The Patient’s Progress, Part 3

It is October 2007. An emergency all-party government unleashes a political revolution in NL. But a sudden General Strike threatens to derail the province.

Diagnostic Category: Repetitive Rural Loss Trauma Disorder (RRLTD).

Case study: Patient has recently moved from a depression over the loss of rural life to what appears to be an hallucinatory state in which rural Newfoundland and Labrador is flourishing.

Day 5 Out-patient Progress notes: Ming’s Bight Dynasty, or: The Linney-Hole Legislation

Therapist’s note: the patient seems very somber today.  

“October 26th, 2007. 9 AM. Buoyed by Lorraine Michael’s stirring speech the day before, and notwithstanding the province’s temporary name change to Gander, the House introduces a series of bills that have come to be called the Linney-Hole Legislation. It was so-called because the first room you’d come to in a rural house was called the linney (porch), and the linney-hole was a tiny room in the linney. The Rural Caucus felt they had just barely been allowed in from the porch of the House.

The Linney Hole statutes included:

1.) The establishment of a ‘Rural National Convention’ (Rur-nal-con)  

“If we are truly fighting for our existence then it is not a time for partisanship,” states Penashue-Hutton. Taking the lead from Winston Churchill, she establishes an all-party government and immediately calls a ‘Rural National Convention’.

Every rural community is called together to meet in Ming’s Bight. They chart a new course for Newfoundland. “This a much bigger issue than our Confederation with Canada ever was,” says re-programmed MHA Danny Williams (Humber Turnpike).

2.) The United Nations of Fish is established by the Rur-nal-con

A steering committee is entrusted with the job of setting up the United Nations of Fish. (Locally it is usually called ‘the Fish UN’ or just ‘fishun’.) Its mandate is quite simply to save the oceans and all life therein.

Leading figures from the fishery are sent as ambassadors around the world to convince all world fishing interests to join this league. Among the ambassadors are Gus Etchegary, Richard Cashin, George Rose, and a young Ryan Cleary.

Therapist’s note: Patient could not remember details so  I would request RRLTD sufferers who live in this alternate reality to send in the names of any other rural heroes who have become ambassadors.

3.) The establishment of the Cabotz system

Based on the Israeli Kibbutz, the Rur-nal-con established the return to cultivation of all the lands that were called ‘Gardens’ in the province in the year 1949.

Thousands of senior citizens are drafted to teach younger Cabotz workers where these vegetable gardens had been, and how they had been farmed using natural fertilizers (such as kelp and caplin).

The province quickly becomes self-sufficient in root vegetables and corn and, in three years, becomes a world-wide exporter of these same vegetables—which of course have a richness of taste unequalled in the world. The most well-known brand is  “Cool North.”

This in turn led to the emergence of Newfoundland and Labrador as a world leader in organic farming through a crown corporation called ‘NewfOrgan’—not to be confused with the porn site of the same name, obviously.

Therapist’s note: He continued for some time after I turned the recorder off. It was difficult to get him off a long digression about the terroir of Brigus beet juice. It took me a while to get through to him, but he finally wound down and made way for my next patient.

Day 6 Out-patient Progress notes: Sweet and Sour, or: An Obituary for Mom

Therapist’s note: Patient is sadder than he has ever been as he picks up today’s narrative. I asked him what was wrong.

“Oh Doctor, oh Doctor. There could be no greater contrast between the morning of October 26th and the afternoon of that same day.

He explained:

That afternoon, a new newspaper called The Independent Repentant hits the streets. Through an obituary that runs on its front page, it casts serious doubt that any real effort will be put into saving rural Newfoundland and Labrador.

Strangely the patient is able to produce an actual newspaper! It is indeed called The Independent Repentant.  Where did it come from? Did he have it printed himself?

Or… dare I say it? Could there be an alternate reality in which my patient’s vision exists?

OBITUARY: Died, of neglect, October 9th, 2007, Rural Newfoundland, Mother to us all; in her 510th year.

Beloved of the people, she leaves to mourn 503,000 children living at home and three times as many living away. Her late-in-life marriage to Canada in 1949 was interpreted by some as a glorious golden years romance; by others, the leading cause of her final demise. Funeral services to be finally held tomorrow, October 27th 2007.

Please attend the funeral, as it is important for all her children to see the corpse. We must stop our denial. We must grieve, and then move on. Accordingly, we demand her corpse back from the Tourism Sector, who have been shamefully dressing it up and parading it in front of our poor ignorant visitors.

The Obituary sets off an enormous wave of doubt and sadness across the province. Inexplicably, people in the hundreds of thousands leave work and go home to grieve. Fish plants close; oil rigs shut down; only a trickle of water flows through the generators at the Upper Churchill. Thousands of vessels tie up at wharves and docks. Students leave their classrooms.

It is an unintended General Strike. There is no organization, no apparent communication. A virus of grief spreads across the province.

But on October 27th, people really change. On that day, mock burials take place all over rural Newfoundland and Labrador. Effigies of outport Newfoundland are put in coffins and lowered into the ground. The coffins contain inshore fishing gear, farming tools, bird and moose hunting paraphernalia, the Dictionary of Newfoundland English or old family Bibles. Eulogies are read by local citizens.

Here’s an excerpt from the ceremony in Tizzard’s Harbour, Newfoundland, by fisherman, opera and country/western singer, national ‘Canadian Idol’ star and future MHA (Moreton’s Harbour-Round the Circle) Chad Bungay:


“So here we are, the weeping children of a poor old lady who I suppose never had herself together all that much, but who survived again, and again, and again, even when everyone said she was down. But, this time she ain’t risin’ again. Mom is really dead.

We got to survive on our own now. But she gave us lots of smarts so I suppose we’ll be all right.

Now, Mom was sent out here many years ago in service to the fishing industry—510 years ago to be exact. She grew up here—survived on her own. I’m not gonna mince words: she was a whore with a heart of gold to the fishermen and politicians and the petty officials of the last half millennium.

Surprisingly late in life, following a bitter dispute with her domineering British mother, she married her cash-rich neighbor, a Mr. Canada—glad to see you here today, sir!—and of course Mom used her rivers, minerals, forests and fish as her dowry. And I’m not gonna lay any blame, but it wasn’t long into this union—with its schemes and its laws and its international commitments—that she found herself depleted. She died penniless and broken-hearted.

Now, there was an oil windfall that could have been used to bring her back from the brink, but the will just wasn’t there. Some just didn’t think she was all that important.

For better and for worse, we are the children of that union. And now we are orphaned and abandoned. May the mother of us all, rural Newfoundland and Labrador, finally rest in peace.”

There were over a hundred eulogies like this spoken all over Newfoundland and Labrador.

For the next three days the “Great Sadness” continues to grip the province. The streets are empty. Everything has shut down. At NTV, Geoff Stirling has personally had to take on all broadcasting on the station. Every bayman who works for them has gone home. Tony Marie-Wiseman is operating the microwave towers!

Even Chad Bungay takes to bed after giving his funeral oration. As he later reports, he is revived from his mourning by a bowl of sweet and sour pea soup.

Therapist’s note: I am, of course, fascinated. I inquire if things will turn around.

“Of course,” he says, “I told you, Doc. We’ve changed and we’ve changed the world! See you next week!”

Art by Gordon Little.

Read Part 4 here, or go back to Part 1.

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