Confederation Odyssey

by John Bourne

back home submission info discussion

First Month

Angel, as misguided as you may be, calling
epiphany - time for my pilgrimage, my discovery
walkabout, circumcision, buffalo hunt, voyage.
Beckoning, a new frontier, and I must go
like my ancestors in search of Vineland, the New
World, the Spice Trail.
Ocean dividing, away I said, so naïve
sights set on distant alien shore
neither map nor compass have I, just
hope and illusion.
Alone I am, burdening nobody else
with my journey; cold upon the bridge
of two different worlds.
Black, unknown, countless days and nights
bobbing and heaving, up and down,
soaked and dried, soaked and dried
the arrogance of young men fawning
my expectations.
A stranger I met in an old pub
in an old town
parted with the information for the
cost of a cold draught.
Making its way through the rumour mill, for those of us always searching. Seems some people reckon there be a new land, a new country with the queerest people you ever did see. Quite uncivilized, in fact. Nobody has yet made the odyssey across, only viewed it from afar. And all those strange tales! Just follow the Northern Lights west and pray for the best. Believe you me, this news is worth its weight in gold. Thevillage, that's the name. They call this land Thevillage. Pourdrinkgulpourdrinkgulpourdrink........
Decision. Away.

*    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    * 

       Land Ho! Deprivation, exhaustion, dehydration, scurvy, hunger, seasickness, hypothermia, hallucinations, evil spirits, Neptune, loneliness, capsizing, white squalls, seagulls, and other undiscovered afflictions hath I suffered. I hath lost count of days, but now spot land in the distance. Thevillage, I have no doubt. I am so overjoyed, I must quell my urge to jump out and swim. Alone, into the unknown. Glory is mine.
*    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *
Harbour, grand and inviting, silent
as if no longer used
no welcome, no objections, no questions
I land unnoticed.
Bustling and vibrant, how average and
civilized this strange city seems.
A hill overlooks the town, sending signals
mysterious and deified
Chez-Chez feeds the city, fresh
downtown. Water and George, George and Water
crowds, laughter, music and pubs.
Unfounded was my fear to not find a friendly face.
Tell me, say I, doth I find myself in Thevillage?.
Aye, but one part, say they, and she be the fairest part of all.
Explain, beg I.
Thevillage but ten parts and then some, really. She be ten different
nations forced into one, bejesus, and we not likes it a bit, say they. So where am I now?, ask I.
You be in the city of Sinjinz, nation of Newroque. An island, really,
still a ways from the mainland. Mainlanders be queer, b'y, better stay
put, say they, and so noted.
Sinjinz, harbour city Duckworth standing
on corners, idle searching, displaced.
no jobs, no jobs, no jobs. That is what
they chant, angrily, methodically.
Pub, store, pub, pub, caf', pub, pub, pub, store........
Enter pub. Brown wood walls and fishing
decorations, quaint, and a bar in the centre.
Walk around it, jig around it, twice, thrice,
with a black horse, home brewed ale.
One please, say I, and I receive two.
Happy hour, say he, and ring the bell.
Singing, cheers, music, only four more hours
until happy hour ends.
You be from away, b'y, say they
upon two more ale.
Indeed, say I, feeling piqued, just like a black horse.
Two more indeed.
Be time for a screechin', shout they, A screechin!
Stop the music, ring the bell, ring the bell.
A stranger in town, time for a celebration.
Fish. Bring the fish, bring the fish
kiss the cod. Kiss. Again.
Ring the bell, ring the bell.
Black, potent liquid. Pour. Ring the bell.
Drink. Pour. Drink. Again......Again.......
Ring the bell, ring the bell.
Honourary. You be an honourary citizen. Now, ye always be welcome in
Newroque, say they. Ring the bell.
Music. Time to dance, time to sing
jig around the bar, around
again, again.........
*    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *
So, the leader of Newroque is the Premier
and everyday he makes a speech in George and Water Square
fervent are his speeches when morale is low
upon his grandstand he is perched
as I stumble back down from the pub
Times are tough, I know, say he, but there be a burning light at the end
of our tunnel. Trust me, and you will suffer no more. After all, 'twas I
who shot the Espanioles out of our water!
Yeah!, shout the crowd, 'twas you.
And after all, 'twas I who threatened to pull the plug, turn out the
lights in Thevillage!, shout he.
Yeah!, shout the crowd, 'twas you.
And 'twill be I who will lead you into the future. The rest of Thevillage wants to take our identity, take our jobs. Well, not while I'm around, bejesus. They tempt us into moving to the mainland, so they can come and exploit our island, our resources, our music, our culture. Well, not while I'm around. Let them come. I dare them, because I'm ready for a good fight.
Cheers, pose. Sneer. Cheer, pose. Chant.
Rumblings from somewhere in the crowd. Discontent.
We want jobs! We want jobs!, shout they.
Only then were my eyes opened in realization
hundreds, thousands of idle people
lost, desperate looks, hungry for something
loss of pride and dignity; identity and change
industry gone resources gone self-worth gone.
The Premier smiles, squirming and dancing.
Yes, jobs. Of course. Right after we shoot the Miguks out of our water!,
shout he.
Half cheer. Pose. More rumblings.
We want jobs! We want jobs!, shout they.
Squirm. Pose. Wave, wave, clap.
Yes, jobs. It's Miguks and the Mainlanders who are stealing our jobs.
It's their fault. Let's get 'em! Let's get our jobs back!, shout he.
Scattered cheers. Anger, frustration, fist, fist, shout.
Down from the grandstand steps the Premier
wave smile run and hide. And the
crowd remains.
We want jobs! We want jobs!, shout they
and the Premier hides in his castle
somewhere in Sinjinz.
*    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *
       Several days and nights I hath spent in Sinjinz, becoming acquainted with the culture, customs and dialect of Newroque. An opportunity hath arisen! A chance to explore other parts of the island. 'Tis a driver downtown who has let me ride along on his next run out yonder, into the west of the nation. Nice chap, fairly civilized, and quite pleased to have a job. We shall away at sunrise tomorrow.
*    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *
Sinjinz now lay long behind, wonder if
we shall ever see her again?
How green and empty Newroque seems
bumping along its single road
an island so vast and desolate; lonely
and isolated. No towns, really, just
villages and hamlets. Simple places.
Where are we heading?, ask I, to my companion, whose mouth hitherto had
not stopped talking.
She be a small town, west and central. Her name be
Placentiavalonbeothukhiberniatwillingatelabrador, say he, without
tripping his tongue.
Eh? Seems like an odd name, say I.
'Tis, but it used to be different, b'y, say he, 'twas many different towns, but the Premier made them amalgamate, so they all be fighting about the name since ain't nobody who wants to gives up their own, so they just put them all together.
And so it was that we pulled into
or at least one part of it.
Small little town, colourful little cottages
pink green and blue. All eyes focused
on the runner and I.
News of any jobs?, ask they, Anywhere, north, south or east?
Not a word, say the Runner.
Murmurmurmur. Gasp. Curse.
Decide to explore. Co-op, post office, store,
lighthouse, place of worship.
You're not from around here, eh b'y?, say an old man standing three
metres behind.
No, say I, and say no more.
Me too. Kind of a makeshift town, really, set up after resettlement, say he.
Resettlement?, ask I.
Sure. Ain't a single person in
that was actually born here. New place, new name.
Why?, ask I, curious.
Because the King on the mainland say so, so we be resettled. No
questions, no argument, say he raising his voice, spitting.
King on the mainland, eh? Who is this King?, ask I
dangerously close to vulnerability.
Ain't nobody actually seen the King, say he, only hear about Him and obey his law. But there be rumblings from the young ones nowadays. Not everybody be happy, b'y. Bugger be that hangashore ain't never seen a skiff!, say he, kicking dirt.
Away he goes
cursing and limping, punching at the air.
*    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

