Pandemic Piano Purge

Over the past year or so of the lockdown I’ve done my own purging & have observed the purges of others & was struck my frequency of various keyboards: electric organs, peddle organs, & pianos. I guess there is no place to donate them to that will come & pick them up – so they get curbed for the city to deal with.

lawn organ-ment
just a little scratch

these next four are all of the same piano that was dismembered & left to fend for its wounded self on the Danforth

not sure if these are less or more depressing – cute pics but still a keyboard being curbed

Elton John piano starter for your kids

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Bardot’s Bayou Enfer

I used to visited Montreal frequently during the late 80’s to attend a bi-lingual lgbtq recovery round-up. I started to collect French pop to improve my French. I saw a video in a noisy cafe,  couldn’t hear it but the images were enough for me to track down the band – Niagara. I found a cassette of Encore un denier baiser (1986), & over the years added Quel enfer! (1988), Religion (1990). All of which I have now have in an mp3 collection. 

The duo Muriel Moreno & Daniel Chenevez started synth-pop but progressed a more hard-edge guitar sound. Similar to The Eurythmics, but a less serious approach & with a more retro sound as well. I found Religion cd at a yard sale one year, in a jewel case but without liner note or cover. Energetic, fun & no help in improving my French 🙂

It was in Montreal I discovered that Brigitte Bardot had a pop career. A light, sweet voice. On. the mo3 collection I have Brigitte Bardot Sings (1963) (which includes La Madrague), Brigitte Bardot Show 67 (1968) (which includes Harley Davidson, Gang Gang). She worked often with Serge Gainsbourg. Nicely produced with elements of rock, disco & bossa nova. 

I have the complete Jacques Brel. In this compilation I’ve included his Mijn vlakke land (1962) that has him signing in Dutch, French & Flemish. Where is the biopic of this amazing, influential musician? Maybe his life wasn’t as dramatic as Piaf?

Rounding out this French collection is Zachary Richard (American) but living in Canada (I think) Bayou Des Mysteres(1976), Travailler c’est trop dur (2002 anthologie). I bought the lp of Bayou in Montreal  & eventually replaced it with this mo3 download. I added Travailler more recently. He has a warm bass, similar to Tony Joe White. His music is seductive mix of Cajun and Zydeco. Although he has recorded in English his career has been notably Francophone & his list of Canadian awards is endless. Improving my French is not one of his achievements though 🙂

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Face To Face F2F

In Toronto some recovery groups in churches have reopened for f2f meetings, all adhering, as much as possible to safety protocols. Many of the other usual places i.e. community centres, hospitals – have been slower at reopening for user groups of any sort. There are rumours that community centres will be reopening in October, at the earliest. This depends on the return to school over the next couple of weeks. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a return to more restrictions.

I haven’t taken advantage of these reopened recovery meetings. I’m happy with the zoom community that allows for easy attendance – no transit to deal with for one thing. Social distancing is easy to maintain & one can mute a member easily 🙂 No more leaving the room to silence them.

I went to my first f2f meeting meeting haven been asked to speak there – a twenty minute talk about my recovery experience. It was within walking distance & I timed my departure to arrive just as the meeting started. There was sign in  for contact tracing & hand sanitizer at the door. Chairs were placed for social distancing. Some members were masked a couple were not. I kept mine on. The first participant berated the unmasked for defying protocols & they didn’t bat an eyelash. The others, when they participated removed their masks to speak then put them back on. This made sense to me so when I did my little talk I did the same. 

After a very brief look at my drinking history I focused on a line in the Big Book ‘we will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us.’ There is a difference between intuitive knowing & automatic reflex. One thing I’ve discovered is that if I am baffled I should do nothing rather than respond because I’m afraid to admit I’m unsure – to be unsure is admit I’m stupid, incapable etc.

I wasn’t sure what to do about the unmasked but knew my primary purpose there was to share my experiences not lecture on masks. Social distance was kept & I was thanked by some for talking about living the steps today & note dragging them through a drunk-a-log.

