The Parasol

by James Beattie Morison
© 2009 James Beattie Morison

I was stretching my arms and legs. My hands reached for Nova Scotia and Newfoundland. My feet settled in British Columbia and the Yukon. I held Canada like a mother protecting her child.

I glanced up at the parasol. I looked around me at the campus. Few people were around. The sun was low in the sky, but it was still hot. The people who called it Winterpeg would not recognize it.

I closed my eyes. In my mind I went back to my childhood and remembered the long lazy summer. The sun shone brighter then. It seemed like things would always be the same. Well they had changed. My career would soon be over.

Over 40 years as a professor. Not many ever made it that long anymore. I came here knowing everything and I may leave knowing nothing.

I was tired. The last few days had been intense as I prepared for the debate. It wasn´t my first debate. There had been many before it. But, this might be my last chance to change people´s minds.

I glanced back at the parasol. It was reassuring. I needed to relax now. The biggest mistake you can make is going into a debate when you are angry. Bit by bit I was letting it go.

I looked at the student centre. I would be debating there in a few hours. It was the same place as my first debate. I won it too. It doesn´t seem so important now.

My eyes closed and I felt the light breeze on my face. It seemed that the debate would never end. Global warming they used to call it.

In that first debate on that cold February morning all those years ago my opponent had been a fanatic. He seemed unhinged to me. I am not proud of the dirty tactics I used then. But I felt those tree huggers needed a thrashing.

I was surprised by his generosity after the debate. He seemed so gentle, so caring. He congratulated me on my win. Then he asked me what it would take to change my mind. I pointed outside at the snowdrifts. “Green grass in February.” He smiled and wished me luck.

The thought made me uncomfortable. I needed to focus on something else. The parasol caught my eye. It had always fascinated me.

27,000 kilometres across and one and half million kilometres away. It dominated the sky. The Sun shone dimly through it. The tree huggers asked for it and they got it.

I glanced down at the grass. It wasn´t green. It was brown. It hadn´t rained since mid January and these days it only took a couple of weeks for everything to dry out. I am not sure now when I changed my mind. Green grass can be very persuasive.

It was too late to say I was sorry. My first opponent died many years ago. Admitting you are wrong is difficult.

The anger boiled up in me. Not what I came here for. I thought of the lost opportunities of those years. The Parasol bought us time, but what did we do with it.

Some people, I would be debating one soon, still held onto the belief that it was all temporary and we shouldn´t waste any more money.

For a while I stared at the Sun. Its dim light didn´t dazzle me eyes like it used to. I could see the rip in the Parasol as it inched toward the Sun. The Parasol´s slow spin let the full Sun shine through every couple of days now. The rip had been there almost from the beginning. Now it was becoming a problem.

The campus was deserted now. Every one had gone inside to avoid the direct Sunlight. Only I was left.

I closed my eyes and waited. People feared the Sun now. It could kill you people said. I was an old man and that didn´t scare me anymore.

In my mind I went back to my childhood and remembered the long lazy summer. The sun shone brighter then. I would close my eyes and lie in the sunlight. There were no worries to trouble my mind. I wanted to feel that one more time.

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