Doing Business

bearcrossing

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?”

A Sinking Feeling

Inspiration Monday is back, so I am too.  Check out this week’s prompt and other responders here.

I used the prompts Canned Music and Sink Chronos.  And, not going to lie, I’ve been watching a large amount of Leverage lately.

“Where were you?”  The five members of their crew were at the docks.  The duffels full of cash were not.

“I know, I know, my timing was off.” Doug stared at his feet, engrossed in his chosen task of scraping sand into a perfect square.  Gulls cried overhead.

Miranda snapped her fingers under the getaway driver’s nose to get his attention. “But we synched our chronos for that exact reason! So how come your timing was off? You screwed the entire team over, we nearly got nabbed and we had to ditch the goods!”

“I believe the word you’re looking for is ‘sunk’, M.” Doug smirked. He was always happy to be able to correct Miss high-and-mighty. She was always acting like she was better than him, but really, how could any job go according to plan, no matter how good her plan was, without a good getaway driver. And Doug was great. Most of the time.

“What?”

“The past tense of sink is ‘sunk’, Miranda. Say what you may about your higher education, but I learned plenty in high school.” He snorted. “Sinked, ha!”

Miranda’s face darkened and Doug gulped. Maybe right after a botched job wasn’t the time to rub it in. “When did I use the word ‘sink’, Doug?”  Her voice was a warning, but Doug was riding the high of correcting her, and didn’t hear it.

“You radio-ed in and told us the time was 12:01, and said sink chronos on my mark, 3, 2, 1, mark.”

The rest of the crew’s expressions had become stormy. Miranda’s expression was homicidal. “And you…”

“Threw my watch in the lake.” The entire crew took an ominous step forward, and Doug shifted nervously, adding, “If I’d known we were getting rid of our watches, I’d have made sure the clock on the getaway van was functional. I just had to kind of wing it, y’know? After you guys went radio silent. I really did my best, you guys, but it’s hard to time things without anything to measure off of. I based the 40 minutes off how many songs got played on the radio.  Luckily all this canned music they play on the radio is pretty standard at 3 minutes.  Though the commercials kind of threw me off a bit.  I think that’s where I went wrong.”

Sam, the crew’s heavy, guffawed. Doug was relieved that someone in the crew could appreciate the humour of Miranda’s screw-up.

“I’m going to kill him,” the weapons expert said, drawing his gun and moving forward.

Doug lost his smile and backed away, madly waving his hands in denial. “Guys! Sam no! Isn’t anyone going to stand up for me?”

Miranda folded her arms. The other two took a step back.

Their safe hacker, normally anti-violence, said, “Let me put my ear plugs in first, I can’t afford any hearing loss.” She didn’t even look at Doug as she pulled a box from one of her vest pockets.

Doug burst into tears. Miranda sighed and he felt a brief moment of hope. “You won’t let him do it, will you? I’m so sorry, I don’t know why you guys are so angry at me!”

She stepped forward, her face calm. “We’re not going to kill you, Doug.”  She took him by the shoulders and stared into his eyes.  “S-Y-N-C-H.  But I hope you’ll S-I-N-K.”

“Hah, Oh, geez, homonyms, eh?  Whatcha gonna d-” Miranda shoved him, hard, and Doug yelped as he cartwheeled over the short curb on the top of the dock wall.

Miranda and the rest of the crew headed back towards the getaway van.

“Guys?” Doug called, treading water with difficulty and trying to find a grip on the tall sheet piling dockwall. “Guys, you’re not gonna just leave me here, are you?  It’s not my fault, it was homonyms!”

An engine started nearby and a vehicle drove away.

“Guys?”

It was just like “Pretty in Pink”

You guys! I got asked to prom.

It gave me all sorts of warm and fuzzy feelings, it’s really a boost to my ego.

It was a very classy proposal.  He was in a shiny black SUV with PROM? taped to the sides in giant pink cardboard.  I can only assume he and his cohorts (someone needs to hold the reins) are artists, it was so skillfully done.  Let us also hope they are as skillful in paint touch-ups.

My suitor in particular leaned out the window when he saw me standing with my dog outside the drugstore.   “Wanna go to Prom?” he waxed poetic.

It warmed the cockles of my heart.  Me, in my sweaty gym clothes, hair in disarray, looking a hot mess, asked to prom!  And by someone strong and fast enough to claim a front seat!

I shook my head sadly ‘no’, to a chorus of teenage-boys going ‘Awwww’,  before my suitor was swept off with the light’s change to green.  Though Canada’s age of consent is 16, I’d still rather – at 27 – date one of his teachers.

but, oh, if I were still in highschool, you can bet your britches that I'd have... awkwardly and embarassedly said no, because teenage me would have assumed it was some kind of weird joke... I had some issues

but, oh, if I were still in highschool, you can bet your britches that I’d have… awkwardly and embarassedly said no, because teenage me would have assumed it was some kind of weird joke… I had some issues

 

Skunked or Bamboozled

With the warm weather, the skunks in my neck of the woods are emerging from their winter sleep.

