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Read: Adventures in Grey Bruce! By: Norma Grafe...
The thunder boomed and reverberated across the sky and lightning sent its sizzling forks from the heavens. Thick, black clouds roiled as they circled above. The air was heavy with pelting rain and the smell of ozone. Great gusts of wind drove the waves before them, to roll high up onto the beach and beyond, on the tiny deserted island. The single palm tree was bent almost double against the force of the wind. At last, with a final howl that dwindled down to a sigh, the wind dropped. The sky cleared and the sun came out. A final wave clawed its way up the beach, then receded. In its wake, 2 figures were left on the sand.
The men stirred as the sun dried and warmed them. They sat up, groggily surveying their tiny plot of land. Their clothes were in tatters, hanging on them like so many torn rags.
“Some storm,” rasped the first man, gagging as he coughed the seawater out of his lungs. “Are you all right?”
“We’re definitely not in Kansas any more,” sighed the second man. “Yes, I’m OK.”
The first man held out a sand-covered hand. “I’m Jake.”
“Victor,” replied the second man, raising his hand to shake. At the last moment, he yelped as he saw the small crab hanging from his fingers. “Gaaa!” he exclaimed, as he shook his hand energetically to dislodge the crustacean. They shook hands, then looked out to sea. The water was calm, the aqua deepening to a dark blue as the seabed fell away.
“Nothing but ocean all around,” muttered Jake. “I don’t see any land…anywhere!”
“Yup, we’re a long way from home,” agreed Victor.
“Where’s home for you?” asked Jake.
“Aw, you’ve probably never heard of it. I come from Ontario, Canada.”
“Hey, me too! I’m from Ontario too!”
“Really?” asked Victor, incredulous. “Do you know where Grey Highlands is?”
“Know it? I grew up there!”
They stared at each other. Victor finally broke the silence, making a dismissive gesture. “You’re pulling my leg.”
“No, really! I grew up just outside Grey Highlands, near a place called Bell’s Lake. Do you know it?”
“That’s the place,” replied Jake, still amazed by this coincidence.
“I grew up near Eugenia Falls,” supplied Victor.
“Oh, man. You’re only about 30 kilometers away from Bell’s Lake! Take the Glenelg-Holland Townline to Highway 10, right? You come out just south of Berkeley. Turn right and stay on 10. You’ll go through Markdale and end up in Flesherton. Turn left on County Road 4 in Flesherton, then turn left on Beaver Valley Road? If that road existed way back when, I bet it was well-travelled. That’s the place where Ontario’s only gold rush was!”
“And that wasn’t the only treasure!” Victor broke in. “While on Beaver Valley Road, about 5 kilometers north of Kimberley, we used to stop in at the Beaver Valley Orchard and Cidery! Everything was from locally sourced apples, and we used to check out the tasting room. They had a tray of artisanal cheeses to pair with the cider. We could have some cider there, or take some home in bottles. And it wasn’t just the cider that was a treasure! The whole works is set up in a historic post and beam century barn!”
Jake sighed dreamily. “I could go for some cider right about now…”
“Well, we’d best not dwell on liquid refreshment in our situation, or we’ll drive ourselves crazy. Say, when you were in Flesherton, did you ever get over to see the South Grey Museum? You know, on Sydenham Street, just north of the lights?”
Jake: “I’ve been there, and so have a lot of other people! My mom was into genealogy when she retired and she found a lot of stuff there to build our family tree! They’ve got great activities for kids!”
Victor: “Not to mention the Heritage Herb Garden in Memorial Park. Did you know that it’s linked with the Markdale Community Garden and teaches people how to grow their own food?”
Jake nodded. “I really liked when they developed those self-directed walking tours of Eugenia, Flesherton, Kimberley, Markdale, Osprey, Priceville and Rocklyn! Speaking of Eugenia, ever get to Hogg’s Falls?”
Victor: “Oh yeah. Lower Valley Road in Flesherton. I never got tired of hiking the Bruce Trail there and enjoying the falls. In the summer with hiking boots on, and in the winter with snowshoes! How about Feversham Gorge? Ever go there?”
Jake: “I feel like we must have crossed paths at a lot of these places, and it took a shipwreck for us to bump into each other! The Gorge is that place going east on Grey County Road 4 when you leave Hogg’s Falls, right? Through Maxwell and then left on Grey County Road 2? In Feversham? Going down the Beaver River, you get to the Gorge. Man, vertical limestone walls 80 feet high on either side of the river. Awesome! And on the top, the 1.5 kilometer hiking trail!”
