When the Eastern forests of the North perform their dazzling dance of colour as Winter approaches and the Snowbird is up and away, human beings and animals acknowledge the occasion by observing traditional customs in accordance with Nature’s Plan.
An example of this occurred in the Ottawa area. It all began when The Honeyman approached the front door of the small downtown house of his old, old friend, The Real Article and his wife, The War Department.
He shivered in the cold November wind and wished he’d never left his dirty little trailer by the river.
His dog, Go’Way!, braced by the cool air but resentful about being dragged into the city and away from the beach and the yacht club where he scavenged a daily harvest of dog victuals, paused to deposit a grumpy intestinal objection in the middle of the walk which led to The Real Article’s front door.
The Honeyman was concerned that their welcome might be worn out before they arrived and kicked the offending object off the walk.
He reassured himself with a quick pocket check for the presence of tobacco, honey-whiskey, and honey, knocked on the door.
Thus continuing a tradition of reunions which he and his old, old friend had established when they met pursuing Dutch girls while the rest of the world was chasing Germans across Holland.
Reunions which continued through battles with frostbite and venereal disease in Korea and were observed with less frequency once the pair became separated on The Rubby Route in Western Canada.
In the latter days it had taken The Real Article several reunions in single men’s hostels, seedy bars and fleabag hotels to adjust. When he encountered The Honeyman he had to deal with Go’Way! too.
The dog was just a pup then and suffered repeated nauseating attacks of dizziness caused by his performance of a series of stutter step starts and stops because The Real Article invariably greeted him by yelling, “Go’Way!, C’Mere!” or, worse, “C’Mere, Go’Way!”.
The Real Article was dressed, as usual at four in the afternoon, in his lime green terry cloth dressing gown and rubber boots. The latter acquired from a late night garbage can and handy for keeping the feet dry in the soggy living room which suffered occasional floods in the wetter seasons.
The old, old friends greeted each other with jocular salutations in the vein of,
“Y’ole bugger, yuh never looked worse!”
“It’s a wonder yer not dead or in the can!” while they punched arms, faked head butts and knees to the crotch.
Go’Way! affected his usual show of emotion upon seeing The Real Article by tearing off a piece of terry cloth sleeve and further shredding the bottom of The Honeyman’s coat.
The separation had been long and this, combined with The Real Article’s tendency to repeat things after his first sexual encounter with The War Department in the back seat of a Voyageur bus, let the occasion overwhelm him, causing him to yell, “Go’Way!, Go’Way!” at Go’Way!
Naturally, the dog responded with increased affection by demonstrating his famous Large Cat Attack impression. He jumped up and down three times, wrapped himself around The Real Article’s neck, like a mink stole.
The Honeyman calmly removed Go’Way! by yanking on his tail and commanding in firm tones, “C’Mere, C’Mere, Geddown, Go’Way!” while thrusting his other hand deep into one of his raincoat pockets.
To which Go’Way! responded by descending in a leap. On the way down, he snatched a small fish from The Honeyman’s hand.
The old, old friends repaired to the living room to recline on orange crates in front of a large t.v. screen as Go’Way! discovered the remains of a half eaten anchovie and pineapple pizza among a flotilla of boxes and packages on a puddle.
He reminisced about his riverside home by rolling in the pizza, ignoring the old, old friends as they toasted each other and the world in general with a bottle of The Honeyman’s Special Spatial Honey Brew.
Hoisting his used MacDonald’s milkshake container, The Real Article smacked his lips, licked his moustaches and offered up a traditional toast,
to which The Honeyman replied,
“Up yer Geester fer Easter!”
to which The Real Article rejoined,
“Up yer nose with a rubber hose!”
And all these tried and true toasts were followed by noisy guzzling and other memorable salutes like,
“Up alla them!”
“Up, up and away!”
Which they were, by the time they detected a loud roaring emanating from another room followed by the appearance through a door of a cascade of chocolate bar wrappers, apple cores and a Laura Secord box.
Go’Way! barely acknowledged this commotion, finding himself in the midst of a floating canine smorgasbord featuring a selection of boxes and containers drifting in all directions.
