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One Weird Day

And the Butterfly Effect

By Roy StevensPublished about a year ago Updated about a year ago 12 min read
Top Story - June 2023
37

*** Please bear with the endless-seeming exposition. It’s needed in order to set the stage***

I graduated from Grade 13. Where I come from you can’t do that anymore. In any case, getting up, eating breakfast and then heading off to a very old school building full of eighteen-year-olds from all parts of a city of about half a million people was, even back then, a weird way to start a day. But it was kinda cool too!

Most Ontario school boards managed their academic advancement Grade 13 programs by simply tacking on another year at each of their secondary schools. If you didn’t want to go to university, you graduated from Grade 12 and went to work or college. If you were academically inclined, you stayed at your school for another year and earned the credits needed for entry to a relatively ‘affordable’ Ontario university. The deep-pocketed could always just go to an out-of-province university if they didn’t care for that idea!

I was a fairly academically inclined kid, there was no work at the end of the 70s because the swollen glob that was the Baby Boom generation had all the opportunities firmly locked up for the coming thirty years and I was definitely unqualified for the deep-pocketed category, so Grade 13 it was for me. In Hamilton the school board assigned you to H.C.I., Hamilton Collegiate Institute, or Sherwood Secondary if you lived in the upper half of the city on the Niagara Escarpment (‘The Mountain’). Coming from the older, lower part of the city I went to Hamilton Collegiate Institute.

Its post-H.C.I. career as an elementary school once again.

I suppose it was more of a response to the circumstances than anything else, provide a fully taxpayer funded year of what amounted to undergraduate studies to a listless crowd of Generation Jones kids with nowhere else to go. The Hamilton School Board’s trick of gathering us all together in one place was simply the icing on the lentil loaf. I met a lot of great people from all over the city that year and, for the most part, it was good fun, even edifying.

So, the particular day I want to discuss with you was a warm mid-October Friday. I took a city bus to school that morning. Walking alongside the fence dividing H.C.I. from the fire station next door I was surprised to see an almost identical bicycle to my own locked up on the fire station side of the chain-link fence, right where I sometimes left mine. As I came closer I wasn’t quite so surprised. My girlfriend’s dad was the Captain at that specific fire station and he allowed me to lock my bike up in this much less larceny-prone location. I’d ridden to school the day before but forgot about my bike in a befuddled daze at the end of the day. H.C.I. was in the rough part of town but the bike was fine still, no one cared to mess around with shift worker firefighters.

First period was U.S. History in a decrepit second story corner of the decrepit, second class building. Like the other courses, it was intended to get us neophytes started on the twin paths to cognitive analysis and synthesis of ideas. It was a fantastic course taught by an excellent instructor. For lack of a better method to stuff all of us larger than average students (remember, we were all eighteen) into a classroom originally intended for elementary school kids, the desks were set up in traditional, boring rows. I sat in my usual spot – no assigned seating but we were still creatures of habit- put my notebook on the desktop and stuffed my copy of the primary course text inside the desk. SNAP!

The room was still buzzing with students coming in and the instructor wasn’t there yet, but the sharp noise from inside my desk briefly stopped all motion. Warily, I pulled the book back out. I’d felt the impact of something inside the desk so I wasn’t going to haul the book out without some caution. To my surprise a mousetrap was firmly clamped around the top of my poor textbook. The wood base of the trap was painted a garish, fluorescent pink except for a cryptic message painted in white on the bottom using that typewriter correction fluid invented by the mother of Michael Nesmith from The Monkees: DUMP THE GIRLFRIEND. Under this an arrow seemed to be pointing straight at the reader-me!

Just imagine it in fluorescent pink.

I removed the rodent guillotine from my book and nervously returned it to the dark from whence it came. I had no idea what the message meant or even to whom it might be addressed. [Several weeks later Bernie, the girl who sat behind me in that class, slipped up to me at my locker and told me that she’d put the mousetrap in my desk; the arrow hadn’t been pointing at me, it was pointing through me! Apparently, this was her idea of kittenish foreplay. I didn’t dump my then girlfriend and the hairs on the back of my neck stood to attention in that class for the rest of the year, but I refused to display my fear by moving desks.] The rest of that morning passed in a confused and anxious fugue state to which memory denies access.

First period that Friday afternoon was English, another fabulous course taught by the dearest little old man who was in the early stages of Parkinson’s disease. We called him “Shaky” but believe me it was with profound affection and the greatest sympathy eighteen-year-olds could muster. We loved him deeply. Under his tutelage a particular group of us quickly formed into a cohesive unit that would last through the coming university years and befuddle the hordes of students from all over the country who couldn’t work out how so many of us were so close.

