Sweet Chariot



Sweet Chariot

Many things are changing around me and I am changing too, and not just my shirts, pants, and socks. Alas, my other changes are irreversible. They’re part of my old age and as I age, I get no younger.

My beloved is listening to the usual garbage on TV. I am forced to listen to the advert that comes across with a 15 per cent volume increase: “Your brain changes as you get older.” It must be so, it says so on a TV advertisement. No fake news there. Alas, I know it’s all too true. My thoughts are slowing down and my memory is failing. Last week I forgot Tommy Douglas’s name. Yesterday, I woke up at 2:00 am and Tommy Douglas’s name was on the tip of my tongue. I kept repeating it, but I no longer knew why I wanted to remember it. Yet it loomed out of the night mist, like an Anglo-Saxon warrior at Badbury Rings or a long-vanished Roman legionnaire on the foggy banks of the River Severn.

I guess it’s ‘oh shit’ time: little things are going wrong, nothing major yet, but tiny little things, here and there. I can no longer distinguish black from blue when writing with my four-colour ballpoint pen. The morning star is clear when viewed through one eye, but it’s a shiny constellation, lop-sided, a bit like the Pleiades, when viewed through the other.

I remember my grandfather sitting in the kitchenette in Cardiff. He would cover his left eye with his hand and announce “Out of my right eye I can see …” Then he would change the viewpoint and “Out of my left eye …” I thought he was such a boring, repetitive old man, but now I am doing the same thing myself: “Out of my right eye …”

My life is gradually slowing down and my death is slowly catching me up. One day, I don’t know when, it will overtake me and then who knows what will happen.  I most certainly don’t. And now, as I drive down the Trans Canada Highway, I look in the rear-view mirror closing first one eye and then the other … “with my right eye I can see …”

I can see in the road dust, a long way behind me, a group of motor-cyclists riding in formation. They are travelling at great speed and, as they get closer, I can see they are wearing white biking leathers. I see the sun flashing off the accoutrements they carry with them and realize that they are bearing trumpets, trombones, flutes, clarinets, piccolos, with an occasional harp slung across a biker’s shoulders.

Mounted on their white Harley-Davidsons, they are chewing up the highway with a snarl and a roar. They are rapidly gaining on me. But the turn off to the Mazerolle Settlement is less than two kilometres away and, for some unknown quirk of the reason for my unreason, I don’t want them to catch me.  I step on the gas and maintain my distance. Two kilometres pass really quickly at this speed and I pull off the highway, into the little side-road that leads to the Mazerolle and Hanwell. Curious about who and what they are, I sit there waiting, watching, left eye / right eye.

I look at their musical instruments and hear strange, sweet music as they roar on by. It’s a band of angels. Luckily, although they’re swinging low, they aren’t coming after me, so that means they’re not coming to carry me home. Not just yet.

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