dressed up like a yeller peacock, Nav; ya
looks ready to blast off for the international space station. Trying to take over Chris ‘adfield’s job, is
ya?”, enquired a voice I knew belonged only to one.
to hide behind a fishing boat that had been laid up all winter; perfect
camouflage for a kayaker, decked out in a bright yellow drysuit, responding to
the call of nature.
slightest concern that I might be showing an excess of undergarments or other
bodily parts. I cursed the Petty Harbour
Tourism Committee; a suitable outhouse, right now, would likely save me some trouble.
I closed my “relief” zipper, with no
time to spare, as Uncle Gnarley’s old “friend”, Jos Arnell, popped her head
around the stern of the aging vessel.
only thing that’s any good for”, Jos barked aloud to the whole community,
though I wasn’t sure why I was gratified when she added: “sure that ‘ol bark
hasn’t seen as many cod fish as I got frying on the stove. What’s ya doing, Nav? It’s some good to see ya b’y; I spose yer
goin’ out in that little boat; lookin’ to get drowned is ya? Where’s Uncle
Gnarley”? Her questions continued, in a staccato outburst, without the need for
as much as a ‘howdy do’, from me. “I suppose he’s too uppity to come down to
these parts. I ‘aven’t seen him in months, is he hidin’ or somethin’?”
Jos ceased her non-stop inquisition and waited for me to say something. I always had difficulty speaking with the
wizened old woman. I could never focus
on anything she said, always fixated, was I, with the huge wart that took up
residence on her highly pronounced schnozzle. The malicious growth just seemed
to have a character all its own, changing shape, and colour, as she
gestured. In her own way, she was a
wonderful human being and had a heart of gold. It was just that she was possessed of a
demeanour that, to some, suggested she was perhaps a tad unpolished.
surely ill-timed. Without the slightest
warning, Jos broke out in a stream of language that made absolutely no sense
unless you were one of those crazy religious types: “I’m gonna put a wet one on you”, was followed
by, “you can kiss my big fat arse” and another that sounded like, “@#Muskrat right
in your stun*Fu@& face”. Thinking the woman had gotten into whatever
Labrador MHA Keith Russell was on, I was forced to interfere with her sudden
rant and ask: what in the name of heavens are you getting on with? “Oh, don’t
mind me, Nav b’y, I’m just practicing me Mumbo Jumbo”, said Jos with a smirk.
frightened she had gone off her rocker and reluctant to ask what she might be
getting ready for, this seemed a good time to make a clean break : “I thought Uncle Gnarley was coming down to
see Josiah today, Jos. Perhaps, you
might have missed him.”
lived within spitting distance of Jos. I
knew the reply would serve its purpose, better than any fuel that might
jettison Chris Hadfield’s re-entry through the earth’s atmosphere. On spindly legs, the elderly woman
disappeared like a rocket.
of Jos and why she was so eager to see Uncle Gnarley quickly dissipated as I
slid my seventeen foot craft down the wooden slipway. A wave washed over my bow and, reflexively, I
braced; now, the sea demanded complete attention.
later, the need to surf the salt water sated, I was on the Slipway again.
Jos came to mind and I wondered if she had caught up with my cagey old friend. Mindful that she had mentioned fried cod fish,
I headed in the direction of Main Road and Jos’ little domicile.
minutes, it became clear that she already had her catch of day; Uncle Gnarley’s
voice was so audible that I almost reversed course, except that curiosity and
the smell of fish, had the better of me.
outer door to her porch; Uncle Gnarley could be heard counselling the old
woman: “you wouldn’t do anything that silly, would you”? Being Leader of the
Opposition is a very difficult job” roared Gnarley, ostensibly to Jos. He could not possibly be speaking to anyone
else; her gruff demeanor was not a behaviour that encouraged visitors, even family and neighbours.
lightly on the door and walked in. Gnarley’s arms were gesturing frantically and I
could see his blood pressure was on the rise; though it was too early to
determine whether the condition arose from having been ‘caught’ by Jos or due
to the contentious nature of the conversation.
