I don’t know whether you know WAIT-A-BIT!,
if not it is of no consequence. For if you know
the North of Canada at all, you probably know a dozen towns just like it.
There it lies in the Moonlight, sloping up from the Big River,
the Mackenzie River sweeping along its range of mountains
rolling down along its miles of woodlands, the wide river
runs rolling on towards the sea. And silence, the wide
wild silence of the Arctic, tempered by the caw of ravens,
sweetened with the howl of wolves, and seasoned through
all seasons, by endless light and interminable darkness.
There it lies in the Moonlight, sloping up from the
wild river at the foot of the hillside on which the
town is built.
There is a wharf beside the river, and a movable
section of floating wharf which forms a “T”
into the river.
There are three boats upturned beside the
wharf. The boats go nowhere. Men used to go fishing in them, but the freshwater sharks that come down from the ocean inhibit
the fish, stop them from coming to this corner of the river.
The bears still catch fish north of here, in the shallows where the river runs very wide. And indeed the 100 pound weasels, known as wolverines; they have been seen eating the occasional carcass of a shark.
There’s a pair of binoculars at Artie’s Bar…And we watch the weasels cavort over the shark carcass down the hill on the mudflats by the river. These devil beasts seem to be much larger than they used to be… maybe fifty pounds heavier. And they appear to be faster, and far far smarter. It seems they have taken to using human tools.
No one remembers anything like this. We’ve consulted the tribal elders and they are just as perplexed as we are. Everyone agrees that this is not a positive development in the history of the big weasels.
The boats go nowhere. The distances are
too great, the immensity is so vast…
So the remaining inhabitants of Wait-A-Bit!,
the ones who have survived ( and I am
lucky to say that I am one) we sit here,
sons and daughters of Intemperance,
and we observe the immensity…
The inhalation of solvents is
discouraged, but the use of alcohol
has been approved of once again,
as being indeed necessary to
contemplate the Eye of the Universe
which is looking back at us.
It’s like some of the stories Leacock wrote in the last century, but the environment has changed. The
locus – the town that has been bombed flat by a crazed jealous flyboy. Now the village ( for most
people have left) the village lives in weird enlarged foxholes. Artie’s bar still stands. And that’s the one place the pilot wanted his 2000 pound bomb to hit.
As I say, the half-mad village of WAIT-A-BIT (they call it that because no one can remember what the former town was called)
So they decide to wait a bit…. until their memories return. Each year the village decides to spend its entire budget on alcohol – rather than get electricity…
You get the idea. Think of: “Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town”… then remember: this
place is far more remote and far, far more savage. And it takes an entirely different sense of humour to live here. Here even the domestic dogs want to kill you!
How do you laugh about that?
(C)2017 by W.g Milne