Thursday, June 25, 2009

Christmas Season 94
3 January, 1995

The Christmas Season in Misconception Bay was full of activity. People hustled and bustled about to finish off their Christmas shopping, and the lighting of the Christmas hedge in the center of town was a big draw once again.

The Women's Auxiliary of the Gerbil Lodge had a cookie exchange this year. They have done this in the past where a list is passed around ahead of time and the women would indicate what type of cookies they would be baking. However, due to an oversight, this list was not sent out and no one knew what the other women were baking; so they just baked their favourite cookies. As it turned out everyone baked short bread cookies and everyone received short bread cookies. That is, everyone except Marg Johnson baked short bread cookies. Marg baked her famous hot crossed Christmas buns with green and red crosses. Many people have asked her why she bakes hot crossed buns which one would normally associate with Easter. Marg says that she remembers reading somewhere that Mary and Joseph served hot crossed buns to the three wise men the morning after they visited the Christ Child, and so hot crossed buns must be a traditional Christmas food item. Some people have pointed out to Marg that Joseph and Mary had to stay in the stables and would not have access to a kitchen and thus they could not make the hot crossed buns that they supposedly had served to the Magi. Apparently the article did not delve into where Mary got the buns; but surely there would have been a corner store that she could have picked them up, even on Christmas morning.

A notable cookie participant was Grace Trugood. No one knows how old Grace is, not even Grace herself, but she tells people that she was born when Sir Wilfred Laurier was Prime Minister but before Earl Grey was appointed Governor General. That would put Grace somewhere between ninety and ninety- eight years of age. Regardless of when she was born, Grace can still get around, though she did have to give up driving two years ago. It's not that her license was revoked, it's just that she can not remember where she parked her car.

This year Grace also made short bread cookies, but unfortunately on the day that she was making the frosting, she had misplaced her eye glasses. Fortunately, she had made the frosting so many times she knew the recipe by heart, so luckily she did not have to read anything. Unfortunately, the recipe called for vanilla and Grace could not read any of the labels on the bottles; fortunately the vanilla came in a fairly distinctive bottle; unfortunately so did the concentrated chicken bouillon and so that went into the frosting instead of the vanilla. Fortunately, she only had to use a little, but unfortunately the phone rang while Grace was making the frosting. Fortunately, when Grace had finished her conversation she remembered that she was at the vanilla stage of the recipe, only because she was still holding the 'vanilla' bottle. However, unfortunately she could not remember if she had just taken the bottle off of the shelf or was about to replace it back onto the shelf, so just to be on the safe side she added what she thought to be more vanilla, but which of course in actuality was concentrated chicken bouillon. Fortunately for Grace, due to a medical condition, she had no sense of taste, so she did not realise that when she taste tested the frosting (old habits die hard) how absolutely awful the frosting tasted. Unfortunately for the other women in the cookie exchange, their sense of taste was alive and well, though after eating one of Grace's cookies they had wished that their taste buds were ineffective.

The men of the Gerbil Lodge had their annual tool exchange. Officially the rules are that the participants draw a name from a hat and that name is their exchange buddy; they are suppose to buy a new tool and give it to their exchange buddy. The tool exchange in actuality is a tool return where everybody returns the tools that they had borrowed throughout the year. In many cases during the tool exchange the same tool could be returned to one person, who would return it to the person who they had borrowed it from, who may return it to another person and so on. As a matter of fact, Jim Herringchoker returned a cordless drill that he had borrowed from Mayor Hollar, who returned it to Farley Bake, who returned it to his brother Clam, who passed it on to Jim Brown; from Jim the drill went to Mike McFadden, who gave it to Mable White, who handed it over to Art Shoo. After Art, the drill travelled to Nick Walker, then to Red Black who finally ended the return path by giving the drill to it's rightful owner which was Jim Herringchoker. Now Jim knew when he gave the drill to Mayor Holler that the drill was his to begin with, but if he had not given it to Mayor Hollar, the mayor could have accused him of not returning the drill that he had borrowed. If the Mayor had not received the drill back, Farley Bake could have pointed the finger back to the Mayor and so on down the line. In Misconception Bay loaning a tool out involves some form of a leap of faith that the tool will be returned during the Christmas Season. There are a number of people in town who own two of every tool, one to use and one to loan. Needless to say when someone buys a new tool the first thing that they do is to clearly mark their name on that tool.