This wonderful old guy (I won’t call him “Shaky” anymore, even with affection) was friends with my English teachers from Westdale, my 9-12 high school. He’d found out from them that I’d placed (I’m a perpetual runner-up) in a creative writing competition late in my Grade 12 year but never had the opportunity to receive the medal and prize in the typical melee of high school graduation. It was a significant province-wide competition so he arranged to surprise me with the award in class that day. That’s just the kind of guy he was; he later even got me a hard-to-find summer job!

Called to the front I was awarded an enormous, chunky silver medal and with a glint in his eye the teacher handed me the prize. Did I mention the competition had been sponsored by Ontario Pork Growers? My prize was a pound of bacon handed to me in an old, not air-conditioned building on a warm, early fall day. My gym bag smelled of hickory-smoked rashers for the rest of the year. The crowd of especially close buddies I’d made in that class, Jacob, Allison, the two Johns Matthiodaccus and Sobot, Tina and Rick all jeered and cat-called me mercilessly to hold that bacon high. Even years later, an oink from behind in one of the tunnels between buildings at McMaster University informed me that one of them was approaching from behind. They’re all gone now, and I miss them.

2nd Prize for writing goodly!

The day and the week ended, and we happily scattered to separate homes knowing we’d see each other in a few hours. Earlier in the week and before her ‘playful’ courtship effort, Mousetrap Bernie had invited all of us to a going away party for someone from Glendale, her 9-12 secondary school. It was on that Friday night at her brother’s farm in Binbrook south of Hamilton. We were looking forward to H.C.I.’s first real blow-out of the year. It was just as I stepped off of the bus a block away from home that I remembered my bike chained up to the fire station fence…

The weirdness continued at home. My dad was there and since he worked the 3-11 shift as a school janitor it was strange enough to see him on a week day. Things became genuinely weird when the notorious skinflint heard that I was going to a party that night and actually insisted that I borrow his dilapidated ’74 Chevy Nova to get there. WTF! Even though I was paying the extortionate fee levied at teen boys for auto insurance I practically never got to use the Nova and here he was essentially shoving me behind the wheel! It was such an odd occurrence it aroused my suspicion, but I never ever discovered the source of my dad’s sudden, uncharacteristic largesse.

After supper Jacob arrived and we drove to pick up Allison and Rick on the way to Binbrook. I parked the Nova beside a much better cared for, much nicer Nova in a field full of grazing automobiles, then I helped Rick carry our cooler full of refreshments to the swanked-up barn where the party was already pounding.

For my next weirdity to make sense I need to describe Allison a little. Fluent in French, smart as a Rhodes Scholar, wickedly funny and petite with long legs, red hair and diamond green eyes, she turned heads wherever she went. Of course, I was secretly in love with her even if she was my buddy. We all were!

Good Ole Stubbies. You're missed little guys!

Leaning up to a thick support column, I had just popped my first stubby and was raising it to my anticipating lips when Allison walked by in stiletto ankle boots and one of those white ballerina-like mini-skirts that had come into fashion that fall. She grinned at me and confiscated my beer. I summoned another from the cooler, scalped it of its lid and was raising it when the man of the evening, a slight, posh British guy with long black hair and a pale complexion slipped up to me, relieved me of my replacement stubby and nodded toward Allison, “That yours, mate? Corr, the eyes on her!”

I wish she was, but I didn’t tell him that. Instead I let him think she was mine so that he wouldn’t pester her; she didn’t go for short, posh dudes. He’d been introduced to me as Ian by an overexcited Bernie, who was convinced he was returning to the U.K. to be a rock star. I’d scoffed at her openly of course. I grinned at Ian and raised an eyebrow. “Buddy, it’s the sparkle in her eyes that keeps me alive!” He looked me over in some surprise, took another big draught of the beer he’d pilfered from me, looked briefly puzzled then suddenly wandered away after more promising possibilities. I wish I could remember where I’d read that line just a few weeks earlier, but to this day it eludes me. Here’s Ian Astbury a few years later with his band The Cult singing “She Sells Sanctuary”. Please pay close attention to the lyrics:

I lay no proprietary claims to the line, it wasn’t mine to begin with, but you can imagine the very weird sensation running through me the first time I heard him singing it! I don’t know what happened to Astbury at that party, I never saw him again, but I have good reason to believe I made a small psychic impact of some sort upon him.

