Dispatches

Stories from a West Coast Town

M.A.C. Farrant

POSITIVE IMPACT

On Saturday, July 9, 2016, Buddhist monks from the Great Enlightenment Buddhist Institute in Little Sands, Prince Edward Island, bought six hundred pounds of live lobsters from several establishments around the island and returned them to the ocean, thus saving the lobsters’ lives. It was, the monks said, an act of compassion.

When she heard this, a woman from the West Coast was inspired to rescue the last Atlantic lobster from her town’s Save-On-Foods, where it had been languishing for several days at the bottom of a display tank. She’d noticed it while shopping and worried about its future. Now she had a plan. She purchased the lobster and carried it home in a pail half-filled with water from the tank. The next day she shipped the lobster via Purolator, and at a personal cost of $245, to her friend in Prince Edward Island with the instruction that, like the Buddhist’s lobsters, hers would be returned to the ocean.

“It’s a spiritual thing,” she explained to the local TV station when the news broke. “Sometimes spirituality gets so structured it doesn’t even feel like you’re living.”

It was a Purolator agent who tipped off the TV station. He told them the story “just translated” for him and that he found it “real and soulful.”

“It’s an example of being a little better than you are,” he said.

THE WEATHER CHANNEL

“I won’t lie to you,” the woman was telling her daughter. “There have been train wrecks. I’ve lived in suspended adolescence for much of my life. But then, when I turned sixty, things started to calm down and a low-grade happiness took over. I’m not sure why. Getting older maybe. Getting that big pay-out from your dad.”

“Don’t talk about Dad,” said the daughter.

They were having drinks in the Dockside Pub after the daughter’s shift at Starbucks.

“Okay, but this is important,” her mother continued. “It’s something you need to know. Very quietly, very slowly, happiness can take over a person’s life. It’s happened to me. Not a big kind of happiness with streamers and balloons, more of a background happiness, like the music you hear on the Weather Channel.

“Seriously,” said the daughter.

“When I hear that music,” the mother said, “I think: This perfectly describes the way my happiness feels. Light and kind of spacey.”

“The Weather Channel.”

“Yes. And now when I notice other people, older ones like myself, walking down the street, going about their business, and having these little smiles on their faces, I know they’re plugged into the Weather Channel too. Everyone enjoying the same kind of quiet happiness that I am.”

“Well, he’s not happy,” the daughter said.

“Who?”

“Dad. All he ever does is come home from work, crack a beer and complain about the government.”

Hearing this caused the woman to feel slightly more happy than she usually felt.

But in fairness to the girl’s father and feeling a little guilty because she enjoyed hearing about her ex’s misery, she said, “Nevertheless, a happy woman like me can still find things to be unhappy about.”

“Like what?”

“Well, I’m very wary that I won’t last forever.”

“Mother!”

“Just kidding.”

WAITING ROOM

The young man wearing a black suit, white shirt and black scarf sat beside his grandfather in Dr. Burns’s waiting room. Dr. Burns was one of our town’s few doctors.

“I’ve brought my own undertaker,” the old man told the waiting patients.

The fat girl with the pink hair laughed. She was wearing a net skirt and silver shoes.

“I used to play the accordion at weddings,” the man said loudly. “But the ones who care about the polka are old and not dancing anymore. I was playing to empty floors.”

“Granddad.”

“What? It’s the truth!”

The grandson looked away.

“Furthermore,” the old man said, “the world is run by thugs. It would be nice for a change if they saved people instead of killing them.”

“Granddad.”

“I’ll bet you’d like to know how I dye my hair,” the pink-haired girl said to the old man. She didn’t wait for a reply.

“It’s trial and error to get the correct shade. It’s somewhere between baby pink and hot pink. You couldn’t buy this shade in a bottle. You have to play with the mixes yourself. Not everyone can achieve these results.”

“What?” said the old man.

The girl raised her voice. “I said, not everyone gets the results I get. My friend, Amber,” she continued, “dyes one half of her hair pink and the other blue, which looks all right when she wears pigtails but not so good otherwise.”

She went on to say that her social work practicum was going to be at the food bank for homeless people. She was proud that she’d received the placement looking the way she did but concluded that one look at her would cause people to be happy and that can’t be a bad thing, can it?

By now many of the waiting patients were smiling. But not the old man.

He turned to his grandson. “I’m too old for this,” he said. “Who do I have to sleep with to get out of here?”

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M.A.C. Farrant

M.A.C. Farrant is the author of fifteen works of fiction, non-fiction and memoir, and two plays. She lives in North Saanich, BC.

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