Normally the tool exchange goes off without any problems as everyone seems to remember exactly who they had borrowed a particular tool from; this year however there was some confusion when Cal Wood, a new resident of Misconception Bay and the newest member of the Gerbil Lodge, did not realise the true nature of the tool exchange and actually bought a new tool for his exchange buddy. When his exchange buddy received the new tool he knew that it was not his and assumed that he had borrowed it from someone else, but for the life of him he could not remember who it was, but knowing that the tool will eventually find it's way to it's rightful owner he passed it off to somebody else, who also confused passed it along and so forth, eventually somebody noticed that the tool did not have a name on it. Knowing that the custom in Misconception Bay is to immediately put your name on a new tool, he assumed that the only person who would not know to put his name on a tool would be the new guy in town, so he gave the tool back to Cal Wood and advised him to put his name on the tool otherwise it could get lost.

Another pre-Christmas event was the annual children's Christmas Pageant. A good number of the children participate in the pageant, usually filling in as shepherds, angels, live stock and casual observers. For the last thirty or more years the Christ Child has always been portrayed by the youngest child of the Gilchrist family. For the most part this was fine, Joe and Mary Gilchrist have had twelve children throughout the years with a two to three year span between births. So for many years the Christ Child was an actual infant. After Mary had her twelfth child she decided to close the baby factory, as they now had enough children to have two full strings of hockey players. A common sight around town during the winter season is the Gilchrist children out on the pond behind their house having a hockey scrimmage. So, as the tradition dictates, little Billy Gilchrist, being the youngest of the Gilchrist clan, was this year's Christ Child. Some people remarked that maybe they should use some of the Gilchrist grandchildren as little Billy is now thirteen years old and is quickly approaching puberty. It was a rather interesting sight to see the infant Jesus walking down the aisle under his own steam and attempt to sit in the manger. It was also interesting to note that Joseph and Mary were played by two five year old children. Other than having the Christ Child almost three times the age of his parents the children's pageant was enjoyed by one and all.

Christmas Day rolled into Misconception Bay this year. Actually rolled in is a good way to described how Christmas arrived. The night of Christmas Eve was clear and bright, but just after midnight fog started forming out on the open water. By the time day broke this fog had turned into a thick fog bank that had rolled into Misconception Bay. To call this a thick fog would be an understatement; this fog was so thick that some of the fishermen who had spare fog horns mounted them onto their cars so that they could safely drive around town without running into any other cars. Captain John Able, who at eighty-two is the oldest person working the waters, said that he remembered another Christmas many years ago when a fog thicker than this year's had settled into town. According to Captain Able the fog was so thick that they could not tell day from night. This was before the prevalence of digital clocks when the only time piece in Misconception Bay was the town clock which of course nobody could read because of the fog. Apparently the hardy folk of Misconception Bay simply went along with their business as usual. However, because nobody knew when it was night people simply slept when they were tired and got up and worked when they were not. When the fog had lifted the denizens of Misconception Bay discovered that because nobody was keeping track of the days they had lost two whole weeks. In order to catch up the mayor ordered everyone to live each day as two days. So, the dutiful residents had two bedtimes, two breakfasts, two lunches, two dinners and went about their normal business two times each day until all of the extra days had been used up.

Not to be out done, Sam Ketchum, who at ninety-four is the oldest person not working the waters, remembered a Christmas when he was a boy when a think fog descended on the town, unfortunately a sudden cold snap hit at the same time and the fog froze in mid-air. As Sam told it, people had to use ice-picks to cut their way through the frozen fog. By Spring when the fog had started to melt there was a vast network of tunnels connecting all of the buildings of the town. These tunnels were so extensive that they included fixtures for gas lighting and enough height and width that a man on horse back could easily pass a fully loaded four-in-hand team of horses. Sam, not wanting to be known as a fibber, assured everyone that they could see proof of these infamous ice-fog tunnels in the vast photo archives that were produced during that time. That is, if the ensuing flood that occurred when all of the frozen fog had melted had not taken away the one and only building that had housed the archives.

This Christmas was special to Bonnie Jean Herringchoker. While attending Christmas church services with her parents, Bonnie Jean, who had just turned five in November, kept glancing at the person sitting in the pew behind her. Normally Bonnie Jean is well behaved and never stares at strangers, except for this one occasion. The person that caught the attention of Bonnie Jean was a somewhat portly old man with long white whiskers and dressed in red. Every time that Bonnie Jean looked at the old man he would give her a wink which produced a giggle and a smile from Bonnie Jean. At the end of the service Bonnie Jean stood up on the pew turned to the old man and said "Thank you from bringing me my presents, Santa." The old gentleman smiled and told her that she was most welcome and that because she was such a polite young lady he had an extra special gift for her. He then reached into the pocket of his vest, pulled out a bell attached to a string necklace and gave it to Bonnie Jean. He said that this was a special Santa bell that he gives only to children who are at the top of his good list. A short time later the old man confided in Jim Herringchoker that he had been working as a late night Santa Claus in the city; he was spending Christmas with relatives and that he had not had time to change as he was driving most of the night. For the remainder of the Christmas Season Bonnie Jean never let the bell stray far from her sight.