Victor, enthusiastically: “Speaking of the Beaver River, how about Beaver Valley? I’m sure you must have been there more times than you can count!”
Jake: “You betcha. The thing that a lot of tourists don’t know is that Beaver Valley is not just for driving through in the fall, to get blown away by the spectacular fall colours. There’s that private ski club there, east of Markdale, off Grey Road 30. They’ve got 20 runs, along with snowboarding, tobogganing, and even playschool programs for kids 6 months old to 6 years old!”
Victor: “My brother and his wife and their kids are members there, at the Beaver Valley Ski Club. Lots of stuff for members to do: yoga, dances, apres ski stuff, sometimes wine tasting. They sure make winter fun for their members!”
The two men were almost talking over each other in their efforts to explore their shared experiences, and after each new revelation, stopped to shake their heads in near-disbelief at this turn of events.
“Duncan -” exclaimed Victor at the same time that Jake said “Epping -” They both stopped and laughed, and Jake said, “You go first.”
Victor: “I was just going to say that, 20 minutes away from Beaver Valley Ski Club on Sideroad 9, is a nature preserve called Duncan Escarpment. It has no visitor facilities, and you have to take care to leave everything the way you found it, but you can walk the Bruce Trail there and enjoy some awesome scenery! Now, what were you going to say?”
Victor: “Yes, I have. Totally awesome during the fall colours, and also some Christmas-card winter scenery as well!”
At that moment, a shadow crossed the tiny beach as a seagull winged its way over the men. They both looked up, eyeing the bird speculatively. Jake’s stomach rumbled.
Victor: “When was the last time you had something to eat?”
Jake, still watching the bird, “It seems like a long, long time ago…”
Victor: “What I wouldn’t give right now to be seated in Justin’s Oven in Kimberley. It started out as a community-built clay oven and expanded to what now features local and organic fare, prepared in-house by Justin himself.”
Both men lapsed into silence, lost in their own imaginations of what fine meals they had consumed in the past. To a chorus of stomach rumblings, they opened their eyes, hoping their present situation would be only a dream. Instead, they were faced with endless horizons of water all around them. The seagull had moved off in search of food elsewhere. The small crab that had come ashore with them had also abandoned them, and returned to the sea. Not a sound was heard except for the rhythmic lap of waves on the sand. As it continued, almost hypnotically, the men found their eyelids becoming heavier, and their breathing settled into the deeper rhythms preceding sleep.
Victor: “I’m imaging that I’m at the Guesthouse at Eugenia Falls, relaxing and enjoying their garden.” He sighed.
Jake: “I’m remembering Danby House Bed & Breakfast in Markdale. Free breakfast…”
“This sucks!” exclaimed Jake, struggling to his feet. He paced a few steps in the sand, one way, then turned around and paced a few steps the other way, which was all the space they had on the postage-stamp-sized beach. “I have all these memories of home! Before we boarded that ship, I had made the decision to move back home and settle down there. Now that’s never going to happen!”
“I hear you,” sighed Victor, watching his comrade pacing back and forth. “I made the same decision, and now don’t have the chance to follow it through.”
“It’s just not fair!” seethed Jake, allowing the fury and futility of it all to build within him. He stalked to the trunk of the palm tree and kicked viciously at the sand-caked grass growing at its base, sending sand flying in all directions.
A small, exotic-looking bottle rolled out from under the grass and came to rest at his feet. Curious, he bent to pick it up and rubbed the sand from its sides in order to examine it more closely. He shook it to see if it was empty or not. Not being able to tell from shaking it, he worked the top off the bottle. A puff of blue smoke wafted out of the bottle, to be followed by a more substantial cloud of it. The smoke drifted for a moment, then settled down to the sand. It seemed to scatter for a moment, and then a figure slowly took form within it. After a few moments, the men looked on in disbelief as something straight out of the Arabian Nights appeared before them.
“You have released me from my bottle,” came the musical voice of the woman. “I am a genie and have been imprisoned here for millenia. In my gratitude, I will grant each of you a wish.”
Dumbfounded, Jake and Victor stared at the genie. Then they turned their heads and stared at each other. A slow smile crept upon their faces and they each made their wish known to the genie. The genie’s smile was the last thing they saw before everything faded away before them: the palm tree, the sand, the plump sea gull, the constant, lapping waves.