Three Pearls

"Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it." -Ferris Beuller

Ferris was right on the money. Case in point:

My mother, Popcorn, and my step-father, Beurre d'Arachide, are sailing in the Caribbean aboard Beurre's pride, the Prairie Fox. It's a few days after the close of the Heineken Regatta and they've headed out for a little pleasure sailing.

The wind is strong the waves are choppy. Popcorn, who suffers in the inner-ear from Meniere's Disease, begins to feel the quease of sea-sickness descending upon her despite her medication. She suggests they head back to port and Beurre agrees, but he cannot resist the urge to trawl for fish behind the boat as they sail.

When he hooks his first large sea mackerel he pushes the helm at Popcorn and tells her to steer through the waves while he deals with the fish. Nauseated and dizzy, she nevertheless complies, spinning the wheel back and forth in a desperate bid to keep the vessel on a relatively even keel.

The mackarel, however, will not give up the ghost.

"Are you almost done?" she cries over the wind.

"Almost," grunts Beurre. He unlatches the metal handle from one of the winches and proceeds to attempt to beat the fish to death with it. "Damn!" he notes in reference to the mackerel's tenacious hold on life. It thrashes out of his grip and begins flopping around the cockpit.

"Criminy!" yells Popcorn as the boat is tossed violently over the crest of one wave and into the deep trough of another. Salt-spray rains over them, stinging Beurre's eyes as he tries to manhandle the fish back into bludgeoning range.

He lands a solid blow and the fish finally expires, releasing a slurry of blood and seawater as it does so. Popcorn begins to vomit. "Take the wheel!" she says.

"Hold on," he replies, holding up a hand; "I've got another one!"

Popcorn controls the wheel with her elbows while she barfs into a plastic bag, trying to keep her feet out of the way of the liquid debris now sloshing back and forth through the cockpit. When the second mackerel has been sent to a better place Beurre takes the wheel and Popcorn collapses against the companionway to finish retching.

Beurre stands tall at the wheel, proud of his catch. The sun breaks out from behind the clouds and causes the sea to dazzle aquamarine. A pod of dolphins surrounds Prairie Fox and leaps along beside the hull, chittering and screwing around carelessly.

"Jesus Popcorn, are you seeing this?"

Popcorn shakes her head forlornly from her curled up pose in the companionway, eyes pinched shut and vomit bag held at the ready.

Beurre d'Arachide looks up again just in time to see a massive whale break the surface, execute a mid-air flip, and then plunge back into the sparkling sea, flukes slapping the surface and casting off a tall blossom of spume. It is a moment out of a retirement commercial and Popcorn is missing it all.

"Wow!" says Beurre.

"What else did I miss?" whimpers Popcorn sadly.

"Er, nothing."

There may also have been a rainbow. I'm not sure. Probably, though.

"No one can have peace longer than his neighbor pleases." -Dutch Proverb

When we first moved into our old schoolhouse we noticed that our neighbour, a frowning, moustached Dutchman with a dumpy, shrewish wife, was venting his waste water onto our property through a pipe he had fitted through our fence.

We live in the lowlands so it is not uncommon to households to be equipped with a pump to push excess water either into the drainage ditch that runs along the highway or out into the back bush. Our house does not have such a pump since it was constructed on a small artificial hill, the only solution available a century ago when electrical pump technology was aught but the fantasy of very progressive engineering geeks.

My father-in-law, Old Oak, went over to have a chat with the Dutch about their waste water. They did not react well to having their way of doing things questioned. They seemed to consider inquiring into the matter at all to be the height of unneighbourliness.

Littlestar called the local by-law officer to come over and have a look. "Well, it's not right," he assured us, "but I'm not sure you want to make this an official matter, small community as it is and what with you being new and all. Maybe you can try to settle things privately."

So we did. The Dutchman stuck a length of plastic tubing on the end of his pump's outflow to direct the water out into the bush behind our houses, which was perfectly satisfactory to us. However, he did a pretty ham-fisted job of it and when winter came his outflow tube froze and his pump backed up.

