Missus will vouch for me. The other day, suffering from a fit of nostalgia, I went Youtubing until I found a video featuring a song I liked in the last century — Joan Baez singing Bob Dylan’s “Love Is Just A Four-Letter Word”. I watched and listened and remembered why I once loved Joan. Hold the thought.
Soon after, it was time to scribble some Book ReMarks so I picked through my shelf of possible books and pulled out Chad Pelley’s Four-Letter Words [Breakwater Books]. Not truly synchronicity, I s’pose, but close enough to count.
Listen to Joan singing the song’s refrain: “Diddly-diddlydiddly/Love is just a four-letter word.”
. . . . . . . Stay with me. One of the song’s images is this: “Cats meowed to the break of day.”
I ask you, what do cats meow about — p’raps even howl about — at daybreak?
Last night’s love, that’s what, eh b’ys?
Love requited, or love lost, either way ol’ Tom Cat walks the back fence palings and moans the blues at dawn.
The stories in Four LetterWords are about love that — one way or another — often consumes the ones who love the hardest.
[I’m not even going to mention Romeo and Juliet.]
Check out this story: “TriggerFinger Blues”. Marcel, a hitman, falls in love with his target, a woman with “violent collar bones”.
Violent collar bones! Marcel has been hired by a hard-ticket who is pressuring him to get the killing done. L-OV-E, the four-letter word, prevents Marcel from fulfilling his contract. He’d rather squeeze those collar bones than a trigger. Marcel is done in by love, so to speak, because — guaranteed — the hard-ticket and his Yahoo sidekicks are going to stomp Marcel’s arse when his failure [?] is discovered.
Of course, love isn’t the only 4LW — Four-Letter Word.
Count the letters in evil. When evil links arms with toxic lust only bad things happen.
Witness the awful events that occur after a high school party runs amok in “Before I Was Me”, a story that, to some degree, addresses the feral nature of adolescent bullying. Here’s a hint: “Dani probably drank two flasks of rum, mixed with something super sweet, before she knew how much those guys were giving her.”
Loss is a 4LW, and loss mixed with confusion is a tragic brew.
In “Where To Look” Max is a boy whose father has died in a drowning accident. Max is unable to assimilate the loss. In his bewilderment, he takes a gamble, trusting that his father’s love will save him. I’m not saying what Max antes-up but after you find out you’ll never again see Granny’s root cellar as a quaint storage bin for spuds.
Shift gears — kinda. Food is a 4LW. Some of us have struggling love affairs with grub, eh b’ys?
In “Her Mouth Like A Bitten Apple” Mason expresses feelings that I share about … well, about cereal, for instance: “He was thirty-six, but he had a thing for kids’ cereals because they plain tasted better.”
I’m still a bit shy of being twice Mason’s age, but —Me too! Me too!
What follows is the ultimate response to fiber freaks. Mason says, “4LW fibre! The tongue doesn’t dance for fibre.”
The tongue doesn’t dance for fibre!
4LW, I wish that line were mine!
Time is a 4LW. Debatably, it’s the nastiest one of all. Each of us is its victim, as is Ches in “A Second Look At Nothing”. Ches, his mind crippled by Alzheimer’s, is muddled up in Time. Guilt — a 5LW with dangerous characteristics — goads Ches into searching for his son to make amends for circumstances that happened “half a lifetime” ago.
In “Meaning Well” Chad Pelley has written a gem-dandy line describing Time: “Time makes Russian dolls of people — one former self inside another.”
Friggin’ Time, eh b’ys? Listen, literature — any Art, I s’pose — should make your head explode, should blow the top right off your bony noggin.
Or — at the very least — cause you to squirm your legs with pleasure and nearly piss your pants.
Although some books are so good you can’t put them down, you will have to lodge down this book of short stories because it will have you dancing from foot to foot for bladder control.
I certainly had to lay down “Four-Letter Words”. It caused me more urinary stress, considering my age, than a swollen prostate.
Yes, b’ys, it’s that good. Thank you for reading.
When I decided, though, that my self-aggrandizing head had swollen to the size of a boulder on the beach at Gander Lake, I conceded that one of the great advantages of being a journalist where I lived and worked was that Newfoundlanders had an incredibly insatiable appetite for news, significant or otherwise, about themselves. And that this myopic parochialism had always been there, at least as long as I had patrolled Newfoundland newsrooms, and that it begged to be exploited, day in and day out.
Newfoundlander wins a marbles contest in China? We’re all over it. Newfoundlander robs a bank in Calgary? Our lead story.
We would sometimes joke, in that black humour way associated with most newsrooms of my generation, that if there was ever a plane crash somewhere on the mainland that killed 100 people, we wouldn’t react with, “God, how tragic,” but with, “Any Newfoundlanders on board?”
Unabashedly local was our mantra: give the audience what