Brule Point Road

The Compass - - OPINION - Ed­i­tor@cb­n­com­

In Novem­ber, the Brule Point Road is owned by the birds. Almost. Some eight kilo­me­tres out­side Tata­m­agouche on Nova Sco­tia’s north coast, the road me­an­ders up into browned salt marsh and the Northum­ber­land Strait, end­ing in a crooked fin­ger topped with a small neigh­bour­hood of sum­mer cot­tages.

There’s a lot of that along this coast: fresh-turned farmer’s fields that stretch to­wards the wa­ter, in­ter­rupted near the edge by clots of sea­side cot­tages that seem far too close to­gether for pri­vacy. They are on roads with names like Seav­iew Lane, Seacrest Lane, Seafoam Lane. You get the idea.

In late fall, the cot­tages are closed up, and the birds are more com­fort­able: a flock of ducks in the muddy creek es­tu­ar­ies, dip­ping, a car­pet of seag­ulls min­ing the red har­rowed clay look­ing for leftovers. A crow with white feath­ers in its wings. Even a strangely out of place ring­necked pheas­ant, on the edge of the road and then deep out of sight in corn­stalks.

There’s not another car on the Brule Point Road ex­cept mine, un­til I stop for cof­fee at the strangely busy Coun­try Bread Bak­ery and Cof­fee Shop. I re­peat: un­til now, not one sin­gle thing in mo­tion ex­cept birds.

The cof­fee shop is full of re­mark­ably sim­i­lar men: early to mid-re­tire­ment aged, bald­ing heads or white hair; the oc­ca­sional ton­sured scalp that com­bines both con­ceits.

One man, shorter than me, with a mous­tache, stands by the cof­fee pot and hands me a full porce­lain cup: “There you go. Sit down; you’re wel­come.”

They meet Tues­days at 9 a.m. sharp, th­ese 16 or so men, and they don’t know me from Adam. I just came in the door at the same time they did. They look healthy, happy.

“We can help with any­thing,” a seated man says. “We’ve got a doc­tor, a lawyer, a beer distrib­u­tor, but no busi­ness­men.” “You just meet to talk?” I ask. “That, and we solve the prob­lems of the world.”

They don’t care who I am. And I don’t tell them.

I could. I could tell them that I’m a trav­el­ling colum­nist, that I’d like to sit in on their get-to­gether and just lis­ten. But there’s chem­istry and the in­evitable flip of a coin: it could all go per­fectly, or I could change the whole tenor of their day. That’s some­thing I don’t feel right do­ing.

Be­cause they’re al­ready talk­ing, small knots turned fac­ing each other: the warm tem­per­a­ture, the mud on the shoul­ders of the road.

Two more come in: “Full house to­day,” one says. I’m handed a cof­fee in a pa­per cup — “Lids are out front,” the pourer says.

It strikes me that th­ese are all men old enough to know the things I’m start­ing to know too well al­ready; the kinds of things you wish you’d un­der­stood sooner. They know how things start and how hard they can end. They know sad­ness, and they know the way colours and flavours some­times fade.

They almost cer­tainly know it bet­ter than I do. At least I’m old enough to know the value of lis­ten­ing. It would be worth stay­ing; it might not be worth the cost.

I walk out to pay. One ta­ble bursts into com­fort­able laugh­ter, and I’m glad I’m on my way, glad I haven’t shifted the Brule boys from their rou­tine.

The cashier, in a high-necked for­mal dress and head-ker­chief, says they come ev­ery sin­gle Tues­day.

Ap­par­ently, they haven’t solved the world’s prob­lems just yet. But they’re still try­ing.

The cashier looks up, hands me my change.

“To­mor­row, it’s the wives.”

Rus­sell Wanger­sky is TC Me­dia’s At­lantic Re­gional colum­nist.

He can be reached at rus­sell.wanger­ His col­umn ap­pears on Tues­days, Thurs­days and Satur­days in Transcon­ti­nen­tal’s daily pa­pers.

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