Excerpt for Canadian Cannabis on Ice by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

Canadian Cannabis On Ice




By


Ricardo Aardal





©2017




ONE



“You’re nothing but goose meat!” Will Babchuk fired back at his older cousin, Eddy Babchuk, who was also my oldest brother. A Babchuk family showdown in the snow played out as Will and Brandy from one branch of the Babchuk family, and Eddy and myself from another branch, stood in a circle of anger, shivering in the Canadian winter cold on Jan. 1, 1975.

With a cool move, Eddy flipped out a comb, slicking back his black hair in the identical manner Fonzie did on the new hit TV show Happy Days. Eddy’s hair meant the world to him, and that hair had to be perfect. “Ay cousin Will, I’ve kicked your ass since you were five.” Eddy slipped the comb back in his pocket, clinching and unclenching his fists. “And I’ll do it again!”

“Stop,” my spirited cousin Brandy Babchuk stepped in between a 20 year old Will and a 25 year old Eddy, attempting to prevent the fight.

“Ay, piss off!” The six foot Eddy shoved Brandy aside. Whack! He drilled the short stocky Will in the nose. Thud! He followed up by a hard kick in the balls.

This New Year's Day family fight unfolded at a place called Fishing Lake, Saskatchewan in the heart of the Canadian prairies. Fishing Lake was a small resort twelve miles from the bustling town of Foam Lake, where both Brandy and I attended school, both of our families shopped and conducted the majority of their business. Ironically, the town named Foam Lake had no body of water. Frequently, many of their citizens made the ten minute drive to Fishing Lake, utilizing our fresh water lake and recreational facilities as if it were their exclusive playground.

My slenderly built Pa stepped out of our creaking and battered front door wearing his long underwear, glass of whiskey in one hand and shouted, “Way to go Eddy. Winner and champ as always!”

The two combatants in this one-sided bout squared off many times in the past with the identical result. The bigger and older Eddy beating up poor Will. “Take that!” Thud! Eddy kicked Will again while he laid helpless in the snow, bleeding profusely. “Never mess with me little man.”

“My family always wins,” Pa hollered.

The softball playing Brandy made a snowball quickly, throwing a perfect strike taking Pa’s whiskey glass out of his hand, splashing his precious liquor all over his dirty face. “Enjoy that, Uncle Winner!”

“Teach her a lesson Eddy,” Pa raged as he wiped himself with a torn sleeve.

Brandy followed up with another perfect strike snowball, drilling Pa squarely in the nose. She then turned to Eddy. “You are a lowlife.”

Eddy flipped her the finger and mocked his five foot four girl cousin.

In a flash, Brandy scooped up snow, letting fly with a snow missile

nailing Eddy in the head. “I’ve had enough. If you ever touch my brother again!” She marched up to Eddy, staring him in the face, poking him in the nose. “I’ll tell everyone in town who stole that snowmobile hidden behind your shed.”

Eddy reddened, lips trembling, looked in panic both ways, gulped. “Ah, I, I never stole nothing.” He turned and fled.

The feisty Brandy turned to her older brother. “Let’s go Will.” She jabbed me in the ribs playfully. “And thanks for the tip.”

I chuckled as we helped Will to his feet. “Thought my big brother was gonna piss his pants.”

Brandy and I assisted a woozy and bloody Will to their house. Will and Eddy were the oldest in their respective families, and a perfect symbol of the feud that raged on between our two Babchuk families for the past decade. All started by some never to be talked about unknown incident between my Pa and Brandy’s father who was my Uncle Gord.

What exacerbated that feud was the two Babchuk families lived directly across from each other. Actually, we shared the same narrow driveway to access our farmyards, and did that fuel the controversy. The shared 200 foot driveway opened up into a large gravel cul-de-sac like area with one farmyard on one side, the other farmyard on the other. It was as if the original area was designed to facilitate two co-operative families working together. Except, that was far from what was transpiring.

As well, both farmyards sat across the highway from the Fishing Lake resort. A tucked away park like setting, supporting a scenic crystal blue water lake with a wide variety of fish, beautiful silky sand beaches, four hundred summer cottages and a well maintained 18 hole Golf Course. The Fishing Lake resort hopped in the summer, peaceful quiet in the winter. Well, unless our two families started yapping at each other, then the war could melt all that prairie snow.

I am Pinball Babchuk, and I am now a grown man. However, back then in early January of 1975, I was a 13 year old runny nosed kid. I received my nickname, Pinball, as a little guy for I gravitated straight to any pinball machine in my vicinity. I never revealed my real name which was my Pa’s name. Why had my moron of a Pa saddled me with his name which he never revealed or utilized himself?

The 17 year old Brandy and I enjoyed a close relationship, to spite our two warring Babchuk clans. I worshiped my clever and attractive girl cousin who was 4 years older than myself, and so much cooler. Only Brandy understood her gangly uncoordinated younger cousin who lacked confidence. For everyone in my family from my lazy Pa, my know-it-all brother Eddy, my bossy sister Shirley and my sleazy sister Darcy treated me like shit. They blamed me for our mother’s death, for when I was born, sadly my mother passed in childbirth.


One hour later, I ate dinner at Brandy’s place. I spent more time in my cousin Brandy’s home than my own. Around the table her entire family savoured the delicious food, cursing Eddy and my family which amused me more than anything, as my family rated somewhere around pond scum.

“That damn Goose Meat!” Smack! Will hammered the table, still upset with my brother Eddy. His reason for referring to Eddy as Goose Meat, stemmed from a small goose barn my Pa owned, and my irritating brother's continual boasting that someday goose would be the most popular meat in the world.

“Settle down,” ordered Uncle Gord. Unfortunately, Gord Babchuk sat in a wheelchair. An accident last fall crippled the poor man. With spring three months away, his family faced a major decision.

“How we gonna make money?” Buddy inquired. He was the youngest of Uncle Gord’s children. Buddy was growing like a weed at 16 years old and was challenged in the brains department. Except, the curly haired Buddy possessed a couple of offsetting traits. First, the ladies found him irresistible. In Uncle Gord’s family, Brandy and Buddy stole all the looks, and Brandy monopolized the brains.

“We’ll farm.” A bandage wearing Will stated while filling his glass with more Pepsi, clearly the drink of choice in this house.

