STRANGE DAYS

Victoria’s Talbot began it’s Words in Winter celebration with several historical monologues from characters who visited the village in the mid-1800’s. A cannon was to be cued and fired at an appropriate point in the dialogue. That point came and passed despite much direction from the performer, Doug Gellatly, the coffee maker from the Quince Café. Problem was the cigarette lighter was out of fluid. The cannoneer resorted to a match while directing the closest observer to fall down to give the cannon blast more drama. The cannon gave a mighty whump and blew apart. The observer had fallen down at the right time. Metal pieces passed over him to land on the road, and other places far away.

The barrel flew several centimetres above the head of New York poet, Paul Kane (he spends 2 months a year in Talbot) whose most recent book was launched last week by Helen Garner. “I thought New York was a dangerous place to live,” he commented coolly, although there was a memento, a piece of cannon, under his arm as he left the village to arrive in New York today.

“Oh shit,” the cannoneer,” said as he fell. He had received a bloodied hand. The barrel came to rest fifty metres away, cutting through the fence of a local bed and breakfast. The cannon firing had been permitted by the local council and the local police. The police car, travelling slowly, had only minutes before been stationary where the road was gouged by another piece of cannon.

Another observer, Dean Homicki, saw the action in slow motion. He saw the barrel spinning slowly to one side of him and heard Doug’s voice drag like an out of time recording. Going by was a vehicle pulling an ancient horsefloat. The float was a wreck with holes through the wooden sides. However it too had escaped the exploding cannon. The holes were from age. It had been parked in a community garage sale site for weeks. The buyer had left a $20 deposit and taken the wheels to be fitted with some rarely styled tyres from the 1940’s. He had promised to return in a week. Several months later he had made the return, only to discover the float had been sold on. The individual who had fallen to the ground had conducted both sales and he had a weird association of events – linking the circumstances surrounding the float to the spontaneous combustion of the cannon – for negotiations between the two purchasing parties had been fiery.

Not perhaps as fiery as the circumstances in the story several of the town’s 320 residents had heard a few days before. One drug dealer had threatened another in a larger town to the north and had reinforced the threat by digging up his competitor’s grandmother and cutting her hand off. Meanwhile, as these contradictory thoughts swirled through the minds of the witnesses to the explosion, small pieces of metal that had been catapaulted high into the air landed on roofs to the north of the town. Those residents imagined the hot water service of the refurbished lodge had exploded.

The cannoneer looked down at a small piece of metal that remained in front of him. He was eyeing it at eye level for the blast had thrown him down. “Oh Shit, it was the fuckin’ replica,” he exclaimed.

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