Watching the River Flow – New Fiction

Reid Dickie

Supper’s ready! Oh you’re here. Black pepper or peppercorn?

Black, black, black. You always ask me the same question and I always have the same answer.

All right all right!

The only reason you ask me that every suppertime is because in 1978 I said I had heard that fresh ground pepper was more flavorful. Since then you have asked me that same question every…

Was that 1978? Good Lord, how time flies when you’re having fun.

And since then, in the last 10,000 years, have I ever taken peppercorn? Ever?

Never. You never have.

But you keep asking and asking and…

I do. At first it was out of love so you could have a choice. Then I did it out of habit as we settled into those. Then out of spite, and now, I don’t know why I do it at all. Just for the fun of it. I haven’t a clue, really.

Here’s a clue for you. I rented the land.

You what?

I rented the land and I’m retiring from farming.

Suddenly he’s a comedian. I have a comedian in my kitchen. My thighs are sore from being slapped from the funny stuff.

I rented the land to the Broxton boys and Reg Decker.

Those assholes! You rented our land to those inbred feeble-minded Broxtons? And Decker? He’s an alky from way back. You rented our land and decided to retire without talkin to me about it?!!

It’s time.

Time for what?

I’m tired.

Tired of what?

Tired of thinking about fucking pesticides and herbicides and crop varieties that have idiot made-up names and seventeen numbers after them. Every year there are dozens of new products to “make farming easier” that I’m supposed to learn about.  I’m tired of thinking about Monsanto and all the other vultures that circle endlessly over our land. I’m sick to fucking death of dealing with overpriced machinery that doesn’t ever do what it’s supposed to do. I am tired of feeding rich fucking banksters their exorbitant interest rates. I have put in my quota of sleepless nights wondering if the weather will hold for seeding, then for combining, worrying if the prices will hold but knowing they are set by some greasy suit a hundred floors above reality in some smelly downtown. I’m tired of living the lies required of us and I’m tired of getting out of bed in the morning to keep those lies afloat. So when you get this tired the only thing to do is re-tire, get out of the way of the world and be yourself.

That’s quite a speech.

There’s more.

There always is.

I’m wanna stop thinking about satisfying corporate bullshit, about the weather forecast and the fucking survey companies calling at the height of our year.

I deal with most of those! I’ve always been polite but firm but they still call back for you, the decision maker, sometimes three or four times a day.

Don’t you see, stuff is happening to us real fast at this moment? I changed everything for us and I’m just letting you in on it now to see how you’d do. You’re doing great.

Shut the fuck up!

Oh…my…Lord! Expect brimstone, expect Armageddon on a Shetland pony, Bernice Calmchoir said the big Fucking F word for the first fucking time in her fucking life! Hooooo leeee Fuck!

Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! It’s much more fun to say than to do. Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!


Do you want a divorce? What?! No, I don’t want a divorce but if it’d make life simpler for you Bernie, try it. See how you like it.

Now that you’re retired then, what are you going to do all day?

Watch the river flow.

What river?

The river of life, ma dear, the river of life.

The river of life? Did someone replace the real Artie Griffin with a robot in the barn today?

You know the river I mean. You’ve watched it out the kitchen window for years and often commented on how nice it is to be able to see the passing world. The river! The TCH. The Trans Canada Highway that is exactly 342 yards from here. The river of life.

What ivory tower do you plan to watch this river from, dear?

Coy never did work for you Bernie. Too big boned for coy. The kid’s school bus shack, of course, will be my new ivory tower. It’s right out there on the highway. I plan to add a second floor, a cooler for cold beer, some flags, some girlie magazines and binoculars for wildlife, you know.

Girlie magazines! Do they still work for you?

Maybe. We’ll just have to see.

You can see. What I see is the headline: Retarded farmer arrested for masturbating on the Trans Canada Highway.

You mean, retired farmer.

Ummmm. Please say this is all a joke, Artie. Please say that.

Can’t Bernie. It’s not a joke. It’s our new reality. Retired life. No money problems, no more seasons to sow, no seasons to reap, no more there is a time for any fucking thing, Bernie. Now there is time for everything. A time for us. We’re free, free as fucking birds, Bernie. Let’s fly!

And you want to spend retirement jerking off in the bus shack in front of traffic going by at 120 kms an hour, am I right?

Let go of the masturbation theme please. Not going to happen. I just need time to reflect, to go inside myself and find out what’s actually in there after trying to avoid and deny it for so many years. Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.”

I’d better sit down. Someone quoted Socrates in my kitchen and it was you!

Socrates belongs in the kitchen.

Hello, hello, sir, umm, who are you? Where did Artie go?

It’s the new way, Bernie. Expect the unexpected. We could travel.

