City of Roses

City of Roses

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

About the book

The Godfather's Daughter is a novel by Inna Pavlovna that compares a life of comfort with a life of adventure. The two types of protestants are compared in her latest work, but Pavlovna takes it one step further, fashioning characters that exemplify the contrasting ideals of the pioneer and the settler. This novel, depicting rural and city life in modern British Columbia, portrays strong female characters that can stand up to hardship, and that make us want to learn more about their efforts to live exemplary lives. Seagull Rose is fearless and fragile at the same time, making a stunning debut into a social class that seems eons above her. 

Overview

The Godfather's Daughter is the story of Seagull Rose, the fourth daughter of the Piece family who live on the seashore in Fairfield. 

Transient kingdoms of Seagull Rose: how things are rooted—she never gave much credence to the things that would undermine her. Seagull Rose is forty-one and works as the maid in the home of Doctor Swan and his wife Ivy on the Southern cliff. She is eventually finds that building friendships is like building sandcastles. They have to be re-created each day. 

Will the Piece family ever learn to lay down their hatred and munitions and forgive their neighbors, and even the members of their own family? Is the root of their evil festering under the surface?

Belle Blacke may be the one to administer the stinging nettle pack to this blistering wound of the community. Instead of pain and hardship alienating the members of this island community it will bring them together.

The Godfather's Daughter: Short Story Two

The Sandcastle by Inna Pavlovna

Seagull Rose, the beach keeper’s daughter, was observing the horizon off Victoria with her binoculars. She had an old rowboat with silvering oars she would take out on calm days to fish for halibut. It was the halibut she used to attract the whales—orcas, minke, and grey whales. They rose to the surface where she would sit in her rowboat. Their blow-holes expired, and pleased at their appearance, she fed them. 
     No one else thought the whales needed to be fed. But Seagull Rose, who bent to pat their velvety wet silk, had made Gonzales Beach something of a whale-watching attraction. She discovered each one as if they were her dependents. Their breath into the sea's silence sounded to her like a song she had heard a long time ago.
     Ancient Murrelets were among the wing propelled diving birds that visited these shores. Seagull had never tangled with a Murrelet, yet she was noticing them swooping her boat.  Seagull Rose’s father Valencia Piece was an old man now, but he was the beach keeper and lived in the huge old beach house overlooking the tide. Everyone called him Godfather, not just his children and grandchildren. He and Impatiens had eleven grandchildren that spilled out the doors and windows onto the beach during family barbeques. All as blond as sun-bleached pieces of driftwood, carrying coloured beach blankets and India rubber balls.

     For what Impatiens could do as a play therapist with a sand tray, Seagull Rose needed an entire beach. This life is too gritty, too harsh for the sand tray, thought her niece Belle Blacke, as she compared Impatiens work with the seashore. Belle watched Seagull Rose on the shore. It was Indian summer, and her aunt’s secrets were piled high like sand turrets on a beach. Her thoughts were the cloud formations that rose and fell over the empires of the seashore.
     On the beach yesterday, Impatiens had sighed, and walked away. She was tired of not being able to interpret her daughter Seagull Rose’s dreams; and they were strange dreams. She left her sitting there. She would come home when she was good and ready.
     Seagull Rose had been covered in sand. She had large grey eyes, storms at sea. No one would know she was over forty from looking at her. She looked like a sixteen year old who was too wise.
     It was already becoming an ancient civilization on the beach with sandcastles of all different dimensions as far as the eye could see. There were children from a school field trip, and they had dispersed along the shore. Not only was the Godfather’s daughter partial to the sandcastle builders, she denied perfectionism of any sort. Imperfections and flaws were the makings of genuine beauty, she would insist.
     The Godfather and Impatiens’ children were bound to perfection more than secrecy, in part because Impatiens’ father and his father before that had been Free Masons. The symbols on the grave of Seagull Rose’s great grandfather were hard for her to forget. Was it the money her mother’s family had donated, right to the end to secure their good standing?  When the Free Masons had done a call campaign to raise fund, Seagull Rose, stunned, had slammed down the phone.

     A flower bed stood among the wild grass outside the window of the beach house. With the many beach goers traipsing through the sand dunes in front of the house, it was almost risky. There was only one kind of rose planted there though, and it was the Seagull Rose. The rest of the blooms were hibiscus, crocus, and lilies.
     Belle stroked the cat that curled up on the foot of the bed. By the time Seagull Rose’s former husband Pacifist had realized his wife was a danger to him, she had disappeared. She had been their Rose Blacke and their red herring. Seagull Rose wouldn’t forget Belle when she was a little girl with no shoes who could walk barefoot over the nettles. She, at three, knew how to eat the stinging blistering plant by putting the leaves directly in her mouth. She had no malice at the way she was raised in a barnyard of rusted tractors by Settler Blacke’s mother.
     There were eggs to be plucked every morning, like the blackberries in the lane. They had walked around the farm and three-year old Belle had explained everything. Seagull Rose could clean the house, scrub the floors and bathrooms, although no one else was allowed.
     The young girl had followed Seagull around for half a decade. Only Seagull Rose knew Settler Blacke had hidden his illegitimate child on an old piece of property in Duncan for the first three years of her life. He cautioned his mother, Mrs. Blacke, to raise her respectably, but his mother was strict. She embroidered and quilted in her spare time, but it was a farm, nonetheless.
     The two brothers had grown up in a rough and tumble fight. Because Settler was bigger and more threatening, Pacifist learned to keep the peace, and his mother’s sanity. How violent or how lenient was Settler Blacke really? As an adult, it was considered a good thing he always had Pacifist in tow. Their escapades led them right to the Coppers’ door, like the time they had killed the neighbour’s pig that had wandered into their yard. They had roasted the bacon right over the outdoor spit and stuck an apple in its mouth. That would teach the bacon a lesson, they thought.
     But as it happened, Pacifist was attending the Mennonite church and there met Seagull Rose. Pacifist married Seagull Rose in a quiet Mennonite wedding. Little Belle held the petals. It remained that little Belle had chosen Seagull Rose for her own, and that was that. Probably because Seagull Rose, apart from having a few thorns, had never said a cruel thing in her life.
                                  