The New Year was rung in by Jim Brown, quite literally. Normally the arrival of the new year is announced by the ringing of the bell in the clock tower; the citizens of Misconception Bay all gather around the base of the tower just prior to midnight and wait for the stroke of midnight. This year was no exception, due to the mild weather most of the town's population had made their way to the center of town where the clock sits. People were anxiously counting down the seconds to the start of the new year. The tradition in Misconception Bay is that a few seconds before midnight you take a deep breath and then at midnight when the clock strikes you let it out with a yell. The reason behind this is that you are welcoming the new year with air from the old and that somehow the supposedly good fortune of the previous year will be carried over to the next. Nobody knows where this tradition began and to the best of anyone's knowledge it happens only in Misconception Bay. So, just a few seconds to midnight everyone present drew in a deep breath, but when the clock hands reached midnight the bell did not sound. People looked around at each other wondering what the problem could be, thirty seconds passed, then sixty; everyone was still holding their breath, though a few were starting to go a little blue in the face. The Mayor was looking around desperately for Farley Bake the Municipal works supervisor; not seeing him the Mayor shoved Jim Brown towards the clock tower and because he was still holding his breath waved frantically at Jim and then at the clock tower. It took Jim only a minute to realise that the Mayor was trying to tell him to see if he can figure out the problem. Jim rushed to the tower door, and was almost laid out flat when he discovered that the door was not open. Of course, this discovery came to him when he slammed face first into the door, he almost let out his breath but not quite, only about half. He fumbled with the door and then charged up the front stairs and then back down the front stairs when he remembered that the bell could only be accessed by the back stairs. Up the back stairs he ran and finally reached the bell. By now Jim was clamping his hand over his mouth in a desperate attempt to keep from breathing. He quickly scanned the inner workings but was not able to discover why the bell did not ring. By this time Jim had been holding his breath for over five minutes and his brain decided that it had enough of this lack of air situation and decided that it would have to take action against this, and thus Jim fainted. When Jim fainted he was standing in front of the bell and as people do when they faint, he fell forward. Unfortunately for Jim, but fortunately for all of the people outside who were still holding their breath, Jim's head struck the bell with enough force to ring the bell. All those standing outside heard the bell ring, yelled "Happy New Year!" and then doubled over trying to get fresh air back into their lungs.

Well that's all of the Christmas Season news from Misconception Bay, where the men are men and going out with the buoys is something totally different.

(c)copyright 1995 BJ MacGowan

Friday, February 20, 2009

April, yoo hoo, April!

April, it’s your Gram-gram. I have been trying to call you but you are never home. You are spending all of your time over in Passamaquoddy. Oh April how I wish you weren’t spending so much time over there. What will the neighbors think? My second husband Edgar always sounded like he had rocks in his mouth. Passmaquody reminds me something he would say at the dinner table, “Passa ma potatoes, passa ma bread, Passamaquody.” You never met Edgar; he was a hairy little man. If he wasn’t wearing his glasses you wouldn’t know which way he was facing. He was so hairy that one night the dog jumped into bed with us. I thought Edgar was just trying to get frisky, I should have known better; the dog had far better breath.

Oh April, I have been so lonely lately. But it’s okay; tonight I have a few friends with me, Captain Morgan, Jim Beam and Jack Daniels. I think later on José Cuervo might be stopping by. I do so miss you coming over and doing your fish bone art as we chat about your day, or when I tell you stories about my days on the boat The Tramp Steamer – well that’s what the girls and I called it. The uhmmm...gentlemen who came calling had a different name for the boat.

Do you really need to spend so much time over at Passamaquoddy? You know how we in Misconception Bay feel about that place. It’s not because they have that theme park, we aren’t jealous. We have our own perfectly good water slide park. Well, it will be after Mayor Hollar approves the upgrades. They plan on replacing the rock that we have been using as a slide with a six foot slide from WaleyeMart.

