Sunday Stories features original fiction every weekend by Langley writers.
My Friend Nutsy
Written by John Hurst
Some things come upon us when we are least prepared for them, as a reminder that we are not as cool as we think. I believe there is a spiritual driver connected to every one of us that causes surprises we never wished for.
For example, it could take two or three terrible events in sequence before we ever conclude that something mysteriously surrounding us is the root cause. I personally have been fired three times, each occasion linked. After some reflection and spiritual guidance, I came to guess that I was wearing the same iridescent green polo top each time I was let go. It was a beautiful top, expensive and a real tragedy when I took it out to the back alley, sprinkled lighter fluid over it, and set it on fire. It was even sadder when I had to walk two blocks topless, before I could buy a shirt at a thrift store.
The same went for my Chinese oxfords. Each time I stood in the stag line at a dance, no girl would agree to even do the Twist with me, so bold was the scent of the shoes. Finally, on peering inside the left one of the pair, I could see the legend in plain Mandarin, “…Made in the Peoples Republic from pure skunkskin. Go get ’em, you big daddy you!” But that’s neither here nor there.
All that mounting evidence aside, no manner of occult competence could explain away my friend Nutsy. His actual name from his Immigration ID card was Ignaz Notker. I knew his unreachable sister, Theoline, much longer than I ever knew Nutsy Notker, thank my stars and garters.
Life in the Air Cadets
Like many of my friends, I had joined Squadron 611, of the Royal Canadian Air Cadets. We did all our training and our marching around on an old, World War II air base in the flatlands between Dunnville and Port Maitland. It still had all the old barracks and Quonset huts and even better, it had two authentic Avro Lancaster bombers sitting on a runway.
One time, Nutsy and I were promoted to LAC – Leading Air Craftsman – and it entitled us to wear silver propellers on our upper sleeves. He beckoned me and a few minutes later, we had hopped a fence and were climbing into one of those Lancasters. I found it a bit disappointing inside, cramped and everything painted in green. But it was the closest I ever came to air combat and ever since, I have winced during movies showing the air crews in action.
We got two-week free holidays while in the Air Cadets, at an air force base outside Trenton, Ont. We lived in barracks one summer and I often spent the night hand-writing loose notes about my days on the base. Then I discovered the notes were missing from my duffel bag and I simply gave up writing any kind of diary, forgetting them a day later. I thought our sergeant took them.
When we all arrived back home in Dunnville, I soon found out what happened to my notes. Someone had mailed them to my father and Dad had the bright idea of typing them up into a news story. It ran in two subsequent editions of The Evening Tribune, with the headline Letters from Camp, signed with my name. I was horrified and realized only years later that it actually had been the first byline of my career. Also, Nutsy mailed those notes to my father.
“Er, I hope you don’t mind my doing that,” Dad smirked with a wry smile. I was only 14 and could only shrug it off.
Going Down at Sea
Our family was disintegrating in 1961, much like a three-masted ship when it founders at sea. My mother had left us to return to her old home in England and she took my two youngest brothers, Stephen and Ralph, with her. That left three of us living in our house, with only my father running things.
When a ship goes down at sea, it isn’t much like a toy boat sinking in your bathtub. In the tub, all disappears in a mighty whoosh, in less than a second. When a ship sinks, you can see its running lights blinking, and people running around like ants on its deck. Watching someone die is a lot like that. It can take ages. For our original family, it took about four months. My dad was away from home much of the time, doing his job as a newspaper reporter.
Nutsy came to stay with us, quietly and without my father knowing. He said he had dropped out of school and had no one to take him in, so my brother and I let him sleep in the bedroom our two youngest brothers had used. We gave him what food we could and made sure he was out of the house when we left for school. That lasted a few weeks, until our family was forced to move. Dad lost the house and his job, mostly on account of heavy drinking and showing up for interviews and meetings while under the influence. My sister and I kept going to school through all this and my brother joined the army.
When we moved to an old apartment, I realized that I had a much lighter load of clothes to carry than I expected. Actually, all the good things I had bought with my summer job earnings were missing. Cardigans, sweaters and nice slacks from Ramsay’s Men’s Wear, our premium men’s outlet in Dunnville, were gone. Later on, I realized Nutsy had walked off with them, including my prized jacquard socks. Apparently, he told a group of friends while wearing my best clothes, that we were a family of bed wetters.
To be continued… The next installment of My Friend Nutsy by John Hurst will be published by the Langley Advance Times, Sunday, April 5.