Doing Business


The photo is from “The Darkroom” writing prompt… click it to check out other responses!


When the aliens first arrived on Earth, there were… misunderstandings.  Highly intelligent though they were, the beings were extraordinarily literal.

Martha did her best to accommodate them for her tours – she really did.  She arranged things to start an additional half-hour early so that they would have time to read – in excruciating detail – the entire waiver and ask questions.  So. Many. Questions.  She’d reviewed her spiel and removed euphemisms, word-play and jokes from the notes, because, frankly, a day-trip to Algonquin Park didn’t have time for a two hour debate on whether a bear did indeed do business in the woods, and what that business might be, and what customs might be involved.  She’d learned to switch between parent of impressionable child and tour-guide for Travellers speak, because they were slightly more likely to understand the expression “Does a bear do business in the woods?” if she used more adult language.  Slightly.

So her business of an ex informing her that actually he wouldn’t be taking their son fishing like he’d scheduled months ago was just SUPER.  She loved her son dearly, but he had the verbal filter of an 8 year old boy and the subtlety of a battering ram.  And she didn’t have time to find someone to look after him for the next two days of Traveller tours.


“As you can see, the Park is heavily forested with a wide variety of tree species, including Jack Pine, birch and Sugar Maple.  The booklet goes into further detail of all tree species found in the park, and methods of identifying them.”  Martha drove down the highway, chatting her way through her on-the-road information, knowing from past experience that the eight Travellers in her tour van were alternating between staring intently out the window, staring intently at their informational booklets and staring intently at the various parts of the interior of the van, all with equal intensity and interest.  Feedback on her tours didn’t give her a hint about what she could say that they would be more interested in, and she suspected that if she rattled off stats about the 1982 Superbowl or about the tour bus’s maintenance history they would be equally interested.  Since starting Traveller tours, she’d had to do research on the tour bus, in fact, to accommodate those who wanted to know about plastic used in the old bus instead of about birds that migrated through the park.  They were just plain interested.

Ben draped himself over the back of the passenger seat, grinning a gap-toothed grin, and crowed, “You don’t know JACK!”

OH business, Martha thought.

There was a discordant buzzing in the back, as the Travellers carefully dissected this statement.

One reedy voice after another arose, each politely waiting until the previous one had finished their sentence before adding their own rebuttal.

“I have met a Jack, but am understanding that this was not the only Jack, and am unsure if meeting is adequate to equate to knowing.”

“I have indeed, never met a Jack.  Is this a matter of concern?”

“I have met more than one Jack, and feel confident in the 81st percentile of knowing one of them, though his full name is Jack Perkins and lives at 43 Seventh Street in the town of Toronto.  Having worked closely with him for 257 working days between March 23, 2016 and today, I believe I know him well enough for that descriptor to apply.  If this is the Jack of which you speak, I feel confident in refuting your statement.”

And on, and on.  Most of them had, at some point, met a Jack.  Only two thought they could probably consider their relationship with the Jack in question as knowing.  

Martha then listened in astonishment to her son’s reply.  “The Jack I’m talking about is a Jack Pine tree, and the phrase, you don’t know Jack, is one way of recognizing them, because the phrase is usually paired with this gesture,” he paused for demonstration, and Martha winced and made a note to have another conversation with her son while the Travellers hummed.  “And if you look at a Jack Pine, that’s kind of what it looks like they’re doing.”

The buzzing hum rose again, and again, they spoke.

“It is an offensive expression meant to show disrespect towards another’s knowledge base.”

“But trees on this planet cannot be disrespectful due to their intelligence level, so they are not, in fact, being disrespectful.”

Another buzzing conference.

“It is funny because no disrespect is actually being shown.”

“It is funny and informative”

The vehicle filled with the sound of crickets chirping, the Traveller equivalent of applause.

Martha wished Travellers were more appreciative of 21st Century Earth humour, as she’d love to hear them at a comedy show.


Travellers noticed everything.  So, as happened at least once on every tour, they wanted to stop and see an animal crossing sign.  As Martha was about to go into her prepared explanation of the fact that the signs were representations, her son laughed.

“You’re funny – that’s just a picture of a moose.  It’s just to let you know that moose like to use this part of the road to cross.”

