Joey looks down from above
Peering down through the thick cloud, the old man was having trouble understanding what was going on below. He couldn’ t s e e clearly.
He took off his glasses and u tt e r i n g a n immediate sigh of relief as he lifted the heavy black frames containing a pair of very thick lenses from his ears. He pulled the bottom of his shirt out from inside the belt of his trousers and began to polish the spectacles. He thought, not for the first time, how surprising it was that up here where Good People went after death, there was still dirt floating around to settle on the lenses of your glasses and muddy the view.
He was sure he remembered being promised by the man with the wings and halo who guarded the entrance to this gated community that earthly troubles like dirty glasses were a thing of the past. The reward for those promoted to this Eden in the sky meant an end to mundane troubles of that kind. It was part of the deal. It was guaranteed. The fellow at the gate with the wings and the halo had said so.
He had added, “If you ever have any trouble of that kind, dirty glasses, anything like that, don’t hesitate to call me. Tell the receptionist to put you right through. Ask for Peter. If it’s after business hours just leave a message on the answering machine, I’ll get right back to you, I promise. Your call is important to us.”
“Oh goodness,” thought the old man, now that I think back, this sounds familiar to me. People guaranteeing things that end up not turning out the way you imagined they would.
The old man slid the glasses up his nose and wiggled them into place atop his ears. He leaned forward and and looked down below once again.
Seen through clean glasses the clouds had entirely disappeared. The big river below stretched from the great basin in the west and splashed over the spillway that drove the turbines at Churchill Falls. From there, it continued to wind its way eastward all the way to the Labrador Sea.
Turning back to gaze at the western basin he noted once again, to his sadness, that the surface of the water that flowed west from above the dam was coloured a brilliant silver and gold.
He remembered now that when he first came up here to stay, he had thought it was a trick of the light in the western sky that made the water in the basin appear to be silver and gold. But it wasn’t, he had realized. It was real silver and real gold and it was all flowing west across the border into the territory of the partners who had double-crossed him. Below the dam there was an occasional tiny fleck of silver and no gold at all. That was the tiny percentage of revenue flowing eastward into the most populated part of his province. The province that, as premier, he had led into accepting a hydro deal that turned out to be completely one-sided and had ruined his reputation.
At the time he had been entirely convinced of its total viability. When critics warned there was possible trouble ahead he had shouted them down, scoffing at their lack of faith. He remembered now what he had said then. It is not a bad deal as my opponents claim. It is a good deal. No, not a good deal, a very good deal. Not a very good deal, an excellent deal. A deal that will be our salvation and stand as a monument to our wisdom for years to come. For 50 years, no 100 years, no, longer than that, 500 years. I believe this will be an example to the world of wise management for the next thousand years.
He was very hurt and angry when it all came undone. He denied to the public that he had done anything wrong except to trust his partners would play fair.
A few years up here though, looking over the world from far above, his perspective began to change. He came to understand that he had indeed been wrong. He had not been careful enough. He had allowed his partners to see that he was vulnerable. Once his back was to the wall they forced him to change the agreement they had signed. He could do nothing to stop them. He was utterly committed and had taken his province too far in. There was no turning back. What had seemed to be a really worthwhile project for everyone involved, turned out to be an absolutely great deal for one side and a catastrophe for the other.
The old man turned to look downstream. From up here he could see a frenzy of activity. Great swaths of forest were being razed to the ground as swarms of machines raced back and forth. Tunnels were being drilled under the sea. Clouds of smoke from bonfires of $1,000 bills swirled upwards and deposited ash on the lenses of the old man’s glasses. He pulled them off and with his shirttail began to polish them once again, muttering, “There are none so blind as those who will not see.”