Brandy finished her meal, moving her plate aside. “With what?” She grabbed a hair tie, putting her long brown hair into a ponytail. “Need horsepower.”

“Damn,” Uncle Gord muttered and grimaced as the accident that crippled him, demolished their one and only tractor with no cash to replace it, and no bank to borrow them money.

“Where we gonna get the money for a new tractor?” Aunt Molly asked in a gruff tone. “And I’m not gonna go to work.” She looked at Buddy and Brandy. “You two quit school and get a job.”

“You mean like Will,” Buddy said with a smirk.

For Will was fired two weeks ago from the Chicken Farm in the neighbouring town of Wynyard. Our hometown of Foam Lake and the snooty town of Wynyard claimed to be bitter rivals. Therefore, Wynyard was never this family’s favourite place, the firing merely reinforced the point. Unfortunately, Will was wrongly terminated, not his fault, but the hard working Will suffered a slippery setup by a co-worker. Will’s good hearted personality made him vulnerable to certain types, being conned on occasion with his trusting nature involving women.

“Stupid fool!” Smack! An overweight Aunt Molly slapped Will on the arm. “And you get a job, and hold it this time.” Will turned many shades of scarlet, hanging his head in shame.

A loud chewing Buddy grabbed for the Pepsi bottle. “I’m failing everything again. Haven’t been to school in a month. So, as of now, I quit. Ye ha!”

“Girls in school will be sad,” I commented.

“Principal will be the happiest man in Foam Lake,” snickered Will. “And Buddy, keep your mouth shut when you chew.”

“Piss off little man.” Buddy said as he continued to chew with bits of food flying from his mouth.

“Settle down you two,” scolded Brandy. “I’m graduating high school this spring.” She wore that determined look of hers. “No question.” The independent girl stated she was leaving home upon graduating. However, with her Dad’s crippling accident and the family’s difficulty, she spent many hours reconsidering that statement.

“School’s stupid.” Aunt Molly snarled. She had a beautiful face, but let her body slide, and smiling never came natural to her.

Now her daughter Brandy possessed an engaging smile, lighting up many a room. She loved to flash that winning smile when her mind raced. For my charming cousin’s mind and body revved on high constantly, always thinking, always moving, always talking fast. Even way back in her early days of school, across the front of her first grade report card in big bold letters, displayed the telling message; ‘Inability to sit still!’

“So, why don’t we use that greenhouse that has sat there doing nothing for five years?” Brandy asked, leaning forward excitedly. “And go big this spring!”

Will rubbed his bruised ribs. “And all the equipment just sits in the barn. Lights, trays, lots of good stuff there.”

“That old junk,” Aunt Molly grumbled.

Uncle Gord shook his head in disgust. “Never pay. Tried it before.”

A shaggy haired Buddy, which was his standard look, speared a few perogies, reloading his plate, shoving one in his mouth while talking, “Too much work.”

One thing about Aunt Molly, she made the finest Ukrainian perogies and cabbage rolls in the country. Aunt Molly’s food melted in my mouth. I relished each mouthwatering moment at this table. For over at my house, only one person possessed any type of culinary skills, but my inactive and lethargic sister Shirley very seldom put her skills to use for anyone except herself.

The other factor that made dining at this table special was the cleanliness and aroma. Today, I smelt a vinegar scent, two days ago it was pine. Brandy kept the home spotless, managing to creatively have a pleasing scent flowing through the rooms on most days.

“Lazy Buddy.” Will leaned forward helping himself to another cabbage roll. “Hey, maybe we should use the barn. Put in some windows from the old house, and grow plants there too.”

“Great point,” the brown eyed Brandy added. “We only got one cow left in there anyway. And that cow is Will’s.” Brandy tended to look out for the shy Will. Many times she stepped into take his side. For her older brother experienced plenty of ridicule over the years in school and at home.

“Forget this greenhouse nonsense,” Commanded Uncle Gord. “Just go get jobs.”

“Come on Dad, you know how tight the jobs are right now.” Brandy winked at her father who could seldom say no to his only daughter. “If we run it right, we can do well. And maybe we’ll make enough to buy that tractor next year.”

Uncle Gord never gave in an inch even with Brandy’s smile dazzling the room. “No way.”

“Maybe I’ll go join the circus,” said Buddy. “And paint the elephant’s toenails.”

“Hey, starting the greenhouse will be like a circus.” Brandy slapped Buddy lightly. “Come on little brother, join us!”

“You’re all stupid!” Aunt Molly cried with her blood vessels ready to burst. “I’m not lifting a finger to help with any damn greenhouse.”

“You old cow,” said Buddy to his mother. “You wouldn’t lift a finger anyway.” Amazingly, Buddy was the only person who could speak to the opinionated Aunt Molly in this manner. Anyone else would have received a swat, but she maintained a soft spot for her youngest child.

“I worked like a dog in that greenhouse when we ran it years ago.” She wagged her finger at all her kids. “It was hell.” She checked herself. “Well, sometimes it was okay selling the plants. But other than that, pure hell!”

Brandy, Buddy and Will smirked as all three of Aunt Molly’s kids heard their usually brooding mother’s greenhouse story a hundred times before.

I attempted to remove some of the tension from the room and whispered, “You know, the Romanov brothers are looking to rent more land. Maybe they’ll rent your two quarters. Heard they’re paying okay.” I wrote a dollar amount on a corner of a newspaper Brandy was gazing at. “And they pay cash up front.”

“You’re brilliant Pinball!” A sparkling eyed Brandy flashed me a thank-you smile. “It’ll cover some of our more pressing bills. And give us just enough to survive on, until the greenhouse can bring in cash.”

“No damn way!” Aunt Molly removed her eyeglasses, slamming them down on the table. “Not renting to those jerks.”

Smack! Uncle Gord slapped the arm of his wheelchair. “Don’t like how they farm.”

“Well, maybe this will make the decision for us,” Brandy pulled out a bank statement. “As of yesterday, your account has $2.01.”




TWO



“She’ll never win.” Aunt Molly brushed her palms together, scattering crumbs on anyone within six feet. “Will, go get me another foot long hotdog and a large Pepsi. Load it up with sauerkraut, pickles, onions and mustard.”