I must admit I was over at Passamaquody once and rode It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World of Singing Children. I got stuck on the ride in the Chum World section. My boat was stuck between the singing kid grinding up fish and the singing kid chumming the water. Let me tell you, after 30 minutes I threw my own chum into the water. I swear that those are real children and not dolls. I believe I saw a couple of them shivering in the North Atlantic Squall world and I think I saw a couple more sneeze.

Well April, I don’t expect you to answer me, I know how “busy” you are, but don’t worry about me I’ll be fine.

Oh look, José just got here and he brought his friend Glenfiddich.

Hugs and kisses

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Christmas Past

Well, the Christmas Holidays have passed uneventfully in the town of Misconception Bay. In the center of town, the star on top of the cedar hedge was askew for the whole season. People figured that the star should stay that way for religious reasons; since Reverend Arnold was involved in making the star go off kilter.

Next door to the Fire Hall, Dave Smith-White had set up his reindeer traps again. Dave decided a few years back to hyphenate his name so as to keep his mother’s name. In doing this honour to his mother, Dave’s neighbour James, thought that he would take on his own mother’s name, so James had his name legally changed from James Follie to Madge Follie. Last year Madge, who at that time was still James, pointed out to Dave that his reindeer traps would not work. Mainly because everybody knows that reindeer fly and that Burmese tiger pits dug into the ground will have no effect on animals that fly and land on roofs. So this year Dave decided that he would string fishing net across his front yard in hopes that this will snare his quarry. Well much to Dave’s dismay he didn’t catch anything, but he did notice that there was some hoof marks on the ground where his Burmese tiger pits would have been.

Down the street from Dave Smith-White and Madge Follie is the church recreation hall. As recent tradition dictates, there was a fiery argument going on in the hall. The battle lines were drawn up between those who believe that Santa Claus arrives in a sled pulled by eight reindeer, and those who believe that he does not use a sled but in actual fact that he travels in a golden dory. A splinter group to the golden dory faction believes that the person who arrives in the golden dory is not named Santa, and he does not dress in a fur lined red suit, and he does not say <@145>Ho ho ho’, but rather is somebody by the name of Bob Andrews who wears a sou’wester, a slicker and gum rubbers and says <@147>Hey b’ys, merry ho ho, eh?<@148> A further splinter from this group is yet another group, well actually one person with a very loud voice, who knows for a fact that reindeer can not fly. Therefore, Bob Andrews can not arrive in a golden dory pulled by eight reindeer, but rather comes to town in a golden dory pulled by eight giant lobsters. Since nobody has ever seen who delivers the presents, this debate has never been resolved.

Across town, the Gerbil Lodge was decked out for the festive season. The charter members of the Gerbil Lodge wanted to give their lodge a manlier forceful animal name, like moose, elk, or bison. Unfortunately all of the larger animals were taken by other lodges and they were forced to take one of the only animals left. It’s not hard to spot a member who is going to some official Gerbil Lodge function, what with their distinctive bewhiskered head-gear and their secret greeting which consists of a peculiar stamping of feet. The members of the Gerbil Lodge mean well, but they don’t do a heck of a lot of anything. Their big party during the Holidays was at New Year’s Eve, or rather on the eve of the eve of New Year’s Eve. Judge Twiddleby, proudly announced this year that he had been doing some research and he had calculated that December should actually have only twenty-nine days as opposed to thirty-one. So the dutiful citizens of Misconception Bay struck off the last two days of December and rang in the New Year on the 29th. Strangely enough, this did not get the Town of Misconception Bay out of sync with the rest of the world. The judge took ill on the Misconception Bay New Year’s eve. Two days later he was well enough to get out of bed a flip the official town calendar to January. During the judge’s illness, the town’s folk of Misconception Bay were not sure how to write dates. December had only twenty-nine days, but according to the calendar it was not yet January. It was Mayor John Holler who came up with the solution that dates should be written as December 29+1 and December 29+1+1.

One of the more notable Christmas gifts this year; Jim Brown received a new oar, this oar replaces the one that he had lost two years ago. Jim figures that with this new oar he can get out to the fishing grounds a lot faster and he suspects that he won’t be as dizzy when he gets there.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Star Bright

It’s Christmas Eve in Misconception Bay. In the center of town, the bright shiny star that’s proudly placed every year on top of the cedar hedge is slightly askew. Normally the star sits perfectly straight but a recent event has placed it on its current position.