At my zoom meetings many are longing for the social context of face-to-face, I am not one of those. I certainly enjoy that context but am content not having to deal with indoor social distancing & dealing with people only via eye contact. 

from October 2015

Conformity

<>

It’s a SOCA convention

a man in a rust-red tweed sport coat

riches out his hand

‘are you here for the convention’

it’s my hotel but not my problem

<>

though I am awake & out before 9 a.m.

not hungover or looking to score

the schooners around me are boats

not beer glasses

in some brassy sports bar

<>

I know about recovery

rooms of people sitting in circles

rounds of support

restless feet in black shoes

where they end by

holding hands

they want to show me mercy

but I don’t want to hold their hands

joining in that circle

won’t bring me into their lives

<>

one is the loneliest number 

who has one rusty nail

sees one snow flake

though no two flakes are identical

<>

I am recovering like them

but I don’t enter their circle

won’t make snow angels with them

I felt the itch that induced SOCA

but never scratched it that way

<>

he reaches out his hand

I say ‘not here for the conference’

and sail out into the morning

not ready for conformity

<>

(SOCA – Southern Ontario Cocaine Anonymous)

(Conformity

http://wp.me/p1RtxU-1pR )

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Our Glorious Leader

Our Glorious Leader

I won

I won

I’ve been elected

there’s no doubt about it

<>

yes the other candidate 

got more votes

but you don’t understand

those are votes for the candidate 

they didn’t want to see

lead the country

I got the least votes

which means the people

want me the least 

least of all the slate

that’s how it works

it’s not my fault

the voters didn’t read the ballot

to mark an X for the one

they least wanted to see win

<>

my first act

will be to decrease spending

on education

so fewer people can read

because reading leads to understanding

as long as they can’t read

I’ll be able to lead

Some of you may recall a recent USA electoral kerfuffle in which even the winner wasn’t allowed the privileged of being acknowledged as the winner by the loser, who quickly became the whiner – no that’s not true, he was a whiner from the first time. He did win that first round but proved to be as bad a winner as he was a loser.

The united in the USA is dubious notion as each state is fiercely autonomous as demonstrated with the continuing & persistent lack of mask & vaccine uniformity – rules change from state to state. In some it is permissible for bars to ban anyone wearing a mask; in others you can’t enter a bar if you aren’t wearing a mask. How do you keep track? I guess there’s an app for that.

I sometimes feel the conflict comes from the ‘you can’t tell me what to do’ even if what is being ‘suggested’ is for the good of all. Or a sort of stubborn toxic male pride – you know the sort of pride that keeps men from asking for directions or from even looking at map. A real man is never lost he’s just not going where you thought he was going.

That’s the art of spin – where being lost becomes a matter of interpretation not what has happened. So losing an election is a misreading of the votes. After in editing drawing X through paragraphs, even pages, means it is to be deleted, discarded. So the fewer ‘x’ you get on the ballot the more people approve of you. Congratulations! Welcome our glorious leader.


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Picture Perfect 83 

Picture Perfect 83 

“You drive.” Dan tossed Cameron the car keys. “I’m going to go over these notes Stephanie sent me.

“Okay, dear.” Cameron grunted. 

Dan opened his laptop & scrolled through the notes on the Centre that he had. One of the researchers had spoken with Winston Chamberlain who said that when Madama Cabanalla when left Hippo, she had purchased the the various snakes she used in her act. She tried a snake museum but when then didn’t work she founded the Centre which was a moderate success. 

Dan was slightly confused because he recollect the giant poster for Cora! Queen of the King Cobras. Or was she also one of the many Madama Cabanalla’s? He compared their faces on the photos he had taken at the Museum. They weren’t similar beyond both being female.

“This is the turn.” Dan nudged Cameron.

“Yes, I see it dear.” Cameron muttered.

They drove along & after five minutes over a crumbling roadway saw in a field a tall wooden Jesus in a field holding a snake with the snake’s head pointing to the Nova Convergent Centre. 

There was one car in the unpaved parking lot and Cameron pulled in close to it. He then checked to make sure his camera was on. “Visiting the Nova Convergent.” He said to mark the start of the recording.

They got out of the car. Dan taking photos of the sign, the dust trail still in the air where they had driven.

The silence was the first thing Dan noticed as he surveyed the area. Not even the whisper of wind from the field across the road.

The gravel crunch echoed as they walked to the Centre. A sign welcomed them to the Nova Convergent Temple of the Blessed Saviour. The Temple looked like a suburban strip mall. Siding that needed repair ran along the roof line. Stains mottled the wall that faced the roadway.

The dingy curtains behind one of the windows beside the door parted then closed as they approached the double glass doors. Dan assumed this was the entrance. The doors open out before he touched them.