Ten days since Brandy shocked the family with their financial picture. I crowded in with that cash strapped family in a jam packed Foam Lake ice hockey arena, fans hanging from the rafters. The final event of the 1975 Foam Lake Annual Winter Carnival, and the Carnival Queen was about to be announced.

Everyone wanted to witness this event. Pretty girls from all over central Saskatchewan flocked to compete for the $500 prize money. Even the nearby city of Yorkton’s TV station covered the spectacle along with a number of the neighbouring small town newspapers reporting on the crowning ceremony.

“She’s got a good chance,” I muttered.

“She’s just lucky her best friend Gabriela didn’t enter,” commented Aunt Molly. “Brandy couldn’t compete with that.”

Gabriela Lafarge seemed to have convinced many in the town of Foam Lake that she was destined for Los Angeles, California, and the good life with her looks being the ticket to that paradise. She carried herself like a beauty queen, promising everyone she’d remember them, when she lived down in the golden state. Except, Gabriela stood five foot five, a little short of model material.

Buddy crunched noisily on his chips. “Gabriela told me that Carnival Queen is nothing.”

“Told me the same,” I said. “Talked about how she’ll make more in an hour as a top model than this prize money.”

Buddy’s eyebrows shot up in surprise.“Really?” He pointed across the arena. “Hey, look at Gabriela and Cindy!”

I gazed at the two friends of Brandy, who taunted and mocked her while she stood up on the makeshift stage. The short red haired Cindy Kowalski was the mouthy member in this trio of friends. I believed the freckle faced Cindy despised her two more attractive friends, compensating by speaking louder, openly being ruder, criticizing endlessly and continually seeking out trouble. Thankfully, Brandy ignored her two friends, keeping her composure and dignity, focusing on the pageant.

In this friend trio, on many occasions Brandy played the role of odd person out. For both Gabriela and Cindy’s families perceived themselves superior to Brandy’s family. In fact, both Gabriela and Cindy perceived themselves superior to Brandy. Especially in the area of boys, for Gabriela and Cindy had been dating since eighth grade when their boy obsession began.

Gabriela and Cindy bragged and talked endlessly about their current boyfriend, switching love interests every year or so with much fan fair and drama. Ensuring to publicly announce the new boyfriend a day or two after the emotional breakup. Except, that new man had been well secured before that previous breakup commenced.

Constantly, they ridiculed Brandy about her unwillingness to join the boyfriend game, wanting to line Brandy up with some guy who was beneath them but more suitable for her. As well, whenever Gabriela and Cindy’s mothers saw Brandy, the first thing out of their busy body mouths was a question about when she would finally get a boyfriend.

Brandy was ruled out on other occasions within this friend trio. Social events such as weddings, church functions, school parties and dances, found Brandy on the outside looking in with her two friends ensuring Brandy knew how much fun and good times she had missed.

One exception occurred at a Foam Lake school dance a couple of years ago where an eager to fit in Brandy attended with the other two. The mischievous Cindy procured some booze to liven up the dance. Except, thanks to the trouble making Cindy, Brandy consumed altered alcohol, whereas the other girls drank untainted liquor. This caused a stomach pumping episode in the Foam Lake hospital for Brandy with her two friends enjoying the prank immensely. My worry, no matter what the result in this carnival, Gabriela and Cindy would ensure Brandy knew her place.

Over the public address system a voice crackled through the arena, “And the runner up in this year’s Carnival Queen pageant is Janet Burns.”

Aunt Molly laughed mockingly. “See, if Janet can only get second, Brandy’s got no chance.”

The Public address announcer continued, “And the winner of the 1975 Foam Lake Carnival Queen pageant is the beautiful Brandy Babchuk!”


The day after the pageant win a shivering Brandy, Will and I attempted to talk our uncle into selling his gas generator. “Come on Uncle Mike,” the persuasive Brandy pleaded with her favourite uncle who resided in Foam Lake.

A bitterly cold day as we hovered around that sizeable machine half buried in snow. Poor Brandy, really needed a decent coat for this cold weather, but all her money was being funnelled into the business. I tagged along for the ride, for if they were successful, I would assist them to load it on the truck.

Also, I loved spending time with Uncle Mike. The thoughtful Mike Babchuk introduced me to good books, introduced me to enlightening radio and TV programs, and taught me how to play chess. Excitedly, once a week he and I duelled over his marble chess board.

“Sorry kids,” Uncle Mike said.

“But you never use the generator,” stated Will.

Uncle Mike shrugged his shoulders. “I might.”

Will kicked the generator lightly. “Damn thing needs fixing.” Will was beginning the negotiation process already.

“And you know how I’ll have to ride Buddy,” Brandy said with her teeth chattering. The second gift Buddy possessed was the ability to fix anything mechanical. Except, the skill he lacked was to actually complete any size task. His older sister seemed to be the only one who could motivate him to focus long enough to successfully reach the end of a job.

Uncle Mike gazed down sheepishly. “Besides your parents ordered me not to sell it to you.” He took a long breath. “In fact your Mom got right nasty.” He assumed a look of terror. “And her and I don’t get along at the best of times.”

“Please Uncle Mike!” Brandy begged. “The electrical costs will kill us if we don’t have a gas generator.”

“True enough,” responded Uncle Mike. “The electrical bills from the Saskatchewan Power Company were one of the things that did your Mom and Dad in when they ran the greenhouse.”

Brandy fidgeted. “It’s worth so much to us!”

I noticed her expressive eyes beginning to show panic as if this mission was tanking quickly, so I suggested, “You know Uncle Mike, maybe once in a while Brandy could drop some of her delicious healthy cookies to make up the difference in price. And ease the storm Aunt Molly will send your way.”

“Great idea Pinball,” exclaimed Brandy. For the confirmed bachelor lived a healthy lifestyle. The redneck town of Foam Lake made fun of his eating patterns, his walking and meditating. Except, he looked twenty years younger than his age.

Uncle Mike assumed a sad expression, jamming his quivering red hands in his pockets. “Aw, kids I’d love to sell it to you. But if your Mom knew we were even talking about it.”

“Damn!” Will shrank as he kicked the snow. “That witch!”

“Please, please Uncle Mike,” implored Brandy with desperation in her voice.

