Monday, October 15, 2018

May I float this story past you?

“Is that your new dock floating this way?” he asked. The question was so simply stated that I got up to look around before I even realized what I had been asked. My wife Linda and I own a cabin in Quebec and how that happened and how I even have a wife is beyond me. Now, I was unthinkingly responding to a question asked me by my stepson’s husband. Stepson’s husband, that’s a tongue twister all on its own, and anyway, why would I own a dock and why is it floating this way? Can anybody out there please help me?

My brain kicked in and I heard its whisper in my ear, “Yup old buddy, that could indeed be your dock floating this way.” Actually, it looked more like it was about to float right past our place, forever bobbing loosely about in Lac Saint Francois-Xavier. The area residents constantly pointing to it, saying “That belongs to those idiot Anglos who live on the point”.

I started to prepare the story I was going to tell the police when they arrived to investigate why my dock was free floating in their lake.

A week earlier my wife was out in her kayak and came across a sign on a property about a quarter mile up the lake from us which indicated, “Dock for sale”, actually it really read "Quai à vendre" but Linda knew right off what it meant. She came back all excited about what she had found and as for me, I wasn’t there so I took her word for it. You see, I don’t do water, never have since that first time I found out I couldn’t walk on it and as for French, I have enough on my plate with this English stuff, thank you, very much.

We have a great marriage and amazingly have few disagreements but somehow this spun me right out of orbit. We’ve spent the past few years discussing how we need to de-clutter and now she wanted to add a dock to our overflowing pantry. Where would I ever find the room or money for that posing couch I couldn’t live without if we bought this and how would we attach the dock to the shore? I want you to know I’m more than just a pretty face and fairly good at handyman things. Before this dock reared its ugly head I was in the middle of installing solar panels on the cabin’s roof, I’m a reasonably talented kiddie, but a dock? To begin with, most docks I’ve seen are on water which as already mentioned, I don’t go in. I also knew a dock could easily cost over a thousand dollars, but how much is a used dock worth anyway?

When I became human again we walked down the road to view it up close. No one was home but we let ourselves into their unlocked dock area for a closer inspection. It was a fine looking object, very newish looking and about eight by eight feet with a solidly built walkway, a true find. I’m just kidding; I wouldn’t know what a good dock looked like if I was standing on one, which I was. We wrote down the phone number which had a Montreal exchange and went back to our cabin.

A few days later when I finally summoned up the courage to start that sad “Do you speak English” conversation before I say anything else, I dialed up the number. Well, he didn’t speak English, didn’t know what I was talking about and hung up on me. God bless the Quebecois, I was free! Or so I thought. I soon decided that the phone call was so discordant that we must have written down the wrong number and yes, we had. Two days later I was willing to give it another go.

Stefan identified himself as an English speaker and was obviously excited that he had actually gotten a call about his dock. We both agreed neither of us had any idea what a used dock was worth so he said “how about 400 dollars?” I cleared my throat and he said “okay, 350 then.” I leaned forward and my chair creaked and he said “I see what you mean, how about 300?” I took in a deep breath, about to answer and he said “does 250 sound better?” A moment later when he hit 200 dollars I squealed “stop it Stefan, I’ll take it for 200, consider it sold.” He was on his way up from Montreal the following weekend so we agreed to meet then to finalize the sale.

On the weekend I went to meet Stefan and figure out what to do about getting the dock to us. Could Stefan attach it to his pontoon boat and simply tow it down or was this a job for FedEx, maybe UPS or was this finally the time to test Canada Post’s “We deliver anything, anywhere” boast? I offered to help with the disassembly but Stefan insisted not to worry, he would look after everything.

Now here I was, just hours later standing on the shore watching canoes and kayaks trying to avoid being rammed by this floating beast. Our floating beast! By now I assumed that as Stefan went to hook it on his tow boat it had gotten away from him and here it was, out in the middle of the lake, about to float past. As it got closer I realized that it wasn’t just the dock but I could now see the walkway still attached to it. An 8 by 8 foot slab of wood with an 8 foot walkway floating behind it. I didn’t know if I should feel panic or pride for being responsible for such a commotion. Oh lord, please don’t let this incident start that Quebec separating from Canada business again. Linda, her son, his husband and I all standing transfixed and helpless, mutely waiting to see what would happen next.

Just then I saw a head bobbing up from the very end of it all. Did I just hear the bobbing head call out to us or is this just another Acid Flashback? Is it time to cut back on my drug use or is my new dock talking to me? I knew I was definitely not the person to answer those questions.

It was him! Stefan was swimming in the water at the tail end of it all, pushing the whole thing down the lake to our place. Calling out to us to find out where we wanted him to beach it. At this point others in and near the water began to join in the festivity and suddenly we were running a concession at a carnival. It was obvious now, we were in a Fellini movie, but where are all the marching clowns, the drummer boy leading the parade? He called out again and one of us muttered, “Good grief, he’s swimming behind it and has floated it down here on his own.” My brain screaming, “Over here, over here” and then finally words tumble out, “Over here Stefan, I will toss you a rope.” I had a heavy rope ready and gave it a grand toss, he caught it and a loud cheer erupted from the nearby boats on the water. He tied the rope to a cleat and swam in closer as I slowly guided the dock from my end of the rope to shore. He hoisted himself onto the dock and removing his flippers he sauntered ashore. What a magnificent display, we all fell in love with him at the same time. He said that I should bring the money to his place whenever I could. Without pausing for drinks or any of the bodily favours we were all offering him he walked back into the lake and started his swim back to his place.

About an hour later I went up to his place to pay him for the dock. I said I needed to give him $250 for the purchase. He accepted only after I insisted that he had made the transaction so easy and that the theater and artistry of the whole experience was easily worth an extra fifty dollars. In return he insisted that when I came back to the cabin next year I had to promise I would get him to help me install it on our shoreline.

I quickly agreed and headed back to our cabin.