Heros or Fools

As soon as I sat down, Campbell or Camp to all and sundry, wanted to get something off his chest, even before we ordered anything to drink. This was unusual but I could guess what was bothering him.

“Hey Camp, I heard about your eh, fire drill at the restaurant.”

“Well yeah, you could call it that but I better tell you what happened before you listen to any nasty rumours.”

I played the peeved and doubted Thomas. “Oh Camp, I’d never.”

“Yeah sure. It all started like the perfect evening. A pleasant dinner out with my co-counsellor and friend.”

“You’re talking about Muriel. Your special friend.”

“Right, Muriel. Anyway we were just waiting for our orders when Muriel leaned across the table to whisper something  to me.”

“Maybe she wanted to give you a peck on the cheek or maybe even a kiss on…”

“Hold it right there, buddy. That’s the sort of gossip that turns facts into fiction my boy.”

“Ok, carry on. She was leaning across the table and then ?”

“Well, there was a candle on the table and for this eh, occasion she let her hair down, so to speak.”

“She let her hair down?”

“Well yes, she wore it open and falling onto her shoulders. Anyway when she leaned over the table her hair instantly caught on fire from the stupid candle on the table. I couldn’t believe it. It was instant. And because I’m a man of action I reacted instinctively since there was no time to think.”

“What did you do Camp ? Call 911 ?”

“I threw my full glass of beer at her head.”

“You did what ?”

“I just told you. I put out the fire but the smell. Oh boy, nothing worse then burning hair.”

“Doused Muriel in beer ? I can’t believe this Camp. How to ruin a romantic dinner.”

“You tell me. Muriel wasn’t too impressed at the moment but she came around later on, after she returned from the bathroom, and forgave me. She actually thanked me from saving her from a worse fate. Anyway she now has bangs and a cute page cut. Actually looks quite good on her.”

“Camp you’re my hero. You throw a glass of beer at your date and come out a champion.” I couldn’t stop myself any longer and burst out laughing until even Camp, who seldom smiles and never laughs, chuckled.

“Here are two complimentary pints from the new brewery in town,” Vicky said, setting two foaming glasses in front of us.”

“Free beer ?” Camp said, nonplussed.

“Yes, I figure you deserve it.  I thoroughly enjoyed your volunteer fire fighter episode,” Vicky said, “Like a real hero.”

“Hold it there girl, heroes risk their lives for others. Stanislav Petrov*) was a hero. He saved the world from nuclear war. I merely put out a fire, in more ways then one, which makes me a fool, not a hero, by all accounts.”

I needed to share my worries of the week with my friend. “Now that the BC fires destroyed 150’000 hectares of forests this hot summer and displaced 37’000 people we’re happy to see some rain around here. Meanwhile serial hurricanes are ripping through the Caribbean and earthquakes are pounding Mexico and the leader of the free world is threatening with annihilation and world war III at the UN,“ I said glumly, staring out at the calm waters of Howe Sound.

“There you go again, like Atlas, carrying the world on your shoulders.”

“I can’t help it Camp, these things worry me.”

“I have to compliment your Swiss Councillor whose rebuttal pointed out that the UN is there to keep the peace of the world and is not a forum for threats of war and destruction,” said Camp. “A voice of sanity in a wilderness of confusion.”

“I sometimes feel like I live in the wrong alternate universe Camp. Maybe somewhere I slipped through the wrong rabbit hole. The universe I wanted to live in was where Al Gore won the presidency, fossil fuels have mostly been left in the ground, Russia joined the EU and borders and fences have been disbanded,” I said much to Camp’s amusement.

“Maybe you need to sign up for one of those mood enhancing cannabis prescriptions,” Camp suggested.

“Clare wouldn’t go for it,” I said. “She believes in facing reality, no matter how difficult, and forge ahead with a positive outlook and an open mind. Useless clichés when you’re faced with a constant barrage of bad news, I say.”

“She has a point,” Camp said. “What use is it to brood on misery when you can just enjoy the sunshine and the fine new craft beers being offered everywhere.”

Just at that moment Muriel walked in, looking rather cute with her bangs and page cut. “Mind if I join you two?” she asked and pulled up a chair.