A heavy set, tall woman greeted him. “Welcome, brothers.” 

She tucked in a stray tress into the bun of red hair at the back of her head. The bun seemed ready to explode in the sun. 

“I was expecting you. I’m Janis Hadley.”

“Us?” Even he didn’t know they were coming here in particular until it was decided that morning.

“Yes. We always expect seekers.”

“I see. uh … Winston Chamberlain mentioned that  Madama Cabanalla might be found here?” Dan felt there no reason to beat around the bush.

“Oh yes Cabanalla. That was me once upon a time. It’s now Janis Hadley. The Reverend Janis Hadley to be pretentious.” she laughed. “When I was Madama Cabanalla my gift was a parlour trick. It became real once I stopped playing with it.”

“You were the Cobra Queen as well?”

“Not the original! When Cora stepped down as queen I ended up with her subjects.” Janis shook her head sadly. “Poor Cora. Snakes & over-proof rum aren’t a good mix.”

“Before we go on I must ask your permission to be recorded.”

“Recorded?”

“Not for broadcast but to review what you tell us.” Cameron explained.

“Of course. Record away.”

“Winston told us a few thing about you. You started this?” Dan indicated the church.

“The snake handling? No. I’m merely continuing it. I am deeply grateful for the Happy Hippo that allowed me to discover the true muse.” She stretched out one arm and a green snake with orange spots slithered from under her loose sleeve. She turned her hand to support the snake’s body. It raised its head and looked directly at Dan.

“You are unafraid.” she said.

“On the contrary.” He keep his eyes on her even through the the snake seemed to be demand that he look at it. “I wanted to talk to you about the summer of ’84 when you worked for Happy Hippo.”

“Come. It is cooler inside.”

They followed her into the building. In the foyer there were two large glass cages, one on either end. She placed her snake into one of them that already held several others of different colours and sizes.

“They get along with each other despite their differences.” She said. “If only mankind were the same.”

“Winston tells me when the snakes didn’t do well as part of the carnival ….”

“His folks wanted to dispose of them. By dispose I mean destroy. They couldn’t be sold. They did try but no one wanted to buy them. No zoos wanted them. They weren’t rare enough or even dangerous.”

“Oh! One of the posters said something about deadly cobras.”

“Cobra’s yes, but they had been defanged. Couldn’t even eat properly as a result. Damned fools didn’t know what they were doing.” She pushed hair back into her bun. Dan noticed she was missing part of the baby finger on her right hand.

“Oh yeah. Lost this being careless myself. Just because a snake isn’t poisonous doesn’t mean it isn’t dangerous. But snake lore isn’t what you’re here for, is it?”

“You know I’m here about this missing children. We’ve been looking at … people who moved around a lot in the province during those months.”

“The Hippo was always on the move. There were three of them, you know, that traveled around. Some of us performers would be at one unit one night, and at another two nights later.”

“Yes I know that but … let’s start with how you became the snake charmer.”

She leaned back in the pew and looked at the ceiling. “I wasn’t afraid. I think that was the main reason. Oh yes, I was pretty enough too. That helped. I was at veterinary college you see and needed a summer job that worked with animals. I saw that the Chamberlain’s were looking for someone and I applied.”

“The fortune telling?”

“That, to coin a phrase, was a no-brainer. No one did just one thing you know. The fewer personnel the fewer people on the payroll. I was also the company vet. Snakes. Dogs. Remember the parrots? Nasty they were. I had to keep the wings trimmed so they couldn’t fly away. Thank God we didn’t have lions & tigers too.

“The snake act was really nothing. It was to compliment Cora’s Cleopatra. Cora! Queen of the King Cobras. All that Tut nonsense was just a gimmick to get semi-naked girls on stage. Chamberlain’s didn’t care about history or about snakes. Cora would shimmy and shake and the snakes would slither and slide. We took turns being Cleo by the way. Crystal ball gazing could be purchased after the show. Often it wasn’t crystal balls some of those men wanted gazed into. That was never allowed. I did use the asp more than one to ward off guys.”

“Asp?” Cameron said.

“It wasn’t an asp but who knew the difference?Certainly not these guys. I’d let it crawl down my arm and they were ready to crawl out of the tent. Even the Chamberlain boy, Winston, was afraid of them. Though I was too old for him then and I was just 20.

