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Sunday, April 24, 2016

Fiction #67: Kate O'Rourke

Nothing Can Harm You

Miss Enid Bugaloo lived in the big toppling grey house set on the crest of the hill at the end of Dre Ary Lane, Rural Route 13, in the tiny town of Rockstop, population 552 (at high season). There were no other rural routes, however in Rockstop, but 13 seemed like a lucky number to the town planner, Everett Bugaloo, eldest son of Eugenius Bugaloo (more on both of them later).

The children of the town were all afraid of the “big old Bugaloo” as Enid was known even though few children had actually met her, and even fewer had really ever seen her, other than in their wild imaginings. Big brothers were keen on inventing tales which included the sinister and nasty Enid. Truth of the matter was, Enid was neither big nor old, nor sinister. She was 45, with lovely brown eyes and a timid manner, a tiny and birdlike creature. More like a mouse than a lion, but given her quiet nature, and the nature of the horrid disasters that befell her family, she was quite content to live with the name given her, and enjoy the fact that it meant people avoided her, her house, and Dre Ary Lane altogether.

Enid let out an audible sigh of relief when people thought she was in fact, the hired help who bravely faced the specter of Enid on a daily basis. It allowed her free reign of the town, shopping, using the library, the cinema, and the occasional Dairy Delight stop for an iced treat when the heat overwhelmed at the top of the hill.

Enid Bugaloo was a bit of a mystery to all the citizens of Rockstop. Ms. Bugaloo was the last surviving member of a long line of tragic Bugaloos, whose forebear, Eugenius Bugaloo had founded the town in 1912. Eugenius threw a rock from the top of the hill where he decided to build his mansion, and the exact spot where it rolled to a stop is where he built the town, and called it, unsurprisingly but quite unimaginatively, Rockstop. Thankfully, he did not call it Bugalooville, or Bugaloo Station or Goodness knows, Bugaloo Junction, since there is no junction in town. Everett forgot to put one in. Rockstop is straight line from the site of the infamous “stopped rock” to the top of the solo Rural Route 13.  People built their homes on either side of this straight line and so Everett called it, you guessed it, Home St.  No one thought to question Everett’s decisions, since he was a son of the founding father. Why would they need a junction? Straight lines were best. Simple. Straight.  Taking their cues from Eugenius and his family may not have been best thing for the citizens of Rockstop.

Eugenius, while not a shining example of his name, did however, make his fortunes selling imported bottled tap water to citizens of the next town over, Waterton, when the reservoir dried up. After all the years of living in a town so named, its citizens assumed it would fill up again, or just somehow come seeping or sloshing or sluicing back. Most seemed unsure how to obtain more water. Eugenius, in somewhat of a dehydrated state, drove his truck to the next town over, to bring back water for his pet goldfish, Ernie.  Thus he became the town hero and citizens reveled in his genius. Mostly he became famous and rich because the citizens were too dehydrated, and so getting someone else to do this strange task was helpful to them. They happily paid Eugenius to hew water when they were too drawn out to do so.

However, after years of building the town of Rockstop, and feeling his work as town founder was done, Eugenius retreated to his hilltop mansion with his wife, Eunice, and their brood of children – Euclid, 20, Everett,18,  Emmett, 16, Endor, 14, Eckhart, 13, and Emmaleen, 12. Emmaleen begat Evangeline, who begat Edwin, who married Edith who then next married Eddie when Edwin died of a fever and had Enid. No one like from the Bugaloo clan like Eddie, and so asked Edith to keep her named as Bugaloo, instead of her father’s name which was Bugbear, which to their minds, was much less sophisticated.

Euclid sadly, came to no good. She met up with Fred, not a good match for the Bugaloos at all. She ran away, and now it is said she is raising devilish twins, Flo and Farquar in the tiny town of Whislindixie.

Everett, although not formally educated in the arts of town planning, was the oldest and most favoured child of the Bugaloo clan, after of course, Euclid left in disgrace.  Boys Emmett and Endor are both engineers, Eckhart has taken to egg farming and Edith, sadly died of a broken heart. Turns out she preferred Edwin to Eddie after all, but he was long gone with fever, and so she despaired of Eddie, and he ran off with a show girl from Vegas (A mere 100 miles from Rockstop as the crow flies across the dessert.) Her only consolation in life was in fact, Enid.

Enid was a lovely child from birth. Always full of mirth and joy, and Edith, when not unconsolable, was oft-found in the company of Enid, playing distracted games with her, mussing her hair in an off-hand fashion. Enid came to appreciate at an early that her mother was often distracted and somewhat aloof, and simply accepted that  all mothers were thus. Motherhood to Enid meant dreamy “yes dears” to all inquiries, including the following

“Is the world flat mummy?” yes dear

“Do babies come from cabbage patches?” yes dear

“Do rabbits turn orange if they eat too man carrots?” yes dear

“Will I turn brown if I eat too much chocolate ice cream?” yes dear

“Will the tooth fairy bring me a dollar bill?” yes dear

(These were the worst of all the realizations, that mummy’s yes dears, were not always in fact portents of things actually happening, learned the hard way by Enid.)

However, despite Edith’s distraction, Enid loved her dearly and grew to appreciate her mother’s off-hand way with the world, providing safe harbour through the storms of the Bugaloo life as it were. Enid grew to be a lovely, if somewhat distracted girl, into a fine specimen of a distracted woman.

When Edith died in Enid’s 21st year, she was well on her way to understanding that life is best lived and viewed from the vantage point of somewhere else other than where you presently stand.

Nothing can harm you when you are at least twenty paces from your actual self.


Kate O'Rourke kept the blog Auntie Cake's Shop from 2010 until she died of breast cancer in 2012. She was one of the editors of Framing Our Past (McGill-Queen's University Press, 2001). She married the editor of The Danforth Review in 2007. She wrote this story in 2006.

Editor's note: Publishing this story is probably a conflict of interest, but, dear world, give me this.

Hope is the thing with feathers - Emily Dickinson


  1. the world will give you this... its a nice story, I liked the To Kill a Mockingbird allusion re. Boo Radley

  2. I find the ending to be disturbing. I feel set up by the whimsy which led to the dark and sombre ending - sort of like the movie "Underground" which is cartoon-like in its disciplined over-acting only to get you to a place where you find out there was nothing ever funny going on in the story that you just laughed all the way through and your soul is ripped to pieces as a result - just like the characters in the story one has just watched. yes, that is how I feel after having read this story. well done. (Submitted by Phillip Penna)