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It is a whirlwind in here

The Poet Laureate of Partridge Island 1821 – 2021

{I’m The Poet Laureate of Partridge Island 

1821 – 2021

A lot of stuff have I seen

A lot of stuff to report}

I see the sea

I see the land

For these 200 years

It’s all been grand.

(Not Grand Manan

(That’s another place

(Far closer to the sea)

Today I wait for a bus

To roll into Saint John Town

A motorized bus

No horse to be found

Such new things I see

And have seen

From my lighthouse perch

Between the flashing beam.

Gotta Girlie on that bus

Cute as a button

And smart as a tack

Old Saint John Town

Is lucky to

Have her back.

~ DE BA UEL

My MRI Made Me Think Of The Military

Few of the procedures for the MRI were troubling.. I had been told the MRI would take an hour, but I was only in the machine for twenty-five minutes. I guess the rest was the preparation.


I held an IV container in one hand and a panic button in the other. The mattress was really comfortable and the sides were adjusted so I was snug. A broad container containing the ‘film’ was laid on my stomach. I was told (repeatedly) not to open my eyes or wiggle my toes. I had a headset through which I could listen to music or hear verbal instructions. I was offered a number of playlists but took the one recommended – Easy Listening,


I did not find the noise troubling. To me, the sound was more like someone on the outside was throwing rocks at the metal container mixed with rumbles and growls. I know other people find it deafening.


Oh, I also had a prescribed pill (which I requested) for anxiety, which no doubt helped and perhaps kept me drowsy into the day.

But, being literally confined(and with my eyes closed) I found myself actively thinking what to think about., So, I don’t know how spontaneous these two thoughts were.

I started thinking about scenes from one of my NATO espionage novels – the one with Louie the dog. Now, I in no way remembered this verbatim, but the following is a portion of the scene I was remembering.

The Sea King is built for rough weather. It takes some positioning changes but the pilot manages to keep within a constant perimeter. There are also masts and wires and the superstructure itself to avoid. As the BLACK DALE advances through the seas.

A half dozen commandos form a defensive circle under the hovering helicopter. As soon as someone reaches the Sea King, Major LeClerc orders another commando up the ropes. The defensive perimeter is then reduced. There is a compliment of eight NATO personnel, Louie, and the two prisoners beneath the helicopter when CURACA makes his move.

A door at the far end of the Superstructure is blown out. At the same time the door that Bonner bobby trapped is also blown. Though each explosion is barely heard beneath the helicopter, Bonner and LeClerc do hear them. They exchange glances. LeClerc gets half of the commandos still on the deck to aim at the blown door. Bonner, Bess and General Bonner go to their knees, aiming at the doorway they just came through. It is only Louie who starts bounding toward a communications mast in the direction away from the explosions.

“They don’t want to damage the helicopter – they want to escape.” Bonner yells above the noise. “Contain them.

Bess notices Louie. She looks beyond him and sees another door, already open

Booth – to the left!”

CURACA and most of his crew are already out of the Superstructure. They are positioned behind a wall and at the base of the antenna array. They are using only machine guns and are careful about the helicopter.

One of the prisoners starts running toward CURACA while the other prisoner tries to run away. Pickering takes out the fleeing man while no one attempts to shoot the other. He dives and rolls toward the doorway.

“Keep loading the helicopter.” Bonner then yells to the earpiece. “Time check.

“Ten minutes to spare to get far enough away.”

Bonner notes no shooting comes from the exploded doorways. They are diversions. He turns to see Louie making a leap.

LeClerc! Use some RPGs. Hit the wall over their heads.”

Major LeClerc has kept one of the sharpshooters. He points, indicating to keep it high. He is also aware of the dog, who is taking down the shooter closest to them. LeClerc checks the ropes. They are clear. There are six left to go up

The other thought was perhaps more expected. My father told the story of being in a convoy going through Italy after the successful invasion of Sicily in the Second World War. He has at the trigger of a heavy machine gun, in the back of a truck under canvas. He suddenly heard numerous things being thrown at the canvas side of the truck. It kept happening and he thought that the Italians were attacking. He pulled up a side of the canvas, and saw that the folk lining the street were throwing flowers.

The Cat Lady And The Seal

Well, she was dressed like a cat though, I realise as I write the sentence, how really does a cat dress?

Really, the only dress-up cat that comes to mind was a cat called Tuxedo, who was – I assume – so named because of his attire of black and white fur – right down (or up) to his bow tie. And, I remember him because he ran in every civic election for years, and always garnered 500 -700 votes. He lived a few blocks from me and always had his lawn signs out. Yeah, he probably had a human manager – but still.

