Chapter Five – …and Ticking
Summer became the autumn., as summers always do. The winds would rise and the temperatures dropped. The mornings were a series of puddles frozen over with an ever-increasing regularity, each day their ice a little thicker. Little Cocoa was now hauling himself up to his feet using the coffee table as leverage, and becoming more mobile with each day. Myra loved to watch as he wobbled back and forth on his round little feet, then would fall on his round little arse. “Whoopsie!” Myra would laugh, then help him back up to his feet to begin the process all over again.
Today is an exciting day in the Pelley house. Little Aurora Borealis Pelley is turning one year old today! The last orbit around the sun saw many developments in Cocoa’s physical and mental facilities…and, he’s learned a trick.
“Ches, Ches! Ask him how old he is!” Myra squealed, “Watch what he does when you ask him”. Ches would then lean in and say “Cocoa, how old are YOU today?!”
“Wun!” Cocoa would squeak holding his index finger up in the air like a miniature flagpole. “Wun! Wun! Wun!!” Then child and parents would fall over one another in peals of laughter! “Who’s birthday is it today Cocoa?! Is it Cocoa’s birthday today?!” Again the family collapsed in a pile of silly giggles, snarks and laughter. The moment hung on in the glory of the present. Then didn’t.
“Oh Chesley darling, there’s the door…would you get it for me honey… It’s probably Mom and Dad”. Ches went to the front hallway and opened up the inside and then the outside storm door. A blustery gust of frigid air squirted in around his feet and along the floor. Triple Eff’s nose curled up all crinkly as he flashed his butt to the porch, then disappeared into the house, the chill air an apparent insult to his catness. The doorway light illuminated the faces of Myra’s mother and father, both stamping their feet and slapping their arms under their armpits, grumbling about the state of the current weather.
Stan and Susan Avery stepped into the porch quickly. “Man, it’s cooling down fast out there today. You can feel Old Man Winter in the wind” Stan said as he made his way to the kitchen, kicking his boots off on the stairway as he stepped up into the warmth. “It’s cold enough to cut ya for sure!”. Susan added, “Ohhhh…I’m not ready for winter yet…I hates it!”
Then, in a flash of Matriarchal remembrance, “Where’s my little man?! Where is he?!” She scurried over to Cocoa squealing like a banshee and swept him off of his feet and jet setting him into the sky as she skipped about the living room. Stan came into the room next, carrying a cold home brew in his hand. Obviously Myra’s old man wasn’t about to wait until after the ice cream to have a beer! “Susan! Put that little feller down for Gawd’s sake will ya? He’s never gonna learn to walk if you keeps picking him up like that. More likely he’ll be three or four years old before he figures out he can’t fly!” Putting him down in a final swoop that sent his socks flying Susan grinned good naturedly and said “Blow it out your arse Poppy, Gramma’s baby boy is growing up!” then added “and Gramma can’t pick him up and swing for long! Whew!”
Cocoa’s grandfather came over to him and said “Who’s birthday is it today Bud?!” Cocoa screeched “KoKoes Bird day ‘day!” All hands roaring! Then at last the inevitable, the long anticipated moment…the moment that had been rehearsed for weeks now…” How old are YOU today?!” his grandparents said in unison.
“WUN!!! KoKoes wun day!!!” little Aurora beamed.
Watching from the remote safety of the underside of the chesterfield, Triple Eff said “This is frigging ridiculous. These people are whack! Think I’ll lick my butt for a few minutes then stretch…and then maybe I’ll have a nap until the crackpots have left the building again”. Of course, what the Pellys and the Averys heard was nothing actually. Had they been listening, a haughty “Meow Purr” would have made them all believe that the cat was entirely contented…which, for the most part he was, at least as long as the crazy people fed him his three squares a day, plus treats, especially in his mind now that he was licking his butt again.
Outside the house a large black crow settled high in a tree. He watched the proceedings with interest, shifting from foot to foot on his perch. The winter wind pushed against his feathers, ruffling them awkwardly against the gale. One would not be entirely wrong to say he looked less than impressed. Still, his attention was unwavering. The wind howled in union with the wolves.
Chapter Six – Big, Black Birds
It has been said of crows that they are the smartest bird. If this is so, then this big bird surely was in the ranks of the smartest of crows. On most days anyway. Well, on days when he hadn’t lost anything. It is also been said of crows that there is seven drops of Devil’s blood in every one. They are full of mischief. They love shiny things, are favourably partial to eating dead things, especially dead things that rather conveniently arrange for themselves to be dead, squished onto paved or smooth rock surfaces. Undoubtedly a crow’s absolute favourite thing to gorge itself on are dead things that have shiny things attached to them!
“Yummy” is what a crow says to itself when it sees shiny road kill. If a crow were to have been an actor in the movie ‘The Wizard of Oz’ that crow would certainly convince the Cowardly Lion to grow some balls, kill Dorothy and Toto, tear the stuffing out of the Scarecrow (perhaps constructing a nest in the process) and leave the Tin Man tits up in the middle of the road shining up to the high heavens. That’s what a crow would do. It’s no wonder then that a flock of the black buggers is known as a ‘Murder’ of crows. It’s also said that a crow mates for life. If you were to ask a crow the validity of this statement the answer might surprise you. Like people, most crows mate for sex. Life or no life.