     Her Pacifist went to work for the Salvation Army away down on the fork of River Road from Haney and there they served the poor two meals a day. It remained that Seagull Rose thought everyone had a gold streak if she could only inspire you to action. She, quite without meaning to, drew blood by her revolutionary antics. If men were regenerated from the inside out, she set it in motion. Calling and pleading with them passionately to give up both booze and tobacco, she took them as new converts in hand. Now with a Bible in one hand and driving a new navy blue Chevy, Pacifist had joined the army of God.
     The poor homeless, bleary eyed with drugs, were his first ministry. They were pushing carts of old bottles and shouting insults at his reverence. Seagull was altruistic and calmed the small settlement of hungry travellers. Inviting them into the dining room, she unearthed her guitar and played for the worship.
     Belle stood with Seagull Rose, looking out along the shore of the Stave River. They had lit a fire every night in their fire table on the porch. It was like a smoke signal beckoning the natives. And they would arrive.
                                 
     Seagull Rose entered the mud room where there were nooks and books, ageing now. The sunlight through the window lit her brown hair to glossy chestnut. The Godfather was sitting at the kitchen table with Smoky. They were drinking their afternoon beer. Smoky was a hard-core working man, and kept to himself. If he had smoked one cigarette, he had smoked five hundred.
Each one hung from his flinty jowl—a peace pipe to the world that had raised him. Living under the social system as a foster boy in eight homes had made him tough to chew on. In spite of the man’s grim veneer, the Godfather smiled. He thought Smoky could accomplish more with his blessing in life. He tended to play him like a black pawn however.
     Smoky interrupted, “Did you want to travel with me up to the lake this Saturday, Black Rose? Chief wants to meet with us.” He grunted. “We’ll fish for our grub. I need you to interpret.”
     Seagull Rose was a dissident leader, but she mediated the mining claims up island for Smoky Mogul. The natives minded not being attended to; they minded indeed. They preferred the level-headed Seagull when it came to discussing their territory. The two of them would take his motorboat to the top of the lake.
     “Ok Smoky, I’ll go,” she replied.

     The next afternoon, Seagull Rose drew a circle around her in the sand.
     The motley group of beach-goers unloaded their jeep, anticipating some afternoon rays. Tiger Eye had his arms full of towels and beer.
     His eyes were warm when he saw Seagull Rose.
     “What’s up today with this old house of secrets?” he asked.  
     “We will die with our secrets,” she said to Tiger Eye. “They will be buried inside us.”
     “What—like corporal punishment?” he guessed.
     “Well, if you could call the Nazi regime corporal punishment, then it was handed down to our parents in the 1940’s,” she answered.    
     “It’s the fear they handed down,” he said as he built the bonfire. “Don’t rock the boat is a primal request. We suffer from primal fear.”
     “We are afraid the fire will go out. That would raise our anxiety.”
     “That’s why people smoke. The smoke makes them believe the fire’s lit,” he said as they roasted hot dogs and the others joined them.
     “To live without suffering is a primal request,” she responded.
     “Suffering,” he said, “can be related to someone else’s ignorance. My grandfather told me a story about when he was in the war. They lined up eighteen soldiers and vaccinated them all with the same needle. You would think we had advanced in modern times, that we know better now, but not the case.”
     “Did they assume it would be kept hush-hush if they did something wrong?” she asked.
     “As long as they’re secrets, they have power over us,” he answered.
     “I don’t give a damn about my secrets,” Tiger Eye’s best friend Oscar piped in, “I tell everyone.”
      “There is room for everyone’s secrets on this beach,” said Fuschia, Tiger Eye’s girl. “It takes all types to make the world go round.”
        Seagull Rose walked to the back door of the beach house after Tiger Eye and the motley beach-goers had roared off in their jeep.

