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Small town protest life and Fifty Grades of Grain

The Jacksons: From the May 7 issue of the Manitoba Co-operator

Andrew Jackson leaned back in his chair and took a sip of the coffee that the dark-haired young server with the silver nose ring had just poured for him. He set his cup down on the table before he spoke.

“I’m looking across the street,” he said, peering out of the window, “and there appears to be a protest occurring in front of the Pauper’s Prints. Why would someone be protesting in front of a used book store?”

Grant Toews, who was in his usual chair turned to look out the window himself.

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“It’s not a very big protest,” he said. “Looks like a crowd of one.” He squinted, trying to make out the scene. “I can’t quite read his sign.”

Rick Ballantyne, who was sitting across from Grant also turned to look. “God will free you from bondage,” he said.

“I know that,” said Grant, “but can you read what the sign says?”

“That is what the sign says,” said Rick.

“Oh,” said Grant. “I thought you were just making a statement.”

“Nope,” said Rick. “I leave that to the guy across the street.”

“Ah,” said Andrew, “I know what it is. He’s protesting the fact that Maxine has a copy of Fifty Shades of Grey on the shelf in the bookstore. Rose told me she saw it there when she and Karen went in for a cup of tea last week.” He turned to Grant. “Karen didn’t tell you?” he asked.

“She didn’t bring it up,” said Grant. “But maybe that’s where she got the idea of having me tie her to the bedposts when we went to bed that night.” There was a moment of surprised silence. “I’m kidding,” said Grant. “We don’t even have bedposts.”

“We do,” said Rick, “but I never realized they had any practical purpose. I thought they were just there to make it more difficult to make the bed. It never occurred to me to tie anyone to them.”

“That’s because you don’t know how to read,” said Andrew. “Those kinds of ideas come from books. Really bad books generally. Horrible works of literary nonsense that destroy the fabric of small-town North America by igniting firestorms of noisy protest in peaceful little villages like ours.”

Grant peered out the window again. The protester had seated himself uncomfortably on the curb and was trying to keep his sign from blowing away in the wind.

“That’s not a very noisy protest,” said Grant. “But I think it may be the first protest ever in this town.”

“I think you’re probably right,” said Rick. “We’re not really protesters here, are we?”

“Not really,” Andrew agreed. “We’re more grumblers. Protesting is hard work. I mean just look at that poor guy trying to hang on to his sign. Grumbling is easy. You can do it right here in the café over a good cup of coffee.”

“Speaking of which,” said Rick, “I feel like maybe we should grumble at least just a little about the government giving away the wheat board to Saudi Arabia.”

“Ah, what’s the point?” said Andrew. “It was just a slight miscommunication.”

“What was?” asked Grant.

“The fact that what the prime minister meant to say when he said that he was going to do away with the wheat board, was that he was going to give away the wheat board,” said Andrew. “It was probably an honest mistake.”

“Probably,” said Rick. “The prime minister does make a lot of honest mistakes. But I have to admit I can’t always follow his reasoning. He says giving the wheat board to the Saudi Arabians is a gift to Canadian farmers, but honestly to me it just looks like a gift to the Saudis.”

“Well, it’s a gift to somebody,” said Grant, “so at the very least it’s evidence of the prime minister’s generosity.”

“I’m sure he’s a generous enough person,” said Rick, “but I can’t help feeling a little worried that he seems to be the most generous when he’s giving away things that belong to someone else.”

“Well, you should definitely protest,” said Andrew. “I’ll make you a sign and you can go sit on the curb with our friend across the street.”

“Call it the Fifty Shades of Grain protest,” said Grant.

“Or how about Fifty Grades of Grain,” said Andrew.

“I think not,” said Rick. “I’ll just be hurting myself if I protest. The government will say I’m ungrateful, considering the gift it’s giving me, and then it will make my life a living hell. I think I’ll just continue to grumble quietly and live my life according to my mother’s favourite saying.”

“What saying is that?” asked Andrew.

“Never punch a gift horse in the mouth,” said Rick.

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