But I digress.

The cat lady, it is true, had an exceedingly colourful set of clothes, with a frilly shirt and what looked like a square dance dress. I didn’t note if there were dancing shoes. I was down on the harbour, sitting on my favourite bench, looking out to sea. Summer is picking up and there were many, many other folk walking and taking in the view. So, it wasn’t really her garb that meowed “cat”, but the fact the had her face painted up as a cat, with accented eyes and tufts of fur and a set of cat ears. It’s summer, and there are lots of entertainments on the harbour, and it is possible she was part of some CATS revue that was giving entertainment for the masses. (or that could just be me, trying to make sense of it all).

However, she broke the tranquil evening by starting to yell.

“WHAT’S THAT?

“WHAT’S THAT?

“OVER THERE!

“IN THE WATER

“IS IT A SEAL!?!”

She was becoming so excited and agitated that I finally yelled back:

“YES, IT’S A SEAL”

“I’VE NEVER SEEN A SEAL. EVER IN MY WHOLE LIFE. ARE YOU SURE?’

“YES!”

Yes, I was sure. I had already been watching the animal, and it was putting on a good display. Not many seals venture so far into the harbour, and when they do they are usually above the water less than a minute before they dive to come up somewhere else. This seal was swimming tranquilly along, in nearly a straight line, for longer than a minute at a time. Perhaps basking in the sun. Or watching the people, so he would have tall tale to tell to his friends.

“A REAL SEAL?”

“YES.”

“I NEVER SAW ONE BEFORE.”

And with that she walked away, the sight, apparently, not being as earth-shattering as her voice.

When The End Times Fall

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[Illustration by Kafka]

In my novel, Kafka In The Castle, I fill in his lost diaries.  Here, as the learned Doktor of Laws, he has been asked to speak to the citizens of the small village of Zurau, where he is living with his sister. He is talking about the end of the Empire the townsfolk have been living under all their lives. Their Empire, and the civilization they know, is soon to be swept away. Will their lives go with it?

He speaks the truth /he avoids the truth.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

15 January 1918

This war. They wanted my opinions about this endless war. These earnest, honest men, awaiting the words from the Herr Doktor of Prague.

I agreed only to answer questions – that way I could not be accused of fermenting treason. Even in these troubled times, the law allows a man to answer questions. Assuming that the law prevails.

The law was present in the form of the policeman, attending this questionable gathering while still in uniform. He doffed his hat as he shook my hand. I would rather have him in our midst, than lurking in the hall. We have nothing to fear from him.

“Will the empire last?” This was first from their lips. And they must have needed to hear the words, for even the Emperor must know that all is lost. The Old Order, having fallen into the hands of dull and witless men, must succumb. The complacency of the age must be purged – but that has not yet happened. That awaits the next generation – and the destruction will be furious. But I do not tell them this.

I am skillful in what I do not tell them, for the truth is beyond their power to persuade or control. (Their next questions would have been more difficult had I not curbed the truth further still.) “What will happen to Zurau? What will happen to us?” And they have every right to worry. To suspect. When a society crumbles, it is those at the bottom who get crushed. But I told them that Amerika seemed a just power – not bent on retribution.

I did not tell them that a victor can do as he wants.

And I told them that we live in a secondary part of a secondary empire – the powers of destruction will be concentrated on Vienna and Berlin. I did not tell them that during the death of a snake, the spasms of the tail can be lethal.

And I told them something which could really be of help. I told them, in this coming year, to grow more food: fatten more beasts: prepare, preserve and put away. Fill their cellars and barns to bursting with food and fuel. Buy some things now, which they can use for barter later if the currency becomes worthless. Look after their families and lands. Look after each other.

16 January 1918

I did not tell them that war is the end result of injustice and arrogance, and that it is oftentimes necessary. I did not tell them that when the natural balance is upset by human action, the cost of righting it must be made in human payment. I did not tell them that a country where neighbour is cruel to neighbour is a country mean for war.

17 January 1918

I did not tell them how the Jews will always suffer in time of war. How we will be searched out, then driven as far as the east is from the west, and then be persecuted. How there will never be safety for us. Yea, even unto the land of Israel.

Olympics & Death

The 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo is the proof needed that the Human Race has a strong bent toward suicide. To say nothing of insanity

Onions And Eggs Feed A Crew On A Sailing Ship To China

Excerpt from the novel “China Lily”

In 1293,  Cepa  and Matzerath  were part of the crew of The Pegasus, a ship that had sailed from Italy to China on a trading mission. After a couple of months, they arrived in the port of Zaitun,  where they encountered a local trader, Lu-Hsing.