Resettlement Declaration

       By order of His Majesty, the King, all citizens of Newroque habitating in towns, cities, villages, hamlets, municipalities, etc., which are deemed unfit by the Crown shall immediately be resettled onto Reserve Towns established by the government of Newroque with the consent of his Majesty. Articles to be left behind are as follows: your home, land, tools, cattle, animals, dignity, hope, identity and history. Any opposition to this declaration will result in humiliation, ridicule, and severe deprivation to the opposing party.

*    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

       I stayed behind in Placentiavalonbeothukhiberniatwillingatelabrador, educating myself regarding the plight of these people. Tales of hardship caused by unemployment, poverty and isolation are spun throughout the village. What I find fascinating is how these people still manage to keep their spirits soaring and their demeanour amicable. Countless days we hath sung, danced, drank and exchanged stories. It would seem that Thevillage is so vast and huge that I hath barely scratched the surface by exploring this island. It would also appear that Thevillage consists of several different tribes, each one distinct; and although they hath formed an alliance of sorts, they are all still at odds with each other. I must get to the mainland, yet I fear that my vessel back in Sinjinz is either incapacitated or relocated. Other means must be utilized.

It hath been my great fortune to befriend a friendly chap here in town who agreed to guide me to the west coast of the island, wherein there is a reputedly magnificent mountain. His name is Ourjoey, and he seems intent on showing me the town of his birth. We away at sunrise tomorrow.

*    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

Grande Mountain, peaking out from the coast
guarding the island, silent.
Cold, in fact, so alone and apart wielding in the line of humility
constant, the heritage of oppression
kicking and screaming into the unknown.
The horizon lay obscured by the
stranger in its presence.
There she be, b'y, say Ourjoey, twinkle in his tired eyes.
And indeed, there she was.
The biggest mountain on this island, say he, looking past the mountain now.
I see, say I, soft in admiration.
Used to be the centre of life, say he, angry, Used to be lots of people depending on that mountain, b'y.
For what?, say I, ignorant.
Inspiration, hope, dreams, pride......., say he, trailing off into the recess of sadness. I'll show you where I'se was born, say he leading the way.
Up and down, up and down, over the
trails, through the streams, through
the past. Ghosts. Stop.
There she be, b'y, say he, pointing, The town of Domol.
Trees, thick in this forest; brush overgrown
hiding, obscuring the clues. Nothing.
No life, no buildings, no signs.
She be quite a logging community at one time, say he, smiling. Over there be my parents house, and just past it is the hospital where I was born. And down the street is where I used to go to school.......
Pointing, dreaming, illusions. A laugh,
a sigh, silence. Emptiness.

*    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

       I left Ourjoey alone in the forest with his memories. Several days and nights I hath spent as a vagrant, roaming up and down the west coast of Newroque, visiting towns and communities, listening to their stories. Ho! Some ghost towns! Strange along such a vibrant shoreline, mysteries laying dormant in the minds of the people who once inhabited these places, whereforever they may be now.

'Twas along a lonely stretch of coast, I came across a fisherman preparing to cross the strait. A lift was offered to what he called Red Island; a tiny island near the mainland, and one of the ten nations of Thevillage. A warning was issued to me - Red Island would be different than Newroque. I had better be prepared for a change. We away at sunrise.

copyright John Bourne - 1998
John Bourne is a writer from Holland Landing, Ontario. He has written many stories and articles exploring the issues of Canadian identity. Having lived and travelled all over the world, John is now certain that the most vibrant and exciting cities are right here in Canada. This piece is an excerpt from his novel Confederation Odyssey.