THURSDAY: Satellite

BY LARRY BROWN

Larry Brown lives in Brantford, ON. Copyright is held by the author.

MY FATHER’S new slippers arrive by courier. Prescription, equipped with the latest TrueStride and SootheTouch features. The slippers, virtually a pair of living things — sensors monitor skin tone, texture and temperature and adjust stimulation levels accordingly, for just one example — must be activated by satellite before being worn. My father signs the waiver —i n rare cases involving the slippers, permanent foot discolouration has occurred — and overnights it to a Smallwood Street  address in Venice. Venice, Newfoundland.

The next day, a Warren from ARX Laboratories Inc. in Venice calls to talk slippers. My father listens, reading glasses on but eyes closed for concentration. When he hangs up, his face is flushed.

My mother struggles into the room, her arms full: the accordion in its padded case, her scarlet and black stage outfit in a clear garment bag, and the large suitcase along with the matching shoulder bag. Asking for help, that’s not her style.  Her band, Gdansk Gumbo — five accordions and a percussionist/dubber brewing up a twitchy, moody brand of Cajun polka — launches its first-ever tour tonight, several hours north of here at Klub Underground in Sudbury. My mother drops the suitcase to the floor, checks her watch.

“Well,”  she says.

There, says my father, placing the new slippers atop a group of bricks arranged near the easterly-facing window. Warren was quite blunt, he says, to allow for activation, stable elevation is mandatory.

I am the first in position behind the Plexiglas wall my father has rented as a precaution. He is, you see, wary of satellites. And to thwart possible exposure to space bacteria I wear a surgical mask, my beard cushioning it. For grounding purposes I stand rubber-soled on a rubber mat. I am but thirty-seven yet now my own feet tingle a good part of each day. I’m hoping it is — as my father describes many things these days — merely a phase.
Outside, a horn honks.

“That’s me,” says my mother.

Apparently, with no luggage of my own visible, I have changed my mind. It should be noted that I am the one who blurted out the idea of me filling the role of roadie/odd-jobber on the Gdansk Gumbo tour. However, I blurted without first tallying up the probable complications. Considering even a partial list of these complications is a numbing experience.

My father rocks from side to side, easing pressure on one foot then the other, his old slippers bursting with swollen feet. I then notice that my mother is looking at me. Her expression says more than I wish to know. Her expression is not one of surprise.

Another honk.

“Vera?” says my father.

Reaching for the large suitcase, my mother hesitates. The room is quiet. Outside, the diesel engine growls.

“These slippers should be the answer,” says my father.

“Don’t worry,” says my mother, “you’ll find another question.”

But I interrupt when she begins to speak to me. “Strange beds, disturbed sleeps,” I say through the surgical mask, listing one of the complications on my list. Quite frankly, she should realize that I do not take well to a hit-or-miss lifestyle.

The suitcase jumps from the floor and, along with my mother, swings out the door. The sound of the growling engine fades.

For a time, my father stands peering out the door. Then he locks it. He ties on a surgical mask. He positions himself on a separate rubber mat behind the Plexiglas. Beside him is an extra mask and mat. He pats my shoulder, and together we wait for the satellite to work its magic.

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