How to Beat the Canadians At Their Own Game
Coffins don’t usually come across as conniving and crafty. Neither kind does, really. One kind is stiff and heavy and somber, and the other kind holds dead people.
But earlier this evening, as I was walking past the Coffinhouse on my way to nowhere in particular, Henry and Cory were standing on their porch and snickering. Actually snickering. I thought briefly about notifying the media, but then I remembered that it was me.
Dauntless reporter that I am, I scaled the steps to the Coffin Cabana and inquired.
“Nothing,” Henry said, his reddening face barely hiding a serious case of old-man giggles.
“Nothing at all,” Cory said, clamping a stout hand over her usually downturned mouth. She apparently doesn’t have quite the self-control that Henry possesses, because she burst out with an explosive guffaw.
So I decided to stick around.
A moment later, Meg came walking toward the house from downtown. She looked great in a pair of khaki shorts and a loose T-shirt, her brown pony tail swishing from beneath a red beret her as she walked. She was chatting and laughing and flirting her brains out, flashing that cute snaggletoothed grin over and over. On her arm was good old Lawrence Schoendorfen, our Canadian in Residence.
Henry and Cory cackled and snorted and carried on like the Beverly Hillbillies for a moment, but as the sweet young couple drew near, they magically became serious and reserved once again.
“Mr. Schoendorfen, I’m Mayor Henry Coffin,” Henry said to Larry, who was looking both enchanted (by Meg) and bewildered (by everything) at the same time. “I’m sorry we haven’t had the chance to meet before now, but they keep me pretty busy running the island. This is my wife, Cory.”
Larry reached down and shook Cory’s hands with proper gravitas, and then Cory ushered everyone into the living room. I let myself be swept along with the others. Meg and Larry ended up on the sofa, so I sat in one of the Coffins’ antique understuffed chairs.
Henry looked around at everyone with a warm and welcoming smile. “Drinks, everyone?”
“I think we’d all like a little something, wouldn’t we, Larry?” Meg asked, flashing her pretty smile his way. Something was definitely up.
“Um, actually I’m on duty right now,” Larry said, running his hand through his short, sandy hair, “so I’ll just — ”
“Splendid!” Henry commanded. “Scotch all around, Cory!”
Cory was way ahead of him. She turned to the side table behind her and produced a tray with a bunch of glasses of Scotch on it. We each took a glass, and there were several left over.
“I propose a toast!” Henry declared, standing to his fully, lanky six-foot-three. “I’d like to offer a toast to my dear, sweet — Oh, say, Lawrence. I’ll bet you haven’t been on this island long enough to know our customs. Here on GSI, when someone offers a toast, the others record their admiration of the eloquence, the passion, and the spirit of the toast by drinking. The more you are impressed by the toast, the more you drink down. It’s a way of showing respect. You know, to Mayors and the like.”
Henry raised his glass once again and stared at each of us over his half-glasses. “As I was saying, I propose a toast to my dear, sweet mother, Mary Elizabeth O’Donohue Reynolds MacIntyre, the dearest and most charming woman ever to grace this blessed rock, present company excluded.”
Henry tossed down his entire drink. So did Cory. So did Meg! Because I was deeply moved by the heartfelt sentiment of Henry’s toast — and for no other reason at all, I swear — I downed my Scotch in one great gulp as well.
Larry took a proper sip of his and placed his glass on the coffee table in front of him. The amber liquid, still reaching three-quarters up the glass, shimmered in little waves as it struggled for equilibrium.
A chill silence enveloped the room. Henry, Cory, and Meg all stared at Larry’s glass, transfixed and aghast at the persistent presence of booze in it.
The hush held, frozen in space. The only sound was the ticking of the Coffins’ grandfather clock in the hall.
Fifteen seconds passed. The Coffins remained immobile, turned to salt by the horror of the undrunk Scotch. Larry squirmed in his seat a bit, his pale Canadian face reddening, but he said nothing.
Another quarter-minute. A third.
When almost a full minute had crept by in mortal silence, Henry finally pulled his ancient, wrinkled, seafaring blue eyes from the glass to Larry’s face. Henry looked devastated, like someone had vaporized his home planet. With an expression both pained and painful, he spoke.
“Did you not like my toast — the one I offered to the memory of my sweet old mother?” he asked.
“Sure I did,” Larry said. He met Henry’s gaze for a moment, and then with a swift motion he grabbed his glass and swallowed the full measure of liquor.
“Wonderful!” Henry roared with a great smile. “Cory — it’s your turn!”
Henry filled everyone’s glass to the top while Cory stood as tall as her four-foot-eleven frame would allow and offered a toast to her beloved grandfather. Four glasses went bottom-up as Henry, Cory, Meg, and I celebrated the eloquence and passion. Larry took a few hearty sips, but he finally got his down.
“Meg, you’re up!” Henry declared.
I had pretty much figured out the game by now, and when Meg finished a tribute to the beauty and joy of Grand Seal Island itself — followed by a still mutual snort of Scotch — I offered a toast of my own, praising the innate Spirit of Adventure that dwells within us all. Down the hatch all ’round.
Larry didn’t last past the toasting of first cousins. He slumped, pale and burping, against Meg — who seemed to hold her liquor astonishingly well.
That’s when the camera came out. Cory produced a fine digital camera — the kind with the date-and-time stamp — while Henry placed the Scotch bottle in Larry’s lap and Meg planted a lipstick-rich kiss on the Canadian’s unsuspecting cheek.
Flash! The image was etched in pixels for all time. Deputy Minister Lawrence Schoendorfen, drunk and sprawled over some young woman on a couch — and while in uniform, at that.
“OK, let’s get him home,” Henry said, all business now. “We have the insurance we need in case he gets stubborn on us.”
Cory hauled the Deputy Minister to her baby-blue Bronco and kicked it into Warp Nine. I helped Meg clean up the glasses. I was blasted enough to find the whole thing very funny, and I was snickering just like Henry and Cory had been on the porch.
In fact, I didn’t stop snickering until I stepped out onto the porch with Meg.
There, in the harbor, was the USS Francisco again.
— Donovan Graham, “The Shadowless Writer”
Comment — Orson Van Dyke: Actually, I’m rather certain that the Coffins’ ploy is not likely to succeed. Granted, Mr. Schoendorfen drank while on the job. But he was at least the victim of entrapment, and possibly the victim of fraud. I doubt that your photographic evidence will carry much weight within the circles of the Canadian federal administration.
Comment — George Reynolds: Yeah, yeah. But you have to admit — it’s funny.
Comment — FreedomFirst: What a surprise — Canadian wimps can’t hold their booze. In a serious drinking contest, give me a Texan any day. We could toss ’em down two-to-one against candy-ass Canadians and still drink them under the table!
Comment — MapleLeaf249: Think so? How do you think we Canadians get through the long winter nights? It isn’t by playing gin rummy!
Comment — FreedomFirst: Playing gin rummy was going to be my only guess.
Comment — Gemstone: You are all missing the point. The thing to notice is how the people of Grand Seal Island devised their own means for playing on a level field against an entire sovereign government. You have to give them credit for being clever.
Read previous blog entries in the Island Wars story by clicking here.