Thursday, May 11, 2006

Limbs - of trees and of little girls

On the subject of the "several lengths of two-inch diameter tree branches" in the trunk of my car:

This is future fireplace kindling but also a souvenir from a recent commuter incident. Making a left hand turn out of our lane-way is a hair-raising endeavor. The road is a country road, tar and chip, and bears a 70 KPH posted limit (interpreted as 90 KPH by the wise and by the insiders who realize that all Ontario limits are set 20 KPH lower than the speed said road is designed for assuming fair weather). The road features many short but steep hills. One of which peaks just to the south of the laneway, making a right-hand turn - heading north - a cake-walk but making a left-hand turn - to go south (where all the rest of civilization lies thus this is the turn of choice) 1riddled with peril. You're blind to any possible southbound traffic. My solution of choice is to make the turn when the northbound lane is entirely clear and to turn into that lane (the oncoming lane). By watching the rear-view mirror one can observe any applicable southbound traffic and safely merge into the proper lane. Now and then someone indeed flies over the hill and is probably mildly alarmed to discover me in the oncoming lane moving the same direction as they but slower. However I'm confident that for their sake this is preferable to coming flying over the hill and discovering they and their little Honda getting munched up my tailpipe. Call me crazy.

The drawback to this maneuver, I discovered recently is that with all the watching out for head-on traffic and the activity in the mirror one can miss obstacles such as debris. And on this occasion I somehow did not see a large section of tree in the centre of the road.

As I was eyeing the mirror for possible bombardiers and drifting into the right-hand lane I missed sight of the barrier until the last second - too late to avoid it. With a marvelous crunch-snap-crunch I barreled over and through it. Beyond it I slowed and pulled over, concerned by the residual 'dragging' noises below me. I discovered that the smaller branches had been snapped off but the core branch was stuck beneath the car. One end was jammed between something and another something somewhere near the rear axle at roughly the centre-point between the wheels. The other end emerged from under the front passenger door and terminated immediately behind the right front tire.

I grasped the sucker and pulled and pulled again. It was wedged good. I didn't want to pull too hard at the risk of damaging the something and the other something it was apparently wedged between. I needed to get the Grand Marquis up on a hoist to get a look at it. And no - I didn't even consider jacking it up and crawling under for a look. I'm considerably overweight. My best jacking and crawling days are well behind me (Oh dear - what an awkward sentence). I thought of my mechanic in Orangeville. He's got the hoist and he's a man of character and principle and not a scum-sucking fiend like every other mechanic on this sad Earth. That he has avoided corruption this long is spectacular considering he is clearly in his seventies - at least.

The problem is - I dared not drive around pushing the end of this spear along the road. If I were to hit a defect in the road the wrong way I would surely knock the something or the other something into next week.

So I found some twine in my trunk and tied it to the forward end of the branch. I then tied the rope to the passenger side mirror, lifting the branch safely off the ground. I made my way to Brian's shop.

On the way I stopped at a red light and suffered numerous stares from passers by. My branch, car and I probably looked like a scene from the Red Green show. Come to think of it I was wearing a beard and almost surely a plaid shirt. Had I used some duct tape and worn my old man hat I'd probably have been asked for autographs.

Brian shook his head as he gazed down at my branch.

"In 50 years I've never seen anything like this," he said.

They put it up on the hoist and the entire staff gathered around.

"Rich, you gotta come and see this," said Charlie, Brian's right-hand man. "It's a one in a million shot."

I looked. The branch had been driven through a square-shaped gap - a tunnel - through the frame. Why the gap is there I don't know. To say it was a tight fit is a vast understatement. Four sides of the branch where shaved of bark where it emerged on the back side of the frame. They used a mallet to pound it back out again. Then they cut it into 2' lengths so I could take it home for firewood.

Regarding the matter: "the subject of wounded children being no laughing matter in many houses":

Here's how I learned of this phenomena. I was at a party - probably a Christmas party - at the home of dear friends. I was in the basement at the bar having drinks with an old pal that I rarely see anymore except at such parties at this particular home.

I was drunk as is the tradition at this event - at least for myself and the host and one or two others. A crowd of much older people were in the same room discussing things of a sweet and precious nature. Included in this crowd was one of the perpetual drunks - the worst in fact - known for becoming delirious while he sits in a vegetative state and while pissing in his pants and on the couch. I kid you not. His wife was speaking.

"Oh!" she gasped, "I knitted a sweater for [so-and-so. Some little girl. I don't recall the name] and would you believe what I did? Oh, heavens to Betsy. I got the arms mixed up! I put the left arm on the right side and the right arm on the left! Can you imagine? Oh, Buh-jesus!"

"Well you know," I said loudly, all heads turning towards my pal and me - at the bar, "If she ever were to have an unfortunate accident where both her arms were severed, you could ask the doctors to re-attach them on the opposite sides and then your sweater would fit." Now - in hindsight - in a sober state - I realize that this is not particularly funny. Rather blase as far as good comedy goes. The woman, the wife of the couch-pisser, thought even less of my comment.

"That's my granddaughter you're talking about!" she blurted. I sensed an accusatory tone in her voice.

"Well in that case," I said, trying to make amends, "You'll be glad to know that nothing of the sort could possibly happen now. I'm no prophet, you see. For her arms to be severed after I'd made such a prediction would be far too much a coincidence. Couldn't happen. I've saved her. You should thank me."

"I think not!" barked Mrs. Couch-pisser and she and her cronies turned their backs to us.

"Remember the old days?" I said to my pal. "When everyone at these parties was our age and these parties were fun?"

"I do," said my old pal with a nod.

"What happened? Where did those people go?"

"They stopped coming I guess. Because of all the old people and the parties not being fun anymore."

"Oh," I said. I lifted my glass. "Here's to the old days."

"To the old days."

We drank.


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