“Civic Holiday? Only Canada could come up with a generic name for a national holiday,” Nora snorted. She took a long sip of her Labatts and looked out the window of the Eganville Hotel at rain pouring into the Bonnechere River. There’d be no fishing or kayaking or hiking today. She’d picked a fine time to vacation in Ontario. She’d have been better off staying in Syracuse.
And, thanks to the damned Civic Holiday, everything was closed except apparently the crappy bar of her hotel.
Jacques, the man she had chatted with for months online, shrugged. “Still a day off, eh?” He signaled to the bartender, a surly long-haired kid who hadn’t said two words since they came in. “Deux bières, s’il vous plaît.”
The bartender took his eyes off of the provincial curling championship on the television and glared at them. He dropped two fresh beers on the bar. When they foamed over, he did not offer to clean up the mess.
“It’s Lord Simcoe Day, actually,” Jacques said. “First Monday in August. Terry Fox Day in Manitoba. British Columbia Day in BC and something in Quebec. I forget what. But, officially, it’s still just Civic Holiday.”
“That’s the laziest thing I’ve ever heard. At least in the States we name our holidays.” Nora wiped beer off the side of the bottle with a cocktail napkin and took a long sip. Listening to Jacques wasn’t so bad if she had a light buzz going on.
“You know much about Lord John Simcoe?” Jacques asked.
“No,” Nora admitted. She was glad that they weren’t sharing a hotel room. Next time she’d have to do much more research before meeting an online friend. His main interests seemed to be drinking and doomsday prepping.
“British ruler of upper Ontario in the 18th century. Disappeared under very strange circumstances. Some say he never aged. Unexplained blinding flashes of light in his estate in England. Servants found him gone.” Jacques raised his bottle in a toast and took a sip.
Nora punched into her mobile phone. “Says here he died of natural causes at age 54 in 1806 and is buried at Wolford Chapel in Ontario.”
“Fake news,” Jacques said. “There was something special about Simcoe.”
“Like he wasn’t human?” Was Jacques one of those conspiracy nuts too? Maybe he wrote long manifestos in his underground bunker.
Jacques took a long sip of beer. “You said it, not me.”
“What’s the point of Civic Holiday then?” Jacques wasn’t exactly living up to his online profile. She doubted he was even a provincial man of mystery.
“Saving the date for something special.”
Jacques flashed a wry smile. “Je n’ai aucune idée.”
“What?” Nora snapped. His habit of slipping into French had seemed sexy and cultured Friday night. Now it was getting on her nerves. Jacques was just a redneck who spoke another language.
“Sorry. What I meant was I have no idea. You would have to ask Simcoe, no ?”
Jacques wasn’t making much sense. “And why would the Parliament take part in this plan?” Nora asked.
“Probably some big campaign contribution got the law passed. Politicians don’t have any clue what they’re doing most of the time.”
Nora stared at Jacques. “And, who made the contribution? Simcoe?”
Jacques snapped his fingers. “You got it, mon ami…”
The television flickered and went out. No more curling championship. The bartender swore loudly in French and banged on the set. Nothing.
Then the power shut off.
Nora noticed the rain had stopped. Thank God. Maybe she could escape Jacques and salvage what was left of Civic Holiday with some kayaking or fly fishing.
She looked out the window. No downpour, but not too distant lightning meant the bad weather hadn’t ended. But why wasn’t it raining over the hotel? Who had ever heard of the eye of a thunderstorm?
She craned her head out the window and looked up for signs of a break in the clouds.
An enormous flying saucer, larger than any ship she had ever seen, blocked the rain. She had a feeling it wasn’t the only alien ship.
“Jesus,” Nora said.
Jacques had joined her at the window. “I know what Civic Holiday really is,” Jacques said.
“What?” Nora was scared. She thought she might throw up.
It looked like Lord Simcoe had returned.
She sure wouldn’t be kayaking today.
She reached behind the bar and grabbed another beer and set it down in front of her companion. “So, Jacques, I don’t suppose you have a bunker of some sort?”
Peter Wood is a lawyer in Raleigh, NC where he lives with his patient wife. He grew up in Ottawa where his Dad, the director of the Ottawa Boys Club, ran a summer camp near Eganville from 1966 through 1978. His Dad, Richard Wood, had a tremendous sense of humor and got a big kick out of a holiday simply called Civic Holiday. And, there was no bigger fan of Lord Simcoe.