Sunday, December 10, 2006
The Loneliness of the Long Distance Loafer
Even though there are days when I want to send Dr. David Suzuki back to firing up his bunsen burners and goosing fruit flies, global warming seems to have arrived. It is December 10 and I'm out in shirtsleeves, doing my ten-mile walk.
Why a ten-mile walk?
Because I'm crazy. I like to walk the entire perimeter of my 20-mile- square mini-city with no other goal than chasing my own backside.
Activity drive, the psych prof used to call it. You can see it in kids and animals. My wife once called me an animal.
There are other drives of course, curiosity, the co-ordinates to get home, libido.
My old prof, who wrote a book called The Night The Gods Smiled (Collins) says two things are certain:
1) You will get laid
2) You will get your book published.
Well. I did get laid, but that was a long time ago. Now it's watching upskirt videos--"All men are perversts," said my last duchess.
As for getting the book published, I did, but I made a whole $5.00 out of it.
Ah activity drive, activity drive.
I'd better give you the tail end of Chapter Nine of my novel, THE BLACK ICON
Ordinarily, Sophia wasn't much for standing on a frozen river, shuffling from one foot to the other while a priest blessed the stream and offered holy water brough up through a hole in the ice. But today, she decided to take the children. Best to stay in good graces with the Almighty.
The family, muffled, multi-socked and prepared for the worst weather, stood on the ice and watched a sleek, dimpled little priest begin blessing the ice with a big ball-topped brass rod, while the muffled congregation watched his every move. Most of the parisioners carried buckets, these eventually to be dipped in the pre-cut hole in the ice. The holy water was an elixir, a cure for all ills and something to ward off evil. This particular winter, there was plenty of evil to ward off. The harvest had been poor because of a drought in early fall. A bad spring could make all the difference between prosperity and starvation.
Spring brought apprehension. Heavy rains, welcome at first, soon became a definite source of worry. Towards the second wek of steady dowpour, Sophia would look out the window, see the road in front of her house turn into a river, and begin worrying.
Genyk and Katerina could not get enough of the weather, splashing around on the flooded banks of the Towmach brook, catching frogs and watersnakes there, taking rides on rafts built by older boys.
The children would come home to find Sophia on edge. They got to gauge her episodes. She was apt now to hit them on any provocation. Like old Baba. Like Baba Yaga, it seemed at times to the kids. Sophia's grandmother had been a monstrous child-abuser. There was something of old Baba left in Sophia.
The kids tried to have fun, but they had no idea of the reality of their situation. Besides dodging Sophia's swipes.
Sophia wold visit her friend, Ann Podolan and share her fears. "Most of the topsoil is gone, with the river flooding.
We won't have any produce at all now. And you have neither pig nor cow, Sophia.
"Let's just hope your man and mine can send something from Germany."
After the rain, the washed-out filelds would not hold seed. By early sumer, weeds dwarfed the emaciated crops.
Famine. It could be seen approaching. People woud exchange uneasy observations, become tight with money and food. And in June the first casualty, a small child, belly distended and eyes bulging, lay in its coffin, surrouded by its gaunt elders. Sophia and the children stood in the church square and crossed themselves. MIchael had stopped sending money again.
Sophia did her chores and worried. Every day she would go out into her potato field and pull up a yellowed plant here and there in the hope of finding the little pea-sized tubers. On lucky days, she would bring home a handful of bean-sized potatoes barely past the stage of roots. "Do I have to share these potatoes with Katerina" Genyk would ask, selfish in his hunger. Katerina would always volunteer her share, quietly eating her larded pigweed while Genyk lapped up the fragrant, fresh potato soup.
On July seventh, Genyk's fifth birthday, Sophia was near tears as she once more made for the potato patch. Lately, Genyk had gotten whiney and irritable from lack of food. Katerina was on the verge of collapse.
Vainly, Sophia dug around the emaciated plants. Just roots. Here and there, pigweed.
"Roots and pigweed. Our lot," Sophia muttered.
She looked up at the sky where her God lived and was about to make
an imprudent curse when she saw Katerina running towards her through the thin rows.
Michael had send a letter. And money too.
...............end BLACK ICON, Chapter Nine