     It was Seagull Rose who was walking along the high cliff road one wintry day four years ago. She was asked by a person driving by in a Mercedes if she would be willing to serve in one of the mansions at a party. She appeared that evening at the doctor’s house.
     It was an elegant society she had been invited into, just like stepping onto a shag rug you could sink your feet into. There were professors, other doctors, and specialists. She was in and out of the kitchen. The mansion sparkled with life from the roof to the cellar. There was an element of ease among the well-to-do, and she now facilitated it. She had a way of making everyone at their best. No one in the room would have guessed she was the Godfather’s daughter.
     The live music started and the lights on the cliff shone out like apostles. Couples whirled to the dance and caught each other under the pot lights. The doctor toasted to the Christmas season with champagne. It was his annual Christmas party. The people of the Fairfield waterfront were lavish on his behalf and bowed to his generous beard. He whispered to Seagull Rose after her role as server that night that she really should drink more milk. Seagull Rose, though preferred almond milk.
     The doctor’s wife Ivy Swan had the kind of assets later in life that most women are jealous of. Her home was an apocalyptic palace of tall windows that reached almost to the sky. It was her humanitarian nature, however, that kept her busy in the Catholic parish. If there was a quilting bee, a bake display, a craft sale, she was the queen bee. Her aides attended her with buzzing wings.  
     Ivy Swan next hired Seagull Rose as her maid later that week. Seagull Rose had a keen sense for the cleanliness of a doctor’s house, and was also quite polite with guests. Ivy Swan knew she was getting closer to the Godfather, and the rich held him at arm’s length. Still, she thought, as she ate a Godiva chocolate, Seagull Rose could sing, and seemed remarkably talented.
     Seagull arrived in her beige linen dress the next week and looked the part. The silver needed polishing, and then the chandelier crystals needed shining. Nothing could be dull in this house that spared no expense. Ivy Swan went through her conservative wardrobe the next day, and had Seagull take her formal dresses to the dry cleaners.
     It was said that Ivy Swan’s brother had earned his medals by his own sweat. He owned a chicken farm in Saanich, where his son Noland Parker had worked full-time for twenty years raising chicks. Derrick and Jade Parker had raised their son to be able to run the farm, but he preferred to be an actor.
     Noland Parker had starred in local plays in the city. He was always very popular and had been voted president of the acting league. The very venerated old theatre had drawn him to their tutelage in the art of performance. After every play had scooped him out of his hum-drum life, he knew he would return to the farm. He had a strong sense of duty, and his father planned to leave the farm to him in the end.
     He met Seagull Rose one day at the doctor’s mansion. She was serving tea. 
     “Cream or sugar?” she asked. It was an open-ended question as there were so many other options than strictly cream or sugar these days.
     “Do you have any coconut milk?” asked Noland. Seagull Rose was the maid, but she was rather tastefully dressed in linen, Noland noticed.
     “Of course,” said Ivy Swan to her brother’s son. His eyes were blue and piercing as a hawk’s. “Seagull, can you fetch the coconut from the kitchen? Dear,” she asked absently.
     Seagull returned, and they stirred their Yorkshire tea.
     Ivy Swan asked Noland politely, “Do you still live with your parents?”
     Doctor Swan coughed as he entered the foyer. “I’m home, sweetheart,” he said. “And I’ve recently heard that Noland has acquired his own house,” he said coming into the room. “Isn’t that so, my lad?” he said to the chicken farmer.
     Noland was visibly saved by the doctor’s appearance.
     “How nice,” said Ivy Swan.
     Noland Parker smiled, and the acting mask of his face finally relaxed. She was just about to turn her head when she caught his smile. Then she picked up the tea tray and took it into the kitchen.

     Seagull Rose was the fourth daughter of seven children. The Godfather had dedicated them all. The Lutheran church he had grown up in had venerated Martin Luther. The Godfather knew things about reformation that the average joe didn’t know. The downtown drunk he sent off the rehab quaking in his tracks. Young juvenile delinquents were his cup of tea to rearrange. There were thugs you would never see again. Runaways, even better—he could pick them up by the scruff of their neck right on a street corner.    
     Other men of Victoria were not quite up to his gold standard. A few of them dared meet his expectations. Cab drivers chauffeured his daughters around when they needed a lift. “Don’t pay me,” they said, and winked. In Victoria there was a network of evil, but just as intellectually, a network of good. Her father was somewhere in the reach of both, like the hub of a wheel.
     When the tide was out, the people of the land would build their sandcastles. The sea would sweep in that night and demolish them. The Godfather even cut a trail for the Protestants. No one in his wake ever turned their back on human need. But he had an insecurity, and it boiled in his blood. He would not be happy until he had absolute control over everyone who knew Seagull Rose. Was it because of Settler Blacke?
    Seagull Rose knew what had kept her a prisoner all those years in her own home had been the demand of absolute silence. Women were not allowed to speak their minds in the home of Pacifist, or it would bring strife and division. Pacifist could see it coming the moment she tried to open her mouth about anything. Why if they could keep Seagull Rose quiet, they could manipulate just about anyone, and she knew they were after absolute power.                                    