“The snakes where in pretty bad shape. No one knew enough to take proper care of them. It wasn’t as if such information were that hard to find either. When the Chamberlain’s realized they were more expensive to look after that they were earning they decided to get rid of them before the season ended. One of the Cora’s was some pissed because she had been making the act more elaborate by adding her own mummies. She was one weird lady.”

“So that’s when you started the … church?”

“Naw. I wasn’t sure what to do with them. There was about a dozen. There was some talk about a sort of snake-arium that people would visit like a zoo. Over the winter they all died. I couldn’t devote as much time to them, what with my studies. A few years back we were traveling in the south and came across the Pentecostal in Mississippi.”

“What was the word on the Hippo circuit that summer?”

“Word?”

“About those missing children.”

“The Chamberlain’s were worried about it affecting the box-office more than anything else. ‘Make ‘em smile but only after they’ve paid for it’ was their motto.”

“What became of the original Cora?”

“Suicide. I’d rather not talk about it.”

“I’m sorry. I’m surprised to see a snake handler church here though. Lobsters perhaps.” He gave a little laugh.

“People need something tangible to believe in. Communion wine is one thing but Nova brings the Bible to life.”

“No doubt it does. Thank you for your time Reverend Janis Hadley. Here’s my card if you think of anything.”

She walked to their car with them.

“Come by tomorrow for the service. The spirit is sure to reveal what you need to know.” She took a deep breath and held his left hand between her two hands. “What you’re seeking has nothing to do with those children. What you find will unlock one mystery but not the one you want to solve.”

“Thanks, I guess. I’ll check with the producers about the service. That is if you don’t mind real cameras.”

“We’ve been sensationalized before Mr. James. Hasn’t done us a bit of harm or even much good. That’s one of those fundamental truths. The spirit goes on. But that is never my decision.”

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License

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August 2021 Recap

Over the past month my TOpoet.ca following stands at 464 ! The WP map does show my hits have come from  countries around the world. That USA tops the list is no surprise but that Bangladesh moves up to 3rd spot & that Bahrain is in the top 10 is a surprise. China! Ireland! sill up there. Ola Spain. Most popular post was The Beaches (https://topoet.ca/2021/08/12/the-beaches-august-2021/  ). My personal fav is Summer Striptease https://topoet.ca/2021/08/23/summer-striptease/ .

My Tumblr is at 332 followers. Twitter at 229 followers. Picture Perfect: 82 sections, about 112,000 words posted so far with approx 72,000 to be edited then posted. Returning to the Rules For Monks on Wednesdays for this month – October will see a return of scary poems on Haunted Wednesdays. 

Finally watched Rocketman & loved it. The film is a visual, sonic & emotional delight. Surreal & yet true to life. I liked the way the narrative flowed from music to reality to surreal so smoothly while inviting me in to the addictive mess his life had become. Taron Egerton did his own singing (unlike the Freddie Mercury bio in which the lead won the Oscar for best lip-syncing). Like many recovery stories this one is too much about the glamour & glitter of the downfall with the recovery dealt with in a minute. Highly recommended.

Another great watch was ‘Ma Vie en rose’ 1997 – a sweet, remarkable movie about gender identity. A young child – supposedly 7 – decides they are a boy-girl & experiences & survives cultural resistance & forced gender norms & transphobia. Excellent writing, unforced humour, great performances. Highly recommended for all ages.

read: Germinal is part of the Les Rougon-Macquart a collective title given to a cycle of twenty novels by Emile Zola. This was, I think, the fourteenth in the series. It is brilliant. I’ve read two other ‘versions’ of it – each English translation is a rewrite of the original & retells it through the eyes of the translator. Zola is a French Dickens, only, unlike Dickens, his stories are grittier, darker & more directly sexual. If you don’t know Zola start with Terese Raquin. I have an Amazon Kindle collection of the complete novels & am about half-way through them all – I only have 150 hours of reading to finish them 🙂 Zola is one of my prime fiction influences.

Read ‘Farewell to the Sea’ the third novel in Reinaldo Arenas’ Pentagonia: a five novel “secret history” of Cuba. I’m re-reading all my Arenas, he’s another of my prime fiction influences. Farewell deconstructs the novel with free-wheeling interior monologues, ranted poetry, shifting p.o.v. in his no-holds-barred attack on Cuban justice, politics &queer sexuality. Funny, mythic & compelling. A mid-century masterpiece. 