“Just can’t sell it,” Uncle Mike said in his soft spoken tone. “But if you kids took it when I wasn’t looking; sneak it in when your parents aren’t home and set it up before they even know.” He looked at Brandy and smiled. “I consider myself an okay cook. But I can’t come close to those healthy treats. So, I want no money, but I want a batch of those yummy cookies once a month.”


Will, Buddy, a freezing Brandy and myself worked like slaves the next week preparing the greenhouse and converted barn. Every day after school Brandy and I joined Will and Buddy, rolling up our sleeves, tackling whatever required doing. Whenever Brandy entered the greenhouse, she injected a certain vibrancy which seemed to rejuvenate and refocus her often arguing brothers.

Each day after school when Brandy and I joined the boys, swearing greeted us, some minor dispute turned nasty. Many times the spark that started the disagreement was whether Chevy or Ford was a better car; whether the Toronto Maple Leafs or the Montreal Canadians was the better ice hockey team; whether Bugs Bunny or the Roadrunner was the better cartoon; or whether Playboy or Penthouse was the better magazine. Within seconds Brandy steered the lads on track.

The trio pooled their cash. Will sold his remaining cow, and with Brandy’s Carnival Queen winnings, they had enough for their startup costs. They purchased seeds, fertilizer, additional lighting and heating equipment, some building supplies for the barn conversion, along with other miscellaneous items. Even had enough for a critical motor part to enable their old one ton truck to limp along which they required for the transporting of plants. That was another job Brandy would be riding Buddy on.

Except, after all that spending, completely out of cash, they still fell painfully short. For they had to cover operating expenses until spring when the plant sales kicked into high gear. In addition, that rust bucket truck of theirs demanded much more, requiring major parts and labour lavished on it, in order for it to survive the entire delivery season.

Every evening when I returned to my house, my family went ballistic on me, riding my ass hard for helping their mortal enemies, prying for info. It was not as if we had massive amounts of work to do around our place. For Pa and Eddy’s reputation revolved around laziness, hard work stayed clear of them. Every few years they attempted to plant some sort of crop on the one quarter of land Pa owned. Except, farming never seemed to be their calling. Nothing ever grew, and they blamed it on their bad luck.

Yes, they operated a goose barn, but they put limited effort into the struggling venture. Although that dilapidated structure housed their whisky still. They invested a certain amount of energy into brewing their own home made whiskey, fuelling their personal cravings for the potent juice. I swore those buzzed geese were enjoying a permanent high from the powerful fermenting whiskey fumes.

Pa and Eddy were best at talking, complaining, smoking, chewing tobacco, drinking and dreaming, but when it came to actually doing something about that dream, they were sorrily lacking. So, Pa dreamed of one day being a big moose or elk rancher. However, he never figured the time was quite right to move on his dream. Eddy dreamed of being a famous race car driver, one day winning the Indy 500. Again like Pa, Eddy never took any meaningful steps towards his dream.

“Ay Pinball, you loser and traitor! What are those retards doing now?” Eddy asked as he gazed out our kitchen window in the dark, attempting to figure out what his cousins were up to. Both our kitchen window and our front porch looked directly onto Uncle Gord’s farmyard. So, my family spent many an hour observing and critiquing every action across the way.

“A greenhouse,” I replied.

“Fucking Pinball. I know that.” He shoved his face up against the windowpane. “But what are they doing right now. I can see them unloading something big off that piece of junk truck, and putting it beside that greenhouse.”

“Probably nothing,” I said attempting to sound convincing. For I knew tonight was the night that gas generator would suddenly appear. Conveniently, Uncle Mike offered to drive Brandy and her parents into the city of Yorkton to play bingo. Brandy shared a fresh batch of her cookies with her co-conspirator on the trip, ensuring they would not return until late. This afforded Will and Buddy ample time to sneak in the generator.

“Those fools will never make a go of a greenhouse.” Shirley rubbed her large breasts crudely. “Fucking tits of mine. Damn breast feeding.”

Continuously, my unhappy sister complained. Shirley, who was 23 years old, popped a kid recently. Let’s just say that the homely and overweight girl was desperate for a partner, and the Ice Maker at the Foam Lake Arena drew the short straw. They dated for the past three years but no sign of the man walking down the aisle yet. Except, Shirley would never give up on him.

Upon our mother’s death at my birth, Pa convinced one of his distant relatives to come and live with us, taking care of us kids. However, we were a handful, and the lady left us five years ago. Rightfully, she claimed taking care of two adults like Shirley and Eddy was a bit much. She believed it was time for them to get off their asses. At that point, I felt for Shirley as she assumed some of the responsibilities for the household. That may have created some bitterness and anger inside the young lady.

Her dream was to raise kids and watch soap operas, and in a way, she was living her dream right now. Except, she oozed miserable, wanting the Ice Maker to marry her. Although, she claimed if she had one dream outside the home, it was to prepare food in a restaurant. Mind you, her lack of hygiene could be a detriment to the customers.

“Ay, my new boyfriend Billy says, they should sell their land and move away,” said my 16 year old sister Darcy. My bubblegum chewing sibling was without a doubt, the town slut. Granted my sister was a real looker, but in that trashy way, everything she did oozed steamy sex. The boys drooled continually for the way she wore her flowing blonde hair, winked her inviting blue eyes, puckered her juicy red lips, strutted her well put together body in her revealing wardrobe, and applied her piles of cheap makeup that outdid most hookers.

Darcy embraced sex at a young age, and she never looked back. Her nickname at our Foam Lake High School was Pond Pumper. Picked up that handle when she decided to pleasure more than one lad beside a large pond of water. However, the one oddity, Darcy never studied, and she ranked top five in her class. Although, my trashy sister had a knack of having the smart boys doing her homework, and her grades in the classes with male teachers were noticeably higher.

“Thought Tommy was your boyfriend yesterday?” I asked.

“Fucking stupid whore!” Shirley said in her grating voice. Shirley rode her pretty young sister hard, knocking Darcy’s confidence at every turn.

“He was.” Darcy giggled. “Ay, but Billy gave me a ride home from school today, and well, you know.” Brandy and I rode the jolting school bus between Fishing Lake and Foam Lake each day. However, due to Darcy’s popularity and giving nature, she received a more personal chauffeured service from the boys.

