Brule Point Road
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 email@example.com. His column appears on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays in Transcontinental’s daily papers.