But this crow, the crow outside the Pelley house is no ordinary crow. This crow is bigger and stronger than your common variety and this crow has a mission, other than eating dead things with shiny things. And now the crow is settling in to the treetop to observe the strangeness going on inside. “What is going on?!” he thinks, bewildered “ They look like they’re at a nut convention in there”. Then, remembering the importance of his purpose in that spot on that day, the big bird sighed and accepted his lot “I gotta keep a close watch on that kid, or there’s gonna be some real trouble!” His spirt passed over his eyes as momentarily he thought of troubles in the past…”That can’t be allowed to happen again”.
So, the crow sat and watched as Cocoa smeared cake on the whole world, watched as Cocoa dropped ice cream into the laps of the laughing adults, watched as Cocoa giggled and squealed his way through the birthday presents, the birthday hugs and kisses.
The crow perched and watched as Cocoa had four more delightful birthdays in that house as he sat shivering in the branches of the spruce tree. Four more years of preparing for the coming storm, observing the child’s skills as they flourished in the Pelly’s house of love, and reflecting on just how much they would all need that love.
There was so much crow shit accumulating on the branches that the crow had to watch where he was perched even while he watched his young ward grow. If you’ve ever watched a crow in a tree hopping around, that’s what they’re doing…avoiding stepping in shit.
“Soon my little buddy, you and I are going to have a little chat” the crow thought to himself “and then your whole fucking world is going to turn upside down…again.”
From various points inside the house as he made his rounds Triple Eff watched the big, black bird in the treetop. For his part, Triple Eff wanted only to catch and kill the bird. “ Soon Birdie Boy, I’m going to be picking my teeth with your waxy old tail feathers ‘cause soon, I’m going to be eating crow”. The cat turned and proceeded to lick between his claws feeling the needle points with his tongue, and feeling very good about himself indeed.
“Purrrrrrrrrrrr.” Said Triple Eff as he fell into his forty-fifth nap of the day, dreaming of smells and tastes yet to be enjoyed, not for once considering he might be out of his league on this one.
On the topic of ‘Shipbuilding’
Today I’m writing about a topic that is near and dear to my world, Shipbuilding. I am spurred on by a recent episode of PBS’s ‘Nova’ which I had on PVR (because I like to watch when I feel like watching). The episode I’m referring to was entitled “Ultimate Cruiseship” and dealt with the design, construction and delivery of the vessel ‘The Seven Seas Explorer’. It is probably the best ‘high level’ documentary I’ve seen regarding the process of ship delivery. It also provides a very good answer to a question I’ve heard many times over the years: “What do you do?”
Although this documentary chronicles the birth of a cruise ship, one of the vessels I have not actually worked on (unless of course one takes in account of commercial ferries), the processes and considerations are the same. The show dealt with the casting of the propellers, the problems of vibration, the complexities of sub assembly construction, the questions of Naval Architecture, weight issues, materials selection, and many other aspects of the work. Also discussed are the logistics of having the vessel’s modules built and launched in varied locations, then mated together to create the final hull, the total ship. Nearly every step along the process is covered in this documentary.
As I watched this I couldn’t help but think how well organized and executed the project was handled. It was obvious that the design was being directed and overseen by a team of Naval Architects and other professional shipbuilders that knew the importance of being ‘hands on’ throughout the whole project. Every step of the way the team was engaged and issues were dealt with then resolved.
I got to thinking about jobs I’ve worked on in the past. Some were well organized while others were complete chaos. The most important feature of all these jobs is that at the end of the day, a vessel was delivered. It is relatively rare for a ship, once started to not be completed, in some way (perhaps not to the original design, but completed none the less). So, why is it that some projects are successes while others are costly, problematic and not so much of a success? There is no one single answer but I can weigh in with some of the reasons I’ve experienced in my career.
I’m going to forgo the obvious point that there must be a Mission Statement established for the vessel, a good preliminary design to begin with, and deal instead with the options open to the Project Management and Design Teams. In recent years many vessels are being designed and constructed on contract in geographic areas that provide lower cost labour resources (for instance, India, China, Southeast Asia & Romania, to name only a few). This line of action has in many instances led to delivery of substandard construction with any number of issues regarding materials, design, welding, hardware and so on. That outcome has led to a school of thinking purporting that vessels built in these locations are substandard because of where they are built.
I argue that this is not necessarily the case. I agree that it is true many of the products coming from ‘low cost labour’ locations are not up to standards generally in use throughout most of the more developed world, but this is not a function of the location. It is a direct result of the failure of the project execution plan. These locations generally have access to very talented, energetic and dedicated resources, with loyalty to employers not seen in other places. What they lack is ‘Guidance and Oversight’. I contend that if one is to have a vessel designed and or built in low cost regions the onus is on the owner to ensure that there is from day one, a single person or team that is thoroughly familiar with all aspects of the vessel’s mission and design. This entity must also have authority to direct and halt work and have the full support of the owner. If those parameters are established, and adhered to, I believe a successful project is a likely outcome.