“Yeah, yeah.” Eddy sneered at Darcy. “Same old story, fucked your ride silly.”

“Doesn’t take much to get Darcy’s leathers off,” sniped Shirley. For Darcy loved wearing leather pants or jacket, emulating Leather Tuscadero from Happy Days.

Eddy guffawed. “Both my tramp sisters, always spreading them legs.”

Darcy stuck out her tongue at her older brother. “Beats the way you pay two dollars to screw the native girls.”

“Ay, I’m cool. Don’t have to pay the renegade girls.” Eddy spat on his hands, slicking back his hair. “They love me!” Eddy carried good looks and a good body, topped off with his ability to smooth talk, he enjoyed a certain way with the girls. Although, his lack of hygiene detracted from his overall presentation.

Shirley chewed the last bite of her sandwich as she talked, “Maybe you can get ‘em to the back seat, but you leave your mark.”

“I’m a real man!” Eddy took a shot of their moonshine which him and Pa consumed while chewing their tobacco every night.

“More like a real pig,” hissed Darcy. “Those girls can’t wait to get out of your back seat.”

“Hah! They love me!” Eddy jerked his finger towards the window he looked through. “Speaking of getting out, I wish that Uncle Gord’s band of renegades would get the fuck out of here.”

“Maybe we need to encourage them,” Shirley said while making herself another triple decker sandwich. The new mother was tipping the scales around 250 pounds these days. She claimed it was a result of the baby, but she usually packed about 225 during normal times. “We could let loose a bunch of rats in their house.” The often gloomy Shirley began to attend church since the baby was born, not sure it was doing any good so far. Although, I thought the church experiment revolved more around sucking up to her Ice Maker’s parents and potential in-laws, than the reform of Shirley.

Darcy chomped on her gum. “Ay, why not just burn their house?” Now this statement fit right in with what Darcy’s dream happened to be. For she dreamed of being a biker chick but not just any biker chick. Darcy thought big, she wanted to put her brains and body to good use, latching onto the head of a biker gang, being the Queen of the biker bitches. Oh yeah, she talked a secondary dream as well. It complemented her primary dream, wanting to be a stripper in one of the big city clubs with her peeler handle being, Leather Rider.

Finally, Pa spoke up, “Yeah! Burn my older brother’s house. That would get that bloody cripple moving his wheelchair fast, running from them flames.” He let out a cackle that sent a shiver down my spine, followed by spitting a stream of black drool in a stinking tin can that Eddy and Pa kept in the middle of the table for that purpose.

In fact, our house reeked between the sweat, whiskey, tobacco, odour of gamey meat from Eddy’s kills, Eddy’s lingering odour of oil and gas, Eddy’s cheap rank cologne, Shirley and Darcy’s even cheaper perfume, Pa’s infrequently changed goose shit smelling clothes along with my poor nephew’s infrequently changed diapers. Continually, I sprayed air freshener, having little impact. Could I have an impact on where this conversation was heading?

So, I deepened my voice for there was no way I’d let my family rev up their warped minds. “Let’s get real you guys.”

Smack! Shirley struck me hard on the shoulder. “You’re just afraid that skinny Brandy might get hurt. I think you love her.”

“Brandy’s my cousin.” I rubbed my shoulder. “Don’t be sick.” It was great for a not very popular grade eight like myself to have Brandy and her best friend Gabriela, the two hottest girls in the twelfth grade, giving me a little attention when we passed in the Foam Lake school hallway. “We’re good friends.”

Eddy plunked himself down in a chair, spitting his gross wad, missing the tin can. “Ay, I’d sure do her.” He wiped his mouth with his dirty sleeve of his leather jacket that was exactly like Fonzie’s. I often wished my older brother would have been cool like his idol from Happy Days, but Eddy oozed filth, a true bottom feeder. “Angel face, that bod rocks, and them big boobs are oh so fine.”

Crack! Shirley smacked Eddy over the head with a cast iron frying pan, dropping him to the floor. “Don’t you ever say how beautiful she is.” She shook her fist at her older brother. “I hate that girl.” Intense anger flooded her face, a killer glare resinated from Shirley’s eyes. “And I wish Miss Carnival Queen were dead.” Bang! She hit the table with the frying pan. “No, I don’t wish, I want her dead!”




THREE



“No damn way we are growing that shit,” Will screamed three days later in the greenhouse. “Get those seeds out of here.”

My trio of cousins and I prepared seedling trays on Saturday working with a gas generator and Elvis Presley singing sweetly in the background. Also, we enjoyed the sweet aroma of wood smoke, for we dragged in an old wood burning stove to augment the overtaxed generator. Brandy insisted on music, and Elvis was usually the choice with plenty of Pepsi or steaming hot coffee available to keep us working.

Brandy rode Buddy like a drill sergeant at times over the past three days since her brothers hauled the generator into the farmyard. Then she’d praise him lavishly, serving mouth watering cookies and refreshments. It was the only way. Buddy felt so proud when that generator fired up. The real beauty, one generator produced enough power to run the requirements for both the greenhouse and converted barn which sat side by side, but only if we pampered it.

Not surprising, the hollering at Brandy’s home was through the roof when Aunt Molly and Uncle Gord learned of that generator. Aunt Molly hurled a Pepsi bottle at the wall as Uncle Mike’s name was trashed repeatedly with an endless stream of threats delivered. Except in the end, once it was up and running, all the complaining shifted to the noise the generator manufactured along with the cost of the gas to keep it operating.

Although fortune shone on my trio of cousins, as that trip to bingo in Yorkton, returned Brandy $500 richer from her blackout win. Now they had plenty of cash to cover operating expenses, fix the truck properly and finally, purchase Brandy a warm and fashionable coat.

“No drugs Buddy,” Brandy stated. “No way, we could go to jail.”

“Ah, but, but let’s just give it a try,” begged Buddy like a little puppy. “Mom and Dad never come out here. They’ll never know.”

Will distanced himself from the group, shaking his head in disapproval. “I’m not going to jail!”

Buddy raised his hands, palms out in a defensive position. “I’ll say it was mine, you guys knew nothing.”

“I heard at school you can get twenty dollars an ounce for that whacky tabacky,” I whispered.

