Friday, August 6, 2010

ROBBLOG #119 1/2

I know I should have published something new for you today. I have written something, it's just that I have to put some finishing touches on it. It's worth the wait- just like the drive to Acton.
So, maybe tomorrow.
In the meantime, this is a little story about a popular roadside vegetable that was here on my Blog all weekend:

It's the season of fresh fruits and veggies available at market stalls both along country roads and at weekend Farmer's Markets.
I got to thinking- what if....

From the sidewalk, Jarrod could see the smallish, red brick community hall was packed to the rafters with local citizenry. The front double doors had been propped open with two mahogany-coloured wood chairs from the basement dining room allowing a few elusive breezes to drift inside and cool the populace assembled there. Next to the doors was the “Draidon Hall circa 1863” sign that Gus Burrows had carved and screwed into the brick two summers ago.

Jarrod turned up the front walk and began to rehearse his speech one more time. He had rehearsed it- out loud, many times throughout the day, so many times in fact, that his Maw finally sent him out to the back shed off the laneway that ran behind her house, just so the chickens and goats could have the pleasure as well. He had insisted he had done presentations- such as the one he was about to give this evening, plenty of times. After all, isn’t that why he had gone to school for all those years- well, wasn’t it? He insisted that the more practice he could get, the more convincing he would be, standing there in front of the town folk at the Community Hall.

As he came close to the front steps, Mr. Hozzak-the meeting's convenor, practically ran right into him as he rounded the front corner of the hall. Obviously he had just parked his truck in the lot right behind the hall. A few minutes before, Jarrod had seen Mr. Hozzak drive up and turn into the lane alongside the hall which led to the parking lot. He saw this as he stood reciting his spiel- for what he thought would be one last time. That is, until he saw the number of people filling every available chair- in what was sure to be- a stuffy, hot evening inside the historic hall.

Oh, why Good evening!”- said Mr. Hozzak as he rounded the corner almost running right into Jarrod, “Just didn’t see you there. I expected you’d be inside already. I’m running a bit late. Good old Daisy just wouldn’t come in tonight so we hade a bit of a tug of war to bring her into the barn!”

Daisy was Mr. Hozzak’s favourite bovine. She had been on the Hozzak farm for years and was a pet rather than a working girl. At best she would only produce a litre or so of milk a day.
“Suppose you are all ready to give your speech- eh?”- Mr. Hozzak asked jovially.
Well, why wouldn’t I be for pete’s sake-thought Jarrod before he answered-
“Oh yes Mr. Hozzak. I am ready to be sure.”
“Great! I knew you would be!”
He slapped Jarrod on the shoulder and disappeared quickly inside.

Jarrod straightened his tie and ran his fingers through his hair as he walked up the steps into the hall. It was stuffy and hot alright. Many people were fanning themselves with newspapers or home-made fans they had brought along for the evening. Windows along each side of the hall were propped open with an assortment of wooden sticks. Two huge electric fans stood at the front of the hall on either side of the platform, thrusting hot air into the faces of those assembled.

Jarrod kept his eyes on the front of the hall and the platform as he walked up the centre aisle.

“You’ll do just fine honey! Good luck.”

He felt a tug on his shirt. It was his mother sitting on an aisle seat right next to Aunt Dahlia.
Good grief! Aunt Dahlia is here too!
What a circus!

He kept walking and stepped up on the wooden platform at the front of the hall. He remembered his first time on that platform. He had played a shepherd in the Christmas play in Grade five. Everything had been going quite well with his performance.
He had been “sore afraid” as the script said he was to be. Bessy the sheep standing just to his right was behaving nicely- until the angels appeared that is. Either their approach frightened her or it was perhaps just a matter of- “a girl’s got to go, when a girl’s got to go”. It’s just too bad that this particular girl couldn’t have waited a little while longer. A few audience members snickered. Children pointed. They should have been standing in my sandals, which were incredibly soggy by the time good old Bessy finished watering the stage.

Mr. Hozzak was standing shuffling some papers on the podium. The twin fans tried valiantly to blow them onto the floor. He seemed a bit nervous. Jarrod sat in an empty chair just behind Mr. Hozzak and folded one sweaty palm up against the other- just to keep his hands still. He took several deep breaths and tried to smile.
Hr. Hozzak grabbed his wooden gavel and slammed it three times on the top of the old podium.
The crowd settled.
Those who had been standing next to the open windows quickly took their seats.

“Good Evening Ladies and Gentlemen. Thank you so much for coming out on such a hot and humid night. Now the ladies of the hall have told me there will be plenty of ice cold lemonade and home-baked corn muffins for all after the meeting. So, I hope you will stay and partake. Now, to the matter at hand.”

