On The Edge

Gaspé, Québec

The waters heave the boat and my stomach upwards. The railing slips out of my grasp. Arms flailing, I slide along the deck now slick with salt water.

Then we round the spit of the island and the engine cuts out. The boat floats calmly in silk-smooth water.

After the rush of the wind, and the slapping of waves against the hull, the silence is overwhelming. They say silence is golden, but this silence, smothered by dense mist, is not.

No sound from the birds, even though we are now right up close to the island. In clear weather we would be able to see the rocks rising above us, every inch covered by gannets.

We all seem to be waiting, listening. The captain stands with his head slightly cocked like a setter poised for his special signal.

A scream shatters the silence. Everyone on the boat, the young couple unable to tear themselves out of each others arms, the elderly man drowning in his oversize slicker, the couple with a teenage son whose eyes show white whenever they address him, the middle-aged couple with stony parallel gazes, the captain and his sidekick, a young man with a dreamy look and beer cans stashed beneath the life jackets… Everyone stares at me in that misty suffocating silence.

“What was that?” I ask. They are cramming themselves into the captain’s little cabin, trying to get as far away from me as possible. “What was it?”

But I know what it was. It was I who had screamed.

Another scream. This time not mine. Coming from high above us, from atop the rocky cliff.

A gannet swoops low over the boat, and I duck and shield myself against its passing shadow.

A winch rattles. The dreamy young man spits out a mouthful of expletives.

The boat flounders and I stagger. As I right myself, I notice a little girl in a shiny plastic raincoat, sitting on the bench, bare feet swinging.

Where are her parents, and what are they thinking of to let her sit all by herself in the boat? She isn’t even wearing a life-jacket.

“So what shall we do?” the girl asks. She smiles at me expectantly.

“Do?”

“Yes,” she says. “You called, so I came. Now we have to do something. Those are the rules.”

“I called?”

“Yes. Didn’t you hear me answer?” That second scream had been hers? How could such a little girl produce a sound like that? “So what shall we do?”

“Whose child is this?” I demand of my fellow passengers.

In one easy movement, the girl hops up on the edge of the boat. I rush to grab her but she skips nimbly out of reach. “We could do this.” She hops along the edge on one foot.

“You’re going to fall. Get down this minute.”

“Or this.” The girl performs a double pirouette.

“Don’t be ridiculous,” I say. “Someone my age doesn’t do that sort of thing.”

“Why not?”

“Because it’s not appropriate. What’s more, it’s not appropriate for someone your age either. Get down right now. Where’s your mother?”

“We have to follow the rules,” the girl insists. “I came when you called so now we have to do something. And if you don’t have any suggestions, then you have to do what I say. How about we do this?” She kicks her feet forward and up over her head in a back flip.

The thought of myself dancing up there on the railing is so ludicrous that I laugh out loud. The mist splits open, the sun breaks through, making the plastic raincoat sparkle. I stretch out my arms to lift her down. “Oh my dear, if only I could. What a delightful idea! Now, why don’t you come down and I’ll give you a nice piece of chocolate, there’s a good girl.”

“You don’t understand,” she says. “You called. So now you have to do something.”

Gaspé, Québec

*****

Weekly Photo Challenge: Edge

The photos are from Gaspé, Québec.

Those Kind of Feet

Gabrielle by Mathieu Isabelle, Place Ville Marie, Montréal, 2013These shoes are gorgeous, I say to him, but they are awfully big. Why would anyone make such huge shoes?

They were made for a big girl, the old guy says. Or rather, for a girl with big feet.

When I say girl, he says, I mean young woman. Beautiful, she was. But I had no shoes to fit her. She was so disappointed. She loved a pair of red shoes I had, and some green sandals  – like those over there – with little tassels. But they were both way too small.

I imagine she was a blonde, I say to him. She’d have to be. To go with those shoes. Or did she have long black hair? And I bet she was dressed in one of those pencil skirts. You know, with a slit up the side.

I don’t know about that, he says. I only noticed her feet. You should have seen those feet walk. No tripping or stumbling for them. I’ve never seen feet walk so steadily, so firmly. They were the kind of feet Continue reading

The Red Blur

big red ballThe red balls bounce and thump and careen around the park. They’re so huge that it’s impossible to grab hold of them.

