Bob and the moratorium
“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: firstname.lastname@example.org