Thursday, May 21, 2015

Gone to the country

When we last saw Ed Bryce he was standing on a subway platform in New Toronto contemplating how to turn in the mastermind of the Light Ray Blues affair when a speeding train resolved the problem with grim finality. Time has passed. The city has been traded for the country. At least temporarily. 

It was a dark and stormy night - in my soul.

Outside it was sunny. Bright. Warm. Green grass. Gentle breezes. Tall trees. Blue skies. Bug-free. I wouldn’t have been surprised to see Bambi prancing in the meadow behind the shed.

I was away from the city in the wilds of the Hasting Highlands. Nothing but me and trees and fields and one old trolley shed.

My grandma left me her trolley shed in her will along with the postage stamp sized piece of land it was on. In the two years it’d been officially mine it just stood out here locked up; silently looking abandoned; waiting. With the divorce and everything going on at the agency I never got out here to have a look. I was 17 the last time I saw it. A lifetime ago. Back then I thought I was too cool for trolleys. I’d grown out of that kid stuff. But now I was glad she saw through all that and left it to me.

I guess there isn’t anything particularly special about it: four walls and a peaked roof. Double doors on the front and a little shuttered window at the back. A handcar shed on steroids. Rails going in the doors and running out to the backcountry trail mainline complete with its own overhead power line. A nice touch so I didn’t have to push the trolley out to the mainline. 

Grand-dad built it at the time when people were getting rid of their handcars as the backcountry rail-trails were being electrified for personal trolleys. Before electrification all that handcar pumping meant the typical person you stumbled across along the rails had biceps the size of country-hams Today most look like it’d be a strain to lift a latte to their lips. But, with an electrified line, you can take the coffee machine with you, so there’s an upside.

The shed was looking a little rough. The paint was more or less worn away and it needed a new roof, but with any luck the little trolley was still inside wrapped in an old tarp. Trolley is kind of a fancy word for this thing. The one in there is a small flat car equipped with an electric four-wheel truck with a big pole sticking up through the middle of the floor with the trolling arm on top. Oh, and there’s an accelerator and brake. That’s it. It’s barely legal to run on the inter-track.

After I arrived I spent the morning hacking back the overgrowth to get the doors open and some of the track clear. I’d packed in enough supplies to see me through a few days out here. If I could start up the trolley, I’d go into town, get some building materials, stock up on food, and then spend a week or so sprucing up the place and wandering around the bush. There used to be an abandoned observatory and blimp hanger back there. I thought I still knew the switching pattern to get there. I’d see if my memory is any good.

I’ll say one thing for grand-dad, he built the most bullet-proof trolley shed imaginable. It looked like kids had tried to kick the door open. I could see some boot prints in the door sheathing, but the hinges and locks were intact. Not bent. Not nothing. That door didn’t budge. But, after I had the undergrowth cleared back, and the keys were turned in the locks, the doors swung open as  smoothly as the day he hung them. 

There was years of dust covering everything inside, but all the equipment and knick-knacks they used over the years to enjoy the summers were neatly arranged like they had just closed up for winter in anticipation of an early and easy opening the following spring. The opening that never came. Grand-dad died after a massive heart attack a few days after Christmas. Grandma never came up here again. She followed him a couple of years later. This was the first time this place had been opened after their last summer here. I hope I could remember all their procedures for getting things up and running. Well, grandma didn’t trust her memory or anyone else’s, so she always pinned a list of things to do to get set up - let’s see - ah, here it is, right above the switch box for the power and phone service just as always.

In her neat little script was step one: turn on the power and phone.

Two more keys: one blue, one red. I flipped the cover back on the switch box, inserted and turned the blue key to turn on the power. Waiting. Waiting. Ah, the little blue light came on, meaning the good folks at hydro-fusion were good to send me some electrons. 

Now for the phone. I inserted the red key in the phone slot and turned. I crossed my fingers. Bingo. The red light for the phone popped on. I had power and I had phone. And I had an outhouse out back. It looked like I was staying for awhile.

At least that’s what I thought at the time.

Part 3 in this electrifying series can be found here.

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