Bob and the mora­to­rium

The Compass - - OPINION -

“Time flies when you’re hav­ing fun!”

The big blocky guy with the red face at the end of the bar drained the last of his beer. He waved his empty glass at the mis­sus serv­ing drinks, then, lean­ing for­ward, his fore­arms on the black counter-top like two great birch junks, he re­peated him­self.

“Time flies when you’re hav­ing fun!

“Who could be­lieve it’s been 20 years. Twenty years since John Cros­bie dropped the big bomb­shell on us. The Mora­to­rium. Typ­i­cal gov­ern­ment. When you get less, they call it a more­ato­rium. Should be a less-ato­rium. But they al­ways calls it some­thing it’s not. Like E.I. — em­ploy­ment in­surance. Not what they called it first — U.I., un­em­ploy­ment in­surance. That was too hon­est though. If they called it un­em­ploy­ment in­surance that meant they were ad­mit­ting that there was such a thing as peo­ple be­ing out of work. Lord Je­sus! Just like the food fish­ery. They changed the name to recre­ational fish­ery, like it was just a bit of fun, not get­ting food for the ta­ble. Eas­ier to cut it out later see, if it was only a day or two on the wa­ter to keep the na­tives from get­ting rest­less. Typ­i­cal gov­ern­ment, boys.

“Typ­i­cal that they would send a fed­eral townie to do the dirty work too, make the an­nounce­ment. I sup­pose up in Ot­tawa they thought we’d ac­cept the news bet­ter com­ing from one of our own. One of our own. I spose!

“Why I was say­ing to the Right Hon­ourable John just the other day when I was lean­ing over the fence talk­ing to him. You know apart from my house, here in the cove, I’ve got a cabin on Cir­cu­lar Road in St. John’s that backs on the grounds of Gov­ern­ment House. I go there when I want to get away from it all. John and I of­ten meet there to shoot the breeze when he slips out through the back door for a lit­tle swally so the mis­sus doesn’t get on his case. “John” I was say­ing, “John boy, d’you think the fish will ever come back?”

“He looked at me kind of funny. Puz­zled like. He didn’t say anything for a minute or two, just stared at me. Then he says to me, and I’m not jok­ing, he says ‘ What fish?’ Hon­est to God … So I said to him …”

“Here you go Bob,” said the bartender plac­ing a full glass of beer in front of him. She gave him a smile that was warm enough, but that even af­ter a half-dozen beers no man could con­fuse with anything but kind­li­ness. The lines at the cor­ners of her eyes and the strands of sil­ver in her black hair spoke of many hours pro­vid­ing un­paid ther­apy to lonely men whose lives were not turn­ing out the way they had an­tic­i­pated.

“You asked me to tell you when it got to be four o’clock, Bob. It’s quar­ter to. Bet­ter make this the last one or Marge will be send­ing the kids down here look­ing for you.”

“Oh, Marge,” he sighed, gaz­ing deeply into his glass as though Marge might be swimming there. “But don’t you think I’m right about Cros­bie and the mora­to­rium?”

“Sure I do,” she replied. “I think you’re just as right as I have for the last 20 years, Bob boy. You’ve been right each and ev­ery day of all the 20 years you’ve been telling ev­ery­one in this club the same story, but John Cros­bie has for­got­ten about you Bob, and Marge hasn’t. She’s home wait­ing. Only one more day left un­til you’ll be gone to Fort Mac and not back again for a month. Make the time count. Get on home with you now boy.”

Bob looked up from his halffin­ished beer and fixed his eyes on the bartender. He slid his glass aside, reached across the bar and placed his huge paw on top of the bartender’s slen­der fingers, squeez­ing them gen­tly.

“Bye-bye my love,” he whis­pered. He rose and turn­ing toward the door he smiled. “Thanks.”

Peter Pickersgill is an artist and writer in Sal­vage, Bon­av­ista Bay. He can be reached by email at the fol­low­ing: pickersgill@mac.com

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