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We went to Cactusfest in Dundas this past weekend.  I don’t know why it’s called Cactusfest; certainly there have never been wild cacti Dundas, what with it being in Canada and all.  There was a single, sad little booth selling cacti, as though weakly attempting to justify the name.  It failed in its bid to do so.

There were, however, things more typical of small town fairs.  There were pony rides (I was too big to ride any of them), a model train ride (again, couldn’t fit in the cars), a bouncy castle (too tall to get in there too), and a tortoise (I tried to ride him, but the good people of the reptile show told me that was not allowed, and then the tortoise tried to bite me, so I flipped it over on its back, and then I was asked to leave).

I’ve become fond of this small-town existence.  Ancaster is lovely little place, quaint, historic, and safe.  Most people that live here drive to bigger cities to work, making this a “bedroom community.”  I find the term to be odd, as though that’s all our houses have, or that’s the only room we choose to use on a daily basis.  It is a stark contrast to my brother’s “community” of Toronto.  Every time that I go there I feel grimy.  There is something about cities, the accumulated dust and soot piled up against the corners where buildings meet the sidewalk, the smell on your hands from riding the subway and holding the same metal pole a million other people have held, the faint whiff of urine left in the parking garage where you… I mean someone else… just peed.

If Toronto was a character, it would be middle-aged man in slightly dated clothing (like acid-washed jeans).  He would smell faintly of sweat, and there would be dirt in the creases of his neck.  Even though he shaves daily, he would still have that permanent stubble that hairier men get after the age of 40 or so, and his chest hair would peak out above the crew neck of his sweatshirt.  Paris, France (the only other big city with which I am reasonably familiar) would be an old woman, painfully thin, smoking a cigarette, wearing a fair amount of makeup and big, dark glasses.  She would smell strongly of perfume and slightly of wine, and her shoes would be the most expensive pumps that money can buy.  Her hair would be dyed to the closest shade she could find to the one she had as a young girl, and it would be coiffed into a very chic bob.  And she would seek out younger men.

The District is becoming a character to me.  He is an old man, but a big one, not a little-old man.  He was once a boxer, or a wrestler, or a soldier, with broad shoulders and large, knobbly hands.  He is confused easily these days, being led astray by many pulling and pushing forces, but he still carries a great strength about him.

A quieter street in the District, with a view of the Factories in the back.

A quieter street in the District, with a view of the Factories in the back.

The people scared her.  They were poorer here, and even knowing that her own family had very little, she could tell that most of these people had far less.  Their clothes were threadbare, their hair knotted, their hands dirty.  They stared vacantly as they walked.  Emily felt that they were walking to nowhere in particular, their feet shuffling on the cluttered streets, slat-ribbed dogs dodging between the, looking for something to eat.

But she knew that one of the plants was on this rough street, somewhere amidst the depression and discarded rubbish, so she ducked her head, hitched up the bag at her shoulder, and pushed on, scanning the ground as she slipped past the residents.  She ignored the other children that half-heartedly called her over to play with them, games of chewed-looking rubber balls and empty cans, and she did not look the adults in the eye, afraid of what she might see there.

It was dark on this street, and as the light of the afternoon drifted into dusk, Emily found it harder and harder to see anything at all on the street.  She didn’t know where the plant was, just that it, like so many others, had been shown to her somewhere down this narrow alley.  And this alley was so cramped and littered with debris that she despaired of ever finding anything here.  One of the streetlamps clicked and lit with a gentle whoosh, but the ones before and after it stayed unlit.  Emily doubted that they would be fixed soon.

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