H E A V Y S U M M E R
a story in parts
There’s a certain lingo we use around Kawartha Lakes for the last part of the summertime, when the sun’s rays are still relentless well past suppertime, a good walk can make you need a change of clothes midday and the Blue Jays are making their stretch run for the American League Pennant. We call it Heavy Summer. It comprises the last few weeks of August and the first three weeks of September or so, and I’m pretty sure I’m the one that got it started: word travels fast around these parts, to be sure. My girlfriend Sasha Maracle says I didn’t make up shit, and I should check my “White Privilege,” whatever the fuck that is, and that it’s all her people’s land anyway, so I should stuff it somewheres, and then she usually takes a hit from her cool little bong she bought once on Yonge Street in Toronto (on a trip we took to a Jays game – what a fucked up place that is). I can’t smoke that cannabis shit myself anymore, as much as I’d like to. Doctor says at this point it could make me pretty much insane, after all. We’ve got enough of that going around this summer here and in my family – enough crazy, that is – so I figure I’ve got to do my part of things to be as normal as I can. Somebody’s got to do it after all, so it might as well be me.
Summertime is always eventful around here, the best time of year to be sure (probably just like most places, when you think of it) and a pretty happy time for us locals; sometimes we even get along with the “Summer People” that come to the various towns and lakes in the area and cottage or go camping, barbecue and play volleyball in the sand and do campfires and go fishing (whether they know Fuck One how to go about it or not!) and all that cottage country type of stuff. Ma used to tell me that this area’s for city people who can’t afford the “Muskokas”, whatever those are, but it makes no difference to me. Some of them are going to be nice, and some of them ain’t: it’s simple as that, if you’re asking me. It’s the same with us “Townies,” as I’ve overheard us been called (usually by the not-so-nice kind of cottage folk). You don’t have to be from the big city to be an ass-hole or a bone-headed cocksucker bully, neither. Just ask anyone goes to high school in Lindsay. Or to camp out at Balsam Lake. There are fuckheads everywhere, I says it all the time. Hold on to your own.
That’s what Pop used to say when he before tying one on and stumbling his way up the steps to his Winnebago, Ma having kicked him out the house in a perennial summertime tradition. She feels too bad I think to do it in the colder months. Winter-times take their toll on everybody, every “Townie” here in the cottage country around the Lakes. They’re usually long and frozen and even soul-crippling for some. Some folks, usually older folks, don’t even make it through the winter-time here, and we find ourselves eating crust-less sandwich triangles and vegetables & dip at a big old red brick house somewhere over in Coboconk (or maybe in Fenelon Falls, or even Sturgeon Point or out Bobcaygeon way, wherever) and talking about how nice the person was, whether we knew them or not. And they were, I’m sure – good people that is – ‘cause everybody matters. That’s what Ma used to say. She’s a retired nurse, after all. Say what I like about her, but she did damn good work over the years, I do acknowledge that. A lot more than Pop did, to be sure: fuck all most days is what he did if you ask me, and now he’s a pensioner and bitter as the wintertime in, well, here. The fuck you gonna do ‘eh? Upright and breathing, he says, and OK is alright. He used to say stuff like that.