As most people know, Jim Brown has a nightly custom of “watering the plants” after visiting the Squid Jigger Cafe and NightClub, but tonight he was interrupted by a group of young boys having a snowball fight. Actually, to call it a snowball fight would not be the proper term; the boys really weren’t fighting, and it wasn’t exactly snow that went into the making of their projectiles. No, this was more of a ruckus, and the balls were made out of a secret combination of snow, ice and slush. Every boy knows the secret: ice to give it sting, snow to hold it together, and slush to give it weight and if you happened to miss your target the slush would give you a certain margin of error. If you happened to hit a telephone pole or a wall close to your target, and if you had combined the ingredients just right, the ice-snow-slush ball should explode on impact and shower your victim.

It was these boys who had interrupted Jim Brown while he was in his gardening process. Jim’s getting on in years, but he still doesn’t quite have the knack of the proper usage of zippers on men’s pants. While Jim had his pants to his boots, Tommy Misgivens ducked behind the hedge to avoid an ice-snow-slush ball aimed in his direction. The sudden appearance of Tommy startled Jim, which made Jim lose his concentration on what he was doing. Not liking to be interrupted, Jim chased Tommy from behind the hedge.

Now where Jim and Tommy were was fairly concealed by the base of the statue of Rug Holler, who was the founder of Misconception Bay. Jim and Tommy’s concealment changed when Jim chased Tommy from behind the hedge. For Tommy, the ordeal was not all that traumatic. Tommy ran from behind the cedar hedge while Jim followed yelling “Come back here you varmint!”

This ordeal, however, was hardest on Jim; for just as he was coming from behind the hedge, Reverend and Mrs. Arnold were passing in front of the hedge. Jim at the best of times does not have a full grasp of reality. You could say that his dory has sprung a leak and he forgot to bring a bailer. A man with a very little attention span, while chasing Tommy from behind the hedge, Jim forgot that his pants were still down to his boots. This did make running a little difficult for Jim, but the real embarrassment came when he ran into the Reverend and his wife.

Jim stopped in front of the Arnolds, oblivious to the fact that his pants were still down to his gum rubbers. Oblivious that is, until one of the boys, who were standing around watching the display, realised that the snow-ice-slush ball that he was still holding was starting to get too cold for him to keep on holding. So he decided to get rid of it. Looking around, he spied the perfect target. The boy took aim and let fly; the snow-ice-slush ball flew a perfect course and hit the target squarely; the target being Jim’s exposed left cheek. Jim jumped with a start, looked down and gulped to see exactly where his pants were. He quickly grabbed and pulled his pants up, only to find that most of the snow-ice-slush ball had landed inside of his pants. Jim made another gulp and pulled his pants down again, once more exposing himself to the Reverend and Mrs. Arnold.

Jim was by now in an absolute confused state. He knew that he had to pull up his pants, but he also knew what was waiting for him in his pants. He looked down at his pants and then up to the Arnolds, back down to his pants and then to the Arnolds. Mrs. Arnold by this time had politely turned away, but Reverend Arnold was still fully facing Jim. Reverend Arnold cleared his throat, looked Jim in the face then down to Jim’s pants and then back to his face. Not knowing what to do Jim left his pants where they were and ran off down the street.

Just as Reverend Arnold turned to leave, Bobby Jones let loose his projectile at the Reverend. Unfortunately, Bobby’s mother insisted that the boy wear woolen mittens. Now, every boy knows that you can not properly throw a snowball while wearing woolen mittens, because the snowball will stick to the mitten and your shot could be ruined. Well, that is exactly what happened; the snow-ice-slush ball that Bobby was holding had become partially stuck to his woolen mitten. When Bobby made the throw, the snow-ice-slush ball held for a split-second to his mitten; that split-second was just enough time for the ball to go in the wrong direction. Missing its intended target by just a fraction, the ball made a square hit on an unintended object the cedar hedge star.

That is how the star, that was so proudly placed on the cedar hedge in the center of the town of Misconception Bay, became askew on Christmas Eve.

How it all began

Misconception Bay started back in the 1991, back then I was working Technical Support for Alias Reseach. At times the night shift was rather slow so to wile away the time I would write some short stories. The stories evolved into a little fishing town called Misconception Bay, somewhere on the East Coast of Canada. The stories started off as short but over time they grew in length. I wrote 27 stories over the next 5 or 6 years but I have not written anything since 1999. I will probably try to do some more writing going forward.

But for now let's start at the very beginning ~ I have heard that a very good place to start.

And so it begins

Welcome to Misconception Bay! Welcome to the fishing town somewhere on the East Coast of Canada.