Grade 5 report card – Hotel California

Sometimes, after a holiday has crested and is ebbing, and I feel melancholia descend upon me like dense smoke settling over a city; you know, it’s the feeling you get after seeing too much beauty…a kind of phantasmal reality, like you’re alone inside a small grey membranous dome, and beyond the gluey gauze are apparitions you hope are only people moving about, and time is all out of joint, and you are certain your brain is blotting paper, and you begin to pine in your own pooling pathos, and ruth is nowhere to be found, and you reach for Bukowski’s poetry of lime and asphalt…

                                 …well, when this happens the only thing that keeps me going is remembering the words on the back of my grade five report card written by my teacher—that would be Mrs. Barber who’s son Ricky had a fastball pitch that sounded like the crack of a whip when it hit the catchers mitt; a pitch rivalled only by left-handed Damon Kondroe’s hardball overhand. I can see Damon now, he would arch back until his arm was on the verge of breaking, and then, after holding motionless…for one second…his body would unwind—from the ball of his cleated right foot to his snapping left wrist and unfurling fingers—and release a red-seamed white bullet that would explode like a rifle shot behind a bewildered batter. Damon played for my home town, the Springside Combines, but not all the time because he was, they said, erratic, like Saskatchewan’s Cypress Hills, or, I suppose, the giant stone outside of Okotoks, Alberta, misplaced—mysterious as to placement. He went on to an unknown future. Like Lillian Moscow who I had an immense crush on and who lived in a small house along the village’s north road, but who followed her own road of arbitrary direction, and when I met her by chance a few years after we were out of high school, she was still a year older than me—and as alluring—and all those wet-palm school days came back to me like a line from an old song remembered, “You can check-out any time you like, But you can never leave!”


        —a song we used to sing on the island, like an anthem, and we’d bend and twist our limbs and face-pose through the guitar solo, and then sing again, sing with Ken Sharp who is now the proprietor of that song, who came back, after our geographical and socio-conceptual migration that scattered most of us, except Ken, who bought the Springside Hotel and renamed it, and where there is, whether full or not, "plenty of room," and room too in our home town (there being still only a few hundred people) where Damon pitched hardball, and we flipped our cars on back roads, stuck potatoes in exhaust pipes, tipped the "honey wagon" on Halloween, learned to inhale, dreamed about what waited for us west on Highway 16, watched Sunday morning sunrise’s in hay fields through bug-spattered windshields, fell down, got stuck, left, returned, settled, remembered grade school and Mrs. Barber—who, as I was saying, wrote this on the back of my report card: "Doesn’t seem to pay attention, daydreams and looks out the window, but usually gets his work done."


  1. I’m smiling. And next time I feel the day-dreamy melancholy settling in for a bit, I’ll try remember that we still usually manage to get the work done, in the end. Thanks for sharing Mrs. Barber’s affirmation with your fellow day-dreamers!

  2. I can vouch for Damon’s erratic throwing – tried to bat once against him and got hit in the back as I tried to avoid the pitch. Later I know that he was in the RCMP.

    And we met Lillian M at Springside’s 100th anniversary homecoming last year – she says hello.

  3. Great pose – I wasn’t aware of the intimate connection you had. And by the way I got hit in the back once by Damon’s hardball too.

  4. Stephen, I was catching up on some of your recent posts and saw a reference to this older one. Thanks for transporting me back to my own school days remembering the music and cliques and sweaty palms and days of insecurity which still haunt me from time to time. But thank you also for the last line – written on that report card – that so reminds me of my younger son. It provides hope and a reminder that he too will daydream his way to a successful, rich future.

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