There's been another serious economic downturn. Imagine that. And of course, the local real estate market and new home building industry have both suffered terribly. And additionally, the once vibrant car manufacturing and automotive parts industries that at one time employed so many us both directly and indirectly - they too, have also made a serious retreat. Thus, the once slightly upscale, satellite community of Peters Corners has become a human desert of sorts. Now, there are only three remaining homes that are still occupied left on Jake's court and that too, is counting his own.
And guess what? It's all about to change. And not in any way that one would expect it to. Sweet Anomalies is a story of chance, accident, fate, serendipity, and happenstance and all of it - set in modern day Ontario.
And so, it has been a challenging couple of years of late for the novel's narrator who is just sixty years young and justly: a little cranky these days - what with his unplanned early retirement and the untimely death of his beloved wife Julie just two years past now, and who by the way, he still talks with when he feels the need for such or perhaps more often than not after imbibing in a few too many drinks when he finds himself feeling a bit lonely. But nonetheless, the few friends and neighbours that are still left in Peters Corners - they seem to keep Jake engaged in his life - if only his crazy world would just cooperate more.
“I’ve got to be good. I’ve got to be nice.”
I whisper this through almost pursed lips as I gaze dutifully out the master bedroom’s east window. Dawn is just an hour old this late May morn and I survey as I do every day and in fact many times each day a vista of mostly vacant homes. Acres and acres of them spread out till they appear to drop off the edge of the earth or so it seems just as if I was an ancient mariner back in flat-earth times.
I’ve got to be good and I’ve got to be nice because there’s been more than thirty years work invested in me that I swore at my dying wife’s bedside that I wouldn’t let become undone.
“Julie. My Juliet.”
It’s now been near two years and yet I still feel like a lost child without you. I wander about this empty house like a mature, spoiled brat who’s been given a grim reality check and now fends for himself.
She didn’t wipe my nose or my ass, but she was a skilled captain nonetheless, with all things pertaining to manners, humility, and in general: good humanity. She was far more correct in the judgement of people than I. She could sense the fear within the frail, the cowardice in the bully and yet at the same time understand intuitively the joy of all things human. Regrettably, something that logic has always stood in the way of for me.
I can still hear her – like she was standing next to me:
I grinned a little into the pale heat of the sunlight that poured tepidly into the bedroom in agreement with her.
How can I argue? She’s not here and yet I hear her speak whenever I feel the need to hear her steady advice. She was such a skilled manipulator of my mood and temperament when she was alive and at moments now, - when needed. And yet still, -she’s my sturdy rock to cling to when the seas become rough, so to speak. I miss my Julie, so!
Downstairs, I visit the front window in the living room. It’s my favourite; there’s so much more to see from here than the acres and acres of roof tops and overgrown yards from upstairs. Across the street he sits, - portly, unkempt and balding; and he’s just a young fifty-nine compared to my sixty years of age. What a waste. The drunken sot has gone and lowered the red and white to half mast; I know what that means: another hero of his is gone – and they’re almost always old, legendary rock stars. They’ve been dropping like flies of late, but they were great lights nonetheless when they were young, and now they shimmer no more.
He’s hung over as I am I suppose. We had words last night; I couldn’t hear my late wife’s voice for all his noise from across the street. He knows what I do on Friday nights! Anyways, he lifts his head, gets up wobbly and onto his feet and swings his arm as best he can and tosses from his porch to my front lawn: an empty beer bottle, gives me two fingers, turns on his feet and goes into his house.
That’s my friend Eugene. Eugene Muholland, and he’s a bastard just like me. We can only hope that he’s not gone to sleep yet rather than just arisen from a drunken slumber; his usual routine.
I collect the beer bottle from the lawn and place it in a blue bin that never gets collected; I have to take it to the transfer station myself since the service was discontinued along with garbage collection, fire protection, postal service, - and the list goes on. There are just three occupied homes to speak of nearby: mine, Eugene’s and a home near the entrance of our court – owned by her father but occupied by his unmarried daughter, a single mother: Lilly and her young son Peter – or Sweet Pea as we like to call him.
An enormous, black, Japanese built SUV arrives on the court. It circles the dusty court as it always does and stops just out front of Sweet Pea’s house.