“And Steven, the ministers son, said it grows like crazy out here.” Buddy put his hand level with his eyes. “He claims those weed plants grow that high. Do you think?”

Brandy laughed. “That Steven’s such a stoner; that’s about the only thing he’d know.”

“You fool, where would we put the plants when they grow that tall?” Will inquired as he paced back and forth, twitching nervously from merely talking about the sensitive subject.

Buddy scratched his head. “Umm, don’t know!”

“You know, there’s that little hidden ravine next to your land that sits on the Native Reservation,” I suggested. “Has plenty of water, and the only access is from your land.”

“Yeah, yeah, nobody ever goes their,” said Buddy with his infectious enthusiasm filling the greenhouse. “And the natives will get blamed if the weed’s ever found.”

“We can’t to that,” Will said.

Buddy snickered with a goofy grin as he said sarcastically, “That wouldn’t be right.”

“That hippie lettuce is certainly becoming more popular,” I said. “Even buzzed out Margaret Trudeau enjoys her joints.”

“Yeah, maybe Pierre takes the odd toke too,” speculated Buddy. “Hey, do you think the Trudeau’s could be our customers one day?”

“For sure,” I said as I joined in Buddy’s fantasy. “We could grow their own special blend calling it, Margaret’s magical meltdown.” The comment garnered a chuckle from all, relaxing the group a bit.

“Okay you guys, There’s no way we are growing that stuff,” Brandy insisted. “Just no way.” She thought for a long moment. “I went through the numbers on the greenhouse and Dad’s right. It’ll be tough to make a go of it. So, we’ll have to do something different, but not this. ”

“Aw Brandy,” Buddy whined.

“Do we need to think of this another way?” I asked. I sat with her when we went through those numbers. I knew what a tough go a straight greenhouse would be, and Aunt Molly would not change any of her spending habits.

“Twenty bucks an ounce makes me think different,” Buddy said in a dreamy like tone. “Ah, but what…” Buddy rubbed his head, math not being his strong suit.

I excelled at math like Brandy. I knew both of our minds were calculating. “50 ounces and you have a thousand dollars. That’s just over three pounds.”

“That’ll be easy to grow.” Buddy danced around like a kid. “I’ll take care of them. You won’t have to touch the plants.” He continued his jig. Crash! He wiped out a tray of seedlings, sending the uncoordinated lad plummeting to the floor.

It took a few minutes to collect ourselves after the lengthy laughing session. That comical fall by Buddy seemed to take the tension from the group. “But seriously guys.” Brandy dried laughter tears from her eyes. “There is no way we’d ever be involved in selling that crap to people.”

“And you should never,” I said. “But, I know a kid whose parents own a cottage out here, who has an older brother in Yorkton. They can’t get enough good weed there. He’d buy whatever you got, they come and get it. You’ll never have to get your hands dirty.”


“Watch the generator close tonight, real close,” I murmured to Brandy over the phone one night about 11:00 PM in late February 1975. “Something is going on.”

The seeds had taken hold, sprouting up, excitement building for the trio of cousins and myself. Except, one generator outage could ruin us. One of the four of us checked in the middle of each night to ensure that precious generator continued to hum away.

On this particular night, I overheard my family whispering about their plan. An exceptional set of ears was a gift I had been blessed with, hearing most words spoken from my upstairs bedroom.

They never nailed a time for their foul play. However, Pa and Eddy were too lazy to rise in the middle of the night, and they never arose early in the morning unless absolutely necessary. So, I figured they’d strike sometime after midnight when the alcohol ignited their courage.

Luckily, a full moon shone that night. I enjoyed a clear view as I watched through my bedroom window as Eddy crept outside, attempting to keep quiet. Except that seem to be impossible. First, he took a leak, whistling loudly while he emptied his bladder, letting the entire countryside know he was done with an earth shattering fart. Second, he combed his hair, ensuring he looked just right before his secret mission, singing a few lines of the Happy Days theme song.

Third, he slipped on the ice, falling flat on his ass, launching a string of profanities. Fourth, as he attempted to come in from the back of the farmyard, it required him to go through a barbwire fence, that fence got the upper hand, ripping his pants, slicing his hands, filling the night with a stream of curses again.

Finally, when the injured Eddy reached the greenhouse. Err! Err! Snapper snarled menacingly at Eddy. For Uncle Gord’s dog was a half wolf, half greyhound who never appreciated uninvited guests. Snapper had been tied to the front door of the greenhouse with enough slack in the leash to do damage. A disoriented Eddy staggered up much too close to the protective canine before realizing his plight.

Err! Err! Snapper sounded his last warning. Screams then echoed through the night, along with intermittent low growls, snapping of teeth, tearing of clothes, cries for help, followed by more intense screams, followed by one gigantic scream.

The least I could do was to greet Eddy at the door. The sight stuck with me for years. Basically, a pantless Eddy stumbled through the door, blood pouring from cuts and bites. He swayed on his feet, pain and terror enveloped his entire face, tears rolling down his eyes.

“Get me whiskey,” Eddy muttered in a strangled voice as he fell to the floor, curling up in a ball. “Forgot about the fucking dog!” He grasped for his crotch. “Thank God, that dog didn’t get my junk.” Then his eyes rolled in his head, and he passed out.


Late March of 1975 and spring kicked into high gear. The generator hummed less with the warmer temperatures, and the plants were now two months into their growth cycle with a projected date of Mother’s Day. That day happened to be the most popular date for any greenhouse in this area.

My trio of cousins developed two and a half potential revenue streams. First, customers that came directly to the greenhouse. That would be Brandy’s department for her sales and customer service skills were off the charts. She could sell ice, ice cream or anything cold to the cheapest of Eskimo. Second, Will and I would load up the truck on Saturday and Sunday, journeying to the larger cities to set up shop at the various farmer’s markets being held.

The half of revenue stream fell into Buddy’s area. Those crazy marijuana plants shot up similar to the way Buddy was growing, like a bad weed. That was no surprise, for Buddy poured the fertilizer generously when it came to his cannabis plants. They dwarfed the other greenhouse plants, worrying us continuously, paranoid that anyone other then the four of us might enter the greenhouse. The now six foot six Buddy promised he’d transplant the rapidly growing pleasure plants as soon as the weather was right.

