Andrew Jackson cranked the steering wheel to the right and skidded his pickup truck onto the icy yard of the service station in the middle of town, just managing to miss the gas pump on his way by.
“I really need to remember to slow down in this weather,” he thought, as he put the truck in reverse and backed up far enough so that the fuel pump hose would reach his gas tank. He turned off the ignition and hopped out. A gas jockey, or so Andrew presumed, stepped out of the service station, face completely hidden under a balaclava.
“Fill’er up?” the balaclava wanted to know.
“Sure thing,” said Andrew, then headed inside and walked up to the counter where another person, also wearing a balaclava, was taking off a pair of heavy mittens.
“Lucky I’m not planning to rob the place,” said Andrew, “or you guys would both end up as suspects.” The individual behind the counter reached up and pulled off the mask to reveal the face of a young lady.
“If you were going to rob the place Mr. Jackson, you’d need a better disguise,” she said cheerfully. “Although those sunglasses are pretty cool,” she added.
Andrew grinned and took the glasses off. “Thanks,” he said. “Rose hates them because they’re mirror glasses. Says she can’t see what I’m thinking.”
“That’s the whole point, isn’t it?” said the young lady.
“Actually,” said Andrew, “the point is I got ’em for two bucks at the dollar store. The fact that they’re very cool is just a bonus.”
“Excellent,” said the young lady. “It’s not easy to find cool and cheap.”
“I’ve always been both,” said Andrew.
A gust of wind blew in as the door opened and the first balaclava hurried back inside. “Fortyfi ve bucks,” it said.
“Wow,” said Andrew. “A few months ago that would have been 75.” He pulled out his credit card and paid for the gas. “Thanks. Have a good one,” he said as he headed back into the cold outdoors.
“You too,” said the balaclava. “See you soon,” said the cheerful young lady.
A few minutes later Andrew climbed out of the truck once more, this time heading into the café at the edge of town. Another minute later he had poured himself a cup of coffee and joined a group his friends already seated at a table by the window.
“I tell you,” Grant Toews was saying, “I watched the budget coverage on TV for three solid hours, and guess what’s the one word that never came up?”
“Intelligent design?” said Bart Hornung, taking a sip of his coffee.
“That’s two words,” said Grant.
“I’ll bet they never came up,” said Bart.
“Well that’s true,” said Grant,
“but the word I was referring to is agriculture. Three hours of federal budget coverage during the worst economic crisis in history and the word agriculture never even came up.”
There was a brief silence. “They put aside a hundred million for culture though,” said Andrew. “Maybe they’re including ‘agri’-culture in that.”
“Not a chance,” said Grant. “I’ll tell you what they’re going to do. They’re going to wait till it’s too late and then they’ll pretend they just forgot, and meantime the banks will take our farms, one by one, and sell them to the multinationals. We’ll all end up working for them and the only ones who make any money will be the banks and Monsanto.”
“And Corb Lund,” said Andrew.
“Of course,” said Grant. “And Corb Lund.”
“Why Corb Lund?” Bill Webb,
who had been concentrating on a plate of eggs, wanted to know.
“Because he’ll write a song about it and it’ll be No. 1 on the country charts in Alberta,” said Andrew.
“But only No. 2 in Manitoba,” said Grant, “because the No. 1 song in Manitoba will be some cheesy cover tune by Doc Walker. “I hate country music,” he added.
“You’re weird,” said Bill. “Be that as it may,” said Grant,
“based on the budget I’d say we farmers are in big trouble.”
There was a brief pause. “Gas is cheap though,” said
“No kidding,” said Bart. “It’s
so cheap you can hardly afford not to drive.”
“There’s always a bright side,” said Bill.
“That’s true,” said Grant. “One wouldn’t want to have to walk to the poorhouse.” He got up from his chair. “I gotta go to the bank,” he said.
“Handing over the keys, are ya?” said Andrew.
“Soon enough,” said Grant, heading for the door. “Soon enough.”
Andrew took a long sip of coffee. “It’s only money,” he said. “Nothing to worry about.”
“Especially if none of it’s yours,” said Bill.
“Exactly,” said Andrew.