On a soggy Wednesday evening, the doors of the weekly Valleyview Self-Help Club (hosted in the Presbyterian Church annexe) burst open. Five pairs of startled eyes in five startled skulls watched as police in black tactical kevlar vests poured into the room. They rounded up the bewildered club members, reading off their rights. Maude, the mousiest but most devoted attendee of the club, was the first to be loaded and by far the most fearful.

They were shuffled wquickly into a large windowless RCMP van and spirited off into the night. The self-helpers, suddenly self-helpless, sat quietly on the hard metal benches trying to communicate their fear to each other using only eyes and body language. The RCMP told them not to worry, in tones that were not very reassuring. They assured the self-helpers that everything would be all right even as the ride stretched to two hours and beyond, made all the more unsettling by the fact that no one knew the destination. The self-helpers had many among their number like Maude who suffered from claustrophobia, making the experience even more tense.

The van stopped and the doors opened, spilling the Valleyview Self-Help Club out into a farmer’s front yard, within sight of both a decrepit farmhouse and acres upon acres of cow fields that hadn’t seen a cow in ages. The RCMP marched the five to the door and inside; the dank wooden beams creaked overhead as the Valleyview Self-Help Club was shuffled across the hay-strewn floor.

“Halt!” the RCMP sergeant cried.

The Valleyview Self-Help Club obeyed. Maude started to break into a sweat. Things were moving so fast…were they being framed for murdering the Prime Minister? It wasn’t her fault that he had come to their dysfunctional self-help group, nor that he had wound up dead of a severe papercut combined with a gunshot…

Suddenly the lights came on. Those same rafters were suddenly alight with streamers and confetti flowing down from above. “Surprise!” The RCMP officers pulled off their riot gear, revealing smiling faces and a decided lack of malice.

This last turn of events was too much for poor Maude; losing that remained of her calm, she sank down onto the floor, buried her face in her immaculately-manicured hands, and began to sob loudly. “I…I don’t want a surprise…” she wailed. “I…I…just want…”

Maude didn’t know what she wanted. There was too much going on, too much for her already fragile mind to process. She retreated into herself thinking back to things that had once made her feel warm and safe.

“I just want to go…to Showbiz Pizza…with Mom again…” she snorted, remembering her eighth birthday party–the warmest and safest part of her life so far.

The rest of the Valleyview Self-Help Club nodded in agreement, much to Maude’s bewilderment. “Yes! Oh yes, please!”

“One of you killed the Prime Minister,” the lead RCMP officer said. “Killing a corrupt man like that is quite a feat, after all, even more so for a self-help group. Certainly worthy of all the pizza in the world.”

Maude stood there as the officers and the rest of the Valleyview Self-Help Club circled around her, smiling and singing amid the confetti and the flashing police lights. Maude, unsure of whether to perk up or continue her wailing, was motionless at their center.

“What’s wrong with this one?” on orderly said, jabbing his thumb in Maude’s direction. Her expression, betwixt agony and ecstasy, was certainly unusual even for the Valleyview Assisted Living Facility.

“That’s just poor Maude,” said another orderly. “Committed in ’07. She shot up her self-help club thinking that they were trying to frame her for killing Stephen Harper. We leave her alone most days, off in her own little world.”

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