Stubborn Town is a story of seven chapters, posted serially by me, your snowed in host, Cheeseburger Brown.
"The reason things are is because of how they were; the way they were is because of where they're going. Blame is an illusion, Mr. Mayor." -S. Mississauga
The day is bleak and dim, hemmed in by a sky that looks like it's made of pounded metal.
The rusted orange schoolbus bangs over the potholed highway, easing over the crest of the low hill separating the old site of S. Inlet from the new. The bus exhales a ring of brown smog and then begins the slow coast home, brakes squeaking near the curves.
Aglakti's three cousins are waiting outside of the Elk's Head Lodge: the smiling one with coffee, the slight one with tea, the chubby one with chocolate.
The morning routine plays out with the familiar mumbles and yawns.
Mr. Mississauga is called to a meeting with the mayor, so Aglakti goes home to change her clothes and brush her teeth while the detective lopes over to the Hot Foo. It's crowded and noisy, though a bubble of hush surrounds him as he moves -- trailed by cleared throats, coughs and the clinking of cutlery. He nods to Bonnie as she sets up her grill, then takes a seat opposite Lyle MacDougal in his usual booth.
Lyle puts the newspaper aside. "Thanks for coming, eh?" He taps on the home-printed menu, his brow raised. "How do you feel about talking over some eggs and sausage? I just can't think on an empty stomach, you know?"
Mr. Mississauga sips from his cup of tea, plucked from Aglakti's cousin's tray outside. "I'm fine, Mr. Mayor," he says. His leather gloves creak as he releases the cup.
"How's the investigation coming along? Almost time for you to be heading home, isn't it?"
"It's a complex situation."
"Can you give me the bottom line?"
A match flares. "Yes," says Mr. Mississauga, puffing his cigarette to life. "I can't stop it. You need a physicist."
"So, like I said, you're going to be moving on I suppose," grunts Lyle. He drinks from his mug, leaving droplets of coffee in his beard. "I mean, you're no physicist, right?"
"That's right," agrees Mr. Mississauga.
"Well, you're a colourful character and it's been great to have you," he says quickly, mechanically. To Bonnie he calls, "Where are those eggs, Bon?" and then, looking to Mr. Mississauga again, adds, "Feel free to come back and see us anytime. Bring your friends. Hunt a bear. It'll be a beauty good time."
"You're not interested in a solution, Mr. Mayor."
Lyle coughs. "Of course I'm interested. I have a responsibility toward my community, and another winter's worth of waking up out there means a serious risk for, um, some of our older residents and such."
"That's not the reason."
Lyle flashes a nervous smile, folds his grubby hands on the table. "I'll level with you, Mr. Miniwaka. There've been some complaints. Father Gomez says you tried to badger him into talking about sex, and Gord Martingrove tells me you gave him post-traumatic stress dyspepsia or something by dredging up Korea. You've been handing out cigarettes to kids and you don't spend any money."
Mr. Mississauga leans across the table to reach the ashtray, tapping his smoke with a careful levering of his stiff left arm. Lyle flinches. Mr. Mississauga says, "That's not the reason either, Mr. Mayor."
The mayor scratches under his beard. "I don't need a reason. I'm not kicking you out. Your time's up and, like you say, we need a physicist so we'll just wait until Ottawa decides to send one. What kind of physicist do you recommend? One of them particle guys? Or, like a scientologist or what?"
Mr. Mississauga gives him a tight little smile. "Ottawa will never send a physicist, Mr. Mayor, and you're relieved. Don't bother to cover your mouth, I've already seen it on your brow. There's no need to dodge me: the truth isn't shameful."
Lyle sneers as he tries to fake a smile. "What truth would that be, exactly?"...
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