Ten Reasons

She falls in and out of sleep, flips between episodes of dreams. Her mother’s screaming from inside a flooded urn, “Let me out of here!” Kitty’s playing Toss the Onion Ring, Mona’s mouth as target.

Ten Reasons
Photo by Simon Ray / Unsplash

by Elizabeth Murphy

Meeting 1

Mona’s got the words down pat, gestures too—hands raised, fingers splayed. “Be it resolved that the town of Sprucey adopt a Ten Reasons’ Campaign to promote tourism and investments.

“I propose an amendment,” Kitty says. “Be it resolved that the Ten Reasons’ Campaign be changed to the Ten Seasons’ Campaign.”

Mona imagines quitting as mayor and hightailing it to some place where the sun shines overtime and the salt water’s warm. So what if the town can’t afford garbage collection, if there’s a boil-water advisory, no cell-phone access, nothing better than dial-up Internet? It’s not her fault they couldn’t find a darn buyer for the crab processing plant.

“Season number one,” Kitty says, “Mona season: storm surges, high-pressure systems—” She cups a hand over her mouth to stifle a giggle. “Strong gusts from north and south.”

Mona’s forehead sports a sideways barcode of wrinkles. Too bad she doesn’t have a doctor to check on that stabbing feeling in her chest. Severe indigestion or Kitty gnawing on her nerves?

Patrick laughs so hard you’d swear Kitty said something funny for a change. Mona resists the urge to blurt out a warning. “Save your guffaws for when the RCMP pull you over in that ambulance/hearse, then catch a whiff of formaldehyde mixed with contraband Gitanes and rum.”

Meeting 2

June wants her salon special featured in council’s newsletter. Colour and cut, 50% off on Mondays. A Chase-the-Ace fundraising campaign would be good too. She’s not used to talking in motions, so could Kitty please do it for her?

Mona’s tempted to say, “Not over my roly-poly body,” but she sticks with her script: sustainable economic growth, revitalized Sprucey, etc.

June cracks gum like she’s practicing for a contest, can’t satisfy that craving for a smoke, rummages through her purse, whips out a comb and fusses with her hair.

Mona unfastens the top button on her skirt. Volcano’s erupting. Lava’s flowing up her throat all the way to her neck.

When the meeting is thank-God over, June strolls past Mona on the way out the door.

Mona tries her best not to sound like the retired school principal that she is. “The hairstyling is distracting. Could it wait until after council meetings?”

With her hand wrapped around Mona’s wrist, June says, “No prob. Just so you know, I’ll give you 50% off a new hairdo, any day. Get your roots done, girl. And while you’re at it, remind me to pluck those long black whiskers. No extra charge.”

Meeting 3

Kitty squeezes chuckles out of her audience. “The Honourable Mona. The Mona Honourable. Your Mona.”

If Mona had the energy, she’d lecture the lot of them, scold them for behaving worse than a rowdy bunch of grade eights in detention. “First on the agenda is a discussion of reason number one for the Ten Reasons’ Campaign.”

“Best fish and chips in the world,” Kitty says. “Philomena, put in an order. On Sprucey’s card.”

Philomena writes a list. “Pepsi or Coke? Diet or regular?”

Patrick: rum and coke.

Brother Brian: Mountain Dew. “Don’t substitute Sprite.”

June: onion rings.

Philomena asks if Mona wants large or small fries. “Gravy on the side? Dressing?”

Mona: “Can we please, please, just focus on reason number one.”

Patrick: “Ocean view.”

Kitty: “What view? Fog’s so thick half the time, I’m lucky if I can see my gorgeous gob in the mirror.”

June: “How about eligible bachelors as number—?”

Kitty: “Ninety-nine, same as their average age.”

Philomena writes down every Kitty word: “What are the bachelors eligible for? Old John Walters, blind as the dark, deaf as a rock. Eligible for Mona.”

Mona feels a Kitty-haloed migraine coming on.

Meeting 4

The town-hall’s roof buckles under the weight of the deluge. Philomena, June, and Mona wade through water, meeting minutes floating at their feet. June points to inkblots on one of the soaked pages. “Looky there. It’s the face of Jesus.”

Philomena says they should unplug the computer, bends down, and reaches into the water to do just that. Mona grabs her from behind, yanks her away from the submerged plug, and the two fall backwards. Philomena thrashes around like someone drowning, then latches onto Mona and knocks her head under the pitch-and-tar flavoured water.  

Meeting 5

Philomena’s on the other end of the phone line. The councillors can’t wait any longer. It’s 7 p.m. The meeting will have to go ahead without Mona. “Get well soon,” Philomena says.

Mona groans and hangs up. She falls in and out of sleep, flips between episodes of dreams. Her mother’s screaming from inside a flooded urn, “Let me out of here!” Kitty’s playing Toss the Onion Ring, Mona’s mouth as target. Brian’s complaining that they sent Sprite, not Mountain Dew. The pain in her chest and shoulder is going to kill her. She grabs the phone. “Take me to the hospital, right away.”

Patrick’s awake but drunk. “Okey Dokey. Extra twenny percent, affer-hours service.”

Meeting 6

Town Launches Campaign

Acting mayor of Sprucey, Kathleen Tremblay, affectionately known as Kitty, took to Talk Radio this month to officially launch her Ten Reasons’ Campaign designed to promote investments and tourism in the town. Among the reasons are Sprucey’s crab processing plant, ocean views, and eligible bachelors. Mayor Tremblay noted that council has already heard from an Asian company that invests in aquaculture projects. Tremblay is riding high on the success of her initiative and has not ruled out running in the upcoming provincial election. The former mayor, Mona Reid, resigned three months ago after suffering a heart attack. Reid is on an extended vacation and could not be reached for comment.

“Extended vacation?” Mona mumbles. “How about an entire winter in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico?” She turns off her iPad, stuffs it into her beach bag, then slathers Noxzema over her sunburned toes. “Another Mojito, please, Juan. Lunch menu, too.” She leans back on the pool-side lounger, smiling, and humming to the mariachi music.

Elizabeth Murphy is the author of the novel An Imperfect Librarian (Breakwater Books, 2008). Her short fiction has appeared in the Compass Rose Literary Journal, Nixes Mate Review, MoonPark Review (forthcoming) and others. She is a retired academic originally from Newfoundland and now lives in Nova Scotia, Canada. Find her on Twitter and Instagram @ospreysview.