A Lot of Laughs

First: Is this the “Mark of the Beast?”

France’s President Macron delivered a 27-minute speech to the nation on television. Macron announced a full-blown authoritarian measure that takes France off the tourist list. He has made vaccinations MANDATORY for caregivers, store clerks, waitresses, and all other workers “in contact with the public” with no exceptions for health or religion. On top of that, he has made it also MANDATORY to have his Gates-inspired health pass to enter all restaurants, cafes, theaters, and cinemas. In other words, without a vaccination, you are not even allowed to go to the store and buy anything.

As if this was not bad enough, Macron also announced a pension reform after the epidemic. This is the real reason for all of this. SOCIALISM is dying and what they are really afraid of is an uprising where like in ancient Rome, the mob storms the palaces and beheads the emperor. Their solution – TOTALITARIANISM and there will be a subtle move to eliminate democratic elections in 2022.

Wow.


Consider this. It is not only the Indigenous people you know.

I remember one evening, a school night, it was about midweek.
I was running late and it was as cold as ice outside. I had
been at my friend’s house and was now on my way home, taking
a shortcut through the park, alone with my thoughts and my
futile attempt to stay warm. There was a cruel frost in the air that
froze one’s breath into that visible plane of CO2 stillness:
opaque, inert, foggy, dull whiteness that seemed to just hang
there in mid-air, motionless, wafting for a second or two, then
disappearing wistfully until followed inexorably by the next
sustained exhaled breath.

I sauntered down to the area of the rink. The usual bandits
were not there. In fact no one was there except a lone figure
holding a fire hose emitting a jet-streamed rush of water over and
on to the ice surface. The natural light of the half moon and its
reflection off of the snow and ice surface made it somewhat
surreal watching this stream of water jet forth from the nozzle
like liquid crystalline, then arc its way up and over some invis-
ible barrier, then down and out it went splattering onto the
surface of the ice, flowing and emanating outward in what
appeared to be rippled waves of smooth liquid velvet sheets
across a frozen yet clear, rejuvenated expanse. Ironically, that
cold blast of water resembled a cauldron of steam, exploding like
an expansion crack when it made contact with the surface and
frigid coldness of the ice.

The caretaker just stood there, like an automaton, as if
watching and admiring the outcome of his work from afar. He
would move the hose from side to side, then up and down a few
times, as if coaxing, then directing, the stream to do its magical
work, somewhat like a maestro conducting a movement. He was
old, about forty I would guess, crusty, with the wrinkled face of
someone who made his living working outdoors. He had a low
forehead from what I could see just shy of his toque. His was a
square face with a set strong jaw and a bulbous crooked nose
masking a dark, brooding inset pair of eyes. From time to time
one could see a slight glint but that only came to light as part of
the draw on his rolled cigarette. The exhaled smoke, combined
with his frozen breath, gave the impression of a magician’s folly
with nature’s illusion of turning water magically into ice.
He saw me, looked down at me, smiled I think, or perhaps
smirked. The cigarette was burning red hot ashes from the corner
of his mouth as both hands were needed to control the pressure
of the water hose.

“What can I do for ya, young lad?” he offered in a lyrical
brogue.

Somewhat embarrassed and off guard I returned: “Just watching,
sir, that’s all. Tomorrow this will be an awesome piece
of ice.”

“Aye, with any luck, if the weather holds.”

Silence.

“So, this must be some neat job you have here, looking after
things at the park?”

“Yes, but this is only part of it. I have three other rinks to
look after besides this one.”

“Wow” was about all I could muster. Then, continuing on:

“When I grow up, I want to have a job like this. So cool.”

He chuckled. “No you don’t, and no it ain’t,” he said rather
emphatically. “I have to do this. You don’t. I have no other
choice. You do. So stay in school.”

“But school sucks. I hate it. The nuns, the priests, the rules,
and the strap.”

He chuckled somewhat.

“It’s not funny.”

“Oh, I know. I know it’s not funny. But thinking back, I got it
good too from those nuns and priests. Real good. But not here.
Over in Ireland, where I come’d from, where I grew’d up—those
priests and nuns were the devil’s own, the devil’s fire brigade.”

“Really,” I thought aloud, “just like here?”

“Sure, sure,” he said. “They’re everywhere. With fire and
brimstone they spoke, with the brimstone and fire they breathed.
And they sure set the standard for all of the physical pain and
grief that a Catholic young lad or lass could harbour, without
being dead, the world over.”

“What school do you go to?” he asked.

“Our Lady of Peace,” I answered.
He looked right down at me and into my eyes, into my very
soul it seemed.

“Is that so,” he said. “Well, I think they had a school for it
over there as well. Our Lady’s School of Perpetual Abuse, I
would think. For they knew how to give it and we got it good,
day and night. Black and blue we was, then black again. The
thing is though we fought back, but in such a way that the bastards never knew they was being conned. We had a lot of
laughs outsmarting them, doing that. That was the key for us to
survive in these schools.”

He chuckled but in remonstrance, remembering perhaps that
it would seem to be a memory hidden or repressed.

“Listen to me, young lad. Adapt, and don’t let them get you
down, or get to you emotionally, in your thoughts, and if you do
it right you will have fond memories of your and your mates’
experiences and a lot of laughs. But I’m sure it isn’t as bad as
when I went to school. That was day and night back then. No rest
for the wicked boys and girls, as they said. We was all orphans.”

He paused, as if to let that last comment sink in. Then he
turned, slightly, to blanket another part of the rink with water.
Silent! I followed him around.

“Orphans? In Ireland? Wow.” It seemed so far away, and too
much to sink in.

“Orphans, yes. I don’t remember my mother or my father.
Just the school, the orphanage, the nuns and priests. But I got out
of it. Ran away and joined the Navy.”

