Friday, July 31, 2009

XXVIII: A Secret

Here's a secret: I’ve been pissing on Mrs. Scurfield’s restaurant parking lot for years. In a corner near the garbage.

The restaurant is on my route back home from the Trees, and it’s become a bit of a custom to pee there. I do it almost every time I pass by after dark. I can't remember when it started.

Some places just make sense to you, so you build a sanctuary around them. The Trees bother me enough to surround them with ritual. And dreams. An entire life at the disposal of crooked branches.

I try to look these things in the face. I don’t always succeed.

This picture is of a billboard, also on my route home from the Trees, that was recently erected.

A great recent collection of Hafford images is available here.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

XXVII: Brenda "Birdie" Hung-Walbrandt II, Chan "Mr." Hung II

Even in the bar it's "Mr. Hung." Not Chan.

"We've forgotten the effect financial insecurity has on our mental state," said Birdie last night at the K-Bar to Mr. Hung and me. The place was almost empty. "Almost the entire middle-class in our debt-soaked world is mentally burdened. At 47 I'm just now, finally, out of debt. I feel so empowered."

I think I nodded. We were all several pints in.

"That's why you've got to live in a small town with an economy like Hafford's, and work part time," I replied. "I'm free. I'm 27 and I own my own house and that beater of a truck. I can tell the world to fuck off whenever I want to. But the government considers me below the poverty line." Then I added, "The problem with Marxism is that it's trying to get the working class unshackled by telling them to climb out over the top. The best way out is actually through the bottom."

Mr. Hung smiled. "And bureaucracy!" he said, adding to my pontification. "Marxist states are inevitably built on a large bureaucracy, and every sane person knows red tape is evil. You wouldn't believe, with my business, all the..."

"Why're you guys talking about Marxism,"interrupted Birdie. "Who brought that up?"

I walked home later shaking my head, wondering why we'd talked about politics at all. I hate that.

Photo taken from here.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

XXVI: University of Manitoba

I dialed the number. After two rings I heard a woman's voice say, "Hello, Sciences and Technology Library."

"Hi. Yeah, I'd like to get a copy of a masters thesis written by one of your students in 1997."

"Umm... could I get your student I.D number?"

"I'm not a student."

"Oh, well, do you have a library card?"


"You'll need to come by the library to get a card for accessing..."

"Actually, I don't live near Winnipeg."

"Oh, I'm sorry. Are you from another university?"

"No, I'm a part-time cook in Hafford, Saskatchewan."

Long pause.

"What's the name of the thesis you're looking for?"

"It's called Ecology of the Crooked Bush by Roger Shaw. I'm pretty sure you guys have it, but I can't get access to search for it on your site."

Two or three breaths, then typing sounds.

"Alright," she said, "I think... Do you have a pen?"

"Uh, yeah. A pencil."

"I think the best person for you to talk to would probably be Marie at 204-474-7063."

I wrote it down. "Marie at two zero four, four seven four, seven zero six three?"

"Yes. Her information is on our website."

"Okay. Thanks."

"Good luck."

Did she really need to know I had a pencil, not a pen?

Friday, July 17, 2009

XXV: Where Eagles Dare

Woke early and enjoyed a cigarette. Heard the sound of light rain.

Sure enough.

I looked around my house, then outside. I thought of all the possible places I could go, and how I didn't want to go to any of them. My house is gray and uninspired. The weather keeps us imprisoned.

I put on a hat and jumped on my bike. Pedaled out to the Trees. I sat for a long time under their protective leaves, moisture from the ground soaking into my jeans.

What am I doing? 27 years old, still in Hafford, working 3 days a week as a cook/dishwasher.

"Am I wasting my life?" I asked Clarke an hour later in his kitchen as he offered -and I accepted- some toast and eggs. Coffee was brewing and Clarke was still in bedclothes, his hair tousled from another slightly hung-over sleep. He eyed me wearily. I paused and looked at a mountain goat magnet on his fridge. "I'm just venting. You don't need to actually say anything."

Clarke laughed. I yawned. He yawned. After breakfast we went to my place and wasted the remaining morning hours with some coffee, Clint Eastwood, and Richard Burton in Where Eagles Dare.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Weather's been dull. My life is aimless. That's the state of things.

All I've got is tired. Calm. The Trees.

The trees. The Trees. Capitalized or not?

Thursday, July 9, 2009

XXIV: Clarke V

Drinking on my lawn last evening, a truck passed by. I recognized the boys inside.

"Faggot!" they shouted, and spun away laughing.

Even when I was one I never cared for teenage Saskatchewan boys.

"Those fuckers," said Clarke, stepping out of his house shirtless. I laughed. He used to be a violent guy, I think. Like once he told me if anyone ever stole his chainsaw he'd bust their kneecaps. I smiled and nodded in agreement, but got the feeling he wasn't kidding at all. "I'd take a wrench," he said, motioning toward his garage, "and I'd hit them right there." His finger rested on the spot where shin becomes knee.

"Jesus, Clarke."

He looked at me. "Sorry. But that is what I'd do."

XXIII: Mrs. Scurfield III

On Sunday Mrs. Scurfield knocked on my door, still in her church clothes.

“I want you to see something,” she told me, and I followed her out the door and over to her place. “Sit there," she demanded. "I’m gonna change.” One of her green fold-out chairs was ready for me on the lawn.

Emerging five minutes later, she began to garden. And she really went at it.

I’m not one for gardens. A flower is a flower is a flower. I watched for a couple minutes.

“You can go home whenever you want,” she said without turning. Which made me feel bad, ‘cos I was enjoying watching her. But then she said, “And you’re welcome to come sit in my garden anytime.” So I felt better.

“I’ll be right back,” I told her, and ran home for a case of beer. She saw the beer and rolled her eyes a little.

“Don’t be so enigmatic,” I charged, seating myself. “Why’d you want me to see your garden?”

“Because," she began, then paused. "Because I thought it would help you understand something about those trees. And because I wanted you to see what I most enjoy doing.”

I responded with something along the lines of, “You want a beer?”

On Monday after work I walked around town with a plastic Zellers bag, collecting dandelions. Then I wandered out to the Trees and buried those weeds everywhere I could.

I'm lying. I only thought about it. But the detail of the Zellers bag made it convincing, didn't it? What I actually did was sit in Mrs. Scurfield's garden reading A Confederacy of Dunces. It’s hilarious.

I don’t have any real friends my own age. Except maybe Jon, Forrest, and Boyda. But they live a long way from Hafford.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

XXII: Anglican Church

They leave the Anglican church open. All night. So I go in sometimes and play the piano or read the hymn-books, pamphlets, and pew graffiti. Or I sign in as John Diefenbaker in the guestbook.

The pastor’s office isn’t locked either. I’ve resisted going in there up ‘till last night. Moment of weakness. All those pictures of family and friends, and that big map of Israel. Calvin and Hobbes cartoon on the door. Half-finished cup of coffee in a Styrofoam cup.

His library was all concordances and self-help books for couples. And The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha.

I saw the souls of the fathers of the world…

That’s from 3 Enoch 44:7. I saw the souls of the fathers of the world.

The souls of the fathers of the world. Christ, what does that mean?

At 2:30 am in the silence it means something. And then it's just words.

The Trees.