July 5, 2017 0

150 Words or Less

By in ruttan's place, writing

For the Canada sesquicentennial celebration, the Atwater Library here in Montreal sponsored a contest where people could write in little stories or memories in about 150 words. I entered three.

Didn’t win anything (my pal Joanne Carnegie got a nifty framed certificate as a runner-up), but I enjoyed the challenge of trying to write to that length, and exploring some memories.

So, here are the pieces, one after the other. No titles, because those weren’t asked for.

I think every Canadian should take a cross-country train ride at least once. It opened me up to the country. I was going back to the family in Calgary for Christmas, from my home in Montreal.

Outside the train windows, the landscape passed by. The Canadian Shield, farmland aplenty, various towns and cities. A loudspeaker voice reminded us that we were travelling on “The Canadian” and informed us of every place name and feature.

The major thing about the train, however, is people. On a train you can stretch out, move around, and talk to folk.
I did crossword puzzles. I also had an affair. The train broke down outside Winnipeg, and started getting cold. She and I huddled under my sleeping bag and cuddled. She was from Toronto. The love affair lasted as long as the free passes the company later gave us to compensate for the breakdown.
. . .

As my grandmother got older, and perhaps had a brandy or two on a special occasion, she would slip back into the past. I would become her son, my Dad, and our dog would become Timmy, her family dog. She had grown up and lived in Hardisty, a small town in Central Alberta. Late in life, she made an effort to record her early memories on paper, a document I saved and later transcribed for my web site. [link here]

She taught school in a one-room school house in the town, and rode to work on her trusty mare. She played for the local women’s hockey team. She travelled to Asia, and drove the Alaska Highway in her two-door Buick. I’ve got records of these things, and pictures, some of which are on the site. But mainly I miss visiting her, chatting, and going with her on drives in her big car.

. . .

I worked at the concrete plant for a summer. My Dad got me the job, because our next door neighbour happened to own the concrete plant and Dad had a word with him.

I helped make sewer pipe, which wasn’t as nice as doing architectural concrete, but still a well-paying job.
My main task was to show up early in the morning, and open up all the steam kilns. Shutting off the steam, and letting yesterday’s pipe cool in the morning air.

Then the forklifts would come and pick it all up, taking it into the yard. There I knocked off the metal rings which formed the lips of the pipe. Once I almost flattened the foreman with one of those rings.

In the afternoons, I’d help pour new pipe on a huge molding machine.

I wasn’t the best worker, but the job did give me great arms.


Leave a Reply