Since I was driving my dad’s crappy Nova (It was only five years old but it was so rusty you could peel up the carpet on the passenger side and watch the road going by through the giant hole in the floor!) I didn’t drink a lot, and since I had to get up at 5:30AM to go mop the halls at the high-rise where I had an under-the-table minimum wage ‘job’, I decided to excuse myself from the party at midnight or so. The party was a really good one and none of my crowd wanted to leave so they all arranged alternate transportation for later.

There were a lot of extremely attractive young women at the party and besides Allison and Tina (I guess and Bernie too, just to be fair) a particular long-time crush of mine who went to Aldershot Secondary in nearby Burlington was there with her boyfriend. Her name was (and still is) Sandy Horne and her boyfriend was known to me as Gord Deppe. (The dirty lout is actually a really nice guy.) Aside from his status as Sandy’s long-time boyfriend I didn’t know him very well, but I’d known Sandy for years. A mutual family friend had babysat both of us. In retrospect and after all these years, it shocks me to realize just how closely Allison, Sandy and my first girlfriend Michelle all resembled each other. I really was a daft punk!

Sandy has been described with good reason as the most beautiful girl in Ontario in 1980. At the party she was electricity and I spent some time amusedly watching her passage around the room, pulling along the eyes of most of the guys in the place. When they got the bad news they would develop a hate-on for Gordon Deppe, but in the not-too-distant future most of the red-blooded straight young men in the entire country would be following our lead and shouting, “Camera 2, go back to Camera 2 damn it!”, at screens. To be fair, Gordon was beautiful himself and I suspect many of the gay guys and straight gals were probably yelling, “Stay on Camera 1, damn it!”

Anyway, I had to leave; I was always leaving because of the need to work some crappy minimum wage drudgery somewhere, so I said my goodbyes and went off into the dark field to locate my dad’s Flintstonemobile among the crop of cars. Finally locating the Nova, I opened the long door and slid in behind the wheel. Something felt weird but I couldn’t quite place it, so I fumbled out the square ignition key and started the engine. From behind me someone hollered, “Brett, what’re you doin’ dude!!” I didn’t have the seatbelt on yet and I’m surprised I didn’t fabricate a moon-roof in the car, I jumped so high.

Piece of junk!

Hyperventilating and wide-eyed, I turned to the slight figure in the dark of the rear seat, “What in the fuck…?”

“Who are you?”

“No, who are you?”

I never got an answer but I was amazed by just how adroitly the dim silhouette opened the passenger door, triggered the forward folding front seat of the coupe and slid out while rapid-firing an explanation. “Shit, I thought this was my friend’s car. I’ve had a couple of super-long days and I was just taking a nap. My girlfriend was supposed to come and get me…” His voice faded as he slipped off into the darkness. As I pulled away in the Nova I thought I could just hear him calling, “Sandy!” into the night.

And so, here’s Sandy Horne and Gordon Deppe with their band The Spoons performing arguably their biggest hit in a long career. They made this music video two years after my midnight encounter and it has all the silly pretension that seemed necessary for New Wave music videos back then. If the quality [High quality, seriously?] and the goofiness of the opening are paining you, just fast-forward about a minute and thirty seconds, you’ll still get the picture. The first guy to appear is keyboardist Rob Preuss who was seventeen at the time. Gordon is the second guy. Man, they... we all, were so young!

To this day arguments are unsolved as to the meaning of Gordon Deppe’s lyrics. “Nova” of course, is Latin for “the new”; Nova Scotia thus means “The New Scotland”, but otherwise what’s the pretty dude with the ethereally gorgeous girlfriend going on about? I’d like to think I just might have some insider information on exactly what it is that Gordon means when he sings, “I’ll sleep, sleep in your Nova heart“, but of course I have no proof.

Is it all mere coincidence? Maybe, but everything we do channels along pathways of cause and effect, incidence and coincidence. Our influences stream away from us down the channels of time like that proverbial butterfly’s wings flapping in Tokyo stirring molecules that eventually cause rain in New York City. Like the butterfly we can’t ever see the full extent of our own personal impact in the world, even the multiverse, but it’s still there.

My one weird day ended when I got home to find I didn’t have my key for the locked front door. I climbed in the front window, rolling over the sill to land directly onto my sleeping second oldest brother Dave, home unexpectedly from his West Coast wanderings. We screamed at each other defensively for at least twenty seconds before realizing who each other was. Too bad neither of us was musical…

Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas as Bob and Doug MacKenzie, eh. Take off, Hosers!

Teenage years
37

About the Creator

Roy Stevens

Just one bad apple can spoil a beautiful basket. The toxins seep throughout and...

