By Gord Fleming (84-88)
It was a dark and stormy night. This, like the rest of our story, may or may not be true. 20 long years have passed and the story is only as good as the memory that keeps it alive. The time has come to tell:
The Story of 40: The Great Plaque of 1987
A chill came over me after reading the note that had been passed to me in the dining hall on a warm afternoon in early August. It read, “We want you to help us give the staff this year’s plague.”
“This year’s plague?” I thought, going over the past four summers in my head, trying to remember what terrible outbreaks I hadn’t noticed. There was always some poor sap who couldn’t stray too far from the Long Drop for a few days, or had mysterious and unappetizing swelling somewhere, but the plague? Not that I knew of. I decided I needed some clarification…
After an apology for his terrible handwriting, Bruce Holmberg (the last remaining of the 1984 Bruce Line of Ten SIT-E) explained to me that he had an idea for the 40th anniversary plaque, but he couldn’t tell me what it was until he was done.
“Well OK” I said, “as long as you’re not planning to involve me in some diabolical plan to unleash a biological agent before we all go back to school.”
“No, Gord, as excellent an idea as that is, I just want you to inscribe this year’s staff onto a proper monument, so that staff in years to come can look upon the names of those who went before them and recall their legends”. His fire-red hair seemed to glow brighter as he whispered the last word.
With that, he adjusted his cap, picked up his axe and disappeared into the woods.
As hours turned to days, I spent my time away from the Twister compound formulating my ink and sharpening the quills that I would use to commemorate the 41st group of brave young men and women to occupy the shores of Kennabi. As I laid my tools down on the table in the vacant trailer behind Hemlock, a shadow darkened my door.
“It is accomplished”, said the owner of the shadow as he extended a flat object, wrapped in a blanket, toward me.
“DON’T LOOK AT MY FACE!” said the shape, as a tangled wisp of burnt hair fell to the floor.
He turned and disappeared back into the woods before I could say another word.
I stared at the enshrouded object as if waiting for it to make the first move. “What if the plague actually comes from plaques?” I thought briefly, enjoying a quiet but nervous laugh at my own expense.
As the sun disappeared, I finally lifted the blanket to reveal a lovingly cut slab of wood, its edges cut and interior shadows carefully burnt, in the shape of the number 40.
I began to imagine what must have happened to Bruce as he directed the open flame at the dry wood – how he must have put out a nascent fire with his own hair in a heroic effort to save the wooden monument.
Resolving not to allow Bruce’s hair to have charred in vain, I pressed play on the tape deck and began the painstaking work of entering the names of the 51 souls who served together that summer, including the flame-haired tragic hero of our story, in a place of honour at the top of the zero. Do well to recall his legend.