We don’t travel. You remember why we don’t travel or has that fallen through your Socrates sieve?

Let’s see, dearest. We traveled in 1565 together on a ship from Belfast, which was called Pleasantville then, to the high Arctic where we ticked off several species of pink-legged gulls and horked up some tainted seal with the rest of the walruses. Of course I remember.

You truly don’t remember it. You have erased it from the blackboard of your life like so many other things, like our children. We almost killed the children the last time we traveled.

Here we go. The GD children again!

Yes, the GD children again! Don’t you think Evan and Rachel want a say in what happens to the farm they grew up on, the land that spawned their interests and their substantial abilities.

First, Evan is a dentist who makes nine hundred grand a year in Toronto, has three kids and a house he paid seven million for. Second, Rachel is married to a huge Samoan man and they live naked on a beach in the south Pacific somewhere. Do you know where Rachel lives?

I don’t, exactly.

My point being, Bernie, neither of our precious offspring, the fruits of our commingling loins, the spawn of our double-down dirt farm are remotely interested in or concerned about what happens to the five square miles of sandy loam they escaped as quickly as they could, “like a bullet from a gun,” as Tom Waits has put it.

They vanished, didn’t they? Our children just vanished.

They’ll call someday, maybe even today.

No they won’t.

You’re right, Bernie. They won’t. Fuck ’em.


Fuck ’em! Do you know how much our farm is worth?

In dollars?

No. In cow plop and twitchgrass. In good old lumpy Canadian dollars, of course? Take a guess.

Ummm…four hundred thousand.

Good guess dearie. Way low however. Up it.

Okay, one million and seven dollars.

Tepid. Stab again.

Two and a half million?

Your eyes are getting wider. Higher.

Don’t make me guess anymore. Just tell me. I’m not sure I’m going to believe what you are about to say.

Okay. I had Fred Oakley from Oakley Realty come out a few months back. You know Fred.

I do. He seems an honest chap. Thelma and me were in W.I. together.

Fred gave me an estimate of what we could get for the whole shebang: land, house, buildings, even the kid’s school bus shack and it blew my socks off, Bernie. We are in a prime real estate location right now, have been for years and will continue to be. Fred did a thorough walkabout of the property, noting all its qualities and benefits. He compared land sale prices in the region and arrived at a figure. When he told me, he was very dramatic about it. You know how he is. Anyway, he had a big smile on his face when he said, “I’m going to write a number on this clipboard.” So he wrote something down and turned it toward me. I couldn’t believe it! Then he said, “That’s just a number. I could get this amount for your property tomorrow.” He wrote something again, turned it toward me.

And…what did it say?!

I’ll write it down just like Fred did. The first number was two and a half million. The second number, the real value of our farm, is this.

Oh! Oh, Artie! Oh, no! Someone will pay us five million dollars for this dump?! I don’t believe you!

Believe it, sweetie. Ask Fred.

That changes everything.

I hoped you’d see it that way. But that’s not all.


We’ve saved for our blessed retirement in various ways for years and we have a substantial nest egg growing like radiation in our futures as we speak.

We talked about it a few years back and you said it was around half a million.

That was a lot of years ago, sweets. Today our investments outside the farm total about four million bucks. We’ve been very successful savers.

So we have. Yet we have never wanted for anything, nothing.

Altogether you and I are worth about nine million bucks. You seem a little stunned dearie.

More than a little. I need to sit down.

We are rich. You are rich. I am rich. We’ve succeeded where thousands of others failed. Out here on the forever Canadian plains we ascended from green newlyweds in our late teens to multi, as in mull tie, millionaires. Let’s not tell the kids, shall we?


No, dearie. You said it, our children have vanished.

And you said, Fuck ’em.

And I still say, Fuck ’em. This is our money. Let’s live it up.

Then live it down?

Maybe. Or we could do good in the world.

Such as?

Such as the new church roof. They have gotten desperate to finish the fundraising and are just 12 grand short. Let’s contribute that much. We could donate it anonymously. I’ve always wanted to be Anonymous. Now you think of a way we could do good with our money. The GD kids are going to get what’s left anyway so sky’s the limit.

I’d like to give twenty five thousand to Emily’s Animal Rescue Centre in town. She’s found a new building that’s over her budget and we can make that happen for her and the animals she saves. It’ll be anonymous, too. Okay?

Okay. As much as I think Emily is a straw-for-brains flake, let’s give her the cash. Your turn.

We’ve spent 37 thousand so far.

It’s much too early to start keeping track. Be creative, pudding man.

Jesus, you haven’t called me pudding man for years.

Decades, actually.

Why did you call me that? I don’t think I ever knew.

You never knew! Really! I always called you that and you never, ever, I mean never fucking ever knew what it meant!

