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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 ...

Silence.

"No kidding. She's standing right here. She's all suited up and ready to go! What should we do? Right . . . Right. Okay. Got it. Roger!"

"Judith! Dump your gear. Get on the bus! We're taking you to the other bus! The Official Olympic Torch Bearers' Bus. NOW!"

"Now? What other bus? I have to do my walk in less than an hour! I don't know where to go. We went to Cobalt. We went by the Highway Bookshop and I said a little prayer for Doc Pollard . . ."

He starts talking over my head to those who've made the trip with me. "Is she gonna be okay to do this walk?"

I answer for myself. "YES! I'm ready! I'm here! I'm doing it without my cane! Let's go!"

"Good! Get on the bus. It's warm there. I'll show you how to work your Torch on the way. I'm Billy Pilon, your host. That's Ross Dukes. He's your driver. We've all been waiting for you! We didn't think you were going to make it! But, you will! You'll even have five extra minutes. Great!"

Billy wraps his conversation with someone on the other end. "Yeah. Yeah. We'll show her. Yeah, yeah. I'll call you when we can see you. No, I won't forget." He looks at me. "You got your picture ID to prove you're you?"

I whip it outta my Olympic pocket. "Yep!"

He answers in the affirmative to the discarnate one on the other end of the line. "Yep. She showed me her picture ID. It's really her!"

On the bus, they tell me about themselves. Ross went to Algoma University College.

"No?" I say, "I was Writer in Residence there. Taught courses there during the summer, too. Critical Theory . . . Literary Criticism . . . English, right? Does the name Karl Jirgens ring a bell? How about Bob D'Amato?"

"Holy Smoke! Too much! You must love the North, too, eh?"

Billy says, "I went to Laurentian University. You taught there, too, didn't you?"

"Yep. In the early eighties. You must love the North, too, eh?"

Out comes that cellphone / walkie-talkie thingie. "I can see you! Can you see us? Good! Here we are! Go, Judith, go! Go, go, go! Good luck! Spell our names right! You're great. You're a real joker. You're fun! We'd escort you anywhere any time! Just don't forget to say, 'We're the crew of two who met you at McDonald's and saved the day, okay?'"

I look over my shoulder at Ross and Billy, grinning silly: "Yikes! Wouldn't ya jes' know it! Everybody's a poet . . . Sigh . . ."

They both break up. Good! (They did save my day. Thank you times two.)

But, they lied! It wasn't five minutes. I had all of two minutes, tops!

Then, I was leading the parade down New Liskeard's Rue Principale heading for Rue Robert and I had both hands on that brilliantly blazing Torch and I lifted it high and proudly above my head and I could hear the crowd cheering and I could feel the tears streaming down my face and freezing in their tracks; but, I did not care because I knew my daddy (d. 2000) - who had coached a few skiers in his lifetime to that Olympic Podium - was just a-beaming and a-watching me from Points Elsewhere and he was so proud of his "Little One" that I couldn't stop the tears even though I was crazily grinning and when I reached the next Torch Bearer and gave him the ol' high five and lit his Torch - The ritual of kissing fire! - with mine, I swear I heard my daddy whisper, "That's MY Little One!"

And? I didn't need my cane. My dad helped me the whole way. I don't care if you believe me or not. Ask Nancy Greene or Lisa Savijarvi or . . . They also loved my daddy - Robert, to them - so . . .

There you go. Just lucky?

Yeah, I know.

Award-winning poet, cultural critic, literary journalist and contributing reviewer Judith Fitzgerald's 30th work, Rogue Lightning, will appear later this year. She also covers poetry for The Globe and Mail's Books Blog, "In Other Words." Visit her home on the cyber-range: Judith Fitzgerald's WriteSite.

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