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Out and across and down to Halifax. The rain had stopped, but still the sky held a thick blanket of gray; something left in the tank. And, meanwhile, the temperature was dropping again, mercury shrinking back into a tiny bulb, like daffodils in spring, only backwards. So, as all signs were predicting, in large-and-shiny letters: snow. Bah! Seen it before, no problem; what could this weather do to us now? Last words, so often are they famous...

But something else, also, was arriving on this eastern shoreline. Some-one, to be more exact. Our celebrity guest-host for the weekend: Catherine Ryan Hyde. Author: Pay-It-Forward, her masterpiece, the novel-turned-movie-turned-Movement.

The next day, then, with the sky still hinting strongly but delivering not-quite-yet, we hefted couches and chairs, donned bathrobes, wrapped towels about our heads, walked out the door, wandered a few blocks of here-and-there, and set our burden onto the curb. Flexing cramped forearms, Brad narrated to the world with a Shakespearian shout: "Outside... and here we are! With a spa experience extra-ordinaire! Come one and all, gents and ladies... Time for you all, to be treated as babies!" He stretched for the rhymes and stapled them together whether they wished it or not. "Kick up the feet, take off that load... We'll ease up those spines, so twisted and bowed!"

What Erik pulled from his pocket: a few vials of polish, glittered and bright. Pink, orange, gold. His first customer was Tucker the dog, glowing with the attention, wagging like a machine gun, very appreciative of the work being done to his nails. Val set incense sticks a-smoldering, laid cucumbers carefully upon closed eyelids. Brad, his bardic alter-ego folded up and placed in his pocket, donned another hat. Masseuse. He stretched his hands, cracked his knuckles, and set his thumbs into stiff shoulders. "Yes...? Is good... no? Yes... very good, I know. Experience, I have plenty of this." And Chris, the excitable, the energetic, this unstoppable barrel-of-laughs? The usual: Stopping traffic, running in the streets, reaching inside car windows, honking horns. "Rounding up customers," he said. "We need more people, but no worry boys. I'll get'em!" Newspaper reporters came and went with their pencils and pads; TV-people, too, camera-bent and cabled... And then: the hailed, the predicted; the forecast. Once again, ladies-and-gents, I present to you, the snow. The bottom of the sky opened like a wet paper bag. Quickly, double-time, hustle-and-bustle; couches chairs cucumbers towels polish incense, all was scurried hurried together and away we ran, shivered and red-cheeked...

The following day: The snow remained falling, the weather worsened. Windy like a woman scorned, cold like the poles. But Erik, I'll have you know, is a determined man. Surf and lessons were afire in his mind, burning with a ferocious flame. So. We braved the elements, found a few students, piled into our bus and drove to an open-faced beach that stared eastward across the Atlantic; where, of course, the weather was even worse.

Where before the wind had been angry, irritable, peeved, cross; now, it was furious. The embodiment of pure malice. Sand flew sideways across the beach as though blasted by a shotgun, grinding the skin, digging into a closed mouth and squinted eyes; progress was possible through the staggered gait of a drunk; gusts kicked and pulled at the upraised foot; alternatively, it pummeled and pounded, hauled and heaved. And the rain? Within seconds of that first brave step outside, one was as drenched as having leaped face-first into a river. The surf, of course, raged.

A red, frost-bitten, miserable face appeared at the steamed window, and hammered. "Open up...! Worst conditions I've ever seen! No joke! Quitters, yes, I know! But a long way past caring, though!" The prodigal Erik had returned, but then, he was gone again; racing across this typhoon-warning of a beach in his wetsuit, looking like a seal practicing the hundred-meter dash, chasing after the surfboard tumbling end-over-end through the whipping air, flying like a missile with a guidance-system malfunction.

(But. One must realize. Even with all this, Newfoundland lay yet ahead; one last province. With the wettest, worstest, most miserable weathering of all. Translation: it would only get worse.)

Later that evening, hours and miles to the north, with darkness spread all around; and Brad, struggling to hold the motor home on the road, wrestling with the wheel and the wind, spinning through black ice, iced bridges, gritting his teeth, squinting eyes into blackness and driving snow coming at the windshield like a spaceship traveling the unknown regions of space. Boldly going where never gone before.

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