Lu-Hsing takes the two men to a communal dining hall. This is part of their meal.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Compared to others of his experience, the crew of The Pegasus appears content with their lot. They are certainly fitting in well in the dining hall, and even mingling with other diners. Thanks to the Captain’s instructions, they are willing to try any of the dishes they encounter, though it helps that they are ignorant of many of the ingredients.

“You want something other than onions?” Lu-Hsing jabs Cepa in the ribs with his shoulder.

“I want something with my onions.”

“You’ve been looking intently at everything.” Lu-Hsing opens his arms expansively. “What do you wish?”

“What do you suggest?”

“Look at me.” Lu-Hsing rubs his belly with a roar. “I am not a picky eater. I’ll suggest anything.”

“You’ve already warned me away from soup.”

“Not warned.” Lu Hsing points back to the bubbling soup they had been looking at. “You can add a lot to soup and make a stew.” He grimaces. “But you still slurp more than you chew. Lu-Hsing wants to use his teeth when he eats.”

“We can stay away from soup.” Cepa smiles. “And I’d just as soon avoid fish.”

“Me, too.” Matzerath puts his hands up in surrender. “We eat enough salted fish to swim.”

“You boys are in the Port of Zaitun.” Lu-Hsing speaks in an authoritative tone. “Fish a specialty.”

“There must be something else.” Matzerath points. “Look at all the cooks.”

“No soup?”

“Pah!”

“Trouble-making Round Eyes.” Lu-Hsing points to a wok near the end of the aisle and starts to walk. “We’ll try there.”

“What does he have?” Cepa falls into step behind Lu-Hsing, followed by Matzerath.

“Oyster omelette.”

“Eggs?” asks Matzerath.

“As many as you want.”

“That will take a big pan.”

“He can use a high-sided wok.” Lu-Hsing pretends to whisk something in a wok. “Plop it right onto a plate.”

“We don’t have dishes.” Cepa suddenly realizes the fact. “We haven’t been back to The Pegasus all day.”

“Lu-Hsing share you his.” He barks an order at the cook, and then turns back to Cepa. “Stay right here. I’ll get them from my table.”

Cepa and Matzerath stand and watch the cook. Cepa notes he is using wood and not the black rocks for his fire. Some oil is dropped onto the metal and immediately sizzles. The cook holds up his hand and extends his fingers; one, two, three, four, five.

“Will you want some?”

“God – yes.” Matzerath nods.

Cepa holds up five fingers and the cook grins. He takes an egg in each hand and hits them together. The upper shell is flipped off and they pour into the wok. He repeats the gesture and the eggs land on top of the others. The last egg is dispatched on the metal rim of the wok and added to the rest before a hint of cooking has begun. The cook then begins to whisk and slide the eggs along the side of the wok before Matzerath has time to make a comment.

“I’d like to see you do that on The Pegasus,” says Cepa.

“I break eggs all the time.”

“I know.” Cepa laughs. And we eat the shells to prove it.”

The cook now twists and shakes the wok by its two handles over the fire. The eggs slide up and along the sides, and then settle more thickly near the bottom. With a grin and a twist of his hands, the cook turns the wok right over. The eggs start to slide out with a couple of drops hissing into the fire. Matzerath’s mouth falls open as the cook rights the wok so quickly that the eggs drop right back into it, now cooking on the other side. The cook puts the wok back on the fire.

“Bet you can’t do that,” says Cepa.

“Just once.” Matzerath laughs. “But the whole ship was heaving at the time.”

The cook begins to nudge the eggs together with a spatula. With his other hand he sprinkles a few drops of brown liquid. Then he adds some coarsely chopped shoots of a green onion.

“Hah!” Matzerath slaps Cepa on the shoulder.

After a quick swirl of these ingredients the cook plops in a bowl of small oysters. He takes his time with these, spacing them with deliberation over the quickly cooking eggs. Then – with a flourish – he scoops up a handful of flower blossoms and sprinkles them over the whole bubbling mixture.

“What are those?” Matzerath peers into the wok.

“Chrysanthemums.”

“We’re eating flowers?’

“When in Rome …”

The cook adds a further dash of the brown liquid and then folds the eggs neatly in half. He flips the whole omelette to the center of the wok and sprinkles a palm full of spring onion – this time finely chopped – over of the still-bubbling omelette. He presses the onion in place with his spatula then removes the wok from the fire.

“Timing is everything.”

The voice startles them both. They turn to see Lu-Hsing standing behind them, holding a large platter. He barks instructions to the cook, speaking too quickly for the two men to understand.

