Woodstock was over by the time school started in Sept 1969. I was a veteran of the high school wars, 7 yrs. of strife and skullduggery, and an assistant head of English. Even so, I was not prepared for the grade tens that year. They communicated with each by semaphore, weird hand signals and actual gibberish. They treated me as irrelevant noise, a distracting presence.
Then the sweetest little black haired girl reported to her parents that drugs were being sold at the school. The papers got hold of it. We were apparently the only school in the city where drugs were available. This neat little pixie, I finally realized, was stoned every day, as were all of her friends – 2/3rds of the class.
Sweetie soon discovered that she was outed, hoisted by her own petard. Somehow, I got back a reasonable sense of order.
Even so, how was I ever going to teach them Catcher in the Rye? Holden was you know, like the squarest!
In Eden Robinson’s Son of a Trickster, we find ourselves learning to love grade ten-er, 16-yr-old Jared, the Cookie Dude. His only social capital is his ability to bake and supply ‘edibles’. He uses butter and not the very best weed, but the cookies are ‘da bomb’.
What does he do with the income? He pays his father’s rent; otherwise his booted-off-welfare father and his pregnant step-sister would be out on the street.
His mother can’t know this because she will kill him. She’s already had a go at her previous boyfriend. Something about a nail gun. She’s handy with revolvers and long guns as well.
We are on the west coast of Canada, in northern British Columbia. The town and the Rez are almost one. Jared and his mother are Native. His maternal grandmother refuses to see him because she says he is the son of a trickster and not the no-welfare man his mother is separated from.
Jared is a kind boy who helps out his elderly neighbors -butchering a moose, for example, drinks beer and hard liquor, does every drug available, hangs out with party-ers at the beach and frequently has to get out of his bedroom, next to the laundry tub, to avoid his loving but homicidal mother.
Then a raven starts talking to him and says, ‘Jared, I AM your Father.’ Then things get weird. Apemen, otters, grizzly bears, singing fireflies casually materialize sometimes through the floor boards. Jarred rejects his mother’s explanation that he has magical abilities and should learn protective charms.
Meanwhile Jared, unlike Holden, has beautiful girls, who may or may not also have powers, turning up to join him in his sleeping bag.
I do hope that Eden Robinson has The Further Adventures of the Son of a Trickster up her sleeve.
Jared would have been fine to have in class. Stoned or not, he had good manners.