He produced a tidal action by flopping his tail. This caused the remnants of Chinese, Italian, and Indian takeout meals to pass gently under his nose for sampling.
But his moveable feast was disrupted when an empty sugar bowl propelled from the other room struck him on the snout just as he was about to test the flavour of a passing container of mouldy Moo Goo Guy Kew.
The Real Article, realizing that the distant hubbub signified The War Department’s uncanny ability to detect the supper hour and her suspicion of a lack of attentiveness on his part, signalled The Honeyman to follow him into his wife’s presence.
Which he did. Cautiously. In case of a continuation of the barrage.
Straightening his tuft of red hair, extracting a bottle of Very Special Buckwheat Honey from his raincoat, smiling the irresistible, brown toothed smile which had earned him his name long before he entered the bee products business.
The War Department had her gigantic bulk perched daintily upon a huge waterbed, parts of which were indistinguishable from her own corporate entity. Her purple hair grappled in agonizing clinches with lime green curlers. Her breath was bellicose, her bellow bull-like.
The Real Article performed formal, if hurried, introductions, dodging hard buns and several plastic knives sent in his direction by the spouse he called Petal in intimate moments.
The Honeyman bowed and proffered his bottle of Special Buckwheat Honey before ducking behind a cardboard dresser to avoid a semi-fresh chocolate drink whipped with a wicked sidearm motion by The War Department who was in full cry,
“Where’s supper?…Who’s this?…
Whatcha good for?…What kinda name is Go’Way?”
Triggering an enthusiastic response by Go’Way! which landed him on the waterbed and spilled the Special Buckwheat Honey all over the pile of Saltine crackers spread out on The War Department’s lap.
Causing her renewed roaring and lashing about which sent waves throughout the bed and catapulted Go’Way!, who now resembled a tar and feather victim of the good ole days, back into the living room, but allowed The Honeyman to edge into the open to continue his litany of smooth talk and compliments while he fished around for another bottle of Special Spatial Brew.
And this stratagem seemed to do the trick.
For The War Department’s bellowing subsided when they ploughed through the second bottle. The flow of foodstuffs aimed at them dwindled as she realized that her husband and his old, old friend were experiencing far too much ecstasy of the mind to do anything about getting her supper.
A problem she solved immediately, after washing down the last of the honey soaked crackers with the dregs of the Special Spatial Brew, by announcing that they would all go out on the town.
To The Lafayette Tavern. In the heart of the Byward Market.
Through which she and the cracker covered Go’Way! marched ahead of the old, old friends, the dog biting tourists and shoppers protectively when they objected to his new found friend roaring at them and hitting them with hands full of the breadcrumbs which she carried in her large purse.
While the old, old friends watched them affectionately, content to tag along behind, and, in the spirit of reunion, play one of their old Rubby Route jokes on the well heeled customers of a fancy tea room. Wherein The Real Article picked his nose and held up his finger to the light to examine the results as The Honeyman produced a syncopated rhythm of loud belches with flatulent accents and a seductive wink for the ladies over whose table they were standing.
And the pair were already out the door, strolling with a chuckle, toward the next trendy spot to repeat their little prank, by the time waiters and management were summoned to comfort their distressed customers.
At The Lafayette Tavern, The War Department and Go’Way! were strategically positioned in a corner table with another couple, The Stunned Rock and his wife, The Wayward Incident, when the old, old friends arrived to join them and order quarts of beer and microwaved onion and cheese sandwiches.
The first were consumed and being replaced by their waiter, The Nose, when two more old cronies of The Real Article arrived, just finished their appointed rounds of delivering beer in a Brewer’s Retail truck, Old Bargie and The S Turn.
Who were veterans of The Rubby Route of Eastern Canada and joined the table, soon consuming enough of their own product to be persuaded to perform the trick they were famous for all the way to Newfoundland, the eating of the mugs and bottles which had contained their beer.
This display had earned them a pretty penny in their younger, gambling days but was now reserved exclusively for entertainment at gatherings of old friends and family and religious holidays.