And as if sensing my next question. “I was fourteen.”

“Yup, Royal Navy, the Senior Service, as they say.” He
volunteered, “It was also harsh discipline thar, in the Navy, but I
thrived on it cause I was already used to the abuse… Aaaargh.”
He laughed out loud.

“But in the Navy they had free rein to kill ya if they so
choosed. For being out of line, AWOL, or desertion as they
called it. But again, my mates kept me sane and my wingers safe.
And justice? For the smallest infraction, there was shipboard
justice… before the mast, before the Captain… the Coxswain
would cry out in his loud and booming voice: ‘MARCH THE
GUILTY BASTARD IN!’ As I said, I loved it. Rum was dirt
cheap and the cigs even dirtier cheapier. Clean sheets and three
squared—if you liked kippers and hard tack that is. But
compared to the boarding school, and the Army, I thought I had
died and gone to heaven.”

He paused, while directing the water to another section of the
rink. The was a moment of dead silence except for the crackling
sound that the water made when in contact with the frozen
expanse of the ice. He then continued with his story.

“I came through the war unscathed though. Only once did
providence come to my side.”

“What’s providence?” I interrupted

“Providence is a sort of destiny’s luck,” he continued. “Like
something that happens to you in the present that makes no sense
at all except that it has an enormous impact on something in the
future.”

He looked at me whimsically, quizzically, probably knowing
full well that I didn’t have a clue of what he was getting at.

“Let me explain it this way. I was transferred to an oiler—
that’s a ship that refuels other ships at sea, like a floating,
moving gas station on water—and just before boarding that ship
to leave port and to go out to our war station at sea, I was called
back. Some sort of emergency at home. How could that be, I
thought? I had no home! So the ship sailed without me and
when I arrived back in the town where I had lived at the
boarding school, it turned out that I did indeed have a younger
sister who was quite sick, had been given last rights, and had
asked for me. Turns out she, like me, had also been given up and
had been sent to another boarding school, but in the next village.
Damnation, I thought. I had a sister. As it turned out, her school
was a front for the so-called Magdalene Laundry Houses—or
asylum. You wouldn’t know about those places, but there was
nothing asylum about them I can tell you that. They was an
affront for sure, those sweathouses. An affront to humanity,
human kindness, compassion, empathy, everything civil and
just. The Irish nun’s laundry school from hell. And that’s all I’ll
say about that.”

He paused briefly, then continued.

“But, as unluckily as it was for her that this was, it was also
luckily for me because that oiler took a hit and being so full of
oil went up like a some heavenly torch, burnt the sky crimson, in
spectacular fashion it was with shades of reds and oranges and
yellows, before being doused to eternity’s sleep as she slipped,
stern first, into the sea, breaking up below the waves to the
bottom below but with one last glorious belch of sea salt from
old Neptune himself, or so they told me after. No one survived.”
He let that sink in for the moment.

Then continued, “I survived the war though death really hit home. I cried and I cried and I cried. I don’t know why I cried so hard because I didn’t
really know anyone on that ship, thank God for that. And I didn’t
know my own sister either yet I cried so hard for her.” He made
the sign of the cross with a free hand.

“What happened to your sister?” I asked, politely.

“Died… a lung disease. But she really died from one of life’s
broken hearts, and broken promises. I never knew her but I think
I loved her. Funny that. Not knowing somebody but still loving
them, potentially I guess, unconditionally perhaps, for I never
knew, I never knew her. The ties that bind, I think. You understand
me, boy?”

“I think so,” I said. I didn’t.

“Good, ’cause I’m not sure if I do… understand myself or
my life, that is.”

Silence again. Much longer this time as the time was needed
to take in this account of his.

“You should be getting home,” he said as he turned again to
strike out at another area of the rink.

“Stay in school, and don’t let them penguins get to you. By
the by, what’s your name?”

“John,” I answered, awkwardly.

“Well, John. I am Desmond O’Brian. Des for short, but not
for long.” He guffawed. “You can call me sir.” He guffawed and
guffawed again. Then he was suddenly snorting, snorting then
coughing, coughing hard, a bronchial, nicotine-laced cough that
went deep into his own form, shook his entire physical being
relentlessly before dying down and out through his throat.

“Glad to make your acquaintance, John.” He choked again
and waved me off with one arm, coughing again.

I left, turned away toward my street, and off I went, carefully
as the ground was extremely icy.

It always seemed weird, but nice, to me when an adult with
whom I had no association at all called me by my first and given
Christian name. John… John, yeah John. A simple name, yet the
sound of it from someone else’s voice directed at me and at me
alone gave me a sense of well-being and a confidence in myself
because the adult had the respect and acknowledgement of my
own existence in this world, however small my own worldly
horizon or vision might be. It was as if we shared some of life’s
experiences, good or bad, in some sort of way, synchronicity
perhaps. It was always a nice, heartfelt gesture to hear one’s own
name in that manner by a relative stranger. Instead of the usual
… MORRISON, PAY ATTENTION OR I’LL PAY IT
FOR YOU!

Before I was out of sight I stopped, turned, and looked back
at the rink. I could see Mr O’Brian ever so faintly, or should I say
his silhouette, which really resembled a dark, lifeless shadow in
the stillness of this winter’s night. The stream of water continuing
to rise, then arc, then cascade out and down and out again in
a frost-like icy fog over the surface of the rink. Tomorrow that
ice surface would be an awesome shade of greyish blue, a
smooth virginal sheen of ice, as fragile as frozen glass, bordered
by the brilliance of clean white snow, until the inevitable cut and
crunch of the first set of cold steel blades hit its surface.
I never saw Mr O’Brian again.


Have a great weekend…

SJ…Out

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