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|The Story Of SAINTE-ANNES-DES-MENSONGES (standard:Satire, 910 words)|
|Author: G.H. Hadden||Added: Feb 13 2008||Views/Reads: 2305/0||Story vote: 0.00 (0 votes)|
|In the uncanny world of Quebec politics, times change, and lies can be made truth.|
The Story Of SAINTE-ANNES-DES-MENSONGES 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 lies. 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. END OF SEGMENT —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 Tweet
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