Pa and my siblings never spoke of Eddy’s tangle with Snapper the watchdog. Eddy continued to support the scars from that one-sided wrestling match which all four of the greenhouse gang had the privilege of witnessing. I use the word greenhouse gang, for I had become a part of this greenhouse team, even warranting a key. A key I guarded with my life to the mega sized padlocks now on the greenhouse and converted barn which only the four of us possessed.

Although Aunt Molly planned her large vegetable garden and immaculate flower garden, for she possessed an exceptional green thumb, she vowed she would never enter the greenhouse. She cursed that greenhouse and us continuously, criticizing our every move. Our paranoia grew as we witnessed Aunt Molly and the scheming Shirley chatting amiably. That had not happened in years, had hell froze over? We speculated that some topic had drawn the two enemies together, and the way they glanced at the greenhouse, we figured we knew what that was.

Also, my suspicion grew when I overheard my sister brag to Eddy one day, “I think the foolish old bat is falling for it.” They both then laughed like conspiratorial hyenas.

Now Uncle Gord’s attitude seemed to be melting. We heard no criticism lately, mind you, no praise either. For talk around Foam Lake swirled that the Babchuk’s were back in the greenhouse business, and they were doing it in a big way. We figured Uncle Mike generated most of the positive talk as he told everyone about his niece and nephews, who had a real flare for business, and all were damn hard workers.

On a particularly warm spring afternoon, Brandy and I drove Uncle Gord into town. Buddy took charge of getting Uncle Gord in the car when we were departing the farm. Unceremoniously, he grabbed his Dad, carrying him like a sack of flower, hurling him in the backseat with little regard for the rough ride he subjected his father to.

On the drive into Foam Lake, we listened to Uncle Gord complain constantly about that roller coaster ride Buddy put him through. Once we arrived in town, Uncle Mike wheeled Uncle Gord down for a beer at the bar in the Foam Lake Hotel. For this was the first time Uncle Gord ventured to the bar since the accident, a huge step for the healing man.

Meanwhile, Brandy and I picked up supplies for the greenhouse operation. We ran into Kelly Alberts, a friend of Brandy’s. Kelly was one of those guys who would have been gay, but he was either in denial, scared to come out or was just unaware himself. Today, Kelly had blonde hair, for he changed his hair colour frequently. He joined us, heading for the Blue Room Cafe which was part of the hotel and attached to the bar. It allowed us to catch up as Kelly was a fun loving guy and a major Foam Lake gossip. This enabled Brandy to enjoy one of her favourite unhealthy delights, french fries with gravy and ketchup. Also, this allowed Uncle Gord some added bar time.

“Your Dad needs rescuing,” Uncle Mike surprised us as he slipped into our booth. “I can’t get him out. He may have had one too many.” Nervously, Uncle Mike played with his glasses. “Molly will kill me again.”

“Tell him it is time to go,” I suggested as I stole another fry.

“Did that,” claimed Uncle Mike? “He won’t budge. Brandy, you’re the only one he’ll listen to. You gotta go in there and get him out.”

A look of utter fear settled on her face. “I’ve never been in there. I can’t go! I’m only 17.”

“Have to, and he can’t think I sent you.” Uncle Mike leaned back in the booth. “Only way, and you know he can’t drink any more than he has with that medication he’s taking, or else.”

I turned to Brandy, “Look I’ll stand at the side door of the bar, watching for cops .”

Kelly grinned. “I’d go in, but I tried to go in last night. The hulking bartender tossed me out.”

That determined look now returned, she gulped. “Okay Pinball.”

The two of us proceeded to our stations, me at the side door, Brandy behind her father. He never realized our presence. The most noticeable difference was that Uncle Gord wore a big happy smile as he conversed with the gang around the table. The first smile observed since the wheelchair became a part of his life.

Uncle Gord spoke with exaggerated hand gestures, “And those kids think big. They know what their doing They’ll be the biggest greenhouse in Saskatchewan soon.”

I caught a tear in Brandy’s eye. Her father was laughing and talking about how great his kids were. We thought he hated the greenhouse idea, yet he glowed with pride.

“And that Brandy, she leads them all!” Uncle Gord boasted. “She’s a winner!”

Trembling, Brandy tapped her Dad on the shoulder.

He gazed up at her in shock. “Oh Brandy! Ah, you can’t be in here.” He looked over at me. “Get out of here Pinball!” He turned back to Brandy. “You have to go.”

She brushed her hand through her hair nervously. “Sorry Dad, we all have to go.”

“Okay, okay, okay Brandy, let’s go!” Panic set into Uncle Gord’s eyes, as having his underage daughter in the bar freaked him out. Especially as the bartender began to shuffle over to their table. Brandy maneuvered the wheelchair, gracing her father’s friends with her lethal smile. “And for putting a big grin on my Dad’s face, on your first trip to the greenhouse, everything’s half price for you!”

Uncle Gord shouted back at his pals. “Told you she’s a winner!”




FOUR



Early Friday afternoon before Mother’s Day weekend in 1975 and the greenhouse plants were ready for sale. Brandy and I snuck home from school early, all of us waiting anxiously for customers. Frantic, best described the last few weeks, preparing and toiling for this special weekend. The greenhouse had been cleaned and organized, hoping to make each customer’s experience outstanding, but would they show?

Three weeks ago, Brandy slipped into the local Foam Lake newspaper to purchase an ad for the greenhouse opening this afternoon at 1:00 pm. Except, the weird man at the rag leered at her and attempted to be overly friendly. Brandy vowed to never go back and deal with the roving hands creep. We decided on a completely different tact. For we advertised the grand opening by placing a flyer in every home in town, as well as plastering posters on every available spot in Foam Lake and neighbouring towns.

Four nights ago in preparation for the grand opening, we transported the weed from the greenhouse to the hidden ravine. It was a pitch dark night while we slinked about, working quietly. Buddy scratched his head as we were in the process of moving the last weed plants and whispered. “Do you think Snapper could be acting funny from chewing on the weed?” For the past month Snapper had become glazed eyed, become real mellow, become real hungry and become a slacker as far as his guard dog duties.

“Has he been nibbling on the plants?” I asked.

“Yeah,” Buddy confessed. “But I didn’t think it’d hurt him.”