It has been a good month with no major events as things slowly open up after the long pandemic shutdown. Waiting for what form this vaccine passport will take. Will I have to give the wait person access to my OHIP info to order a meal? Probably works only for smart phones.  Wondering how the need to prove covid status will effect things – rapid test costs $40 at Shoppers – so tickets for events that ask for that status will now cost $40 more. Friends looking for new jobs and/or apartments now searching the obituaries. Not so brave not so new world.

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The Barbarians and Other Critters

This is the last of the five cd retro collection. The Barbarians, out of Cape Cod- one-hit wonder garage band from 1965 Their song ‘Are You A Boy or Are You A Girl’ gets its own Wiki page. The album of the same name is mainly fun covers of things like Mr. Tamborine Man. Uncomplicated rock music full of energy & hope. I remember this song & was one of those guys who was taunted on the street with that very phrase. A question I also asked myself growing up queer with no support or even guidance. I survived & remain a gay cismale. 

The Critters (New Jersey). Younger Girl (1966) – Mr Dieingly Sad. Similar to the Association – sweet soft folk-rock harmonies with some original tune & covers. One-hit wonders your mother would like. Songs of innocent young love. A few covers including nice take on the Lovin’ Spoonful’s Younger Girl. Today Younger Girl sounds a little creepy/pedo to me.

The Cyrkle: Red Rubber Ball 1966 (Pennsylvania) – includes Cloudy, Turn Down Day – similar to The Critters but with more of a rock edge, harmonies not as sweet or soft. I remember them from top 40 radio at the time as their big hit was cowritten by Paul Simon. They toured with the Beatles tanks to sharing Brian Epstine as manager. 

The Leaves (San Fernando Valley): All The Good That’s Happening (1966). A more bluesy version of The Crykle, edging into flower power but still safe too. They show up in the movie The Cool Ones! The Soul Survivors (Philadelphia): When The Whistle Blows I remember their Expressway To Your Heart from 1967 & those expressway sound effects. The the rest of the lp is sweet, soulful sort of funky & fun. My first taste of the Philly sound & the non-flower power world of pop.

For the rest of this compilation we leave the USA for some old country travel. These were all internet discoveries over the last decades – music I never would have heard on the east coast back in the day. Q65, out of the Netherlands, Revolution (1966). A tight bluesy band in the Paul Butterfield mold. Some traditional blues like Bring It On Home & original material too. From Switzerland comes The Shiver: Walpurgis 1969 – Hammond organ, “acid rock” – think Procol Harum not Deep Purple. Progrock originals & some great covers: i.e. Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood 

The Twilights (Australia): Once Upon A Twilight (1968) is regarded one of the best Australian pop albums of the era. Who knew? Well recorded, tightly written & performed Aussie pop that doesn’t sound like the BeeGees 🙂 More or less a down under version of The Critters, in fact, with an international push they could have been as big as The Critters.

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Easter Summer

Easter

without a doubt

the slimmest hope

is held on to longest

that ghost of a chance 

that finds a ledge

to balance on

awaiting the opportunity

to dash into view 

when all the chips are down

can’t you just hear

his heavy footfall

up the stairs

or tripping over a chair

with a drink in one hand

resurrection in the other

1975

Ending this look back with something humorous. I’d say funny but the ending is a bit too sardonic. I’ve written similar pieces in which I play with clichés in unpredictable ways. I enjoy the way this poem twists around language &, hopefully, takes the reader by surprise with the unexpected ending image.

The poem a bit didactic with the almost aphoristic opening about holding on to hope. How long will Trump hold on to his unsubstantiated conspiracy theory? Pride keeps some holding on rather than letting go & moving on. Slim hopes: like ‘this time it’ll be different,’ ‘he/she didn’t really mean it’ etc. We find it easier to continue to invest in hopeless causes than move on.

Lessons learned can be quickly forgotten or ignored with the promise of resurrection. Red flags ‘heavy footfall’ ‘tripping over a chair’ are ignored with that promise ‘I’ll change.’ Or we get caught in being the nice guy afraid that by establish & maintaining a boundary we won’t be liked. ‘If you love me you’ll forgive me.’ ‘Don’t you trust me.’

Alcoholics often continue to drunk, well aware of the consequences – often there is no event, consequence or loss painful enough to get them to stop. In fact that pain becomes an excuse to keep on drinking, the promise of forgetting. Doing the same thing over & over expecting a different result. 

