Four-Let­ter Words

The Gulf News (Port aux Basques) - - EDITORIAL - Harold Wal­ters Book Re­marks Harold Wal­ters lives Hap­pily Ever Af­ter in Dunville. He thinks it’s cool to live in the only Cana­dian prov­ince with its own time zone. He does not think it cool to live in a prov­ince that taxes books. Reach him at gh­wal­ters663@

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

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