As the morning dragged on, the rain finally stopped and the sky began to clear up.
Placing Pepper on the floor she said: “Well little friend, if we’re going for a walk I’d better wash up and put on warmer clothes.”
Pepper playfully zigzagged in and out around Louise, occasionally leaping up at her, while she pretended to try to catch him. This continued for several minutes until he bounded up the stairs barking and, at the top, he turned and looked down at her panting. She could have sworn he was smiling at her but before she could blink twice Pepper’s wagging tail disappeared around the corner, heading toward her bedroom.
As she ascended the stairs, the sun burst through the clouds transforming the bathroom at the top from a solemn grey to a blinding glow of hopeful possibilities. And, she smiled.
Louise was glad she wore her ankle-length black Spanish Merino coat as she walked along the pebbly beach at Macleod Park, roughly ten minutes from where she lived. The sporadic sunshine had brought a handful of people to the park but most, she surmised, were discouraged by the cold north wind blowing off Georgian Bay.
She pulled the long hair Tuscany collar, that doubled as a hood, over her head and watched Pepper running up ahead, sniffing this and that as he went along. Normally, she would have had Pepper on a leash but, with so few people in the park today, she thought it would be alright to let him run free. Anyway, he never ran too far ahead and often scurried back with some prize he had gathered to lay at her feet. Occasionally, she’d gather up this newfound toy and play fetch and retrieve with him though, more often than not, she deflected his attention elsewhere while she discarded it.
She was glad that she had decided to wear her woolen mittens as the cold wind nipped at her cheeks. Picking up a flat stone from the beach she tried to skip it in the rough water but was unsuccessful. Undeterred, she tried several more times until one stone completed a triple skip and she giggled like a young girl. Looking around for Pepper, she found him further along the shoreline than usual, pulling at something between two large rocks at the water’s edge.
The Town of Meaford began to change about ten years ago. Whether it had changed for the better or worse was open to debate. The local bakery coexisted with Tim Horton’s—contrary to what was expected—and the local tax base was sizably increased from the influx of people from the Greater Toronto Area hungry for lands on which to build their dream homes. Many who came, came only for a chance of respite and an opportunity to play in at least one of the four seasons. This would have been all fine and nice if these outsiders had been willing to leave well enough alone. But, when the smell of money to be had reeked across the landscape, the tenor of country living—though kicking and screaming—was corralled in and redesigned to give a contrastingly new meaning to what was meant by country living. It was now defined along more narrow lines that emphasized the self-centered blindness of entitlement. This philosophical shift irked the locals as they resented to their core these city dwellers who bullied their way into their lifescape. Real-estate once enjoyed by all—especially along the shoreline—became prime real-estate and was gobbled up overnight, only to be traded the next day for a hefty price-tag. Three new high-rise condominiums had been completed along the shore-line last spring so that there were now five: two at one end of the park and three at the other. The number of upscale shops along Sykes Street running parallel to the park had tripled. Closed between seasons, these shops mainly catered to seasonal dwellers and tourists while the locals stayed with the familiar to support their friends, their family and their way of life. They were begrudgingly coming round to tolerate that that unwelcomed change was part of life’s twists and turns that entailed familiar faces disappearing and strangers arriving in their place.
At the corner of Sykes and Lombard was a century old Tudor-style building, the Boar Inn and Pub where the locals—mainly the fifty plus group—came for a few pints, a game of darts, a good chin-wag and sing-along, and plain good food, usually British fare. The younger group on Friday and Saturday nights wouldn’t be caught dead there and willingly drove the forty minutes along the coast to the joie de vivre atmosphere of the town of Collingwood to celebrate the weekend at the Admiral’s Post Pub, Lounge 26 and the Copper Blues.
“Where is that dog?” she grumbled under her breath as she looked around for him. “Pepper!”
At the far end of the shoreline, Pepper was busily trying to pull some sort of object out from between the rocks with the help of a man.