Kemeny Babineau’s “On It Goes”

I’ve enjoyed this short story by Kemeny Babineau a number of times now, since asking him what he had by way of prose, and first being entertained by it.


Kemeny Babineau’s

On It Goes

In it goes, up the underneath,

with the diaper flipped away. This is all he can get for sex these days in advanced age, without having to pay for it, and here, at the Casino. Well, not actually at the Casino, but down the road at the unquestioning Cardinal Inn. It is at the Casino though that he does his trolling. Quarter by quarter he moves in. Some of these people, like him, will bet on anything. “’f I get two cherries in the next ten pulls I’ll pay fer a room at the Cardinal” Mose whispered to Minsk the blue haired sturdy little senior who’d been moaning away at the slot to his left for a half hour. “You’re on” Minsk returned, eyes twinkling through silver rimmed glasses. Mose laughed then, “I think we’re both getting’ on.” That was the truth; Mose was often off and on. Playboy septuagenarian. “Just pull on the handle awhile and you’ll be sure to get a hand full” he’d advised before and before. But Minsk was different. She’d made no attempt to hide the diaper, unused, or feign she wasn’t wearing it when they got to their room. And she was very eager to commence as her husband had been dead some months now. The diaper was merely for longevity anyway, they both realized this, it was the only sure way for a roller to out last bad luck.

“What good luck meeting you” Minsk says turning to Mose after she’d brought herself off as he’d come quickly and flipped out with a soft off. “Yup, nothin’ like lady luck” says Mose already thinking about seconds without second thoughts. Sex in the twilight of life was more rewarding than most assumed in an age-ist youth obsessed culture. First off, no need worrying of pregnancy, and aids isn’t much of a concern either as who has the time to die from it. “Most of us will die before the decade is out” he once observed out loud in a room full of ancients to an elderly woman who was, according to Mose, inexplicably concerned with the modern world’s sexual bogey.

Refreshing themselves on the ground floor patio with lemonade and ice as house sparrows ruck in the eaves and starlings dare to come near and nearer seeking crumbs, Minsk, her hair a graceful blue in the greening light of spring, confesses that ever since her husband Jarmanus had passed on she’d been bent on losing everything, was burning through their savings as if financial annihilation could atone for the fact she gotten to live while Jarmanus was gone. “But now, I don’t want to lose anymore… Casino Rama Damn Ya.”

“Hmmp” Mose sounds noncommittally, sensing an attempt to lure him in. Mose had never married, though he’d had various live-in partners from time to time, and he was ever wary of being tied down. Minsk could sense it, saw it in the withdrawing of his slight frame, the uneasy shift of his narrow ass in the plastic chair, but she figured on making him come around. Mose was thinking to leave then but something in her moon round face was drawing him in, it was easier somehow to relent.

Even packing up was fun. Minsk got a charge out of the varied collection of women’s under garments tucked here and there in Mose’s trailer like he ran a secret second hand lingerie shop.

“Why do you keep them?” Minsk.

“Well, ya never know.”

And by the look of things Mose never knew a lot, he seemed to keep everything, or anything, both inside and out. Every corner and cranny crammed, the yard in back filled with rusting bits of machinery, weathered boards and various other building materials that didn’t really look out of place around his make-shift trailer and veranda, both grey and beaten, like the wind had picked up items at random and slapped them into place. Comical, thought Minsk.

“I get the sense you don’t like rules.” They were already on their way by then, Mose working the gears of his reconditioned ‘75 Peugeot coupe “but let’s make some anyway, just to free things up a bit” suggested Minsk.

“You’ve a funny way of thinkin’.”

“I’ve been monitored all my life Mose, been watched and judged and corralled by custom, not that I haven’t enjoyed my life, but now I want something different, a change nearly as great as death itself, a rebirth.”

“You don’ talk like a house-wife. You soun’ educated, and that accent, a slight accent- what is it? I been wannin’ to ask.”

“Already you’re trying to break the rules Mose, not even ten minutes down the road. Is this going to work? We are going to know each other for what we are and aren’t, not for what we where or might have been and so on. None of that gets here.”

“I’m guessin’ ya had children”

“Yes, but that’s all.”

“Won’ they worry ?”

“I told them I was going home for a visit, no return flight as of yet.”

“Mother Russia.”