The makeup of this guidance and oversight team, commonly referred to as the ‘Client’s Representatives’ should not be someone that has not been directly involved with the determination of the design of the vessel. As an example, in some cases a local government has established a need for a rejuvenation of its ferry fleet (for instance) the wheels of bureaucracy [SW1] go to work and source a design house and shipyard with a cost that is acceptable. The deal is made, the government’s team agrees to have the work done with the builder, the money is put in place then…the bureaucrats go home. The very real danger here is that the taxpayer’s money is now in the control of a ‘hands off’ group of uninvolved bureaucrats and an eager builder following any number of their own agendas. It should come as no surprise when the vessel is over budget and the project is plagued with problems. It is absolutely necessary to have knowledgeable and experienced oversight at all offices and construction sites. There can be no substitute for technical, and practical expertise.
My discussion here is singling out the selection of low cost resources in specific geopolitical regions but this is not to be taken in isolation. The same dangers exist in the most technologically developed countries in the world. Without a strong leadership with actual knowledge of how to execute the task at hand, the project is less likely to be a success, and this is not a reflection on the quality of work being done by the workforce. It is a reflection, and a direct result of the lack of quality work being done by the Project Management.
I've been quiet lately online but only because I've been noisy elsewhere! I just finished off the last touches on my Alive Underground RPM2017 'Snippets' collection, completed some drawings for the Downhome Life Magazine and written & uploaded a couple of rambling 'essays', one of which is below. Every now and then I feel compelled to write something...and so I do.
On the topic of ‘Draughting’
So, call me ‘long in the teeth’, ‘archaic’, a ‘dinosaur’…whatever.
Why? Because it appears I am amongst the last of the ‘Draughtsmen’. I certainly hope that this is not the case, but it’s looking that way.
Let me back up a moment…
I hit the streets in the early 1980’s, graduating from the College of Fisheries, Navigation, Marine Engineering & Electronics (the institution that would eventually morph into Memorial University of Newfoundland’s ‘Marine Institute’), with a spanking clean Diploma of Naval Architecture Technology. That program was designed to take neophytes with no knowledge of Naval Architecture, and over the course of 3 to 4 years, turn them into Naval Architects and Marine ‘Draughtsmen’ with sound technical knowledge. Nowadays the term in vogue is ‘Designers’. One of the key points in the mandate of the College of Fisheries was to produce individuals that could upon graduation take on the responsibilities in a shipyard or a design office setting, complete with the knowledge toolbox to be efficient and effective in whichever capacity was required, be that ‘pure’ naval architecture, design, field services, production, etc.
One of these skills was the ability to not only read and fully comprehend complicated and technical specifications and drawings, but to be able to as a routine job function, produce these documents. A point of note here is that this was in the days just before Computer Assisted Design overtook the industry. We were still working on drawing boards in those times. Computers were newly being introduced to chew through all those Ship Stability, Resistance & Propulsion and Hydrodynamics calculations we were accustomed to producing ‘long hand’. The great CAD revolution was just around the corner. In short, graduates were expected to ‘hit the ground running’ when integrating into the Drawing Office.
Before I proceed further let me clarify that this writing is in no way disrespecting the impact that CAD has had on industry. I know it to be a leap forward in the execution of nearly all branches of engineering. CAD has enabled our drawings to be incredibly accurate, it has enhanced manipulation of vast amounts of data, and it has made the process of revision a much simpler exercise. As much as the draughtsman in me enjoys making a ‘real drawing’ on paper or Mylar with graphite or ink, I also thoroughly enjoy the CAD workstations, and the possibilities they enable.
No, my issue is not with the software, it is with the ‘hole’ in the process of design that is inherent as a result of the simplicity that is offered by the software. In short, because CAD is so easy to use and manipulate, the impetus to think about firstly, then lay out the drawing in the manner in which it will be reproduced is not necessarily there. In other words, the designer is not so compelled to imagine the drawing in their heads that they will be creating before they start. This is the beginning of the CAD shortcoming.
When a designer ceases to imagine what the finished drawing is going to look like, he or she is headed down a slippery slope. In the ‘olden days’ when paper was in use (or way back, when linen was the media!) great thought had to be given regarding exactly what to show and what to leave out. The drawing had to include enough of the general arrangement as well as sections, elevations and details to illustrate precisely what the design was. Now days a designer can start a drawing, change its layout any number of times, fiddle with the presentation, manipulate every aspect of the process and yet still manage to produce a magnificent design document…or not.
It is with some reservation that I make these comments. I would like to state for the record that the issues I’m discussing are not crippling the industry, nor am I suggesting that we forsake CAD and all our technology that has made design life what it is today. What I am saying is the industry is lacking in resources that can actually ‘Draw’. To clarify, ‘Drawing’ is a skill that enables someone to produce a representation of a thought or a group of thoughts, so that someone viewing that representation (drawing) clearly understands the idea that’s being communicated.
This skill is disappearing in the industry. It has been my experience in my capacity as a ‘Senior’ or ‘Lead’ designer and as a ‘Checker’ that much of the design drawing catalogue is deficient in terms of clarity when it comes to representing the image of what is intended to be built. CAD has made it easy to ‘cut’ sections and elevations anywhere in a 3D model and produce details where required, but these ‘cuts’ are often lacking in what I consider to be ‘good’ drafting. Whereas in the past a designer would draw a detail, indicating a surface with structure beneath as ‘hidden’ lines, or superficial items needed to establish a context shown in ‘phantom’ lines, (I mention linetypes only as examples) what I am seeing is that the CAD designer is relying on the software to draw the detail and the line conventions and weights are being either omitted or not even considered. In my view a designer should and must draw what is there at the section or elevation indicated. If it becomes necessary for clarity to remove some aspects of the detail then that must be stated and indicated on the detail.
