8. Rock Tuff, P.I.: The Battle Of The Bylaws

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"Grandfatherly" or maybe "avuncular" were the words that popped into my head as I looked at the man sitting opposite me. He must have been in his seventies, short, with sparkling blue eyes and wisps of white hair. With a long snowy beard, he could have been Santa Claus.

"My name is Ifor Justice." The name sounded familiar. Then I remembered: he had written a number of letters to the editor of our local paper about Councillor Rader. "Nasty Norman," as he was known, hated his parents and grandparents for some obscure reason — a generation gap that dwarfed Grand Canyon -- and he had expanded this dislike to all seniors, using his position to make their lives miserable. He had tried to introduce a poll tax on everyone over sixty. The Blandsville paper reported it as a "Pole tax" and people thought it was only on immigrants from Poland.

"I'm afraid I've raised the ire of Mr. Rader. Every town has laws that are still on the books, but have fallen into disuse. He's using them to ruin me and other seniors financially. He discovered that any residence within fifty feet of a business has to have a rail for hitching horses. A woman next to me does hair-dressing in her home, so I had to provide a rail. It cost me five hundred dollars."

"How often has it been used?" I asked straight-faced.

Ifor looked puzzled, then grinned. "Never, of course. Soon after, the police fined me for obstructing vehicular parking. I had to pay again to have the rail removed. One of my neighbours, also a senior, was fined for letting his lawn grow over five inches high, or whatever that is in centimeters. Someone even measured the grass with a ruler, like Québec's Language Police."

"He didn't count the blades of grass, did he?" More facetiousness.

"No, but maybe he couldn't count." Sarcasm. "Anyway, when another neighbour, also a senior, requested signs warning of older pedestrians in the area, he got them... with a bill for their manufacture and installation. Can you help us, Mr. Tuff? I have to warn you, we can't afford to pay you much."

"That's all right. There'll be no charge. I'm a senior myself, so this is personal."

Did I see myself as an ageing Superperson, bringing justice to the world? I hope not.

I decided to fight ire with fire, so my first step was to visit Carl Brown, a former student of mine who works at Blandsville Town Hall. He had collaborated on an earlier case.

"How is your research going on your theory that Shakespeare's son actually wrote the plays?" I asked.

Carl often had ideas that were original, to be kind.

"Oh, we've abandoned that idea. Now we think that the whole canon was written by Will's wife, Anne Hathaway." "We" was Carl and Sally Crooks, a young woman whom we had met on our case. I don't know if Mrs. Shakespeare was even literate, but if Aphra Behn could make a name for herself as a post-Elizabethan dramatist, why not Anne Hathaway as a Shakespearean playwright? it could prove the reverse of the old adage: behind every successful woman, there is a man.

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The Battle Of The Bylaws

Gary E. Miller spent 29 years trying to teach English at several high schools in Ontario. In 1995, he made his greatest contribution to education by retiring. He now spends his time in rural Richmond, reading voraciously and eclectically, and occasionally writing stories and poems which do nothing to elevate the level of Canadian literature.
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