“No need to stare at my new hair style,” she said with a wink and a tilt of her head. I just want to make it clear that Camp here is my Champ. Without his jungle reflexes my hair would not be quite this stylish.” And with that she smacked a kiss  on Camp’s cheek which made him him look like he had an instant case of tropical sunburn.

“All is forgiven then?” Camp asked sheepishly.

“No need for forgiveness, but I’ll have one of those beers as well.”

Vicky must be psychic when she appeared with a pint for Muriel. “This is for you from me and I must say the new hair style suits you.”

“Thanks, I’m just happy I still have hair.”

We all laughed and drank to that.

“Beer always tastes better when it’s free.” Camp said. I couldn’t agree more.

I have to admit that my mood improved markedly with Muriel’s sunny presence.  For just that moment she made disasters and dangerous demagogues go away.

*) https://www.commondreams.org/views/2017/09/20/man-who-saved-world


Fire and Smoke

We could hardly see Keats Island from our usual table at the pub, even though it’s only one kilometer from the Gibsons shore.

“Clare remarked yesterday that they’ve taken the mountains away,” I said, referring to the bad visibility due to the shroud of smoke hanging over the whole province as a result of over 120 active wild fires.

“Like China,” Campbell or Camp to everybody but his mother remarked, shaking his large messy head of grey locks in dismay.

“There are over 3500 firefighters battling the flames, many of them from Mexico, Australia and the US and apparently one third of the fires are human caused,” I pointed out.

“Yeah, I believe it. Idiots throwing cigarette butts out the window. By the way, have you noticed the sunrises and sunsets lately?” Camp asked.

“Can’s say I’ve seen any sunrises but you’re right about the sunsets and all day long the sun has a pink glow to it. One bonus is that this silky dome of smoke has kept the heat down. You can actually sit outside without shade and not be bothered by the sun. It’s a boon for outdoor patios and beer gardens.”

“I guess we should be thankful for that,” Camp smiled “and the beer stays cool a bit longer, mind you mine never has a chance to warm up. Oh, here is Vicky, I think we might as well have another, what you say?”

Never one to turn down a beer I simply held up two fingers to our waitress Vicky, the universal code for two more beers please.

“What do you think of the fierce rhetoric and sabre rattling going on between Kim Jong-un and Trump as of late?” I asked Camp, who is much more informed and politically savvy than I, even though he does not have a TV and doesn’t read the local papers. Still he is always well versed in present day politics, locally and globally.

“Seems we’re stuck with two psychopaths and egomaniacs trying to outdo each other. We’re used to threats from Kim and the bluster from the Donald but the response from him this week about answering North Korea with ‘fire and fury as the world has never seen it’ is very unsettling. It’s a game of chicken nobody can win and all the cooler heads in the room are biting their nails or checking their smart phones. Nobody laughed.”

“Do you think Kim and his generals would attack Guam with atomic missiles? It’s what he promised to do. Apparently they were able to miniaturize their nukes; make them small enough to stick them on a missile,” I said.

“Kim knows that he cannot win a war with the mighty USA”, Camp said, “all he wants is respect and ensure the survival of his regime and of course he also wants to annex South Korea, the ultimate goal of both his father and grandfather but today more unlikely to happen than ever. And let’s not forget the Japanese who have since last year the right to retaliate if any of their allies – Guam for example – are attacked. It is an escalating and worrying situation, hopefully all smoke and no fire but one that calls for more beer I think.”

“A nuclear war initiated by a tweet, that is really worrying me. What time is it on the doomsday clock today?” I asked,

“It was at ten minutes before midnight 20 years ago, today it stood at 3 minutes to the midnight hour at the beginning of the year and no doubt it has advanced in the last few day to within 30 seconds. Just ask yourself this: Is Trump the kind of guy who would pull the trigger just to show the world that he is a man of real power? Sadly this isn’t just a wildwest story, it is today’s scariest reality show.”

“Not a lot of good news I’m afraid,” I said, “and nothing you and I can do about it either Camp. On the positive side, Clare is picking blackberries today with our neighbour. It’s a bumper year for berries.”

“Is there any improvement in the weather forecast,” Camp asked, squinting toward the water as if trying to penetrate the fog like atmosphere.

“No wind, no rain and no more beer today,” I said, finishing my pint. “I better head back and keep the home fires burning.”