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“EGAD! OF course it’s all right. Gawrd, bring him on over. That’ll fix him up.” I said, waited while he talked, then again. “Nonsense. We’ll give him another drink. If I get annoyed, I’ll have another drink. After all, this is the land that the Lord left to fishermen and Club members.” Another listen on my part then, “Brother Eustace to the rescue,” I said of myself. “Well it’s your nickel.” I referred to the fact he was paying for the call. I hung up the sole public land-line left in the Lower French River Delta, then walked up from the docks and Marina and past the offices of Palmer’s Hartley Bay House and down to the original CPR foreman’s cabin since 1898, then from 1912, The Hartley Bay Club, 100 years in the making.
“Well the blessed place isn’t too dirty,” I said alone, a solo soliloquy. Carrying on with my mono-audience monologue, I said: “Lawrd sakes after all it’s a camp not a cottage.” It was an excuse for the chronic mice problem and the primary reason the Mrs. wouldn’t come up. There was good and bad to that.
I checked the fridge for food and more importantly beer. My typical Eustace-supplied bar was already well stocked and holy-moly maybe I wouldn’t have to haul most of it back home again; no harm — didn’t go bad. My brother Ambrose would probably be bringing a few provisions with his guest, his special guest. Then again he may not. Ambrose may be the brains of the family, and that did seem to give him special permission to be quite absentminded at times. No matter.
It was past noon. Yeah. Sure. Time for a little drink while waiting. Had to hydrate in the summer, especially while surrounded by water, you might forget. A weak gin and tonic with fresh lime and ice. Out on the deck to look out over to the hubbub around the marina. Just as I sat down the warming sun peaked out from behind a thick cumulus causing me to comment, “Somebody up there likes Eustace.” I could speak in the third person about myself. No set rules for the HBC.
It would not be too long till Ambrose arrived. Not a far drive from Sudbury. I reflected on the last time he had brought Doc Alphabet to the club. Godfrey Daniels’ nickname was Doc Alphabet because the string of letters behind his name seemed to consist of the whole English alphabet, and probably followed by a few cartouches and glyphs. He seemed to be a miserable kind of cuss, but then you must consider he has a touch of Asbergers, (ass burgers heh-heh, with klingons) and his mind is still in the bowels of the earth. Well, if you accept that then he was fine, at least tolerable. Ambrose could be the same way at times. Too much thinking. Perhaps I should post a sign at the clubhouse door that said, “Thinking caps turned off here.” It would complement the one on the laneway with the two appropriate arrows that said, ‘To it All,’ and “Away from it All.” Yet it sounded like Doc Daniels was in no state to comprehend such things.
My contemplation of things was disturbed by a massive blaring of horns in the distance growing gradually louder till the near limitless southbound freight train passed by. The serenity disturbed by such a familiar sound that it in itself was serene. Life was a paradox. I snickered. There was a pair of docks across the bay.
Inside again, squeezing out some fresh lime into my tonic, I heard the sound of gravel scrunching under tires and looked out the screen door to see Ambrose and Doctor Daniels pulling up in the Navigator.
A quick sip and I went out to greet them as they both exited the vehicle. Jeeezuzzz, but Doc looked pastier than ever, but what do you expect from someone who spent his life two kilometres down in the Canadian Shield. Flip side is he looked happy. He didn’t look happy exactly; he looked like the band had wound too tight and finally snapped. Doc Alphabet was unlettered.
“Hey bro,” Ambrose called up, “glad you could have us.”
“No probleemo.” I walked down to greet them.
“You remember Godfrey here.”
“Hey Doc.” I held out my hand, which was taken and shook. “Good to have you.”
Doc Daniels’ smile matched the gleeful look in his eyes.
Retrieving my jiggled fingers, I said, “You boys are just in time, fancy a drink?” I shot a worried look, which brother-to-brother asked, ‘Is he okay to have a drink like this?’
“Sure Eustace, we both will. The doctor, the physician, says he can’t find anything the matter with Godfrey. He’s not on anything. Just needs a rest.” Ambrose followed that by a brotherly glance that expressed, and we hope that’s all. “Want a drink Godfrey?”
He nodded and smiled — still.
“I know what you want you ugly bastard, what’ll the Doc have?” For the life of me, I couldn’t remember if the Doc had drank or not when he was here before. He usually melded quietly into the paraphernalia scattered about the main room.
“Anything is good. Help me get the crap outta the car first and up to the Club.”
Sitting on the deck enjoying our drinks, we had managed to get Doc to slather his own pallid skin with a Sunblock rated in the low 100s. He sat there looking out over the sun-sparkling waters with that perpetually glazed blissful visage, but what was wrong with that? Most who came and sat here and stayed at the Club, achieved that look at some point.
The Doc never said a word. At least the last time he was up here he would answer with a series of grunts that ranged in three to four different tonal levels, depending on what he was responding to. Was that an improvement? Guess so. He nodded happily to anything — anything that was suggested. Seemed fairly functional. Dare we risk a swim off the rock later? Doc did know how to swim. Doc used to know how to swim.
Steaks and baked potatoes were barbecued on the deck for dinner. Doc had a hearty appetite for a slight man. We brothers talked about family matters feeling uncomfortable talking about Ambrose’s work down in the Snolab with Doc Daniels there. It was where he had snapped looking for the secrets of the universe, the grand unifying theory, that elusive Higgs-boson particle. That which would explain everything — almost — kind of. Didn’t the Hartley Bay Club on a sun-dappled evening, with lapping waves, and trembling aspens, explain everything that was needed — at least with another drink? Well stocked bars were the key to the cosmos.
After dinner we all headed down to the Club’s dock and got in the 14-foot open aluminium Starcraft, firing up the antiquated 25 hp Evinrude and headed out for a little evening fishing.