He paused and blurted into the microphone.

“Oh wait. Jeepers, I do have one other announcement.”
He knocked the mic with his right hand as he reached into his pant’s pocket and pulled out a folded note. Jarrod- who had been watching various audience members and contemplating them in the buff, was drawn to the note that interrupted Mr. Hozzak’s speech.

He unfolded the paper and read-
“Ummm. Mr. Spiers would like to inform you that he will be stepping down as Director of the Fair this year and the board would like to invite suggestions from the community at large as to who should- or might be interested in replacing him. It is of the utmost importance since the Fair Committee begins to meet a week Tuesday. Any enquiries should be directed to Miss Annabelle Schaeffer.”

He cleared his throat, folded the note and placed it back in his pocket.

“Now then folks, as you know there has been some cautious regard in reference to the water situation here in Draidon. As we have had a curiously hot spring and summer, we have called upon Marjorie Adams’ boy Jarrod to come here tonight and speak to us about water preservation- since that is what he trained in school for. So without further adieu, please welcome Jarrod Adams to the stand- er, I mean podium.”

Jarrod had been listening. Apparently he is still not his Father’s son according to the rank and file in Draidon. Everyone had taken to forgetting his Dad’s existence since he ran away to Stockton with that floozy blonde- Emma Mae Patchet, from the Red Dog Diner. That was practically five years ago and Jarrod had forgiven him. Why couldn’t everyone else? Besides, it was nobody’s business except his Mum and Dad’s. Truth be known, things hadn’t been going all that well for many years. Now Dad was happy- at least, with Emma Mae in Stockton and Maw, well, she had taken to seeing Mr. Klipstein who had owned Draidon Hardware and Antiques these past 15 years. He still saw his Dad on a regular basis and he could see he was terribly happy.
As for Maw she was happy in the company of Mr. Klipstein- Stu, as well, only she liked to play on the sympathy afforded her by the town’s residents.

“Jarrod. Jarrod! Step up to the podium boy. It’s your turn!”
It was Mr. Hozzak’s voice.

“What?”- he said, stepping back into reality. “Oh. Yes. Sorry. I was deep in thought.”
Jarrod stood up and approached the podium. He re-arranged the microphone and placed the index cards- where upon he had written some “cheat” notes, on the top of the podium in front of him.

“That’s my son up there!” It was his Mother’s voice as she turned around while pointing to Jarrod and speaking to someone a few rows back from where she sat.
Mr. Klipstein hushed her.

“Well, I am so glad to see so many of you here tonight.”- he began taking a deep breath ,when he could manage one.

“Hot enough for you all?”
He placed a palm on each hip and smiled broadly as a rumble of muffled laughter ran up and down the rows like a trail of dominos collapsing on a kitchen tabletop.
OK. Enough jokes for now- he thought.

“If you don’t know me, I am Jarrod Adams. I was born here in Draidon and my Mother- who is down there in the audience, has lived just on the outskirts of town on Line 1 for 40 years.”
A smile drew across his face- shacked up with Mr. Klipstein is more like it. He wanted to add that fact to his background but thought better of it.

“As a matter of fact, I have just moved back to Draidon at the beginning of this past May, after living over in Hickley Haller for the past few years working for Spacial Planning Inc. Spacial Planning is a company that does surveys and planning prints- as we call them, for communities just like Draidon- only worldwide. I hope to start my own advisory business and work for towns and cities all over the globe through the Internet and local internet feeds we call Programmable Spactical Heists in the business. Words that are too difficult to explain to you in this compact window of time but just understand companies like the one I worked for and the company I am about to start, work hand in hand with people and organizations right around the globe.“

Many in the audience shook their heads in knowing nods but Jarrod knew they had no idea what he was talking about. They came to hear about water and resources in the town and nothing more. They were being polite.

He continued.

“Now then, to the matter at hand. This hot weather and a lack of rain has definitely opened up a torrent of problems and questions. Yes, we have seen exceedingly hot weather but although you may believe we have not seen much rainfall in Draidon the opposite is true. We are really running neck and neck with rainfall amounts averaged over the past decade. That’s why your crops are still doing well- if you farm, however, the heat does evaporate moisture quickly from land that is open to the elements- the sun specifically. So, although the moisture is falling in the form of showers and rain and thunderstorms, some of the water is failing to re-fill our reservoirs because the run off is quick and again the sun is soaking up the moisture as fast as it falls. There is a problem.?”
Jarrod notes that Mr. Flannigan and Hazel Bennett, both seated in the front row, have nodded off already.
He ignores their dozing and continues.

