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The Jacksons, Feb. 9, 2012

Andrew Jackson turned on the windshield wipers as he pulled into town and scanned the street in front of the café for an empty parking spot. It’s not every year that you have to use your windshield wipers on January 29 in central Manitoba. In fact it’s probably not even every decade. It really doesn’t rain that often in January.

But this year is different. This year it rains on a regular basis, more often than it snows it seems, which is why there’s still so little snow on the ground. When it does snow, the snow only hangs around for a few days and then the rain washes it away. It’s like living in Vermont, according to Alf Hastings, though without all the aging hippies. Alf should know since he lived there for a few years in the ’80s, back when the hippies were still relatively young.

Fortunately for Andrew there was an empty parking spot directly in front of the café which he quickly pulled into before someone else might ruin his good luck. Not that there were any other vehicles in sight apart from the ones already parked. Andrew recognized most of those, including Grant Toews’ Dodge Ram and John Anderson’s Ford F150. Andrew eyed those two vehicles for a moment with that air of genuine disdain that only a true Chevy man can muster, then turned and went inside.

“All I’m saying,” Grant said to John as Andrew joined them at their customary table a minute later, “is that everything has an upside. Even that.”

“Even what?” said Andrew.

“Even global warming,” said Grant.

Andrew set his coffee cup down on the table. “No it doesn’t,” he said.

“Well we’ll just have to agree to disagree on that,” said Grant.

Andrew picked up his cup. “No we won’t,” he said.

“We won’t?” said Grant. “Why not?”

“Because we’re friends,” said Andrew, “and friends never agree to disagree. Only people who aren’t sure they can trust each other agree to disagree. True friends argue till somebody wins.”

“Or till they’re not friends anymore,” John piped up.

Andrew gave John a look of disdain that was similar to the one he had given John’s truck a few minutes earlier. “I guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree about that, won’t we John?” he said.

“Sure,” said John. “That works for me.”

“I figured it would,” said Andrew.

“OK then,” said Grant. “What exactly is it that we are disagreeing about? That everything has an upside? Or that specifically global warming has an upside? Or are we just disagreeing about whether or not friends can agree to disagree or not?”

Andrew pondered that for a moment. “All of the above,” he said.

“Wow,” said Grant. “We could be here all week arguing.”

Andrew raised his mug. “I’m game,” he said. “You can start by trying to explain what you mean by saying that global warming has an upside.”

Grant shrugged. “I just think it’d be nice if the average temperature in winter was a few degrees warmer,” he said.

Andrew pondered for another moment. “You make a very good point,” he said. “I completely agree.”

John looked at the two of them as if he thought they were crazy. “I think you guys are crazy,” he said.

Andrew gave him a benevolent smile. “Once again,” he said, “I completely agree.”

“Of course the problem is,” said Grant, “that a few degrees warmer in winter is an upside for us, but for some others it’s more of a downside. For instance, the polar bears. The polar bears might not like it at all.”

“That’s absolutely true,” said Andrew.“I’ve heard that polar bears like it when it’s cold.”

“I wonder if it’s the actual cold they like,” said Grant, “or if it’s more just the ice fishing.”

“Now you’re just confusing the polar bears with the Johnsons,” said Andrew.

“The Johnsons?” said John. “Who are the Johnsons?”

“The Johnsons are those people from out by Brandon who build a metropolis on the lake every year,” said Andrew.

“Oh. You mean the Occupy Johnsons,” said John.

Andrew raised an eyebrow. “Who calls them that?” he wanted to know.

“My kids do,” said John, “because of the way they occupy the lake.”

“They’re like an invasive species,” said Grant. “The Johnsons I mean. Not your kids.”

“You’re confusing the Occupy Johnsons with the Invasion Johnsons,” said Andrew. “But that’s an easy mistake to make.”

“My kids are an invasive species,” said John.

“But then,” said Andrew, “so is the rest of the human race.”

Grant raised his coffee cup. “With that,” he said, “I quite agree.”

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