DO WE NEED MORE ROCKING CHAIRS? (PART II)

I wasn’t
aware of the rift between Jos Arnell and Josiah Brake until Uncle Gnarley and I
left Jos’ house, last Sunday; clearly the world doesn’t stop when I’m out in my kayak, as the first part of this tale confirms:  DO WE NEED MORE ROCKING CHAIRS? (PART I).  I have
already told the story of Jos having accosted me on the slipway, in Petty
Harbour, as I concluded my ablutions before taking to the water.  I got a great kick out of Jos’ mumbo jumbo outburst  and I was even more amused when she announced her intention, to Uncle
Gnarley and me, to run for the Liberal Leadership.  

I had missed
a great deal, that day, while on the water. Thankfully, Uncle Gnarley filled me
in.  The way he explained it, was like
this:

Jos Arnell’ cat,
Matilda, had gone missing.  The animal
didn’t normally go out; but on this occasion Jos had left the storm door open and
Matilda decided she wanted to see a bit more of the world.

Jos went all
over the community looking for her cat; she had the place in a general uproar,
everyone was searching for the scrawny feline. 
As it was getting dark, of a Tuesday evening, a knock came to Jos’ door.
When she opened the entrance to her tiny porch, she was able to see two young boys,
one of them holding something wrapped in blanket.  “Well”, says Jos, “what have you got there?”
The two explained that they had just come down from “up by Josiah Brakes’
house” and that they had found her cat under the fender of his truck. “Are ya
sure she is dead”, enquired Jos in a pitiful tone.  “Yes, Ma’m”, the older one replied, “she’s
dead as door nail”.  “And, ya sure that
it wuz Josiah Brake who killed her?” Jos enquired. “Well, it was under ‘is
truck wasn’t it Missus”, the youngster brazenly replied.

Jos was not
one given to sentimentality in front of a couple of youngsters.  Taking their word that the cat had passed on,
ostensibly by the hand, or more exactly, the fender of Jos Brake’s truck, she
didn’t as much as raise the blanket, covering the animal, to confirm the
fact.  “I s’pose if I gives ya a dollar
you’ll dig me a little grave in the back yard?” Jos enquired.  And, at lightning speed, the cat was given a final
resting place.     

As soon as
the two laddies had disappeared, Jos, with all guns blazing, headed out for the
house of Josiah Brake. And, that part of the story, as they say, is history.

Now, nothing
more transpired until two days later, when Jos could be seen giving her dog,
Victor, an evening stroll.  Not more than
twenty minutes, into her walk, Jos heard the dog suffer a fit of barking.  The dog’s behaviour did seem unusual; but,
before she had a chance to check out what was causing his unease, she felt a
huge jerk on Victor’s leash and, in an instant, he was gone. Steadying herself,
Jos looked around to see where the dog had bolted.  Not twenty feet away, Victor could be spied
licking and fawning over a pussy cat; a familiar looking pussy cat, at
that.  Joining up with the pair, Jos was
treated to a series of meows and a cat, whose welcoming tail, entwined her spindly
legs, confirming its ownership well before she could check the cat’s collar.  In an instant, the little feline was held
snugly in her arms and the happy triplet headed for home.

Now, sitting
in Jos’ kitchen and hearing that her cat was as lively as it had ever been,
Uncle Gnarley was dumbstruck.  He could
not believe that the woman had not rushed off to Josiah’s house with the good
news and an offer of apology.  He wanted
to know why. 

When Gnarley
put the question directly to Jos, he wasn’t sure if she was being evasive or
just trying to be funny.  In fact, her
reply was quite unexpected: “Gnarley, did ya see that fish face Dunderdale last
week; b’y did she ever give it to that Steve Harper, sure make no wonder that
that feller Wright resigned.  Imagine,
everyone thought the whole affair was over ‘ol puffy Duffy”, her laugh almost a
cackle.

“They must
be doing a Poll or somet’ing is they Gnarley; b’y, she’s workin’ some hard to
be popular, again, isn’t she? My gawd, Gnarley, she’s some piece of work, b’y!”

The
observation startled Gnarley. He had not known Jos to be drawn to politics and
he wondered to himself, if this was a new phenomenon affecting Petty Harbour or
just Jos, because it didn’t seem to be the case farther down the Shore.
Perhaps, he thought to himself, he ought to get out more often.

With Josiah
Brake beside himself, for days, over Jos’ behaviour and now having been told
the cat had not even been dispatched, in the first place, Uncle Gnarley was not
to be deterred from the purpose of his visit.

“Jos”, he
asked her point blank, “did you ever give a single thought to the poor suffering
Josiah Brake.  Didn’t you think for a
minute, that you might have asked him forgiveness just as quickly as you had chosen
to berate the man?  Frankly, Jos” he
added, “I find this state of affairs downright disrespectful, especially since
Josiah is one of your friends.”

Jos, looked
at the old economist with a stare that almost frightened him. Her narrow face
and sharp features were so striking that they seemed to redeem those of her scrawny
cat.  The wart on her schnauzer appeared
to have grown twice its normal size, which was typical when she was losing her
temper. She was a strange sight and a shrill voice only added to a fierce
composure.