Minsk remains silent, looking out the window at the crops greening the earth, wheat, corn, and what looks like potatoes here and there. Mose rolls up his window a few inches when they hit the highway. “It’s a lovely day for driving” he says at last. Minsk doesn’t reply, lost in thought.


* (adapted from the poetry of Tadeusz Rozewicz as translated by Jan Darowski)


















“How far can you goooo, in a blue Peugeot” Mose sings as they sweep east beyond Toronto and its generic additions, Lake Ontario flickering and gleaming through trees to their right. “Riding to the east where the sun does groooow…  So whered’yawanna stop, we oughta decide soon my little Minsky rinse. Play some slots at Thousand Islands?”

“O, whatever you like Mose, but I’m done with Casino’s, they’re a death wish, get numb enough you can’t feel a thing, can’t even see death looming in, these are the last of our days Mose, don’t let fear ruin it all too soon.”

“We better go bowling, indoor, ten-pin, cold beer.”


In the ultra-violet light it looks like a Halloween candy shop, their shoelaces glow like marshmallow strings, the balls in the hopper giant incandescent gobstoppers of swirling colour or solid hovering orbs of fluorescence and dawn. On the backs of the biker’s jackets next to them the luminescent skull and cross bones float eerily over dark riding boots and black leather pants that absorb every kind of light. “Hey! Ya got a light?” the straggly haired women yells through clatter and din to a grizzle-bearded fat man unsteadily sloshing beer on the table. “Naaww, how about a turkey-fuck” he leers passing a lit cigarette to light her own.

“First they get plastered, then they ride home” Mose observes, although he’d a bit of a glow on himself after the vodka. ‘Wodka’ he’d pronounced it jokingly.

When they’d downed their shots Minsk had relented, a little. “Byelorussian, not Russian. Byelo is white, White Russians, Free Russians, beyond the control of the Mongols, that was the 13th century. Byelorussia escaped Genghis Khan, but not the Polish Monarchy, not Hitler, and not Stalin. Ah, how the race’s change but show the same face.”

Fascism doesn’t have a face, any face will do, but it has a colour. Black, for dominance and suppression, for secrecy, absence of emotion, black, for the vulture’s wing. Although, as the poets claim, ‘a vulture never hurt a living thing.’ Maybe that’s the difference between beast and man, it is we are capable of the greater cruelty, gratuitous violence, slaughter and control. No bear, hawk or wolf would ever herd its own kind or another’s off a cliff or into a fire. Fascism is a human invention, ours alone to mourn and guard against. But there is the age-old problem: how do you put a fascist in jail without employing another fascist to do it? The police, dressed in black, with sticks of night, gun fist heel, brute blind silence. Humanity is it’s own nightmare -stab the ghostly heart: wake-up, stay vigilant. Democracy only works with the hands of many at the levers of power, or else the people are led into autocracy and blinded by the propagandist’s illusion of simplicity. This is how it works, there are the colours of the rainbow, there is dawn, and there is night. Black out.

Outside is dark as night ought to be, darker, with no moon or starlight, a thin fog drifts off the Gananoque and wraps itself around them: droplets, cool on the skin, not much sound, laughter from a backyard across the river, distant traffic and faint music enveloped in a diaphanous quiet.  Minsk and Mose walk close, affection and warmth.

“Let’s continue east” Minsk offers at last, “through Quebec and into Acadie.”

“Always the nationalist eh.”

“That’s just marking history. Language can’t be owned, or controlled. To be human is to share stories. As long as one mouth remains….”

“And you won’t reveal anything.” Mose objects. “It’s you that censors us.”

“And you’ve already guessed so much, our past hangs off us in revealing shreds, can’t shrug it off. And it can happen again, before you even realize, this is what I can’t forget, the past is really only ever a heartbeat away. We may kick against the pricks but the fascist’s boot is the propagandist’s soft shoe.”

One tall the other short, passing under a streetlight, at once revealed and concealed, the fog in shreds around them, illuminated by light, formed by dark, the two forms move on as the sound of the Harley’s revving up back of the bowling alley bounces down the river past them.





  1. the photos are amazing

    Comment by nic coivert — November 26, 2009 @ 7:21 pm

  2. They are mine and Joanne’s

    Comment by oversion — November 27, 2009 @ 6:21 am

  3. Your story is wildfly fun!

    Comment by oversion — November 27, 2009 @ 6:22 am

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