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The Story Of SAINTE-ANNES-DES-MENSONGES (standard:Satire, 910 words)
Author: G.H. HaddenAdded: Feb 13 2008Views/Reads: 2478/0Story vote: 0.00 (0 votes)
In the uncanny world of Quebec politics, times change, and lies can be made truth.


By. G.H. Hadden 

The little Laurentian village of Sainte-Annes-Des-Mensonges is a bit of
a seasonal joke to the locals, who are a breed of hearty proud “pure 
laine Quebecois” landlords that on occasion, when not spending time on 
the lake with their own large families, will rent out the use of their 
picturesque mountainside cabins to paying strangers. 

The inside joke, of course, was that this “lake-of –lies” and the
mountain too, was once the property of a fast-talking Anglo land 
developer, who in the booming post-war times of the late 1940s—at the 
height of premier Maurice Duplessis' solid grip on power—sold his lots 
based largely on broken promises and a fictitious town charter.  Greg 
Harold Harrison claimed to have graduated from a French Catholic high 
school in the rough northern frontier town of Noranda, passing himself 
off as the son of an Ontario trained doctor who married into a large 
family of stout Quebecois loggers from the Abitibi.  Armed with that 
story and his fine French-Canadian manners, he duped many hard-working 
Montreal family men in church halls all around the region.  Some were 
swayed to sink their entire life's fortune into (roughly translated) 
“the investment opportunity of a lifetime...a place for family to grow 
and live and share good times in good clean country air, away from the 
smog and noise of the city...that, Ladies and Gentlemen, could only 
grow in value.”—what with Mr. Harrison's favored business relations 
with the premier himself—“Ladies and Gentlemen, in VERY short order, 
these properties which I sell today at five thousand dollars will most 
certainly be worth thrice that amount in ten short years.” 

But alas, it was never to be.  Fact is: the village of
Sainte-Annes-Des-Soeurs would never become home to a Catholic retreat 
for the nuns of L'Ordre Du La Conception D'Imaculates.  In time, church 
support fell away from the Union Nationale, and the huckster Greg 
Harrison fled with their money.  A small story in that notorious 
tabloid ‘Le Journal De Montreal' some years later reported him killed 
in a bar fight in Butte, Montana—penniless and utterly alone.  Some say 
the resulting scandal cost the Union Nationale a seat in the Assembly, 
despite an organized UN effort to buy the 1953 vote with gifts of cheap 
appliances, whiskey and groceries to the local constituents.  After the 
sudden death of “Le Chef” Duplessis—the man who gave Quebec its beloved 
bleu-et-blanche Flag and distinct identity—in late summer of 1959, 
that's when the leaves soon changed their colors to red and the Union 
Nationale dropped its hold on power.  That's when the Liberal ‘60s 
began with the election of Jean Lesage as premier. 

The “town” has never amounted to anything more than a few rustic cabins
clinging to the hillside around the lake and a bait shop/boat 
rental/casse-croute that in summer months serves up the best favre-lard 
for breakfast and homemade heart-attack fries and poutine—the kind that 
makes chain restaurants like La Belle Province a sacrilege.  The scam 
left investors orphaned from their promised riches, but they never 
seemed to loose their sense of humor.  Sainte-Annes-Des-Soeurs had 
gradually taken on the sarcastic moniker of Sainte-Annes-Des-Mensonges, 
paying homage to the lie that forever will be associated with the 
place.  And every autumn when the leaves turn red on the trees and the 
cool summer breeze blows a chill of winter to come; it reminds the 
old-timers of the bitter truth of those “dark times” when priests in 
the pulpit would preach their righteous support of Duplessis with 
sermons of “Le ciel est bleu; l'enfer est rouge.”   All a mountain of 

But in the uncanny world of Quebec politics, times change, and lies can
be made truth. 

Rene Levesque—that gentile balding bonhomme Gaspasiene who always seemed
old before his time, forever wreathed in a nervous haze of cigarette 
smoke—took the premiership in 1976 after his Parti Quebcois swept into 
power on the promise to “preserve the French face” of the province and 
to lead Quebec toward sovereignty—to be “maitres chez-nous.”  The punch 
line of this joke comes in the subsequent years, when, in the rush to 
“francaisize” all place-names, the beauraucrats of the Commission De 
Toponymie chose the de facto Sainte-Annes-Des-Mensonges to be applied 
to the mountain, the lake and the small community thereof. 

To this day, Guy DeBrebeuf: gifted cook and sainted patron of
Casse-Crouterie Du Menteur—himself a Duplessis Orphan of the ‘50s lucky 
enough to keep his wits in a stolen childhood conscripted into one of 
those insane Church-run asylums—keeps the page cut from ‘Les Routiers 
Du Quebec' road atlas that shows the mountain, the lake, and the little 
dirt road that cuts off of Route 370, just to the north-east of 
Sainte-Adele.  You can see it hanging on the wall behind the lunch 
counter, just above the cigarette displays of Du Maurier and Export A.  
 He keeps the map enshrined in glass and framed just as a portrait of 
his mother might have been; had he known her.  It's a joke only the 
locals can truly appreciate. 


—Author's note:  This is the opening prologue for a horror story set in
my home province of Quebec. Although the above is clearly a work of 
fiction, such changes to place-names in Quebec are not uncommon.  The 
example I find the funniest is in the changing of Mountain Street in 
downtown Montreal—so named for Rev. George Jehoshaphat Mountain 
(1789-1863)—to Rue De La Montagne. 

Copyright 2008, Grant H Hadden 


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