The other week, my coworker got sprayed just outside the front door of our office – this led to the entire office reeking of skunk for the next two days, as a blast of skunky air swept through every time someone opened that damn door.  It’s not his fault, though, I blame immigration for failing to alert non-North-Americans of the key difference between Pepe and Penelope upon entry into Canada.  He’s Scottish, and they don’t have skunks.  If my nose weren’t so angry with him, I’d suggest that it’s kind of sweet that he was going out to find out what was wrong with the cat hanging out beside our front entrance.

Poor guy thought he was safe even if the cat were mean, since it had its back to him.

For future reference of people who’ve never seen a skunk.  If it’s between late evening and mid-morning, and it’s got white markings on it – even if it isn’t a skunk, it’s a skunk. Skedaddle.  If you want more particular details, they kind of look like a long haired black and white cat from a distance, but they waddle.  They stamp their feet when they’re angry/anxious, and the end you should fear most is the tail end.

I’ve had a few close encounters with skunks and their smell, but have not yet been skunked myself.  I’ve got a dog, though, and nearly everyone I know who owns a dog has, at one point or another (or, in the case of my neighbour with a beagle, 5+ times) gotten skunked, or at least had to deal with a skunked dog.  And, if your dog gets sprayed – there isn’t a chance in hell that you’re getting him clean without long exposure and contamination.

I know it’ll happen, though I do my best to fight the odds.

With all of this in mind, when I was out in my back yard this morning getting ready for a dog walk, and heard a strange watery spritzing noise right beside me, it’s no surprise that my response was a low wail of “Nooooooooooooo” and a Mr. Bean-esque retreat.

Adrenaline pumping, I ran right out of the  yard, unleashed dog close on my tail, with the sole purpose of getting out of the line of fire.  Panting and wild eyed in my front yard, I, bloodhound, I sniffed suspiciously at the air… the dog… my knees… before throwing the leash around Gwynn and quick-stepping out into the road.

From the safety of the middle of the road, I more securely fastened the dog and acknowledged that skunks probably don’t make a noise like someone charging a water gun before or during their spray.  And that, if our sump pump pipe had frozen almost solid, it would probably make just that kind of gurgling hiss.

If you see this view of a skunk then, well… it’s probably already too late. “Image by Ken Bosma under Creative Commons license

Sisterly Bonding

Sisters..  Getting through the tough stuff.  Sharing.  Sharing everything.

For better or for worse, through sickness and in health – much more than marriage, sisterhood is forever.

Sharing is caring.  And sometimes it isn’t.  As the eldest, I never got to keep all of what I had.  Why, if I found more of the chocolate eggs in the hunt, did I not get to keep them?  Sharing.  As the youngest, my sister never got new clothes.  She got clothes that were new to her. 

This time she was the one to share new things.

Nothing is really clear at 1 am, crossing paths once again, one destined for a brief attempt at achy-jointed sleep, the other destined to take her place in worship at the porcelain god.  Timing is key, that much is clear.

My youngest sister and I know each other well.  I’ve known her for her entire life, in fact.  When we accidentally say something at the same time, it sounds like the creepy girl-child twins from any one of a number of horror movies.  We verbalize the same thought simultaneously, often.  Thankfully that synchronicity doesn’t extend this far – we were, in fact, well-matched in an alternating schedule.  Lucky, considering there are three sisters in this hotel room, and only one idol at which to pay our respects.

Having grown up together probably helped us master this dreadful merry-go-round.  A small blessing in a night of unanswered prayers for a stop.

There’s some comfort to be found, knowing that someone is sympathizing as a prod from the stomach region army-rolls one from one’s bed to one’s knees.  And when, 20 minutes later, your action is mirrored, the sympathy is returned.  Someone to share in that feeling of having done 1000 sit-ups.

Sisterhood isn’t always about getting along – for instance, at 3 am, a not-so-sound sleeper, the only one to escape the plague, might object strongly to the lights being turned on, no matter how many groans of pain and misery she’d turned a deaf ear on.  She wasn’t sympathetic to the demand that she find something, anything, to MAKE. IT. STOP.  It?  All of it.  Whatever it takes.

Sometime around 6, truth be told, two hazy, hollowed-out individuals might have felt some sense of satisfaction as a certain grumpy camper paid homage herself.  It isn’t always about kindness, either.

At the end of the night, less sharing would have been nice.  Timing is everything.  And when your mother’s insistent knock at the locked door makes you mis-time your stagger towards the door, making the door an impossible distance away, your sisters have your back.  And when, in response to your piteous wail, your mother asks, “What do you mean, you stepped in your bucket ?”, your sister will be there to answer the door and say, “Give me a minute, she’s having a bad day!”

Hogswatch 2011

Well, it’s over, we survived – our epic Hogswatch cook-athon was a success, even the first attempt at cooking a duck.  I figured, before I get too into the entire weekend, recipes and all, I should explain Hogswatch.  I’ll probably make this all into a few posts, because there are a lot of things I want to mention, and I don’t want to post a novel instead of a blog.

As stated in an earlier post, there are a few people out there who are, as they read this, going “oooh, cool.  You celebrate Hogswatch!”  The rest of you are wondering what it is, and if it involves watching pigs, which probably isn’t entertaining enough to take up an entire weekend and multiple blog-posts.