“Stick to ribs – make you happy.”

The cook divides the omelette in half and slides it onto the platter. He then takes the wicker top off a steamer and starts to add heaping ladles of red rice along the sides of the platter.

“What’s that?” Matzerath sounds suspicious.

Hong qu mi.”

“You can see its rice,” hisses Cepa.

“But it’s red.”

“Fermented with yeast.” Lu-Hsing scoops some into his palm and eats it. “Looks good. Tastes great.”

“Aren’t you having a meal?”

“Lu-Hsing eats later – with family.” He moves his hand over the top of the platter and inhales the aroma. “We eat at home – wife is a great cook.”

“I thought you’d be joining us.” Matzerath is clearly disappointed.

“Too crowded. Too smoky.” Lu-Hsing laughs. “Just the place for Round-eyes who want to make contacts. I already know people.”

Lu-Hsing abruptly steps behind the counter and stands beside the cook. He takes a look into the bubbling pots and lifts the tops off of steamers. He finally points with a barrage of Chinese. The cook gets two porcelain bowls and ladles a heaping amount of food into each.

“Got your spoon?” asks Cepa.

Matzerath takes a spoon from his pant’s pocket and holds it up.

“You?”

“Yes.” Cepa has his spoon on a chain around his neck. He takes it out from underneath his shirt and lets it dangle against his chest.

“You boys prepared – good.” Lu-Hsing takes the platter with the omelette and rice. He then points with his chin. “Take your bowls and follow me.”

Matzerath anxiously sees the platter of steaming food being taken away. He nudges Cepa and they again get into step behind Lu-Hsing, who again clears a path through the crowded eating hall. They approach a raised platform under a row of windows, much like the noble’s section in the Cannara’s own tavern. It is still a crowded space, with ten tables set not far apart from each other. Half are vacant, so Cepa can’t tell if Lu-Hsing heads for his ‘own’ table, or has the use of any that is available. He places the platter crosswise near one end of the table.

“You need drink.” Lu-Hsing unrolls a half dozen chopsticks from a cotton napkin, so they lay beside the platter. “Tea or rice wine?”

“Dear God – wine!” Matzerath plunks his bowl on the table. “It’s been a day.”

“Bring both, please.” Cepa sits across the table from Matzerath. “For both of us.”

“Tea is for thirst.” Matzerath takes his spoon from his pocket. “I want drink for more than that.”

“We can’t have you getting drunk.” Cepa lifts his own spoon from around his neck. “Even the crew has orders not to get drunk.”

You are sticking to tea?” Matzerath begins to wield his chopsticks over the rice.

“No.” Cepa laughs. “Although I am also thirsty, I have no objection to feeling ‘mellow’ as I eat.”

“And it will help you sleep.” Lu-Hsing slaps Cepa on the back. “Like mother’s milk.”

“I wish my mother had had tits of wine.” Matzerath wipes some rice from his chin and sucks his fingers. “I would have been a better child.”

Colonel Bonner Goes To The North Of Canada – Way North

In The Bonner Resolution, Colonel Bonner of Her Majesty’s Canadian Armed Forces, does a lot of work for NATO. A lot. In this novel he begins in the high Arctic. And then he goes – well – pretty well anywhere NATO dabbles their fingers into the pot of intrigue. And that covers the world.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The sky is clear and cold.

And blue.

This does not help while watching the expanse of ice. Colonel Bonner thought it would. He thought such a clean demarcation of surface and horizon would accentuate anything appearing between the two. Across kilometers of rippled ice that encourages the winds. The winds that make the Arctic cold penetrate his high tech parka and his thermal long johns. They talk about “wind chill” in the country Bonner is used to. They don’t know nothing.

Before this assignment, Colonel Bonner presumed he had been every place NATO could send him. He has been in war zones. He has been in safe zones where people did not know there is a war. He has been in those diplomatic zones that teeter-totter between the two. Those most of all. He has fought enemies both foreign and domestic. He has averted disaster of massive proportions on his own soil (well – legal sea boundary) that has still managed to remain unexplained.

It was cold there, too.

Colonel Bonner is lying under white camouflage blankets and upon a waterproof mat. He has been in this position for two hours. Any longer and he will be prone to hallucinations. Any longer and he will freeze his balls off – regardless of protective clothing and insulated mat. This is not just his opinion; it is the observation of his guide. His Canadian Ranger companion had nudged him on the shoulder and cupped his own groin and pointed at his watch. If he wants to have babies he’ll move his ass. The cold doesn’t creep up on you, it hits with a wallop. From one minute to the next.