“So what am I here tonight suggesting? A simple solution really. We need to save some water to re-align our “Spectigram Meffitcure Table” or SMT. It’s a big university phrase but quite simple to explain. You see, while driving around town yesterday, I noticed that the Jackson Family has their corn stands set up all over town. Foodtown has massive piles of local corn in their store. Every Farmer from here to Heila County has corn and other produce for sale along the roadside. Now Corn is really the culprit in this case and I must apologize in advance to all the corn growers here in the county tonight but just listen to me for a minute and I am sure you’ll more than agree. Everyone in Draidon loves to eat corn- right?”

The majority of residents in the hall agreed, their heads nodding up and down like a shelf full of bobbing-head dolls. A few stared out the windows of Draidon Hall watching the leaves- standing still, in the early evening light. Mr. Fannigan and Hazel Bennett were still dozing.

“What I am proposing is to stop consuming corn. You eat gobs of the stuff at corn roasts, Bar B Que’s, church suppers and weiner roasts. Then, you get home a few hours later, deficate and flush and flush and flush. That flushing takes thousands of litres of water ladies and gentlemen and that is water that could be spared carrying your bits of corn and bodily matter into the sewers that every one of you expel for weeks during the corn season. Now, didn’t I tell you the answer was easy?”
He could hardly believe he had finally managed to speak the accusatory words in such a calm, effortless manner.

Jarrod looked at the hundred or so residents of Draidon sitting there in front of him. Their mouths were hanging open. Stunned expressions fit their faces like gloves on minstrels’ hands. Not a sound could be heard except for Sylvia Sparks’ oxygen cylinder humming every 10 seconds or so.

Undeterred, Jason spoke- “So what do you think? I said it was simple.”

Then from Jarrod’s right, down in the second row Stanley Dirkson- with hair all messed and stains from his spaghetti supper dotting his white tee shirt, stood up and said-
“Listen boy, have you got your head up your ass or something because this whole idea of yours is just a crock of bullshit!”

“Stanley Dirkson, that’s my son you’re talking to!” His Maw stands- “ Now just shut up or I’ll come right over there and slap you one up the side of your ugly face!” Not surprisingly, Jarrod’s Maw was protective. Mr. Klipstein quickly pulled her down into her seat.

“Ya. Bullturds!”- yells Sophie Milkman from the rear of the hall. Did you honestly expect us to come here tonight in all this stinking heat and sit on these goddamned uncomfortable chairs for an hour and fifteen minutes just waiting for you to talk about the stuff we expel from our arseholes causing us to flush toilets and use water? Well young man, I for one will never give up eating corn. Not today. Not tomorrow. Not ever!”

A loud, raucous cheer- as if the crowd were at a local football match, rang out from one end of the historic hall to the other.

“Yes Jarrod, are you seriously trying to tell us not to poop corn because it uses too much H2O when we flush our toilets? That’s cowdung Jarod. Just cowdung and I hope Reverend Tittly will excuse my foul language but I need to say that to make my point to you Jarrod!” Jarrod recognized Mr. Beaker, Draidon High School’s Chemistry Teacher and local chess expert extending a centre finger in his direction.

A gasp rose up from the crowd.

Everyone looked to Reverend Tilly- sitting next to Monica Parkhurst his live-in housekeeper, as he motioned his forgiveness in the name of Jesus and Holy Mary- Mother of God. There was a collective sigh of release.

Jarrod sat down in a chair behind the speaker’s podium with his head in his hands.
Suddenly another voice rang out!

“What’s all the fuss about in here? I can hear you all the way downstairs!” From the rear of the hall- where the steps led to the downstairs kitchen and the lemonade and corn muffins that were waiting for the meeting’s conclusion, came the heavy voice and serious countenance of John Laxton- all dressed in black. Mr. Laxton was the local undertaker over at Laxton, Laxton, Laxton and Plugger. He had coal-black hair and stood at least 6 foot 5. He towered over the crowd. The hearts of many a gal fluttered when John Laxton sauntered along Main Street in his tight black pants, crisp white dress shirt and tapered vest. Some of the fellas took long, lingering looks too!

“Ladies and Gentlemen. I just slipped downstairs for a moment to use the toilet. Must have been that corn I had for dinner. Good gosh Granny! I had to flush that sucker three, four times maybe more to get that toilet bowl to clear!”

“What’s that you say John? You had to flush a half dozen times? It was Mr. Hozzak who was seated on the platform next to Jarrod, on the same wooden chair Jarrod had occupied before he began his informational speech.