Firstly, an explanation of the inventor of Hogswatch – Terry Pratchett is the author of the Discworld Series, along with a few books set outside the Discworld.  His books are full of hilarious British humour, with a very eclectic set of characters, including a not-so-tyrranical City Tyrant, Gods for every possible prayer, Witches, Wizards, and Death. 

The Discworld

The Discworld is a flat world supported on the backs of four giant elephants standing on the back of a massive turtle.  If this intrigues you, there are lots of Discworld books, and I am doing my best to think of one that could stand out as a good place to start.  The Colour of Magic was the first one written, but they don’t really need to be read in order.  Regardless of which book you read first, you will encounter characters that are barely touched upon in this story, but who might have an entire book to themselves later in your reading.  Some of my favourites are The Truth, Soul Music, and Going Postal.  They’ve now made movies out of The Hogfather, The Colour of Magic, and Going Postal – I’m fairly sure that someone who has never read anything by Terry Pratchett will be a bit confused, or, at the very least, miss some really good jokes. 

The Hogfather and his Wild Boars

Hogswatch is the Discworld equivalent to Christmas.  The Hogfather (a slightly mutant looking guy with tusks coming out of his lower jaw and a piggish nose) travels all around the Discworld on Hogswatch night (around the same time as Xmas), riding in a sleigh pulled by four wild boars.  He delivers presents to children, and children leave out meat pies and sherry for him, along with turnips for the boars.

Hogswatch for me when a friend/fellow Pratchett fan and I wanted to meet up and celebrate Xmas well after the holiday season was over.  For one year, we’d both ended up in the same town, both for school.  Life at school is hectic, especially around the holidays, so the first time we both had free of all the other life-things was in February.  We figured that, instead of doing Christmas in February (which just sounds depressing), we would do Hogswatch.  It might not technically be the right time of year, but it was close enough.  The next year, I was moved back home, post-grad, and K was back in her home-town as well, but we didn’t want to let our new tradition die.  So, we expanded Hogswatch from an afternoon of cooking, eating and watching movies for the two of us to a weekend in one of our homes, for both of our families (my 5, plus Adoptive Neighbour Sister, and 4 of K’s family).  My parents and K’s parents had been friends for years and years before we were around, so Hogswatch was an ideal excuse to get everyone together and party.  Suffice to say, it was a bit chaotic.  We used two kitchens and a dozen pots and pans, dinner was a bit late, and sleeping arrangements involved couches and cushions on the floor.  We had a blast, and there was never any doubt we’d be doing it again this year. 

This year, Hogswatch involved my family, Adoptive Neighbour Sister, K and her entire family (5 total this year), and M, a friend who more recently got into the Terry Pratchett series.  Oh, and, of course, the newest addition to our family – Dog.  If I’d thought that 10 people in my house (only 9 sleeping over) for Hogswatch was busy, I was wrong… 12 adds exponentially to the planning process.  Cleaning up the house, getting beds ready for new guests (some of which were already occupied by family members), trying to get some of the ingredients ready for cooking, and planning the non-Hogswatch meals took some time. 

In my quest to clean and tidy, I discovered that the basement showerhead no longer works – the tub tap is functional, but will not let you pull the toggle that transfers the flow up to the shower head.  Ah – 1 shower, 11 overnight guests.

My perfect room-assignment plan involved shifting both Tall and Short Sisters to my bedroom – that was messed up by Short Sister’s acquiring the plague in the days counting down towards Hogswatch, since suddenly she was out of both the musical-rooms plan, and the help-clean-and-tidy plan.  Out came the layered yoga-mats and camping pads to produce an extra bed.

The Duck… well… reiterating a past blog, once it was purchased, the main obstacle in the duck plan was the fact that it had its feet and head still on – that was a learning experience.

The Griswold Family's Turkey

The Chicken – when I was imagining a ‘li’l chicken’, I was imagining it considerably bigger than the ones I did find which were definitely not enough to feed 12 people.  The solution – instead of the already not-simple task of cooking one duck and one little chicken, I had the task of cooking 2 little chickens and a duck to look forward to.  I’ll admit, I foresaw a re-enactment of Christmas Vacation – only with three little dusty carcases instead of one big one.

By the time the weekend arrived, I really thought I had planned for most things.  My partner in crime and her family would be arriving sometime early on Saturday, we’d spend the afternoon doing the last-minute shopping and trying to get some of the meal items prepped, and we’d bake the cake.  I’d have the dog walked in the morning, and he’d be tired out enough after that epic journey that we’d be able to give him one or two shorter walks in the evening time to keep him settled.  What actually happened – The 402 between here and Sarnia was shut down due to the weather, at least until sometime in the afternoon.  K’s family didn’t arrive until after 4, and I had done the last-minute shopping alone, and forgotten a fair number of things.  The cake finished cooking sometime around midnight, and the duck and chickens had had their final pre-day-of prep.  We might not have gotten everything done, but we did enough.

Oh, the beautiful chaos – Hogswatch is upon us. 

Stay Tuned for the details of our celebration’s food and beverage!