It is imperative in industry to make a profit. One of the major factors that affect or inhibit this goal is the introduction of what we all know as Confusion, or Chaos. Confusion can occur at any time and at any place in the design process, be it the drawing office or the boardroom. The very best defense against this is to produce documents that leave no questions regarding the design. The closer we can come to producing these documents the more likelihood of reducing lost time dealing with chaos thus the better chance of maximizing profits.
And I might add, also the better chance that real ‘Draughtsmen’ (and women!) will continue to exist.
My last posting of 2016 was the first installment of this story, the first two chapters. I'm now adding the next two for your enjoyment. Hope you like it!
Chapter Three – In the Time After the Beginning
‘Aurora’ as defined in the Online Dictionary is:
(lowercase) Meteorology. a radiant emission from the upper atmosphere that occurs sporadically over the middle and high latitudes of both hemispheres in the form of luminous bands, streamers, or the like, caused by the bombardment of the atmosphere with charged solar particles that are being guided along the earth's magnetic lines of force.
‘Aurora’ as defined by his mom and dad is “…the sweetest little boy you could ever imagine…the sparkle in his daddy’s eyes…the love of his mother’s life…the wonder of it all…the beauty of creation…” and so on, you get the point. Aurora, in his very short time on this planet has been that wonderful thing, a healthy growing, bouncing baby boy, and nothing like a radiant emission from the upper atmosphere.
“WAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAAAAAAA!!” the shriek from the child split the night stillness like an axe to a melon. The parents of the newborn boy at first would sit bolt upright with the night terrors, acutely certain their child was dying the proverbial ‘thousand deaths’! Gradually, as the nights rolled into months they realized an awareness, and then promptly fell into their roles of the Oscar winning academy members…feigning sleep so well that a coroner would have difficulty determining their state of consciousness.
“WAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAAAAAAA!!”. Again. And again. Finally Myra could feign no more. “Your turn Ches” she spoke with authority, leaving no room for rebuttal nor refusal. With a grunt and a mild “Ugh fuck” Ches pushed feebley against the mattress, willing his head to rise above the folds of the pillow he’d burrowed into.
“WAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAAAAAAA!!” The wails were more urgent this time. “Hold on Cocoa (as Ches had affectionately begun referring to his son as), Daddy’s coming”. As if in answer to his voice his son replied ““WAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAAAAAAA!!” but this time not so urgently. The tiny child could feel waves of love and warmth, wafting into the room as it entered and approached his crib. He had already heard the shuffle of his father as he placed the milk into the microwave oven and warmed it in its bottle en route to the baby. He now could see the light changing as Dad came into the room and cooed at the little child “Here you go Cocoa. This is what you’ve been waiting for eh boy?”
“Gurgle” Cocoa sighed contentedly, sucking the rubber like nipple, feeling the warmth of his mother’s milk oozing out of the bottle his Dad had ever so lovingly warmed up in the oven. “Gurgle gurgle” he repeated, then smiled as he passed gas…then passed more than gas. “Gurgle!” he laughed. This brought a smile to his father’s lips even though Ches knew from whence it came. “You’ve shit yourself again haven’t you boy? Making a little smelly package for Dear Old Dad to clear away for the third time tonight…little bugger”.
Ches grinned. He didn’t really mind doing that diaper thing. It certainly wasn’t as bad as gutting an animal, or cleaning a partridge. His mind flashed to that time he had gone birding with his buddy, Barth, a part Inuit, part European fellow, who showed him the quickest and easiest way to clean partridge. He placed the bird on its back, wings outspread and stood on them. The unfortunate dead bird’s feet were sticking straight up in the air all grotesque like and then Barth deftly and quickly grabbed both legs and pulled solidly upwards! The partridge’s belly tore open at nearly the same time the wing sockets dislocated and the entire body of the bird slid literally out of its skin, leaving nothing behind except the two wings pinned beneath Barth’s feet. That, and a carcass of feathers with a tiny beaked skull dangling unnaturally off to one side.
Barth chucked the meaty body into the sink then reached down, picked up the body parts to discard and glancing at the wings muttered “their wings are too small to bother with… and it’s a fuck of a lot quicker than plucking”. He then proceeded to repeat the process with the sack full of the day’s hunting bounty.
“It’s only shit after all. I don’t know what the fuss is about with all those women at the play group”. What he was referring to was the ‘drop-in’ styled parents’ association where the Moms and Dads of newborns could escape to for some relatively sane adult conversations while still providing the 24/7 degree of care demanded of their station. “Shit is easy enough to clean up…if you get to it quick”.
Reaching for the warm damp facecloth he thought again for the ‘who knows how many times’ “ My advice to everyone who discovers they’re about to have a bundle of joy…is start buying facecloths. You can never have enough of the things. Face cloths are your friends”.