to see another day, did ya, Nav; don’t ya know you’re a danger to yerself and the
Coast Guard, Jos barked in my direction, as she pointed a long bony finger at a
chair. Sit down and I’ll get ye a bit of
fish, right off the stove. I spose yer starvin’”.
had the effect of bringing a halt to the conversation and I was anxious to get
the exchange re-ignited between
the former provincial government mail room attendant and the great economist. I could see, out of the corner of my eye that
Gnarley wanted my attention and, as I looked over to where he was holding
court, he pointed at his watch, with urgency, as if to suggest I might aid in
an early escape.
quick to fill in the details I had missed. “Nav, I was just asking Gnarley,
here, what he thought of me running for the Liberals”. That sounds pretty interesting, Jos, I
responded, doing my best to sound flabbergasted that the Province had done
without her services this long: Jos, where would you run, in what District, I
mean? “Oh, no Nav, you don’t understand.
I wants to run for Dwight Ball’s job…see, he’s only the h’interim Leader
and they needs a good strong person, someone like me, to take on Kathy
Dunderdale. Sure ya heard me using me
mumbo jumbo, I’d be perfect for puttin’ her in her place, not that she knows
just saying saying to Gnarley, with all his larnin’ and my charm, we could sure
make some team. He must be bored out of
his tree being retired and all. I wants
him to write a few lines for me, now and agin’, when I becomes the Premier,
like when the Queen comes and those times when we got to get gussied up. He’d be very good at that, Nav, now, you knows
he would”. But, Jos, wasn’t finished with her argument.
‘ouse of Assembly, sure I could ‘andle that place better than anyone up there
especially that Dunderdale…she’s no better than a fart in the wind and, anyways”,
commented Jos vehemently, “anyone can get on their feet and say Mr. Speaker,
Mr. Speaker…my god that man, whoever he is, must be some deaf or else he sleeps
some lot and she got to keep him awake.
ya this much, Nav, Dunderdale wouldn’t be able to shout me down like she does
Dwight Ball and this ‘show an’ tell’ girl in the NDP, what’s her name Michaels;
imagine, now, Dunderdale telling me, Jos
Arnell, that I don’t know what I’m talking about and getting’ away with
it. Sure a few dunks over by the sewer
outfall would just be what she needs.
wouldn’t be tellin’ Jos Arnell that she shouldn’t be askin’ questions”, she
continued reference to herself in the third person. “Nav, what’ the place coming to; between
Dunderdale and that chipmunk, Kennedy, they ‘ave brought the ‘ouse of Assembly
down to the level of the ‘alf wit. And I
got to bring it back up again!
of just how badly the level of political debate has fallen struck Gnarley like
a thunderbolt. While the woman could not
articulate, as well as some, her displeasure at the antics of those who ought
to know better, I could see that his regard for her essential wisdom had been,
suddenly, vastly elevated.
knew what Uncle Gnarley was thinking.
The Premier’s and her Ministers’ uncivilized behaviour must be every bit
as transparent to the larger public, if they were so obvious to someone with
do ya think? Can I depend on ya ta intercede with Uncle Gnarley to give me a hand
now and again?” nodding in his general direction. “My god b’y, if I thought you wuz any good, I
ast ya, but I thinks the world of Gnarley; he and me could get along right well.
Now, Nav, will ya work on him for me?”
dear, I said firmly, as I got up to go; my eyes fixed on the old gentleman: you
leave Uncle Gnarley to me.
Uncle Gnarley, I beckoned to the old economist, whose beet red face suggested
he was now under enough pressure to blast off.
Whispering to him, as he got up from his chair, you got your chance to save
though, I had mistaken what belied an intense demeanor, though an elbow pushed
into my rib cage delivered his more thoughtful message.
Uncle Gnarley, in a tone that suggested he should not be misunderstood, “think
of all the potential leaders, in this Province, whose patriotism is blunted by
self-interest. They might yet wish that
someone as wise, as Jos Arnell, were allowed to stand on their shoulders.”