     On the South cliffs in the decadent home of Cesar Wright, the fete had gone far into the night. His talented wife Sonata was the life of the party. She knew everyone by name and drew them out. Even Seagull Rose was there. Why Cesar Wright’s son had never seen Seagull in a beautiful gown. It was aqua-blue and swept the floor. He picked up a martini at the bar, and went over to chat with her and the blond man with piercing eyes who was her date.
     Cesar leaned over the grand piano and asked the gentleman who was the hired pianist to play a Broadway tune. He smiled, and everyone began to dance. It was a mild night for the eve before Christmas Eve day. The crowd spilled out into balcony overlooking the water in the warm December air.
     Noland Parker moved out onto the dance floor with Seagull Rose, as she twirled to the dance like she was in a Broadway musical. Why the ladies even noticed that Ivy Swan had probably hired someone to design her dress, Cesar’s son thought.
     There were the Ralph Lauren curtains, and the rush of Coco Chanel perfume around Sonata. Cesar’s son had been standing by the window when suddenly the door downstairs opened with a gust of wind. The Godfather had arrived.
     Dr. Swan would later say it was as if the air had been sucked right out of him. The pianist did not pause, but kept right on going, although now it was “Memory” from the musical Cats. The doctor heard a beautiful voice from behind him singing, “Midnight . . . Not a sound from the pavement . . . Has the moon lost her memory . . . She is smiling alone.” He swirled around in his shiny dance shoes from where he was standing, and realized it was Seagull Rose who could sing like a nightingale. Just then the Godfather entered the room.
     “Memory . . . All alone in the moonlight . . . I can smile at the old days . . . I was beautiful then.” Seagull’s voice rose and fell like the seashore she lived on. Years of sand and salt had weathered her only in spirit, her voice held the room spellbound under an enchantment. 
     They could hear the waves lapping at her rowboat with the outboard motor piloted by Smoky Mogul with his peace pipe. Cameron Lake was mirror-calm. Its surface reflected the clouds, where the sightings had been for quite some time. Something was rising to surface. The locals believed it—there was an almost medieval sea serpent.
     Only Impatiens looked surprised when she saw her daughter singing at the piano. She had thought Seagull Rose too weak to plough a field with her voice. She was interested in fishing and native territories. Why, she was a regular tomboy. She tried to recall the times she had even seen Seagull Rose in a dress. 
     “It's so easy to leave me . . . All alone with my memory. . . Of my days in the sun. If you touch me . . . You'll understand what happiness is . . .” she sang.
     They listened as the song ended, then the small crowd burst into applause. The doctor had to ask himself whether Impatiens had been hiding that Seagull could sing all these years. Even Cesar had never heard her alto voice. Now the song in the room, with its melancholy undertow, had wakened him, as if a man from the dead. Cesar raised a glass of eggnog in toast to the Godfather. “Cheers,” everyone said, and the laughter and dancing resumed.

     Smoky Mogul slipped in through the side door into the kitchen after he parked the Godfather’s car. He had personally oiled it and shined it that very afternoon. He would stay out of sight, and sipped a Black Rose beer from the kitchen maid while smoking his Marlboro peace pipe on the back patio. He alone knew that one of the two vessels that made trips down the Alberni Inlet from Port Alberni to Ucluelet was the MV Lady Rose.

Monday, March 27, 2017

The Godfather's Daughter: Short Story One

Dear readers. . .

I have made two short stories as excepts of this novel. While you're waiting for the book, you can dive into these stories to get a feel for the characters.

Inna
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A Fox In The Henhouse by Inna Pavlovna