Ches cleaned up Cocoa’s bottom and gently placed the diaper snug about his waist. He glowed down at the boy looking up at him. “ Those eyes are beautiful, so full of life and fun”
“Fun and mystery…and mischief” he found himself realizing. “ Cocoa’s eyes make me think of mischief”. He tucked his son in and removed the bottle from his suckling mouth. Ever so daintily Chesley dabbed a dribble of mother’s milk away from Cocoa’s tiny lips. He pulled the ‘yellow duckies’ blanket up to the boy’s chin and smiled. “Goodnight.” He softly spoke lovingly “and sleep tight son”.
As Ches quietly left the room, shutting the door gently behind him and crawling back into bed with Myra an owl hooted off in the distance. The soft wilderness sound was just enough to wake a tiny child momentarily. Just long enough to fart and burp again…then fill his diaper.
“Gurgle” the boy smiled as he peed again as he contentedly drifted off once more.
Chapter Four – Time Keeps on Ticking
As time kept ticking on, little Aurora Borealis Pelley grew and grew like all healthy children do. At the normal rate of fifty diapers a week he continued to do his bit to support the multi-national ‘Shit Handling’ industry, which was how Ches Pelley reffered to the big business surrounding little bowel movements. Stinks came and went with all the regularity of the tides, and when you’re a parent, as Ches and Myra were, that’s what you wanted...except when it was your turn.
“Myra! Your turn!” Ches gleefully bawled up over the basement stairs “ I did it last time!” Then looking at his little boy “Cocoa, my son, you stinks! I’m glad it’s your mother’s turn this time.” He carried Cocoa up to his waiting mother’s arms and happily deposited the boy’s wet smelly body into her care. “You look too friggin’ happy about this, you bugger” Myra smiled as she took Cocoa into her arms and headed to the change table, chastising Chesley good naturedly. Along the way she and her son passed by Triple Eff, the family cat.
Originally Triple Eff had been named ‘Sweetums’ by the Pelleys, but over time that moniker had degenerated into ‘Furry Faced Fucker’ as he wove in and out between the ankles of whomever happened to be closest to the top of the stairs, whom also was usually carrying something heavy or unwieldy. This further developed into his present name ‘Triple Eff’ because ‘Furry Faced Fucker’ just took up too much time to utter as Ches or Myra struggled to catch themselves, in a wild attempt to avoid serious injury at the hands of the inanimate but threatening stairs. This carry on at the top of the stairs seemed to never cease amusing the cat who sat and stone faced watched the gyrations.
“Meow.” Triple Eff would say.
“Frigger!” Myra would say (because being a lady, she would only utter ‘Fuck’ in the throes of passion).
“Fuck!” Chesley would say.
“Gurgle ha ha.” Cocoa would say.
But on this particular day Triple Eff looked at Cocoa as he was carried past in his momma’s arms, and just as he was about to dart between her legs he reared up suddenly! His attempt at amusing himself by having Myra fall UP the stairs for a change was thwarted by a frighteningly familiar voice inside his kitty brain. Do you know what the voice said?
The voice said “Gurgle Ha Ha Fucker”. And that was that.
Triple Eff blinked the blink of the thoroughly shagged up and fled, tail exploding into a billion fluffed up furry ends that would probably take all the afternoon to lick back into shape. That actually being a task the cat didn’t mind, since licking his tail was a pass time Triple Eff enjoyed nearly as much as getting the other inhabitants of the house to open a door, or shut a door. Or open and shut a door again, and so forth.
Yes, Triple Eff heard little Cocoa’s voice in his mind, not in his ears. This development was certainly not in the range of the normal ‘day to day’ for the cat. This was the opposite of normal. This was paranormal to say the least…and downright scary!
For his part, Cocoa heard the cat’s startled ‘meow’ as he had always heard the cat, but there was something different about it. As the cat fled in a flight that left bits of fur wafting towards the floor and shards of area rug trembling in its wake, Cocoa heard something like “What the fuck!!??” Except of course, Cocoa hadn’t developed much speech recognition past “Gurgle, Ha Ha” and “Da” and “Ma” and “Poopie” (and of course the aforementioned ‘Fucker’, so he didn’t actually ‘hear’ the cat). Instead he sort of ‘felt’ what it was like for a cat to say “What the fuck!!??”
Myra heard “Reoworrrmeowl!!!” and saw the cat in midflight, turn and look back directly at Cocoa, in what for all the world seemed to her to be astounded surprise. “Ches!” she called, “Will you put that friggin’ cat out of doors before he breaks my neck! The little bugger is in his ‘crazy hour’ and suddenly decided he had to be somewhere else in the house! Frightened the bejeezers out of me he did”!
“Right away Hon,” Ches replied as he didn’t particularly move any quicker than he was already moving. “Here Puss, Puss, Puss”. He looked around for a moment or two and when Triple Eff didn’t materialize he promptly shrugged and forgot all about it. Going instead, about his business of making up a batch of home brew beer for the ‘after party’ sure to follow Cocoa’s Birthday party, coming up in a couple of months.
