Thursday, 13 June 2013


I wasn’t aware of the rift between Jos Arnell and Josiah Brake until Uncle Gnarley and I left Jos’ house, last Sunday; clearly the world doesn't stop when I'm out in my kayak, as the first part of this tale confirms:  DO WE NEED MORE ROCKING CHAIRS? (PART I).  I have already told the story of Jos having accosted me on the slipway, in Petty Harbour, as I concluded my ablutions before taking to the water.  I got a great kick out of Jos' mumbo jumbo outburst  and I was even more amused when she announced her intention, to Uncle Gnarley and me, to run for the Liberal Leadership.  

I had missed a great deal, that day, while on the water. Thankfully, Uncle Gnarley filled me in.  The way he explained it, was like this:
Jos Arnell’ cat, Matilda, had gone missing.  The animal didn’t normally go out; but on this occasion Jos had left the storm door open and Matilda decided she wanted to see a bit more of the world.

Jos went all over the community looking for her cat; she had the place in a general uproar, everyone was searching for the scrawny feline.  As it was getting dark, of a Tuesday evening, a knock came to Jos’ door. When she opened the entrance to her tiny porch, she was able to see two young boys, one of them holding something wrapped in blanket.  “Well”, says Jos, “what have you got there?” The two explained that they had just come down from “up by Josiah Brakes’ house” and that they had found her cat under the fender of his truck. “Are ya sure she is dead”, enquired Jos in a pitiful tone.  “Yes, Ma’m”, the older one replied, “she’s dead as door nail”.  “And, ya sure that it wuz Josiah Brake who killed her?” Jos enquired. “Well, it was under ‘is truck wasn’t it Missus”, the youngster brazenly replied.

Jos was not one given to sentimentality in front of a couple of youngsters.  Taking their word that the cat had passed on, ostensibly by the hand, or more exactly, the fender of Jos Brake’s truck, she didn’t as much as raise the blanket, covering the animal, to confirm the fact.  “I s’pose if I gives ya a dollar you’ll dig me a little grave in the back yard?” Jos enquired.  And, at lightning speed, the cat was given a final resting place.     

As soon as the two laddies had disappeared, Jos, with all guns blazing, headed out for the house of Josiah Brake. And, that part of the story, as they say, is history.

Now, nothing more transpired until two days later, when Jos could be seen giving her dog, Victor, an evening stroll.  Not more than twenty minutes, into her walk, Jos heard the dog suffer a fit of barking.  The dog’s behaviour did seem unusual; but, before she had a chance to check out what was causing his unease, she felt a huge jerk on Victor’s leash and, in an instant, he was gone. Steadying herself, Jos looked around to see where the dog had bolted.  Not twenty feet away, Victor could be spied licking and fawning over a pussy cat; a familiar looking pussy cat, at that.  Joining up with the pair, Jos was treated to a series of meows and a cat, whose welcoming tail, entwined her spindly legs, confirming its ownership well before she could check the cat’s collar.  In an instant, the little feline was held snugly in her arms and the happy triplet headed for home.

Now, sitting in Jos’ kitchen and hearing that her cat was as lively as it had ever been, Uncle Gnarley was dumbstruck.  He could not believe that the woman had not rushed off to Josiah’s house with the good news and an offer of apology.  He wanted to know why. 

When Gnarley put the question directly to Jos, he wasn’t sure if she was being evasive or just trying to be funny.  In fact, her reply was quite unexpected: “Gnarley, did ya see that fish face Dunderdale last week; b’y did she ever give it to that Steve Harper, sure make no wonder that that feller Wright resigned.  Imagine, everyone thought the whole affair was over ‘ol puffy Duffy”, her laugh almost a cackle.

“They must be doing a Poll or somet’ing is they Gnarley; b’y, she’s workin’ some hard to be popular, again, isn’t she? My gawd, Gnarley, she’s some piece of work, b’y!”

The observation startled Gnarley. He had not known Jos to be drawn to politics and he wondered to himself, if this was a new phenomenon affecting Petty Harbour or just Jos, because it didn’t seem to be the case farther down the Shore. Perhaps, he thought to himself, he ought to get out more often.

With Josiah Brake beside himself, for days, over Jos’ behaviour and now having been told the cat had not even been dispatched, in the first place, Uncle Gnarley was not to be deterred from the purpose of his visit.

“Jos”, he asked her point blank, “did you ever give a single thought to the poor suffering Josiah Brake.  Didn’t you think for a minute, that you might have asked him forgiveness just as quickly as you had chosen to berate the man?  Frankly, Jos” he added, “I find this state of affairs downright disrespectful, especially since Josiah is one of your friends.”