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Welcome To The F Files

https://topoet.ca/2021/06/26/welcome-to-the-f-files/

Picture Perfect 82

Dan hopped into the cab & directed the cabbie to the Mirabel. He sat back tor relax a bit & decided to double check his flight departure & saw to his dismay that his flight to Halifax was out the Trudeau  in Dorval.

“Merde. Arret. Arrêt.” He swore. 

“Pardon?” the cabbie said looking for somewhere to stop.

“Wrong way,” Dan’s French failed him. “I have to go to the Pierre Trudeau in Dorval!” 

“Ah!” The cabbie raised his hands in frustration & slowed the car looking for an exit ramp.

Dan wondered how many idiots made the same mistake & missed their flights? Did they have as much swirling around on their minds as he did? 

He gave his driver a tip equal to the fare when he got out of the cab at the airport with five minutes to spare. Breathless he gave his flight printout to the steward at the boarding desk. 

“Ah, sir! You are Daniel James?”

“Yes! Yes.” He pulled out his driver’s licence. “I headed to the wrong airport.”

“It happens. I haven’t missed my flight have I?”

The clerk scanned Dan’s ticket & typed into the computer.

“Non, monsieur. Your flight to Moncton leave in an hour.”

“Moncton! My ticket is for Halifax!” He took the ticket from the steward. 

“It appear there has been a change in your plans.”

“What!”

“Telephone for Monsieur Daniel James.” Came over the public address system. “Telephone for Monsieur Daniel James.”

“Maybe that will be the news you are expecting. You can take your call in the Salon Or privé.”

“Uh … thank you.”

As he followed the signs to the lounge he pulled out his Quintex phone & turned it on & saw that there were dozens of voice mails & an equal number of texts.

He walked into the lounge.

“Over here Mr. James. We were expecting you.” A young Asian steward waved him over to the phone.

“How did you know who I was!”

“Back to you, John.” She laughed lightly.

He took the phone. It was Baxter.

“Where the fuck have you been! We’ve been trying to get ahold of you all day. All fucking day. That house boy of yours was no help & your sister is a piece of work. Even Lifend wouldn’t take my calls.”

“You’ve met your match. What do you want!”

“You’re going back to Moncton to follow up on Snake Man. Stephane has sent you the information. I’ve texted you the information. We took the liberty of changing your flights.”

“So I discovered.”

“When we couldn’t a hold of you we what I thought was necessary. If you had bothered to check your messages you would have known. This is hot & we have to act on the wave.”

“I see without consulting me.”

“Dan we tried. Cameron is already on his way to meet up with you in Moncton.”

He hung up.

“Back to you, Tiffany.” He read the name on the woman’s tag. 

She laughed & took the receiver.

“This way Mr. James.” Another steward took his carry on & lead him to a semiprivate spot. “Mr. Moxham has sent instructions for us to make you are comfortable as possible. He also apologizes for this last minute change in your plans.”

“Merci.” 

There was a pot of coffee, muffins & a smoked meat on rye sandwich at the table.

“Anything else sir?” The attendant asked.

“No. This will be fine. Leave my carry on.”

“Of course sir.”

Alone in the quiet nook Dan took a deep breath. He poured a cup of coffee, had a bite of the sandwich & scrolled through the messages on both his phones. 

On his private cell his sister didn’t appreciate being pestered by Baxter;  Sandy didn’t appreciate being annoyed by that arrogant git Baxter; Jeremy apologized but for some reason Baxter thought he had more influence over Dan than he did; Peter sent lol Baxter says get in touch.

On the Quintex cell it was the series of increasingly urgent calls starting in the morning at eleven from Baxter, Stephanie, even Harold from the Toronto office. A for moment he regretted leaving the phone off then was thankful he hadn’t been caught up in the distractions.

He read through his updated travel itinerary & once again a reservation for him has been made at the Waterside. A car would be ready for him to pick up at the Moncton airport. Cameron would meet him in the morning & they would follow up a lead to Nova Convergent Centre near Maccan in Nova Scotia.

<>

Cameron turned off the road into the dirt lot in front of a store so Dan could consult the google map.

“I think we took a wrong turn somewhere outside of Amherst.”

“That I know already. Where the fuck are we?”

“Single isn’t that strong wherever we are. Let’s not be men for a minute & actually ask for direction.”

He got out of the car and went to the store. 

