Basil Dickie

DSC00202  It used to be, in our town, that everyone knew Basil Dickie. If not to talk to him, to know it was he when they saw him. Basil did not hide. In the early morning hours of each morning Basil made his rounds of the downtown area rummaging through the garbage cans for anything of value: empty bottles, other junk and food. His small, bent over frame, covered in summer as in winter, with a long, dark blue coat whose edges traced the ground as he walked about, shoulders and back curved like a taut bow. On closer examination, one would have found, as I did, that it was a very special coat. It had deep pockets inside as well as outside. They held the booty he plundered each morning. His face always seemed to be grisly grey with an uncut beard, but never long. His bright blue eyes were like diamonds in a grayish snowbank.
If you mentioned his name, you knew he was known. There was little to say about him. He was no rebel. No one knew from where he came, how he survived the nights, or what he did during the winter to keep body and soul together. Those who knew him more than by sight were loathe to admit it.
For my part, I was a young lawyer, fresh out of law school articling for sole, practising lawyer whose life was shaken by his wife’s illness [cancer], giving him cause to preserve his emotions in the brine of alcohol without attending to his clients.
Basil was ushered into my office. I could smell him as well as see him.
* * *
A chuckle passed through the courtroom when Basil’s application was announced. Basil was not present in the courtroom. I stood up and related the following facts to the judge, repeating what was in Basil Dickie’s affidavit:
– Basil owned a quarter section of deep black loam farmland, which he had been bequeathed by his father.
– he had been declared by the court some twenty years previous to be unable to manage his own affairs [by a judge much renowned for his judgements].
– the basis of the declaration was that he had not paid his taxes on the porperty or kept the weeds under control.
– the land was under lease to a neighboring farmer, who practised his agronomy well.
– since the age of twelve, listening to a battery-operated radio, he at first, on paper, invested in commodities futures, making imaginery investments and tabulating the imaginery returns. When his father saw his success he gave him a hundred dollars to invest. He opened an account with James Richardson & Sons who had an office in our town. With the passage of the years his investment grew and grew. Each morning after rumaging through the garbage cans in the downtown area he warmed himself in their offices on Main Street where he reviewed the results of the previous day’s trading and gave his investment orders for the day. With the passage of time James Richardson & Sons had closed the office in our town in favour of one in the capital of the Province, giving its clients the ability to phone their instructions by long distance telephone without charge. Subsequently, James Richardson & Sons had discontinued the free service to everyone, but Basil who was the sole remaining client in the Province to have this privilege.
– his father’s one hundred dollar investment had become an account worth more than a hundred thousand dollars.
– he wanted the order of incompetency lifted because he wanted to manage his own affairs.
* * *
“You probably don’t recognize me,” Basil said as he sat on the chair in front of my desk. “You probably can’t smell me, either,” he muttered with a small chuckle. “I have been in the hospital for over a week. They cleaned me up, washed my clothes, took out my appendix. And here I am.”
“The order has been vacated.”
With a smile that broadened his now shaved face, he rose, nodded in my direction and left.

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