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It takes a big man to cry, but it takes a bigger man to laugh at that man.
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In a story that could have been "borrowed" from today's Hollywood screenwriters,
the Ho-Down has uncovered a sinister plot in small town Manitoba reminiscent of
the great Schmirnoff Watering-Down of 1979.
A symbol that strikes fear into the heart of many an elderly lady
Teulon, Manitoba. Gateway to the Interlake. And, some would say, Hell (this
reporter included but for different reasons). Population 1250 (at least,
according to the dilapidated sign that's been at the town's entrance since the
early 60s, but that's another scandal).
Mrs. K walks into the post office to retrieve her mail just like she has for the
last thirty years. She greets the postmaster warmly. He returns the greeting
but notices a slight quiver in her voice.
He asks a seemingly innocent question. "That's a lovely sweater your wearing,
Mrs. K. Where did you get it?" Mrs. K breaks down sobbing and races from the
Across town, old man P is chatting up one of his regular clients at the barber
"By the way, I saw your wife Helen yesterday. She had on this lovely purple
shawl. I says to my wife, Julie, I says 'Julie, would you look at that?' and
she says to me, she says, 'Well, sheesh, Billy, would you look at that shawl?'
and I says to her, 'I am looking at it Julie, that's why I told you to look at
it. Do you think I didn't see it when I asked you to look at it?' and she says
to me, she says, 'Don't give me any of your lip, Billy?' Anyway, it sure was a
His client, Mr. L, leaps from his chair seemingly oblivious to the haircut
occuring above him.
"We got it from Zellers, okay? Zellers. Helen's fine, do you hear? FINE!" and he
runs screaming from the barber shop, his hair in chaos.
These stories and many like them have entered in the folklore of this small
town. They are told to children to frighten them into eating vegetables. They
are passed around in hushed tones in smoky bingo halls and occasionally in loud
bellows during "Stairway to Heaven" at the latest social. Nobody really
believes them, do they?
The Ho-Down does. And we've discovered the source of these so-called myths. Be
forewarned, dear readers, that to tell the tale, we must delve into the seedy
underbelly of this outwardly picturesque town. We will take you into the very
heart of an abominable plot to a place so vile, so despicable, that this
reporter is risking bazooka-style vomiting just thinking about his experience.
A place where cruelty and brutality are a way of life and mercy is checked at
the door. Where the inhabitants are treated as slaves by heartless oppressors.
Hunter Memorial Hospital. In the heart of Teulon. In the lobby at the entrance,
a small group of people that time has forgotten wait to see a doctor. Our
destination: the nurse's desk. We are greeted by two large men wearing collars
just long enough to allow them to bar the way. "Let him through" a gentle voice
commands behind them and they slink back into the darkness. At the desk,
someone is busy at the task of trying to appear busy. She is writing something
that seems incredibly important but upon closer inspection is simply a grocery
After a short eternity, she raises her head and gives me a look that tells me
she is incredibly busy and whatever asanine request I'm about to make is a
tremendous burden on her. Having been a resident of Hunter Memorial in the
past, I'm prepared for such treatment. Despite my training, however, I can feel
my knees buckle under her soul-less gaze.
Hunter Memorial Hospital: Where the sick go to hope...
"I...<ahem>...have an appointment to see The ListMaker" I stammer with
less conviction that I had hoped.
She does not react to my request in the slightest. Seconds stretch into minutes
as the nurse appears to process my request internally. At one point, I swear I
see the corners of her mouth lift almost imperceptibly as if she is watching a
fly have its wings torn off. I shift uncomfortably for several long minutes.
"She's been expecting you. Third office down the hall on your right." It is the
same voice that commanded the guards at the door but it has none of the warmth
I heard before. It has all the personality of the HAL 9000 computer.
Grateful at the chance to leave her company, I shuffle quickly down the hall.
After a few steps, it occurs to me. She did not blink a single time during our
The office door is non-descript but there is a feeling of dread as I stare at
it. I read the text inscribed on it:
To Do Before Entering:
Abandon all hope
I muster my strength to knock but the door seems to muffle the sound and it
comes across as the pitiful rap of a child begging his mother for a cookie. The
voice that responds is quiet but commanding. "Please come in"
Lists. Everywhere I look, there are lists. They cover every possible space on
the wall. Lists of all shapes and sizes covering every topic imaginable. There
are grocery lists, hardware lists, things-to-do lists, self-help lists, and top
five, ten and twenty lists. Most chilling of all are the lists with names on
them. More often than not, these lists have no title. Without seeming obvious,
I scan as many of these lists as I can to see if my name is on one of them.
Surprisingly, the desk is completely blank. Behind it, sitting at rapt attention
is an unassuming woman of five feet. She has short hair that was jet-black at
one time but is now speckled (liberally) with gray. She is smiling tenderly
with the confidence of a mother who has raised four highly intelligent and
rather dashing boys. She looks like the type of woman kids flock to in summer
because she bakes the best cookies and tells the best stories. It is this
facade that has enticed many a victim into her clutches but more on that later.
Looking at her eyes, I see the cold, calculating gaze of a cold-blooded
criminal - the insiduous Ma "The ListMaker" Baley.
...next time - Into the Bowels of Goodwin Lodge