Bonner looks at his own watch. Twenty minutes left though he feels he could have been here either four hours or forty minutes. Time expands and contracts at the same time. This happens during long periods of observation, wherever he has such an assignment. It happens with more force when there is virtually nothing to see. The passage of the sun is the most notable action going on before him. It proves to be of little distraction. And anyway, it is dimmed by his snow goggles.

Bonner adapts to this barren reality by accepting it is not really barren. He pays attention not only to the things the Canadian Rangers teach him, but he watches how they interact to the surroundings. With few humans to deal in an environment that can kill them, they are far more attentive to their senses than he. A creaking of ice, or the slant of shifting snow, tells them more than a manual reveals. They can smell a change coming toward them that is hours away. He makes an attempt to follow their lead. He keeps his mouth shut on the inane observations those from the south are prone to make. He has been shown his restraint is appreciated.

After A God Awful Crash, The Lemonade Stopped Flowing

Two or three days ago, I heard incessant chanting coming from children two houses down the hill.

Other than it was obvious repetition, I could not figure out that the words were. It took a day and a half for me to decipher the sing-song serenade:: “Get your ice cold lemonade here!” And they beefed up ‘here’ – they said ‘her-are”. Maybe that is what confused me.

This morning, for the first time, I actually saw some folk buying their lemonade. One fellow even crossed the street for it.

But then, in the early afternoon, a God-Awful crash came through my open window. The chanting stopped in mid sentence. And I experienced what I had actually never experienced before.

Dead silence.

It was so silent, it made an impression. There seemed to be neither bird nor wind in the trees nor cars passing. The silence stretched for long seconds. And then, a yell of anguish.

“What happened?

“How did that happen?”

“What happened?”

And I did not know what happened (nor do I) but my guess is that whatever glass bowl or container. (which I assume was reasonably large). ended up on the sidewalk. In many pieces, and awash in lemonade.

Within two minutes, two mothers were out there with brooms and rags. One of them went out into the street and yelled “No, it didn’t reach here.”

For about ten minutes there was sweeping and mopping and children picking up pieces and putting them (I assume) into some garbage container.

The mothers returned to their houses.

There has been no chanting since.

Major University Reunion Ends In Virtual Reality

I had some designs on actually attending this significant University Reunion a number of years ago. I did know it was on its way. A pandemic covering the world put a stop to that.

But, since my graduation year hit a milestone, I decided to see what was going to happen online. I fully accepted that the lobster boil was not going to be on the menu.

When all is said and done, this past weekend’s events were fine enough. Zoom takes one to sundry places and I heard a couple of talks, and saw a tour of the campus. Not greatly different – I knew where I was. One residence built in my graduation year has since been totally renovated. I have not.

I was /was not surprised by the number of participants at the class reunion of my year. Twenty (20) to start the hour, seventeen (17) at the end. One of whom I actually knew. I said my two cents worth in passing.

I regret not sharing this story at the time, but didn’t want to hog the hour.

I had gone to a couple of earlier reunions , one where I was told by a server of the lobster boil: “I like your style.” I believe I was being praised for my gusto.

It was at my first reunion that this event happened. Tables were set in long rows, filling a hockey rink surface. Each table (and in certain places, a number of tables)had a large sign announcing the year of graduation. My year had three tables end to end, the year on each of them. I’d guess seating for 50 -60 folk. All the place settings were there, and each table had three bottles of unopened wine present. What was lacking were members of my graduating class. I would say there were fewer than a dozen.

And even they started to trickle away, I assume a few went to sit with friends. I know a number went to sit at the table where Anne Murray was seated. She was getting, I believe, an Honorary Degree (and a literal carved wooden chair). She was a legitimate graduate from years before, in Physical Education.

So, shortly before the food was served, I was left by myself at my Graduating Class table. But with most of that wine (some folk scooted off with a bottle or two). Decent hefty red – Marechal Foch.

I believe I finished two bottles.

At the end of the meal, there were ceremonies. I believe that is when Anne got her chair. However, there was something called “The Roll Call of the Years” I quickly discovered that, when each year was announced, all the folk from that year stood up at their table, by their year sign, and were applauded by everyone present.

I sat alone at my table.

I did not wish such attention paid me, but I had a dilemma. What was most obvious, to keep sitting (for everyone could read the class year), or to stand on my own?

Ladies and gentlemen, it helps to have two bottles of Marechal Foch giving you good cheer.

I rose from my seat at the announcement of my year and clasped both hands over my head, waving enthusiastically. I was cheered to the rafters.

I was even asked by a couple of other tables if I might want to join them.

I declined.

There were still unopened bottles at ‘my’ table.

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