“It’s been a good spring and summer” Myra thought to herself as she changed Cocoa’s diaper. “Nothing too much out of the ordinary” except maybe the string of really nice warm days we had in August. What was it the guy at Northern News and Books had said? Oh yeh…”It’s weather like you’d see down south somewhere, not what we usually get this time of year”. She smiled the warm loving smile of a mother as she beamed down into Cocoa Pelley’s eyes. “You’re like Mommy’s little Imp aren’t you handsome”? She lifted his bum and placed the new diaper underneath him and turned to dump the other in the waste bin. Cocoa smiled back at his mother and proceeded to pee directly up into the air, his fountain making a perfect arc as it rose then fell splattering all over the new diaper.
“Oh…Cocoa…” his mother said.
“Gurgle Ha Ha.” Cocoa giggled up into his Mother’s adoring eyes.
So then, for a while now I've been posting scattered drawings and ramblings about growing up and living in, and leaving Labrador. I will continue to do so, but not today.
Today I am on day 3 of being stuck in Toronto enroute to St. John's but delayed due to the famous (infamous?) winter weather. It's only a few days off of Christmas and I'm hoping to get home tonight.
Sitting here in the Airport Sheraton I'm amusing myself. I've come on the idea, perhaps from a memory from childhood to post some chapters of a novel I've been working on every now and then. I seem to remember when I was a child that many stories were presented in periodicals as installments. The story is established but the rewrite is in progress. Perhaps someday a version of this story may be on the bookshelves...that is if bookshelves still exist in the future!
I hope those who read these first two chapters will leave a comment, or at least find some enjoyment from it to brighten up your day.
Snowden. 19 Dec 2016.
By Snowden Walters
Chapter One – In the Beginning. 3
Chapter Two – Just After the Beginning. 4
Chapter Three – In the Time After the Beginning. 7
Chapter Four – Time Keeps on Ticking. 9
Chapter Five – …and Ticking. 11
Chapter Six – Big, Black Birds. 13
Chapter Seven – School Days School Days. 14
Chapter Eight – Something evil, something dark. 19
Chapter Nine – Raven. 21
Chapter Ten – The Myths, The Legends and the Lies. 24
Chapter Eleven – A Long Time Ago When the Earth Wasn’t Green. 29
Chapter Twelve – A Long Time Ago When the Earth Was Green. 33
Chapter Thirteen – A Long Time Ago When Grog Got His Helper 36
Chapter Fourteen – But What’s This Got To Do With Me?. 38
Chapter Fifteen – The Long Road of Learning. 43
Chapter Sixteen – A Very, Very, Very Dark Place. 46
Chapter Seventeen – Winter 50
Chapter Eighteen – Betsy On the Run (through space and through time) 56
Chapter Nineteen – At The Merry Dancer’s Secret Service. 60
Chapter Twenty – The Painted Desert 65
Chapter Twenty One– Will Wakes up in the Desert 71
Chapter Twenty Two – Rave On, Raven. 74
Chapter Twenty Three – When Time and Space Were One. 76
Chapter Twenty Four – ‘Now What?’ Indeed. 81
Chapter Twenty Five – The Long Road Home. 84
Epilogue – Back to the Beginning. 87
Chapter One – In the Beginning
The Northern Lights danced their merry way across the black and starlit sky. Far off in the distance the timber wolves howled at the splendor as the rutting caribou shivered at the sound. Small birds snuggled tightly together in an effort to comfort one another, protection from the monsters of the night. A large black figure glided wearily between the moon and the surface of the earth. A larger black shadow followed the contours of the new snow in hot pursuit over the frozen lakes and forest. Halting finally in the toppermost of the branches of a stately black spruce and catching its breath the figure began to whistle.
The Northern Lights danced their merry dance across the black and starlit sky, but a little more intensely this time. They shot towards Polaris, the dog star, then flashed towards the horizon then back to Polaris and so on, in a rhythm the locals call ‘Tikkitak’. To a casual observer it would seem that the aurora were sending messages to some unknown receiver. To that unknown receiver, the message was clear.
The crow whistled again and loosened his grip, dropping his precious cargo down, down, down into the ink of the Labrador night. He watched as it sparkled and drifted this way and that, hovering then dipping, then finally easing into the light coming from the window of the building below. The crow whistled once more then closed his eyes and the universe went dark.
Chapter Two – Just After the Beginning
“Myra, what do you suppose we should call this child of ours?” The man standing at the window was watching the sky more out of habit than interest. He was unaccustomed to idleness and his posture showed it as he shuffled from one corner of the hospital room to the other, eyes flickering on the sterile furnishings and trappings of the place. “How do you feel about ‘Hospital Boy’”?
“Chesley, don’t be silly” Myra chuckled “Maybe it will be ‘Hospital Girl’…we have no idea what this baby is.” she said as she raised herself out of the cozy wooden rocker so out of place in the spotless case room. She moved to join her husband at the window. “I know you’re not fussy about being indoors for long Ches. I can tell by the way you’re chewing at the bit! You’re looking out that window like someone trying to escape or something.”
The two watched as a large black crow came to light in the upper reaches of the big spruce across the parking lot. Through the closed window they could almost make out its silhouette projected on the northern lights as they danced. Then, abruptly the crow faded from sight as though swallowed by some darkness. The borealis glowed with intensity as the Myra and Chesley Pelley gazed at the sky, arm in arm, her head on his shoulder, and he just taking in the glorious vista of the Big Land’s sky. “You know what Ches?” Myra muttered into the soft curls of hair on his neck, “ That sky is so…beautiful tonight. It’s like it’s sending me a message of sorts” Myra fell silent as she felt herself transfixed by the sparkle of frost she watched weave towards her.