The normally highly sensitive Travellers took this in stride, apparently not concerned that a small human had come very close to calling them unintelligent (or an equivalent word, all of which were highly offensive in Traveller culture, a trait shared by most human cultures).

The rest of the day was peppered with her son’s saucy explanations of things, given in such a direct and simple manner that they cut through what could well have been hour-long debates about the various meanings of ‘bark’, or a seriously concerned Traveller anxiously explaining that it was not calling Fairy Lake a derogatory term for homosexuals, but that someone else may have intended that in naming the lake, or may not have.  Martha had never had such a smoothly run day with Travellers in the year she’d been touring them.

As they cruised out of the park and back to the Traveller’s hotel (Deerhurst, whose deer had not yet been noted, near the possibly-derogatory Fairy Lake) for the weekend in the waning light, one of them spoke up.  “Ben, son of Martha.  For one so young in years, you are rich in knowledge pertinent to the Algonquin Park, and accurate in your speech.  Do you spend a very large percentage of your time there?”

Ben grinned and glanced at his mother.  She saw the look and knew he was about to push his luck.

“Does a bear shit in the woods?”


Goof Patrol

A friend of mine regularly uses Gwynn as an example of what a ‘real dog’ doesn’t look like, according to her and her boyfriend’s view of dogs.  Not to say that they don’t like him, just that when they think of one day getting a dog, they picture something more like a husky or german shepherd – preferably something with ears that naturally point upwards, fur that only grows to a certain length, and an enormous head.  Gwynn’s ears are floppy, and really, under all that fur, extremely tiny.  He looks exactly like the kind of goof he is, which is part of why I’m always surprised to run into people who are nervous of him.  And it’s true that there are some dogs that just seem more… doggish.  A lab of some sort, or a rottweiler, or golden retriever – there are dogs that just have the look of a dog that could, say, trek long distance and find his way home, surviving in the wilderness.

yeah… like that

Gwynn doesn’t exactly look like that dog that will drag you out of the way of a train, getting injured in the process.  Or like the kind of dog that, if he got lost in the woods, would come out unscathed and happy.  A significant proportion of the dogs on this Hero List fall into that doggish-dog category.

Gwynn is still up north with my family, soon to return from his great camping adventure.  One of my biggest concerns with this venture (apart from the possibility of him growing more attached to my mum than to me while he’s away) is the bears.  Yup, there are bears in them thar hills, and with the drought conditions we’re experiencing in Ontario this summer, they’re coming out of them hills in search of delicious cooler-shaped snacks and empty yogurt cups.  Last year, he nearly dragged me into the woods after a very surprised adolescent bear who wandered past our site.  I strongly suspect that he was yelling, “FRIEEEEENNNNNDDDDD!” as he bounded towards the innocent 200 lb youngster.  This is why he’s on leash except for at the dog park.  That, and the raccoons.

can anyone else hear “You’ve got a friend in me” by Randy Newman playing in the background of this playfest?

This summer, he’s apparently found his inner wolf.  With bears roaming the campground the past few days, he has shown himself to be a real doggish dog.

First, he dogged up and refused to let my mum go to the washroom.  He put his woof down and just said… well… “woof”.  Translated roughly as “We’re going back to our campsite, NOW!”.  She found out from the Park Wardens that there was a bear in the campsite across from the outhouses she was headed to.

Then, to confirm that this wasn’t a fluke incident of dog-needing-to-go-home-just-because, a bear found itself in the uncomfortable position of being too close to my dad for anyone’s comfort.  It probably wasn’t expecting trouble, browsing in the bushes near the campsite, far too close for comfort to my dad, whose recent knee surgery does make him somewhat of a wounded gazelle.  While my dad attempted to not have a heart attack, Gwynn took charge!

He growled and barked and growled some more, making no attempt to chase after the bear, just standing guard in front of my dad until the fiendish bear got the message, and left the vicinity.

yeah, you better run!

We’re pretty sure that the common theme here is ‘protect the family from bears!’, and not, “let’s ensure that neither of my parents have to use the outhouse again by scaring the crap out of them.”

A message to the blackbears out there in the blogosphere… us goofy dogs are on patrol, and tougher than we look!