scurfield," I began.
"It's alright,” she interrupted. "No one's hurt."
We came to my truck. I took off my reeking jacket and threw it in the back. I watched her get in her car and drive away. I turned my truck ignition. The clock shone out its digital numbers.
I rubbed my eyes.
What was Mrs. Scurfield doing out at the crooked trees at 5:30am?
I couldn't sleep on Saturday night. At five am, after tossing for hours, I got in my truck and drove to the trees. No alcohol. The sun was rising. Pretty as hell.
I climbed onto a big branch and carved Ecclesiastes 7:16 in the bark. It took me a half-hour.
"Do not be over-wise, do not be over-righteous. Why should you ruin yourself?"
I drove home and watched Tribal Trails. Then I enjoyed the news-lady for a while and went to bed.
Monday, May 11, 2009
I drew a woman's face on the sidewalk yesterday evening using stuff I found on my lawn, like grass and cigarette butts. I thought about gluing it down.
"Kind of a waste, isn't it?" asked my middle-aged next-door neighbour Clarke in his most observational tone. He runs the town dump, and watches a lot of Law & Order. We drink together sometimes.
I folded a dandelion stem in the shape of an earlobe, asking, "How's work?"
"Mmm," he exhaled, thinking. Clarke takes his job very seriously. "The Crawfords threw out a good couch, so now I've got it in the lookout shed." He scratched his shoulder with a thumb. "Say," he exclaimed as I created the nose, "she's a good-looking woman." He knelt down respectfully to examine. "You know, I started writing a poem once," he began. "I've still got it somewhere."
"Yeah?" I asked. "What's it about?"
I saw Larissa Shapko in a ball game in the field across from my place.
"Go Larissa!" I exclaimed as she headed to bat. She looked at me, the only person in the stands. I realized I'd embarassed her. That's what I get for drinking at noon on a hot Saskatchewan Saturday.
She struck out, and the inning was over.
After the game I remained in the stands, four empties beside me and one half-done in my hand, contemplating the wind rushing through the grass towards me.
"Hey Peter," Larissa said, skipping up the rows with a backpack.
"My name's not Peter."
"Yes it is." She sat beside me and grabbed one of the unopened beer bottles at my side. I offered no objection. It’d be funny to see a 13 year old girl drink a Guiness Stout.
"Yer folks never came to the game?" I asked with exaggeration. I lifted my bottoms up and swallowed.
"It’s a practice, dummy." She grimaced as she ingested. "Do you have a girlfriend?"
"No. Well, kinda. No." Jesus.
"I'd be your girlfriend if I was eighteen." Jesus H. Christ.
"Okay. How's yer Dad?" I replied.
"I dunno. How's yours?"
"Good," I yawned.
"I heard you were out at the crooked trees last week, drunk." She said this with an acted cool.
"Who told you that?"
"Mrs. Scurfield." Larissa looked at me curiously, then belched, "So, is it true?"
"How drunk were you?"
I ran down the gravel road that takes you past the Cassidy farm. This was on Thursday, when the sun was hot and I was restless after a morning of Clint Eastwood movies. Firefox, In the Line of Fire, Play Misty for Me.
I ran as fast as I could for as long as I could. Then, when I could hardly breathe for the pain in my side, I wandered into a little group of poplar trees.
I sat down and pulled a small joint out of my wallet. Breathing hard, I lit it. I leaned against a tree and inhaled 'till I couldn't hold my breath any longer. Jesus. I felt the warmth move across my arms and legs. Still catching my breath. Another puff. I laid down and watched the wispy clouds above the treetops. I concentrated on breathing deep.
In ten minutes I had melted. I stretched my arms behind my back and hugged the tree. I squeezed as tight as I could. I was a lunatic.
"I know you hate me," I muttered at the bark. "And that's good, 'cos that's how it is."
A black pickup truck roared past me on the gravel road, just out of view. A wave of gray dust filled the air. I sat back and let the sound fade and the haze settle.
I woke up two hours later, still stoned, and slowly walked back into town. I threw in Any Which Way You Can and barbecued myself a hamburger.
Tomorrow is the high school graduation.
I drove out to the crooked trees on Monday night and got drunk. By myself. A couple Dabs and a flask of gin. I really like German beers.
I passed out on the wooden path that carries you under the trees, while staring up at a particularly gnarly branch.
I barely made it to work on time, waking up freezing with the sun in my eyes and racing into town. Mr. Hung laughed at me and picked some grass off my jacket when I walked in. I work three days a week as a cook at Hung's Chinese Restaurant.
"You go to the trees again last night?" he queried while I started up the oven. I think I might've blushed. He jabbed me in the ribs and laughed. "You drink too much Mr. Wilk-ah-son. You need a girl."
All I could see was the twist of branches fracturing the sky.
I was walking past Shapko & Son Welding last night on the way to buy cigarettes. The Shapkos live next door to their shop. The youngest daughter, Larissa, who at 13 years old is a bit of a tomboy, was fixing the chain of her bike on the driveway. She stopped me.
"Hi," I responded. She knows my name's not Peter.
"D'y'wanna hear my dream?" She asked eagerly.
"Well... I dreamt I had a red plaid shirt with the words 'You Bastard' stenciled on the back. Like a baseball player. Then I accidentally cut my wallet up with scissors."
"Where'r'ya goin'?" she asked.
"To buy smokes at the gas station."
"Will you let me have one when you come back? I'll give you a dollar." Her hands were covered in grease.
Willard Schute got drunk one night. On the way home in his Volkswagon Rabbit he cut across Wiley's field. They found the car next day, crashed in a freshly dug eight-foot basement. Willard had abandoned his ride and walked home, surprised but still drunk. This was in the 70s, when Mr. Wiley built that house.
There are crooked trees near Hafford. They're normal pine, but crooked. For a hundred feet they grow twisted and then the forest is normal. Someone roped it off and built wooden paths. There's a small sign, says, The Crooked Trees of Hafford, Saskatchewan with a painting of a tiger lily underneath.
Hafford's not much of a town. The gas station has a restaurant attached. They serve eggs until 11am every day of the year except Ukrainian Christmas.
Some American hunters shot a goat just outside it at 5am last year. Nearly scared the owner, Mrs. Scurfield, to death.
Hafford, Saskatchewan. Population: 853. We've sent 13 men to the NHL.