The sparkle came through the window at her then gently drifted beneath her gown and into her womb. A warmth came over her now like she had never felt in her life. She began to smile. She felt somehow that without a doubt, this embryo, this child within her was a boy. Her smile came from so deep within her that she could not help but feel as though she was being touched by the hand of a God…or at very least the hand of something warm and special.
“Aurora” she said to her husband as she fell gently into the bed behind her “I want to call him Aurora”. She then fell backwards onto the hospital bed, clutching her abdomen and shrieking in pain.
Chesley called out to the nurses “Nurses!” He called out excitedly “ It’s time! She just lid down and passed out!! HELP!!!” Ches had the outward appearance now of a completely distraught husband caught totally outside of his comfort zone. Snow machines he could handle, he could even make parts for a snow mobile from a birch junk, but having babies was way beyond what the man was ready for. “Help! Nurse! Help!” Frantic now he ran into the hall of the Wilfred Jack Hospital. Relieved, he saw the nurses coming at full walk, grinning at his man weakness, tittering at his lack of control.
“Don’t you worry now my son” the big burly matron with the cross of red said as she and her team of weightlifters drove him aside as they pressed into the case room, “She’s gonna be just fine. You just keep out of our way now my love”.
Keeping out of the way didn’t seem to be a concern for Ches. “I couldn’t get near her if I tried” he thought as the flurry of white and stripes swooped down on his wife. “ I wouldn’t be able to wiggle past the lines of defense they’ve set up”!
“ Relax Ches, I’m just Fi……..AYEENENEEE!” Myra screamed as the waves of pain contracted her into a ball, compressing her abdomen and shuddering across her entire body. “Just fine…” gasping…” It’s ok hon…I’m ARRRRARRGHGHGHGH!” …and so on. Ches eventually got used to this and for the next hour or so he watched the birthing team do their thing. His wife screamed, panted, swore, cried, laughed, and generally acted like he’d never seen her before then at last, all went quiet. A feeling passed over him like a wave of splendor…and a wave of dread. “ I’m not ready for this” he thought and then, as if on cue, he fainted.
“Jaysus! What the fu-“ Ches became aware again. Two linebackers in motherly smiles hovered over him, holding something very near his nose. The linebackers giggled and sniggered between themselves. “Not ready for that were ya honey?” One of the saintly behemoths of care asked him smirking. “ That’s ok baby, we’re used to that here in Willie Jack. Lots of fathers can’t take the heat in the birthing arena. We have lots of smelling salts on hand for ye fellers.”
“So that’s what it is “ Ches thought as the salts burned in his nostrils and cut a swath of stinging slime down his throat. “Ummmm…th..thanks I guess” he added “How’s Myra?” His concern for his wife seemed to light up the faces of the attending nurses and interns. They suddenly became soft and nurturing towards him as well. He could feel the love.
Actually he could feel the love… and the pressure of their huge mitts as they picked him up body and bones and transported him to his wife’s bedside. “Here, honey” one of the nurses handed him a shiny stainless steel set of scissors, flattened on the bottom and bent by design, “ you can cut the cord now Chesley” the smiling angel in uniform said, pushing the scissors into his bewildered hand and guiding it to a slimed wet purpleish twisted thing that looked something like something a cat might hurl.
His hand closed tight on the scissors and the vibration sent from the flesh being cut meandered its way up his arm, into his neck and deep into the regions of his brain that processed that sort of thing. A sudden spurt of blood, goop and gore and the scissors were snatched from his hands and taken to some distant tray full of other dripping stainless steel tools that would soon be on their way to a cleansing process only nurses know.
Once again Chesley was bumped to the sidelines as the birthing team swooped and swooned and giggled and chortled and generally flutted (if ‘flutted’ is actually a word) about as they cleaned and scrubbed and poked and weighed the little newborn. Ches watched in tired amazement. “They’re a machine” he found himself musing “much like the insides of my snowmobile…all working together to nurture a miracle…the miracle of motion across the snow, careening in a giant slalom through the boreal forests of Labrador…”
“OK Dad, you can see your baby boy now”.
The sound of the moniker struck home like a baffling slap to his psyche as he grokked the true meaning of the title. ‘Dad’. “Jesus, I’m definitely not ready for this!” But curiosity gripped him and he moved as if by unseen hands to his wife’s bedside to be roughly placed in the chair. Roughly placed because those ‘unseen hands’ were actually attached to the unseen running back placing him there!
Chesley looked into Myra’s eyes, felt the love and tenderness emanating from within her. He savored the glow of motherhood as it bubbled out of her entire being then, resistant no more he looked down into the eyes of his son, his first-born child, his procreation, his opus…
“His eyes look like cocoa…Hershey’s cocoa. Just like the stuff I mix up to drink, only wetter.” Ches was bewildered. “ Shouldn’t I be having some kind of epiphany? Looking into the eyes of my child for the first time?! And here I am thinking of Cocoa?! Weird!”