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Comments (22)

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  • StoryholicFinds8 months ago

    love it! ❤️

  • Congratulations on your Top Story💥💯🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉

  • Remarkable, Article as Always 😉❤️💯📝💥

  • L.C. Schäferabout a year ago

    You are a muse! Great piece 😁

  • Donna Fox (HKB)about a year ago

    Roy, I had no idea grade 13 was a thing. You taught me something new again! I wonder if this was a thing, maybe more people would go to college/ university? I know the numbers are better than they used to be but in my small town that I’m originally from (Taber, Alberta) only 10 out of our graduating class of 25 went to post secondary. Rodent guillotine, lmfao! Love the phrase! 😂 Another great phrase was Swanked-up, seriously love your vernacular! Loved the Flintstone reference, by the way! I appreciated the add-in of the videos and all your anecdotes along the way! I really appreciate your narrative voice in this one and the adventure you took us on! This was a great story from your past to share! 💜 Also, congratulations on Top Story a few days ago! 🎉 Happy you are no longer a perpetual runner up will this story!! 💜

  • Mohammed Darasiabout a year ago

    That was one crazy wild day you had there Roy 🤣🤣 inspired two different songs in the same night! I love the way you told the story, and how you linked in the extra info here and there, like the English teacher and your bacon prize 🤣. It was a nice and funny piece to read 😄

  • This was soooooo wild! What's up with Bernie putting mousetrap under your desk?! And who in their right mind would hand out bacon as a prize for writing?! And if there was someone in the back seat of my car and they suddenly decided to talk, I would just die. My soul would have said "Bye, sista" and left my body 🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣

  • Ahna Lewisabout a year ago

    haha, you've got such a great sense of humor in your writing, Roy! "Rodent guillotine," the bacon prize for creative writing, "field full of grazing automobiles"...and so many other clever one-liners and creative details! Also, this was such a fascinating story. Crazy to think how small encounters like this can have a big impact. I really enjoyed this glimpse into your teenage years!

  • Heather Lunsfordabout a year ago

    Great story telling. And I'm going to spend the rest of my life believing you cowrote two of the punk rock/new wave hits of my youth. Thanks for sharing.

  • Veronica Coldironabout a year ago

    Your story is amazing. It's incredible how one weird day generated so many interesting things! I found myself transported back to my school days when reading this. GREAT piece! I thoroughly enjoyed reading and have subscribed!

  • That truly was one weird day. Good music. Thanks for sharing.

  • Lamar Wigginsabout a year ago

    Well, that went straight to the top. You might be close to the record on that one. Congrats, Roy!

  • Mashal Shabbirabout a year ago

    Gr8 story

  • edidiong umohabout a year ago

    Lovely, Creat job... congratulations!

  • Judey Kalchik about a year ago

    I so enjoy the conversational and conspiratorial tone of this! Congratulations on the Top Story!

  • Cathy holmesabout a year ago

    Hey you, congrats on the TS

  • Lamar Wigginsabout a year ago

    I Loved this story. It had a lot of elements that kept me engaged. It was also relatable in the fact that I also felt that weird sensation you spoke of when hearing the lyrics of the 'cult' song. I remember a friend telling me they were in a new band that was going places. I was like whatever, because she had been in 20 bands prior that went nowhere. Then I heard one of their songs on the radio. I didn't know it was them until the DJ announced at the end what band it was. I dropped everything I was doing to go call her and congratulate her. I think your encounter was beyond coincidence. I'm sure that line stuck with him (Ian) judging by his reaction when you first said it to him. I also loved the description 'rodent guillotine' 😂, sounds so barbaric... and whatever happened to the bike? Great read my friend.

  • Donna Reneeabout a year ago

    This was cool, Roy, felt like just sitting and listening to you telling stories :)

  • Dana Crandellabout a year ago

    Well, that was a cool look back! Very, very different from my school "daze" but I won't open that conversation here. lol

  • Cathy holmesabout a year ago

    This was a fun read. I enjoyed your look back to teenage shenagin days. One interesting day indeed. Yeah, you know what those lyrics were about. And of course I remember the stubbies. Lol.

  • J. S. Wadeabout a year ago

    The song December 63 is running through my head. “O What a Night”. Great Story Roy! Love the style and the interconnection of tunes. You should get credit for the lyrics inspired. 🥰

  • Kendall Defoe about a year ago

    This is the most interesting look back at a life from my hometown that I have ever read! Thank you, sir! I might have a few things to say about my life...

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