Last summer was the one that really took the biscuit – just as Grandpa (on one side) and Gramma (on the other) did that year – especially as far as Heavy Summer was concerned. Once Heavy Summer rolled around last year, everybody either was up in arms, out to lunch or – well – six feet under. Last summer was the real Heavy Summer, if you will. The namesake, the title track, what have you. The whole season was heavy, not just the end. That was the summer Eddie, my sister’s beagle, found Rebecca Newtson’s body out at Uncle Jim’s cottage. That was when things started happening, fast and furious like. Bad things, some of ‘em nasty. That was when I begun to figure if Sasha and me didn’t start to make plans to get outta here, we’d end up like most everybody else. That wouldn’t do for me, although I can’t speak for her. I realized Heavy Summer that if we didn’t get out soon, we never would. That just wouldn’t do for me one bit …
Timothy A. G. Hill, MMXVI
H E A V Y S U M M E R
I knew I’d had about enough myself when late one night I woke up and saw Rebecca Newtson standing in my bathroom at three AM . It was one of those fucked up things, terrifying really, because you never think you’re ever going to see some spectres ‘n shit your whole lifetime, even if you DO listen to George Norrie’s COAST TO COAST on the AM radio late nights on the regular like me and Sasha do. Even IF you used to smoke a lot of weed. And it wasn’t Sasha got up with a hurtin’ for a piss-ache (six Coors Light’s worth watching the Jays before bed) she only sips water doesn’t want to harsh her buzz, like. Used to be that way too, me. Anyhow, she was standing there: Rebecca was, Rebecca who’d been missing for three long months leading into Heavy Summer, Rebecca who I’d only known from pictures in the newspapers and whatnot, Rebecca from the big city. Peterborough, Ha!
Home of the Peterborough Petes (hockey club, and if you don’t know that you must not be from Ontario ‘nless your one of them Chinese folks from the REAL big city. Markham, maybe. Or Scarborough, Ha! Not my team, the Belleville Bulls it WAS if you’re asking, and THAT team went the way of, well, the way Rebecca Newtson did, (not to be glib but I guess it’s too late now gotta own it) the way we all sadly figured after the first big searches in the woods came up empty as a Coors Light bottle once I get MY hands on it (‘slong as it’s cold.) Again, sorry. But there she was, chain-light flickering in the mirror of our cottagey lime-green bathroom and everything, just like in one of Sasha’s favourite movies (they don’t do much for me but once in awhile I’ll admit to bein’ spooked. A LITTLE, OK?
This was real life and you bet your big-city or farm-town ass wherever you’re at: I was bloody well spooked, as my English grandpa would say, that limey bastard still got a good ticker and everything. Mine jumped a few beats on this suddenly fright-some occasion, and I ain’t afraid to say I pissed my pants a little (it was Rebecca, OK, and she wasn’t just THERE in the flickering bathroom light but she was DEAD, I knew it as I saw her there, starin’ at me blankly, with a big ol’ wound across her belly and bloody caked around her mouth, and the colour of, the colour of … decay. Jesus, it’s hard to write this. I screamed aloud, and if I’d had a Coors Lite in my hand I woulda dropped it right there might of smashed all over tho the floor IS wood, as I told ya, cottagey-like. Like Uncle Jim’s cottage, maybe. Up as Silver Lake. That was where she was found about three weeks later, Eddie sniffed her out he did. Shallow grave under some old boats and a canoe on the property. Pour dog KNEW it wasn’t just some dead old BUNNY RABBIT, one of the terms he’s apt to immediately respond to (he won’t listen for shit otherwise) and he was definitely in a different kind of frenzy this time. Dogs know. ‘Specially beagles. Their noses are always in hyper-drive. Plus they know other stuff, I think, too. In a way we people can’t really understand.
Back in the bathroom that night I kind of blanked out for a moment (and thank God it wasn’t one of those things from Sasha’s scream-shows where the ghost is only in the mirror, and behind-you like, THAT would’ve been WAY too much for this guy, prolly couldn’t brush my teeth in the mirror never again! Not that I ALWAYS do before bed anyway. I ALWAYS brush’em morning-time, though. I’m not a dirt-bag, nor some big city crackhead, neither. And I wouldn’t have Sasha if I was. She may be from the country, born on the reserve but she is a Pocahontas KNOCK-OUT and I’m lucky to have her, hardly deserve her don’t I know it. I know what I most definitely did NOT deserve, and that was to see Rebecca Newtson’s once-gorgeous, half-deteriorated spectre in my bathroom when I just wanted to take a piss and go back to bed. I’m not trying to be insensitive, I got tears in my eyes right now ‘cause that could have been Sasha, could have been anyone’s sweetheart or sister or daughter or whatever. She was an undergraduate from the university. Turns out Uncle Jim taught one of her English Lit classes …..