I shoulda thought about it, I guess. And whoa with the new word, honeybuttons.

Finally you get curious. Wanna know?


You had what I always wanted, really the only thing I wanted from you, the only thing I needed.

Really? What was that?

You’re a hoot! What you had was the pudding, the sperm, the creepy crawly ones that my little eggs needed to make the babies. The babies were all I ever wanted. I never wanted much more from you. We raised the babies and they fled us. But you were my pudding man with the sweet juice to incite my ychies into action.

You wanted me just for my precious man fluid and nothing more? Is that what you mean?

I liked to watch you naked. You were a beautiful specimen of a man, a young man. Your mother was an excellent cook and your father worked you like a slave. Your body was hard everywhere. Remember the time when we just moved onto the farm. I was big with Evan. Somehow we’d just screwed on the porch swing, God knows how, and it started to rain. You ran naked into the yard and danced in the downpour with lightning flashing all around and thunder rolling across the night sky, singing. I don’t remember the song. You sang and danced smiling at me like a wild man, your perfect body made translucent by the changing light. Do you remember that?

She shines with her own kind of light.


Kentucky Woman. She shines with her own kind of light. The song I sang in the naked rain.

Yes. That’s it. Ha!

You were a hot babe, glowing with our baby. Sometimes that night the lightning reversed the world into negative turning you into an angelic presence, hovering over my silly dangly dance but, still, you laughed.

Yes, you made me laugh. I laughed and laughed. You were beautiful, funny and in love.

Wow, Bernie, beautiful, funny and in love. I’m still all three of those after, lo, these many moons, doncha think?

As am I, syrup boy. And to prove our ever-lasting beauty, we should do something we’ve never done before. Let’s strip and eat naked!

C’mon. Bernie, stop taking your clothes off. We’re eating, for chrissake!

So! I am eating naked. We’re free now, free as fucking birds, if I remember your exact words. So I’m being free, doing something I’ve never done before. There. I am beautiful naked! See. Look at my fifty-nine year-old body. Look at my old dugs, drooping and large, sucked dry by life and gravity. Look at my belly. It cascades like pure white butter. Look at the dark hairy house of our spawn. The span of my ass is matched only by the span of my thighs and my feet hurt all day. Now you, strip down, Artie. Let’s see the ongoing beauty of your sixty-one year-old tank.

You are just crazy enough, Bernie.

Whoa, I don’t think I’ve ever seen you take your clothes off that fast! You’ve started some kind of avalanche of change for us, Artie, and I’m not going to stop it, can’t stop it.

Watch me eat naked, Bernie. Still like what you see, even without the lightning?

I do, Artie. We are both soft where we once were hard, and hard where we were soft. It all comes out in the wash. I like your little paunch as much as you like my saggy boobs. I like your empty scrotum as much as you like the expansive black bush of my vagina. I like your permanent farmer’s tan as much as you like my tasty meatloaf.

Your meatloaf hasn’t changed, honey pumpkin. It’s still as meaty and tomatoy as ever. Moist, warm, concedes to my tongue with easy grace and lofty aftertaste.

Everything tastes wonderful when you are naked.

Ha, ha, Bernie, you vixen!

We’re doing something we’ve never done before, Artie! After 10,000 years together we can still find new things to do together. It’s a miracle!

This could just be the start of doing new things together. We should reconsider traveling, just the two of us, no kids to risk death with. I’ve always wanted to see Tahiti.

We’d never have to wear any clothes in Tahiti.

With our bodies, they’d deport us!

Ha, Artie! Seriously, I’m frightened.

Don’t be scared Bernice. I promise not to jump your old bones at the dinner table despite your alluring nakedness.

That’s the last thing I’m frightened of. I’m afraid of…so much change.

Change is the only thing we can count on happening.

I wish you’d discussed all this with me before making your final decree and renting the land to those yahoos.

You resent me for making the decision.

I feel disrespected, Artie. All these years we’ve lived together, eat together, slept together, cried together, laughed together, all that stuff that makes up a life, none of that mattered to you. You just went ahead without me. Am I as irrelevant to you as the kids are, Artie?

No, you’re not. We did our jobs with the kids. We made good kids who are successful elsewhere. Our lives aren’t over because the kids are gone and we are staring at each other across the dinner table as usual…well, not quite as usual. Bernice, I respect you and I love you. It’s our turn to live, naked and free!

Okay, Artie. I hope we’re charging the Broxtons and Decker an arm and a leg to rent our land?

An arm, a leg, a knee and an elbow, too. It’ll be good cash flow for us.

So Artie, next stop Tahiti?

Watching you eat naked has given me some bedroom thoughts, Bernie so how about bedroom first then Tahiti?

Works for me.

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