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Shab

Nothing Happened in Coronation

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I lived in Coronation, a village in Canada, until I was 18. This is the 11th of 25 Coronation stories & essays.


Shab

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Coronation, Canada in the 50s…more thrilling than it seemed at the time.

Ed Chabrier

I am not sure where he came from or how he learned to do what he did but he was one of the most bizarre characters who ever settled in our village.

He was an electrician…

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…who resembled a Sumo wrestler with a French name, and how he learned about electricity I don’t know.

He was the first man to ever wear sneakers 24 hours a day. Those white and black running shoes made from canvas. Chab AKA “Shab” never wore sneakers with socks.

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Today there are a thousand different kinds of sports footwear but in those days there were only three. Shoes you wore to school. Sneakers. And ski boots.

Hockey skates were not considered shoes, although there were kids who wore them without blades when their parents were short of cash.

Anyway, Shab was a bear of a man who wore sneakers and old flannel pants and a nasty undershirt all the time. Come to think of it, he had more of the look of Genghis Khan than a sumo.

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He hated many people, mostly kids.

And, he especially hated me.

That’s me on the bottom left when I was five. From all reports I was easy to hate. Usually I had a slingshot. Those are my cousins. Uncle Claud is the adult. And that’s his awesome 47 Studebaker.

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sexy country girlA tip of the hat to Cousin Ken Summers for finding and enhancing the above photo. In it I appear to be almost human. That’s Ken beside me. He’s the family historian who sticks to the truth. I’m the other kind.

I was fascinated with all sorts of things and one of the things that intrigued me was Shab’s huge electric drill...

…that he used to bore through rafters so he could string wires in a house.

shab-7I saw him working on Stokes’ home across the street from our place and when he put down his electric drill and took a sandwich break, I walked over to look at that drill. Just look.

Perhaps thinking I was going to steal his drill, he lurched toward me, grabbed the power tool and cursing at the top of his lungs, chased me half a block and when he could not catch me, he hurled the drill, that must have weighed twenty pounds, at me.

It slammed into a nearby tree. Had it hit me it would have smashed in my head or broken my spine.

Besides being an electrician, Shab rewound electric motors. Now you throw them away.

A herd of CATS

He was married to a thin woman with wild, darting eyes, who loved cats. She kept them, maybe a herd of 25, in their home which was back of his shop on Main street.

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Husband and wife made extra money by buying empty beer bottles from kids. They then resold these bottles at the Alberta Liquor Control Board where you had to be an adult to do business.

Other people also were in the recycling game. Which for many was really a front for bootlegging. They sold booze after hours and on Sundays.

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Most of the bottle recyclers gave us kids 15 cents a dozen. Not Shab. He gave us ten cents — and cursed us soundly if one of the bottles had a hairline crack.

He examined each one with an intensity that was frightening. Often we were so afraid of him, we ran away, leaving him with many free bottles.

Shab was the chief of the volunteer fire department.

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When his shop was close to catching fire, he commanded his volunteers to keep a steady stream of water between his electrical shop (with attached cat house) and Bittner’s meat market where the fire had originated. I don’t think either were insured.

Bittner’s meat market burned to the ground — and there was bad blood between the two for their rest of their lives since Bittner claimed Shab should have put the fire out in the meat market — rather than protect his stupid cats and rewound motors.

abstract fire on blackPeople said that the reason Bittner’s meat market caught fire was because Shab had rewired the butcher’s freezer the wrong way. No one could ever prove that.

Shab was the mayor of Coronation for awhile and became quite full of himself. Then he ran against Ronald Coleman, the druggist, who used to give me free comics without covers. He sent the covers back for full credit.

 

Ronald won the election.

That night I saw Shab standing in front of the old town office, looking in at it. One of his campaign promises was to get rid of the town foreman and town secretary, who Shab felt spent too much time in the coffee shop. Standing there in the moonlight, in his tattered sneakers, unlaced, Shab was a beaten man.

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His underwear was covered in sweat and dirt.

The town had turned against him. He seemed on the verge of tears.

I remembered how he had almost killed me a few years earlier with his huge power drill. I said to him, “Shab, I’m so pleased you lost.”

 

Smelling of old cats —

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— and total hatred, he leapt toward me but I was ready to give flight, and easily outran him.

I laughed in the darkness and swore back at him, egging him on, hoping he would trip over his loose laces and smash his face in, but he only ran out of breath.

Sometimes Shab would get into fights with people. He grabbed one fellow and bit off part of his ear. I heard his wife’s cats ate that part of the ear but maybe that was just local folklore.

shab-15Dad said I was fortunate that I did not end up as cat food myself.


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