“Yes Sir, I did!” said John, reaching back and pulling his g-string underwear from between his butt cheeks as he talked. “and I could hear this crowd above every flush. I would have been up the stairs sooner but…”

“Now, no need to share everything John.”- said Hazel Bennett who just woke up from her little, light nap. Mr. Flannigan, however, was still dozing away.

Hazel continued.

“I believe we all understand the problem you’re having John. Why even earlier this evening about an hour before this meeting, I was dead-heading my petunias when I was receiving some pretty good lower stomach pains and “lady-aches”. It got so bad, I had to lock myself in the privy at the end of my garden for a good old session of expelling my bowels of the grunge that was giving me them terrible pains. I have to tell you, this is what happened to me and I only had about seven or eight cob’s of Jackson’s corn at lunchtime. Lord knows I wouldn’t have made this here meeting if I had of shucked and cooked the whole dozen!”

“So are you saying you believe that Jarrod Adams here has a point?” It was Mr. Hozzak again.

“Dunno. Maybe. It sure is a lot of flushes and not everyone is as lucky as me to have outdoor facilities at the bum end of their garden. All I am saying is I feel a lot better and I didn’t have to waste a whole bunch of water to stand up straight again- pain free!”

“Maybe we all need to build outdoor privies!” yelled Jarrod’s Aunt Dahlia who had remained remarkably silent sitting next to Jarrod’s Maw- considering of course, she was the sister of Jarrod’s Mother.

Jarrod couldn’t believe what he was hearing. He guessed that fruit really doesn’t fall far from the same tree.

“That’s my son! Isn’t he grand? Well? Isn’t he? ”- It was Jarrod’s Maw- again. Mr. Klipstein didn’t try to stop her from standing this time and shouting her irrepressible “glee” up to the hall’s rafters.
Jarrod blushed just a little. He realized he had heard enough. He jumped up from his seat and yelled into the microphone at the top of his lungs- “Look folks, I’m just the messenger here. All I am saying is maybe eat turnips or celery and for the future of Draidon and the peace of mind for us all, leave the corn alone- at least for the foreseeable future, and just try not to flush so much!”

Mr. Hozzak stepped up to Jarrod’s right and grabbed the microphone. He spoke clearly and loudly.

“Look. People! Let’s be fair. We wanted to hear a professional opinion about our water problem and we just did. We need to think about cutting back on the number of flushes we go through in a day. Corn appears to be the appointed “demon” in this case. I believe we owe a bunch of thanks to Jarrod here for pointing that out. After all Jarrod told us about this SMT stuff earlier and seeing that we are all simple folks- except for Mr. Beaker over there,who is real smart on account of him knowing about chemistry and stuff, I think we should just stand down and think this thing through.”

United nods of agreement swept though the hall. The agitation settled in some of those assembled, although Mr. Peacock- who was seated next to an open window on the left of the Community Hall, wanted to speak so terribly much but his wife Lily warned him not to leave his seat. Mr. Peacock spent half his life on the toilet anyway prompting Lily to tell him that he likely didn’t have anything positive to add to the discussion at hand.

Jarrod sat down and tried to smile in agreement. At least they weren’t going to take him to the edge of town, tar and feather him and send him on his way. Not in the manner that the town sent that Britannica salesman on his way- back in 1961. That’s still a closely guarded secret among the town’s oldest inhabitants.

Mr. Hozzak stepped back to the open microphone.

“Let’s call it a night everybody! Remember folks, lemonade and plenty of corn muffins with rhubarb jam are downstairs. Oh. Just another reminder about that Director of the Fair position that is open. Annabelle Schaefer would like to hear from someone by tomorrow about that- wouldn’t you Annie?” He stared down at Annabelle sitting quietly in the front row, right dead centre of the podium.

She nodded a polite yes.

“Cat got your tongue tonight, Annie?”

“Nope. Just got to go to the toilet and I’m a sitting here quietly until I get the opportunity thanks.”

Mr. Hozzak blushed.

“Oh yes. I, uh… well, Good Night all and I hope to see you all downstairs! You too Annie after you’ve had a few minutes of reading time in the "library"- if you catch my drift.”

Annie nodded that she understood- completely.

As Mr. Hozzak switched off the mic, Jarrod hastily grabbed his notes, shook Mr. Hozzak’s hand and as the hall quickly cleared- lead by Annabelle Schaefer, he stepped down off the platform, walked along the centre-aisle to the front door and exited- alone, into the warm, humid air.

He sauntered along the walkway in peace just outside the Hall’s still open front doors. A big smile came over his face as he thought about everyone crammed into the downstairs kitchen of Historic Draidon Community Hall, enjoying corn muffins- with rhubarb jam- and lemonade.