A man entered a café. He was debonair and wore a top hat. He twirled his moustache and ordered an espresso from the girl at the counter. Flipping a coin in the air, he paid and secured a table at the back of the room. A few minutes later, a waxy bald gentleman entered and bought a chai latte. He sat across the mosaic table from Master Fox. He was none other than Pioneer Lightfoot.
     The two were next-door neighbours on the Vancouver Island waterfront, and both worked in the city of Victoria. If there was anything Fox hated, it was hanging out under the stars on the beach with nothing but the birds to keep you company. The city was a fast moving swirl of word and publications. Just what Fox needed. He worked as a media specialist for a magazine.
     “What are the culinary people up to these days?” Pioneer asked.
     “Oh impressing food connoisseurs,” assured Fox. “Hmmm. It’s the gluten-free fad I’m not crazy about.”
     “Really,” Pioneer answered cautiously, “but it’s so prevalent.”
     “Yeaah. But everyone jumping on the covered wagon, and hitting the trail for all this ultra-expensive food?”
     “My trek at seminary taught me never to judge things by appearance. Why, what if these people would be sick without the extra precaution?” Pioneer questioned. He had been a student at Briercrest in Saskatchewan.
     “Sick as dogs, no doubt,” said Fox.
     “I think they were all secretly eating rice cakes until recently. They just wouldn’t admit it.
     “Ok, shoot,” said Fox.
     “Well, digestive diseases are an embarrassing subject,” Pioneer ventured. “I think most people keep it a secret.”
     “Well, I never,” said Fox. “I guess before the advent of a product line with any flavour, they were all cooking up a storm.” He was not closed minded, and had not really considered that angle until just now.
     “I was with you last week when you bought an air purifier,” Pioneer reminded him.
     “Just an extra precaution,” Fox replied. “Like you say . . .”
     “What article are you working on now?”
     “Macadamia macaroons,” said Fox while biting into a coconut one.
     “Have you noticed the beach keeper will probably be staying at the beach house through the winter this year? I hear they are worried about beach prowlers and those unscrupulous sorts.”
     “Yeah, not a bad idea. Our stretch of waterfront needs someone to look out for it; and I mean with a gun and a pair of binoculars.” Fox was usually reticent about his views on bad character.
     “There’s his daughter; after all, he’s the beach keeper, but she’s his spy.” The beach keeper’s family was Pioneer’s next-door neighbour.
     Master Fox considered this dogmatic and eccentric family.
     The beach keeper’s daughter was another worldly figure entirely. He could usually spot her combing the shore every morning, looking for new shells or broken beer bottles. It remained that the only clothing store in this city she could be found would be the House of Tradition. Her clothing belayed the fact that she was willowy and preferred to dress like it was a century gone by.
      “What about an article on beachfront living in a glass house?” Pioneer commented.
     “The beach is another world from the city usually. But we are all islanders in this region, so we appreciate our privacy from the tourists.”
     “And you are read by both locals and tourists, informing the health gossips.”
     “Most of what I hear or don’t hear is a mite too intellectual for its own good,” said Fox.
     “What Master Fox? Did you just say that people pussy-foot around you with their nonsense?”
     “Yes,” he said. “And this is what I would say to them all: don’t waste my time.”
     “But this is a democracy,” Pioneer was subtle. “Are these everyone’s opinions or are they their political viewpoints?”
     “Leave democracy to the polling booth. This is one conservative town.”
     “Who’s to say who’s the little red hen and who’s the fox in the henhouse? A political vote?”
     “If you ask me,” said Master Fox mysteriously, leaning forward, “we haven’t met all the players yet. Some people are mighty industrious to get ahead, others of us just take what’s handed to us. But there are those who are seeking the high life, and it’s a pioneering one, not one of comfort. There is adventure to be sought with a holler.”
     Some people had transient eyes; they noticed what their neighbours owned, thought Pioneer. Some people had purpose in life, and it kept them filled to the brim like the rain barrel. Some people attracted bad memories like mosquitos; their past literally buzzed around their ears all day. The noise of their pain was an irritant.
     He paused, deep in thought.
     Others even prodded animals’ open wounds from being caught in steel traps. To test a man and see if he was domesticated or wild was taking a chance. To test a woman and see if she became crazy-eyed at a lack of romance, or if a man had ever hit her was taking a chance also.   
     Never push people to their limit, or they might hit rock bottom. They might fall too far and never get up on their own. Unless you had a good clean bandage, you were best to leave wounded animals alone, he surmised.
     “The caught herrings were the only ones basking in the sun,” said Pioneer. The covered wagon would move out. They had only time to stop for a campfire and a side of buffalo.
     “Then let the adventure begin,” hooted Pioneer as they left the coffee shop.
     “Yes, just when they though life was about to get comfortable,” replied Master Fox modestly. He tipped his hat, and disappeared into his sleek BMW.

     Master Fox was reading his morning paper at the dining room table in his glass beach house. He preferred café au lait, as per Dr. Oz, his nutritionist. Whatever Dr. Oz recommended, he went along. One had to be avant garde in the culinary magazine world.
     The television was blaring Good Morning America in the next room. He looked out the window at the September shoreline as he grabbed his wallet. When he reached his office in downtown Victoria, he checked his messages. He had a couple texts from his boss, nothing more. At least his mother wasn’t calling from Toronto. That cement city, with skyscrapers as high as its euphemisms. He could remember attending university there, and the media communications school. Anyone as driven as he was couldn’t help but remember his favourite professor. “Think outside the box,” he had said. Fox had become a matriculated student of the same said professor.
     Master Fox sat on a park bench on the university campus and arranged his notes. He was usually taking notes on everyone, not just in class. He was like a detailed sketch with words. People liked to be designed, and designed accurately. It was his motivating force in life to move with progress. It had catapulted him across the country a decade later to the island city of Victoria.
     His life was a race against time, and he had the master ticker. There were important people he would meet. His boss was the first. The editor of the Times Columnist was the second. Victoria had magazines galore. He was now in glossy heaven. If you like to be air brushed, he thought, you’ve come to the right place.
     Master Fox met Pioneer Lightfoot in the city at their regular coffee shop. They jumped in his car for a short trip up the Island. Fox had heard good things about the dinner theatre in Chemainus, and was hoping to catch the last show of Around the World in Eighty Days. As they travelled in his BMW, they chatted about the local arts. Fox was again mysterious in his evening cape, almost evasive, but he had a high security position now. He had just been given an assignment for the Times Columnist. Of course he could not say too much, Pioneer reasoned.
     The two of them had been friends for four years, ever since Fox had moved in next door. They kept an eye on each other’s property whenever one of them had to go out of town. Pioneer frequently went travelling with his tent trailer. He particularly liked to camp in the rainforest, and the trailer enabled him to at least able to cook. He had stayed at Goldstream Park at least half a dozen times. He knew their trails, the salmon spawns, the moss-covered trees. He felt more at home there than in a house. Although Pioneer was the outdoors type, Master Fox was quite the opposite. He would prefer the evening news and his television.
     The dinner theatre was spectacular. What a show! Fox thought, as he tossed his hat in the air. The atmosphere was electric. There was a standing ovation as the cast bowed and the play ended. On the way out of the theatre, he came face to face with someone he thought was one of the actors. The man also wore a hat, and had a pronounced jaw.
     “The play was superb. Have I met you before?” asked Master Fox, not wanting to turn away from a good conversationalist. The man was riveting, his eyes were piercing.
     “Well, now, perhaps you’ve seen me in the theatre in Victoria.” said the man. “I’ve been in a few plays myself.”
     “Bravo,” said Pioneer Lightfoot. “Master Fox here is an avid culture buff.”
     “If you’ve been in a play, I would insist I had seen it,” said Fox.