“Hasn’t he got the most beautiful big brown eyes Ches?” Myra asked as she smiled up at him from her sweat damp pillow. He did have to admit that this little bundle of gurgle was kind of cute, for a teensy purple blue pinkish critter. “ Yah hon, he’s wonderful”.
The two of them looked adoringly at one another the back to the bundle. The bundle blinked owlishly then rolled one cute eye to the left, the other cute eye upwards, towards the hospital window and then stopped. The not quite yet formed pupil opened and closed and the eye blinked again. The bundle smiled then closed his eyes and burped and farted. The room erupted in laughter with the nurses, interns, mother and yes, even the father feeling the relief that comes following a perfectly healthy, normal childbirth.
Outside the Wilfred Jack Hospital, the world went on in its timeless way. The wolves settled for the night and the small birds snuggled just that little bit closer against the cold, north wind. The crow, now rested took one look back at the hospital window, then spread his wings and dropped out of the treetop. Seconds later if anyone had been looking out the window they would have watched the crow rise into the heavens, wings outstretched, and swiftly disappear, unawares of a threatening shadow in pursuit. The Northern Lights of Labrador gleefully danced and sang as they felt the tune of the Merry Whistler.
Hanging around Labrador City when I was young (back before dirt) wasn't in the cards for me. Hell, I don't even like cards! Like everyone I had fears for survival outside the comfort of home, but I had another fear, the fear of staying and never knowing 'what if'. I was hanging around in the Pit, the park, the ski lodge and any other places that our crowd hung out...to what they nowdays call 'Chill'. But I felt I needed more.
Over time I became aware that I was restless, I wanted to go places, see things and fill my days with excitement and adventure. Thus the decision made, there was still the pesky problem of how and when? In those days there was no 'Freedom Road', only planes and trains so months would go by before the chain of events that led to the hangover in Toronto!
You need a vacation after a vacation!
I know this to be true. We've just returned from a jolly jaunt around the Pirate's Islands aboard the dirty big 'Adventure of the Seas'! Also on the card was a 2 then 3 days stay in Old San Juan. In the space of a few hours I had gone from Quebec City to Montreal, then St. John's and home scarcely long enough to pitch! When off the next morning to Taranna and on to Puerto Rico. I was in cultural chaos!
Luckily I am a quick relaxer. We walked around the town and took in the sights and sounds then stopped at an outdoor alleyway that live music was hammering out of...and this joint had codfish on the menu! Heaven! oh, and a Margaritta por favour!
We had a couple of days lazing around in OSJ then set sail for Barbados, St. Lucia and St. Maarten's. The pic above is the view from the bistro set on the cabin balcony. And best of all, imagine this...warm!
After the cruise it was back to the Old city for a few days to 'decompress'. This is a practice I highly recommend if you can swing it, relaxation after a vacation is a must, and a lot of fun! Then it was back to Outer Cove and home...for a few days then I shipped out to Quebec once more.
Which is where I remain at the time of this writing...and already thinking about how badly I need a vacation! (oh yeah, Christmas is coming)!
Up to that point I think my experience with panhandlers was limited to the odd drunk in the Ashuanipi Pit! Downtown 'Taranna', even in winter was maggotty with them! they swooped in on the two of us, but they were out of luck of course. We had nothing. Only our packsacks and some Drum tobacco!
We spent the day trying not to freeze to death by deeking into shopping malls and warming up. the whole day was spent killing time until it was time to climb back onto the train headed west.
Well, I'm off for a few weeks now and my online activity will be very limited...holidaze will do that. thanks very much for reading and commenting. Always fun. See y'all later on!
I don't know where I heard that first, 'the wild blue yonder'. Perhaps in a comic book or an old western or something. No idea. Point is, 'yonder' was a place that wasn't Labrador City, and as much as I loved the place, at that point in my young life, it wasn't a 'happening ville'. It seemed stuck, or I was stuck, or something. I suppose as comfortable as living in my hometown was, I was in need of adventure. I was excited about 'Yonder'.
Yup. the adventure had started. The WW2 Flying Ace guy is true! Called himself the 'Rabbit'! I want to believe it was true. Anyways Dorval was a lovely little spot... in the dead of winter...frozen and bleak. The pub wasn't too far from the train stop that we were boarding the westbound Via Rail at 11:59 pm (I was and still am amazed that the train schedule was down to the minute). I know I slept on the train but I don't remember what time. I had my head laid against the window like I used to when taking the QNS&L out of Labrador, feeling the rumble and the buzzing of the rails. The train gathered speed as we left Montreal Island in the past and the lights shining outside in the snowbanks eventually disappeared, only occasionally interrupted by a rural crossing. The whistle blowing was a sign to open my eyes again and try figure out where we were, then drift away again. By morning everything would still be different!
Hey all, I've just submitted two of the songs off of my 'Migration Songs' album into the Canadian Songwriting Competition! The proceeds go to the Foundation for After School Talent (FAST Canada). Winners to be announced March 2017. I'm kind of excited about this as I have never done this sort of thing before...a real competition! Wish me luck!
The competition is hosted by Songwriting Canada ( http://songwritingcanada.com/ ) and I'm pumped to be a part of it! You may have heard the songs before as they have been featured in this blog in the past but please, kick back and have another listen! Enjoy y'all!!