Edna Alford's "Half Past Eight"

by Shaun Hunter


Calgary through the Eyes of Writers

Bing Crosby at the Stampede Parade, 1959 (Photo: Alison Jackson Collection, Calgary Public Library)

Bing Crosby at the Stampede Parade, 1959 (Photo: Alison Jackson Collection, Calgary Public Library)

Stampede Parade Day, 1977. Tessie Bishop and Flora Henderson head out of the seniors’ lodge where they live and ride the city bus to Mewata Stadium. They’re an odd couple. Tessie, thin and petite in her best summer dress and Scarlet Fire lipstick, and Flora, tall and big-boned with fuzzy pin curls sticking out from under her straw hat. They find their seats in the midday heat, clutching Revels and paper cups of Orange Crush, Flora cursing as they go. “Why don’t you watch where you’re goin’, ya dirty bugger.” They’re just in time for the parade marshal: Prince Charles, riding an RCMP stallion. Almost as exciting, Tessie thinks, as the time Bing Crosby waved at her from his convertible when he was parade marshal years before.

By the time the parade finishes, the women are hot and thirsty. Tessie hails a Yellow Cab and they head to the Palliser Hotel. Inside, they settle into red velvet chairs in the Rimrock Lounge and order drinks: a Shanghai Sling for Tessie, a shot of whiskey – neat – for Flora. After their second drink, an old man in western clothes joins them and buys two more rounds. Unlike their friends back at the lodge, Tessie and Flora will be out well after half past eight.

“Well wha’ did you ladies think of it this year?” asked Hank.

“Stacks up, I’d say,” said Tessie. “Better than last year’s if you ask me.”

“Didya ever see so much horseshit in all yer life?” Hank shook his heavy hawk head.

“Never,” Tessie replied, emphatically.

“Seems to me it don’t all come from a horse’s ass neither.”

 

Edna Alford, “Half Past Eight,” A Sleep Full of Dreams (Oolichan, 1981) 

Anthologized in Alberta Bound: Thirty Stories by Alberta Writers, Fred Stenson, ed. (NeWest Press, 1985)