                                                                    
     Master Fox was in a hurry the next morning. He grabbed his coffee at the Starbucks drive-through. He ran out the door with the newspaper, almost forgetting his army boots. Apparently the boss had called a board meeting for eight-thirty a.m. He wanted to discuss them also taking on a travel publication, and it would mean some new assignments.
     Fox was already on board. The idea of a travel magazine appealed to his senses. He was ready for adventure. He was ready for red-eyed flights. He was ready to travel.
     That evening while he was eating Thai food, he mulled over his new prospects. The boss was willing to send a few people on assignment, and he wanted Fox to write some articles, not just do the media. This could mean business trips, and paid. He leaned back in his chair and sipped his tea. He flipped open his handy dandy notebook. No time like the present. With a casual eye, he glanced around the restaurant. Anything suspicious? Anything noteworthy?
     A woman sat at the table next to him. She had eloquent manners, and he followed her gestures for a while. She was talking to her husband, and he could not help overhearing words like dinner theatre and black. Of all the strange connections, he thought. He had just been at the dinner theatre. It sounded like she was saying someone was dangerous.
     He leaned a little closer, pretending to check his messages. He clearly heard her say, if her best friend wasn’t more selective in her choice of house guests. . . why . . . she would. . . Fox almost fell off his chair. The woman turned sideways, startled, when she saw Master Fox in his dapper black coat with his moustache.
     “Whooo are you?” she asked.  

     Master Fox had recovered himself quickly from the incident with the unknown woman and made a swift escape from the restaurant. Those were his rookie days. Why, in only two months he had become a seasoned professional. He tipped his hat at the administration as he passed by on his way into his office. He was a travel reporter. He had a lot to catch up on.
     Fox had spent the last week catching the sunny villas of Spain, visiting the Mediterranean sea, and the week before that he had been in Indonesia. Although Spain had almost drugged him even in October with its heady fragrance of blooming roses, it was the school children that danced in the square near the hotel where he was staying that caught his eye. At noon, they would appear outside in the sun. Someone set a ghetto blaring with soulish music. Then the children would dance, all one hundred of them. He shook his head. What a contrast from Indonesia.
     In Indonesia the pollution rating was so high, why the infants would die in their beds. Their mothers had to walk around with their faces covered with masks, and their children’s faces covered. Although this was more the case in the highly industrialized regions, Fox had quickly discovered that it was the eroding rainforest that had endangered the lives of its citizens.  
     Why the rainforest was eroding had taken him a little more research. His briefcase contained a pile of documents from what he had dug up on the palm oil industry. This was story material the Times would like to get its hands on, he knew. And he was the person to write it. He leaned over to find his phone under the pile of papers and made an appointment to see the editor for the next afternoon.

     That evening Pioneer Lightfoot sat outside on his deck looking at the water. The sunset was an end to the day he could not miss. Master Fox joined him as he poured a bottle of wine. “I saw you out here with the birds, so I thought I’d join you,” he said.
     “Ahh, Master Fox, well it’s a beautiful night,” said Pioneer. “And the only bird out here is her,” he gestured down the beach to where their next door neighbour stood on the picnic table doing yoga.
     “Well then, we’re in good company,” said Fox. If there was anything he noticed about the girl next door, it was that she was flexible. Her shiny brown hair was rather wind-blown, but that was probably because she spent more time outdoors than indoors. Her cat jumped up on the picnic table next to her.
     “We really shouldn’t be spying,” said Fox, “but how well do you know the beach keeper and his family?”
     “I think they’re spying on us,” said Pioneer. “She usually has binoculars and an old boat.”
     “You don’t say,” Fox shook his head. “She prefers to be out on the water.”
     “And don’t try praying to God for help, or they just might answer you,” said Pioneer. “They’re strictly religious, and all the airwaves are under their control.”
     “Sounds like a totalitarian regime on talking,” said Fox. “But we probably slip right in under the radar.”
     “They actually want you to spill your guts. Maybe it’s the Presbyterian Pastor. You know the heritage brick church downtown on the corner of Courtney St. That’s the neighbor’s son,” said Pioneer.
     “So he has help in the spiritual department,” moaned Fox.    
     “Yes, he does carry more weight.”
     “I haven’t exactly been slipping into the pew, but then I’m not Presbyterian,” said Fox.
     They were silent for a moment. There were the remnants of a sandcastle someone had built that day on the sand in front of them. The tide had almost washed it away.
     The girl shaped like a lotus flower had quite few people living in her sandcastle. They came in over the drawbridge and went out each day. They had the castle as their safety and security, but they were modestly silent. The salt was quite salient on her lips. She proposed to them: let me sing to you; I am a princess. My song is one you have never heard before, but you will recognize it at once. When I sing, you will arise. It will be like waking from the dead. It will be like seeing in the dark.
     She was quiet. She was quite innocuous, but the residents of the castle were not. When people met her did they see her or the people in her castle that were more promising, more accomplished, more elegant. Did they see her neighbors down the beach?
     Master Fox put his head in his hands, while Pioneer Lightfoot’s mouth hung open.
      The sun sunk under the horizon. The lotus girl had gone back indoors.