Old Bargie learned the trick in a dream and The S Turn learned it from his father, The U Turn, who likewise learned it from his father, The Hairpin Turn, and so on, even unto the first generation. The War Department, in her cups and pleased to be conducting such an interesting tour of the attractions of the nation’s capital, launched into a jolly harangue of the rest of the customers who remained polite until she began to punctuate her discourse by flinging fists full of breadcrumbs and uneaten quart bottles at them and prodding Go’Way until he attacked several of the more vociferous complainants.
By the time The Nose arrived to protest what he termed “antisocial shenanigans” and demand payment for the missing bottles and glasses, The Honeyman had established a warm camaraderie with The Stunned Rock, The Wayward Incident, Old Bargie and The S Turn, treating them to a taste of Special Spatial Brew.
The Real Article sat back contentedly, pondering the simple pleasures to be found in the gathering of small groups of friends and their pets.
But exception was taken to The Nose’s interference and lack of service and a hell of a brawl commenced during which the group acquitted itself admirably, the majority hiding behind The War Department and Go’Way! who were on the front line.
Fortunately, all but the drunkest of enraged customers and most determined of the staff were sufficiently wary of Go’Way!’s painful nips and the whirring purse and ear splitting battle cry of The War Department to keep a prudent distance. Except for one unfortunate waiter who later likened The War Department to a Sumo wrestler on speed and venturing too close in trying to hit her with an oar, was caught up in The Bear Hug of Infinite Sorrow.
From which he escaped only when The War Department noticed an innocent and terrified third party knocking over her quart in an attempt to vacate the premises with Go’Way! attached to his Achilles tendon.
The Real Article spied the manager heading for the phone, presumably to summon the local constabulary. The group fought its way to the front door, piled into the Brewer’s Retail truck, made good their escape.
In the direction of the trailer down by the river. The Honeyman and his bottomless pockets acting as navigator for The S Turn in the cab, the rest sprawled in the back, happily pillaging the province’s liquid property.
The plan was to stop by The Honeyman’s home long enough to pick up a supply of Special Spatial Brew and honey and go touring. But it was forgotten when they arrived and soon deteriorated into a celebration of the departure of Autumn, the arrival of Winter, Remembrance Day, and an epiphany experienced by The Stunned Rock who swore he had been granted a visitation by The Powers while peeing outside the trailer and looking up into the star filled sky.
The War Department shook the little trailer to its foundations as she roaringly took on all comers at leg wrestling.
Old Bargie and The S Turn gobbled up the few glasses in the kitchen while The Wayward Incident served up large portions of beans and cabbage.
Go’Way! scavenged happily on the dark beach.
The old, old friends kept a sharp eye on The Stunned Rock in case, as often happened to susceptible Special Spatial Brew drinkers, he had a revelation.
And they were not surprised to be rewarded.
After The War Department despatched him through the window at the end of the trailer with a triumphant hoot and a lightning leg hook.
For by the time they found him, he had climbed onto the roof of the trailer and was declaring prophetically that they should depart to follow the Star of the East.
Which they did after they adhered to the established routine of old, old friends’ reunions and burned down the trailer, The Honeyman miffed at his shortsightedness in allowing the group to end up at his place, making him last host of the night and, according to ancient reunion rules, obligating him to provide his abode for the burnt sacrifice.
So it was, that they loaded up the Brewer’s Retail truck with supplies of honey whiskey, honey, fish for Go’Way!, a pile of beans and cabbage, made a side trip to store The Honeyman’s beehives in the deserted yacht club, and set out for the East Coast. Following whatever star happened to appear above the road when they looked up.
With the New Plan. To descend upon other old, old friends and continue the customary celebration all the way to The Atlantic.
This was not an exception to the rule that the reunions of The Real Article and The Honeyman invariably concluded with rousing traditional choruses in accordance with Nature’s Plan.
For many an Autumn dog walker and suburban leaf raker has since turned a puzzled head, in the Eastern Canadian evening, at the sound of an invisible choir roaring and barking the harmonies of “Up, Up and Away” when the only apparent activity in his quiet street was a lone Brewer’s Retail truck trundling along in the direction of The Dawn.