“Gnarley”,
Jos barked, “almost as if he were standing miles away, on Motion Head: you
don’t understand!  I’m the most popular
person in Petty Harbour. Sure, just look at the number of people who wuz out
searchin’ for poor Matilda. Do you think that Joe Arnell wastes her time
thinking she might have offended anyone? And, as if to underline her bafflement,
over his line of enquiry, she added: don’t you know I have to draw a line in
the sand; just like Dunderdale is doing with that fart faced Steve Harper? 

“But, Jos,
did it not occur to you that the folks in this Town might have cared only about
the cat?” interjected an exasperated Gnarley. If Jos heard the question, she
ignored it all the same.

“Sure, if I
walk over to Josiah Brake’s and goes down on bended knee” she continued, he’s
be the cock of the walk, tellin’ people how stunned I wuz.  Now, I don’t care how stunned Josiah thinks I
am, but I sure, as hell, ain’t confirming it for him, Professor Gnarley, she
spit out derisively.  Why, sure the next
thing you know I’d be paying interest on the next ten dollar bill I gets a loan
of; he’d be thinkin’ I was beholden to ‘en. 
I thinks sometimes you crowd, in the University, don’t understand life
for people, like me. And, I’m sure Kathy Dunderdale is no diff’rent.

“As soon as
you’re nice to someone, they’ll want something from you.  Josiah Brake will never be taking advantage
of Jos Arnell, she barked at Gnarley some more. And, as much as I think she is
as stunned as me arse, some Federal Loan Guarantee is not going to give
permission to Steve Harper to get one over on Kathy Dunderdale, no Sir.  That just isn’t how politics is played in
Newfoundland, Gnarley?  I s’pose you
crowd, in the University, thinks you’re above all that stuff?” she needled him!”

Uncle
Gnarley was about to say something, but Jos wasn’t quite finished her
dissertation.

“Now, imagine
Harper wantin’ somethin’ back for the Federal Loan Guarantee.  He got some nerve.  What was it that that fish face Dunderdale
said? something like she didn’t care what benefits were in dem trade talks for
the Country as long as she didn’t have to contribute to them…sure, ya can’t
fault her for that, can ya?  It’s always about
the crowd in Ontario and Quebec, isn’t it, she glared; the next thing ya know
we’ll have to feel sorry for being so rich down here.  I suppose the poor woman got her standards
and if the Premier can ‘ave ‘em, by gawd, Gnarley, I can ‘ave ‘em, too, she cried.

“Now, If I
was you”, she added, “I’d be telling that Josiah Brake to stop being a sooky
baby, cause if he wants to be my friend, he’s going to have to play by my rules,
and that’s all there’s to it”, said a, now animated, Jos Arnell. Continued Jos,
now bending over to whisper in Gnarley’s direction, let me tell da Professor
something I’m larnin’ real fast: it’s not about being on top; it’s about staying
on top!

Uncle
Gnarley was speechless.  All he could
think of was how he might extricate himself from this nightmare of a woman.

“Uncle
Gnarley, what does ya think?”  Jos looked
straight into his eye, her single tooth giving prominence to what she had to
say; “sir, ya understands now why that whimpy Dwight Ball got ta step aside and
let me run for the Liberal Party. They needs someone like Jos Arnell to kick Dunderdale’s
arse off out of Confederation Building.”

It was soon
after Jos’ outburst and an announcement of her political aspirations that I
walked in the door, giving Uncle Gnarly some respite and me the responsibility to
get him out the door.

Understandably,
Uncle Gnarley was happy when he got back out into the fresh air of a Petty
Harbour evening.  “Josiah Brake will not be
pleased, Nav”, he said flatly.  “His
theory that Jos is a lonely old woman afraid she’ll lose the little bit she has
left in the world, may actually be truer than he realizes.

“For some
reason I think Jos is, how shall I say it, feeling empowered.  I fear that poor old Josiah, rather than
being her best friend, may soon be public enemy number one, and the whole Town
will know it, too.  The funny part is, I’m
not sure who I should feel sadder for, Josiah Brake or Steven Harper.

“It is
interesting, he added, how what’s going on in our parliaments reflects what is
happening among ordinarily decent people.”

Uncle
Gnarley, you were hoping to prove a theory, today, allowing your academic
training to outweigh your good common sense. 
Perhaps, one should not get too caught up with theories, when self-interest
abounds, I suggested.

“That’s a
mouthful there, Nav; I’d be a little careful with that, if I were you.  Actually, I had merely hoped to conclude that
humanity just needs more rocking chairs, a place where people can think through
their grievances before they foolishly act them out. Unfortunately”, he
replied, in a voice that seemed almost disconsolate, “when people, like Jos,
take their cue from leaders like Dunderdale, we may be forced to get rid of the
ones we already have.”
Des Sullivan
Des Sullivan
St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada Uncle Gnarley is hosted by Des Sullivan, of St. John's. He is a businessman engaged over three decades in real estate management and development companies and in retail. He is currently a Director of Dorset Investments Limited and Donovan Holdings Limited. During his early career he served as Executive Assistant to Premier's Frank D. Moores (1975-1979) and Brian Peckford (1979-1985). He also served as a Part-Time Board Member on the Canada-Newfoundland Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (C-NLOPB). Uncle Gnarley appears on the masthead representing serious and unambiguous positions on NL politics and public policy. Uncle Gnarley is a fiscal conservative possessing distinctly liberal values and a non-partisan persusasion. Those values and opinions underlie this writer's views on NL's politics, economy and society. Uncle Gnarley publishes Monday mornings and more often when events warrant.

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