      The next day, Master Fox stopped for a juicy hamburger at A&W’s at Beacon Hill Park. He thought he would go for a walk during his lunch hour. It was time to get some fresh air after the hour long talk with the editor of the Times. He pulled on his trench coat to brave the crisp frosty air.
     As he walked through the park, he pondered his assignment from the editor of the Times. Indonesia was on the front burner. The more he found out, the more it seemed likely he would have their article ready in a week. This was not going to be a weak spot of tea for Victoria, he thought—not when he connected the deforestation of Indonesia to the chocolate industry. Why, democracy might be the dent in the top hat, but not my top hat, he thought. Chocolate was the focus of the sweet tooth of Victoria, an endless destination of tourists from around the world. There was no place to retire like Victoria. He had all the facts to make his case.
     As he walked back to his car, he passed a large heritage mansion just off the park near the water. Why if it isn’t the old Dashwood Manor, he thought, and tipped his hat. He had stayed there when he had first come to the city, and the historic bed and breakfast had impressed him with its fine china and silver spoons. I should stop by one day and say hello to Mr. Dashwood, he thought nonchalantly. Why Mr. Dashwood even knew his father, he remembered. It remained that his grandparents had retired in this town, although his father lived back East. Why Mr. Dashwood was a fixture in this town, apparently even royalty had given him the green light.

     Three days later, Master Fox ran through his article, and was running a spell-check when realized what he had produced would likely cause pandemonium. Nothing could have been closer to the truth. When the article came out in the Times the next day, there was a lull of about ten minutes then the phone started to ring, the paper tray jammed with incoming faxes, and the email went offline with too many letters to the Editor. Master Fox waited a few minutes, then politely plugged his ears while the editor let off steam.
     Fox was not playing with explosives, but he was a soup with butter. Suddenly the public wanted to know the truth about palm oil and they would stop at nothing. As Fox exited the back door in his sunglasses to get to his parked BMW, he realized there was a crowd outside the front of the building, and a guy with a megaphone.
     A woman screamed, “There he is!” Fox began to run. The crowd chased him down to his vehicle, but he managed to get into his car and pulled away with a squeal.
     On his way back to the magazine office, he doubted whether he could even stop for lunch. The drive-in would have to do. He just had time to down an icy coke before he made it to the other office. Just as he was about to smoke a cigar in the parking lot, he looked up and saw his boss motioning down at him and waving the morning paper.
     “It’s a bad case of international paranoia,” he said calmly as he reached the eleventh floor. He brushed his Milani suit and took off his sunglasses.
     The Presbyterian Pastor’s wife rushed to the curb, brushing shoulders with a tall man as she got into her car in downtown Victoria. She looked up. “Oh,” she gasped, “It’s you.” There was a new sidewalk right in front of her, smooth and grey and wet. “Oh hi, Mrs. Reverend!” said Pioneer Lightfoot, waving as he got back into his cement truck and drove away.   

     Pioneer Lightfoot arrived home. It was December, and almost Christmas, he thought, and still no snow. When he had had a nice quiet dinner of pork chops and applesauce, he sat out on the porch and strummed his guitar. The sun had set long ago, but the stars seemed to reach through the December sky like the grace he needed to continue on.
     He would never forget his call to the ministry and what it meant to meet people and inspire them to continue on despite the most unsurmountable odds. Even if he drove a cement truck by day, that only meant he came home to a house on the waterfront. The idea of a God who cared enough to come to earth in human flesh, he shook his head, it was scandalous. Why it made a mockery of anyone who thought they were good enough to get to heaven on their own.
     He was desperate to understand what had grown from the ruin of his primal being, the overgrown ruin that had fostered a civilization of love deep inside him. To have one’s primal fear overthrown, in favour of a love for people in their humanness and their imperfections gave him a security no one could alter. Why, the civilization had reached out way past the limits and could even carry those who were poor, disabled, or marginalized. Was it not the mark of true civilization to be able to grant stability and esteem to those who could not esteem themselves?

     Master Fox was typing away on his laptop next door inside his glass house. Pioneer Lightfoot could see him through the window as he strummed. That guy has something going on, he thought. He could almost see the light bulb over Fox’s head pop on when he got another bright article idea. Fox, though, was oblivious to anything but the Times, and the screaming mob outside the door of their office, and the potential for . . . just about anything.
   Inside his house, Fox mused. He hadn’t meant to become an enemy of the chocolate industry overnight. Not in tourist town, he thought. Yet, how could he ignore the children of Indonesia? How could he forget their covered faces and the contorted fear to breathe? With that, he typed up his next article with no compunction. It was time for an international boycott, he quickly summarized. When he wrote, he meant what he said. And it was a challenge to the public to act or react. He put his cup of Celestial Seasonings tea on the table.