It was a putter around the bay with Doc having no problems trolling with his line out. Me, I was always working on a line — an in-joke. He worked rod and reel automatically with that habitual grin still affixed to his face. He caught a pickerel in front of Sylvester’s bay and took it off the hook himself, but it was undersized and had to go back in the water. Aside from a couple pike, three pickerel were keepers and would make for a nice breakfast in the morning.
Dusk and the mosquitoes came out thick as flies. No. Mosquitoes thick as molasses? Mosquitoes thick as a swarm of locust? Nah. In Northern Ontario, mosquitoes were thick as thick. You breathed them. If that’s not understood come on up; experience Rainbow Country. It was time to head in.
Back at the camp, a couple mosquitoe coils lit, Ambrose filleted the pickerel and I did the dinner dishes. Doc sat — happy. Shortly after that my brother, having had a long day, slipped into bed and was out like a light. I was left with Chuckles. Sorry that was cruel, and he never actually chuckled or made a sound, just that inane all-knowing smirk, with white teeth nearly as bright as his wide eyes.
I popped outside in the dark for a sec to check things, and it was okay. The mosquitoes were gone from the crystalline dome of the chill night air. Inside I threw Doc Daniels a jacket and told him we were going to go out and look at the stars. I poured him a good stiff one, from his brother’s distillery, you know Jack. Get it — Jack Daniels. Sorry, working the line. I should admit here and now that we had plied him with booze during the day and it appeared to have no discernable effect on him at all. With any luck, it would help him relax. Would he get a hangover? Who knew? Hopefully this last big belt would help him sleep. Did he sleep?
Stargazers we, out on the deck, leaned back in real wooden Muskoka loungers. The stars were in all their gleaming glory. Twinkling splendiferously, all laid out in black and white. The band of the Milky Way arched across the heavens with all its innumerable secrets. Doc gazed up at them too, sipping at his drink, perhaps even happier than that constant happiest he had been. I don’t know where his mind was at, but mine was at where his used to be. He popped inside for a bit and brought out a bassoon of all things and played it expertly and the mellifluous music sweetened the still atmosphere as it flowed over the bay. A few more lilting tunes and he put the bassoon back inside. Odd.
I thought about how he had been that top scientist up at the Snolab at Inco, at Creighton. Two kilometres down, where millions of years ago a massive nickel meteor, from the edge of forever had crashed into the Canadian Shield, which would make Sudbury a place on the map. He had been on the cutting edge of discovery. He was looking for the missing, the theoretical Higgs-boson element. He hoped to combine the theorems together to make the Grand Unification Theory a reality. He hoped to do it for Canada before that massive Swiss Hadron Collider could.
Then one day not that long ago, only a month or two, security had gone down when he hadn’t answered, or come out of his lab, his deep hole. The whole liked the one the rabbit from Alice in Wonderland had disappeared into. And they had found him just like this, just like he was now. The only other thing was that all his research had been wiped clean. Not a mote. The best computer geeks in the world couldn’t get a byte. Fishing at HBC we didn’t get a bite sometimes; jigging the line.
Oh, he was shuffled around and the best physicians and experts in the world looked him over and gave him a battery of tests; MRIs, full brain scans, you name it, he had it done. Here is the conclusion — of all of them — there wasn’t a thing the matter with him. Not that they could see. He just was — now. I suppose that was fine. He used to be a miserable type cuss. Now he was happy. With a little luck it would be infectious, not too much, just a little. The world could use it.
The world. This teeny-weeny little speck in all this entire vast cosmos. It was so apparent now as our glassy eyes tried to encompass infinity and that nickel meteor from deep space that made a deep hole.
Now, as I expressed earlier, I wasn’t the intelligent one in the family, not like my Mensa brother. He had really Mensa-strated. His brain cells were all fast-twitch muscle fibre — so to speak. My brain was all slow-twitch, that is except for my auxiliary brain. That was the small brain contained in my tongue, which was all super-fast-twitch cells. My tongue acted like it had a mind of its own, because it did. Enough excuses. I guess it was staring up at that pure night sky, unadulterated by light, or smog, or thousands of years of civilization. Here is what I blurted out to the Doc. “So I hear you were looking for the God Particle.”
Jerking up to the edge of his Muskoka chair he clasped my wrist with a surprising grip, considering his flabby arms. I could easily make out his eyes in the bright starlight and they took on a gravity to them. Then he spoke. He spoke in a voice crisp and clear as the night air. This is what he said, “Found.” A short pause and he repeated with added conviction, “Found.” Then his voice raised an octave and he said near musically, “This I know. This I know.” His eyes glittered more brilliantly than all the stars in the bright night sky, and his smile broadened until I was afraid it was going to meet up in the back of his head, and he lowered his tone an octave and said so delightfully, so absolutely, so contentedly, “Loves us so.” His pitch dropped a decibel as he repeated assuredly, “Loves us so.” Then he leaned back in the Muskoka chair and sipped his drink again.
I gulped mine all down. Then I went inside and poured myself a good-sized neat Islay Laphroaig single malt scotch, quarter cask, one drop spring water, and tossed it back, and poured another to sip.
Back outside we sat silent late into the night, till I said we best get to bed.
As far as I know, and I do know, Doc Daniels, never said another word. He just smiled with a secret knowledge.
Eventually I told my brother Ambrose. Yet we never mentioned it to another soul. We never even told our respective wives, Hermione and Eloise. What was there to tell?
We often went to visit Doc Daniels at his home where he domestically looked after himself. Other affairs were held in trust. Our visits consisted primarily of us watching him smiling happily and we — we wondered.
Ambrose and I continue going to the Hartley Bay Club on the French River. After all — it is God’s country.