Behind this house—within whose walls we spent Christmas—on the south-east edge of Red Deer lies a quarter section (that’s 160 acres for urbanites) of crop land. A mix of single track, rough trails, and open snow-covered stubble invite the tryptophan anesthetized to wheeze their way back to holiday consciousness while trekking its two mile circuit.
We had planned to walk the circumference of this square tract in late afternoon, but the white-meat and shortbread lethargy was still too strong, and the company too welcoming…and the afternoon passed. I did manage to rise and wander to an east-facing window as the western sky was pulling back its quilt of chinook cloud; I watched, and when the sun slipped down into this space it lit up the half-mile line of leafless aspen on the opposite horizon, creating a tangle of illuminate, each crotch, branch, twig and sprig an optic fibre radiating yellow-light.
Still, I sat back down among the pack. But the time came when our wills strengthened on their own and we jacketed up and stepped out of doors, breathed in some tepid air and walked. We walked, my wife, Deb, Rose, our sister-in-law, and me — we three, wise as magi, into the gloaming of a Christmas night.
No moon gave us light this night. Only distant and dampened city light reflecting off an elongated priapic band of silver cloud, in relief of a silk-thin high weave of haze.
As we hiked we remembered the single coyote that purviews this barren white expanse. Earlier in the day we had watched him pounce on field mice. And quite naturally as we moved toward the looming trees we told stories of freakish coyote attacks—clothes torn away from running flesh…
Entering the tree-lined trail along the back stretch the dark crowded in and we needed to use the small flashlight I had received as a gift. I flipped the switch and white light blitzed the dark. Following the bobbing beam we picked our way along the rutted snow-pack: but then, at the edge of the shaft of light, just above eye level, we noticed patches of white hanging in the low branches. What strange fruit was this? Swinging the LED ray directly at the phenomena revealed a dozen, perhaps more, pairs of panties.
They had not been tossed to the trees in wontoness. They had been hung with care—unfurled—so as to display curve, curl, fabric, or its lack, frill, kind and colour. None alike, yet not one would Renee Zellweger have diaried as granny-panties. All were scanty. But given the setting, the time, the light, not quite provocative. And I for one, was unmoved.
And so we pondered, we wise ones, what the message of the dozen panties might be. A pattern was not immediately apparent. But then neither did we think it would be. The thong array and arrangement would not give up its clue or code that easy. And of course knicker mysteries do not abound in Red Deer and so gumshoe consultation would be a wash.
But then, we considered, were we limiting our enquiry? Perhaps we fell upon the clandestine muster point for lingerie on the lam. Were these panties taking control of their destiny, escaping those dreary department and drug stores with their licentious picture-packaging, and liberating themselves? Maybe, refusing a purchased fate, they were not going gently into that good night where the sun shineth not.
And what of the coyote, was he innocent of trophy hunting? What, after all, goes on behind yellow eyes? Did we stumble through some false panel into the den of a socio-path Canis latrans? And what of these trees themselves? Innocuous bystanders or light fingered Ents? Concupiscent cottonwood’s? Perverse poplars? Trembling aspen indeed!
We pondered these things as we traversed the remaining mile back to the house. We did not however store them in our hearts as proper magi may have. We were conscious only of the adolescent bubbles breaking in the back of our throats. These we contained as we shared our story with all the seriousness our discovery warranted—receiving not a few expected responses. For none of us fully out grow our adolescence.
Happy New Year, embrace the juvenile within.