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Judith Fitzgerald carrying the torch through New Liskeard, ON.
Judith Fitzgerald carrying the torch through New Liskeard, ON.

The Tuesday Essay

Torch 'n' glow (or touch 'n' go) Add to ...

Last early spring - dismal, dreary, drizzily drab sky splattered with skeletal branches where head-scentily mauve and magenta lilac normally bloom in the dooryard here in Northern Ontario's Almaguin Highlands - I went virtual banking. After all, how much worse can things get? Might as well pay bills since the entire worldview from my window is mud-slush oozing drench-wet raggedness.

(See, I'm agoraphobic; so, I only go places with Rudolph IV, now ka-chugging in "Safe Mode" since our virtual memory's bit the cyber-dust. It's one exciting life, no? People think I'm a hermit, a recluse, standoff-ish. That's fine. I don't mind. Truth is, I ain't. I'm terrified of leaving my home. Why? I was attacked and left for dead in the centre of Highway 11 Sunday June 2, 2002. I'm slowly recovering; but, since I cannot drive in winter, it's one step forward, one step back; thus, I break even. But, that's not why I'm writing this Tuesday Essay, not at all. This is a good-news story.)

What's this? In place of its normal portal page, the Royal Bank of Canada's offering its customers the opportunity to carry the Olympic Torch? Coolness . . . er . . . Hotness. Reach out? Torch someone? Nah . . . Nothing so poetic. "Click here to enter our contest: YOU could carry the Olympic Torch in your community; YOU could become a part of history; and, all YOU have to do is tell us what YOU will do to make your community a better place. YOU can pledge to go greener! YOU can pledge to get involved in local events! YOU can teach someone to read or write . . ."

Stop right there! I can certainly do that. Did it for years. Taught reading and writing when I was a professor; and, later, when I wrote in residence at various libraries and universities. I'm a poet, right? (Took me 40 years to say that without wondering where I got the nerve.) Natch, I call Leah, my bank manager, who also happens to be my BFF; this is a very small community, you know? We've been BFFs since I returned North in 1995. We just hit it off. We never mix business and friendship. That's our secret; but, it's no secret; we're both honourable dames and know boundaries.

She also owes me a prime-rib dinner from Jack Tennant's Steakhouse in North Bay, ON. Bloody rare.

"Listen, is this for real? Can I enter a contest and make a pledge to teach someone to read or write and carry the Olympic Torch?"

"Is what for real? The contest or the fact you're eligible? Both, if either's your question. We're expecting about a million applications and there will only be 12,000 Torch Bearers. Why not go for it? You've got as good a chance as the next dame. Betcha dinner at Jack Tennant's!"

Natch, I promptly forget about entering the contest

"But, I'm agoraphobic! There will be crowds. Oh, prime rib? Those incredible frites? Yum! Oh, yeah! Right . . . about the Torch: I'll have to smile a lot. And, it looks like the only two days that I can do it are the 30th and 31st of December? I have to apply for North Bay or New Liskeard. HOW MANY APPLICATIONS? A million? Get out! Right. No problem. It will be a goal. And, months and months to practise . . . erm . . . how do you practise to be a Torch Bearer? Will they accept someone who walks with a cane? With odds like that, I won't have to worry much. I never win anything, anyway. Why would I start? Just so we're clear, though: I win the dinner if I enter the contest?"

"We'll see . . . You never know. I'd enter but I'm not eligible. It's a real honour. You're a worthy contestant. Go for it! Put your thinking tuque on and enter the thing. You'll figure it out. You're a smart cookie. I think it's a great idea! Gotta go. 'Bye!"

B-b-b-ut, what thinking tuque? I don't own a thinking tuque . . . I grab a fresh coffee to warm up my brains - or what's left of them - and, well, think. Thinka thinka thinka . . . I need an angle. I need to sparkle. I need to get their attention! Just a mo' . . . Who are they? VANOC? What's that? Like, GYPROC? Oh, they're prolly RBC employees. They wouldn't appreciate a poem written in imitation of The Waste Land . . . But let's think craftily here. They'd appreciate a poem. I know this because my bank manager does. This time, I e-mail her:

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