Probably you do. Anyone who knows me well enough to receive one of these letters knows who my father is. If you don't, please by all means allow me to humiliate myself by enlightening you. My father is Roger Arsenault, originally of Edmundston , New Brunswick. He was raised by Brayon parents, and spent his teenaged years processing paper pulp at the Fraser mill. Paper that was then pushed across the river by a two kilometer long pipe under high pressure, so that Fraser's American paper mill in Madawaska could turn it into glossy stock for Sears and Roebuck catalogs. He attended University at UNBSJ down in Saint John, and then moved east to Quebec City to make his fortune. Over many years he did just that, moving his resources further east to Montreal, where I was born and raised, and then catapulting into Toronto -- the center of the world. He owns and manages real estate, he has and manages investments, he provides venture capital and purchases troubled companies so he can dismantle them and sell their assets off.
He is a financial vulture, who hangs over troubled economies like ours and licks his jowls in anticipation of profit without risk. Along the way he made 'friends' who were more like cronies, ingratiated himself in all the right clubs and Old Boys' Networks, and represents the jaundiced, flabby face of all people hate in finance.
Oh, how I once revered him.
Well, apparently there was a plan some decades back to dispose of toxic and nuclear byproducts as well as to conduct experiments with radium and other radioactives, and it centered on Milborough, or 'Milboro Township' as it was called back then.
Well, apparently a number of the residents have lodged complaints, saying that the contamination has led to birth defects, genetic damage, cancer -- a host of things. All of which makes me concerned for Françoise -- and concerned that I bore her there of all places, though the affected areas they're talking about were far from where we lived. Anyway, at the center of the brouhaha are Gordon and Tracey Mayes. I'm hardly surprised -- Tracey has always wanted to joust at windmills and be seen as important. When Rod Harvey retired, Tracey stood for MP as an independent. She got crushed, naturally, but she was there to force the contamination issue and made some headway. Rebecca Kramer took the seat for the Grits, but enough of a fuss was raised that she decided to make political hay out of it, which got her national radio time and let her make speeches on Parliament Hill that get reported.
And then, Gavin Caine -- my ex-husband's father -- spoke out against the movement, decrying it as anti-business and anti-progress and painting the 'Survivors' as radical lefties. It wasn't hard to do that, since Tracey has more passion than skill. At the same time, Mr. Caine was doing it less because he was against the inquiry and more because he despises the Mayes family. They had hired Anthony so Anthony didn't work for Caine Accounting, you see.
The irony is not long after Anthony married Liz, Tracey had started to make a move to push him out of the business entirely. Which is ridiculous -- there is a 'Mayes Motors empire' today because Anthony managed their finances, arranged for venture capital and made recommendations as to investment opportunities. Tracey wanted him out so she could push Julia -- the bookkeeper Anthony had hired when he moved up to manager -- to replace him. Tracey had bonded with Julia, you see. Anyway, they got rid of Anthony -- and were probably amazed when RBS offered him substantially more money than they ever paid him almost immediately -- and restructured their business finances so they could pay off creepy old Doctor Patterson -- and were I'm sure very smug about their new 'independence.'
Am I petty? Bon, I am petty. I feel justified -- the woman had hated me when I was married to Anthony, but as soon as I was out of the picture she had started pushing Anthony away -- and towards Liz -- as fast as she could. When I had had my baby shower, my mother and I decided that instead of trying to manage the inevitable jumble of well meaning gifts and mismatched knick knacks that come out of such things, we would save everyone the trouble and simply collect a small fund to help defray expenses. Anthony and I weren't doing terribly well in those days -- not on the pittance those two paid him, anyway -- and honestly making certain we had everything we needed would serve us better than selling two out of three car seats on the internet and trying to figure out why anyone would give us scented candles. Well, Tracey -- bless her heart -- took it upon herself to talk up this plan to all the town like my mother and I were turning our noses up at the 'trailer trash' and their tastes while letting our greed make my baby into a negotiating point. As glad as I was to get out from under my father's expectations and get back to the life I meant for myself, I couldn't do it around there -- my reputation was shot, thanks to Tracey and her poison tongue.
And yet, despite all of that, I do think the inquiries have to go forward. For heaven's sake, the government at best turned a blind eye to and at worst funded 'experiments' that may have caused untold suffering there. It must be rectified. Gavin Caine's opposition horrified me.
Well. As it turns out, my dear father Roger Arsenault was lurking in the background. He heard Caine's private grousing about Gordon and Tracey, and as near as I can tell he fanned it into a white hot fire. And why not? Making all this a page ten story with the government conducting an inquiry would mean almost no one even noticed it. But making it a fight, with the pictures of clubfooted and hunchbacked children on the National? It would be like setting half of downtown on fire -- and there would my father be, waiting to pay fire sale prices for property he could develop after the inevitable cleanup.
Now, did our crusaders against contamination refute Gavin Caine and put his misguided and downright malignant testimony in its place? Of course not. It was easy enough to be passionate when you were making speeches in front of sympathetic audiences, but having real opposition -- and by a pillar of the business community -- was more than they bargained for. So who bailed them out?
Creepy old Doctor Patterson, of course.
That's right. After everything -- after scandals of their own, and poisoned words to me about the man before I left the picture, and their vaunted "independence," it was the same man who'd capitalized their ventures and lined up decent hardworking management of their company who took the national stage and refuted his own son-in-law's father. His testimony was damning -- decades as a local dentist meant he'd seen the atypical effects first hand, and he had solid records showing the far above the average expenses his clinic had paid into orthodontics and orthodontic supplies. He gave the problem a face -- a horrible, twisted, face with malocclusions, no less -- and made Gavin Caine look like a terrible man who cared only about money.
And my father loudly came out against his old friend Gavin Caine, getting publicity, fanning the fires, and making everything worse. And it wouldn't shock me if he isn't behind the scenes, setting up as public an 'exposure' of Doctor Patterson's recent troubles as well. Tear everyone and everything down so long as you can reap the benefit of the demolition, after all.
I feel sick. If this letter is longer and angrier than my usual, it is because I cannot believe any of this.
The bitch of all of it is, before all of this I was planning to do some strategic investing and acquisitions of property myself. Why not, I thought? Milborough was ripe for some decent investment and development. Now, how can I dare? I'll be just another of those horrible Arsenaults, gobbling up property born on the misfortune of others. My father doesn't care what they say about him in Milborough. "They'll like me when they work for me," he's said before, when he's gone in guns blazing to take over some company or business. When he owns their grocery stores and strip malls and -- God help us -- gas stations and used car dealerships, they shall like him just fine. Or hate him passionately, but give him everything he wants.
God, I just want to be free. Free of all of it. Free of my ties to that horrible place and all those horrible people. Free of my father's legacy and my daughter's expectations. What I would give to be twenty-one years old, dancing and winning prizes, and knowing that the day after I graduated I would take over the world.
Nick and I barely saw each other since last I wrote. A few weekends here and there. Frankly, Nick is becoming boring to me, and I to him. I am proud of all he has accomplished at L'Oréal, but they're not an Aeroplan customer so it's hard for me to pay it much mind. I think we're both waiting for the other to make a move, and we will both continue to wait for some time. Certainly until after the holidays.
Ugh, the holidays. I'll be in Montreal for them, and I think Nick will be too, so we'll make the most merry of it, and then back to work the following Monday. All I want for Christmas is liberation from the morass my father has made. I'll be sure to call Françoise down in Colorado on the day.
I don't have it in me to write more. Merry Christmas, all. I hope it is a good one for you.