     Master Fox drove down Yates Street in his sleek car, blaring the radio. He was wearing his sunglasses. He still needed to pick up a few things in time for Christmas day. He had champagne on his mind when he entered the liquor store.
    There was a newspaper rack near the counter when he approached the till. He couldn’t help but notice his international boycott of palm oil manufacturing all over the front page. He stopped in his tracks. He had considered a few things about the newspaper business, and the main one was that they put on the front page whatever sold papers. As a columnist for the Times who grappled with contentious issues, he considered his work standard. But the screaming inebriated crowd outside the newspaper office spoke volumes to the editor.
     Something looked suspiciously like a large rally in front of the parliament buildings in the bottom section. Again there was a woman with a megaphone and large crowds, and right before Christmas! He grabbed a copy as he purchased the champagne. Would You Quit Chocolate? was hard to miss.
     Although it was possible chocolate was a passable addiction to women, he hadn’t thought too much about the wearisome consequences of his boycott. What if all the women who went to shop for boxed Christmas chocolates actually read the ingredients? It didn’t seem too far-fetched that they might, at his dictatorial demand. In fact, if they did, a riot in front of the parliament might be more what he saw now that he had the Times in front of him.
     When he entered London Drugs he realized that as a journalist who was driven to stay always one step ahead of his readers, he might have to stay one step ahead of them in this very store. He tilted his hat, and adjusted his sunglasses, only to have the effect of a private eye. A woman pointed in his direction, only for him to furtively dart behind a display into the next aisle.
     In aisle seven a little girl called out. “Look mamma! It’s him!” Faced with a red-faced huffing mother about to accost him, he twirled, knocking over a display of mandarin oranges. Oranges rolled everywhere, down the aisles, underfoot. The little girl picked up one orange and calmly ate it. Within minutes the store had erupted into mayhem. Women were shrieking, men were shouting, and the store detective nabbed him from behind and dragged him into the back room.
     As soon as he reached the manager’s office, the detective turned and grinned. “You’ve had a rough day, I can tell.” He tapped his fingers together and leaned back in the manager’s chair. “We don’t usually entertain celebrities in our store, this humble abode, but glad I could help you out.”
     “Oh—“said Fox in a whimper, unsure if by now he would be facing an angry mob at the front of the store.
     “I know—give me your keys, and I’ll bring the car around for you. You can escape out the back door,” said the detective.
     Boy, what a day, thought Fox as he skidded around the corner on two wheels. When he got home, he downed a couple drinks and fell asleep in a stupor. The next day was Christmas Eve. Surely the crowd of people who were determined to stage a boycott would disperse in light of the holiday, he presumed.

     It was Christmas Eve day. Master Fox snuck out of the house in a disguise. While driving downtown, he through he would stop by Murchie’s and pick up some Christmas tea for his mother. He would send it to Toronto, just in time for New Year’s he thought. He noticed the downtown was more congested than usual, but without meaning to, got diverted into a single lane of traffic and was forced to go around the inner harbour. As he passed the parliament, it seemed like the third day of a protest was going on, with people camped out in tents. Was this really the riot he had feared? They were chanting and waving signs, but looked harmless enough.
     It suddenly occurred to Fox that they were trying to force him out of hiding. He quickly parked at the nearest arcade, and made his way back. As he weaved through the crowd, he could finally hear what was going on at the front. “Chocolate is his middle name,” the female speaker intoned, and just then Fox made his move. Fox whipped out an organic chocolate bar made without palm oil from his pocket at sent it hurtling over the crowd toward the speaker. It seemed to come out of nowhere and struck the speaker square on her hat. Luckily she was wearing a toque, but the crowd recognized his sign and began to scream. They knew it could be none other than Fox himself. 
     Fox was pushed forward by the crowd parting like a sea and suddenly he was at the front of what was quickly becoming a riot. “Come on up here, Fox,” she screamed into the microphone. He ran up the steps and grabbed the mic.
     “You all know why I’m here,” he yelled over the raging crowd. “You want Christmas, without the palm oil. You want chocolate, without the palm oil. And you want me to say it like it is in the Times Columnist.
     “This is your time to give your response to the companies that have treated you badly. They haven’t valued your opinions on cheap oil until now. They haven’t cared while the children of Indonesia suffocate in their beds. They never thought that you would stage a boycott.
     “But it does matter what you think. I know what I’m eating from now on! It’s food from companies that went to the extra expense to be shelf-stable without the palm!” shouted Fox.
     He hurled another chocolate bar into the crowd and the noise went up a decibel to a high-pitch crescendo with the thrill. At that the crowd surged forward, and he was almost crushed by the movement of bodies. Just then someone grabbed him by the collar. It was a big body behind him, and he hardly had time to glance at the blue uniform before he found himself hurried off stage right and placed in the back of a police squad car.
     “You know I should put you under arrest,” said the officer.  “But there is such a thing as free speech, and freedom of the press.”
     “If you don’t mind dropping me at my car, officer,” Fox said coolly, without amusement, “we’ll call it a day.”
     “Righto,” the officer replied. “If you’ll forget about chocolate, we’ll forget we had this encounter.”
     “I supposed you want to go home to your Christmas, and give a nice box of chocolates to the wife,” Fox answered, looking out the window.
     “You got it,” said the cop.

     What Master Fox said about it all to Pioneer Lightfoot afterwards, as they sat on the deck overlooking the beach; they talked for over an hour. The moon was high and looked like a silver dime. “Victoria is lively,” admitted Fox, “but I would have never guessed that this tourist town would string me up like a fox in the henhouse.”