Jos, looked at the old economist with a stare that almost frightened him. Her narrow face and sharp features were so striking that they seemed to redeem those of her scrawny cat.  The wart on her schnauzer appeared to have grown twice its normal size, which was typical when she was losing her temper. She was a strange sight and a shrill voice only added to a fierce composure.

“Gnarley”, Jos barked, “almost as if he were standing miles away, on Motion Head: you don’t understand!  I’m the most popular person in Petty Harbour. Sure, just look at the number of people who wuz out searchin’ for poor Matilda. Do you think that Joe Arnell wastes her time thinking she might have offended anyone? And, as if to underline her bafflement, over his line of enquiry, she added: don’t you know I have to draw a line in the sand; just like Dunderdale is doing with that fart faced Steve Harper? 

“But, Jos, did it not occur to you that the folks in this Town might have cared only about the cat?” interjected an exasperated Gnarley. If Jos heard the question, she ignored it all the same.

“Sure, if I walk over to Josiah Brake’s and goes down on bended knee” she continued, he’s be the cock of the walk, tellin’ people how stunned I wuz.  Now, I don’t care how stunned Josiah thinks I am, but I sure, as hell, ain’t confirming it for him, Professor Gnarley, she spit out derisively.  Why, sure the next thing you know I’d be paying interest on the next ten dollar bill I gets a loan of; he’d be thinkin’ I was beholden to ‘en.  I thinks sometimes you crowd, in the University, don’t understand life for people, like me. And, I’m sure Kathy Dunderdale is no diff’rent.

“As soon as you’re nice to someone, they’ll want something from you.  Josiah Brake will never be taking advantage of Jos Arnell, she barked at Gnarley some more. And, as much as I think she is as stunned as me arse, some Federal Loan Guarantee is not going to give permission to Steve Harper to get one over on Kathy Dunderdale, no Sir.  That just isn’t how politics is played in Newfoundland, Gnarley?  I s’pose you crowd, in the University, thinks you’re above all that stuff?” she needled him!”

Uncle Gnarley was about to say something, but Jos wasn’t quite finished her dissertation.

“Now, imagine Harper wantin’ somethin’ back for the Federal Loan Guarantee.  He got some nerve.  What was it that that fish face Dunderdale said? something like she didn’t care what benefits were in dem trade talks for the Country as long as she didn’t have to contribute to them…sure, ya can’t fault her for that, can ya?  It’s always about the crowd in Ontario and Quebec, isn’t it, she glared; the next thing ya know we’ll have to feel sorry for being so rich down here.  I suppose the poor woman got her standards and if the Premier can ‘ave ‘em, by gawd, Gnarley, I can ‘ave ‘em, too, she cried.

“Now, If I was you”, she added, “I’d be telling that Josiah Brake to stop being a sooky baby, cause if he wants to be my friend, he’s going to have to play by my rules, and that’s all there’s to it”, said a, now animated, Jos Arnell. Continued Jos, now bending over to whisper in Gnarley’s direction, let me tell da Professor something I’m larnin’ real fast: it’s not about being on top; it’s about staying on top!

Uncle Gnarley was speechless.  All he could think of was how he might extricate himself from this nightmare of a woman.

“Uncle Gnarley, what does ya think?”  Jos looked straight into his eye, her single tooth giving prominence to what she had to say; “sir, ya understands now why that whimpy Dwight Ball got ta step aside and let me run for the Liberal Party. They needs someone like Jos Arnell to kick Dunderdale’s arse off out of Confederation Building.”

It was soon after Jos’ outburst and an announcement of her political aspirations that I walked in the door, giving Uncle Gnarly some respite and me the responsibility to get him out the door.

Understandably, Uncle Gnarley was happy when he got back out into the fresh air of a Petty Harbour evening.  “Josiah Brake will not be pleased, Nav”, he said flatly.  “His theory that Jos is a lonely old woman afraid she’ll lose the little bit she has left in the world, may actually be truer than he realizes.

“For some reason I think Jos is, how shall I say it, feeling empowered.  I fear that poor old Josiah, rather than being her best friend, may soon be public enemy number one, and the whole Town will know it, too.  The funny part is, I’m not sure who I should feel sadder for, Josiah Brake or Steven Harper.

“It is interesting, he added, how what’s going on in our parliaments reflects what is happening among ordinarily decent people.”

Uncle Gnarley, you were hoping to prove a theory, today, allowing your academic training to outweigh your good common sense.  Perhaps, one should not get too caught up with theories, when self-interest abounds, I suggested.

“That’s a mouthful there, Nav; I’d be a little careful with that, if I were you.  Actually, I had merely hoped to conclude that humanity just needs more rocking chairs, a place where people can think through their grievances before they foolishly act them out. Unfortunately”, he replied, in a voice that seemed almost disconsolate, “when people, like Jos, take their cue from leaders like Dunderdale, we may be forced to get rid of the ones we already have.”