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Cottage Day 8: Patio/ Locals

August 8, 2010

I rose early, after a restless night.

Roll time back to midnight, the last cottage sleep, the last “goodnight, see you in the morning, when we will dive into the lake!” A huff and shuffle and a snort and a crash outside. No, it wasn’t the killers from “Cottage Day 7”, but it was a character from a previous Cottage Day.

The bear.

The bear!

The bear from the road! Right outside the bedroom window, separated from me and my blanket and book by a net-thin window screen, and clearly tempted this close by the aroma of something scrumptious. The aroma of dinner? The aroma of the trash we ought to have driven to the dump yesterday? The aroma of…delicious me?

It huffed and puffed and I felt like a three-little-pig, waiting for it to blow into my home. Down the hall, I heard M. bolt for the cupboard, pick up a flashlight, and throw open the veranda door, shouting that he’d wanted to meet the bear up close all week and here was his chance, it was meant to be, our final night up north and the stars clear in the sky and the bear prowling outside like it wanted to meet him too.

Indeed.

I considered following him outside and coaxing him back indoors where the chance of a good mauling was much reduced, but figured I stood a better chance of driving a standard transmission car to the emergency room, a man in polka-dot underpants in the backseat holding his bear-mauled guts in his hands, if I sustained no bear injuries myself. And of course, that bear was no fool, kept on prowling, making its way to the next cabin where a family of ten had spent the week swimming, boating, snacking, shouting, game-playing and blasting the Black-Eyed Peas till the wee hours. Presumably, the combination of children, late nights, loud pop-hip-hop, liquor and convenience foods had resulted in a higher and more delicious combination of garbage than we’d produced. At any rate, the snuffles and quick growl was the first and last we heard of the bear that night, and as the excitement ebbed and the crickets droned, we fell asleep.

Cut back to morning number eight and our impending departure. The last dockside latté. The last post-latté lake plunge. The last mosquito-swat, the last bacon, the last picking of mashed slug from between my sandy toes (without fail, every morning that week, I sported a coating of sand and grass between my first and second toes, not realising until hours later when my efforts to pick it off revealed the deflated skin of a late departed slug). I sat with legs dangling in coolish-warm water, envious of the cottagers just waking up after their long Friday-night drive from the city to the forest, their weekend just starting, and us heading home; envious despite the string of cottage days already under my belt.

I pitched a fake fit (no! no! you cannot make me leave the lake!) then composed myself and took my place in the passenger seat.

In town, we hit the local diner for breakfast. Of the fourteen people on that patio, we were the only ones not nursing Friday night hangovers and waiting for 11:00 when the restaurant’s licence permitted alcohol to be served. One young lady was scoffing at the silly police officers who’d pulled her over the night before, “because it’s not like I was too bad, just 120 in a 70…but they told me if I’d been speeding another 5k, then it would’ve been a street-racing charge! Isn’t that funny? Street-racing!” Later, this same woman declined an offer to go swimming and tubing that afternoon, since she was only wearing half her bathing suit. Judging by what her sundress revealed, I guessed “bottom half” and was intrigued by the circumstances that would lead one to don a bikini bottom in place of underpants. Less breathable. Definitely tighter and more constricting. And, it was a very hot day. What, precisely, was she planning? Looking around at the local gents, I stopped thinking about it, then and there.

As for these gentlemen, most were topless, all wore swim-trunks that sagged and needed to be hiked up repeatedly, the challenge of a simple drawstring besting these boys after a night at the beach bar. One guy recounted a brawl that ended with him in a UFC-style chokehold, which he proudly declared had left him out cold on the pavement. Another smoked and fanned the air over the baby carriage, explaining that he’d had no choice but to bring his son along since the mom was still sleeping it off and probably barfing, too. The kid, meanwhile, did his own thing, kicking his feet against the table leg and teething on a soggy piece of Honey Comb cereal. A blond guy with a livid sunburn in the shape of some confusingly tailored shirt asked the diner patrons, one by one, if they remembered anything from the night before. His own recollections tapped out at 11 pm, but apparently someone had seen him fall into some bushes not once but eight times, shortly after 4 am.

And so on.

And so, I weened myself off cottage seclusion and back into “civilisation”. Bacon, eggs and toast safely stowed in my belly, I settled the bill as the patio posse chugged their third round of Budweiser (by this time, it was about 11:15), and reluctantly headed south.

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