Tuesday, July 14, 2009

In Canada (II of VIII)




“You’ll be here for the eggs?” It was an old woman, grey hair, pink face.

“Yes”, I said. “Eggs”.

“You’ll be from the new houses”, she said.

“Yes”, I said, “that’s right.”

There was a pause. She examined my face. I had to suppress a giggle: it seemed a peculiar process to go through to purchase eggs. I’d seen hand written sign down at the bottom of their drive, then followed a track up tot the farmhouse. The yard was strangely silent and I’d felt this sense of awkwardness as I knocked on the wooden door.

“Well”, she said, suddenly exasperated, “What are you doing standing there. Come in.”

I followed her into a kitchen, a dog looked up for it s basket, came over to greet me- limping on here legs only, then returned to its wicker bed.

“Wait there”, said the woman, I noticed that she too was limping. She looked back for an instant, “how many do you want?”

“How many what?” I thought, puzzled- she sensed that and, surely believing me a idiot, said loudly, “eggs, how many eggs?” She spoke the word “eggs” with a plaintive drawl.

“Oh, just a dozen,” I answered.

“You’re not from here?”

“No,” I said.

“No-one is,” she replied, passing me the eggs in a carrier bag. “Still,” she continued with a laugh, “the more they come, the more eggs I sell.”

*

Coming back down the hill the orderliness of the houses in the surrounding countryside became starkly obvious and it took me a moment to pick out my own rented place from the other identical houses.

Reaching the smooth tarmac of my street, I saw my nieghbour from across the road who was just entering his, identical dwelling opposite mine. I gave him a wave.

“Got any beer there?” He shouted.

“Eggs,” I replied, though I don’t think he heard: he disappeared inside.

I went inside too. I put the eggs in the fridge then sat down. Very quiet.

I tried to watch TV and could for a while, then I worked on an article. A couple of hours passed. Then I got bored and took to staring out the window.

There was a van parked in the street. Usually that was prohibited. Or was it just rare? It was so hard to figure out what was prohibited and what was just uncommon. Canadians were guarded, they had many rules, but they did not mention them. They did not mention them, I thought, because they did not want to appear intolerant.

Anyway, I saw the van there, and though it was late afternoon. I went out to look more closely. It was that sort of place; there were so few irregularities that even a parked van raised suspicions.

I approached the van. The window of the van would down slowly, then a face poked out, a face with a cigarette protruding from it.

It was the guy from across the road. I hadn’t recognized the van.

“Hey, you got a light?”

It was the man from across the road.

“I don’t have a light,” I said, “I’m sorry.”

Wife kicked me out,” he said in a matter of fact way.

“Really, that’s terrible.”

“She doesn’t like it when I drink,” he said, matter-of-factly

“Oh,” I said.

“You not from here?”

“No,” I said.

“No one’s from here,” he said. “You got some beer in this afternoon?”

“They were eggs,” I said.

“Man, I’d die for an omelette. “

I laughed.

“I still got some beer,” he said. “I keep a store here so the wife can’t find it, and he pointed under the seat.”

“You’re very wise,” I said.

“Sure,” he said, “ ‘t’s called learning from experience.”

He gave a big sigh. “So I got the beer, you got the eggs, your place for dinner??”

I’d made my first Canadian friend. His name was Joe.

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