Take No Prisoner Eyes 

More stories about the songs on “Small Things Shining Bright”

This one goes further back into the late eighties and in my first marriage to a truly beautiful woman and mother of our two sons. Crackerjack French teacher possessed of a ringing laugh that makes her easy to find in crowded, noisy places.

I first met her in Quebec City. I had just finished my final year of undergraduate studies in French at Laval. This was all in preparation for further theological study for the United Church ministry, part of which required me to be a part of a local United Church congregation. Indeed, the only United Church congregation in the city, Chalmers-Wesley. The incumbent was an old-school British Methodist, Don Rabson. Straight, stiff upper lip, cigarillo-smoking, and funny as hell. After my first Sunday seated in the pews, a lovely couple, the Kitchens, introduced me to the choir, I joined and it give me a bird’s eye view of the small but lively group of worshippers.

We occasionally had visitors, mostly in the summer, the tourists, the curious, the transplanted. The English Diaspora in Quebec City was like a small town surrounded by the metropolis’s French language and culture, so any visitor and new face was a novelty met with an almost covetous sense of ownership.

So when one Sunday two young women entered the sanctuary and sat down we could not help but notice.

I could not help but notice one of them. It’s amazing what eye contact does to the heart in the ten metres between choir and pew.

Oh, be still my beating heart. It was definitely her eyes. And it being summer, her ankles.

I was hooked, caught, netted, and willingly, most pleasantly enthralled.

There is always more to the story, isn’t there? You see, at the time all this was taking place with the eyes and all, I was just back from Haiti to visit what I thought was my girlfriend at the time. She was teaching at a Baptist missionary school for the deaf in Port-au-Prince. I was to stay for a week. Upon my arrival, she told me as I got into the van, that it wasn’t going to work out. So I spent a week from hell in a missionary compound feeling ever so pathetically sorry for myself. I returned to Quebec chastened and heartbroken. I poured my soul out to Don, who listened sympathetically and offered me wine for comfort. He was a good man, God rest his soul.

Unbeknownst to me, Elaine, the one with the take-no-prisoner-eyes, was debating with herself whether or not to stay in Quebec or return to her hometown of Barrie. She had arrived about a year earlier and found work but didn’t quite feel like she belonged anywhere. She spoke with Don about her quandary, and he listened sympathetically (he was very good at that). Now the conversation went something like this (I know because Elaine told me afterward):

Don: “Do you like Quebec?”

Elaine: “Oh, I do. It’s lovely here.”

D: “What, then seems to be the problem?”

E: “It’s just that there is nothing and no one here to keep me here. And I’m missing my family.”

D: “Well, did you know that Ed’s spare?”

Yes. He did use that word. Spare. Like a tyre in the boot. The British English references are entirely intentional.

And the rest is...go ahead. Fill in the blanks.

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