Poor Snapper did miss those fun plants when they left the greenhouse. Thankfully, the doggy withdrawal only lasted a few days with Snapper returning to his feisty and protective self once he lost his source.

Also, first thing in the morning, Will and I were off to pedal plants at the Yorkton farmer’s market as part of this kickoff weekend. We would be heading back on Mother’s Day. Somehow, Brandy managed to secure us a prime spot at that popular farmer’s market, and she managed to talk the Yorkton Enterprise into giving us a free newspaper ad. I was there with her on that trip to Yorkton. Brandy’s ability to smooth talk people into giving freebies was amazing. I was learning the power of the smile.

Will paced back and forth in front of the greenhouse. “There’s nobody coming.”

“Relax, they’ll show.” Buddy sat back in a lawn chair, putting his feet up, totally enjoying the no customer, no work moment.

“ Losers!” Shirley bellowed from her front porch. “No ones coming. Told you.”

Aunt Molly yelled from her garden, “Shirley’s right! Just a big waste.”

Shirley waved at her Aunt. “Hi Aunt Molly, looks like you and I were the smart ones, again.”

“Shut the fuck up,” blared Buddy. “You two lazy cows.”

“Stupid fools,” Aunt Molly huffed, returning to the planting of her garden. “Buddy, get over here and help me.”

“Here’s my answer Mom.” Buddy let fly with a rip roaring fart, reverberating through the farmyard. He chuckled and chugged on his Pepsi, taking pride in his noisy accomplishment. For Buddy’s ability to frequently pass gigantic gas swelled the young man’s chest.

“Stupid fool.” Aunt Molly mumbled.

“You’re a pig!” Shirley yelled at Buddy.

“Oink! Oink! But you can’t eat this bacon.” Buddy sprang to his feet. “Holy shit! Here someone comes!” A carload of folks eased into the farmyard.

“And another is coming,” Brandy shouted. “Isn’t it exciting?”

As people filed out of both cars I realized it was Uncle Gord’s gang of pals from the Foam Lake bar along with their wives. The momentum from this group seemed to spill over for the rest of the afternoon as a steady stream of plant seeking cars found their way to the Babchuk Greenhouse.


As I think back to that Mother’s Day weekend in 1975, I learned business lessons that stayed with me for the rest of my life. We were merely four kids working hard, channeling endless energy and passion, believing in ourselves, realizing the opportunities out there were unlimited. We put ourselves out there over the past few months leading up to this day. We took chances, making mistakes, learning from those mistakes and drove on. For the risks were worth the potential returns, and we loved the freedom of running our own show.

We had all caught the entrepreneurial bug. However, the one realization that disappointed me was how certain individuals begrudged us any sort of success. Over the past months we had been subjected to ridicule, subjected to jealousy, subjected to sabotage, and the worse thing, it stemmed mainly from those that were closest to us.

Nothing saddened me more than on that Saturday morning of the Mother’s Day weekend my Pa struck. For when Will and I were loading up the truck, preparing to head to Yorkton, full of energy and excitement, he made his move. Pa, Eddy and Shirley strode over before sunrise which was very unusual for the late sleeping gang. The hostile group confronted me with raging eyes and fists clenched. They demanded I go back into the house.

“But Pa,” I pleaded. “We got a big day ahead.”

“Bloody Pinball,”Pa snarled. “Got work for you. Get on home.”

“What work?” I asked. “You aren’t doing anything, and I did all my chores first thing this morning.”

Pa chuckled and spat tobacco on the ground. “I’ll find something.”

“Like wash my car,” Eddy said. “Wash all our cars.”

“Good idea Eddy,” Pa agreed as he rubbed his crotch with his fly wide open. Pa took pride in his penis size, thinking nothing of flaunting it. In fact, both Pa and Eddy thought nothing of taking a whiz anywhere, enjoying themselves even more if a crowd watched their urination act.

“You can look after my fucking kid too.” Shirley stood there in an ugly sack of a night gown, chewing gum like a cow, stringy hair hanging down, accentuating her slob reputation.

“Who’s looking after your baby right now?” I asked. For Shirley was notorious for leaving her baby unattended, even forgetting where the poor little guy was. I swear I spent more time with the baby then her. On most occasions when I walked in the house, her child’s diaper required changing. She claimed she’d get around to it when her smoke was done, when her TV show was over or when she finished eating. So, I would roll up my sleeves and do it.

“Get in the house, take care of that fucking brat,” she yelled.

“Ay Pinball, move it,” Eddy snarled while he finished styling his greasy hair, slipping a grimy comb back in his pocket.

I attempted to protest. “But…”

Whack! Eddy punched me in the stomach. “Move!” He screamed.

I would not go down, even though I was sucking air. I glared at him with hatred.

I fought the pain, taking my time, straightening up, squaring my shoulders. “I’m going to Yorkton,” I muttered with my voice quavering. “You can beat me up Eddy, but I’m going!”

Will attempted to step in front of me. “No Will!” I said. “Let Eddy be a big man and kick my ass. He can’t stand to see anyone else succeed.”

“Why you son of a bitch?” Eddy rolled his shoulders and roared. “I’ll kill you!” He punched me in the eye, knocking me to the ground. “Pinball, you’re a dead man!” He wound up for a kick that never landed as the muscular Buddy and Brandy had slipped behind the group squaring off. Big Buddy grabbed Eddy before that devastating kick could do damage. “Ever touch Pinball again,” whispered Buddy. “I’ll rip you up worse then what Snapper did.” Buddy towered over Eddy, holding him with a vice like grip.

The slow moving Shirley attempted a kick to my ribs. Bonk! Brandy whacked her over the head with a metal lunch pail she held in one hand. Brandy packed lunch for Will and myself. Her weapon stopped a whimpering Shirley in her tracks with the lunch pail falling to the ground.

“Fucking Bitch!” Shirley moved over to the truck, snatching up a sizeable pipe wrench from a toolbox, turning to Brandy, threatening under her breath, “I’ll kill you skinny movie star.” That was the term Shirley utilized for Brandy. Shirley took on that wacko look as she approached, swinging the lethal weapon, flashing a sick psychotic smile, determined to end her cousin’s life. “Gonna enjoy fucking up that pretty face before you die.”


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