Extrapolator

In my sixty years at the General Store I’ve never seen anything like this. Our green and golden valley’s become orange and pink. There’s hundreds of workers in safety vests. Don’t know why they call them that – in my day if a guy dressed like that, he’d get beaten up. And red and white tape across the forest, like a festival barber shop, except not a very good one, the cutting is patchy. Young women smiling, giving you the come on, then calming you down, flashing “Slow” boy, and then “Stop”. Still, good to see so many people working. Wonder who’s paying?

There’s lockdown tonight. Gotta stay off the streets. I push aside some Viagra boxes to peer out. A local store’s gotta stock everything these days.

Choppers dangle shipping containers, and a Jumbo-copter swings something the size of a house. A convoy of flatbeds hauls concrete blocks; there’s pairs of trucks balancing bridge sections. Next morning there’s this God-Awful noise. If a constipated bear was roaring in the steambox of a Victorian engine in an endless conduit, you’d be close.

Next morning the lockdown is over. I go and ask Pink Sweety a few questions and offer her some thermal underwear. Say she can try it on in the shop. She says I am an old creep and I should know better at my age. “My grandmother used to shop here,” she says. “And she’s warned me about you.” Damn, she knew about my spy hole in the saddle box. I used to fit right into it.

I go to Tangerine Boy, and call him “son”. I think he likes that, probably doesn’t know who his father is. “That’s the Extrapolator, Pops,” he says. I want to “pop” him on the head, but my fist would bounce off his hard hat. “Haven’t you been reading about the big project in your papers? Lucky for you I’m a Public Rural Interface Committee Kommisar, I can tell you all about it. BC Bylaw 2012, Volume 17, Edition 6, Set 24, Evolution 14 says that ‘All features must conform to best practice’.”

“What ‘features’?” I ask.

“As it says, Pops, ‘All features’. They are to be regulated holistically within the existing non-local paradigm.” I feel a bubbling deep within.

“What’s ‘best practice’?”

“The consensus view on constructive activity that is sustainably authorized.”

Why has everybody started speaking mumbo-jumbo? Official words that mean nothing at all? What’s wrong with saying things plainly? What you really mean or think about stuff? But that could be offensive to somebody, somewhere, sometime, and they say we can’t have that these days. Political Correctness. Paranoid Cuckoo. I pop a smelly one out behind and move away.

A billboard says that our valley indeed does not conform to best practice. They say the balance of low UV-sunshine, windchill, water sediment, snowy crystallography, drainage nodality, wildlife passage, agricultural offsets, tourist magnetism and heritage values is not optimized. They say that this can all be resolved by amending the physical proportions of the valley. The Extrapolator – invented by the UBC Dept of Vibrational Tectonics – will stress the earth’s crust to make the valley 100 meters less wide. Screw that, why don’t they fix the power lines over the centre of town, or throw some trees around the railway tracks?

The main distinction these days is not between truth and lies, but between truth and bullshit. Even lies have a purpose, a certain integrity, a sort of honest hope. But the aim of bullshit is to confuse you. To dim your wits causing a fearful paralysis. Like on Tinker’s 60th birthday, but that wasn’t my fault.

Over the next month, forests are cut down, farms are flattened, and houses commandeered. Those affected are told not to worry; generous rebuilding loans are available from the government on easy terms, at 150% of existing values. Everyone’s cashing in. I get a check after they bulldozer the store, but not before I sell out of my most profitable lines: leathers and Viagra. Double bonus. I chat to Pinky Sweety whenever I can, but the guys from the pub keep shouting out “Hey Napoleon, have you found Josephine?” and “She said yes, you can get off your knees now.” I’ll show them yet. I don’t even like the pub. Same old bores. But where else can I go?

There are daily discussions, weekly workshops, monthly marketing plans, quarterly quantas, and annualized analyses. Any protestors are paid off, scared off, or carted off. At the end of the month, our valley conforms. “Exactly 100 meters more narrow,” they say. They stress the word “more”, as if they have given us something extra. Now it will have the right balance of “occupational logistics, psycho-climatography, and social shunt”.

A bill of $40 million is presented to the village. A million a day plus service plus bonus plus tax. There is a press launch. The Premier cuts a blue ribbon across the new, more narrow valley. I stay at the store that day. Still got the marks from the handcuffs the last time.

Ten environmental monitors will remain for a year. That’s extra. The rest of the workers pack up, ready to move onto their next project – it seems that the next valley is now 100 meters too wide. I’ll head up there in my new Mustang, wave at Tangerine Boy, and see if Pinky Sweety wants a ride. I’ve got a lot of cash now and only a few years to spend it. And I saved a few of them magic blue pills. In this crazy modern world, at least there’s one thing you can count on to point you in the right direction. Maybe she’ll flash me a “Fast” sign.

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