It was like stepping into a vintage photo, all that was missing were a couple of gas pumps out front. 

Cameron hoisted his camera to his shoulder to get footage of the rusted sign swinging above the door said “Welcome to Flannery’s” over an advert for ‘Nutsy Nougat’ a chocolate bar. A dingy card board sign dangling midway behind the glass said “Open” in fancy script.

Dan cupped his eyes and peered through the dusty door to see if the sign was right. He tried the handle, it wasn’t locked and bells clanged as he pushed the door open. The clang was a toneless metal like a cow bell. Cameron on his heels. 

Inside was dim until lights were turned on. A young man came from behind a curtain at the back of the store. 

“Don’t turn lights on unless we got a customer.” The man wore an unbuttoned white shirt with a plain grey tee-shirt under it “Ma won’t let us use that motion sensitive stuff. Hope it didn’t scare you too much. Them coming on like that.” 

In the man’s arms was a nearly matching grey cat that leapt to the floor and came over to sniff that Dan’s, then Cameron’s shoes then hopped to the window sill.

“Cod doesn’t take to strangers.” The man stepped behind the counter, brushed cat hair off his shirt sleeves. 

The store was larger than it appeared from the outside. It could have been a 7/11 from the layout, right down to a coffee island in the middle of the floor near the front window. Only this one had a couple of comfy chairs like a coffee shop.

“Bottled water at the back. That’s usually what people’re looking for when they stop here. But we’re prepared. Coffee fresh this morning. Columbian we roast and decaf, none of the flavoured nonsense. Coffee only. We’re not Tim’s.” The man laughed. “Ma bakes the cookies and scones. Fresh. Daily.”

“You’re certainly fixed for any tourists.” Cameron picked up a cookie with his free hand.

“Locals like us. We’re the closest thing to a coffee shop that isn’t Tim’s in these parts. Self-serve for the coffee.”

Dan had stopped for directions only but he couldn’t resist the man’s invitation. “Smells good.” He said as he filled a large take-out cup.

The man went one to one of the coolers. “Whole milk or cream? Can’t help you if you’re intolerant.”  

“Cream’ll be fine.” Dan stirred the cream into the coffee and put on a lid. “I’ll take one of those scones.”

“We got cranberry lemon or broccoli cheddar.”

“Really?” Cameron said putting a lid on his coffee.

“Oh yeah, just because we’re not city doesn’t mean I don’t know what’s selling.” The man held Dan’s gaze. “It’s pretty clear you’re with that TV film crew that’s been talking to people around here?”

“Yes.”

“I’d rather you didn’t film me, you understand.”

“No problem.” Cameron turned his rig off & slid it to the floor.

“Dan James.” Dan reached out to shake the man’s hand. “Cameron Carter cameraman extraordinaire.”

“Trey AuCoin.” 

“Not Flannery?” Cameron asked.

“Nah. That was the sign when we bought the place years ago. They weren’t Flannery’s either. Didn’t aim to rewrite history. We figured it would better to fit in some. We call ourselves Flannery’s General Store and Cafe.”

“So you’re not from here?” Dan sipped his coffee.

“Ma was. I’s born in the States. Price was right and so far we’ve managed to break even.”

“You know the area well?”

“Lost are you?”

“Sort. As long my g.p.s works I’m safe but the single is weak out here. We were looking for the Nova Convergent Centre.”

“You mean The Slythies.” Trey laughed. “Oh man those people are strange.”

“Slythies?”

“That’s what some around here call it. The snakes and all. From Harry Potter?”

“I see. It may be part of the show we’re doing. Thought I’d check it out. Research you might say.”

“Then you already know about them and the snakes.”

“Not much that’s why we’re here.”

“Yours is that TV show about the missing children, right? Weird about that psychic that got killed. I’m surprised it’s still going forward with it.”

“Nothing stops the news.” Cameron chuckled.

“You think it might be connected?”

“With Slythies?”

“I mean her accident. The guys responsible for those kids might not want to be caught all these years later. Maybe she was in psychic contact with the killer.”

“Anything is possible.” Dan opened the door to leave. “Good coffee.”

“You didn’t let me tell you how to find the Slythies place. Isn’t far.”

“Right. The coffee was so good I forgot.”

“You just follow this road and turn left when you get back to Maccan. It’s on the left about ten minutes down the other road.”

“Thanks again.”

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