Timothy A. G. Hill, MMXVI
H E A V Y S U M M E R
[retro-active to September 11th, 2016.]
I remember one Heavy Summer late in high school we were all just getting settled into the new year (still having fun with it, even, you know how it is the first couple weeks, ‘specially when you’re a senior now and all too-cool-for-school) when we heard about the planes. And the Pentagon, and the buildings coming down in New York City, the two biggest ones, the Twins, coming down into dust like they was nothing but perfect rectangular sandcastles with those big grids going down the sides, darker in between. One with a big antenna. We sat dumbstruck in law class at ten AM or so (I was gonna be a big shot lawyer, was right smug-sure of it, ha!) watching the re-cap of the real-life horror show on the biggest day of the year and all of the years to follow for anyone involved, no doubt. For me it was pretty big too, somehow. I had no misconception about the distance between my high school and the Big Apple (there’s another Big Apple not too far from us, but it’s literally just a large apple you walk into where they sell good pies. If you can’t guess what kind, then maybe it’d be better if you’d been one of the folks up the towers that day in the OTHER Big Apple, maybe one of them folks making the great leap of faith into the bright blue sky a hundred stories up, the image stays with me the most, give one of them folks a chance at a different fate. Haunts me forever.) Now I know that’s mean, and ‘suppose I don’t mean it, but maybe it’d be easier if we thought of us as ants in the sand anyhow with any hopes and dreams and the big bad world wouldn’t been such a scream-show all the time out there. Makes our problems here in the Lakes (mine n’ Sasha’s) look like teatime with cupcakes in the park. They said it WAS Sandylanders who did it first, Sasha said no way. No fucken’ way, and way to blame folks from afar for what she called an internal False Flag Operation years later (greenish smoke rising ‘round her like from that ‘round what they called Ground Zero only not toxic and filling the sky up for weeks.) From day one I myself was all aboard, though, even north the border ready for war, ready to go to war even, if you can remember that time (and most of ya can) ‘cept you little smartphoners were still shittin’ in Pampers!) then you remember what people often forget, ‘specially on this fifteenth “anniversary” (like it was a fucken’ WEDDING) that we had no idea how big it was gonna get. Had no fucken’ idea if it was gonna be the beginning of the end, and those little papers I wrote long-hand that my law teacher seemed to like so much wouldn’t ‘mount to horseshit in a handbag! The beginning of the end. That kind of fear tends to stay with you, too. Sasha says in a way it WAS only the beginning of the end, in the long run – out there, like. But here in the woods where things can be much better understood and you could count on the folks you believe in (or so I thought), things were pretty alright that year, 2001, the odyssey of us, and I did feel guilty kinda ‘cuz it WAS a big day for me, that nine one one thing, ‘cuz it was a a big day for me in a GOOD way, you see? It took me outta my head, sucked out all my anxieties ‘bout stupid shit grade people starting grade twelvers’ care about. Heavy Summer rollin’, like. Souped up Honda Civics. Boys chasing girls, sometimes they’d like ‘em back. Seemed a lot sweeter then I think then it ever does for most people later on in life. Sundown parking lot shit with the gang. Taco Bell (we finally GOT one, ‘s if I could give a shit now). Now that I think of it some strange shit did seem to start happening that year with us here in the Lakes, too. Local Mean Girl Victoria Gleason got that brain-eating amoeba in Griffon Headley’s pool, for starters, and that was pretty much a rap for her (‘fraid to say), and her mother put a hatchet through Griff’s step-father’s head, threw it at him like she’d TRAINED PROFESSIONALLY for it, and he actually ended up in the same damn pool, gallons of powdery-greenish-red chlorinated blood flooding out the colour of the shallow end …
Timothy A. G. Hill, MMXVI