Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Things Were Better Then (Part I)

Time for another short story. Engaged as I am in finishing one massive project, and an essay that has tormented me for weeks, I figured it was time to have a little fun for a while. This story, set in the fictional "Norton, Ontario," is actually based on Kemptville, Ontario.

Norton, Ontario was small town of about a little over a thousand people, where nothing ever really happened, or rather, I should say, nothing ever really changed. I remember back in ’83 when they put a stop light by the Post Office because of all the traffic going to that, the Legion, and the Home Hardware. It was a big to do then, because it meant Norton was growing, becoming a real place. And then in ’85 when the Farmer College was built, only they called it the Institute of Agricultural Technology, well then we knew Norton was a hub town. Of all the towns in the county, Norton was on its way up.

I wish it hadn’t have started doing that though, because Norton just doesn’t feel like home anymore. It doesn’t even feel like a place anymore, ever since they put in new subdivisions for all the city workers who drive to and from here on the new four lane highway every morning. And when they opened a Tim Horton’s, and a McDonald’s, this town wasn’t a home anymore. Nobody knows each other. Nobody goes to the games, nobody goes to the Legion, and almost nobody goes to Church. The thing is not that nobody likes each other, you see, but that nobody cares enough to whip up even a half-hearted dislike for anyone else anymore. And in my opinion, that’s a bad thing.

* * *

Jojo saw people moving in all different directions, talking, arguing, asking questions. He didn’t know why everyone was so upset, but it was kind of funny. Some people were really red in the face and looked liked they had been stung by a bee. Those ones who yelled the loudest were shaking their hands and jiggling their faces. To Jojo, the best part of this whole mess was how none of it made any sense. Father Francis had just started blessing the wine and getting the communion wafers ready when everyone had turned around to look when the big church doors had banged open, and eight policemen had come in.

The policemen had come in like they meant business. Jojo had to stand up on the pew to see as he was too short and everyone else was too tall. He climbed onto the bench, then, with his hand on the shoulder of the person beside him, he stood up on the back of the pew, and could see over everyone's heads. While everyone was looking at the policemen, who had stopped and were looking at everyone else, Jojo turned his head and looked towards the altar and saw the back of Father Francis’ head as he slipped out the side doors to the rectory. Then the two Ms. B’s, the long white old lady dresses they wore almost everyday flapping, started running after Father Francis, and as they crossed in front of the altar to get to the side door, they slipped on the spilled wine that was all over the floor. They both fell with a thud on the hard marble floor, and a pair of dentures flew up from one of them and landed on the steps of the altar. Jojo couldn’t help but smile and laugh, and even though people looked at him like he was crazy. He didn’t care because it was turning out to be the best mass he’d ever had.

* * *

When I was about eight, way back in the mists of time, everybody, but everybody, went either to the Protestant Church, or to the Catholic Church. But even though everything in town was split along religious lines, including the neighborhoods, the schools, the sports teams, and even the police and fire departments, pretty much everyone got along just fine. I’ve heard once in a while that if you were Protestant, you’d best time your house burning down so’s it happened in the day when the Protestant firemen were on duty, because at night when the Catholics were on, there’d be all sorts of engine trouble keeping them from getting there fast enough. In the end they would only get there in time to hook their thumbs into their belts and mutter things like “S’a shame,” and “How’d this got started.?” I also heard the Catholics say that about the Protestant Firemen, but that’s just just one of those things people will say, but never really happened. Call it a rural legend. Mind you I’m not saying the split wasn’t real, but it wasn’t a bad thing, it was just the way things were. Kind of like in Glasgow, Scotland where there are these two football clubs, the Rangers and the Celtics, and if you’re a Ranger you’re Protestant, and if you’re a Celtic, well, you know.

We did our own things and everyone got along. If anyone tells you that Canada ain’t like this, I tell you it is, ever since Acadia and the Plains of Abraham. We may be multi-cultural as I keep hearing, but it don’t mean we’re all one people.

No comments:

Post a Comment