Rather than negotiate further with us he simply cut the tube and surreptitiously buried the outflow under our fence again.

Bowing to the Dutchman's obvious stubbornness, Old Oak worked out a way to incorporate the neighbour's waste water into our own water channeling system, directing the outflow through our own system of buried pipes which feed Popsicle's fish-pond and then go on to vent into the bush. Old Oak figured everyone would be happy with this arrangement.

The Dutchman, however, didn't care for people "touching his stuff." So, he sawed off the connecting pipe and resumed letting his water gush in an uncontrolled fashion into our yard, which promptly became a small lake.

Old Oak discovered this and went over to have another chat with the Dutchman, but it turned out he'd gone off on vacation for the Spring Break. Not content to let the flooding continue, Old Oak picked up the end of the pump's outflow and dragged it a few metres into the Dutchman's yard so that it wouldn't all run downhill to us anymore.

He asked me what I thought. I said, "I think you should put it back where it was, so our new negotiations can start off on a good footing when they get back from holiday."

Old Oak agreed. But the Dutch returned home sooner than expected and the outflow had not yet been moved back.

For four days it had been gushing into the shrew's flower beds and, unbeknownst to us, draining directly into the Dutchman's basement. Four days worth of waste water was enough to fill the basement up to an impressive depth. The Dutchman came home to find he was the unwilling owner of an ill-smelling indoor swimming pool. I imagine he lost a fortune in decades-old National Geographic magazines and abandoned exercise equipment. You know -- basement stuff.

The Dutch called the police. The police came to call on Old Oak.

Old Oak explained the history of the situation, and that he had moved the outflow in order to avoid further destruction to our property (including the shed containing my brother-in-law, Slozo's, worldly belongings -- a shed now drooping alarmingly into the Dutch muck). The police thought this sounded fairly reasonable. "It's a civil matter," the constable explained. "Good luck."

Yesterday Old Oak went over to talk with the Dutchman's shrew, but he went unprepared for her level of shrewishness he would meet. The shrew was not interested in dialogue of any kind. She declared that they had been venting the waste water into the schoolhouse yard for seventeen years, which therefore gave them the right to continue despite whatever damage it may be causing. She further warned that her family and their insurance company would be suing us for damages. Then she started calling him names, so Old Oak went home.

Last night a big truck backed into their drive. It had a big machine in the back for pumping all of the water out of their basement, and it was louder than the Gulf War.

"Know what we should do?" I said, giggling.

"What?" asked Littlestar suspiciously.

"We should go over and complain about the noise."

The by-law officers have been called and should be dropping by today to disabuse the Dutch of the erroneous notion that their seventeen years of breaking the law have won them the right to continue breaking it. I wonder whether or not this enlightenment will affect their desire to sue us.

I am curious but unconcerned. They don't have a legal leg to stand on, and, if they do decide to pursue that course, they have no idea what kind of thermonuclear legal representation we have at our behest.

"I'd rather pay Prosciutto a grand to make them lose than pay them a grand in damages," I told Littlestar.

"Damn straight," she agreed.

I'll let you know how it all turns out.

"The grand essentials of happiness are: something to do, something to love, and something to hope for." -Allan K. Chalmers

I'm covered.

I'm painting a Hip Hop album cover (which is fun), missing my wife and my two precious wee ones (which reminds me of our connection), and I have great hope that the new novel I'm knitting will be everything I dream it can be (ambition is an amusing hobby). Who could ask for anything more?


Deej said...

As always your life is entertaining and insightful (as in, you have insights into your own life; an increasingly rare commodity in Western civilization). Good luck with the legal situation; I've no doubt it will work out for the best.

If I am the web, does that make you the spider?

Cheeseburger Brown said...


Rather I think I am the Web, too. Content-creation and content-propagation go hand in hand (not to mention content created via commentary, and commentaries on commentaries, and so on and so forth). The comparatively uncontested spider, as far as I know, is the emergent AI at the heart of Google.

As for the neighbours: I'm not too worried. It's more a comedy than a drama.