We did driveways, tennis courts, parking lots, sidewalks, golfcourse paths.
And cottages, apparently!
No job too small. Some jobs too big. That sort of thing.
It was a privately owned, fledgling sort of outfit. Not necessarily fly-by-night, but definitely fly-by-day! Out west, I had worked for much bigger-scale operations than this one, but I had taken this job because, having made a somewhat unplanned move across the country, I needed money, fast.
I slung asphalt out of necessity.
At one point in the season, [the year was 1994] our contracts began to slow down.
A few of us, needing more steady and reliable pay, were thinking of moving on to more lucrative pastures. And the boss got wind of it.
He was a great guy. His name was Rino. [Pronounced Ree-no].
Rino did not want to see his experienced crew break up. So he presented us with a bit of an option.
Instead of paving more driveways, we would build him a cottage. It sounded like fun. Next thing I knew, I was living at a lake, with a bunch of Italians!
Rino had an existing cottage right on the lake, in the wilderness of Maniwaki, Quebec.
It was beautiful. ← The lake was. The cottage → Not so beautiful.
This is why he needed a new one, to be built right next to the old one.
So we set up shop. And got to work.
It wasn’t too long before we all realized that no one really knew what the hell they were doing. Nor did we even know what we were supposed to be doing.
And Italians always think that know what they are doing! They can be very unjustifiably convinced of this.
The surrounding forest soon echoed with the sounds of screaming architects… no one word making any more sense than the next.
But it was fun. My God, it was a fun time!
And, because we were not doing this for free [Rino was paying us as though we were paving]… when quitting time came, we quit screaming… I mean, working!
And we dived into that lake.
Believe me! When a day was done, I ran to that lake and jumped in, shirt and all.
It was heavenly. For weeks we lived along the shore of that lake, only coming back to the city for supplies.
And by supplies, I mean mostly steaks and beers.
I will never forget one particular evening.
After swimming for quite a while I got myself set up on one of these huge black inner tubes. You know the type.
It perfectly fit me, in the sense that I could rest my chin on one end of it, face down, and my feet would trail out behind me, my toes in the water.
I paddled out quite a ways, and just listened to the sounds that seem to be especially crisp when you are out on the water. I could hear cottagers speaking to each other on the far side of the lake, smoke from a shoreline firepit gently curling upwards. Back on our own side, the Italians arguing over how to barbeque, and similar smoke rising.
The clink of bottles.
A peace so real, that you would think you can hear yourself smile.
I looked down into the water.
There below me, fish after fish passed by, seemingly unaware of the presence of a fat human on top of them.
But there I was. In the middle of their lake.
And they were everywhere. Fish after fish.
Lazily wavering. Oblivious. Doing what they do. Being fish.
I have rarely felt as much at peace, as I did that evening.
Mr. Bookpuddle, are you telling me that you still are all worked up over voyeuristically observing a herd of Quebecois fish thirteen years ago?
Yes, I am.
That is exactly what I am saying.
And I would have never paddled myself back to that pier at all if it weren’t for the fact that an Italian guy was yelling something about my steak being done.
And some other guy was yelling at him that it wasn’t.
I went back regardless of who was right, because I knew one thing for sure.
The beer was cold.