Freddie’s mom, efficient as ever, gets everyone organized and together they manage to corral the balls in the wading pool. Bobbing on the water’s surface seems to calm the balls down.

At last the Continue reading

Poppy-Man

I was crossing the park on my way to the library when I saw the poppy-man. I was so excited. I just had to snap a quick photo.

poppy-man, Festival St Jean Baptiste, Montréal 2015

This was the first poppy-person I’d ever seen. I knew others had seen them – my next door neighbour had seen two poppy-kids several weeks before, and then the guy at the dépanneur told me he’d seen a poppy-couple. So I wasn’t the first, but I couldn’t help marveling.

What an experience. Extraordinary. Such joyful shoulders, such happy elbows. His feet! They gave a little skip. They did! I swear!

So then I felt badly about my plan, the one I’d thought up the moment I saw on the news that there was to be a cull of poppy-people.

When they’d first returned – an extinct species, who would have believed it! – they’d Continue reading

Guarding The Narrow Path

"Site/Interlude" by David Moore, 1994, Parc René-Lévesque, QC

Stone Boots guard the narrow path. For this is the path leading to the King’s garden.

If the rumours about the King’s garden are true, then the blossoms are larger than soup tureens and explode in every possible colour, the lawns of fragrant herbs are softer and thicker than the most skilfully woven Persian carpets, and if you so desire you can swing in a hammock of luxurious twining vines or walk among leafy trees from whose boughs come the most exquisite birdsong.

To reach the garden you have to go to the very end of the narrow path where you will need to search for a small wrought iron gate entirely hidden by a thicket of blackberry bushes covered with thorns the size of pitchforks and berries larger than soccer balls. (These berries are  luscious beyond belief. Do not be tempted! Trust me on this.)

Beyond the gate, once you find it, is a thick wooden door reinforced with iron studs and locked on each side with twenty-three heavy duty bolts.

Beyond that, a fifty-foot wall topped with broken glass and barbed wire.

Inside is the garden.

But even before you get to the gate and door and wall, Continue reading

Life is a Blue Cloud

In the café, a motley assortment of furniture: mismatched wooden kitchen chairs, a leather arm chair worn through in places to the horsehair, old school desks, ancient sofas.

arm chair

On the wall faded maps show countries and boundaries that disappeared decades ago.

That table reminds her of the one they’d had at home when she was a kid, square with flaps on opposite sides that you pulled out for birthdays and Christmas.

She chooses the green velvet loveseat. The springs have gone and she sinks further down than she expected.

The coffeemaker launches into action, grinding and thumping and hissing. Used to be Continue reading

Prunella Plume, in the Bedroom, with Sulphate of Zinc?

 

The devil is in the details.

Mrs. DeLacey was found in her bedroom at 08.28 by her housekeeper Dolores Pritchitt when she brought Mrs. DeLacey her morning coffee. On the bedside table were the cup containing the remains of Mrs. DeLacey’s hot chocolate and two digestive biscuits. Dolores Pritchitt says she knew mischief was afoot the moment she saw the digestive biscuits. Mrs. Delacey was not one to let a digestive biscuit go uneaten.

Prunella Plume is missing. So too is her new green car. IMG_5581

This much we know for a fact.

A quick deduction would lead us to the logical assumption that Prunella Plume was the perpetrator of this vile, heinous and despicable act.

However…

Let us examine the details:

Item 1: The keys. Did Prunella Plume use them to let herself out of the house after committing the dastardly crime? If so, why did she go back inside to Continue reading

Walking Down Walls

Invisible Theater, Bristol

Looking up, he saw the girl half-open a window on the sixth floor, squeeze through it and walk down the wall to the street.

“The party was a bust,” she explained.

Her voice was flat, thin, a little nasal. He wondered if that was caused by her having walked down the wall. Resistance to gravity must surely have an effect on the nasal passages. She was extraordinarily pale under the streetlights.

“Do you need special shoes to do that?” he asked.

“Do what?” She walked with an easy stride that seemed to cover inordinate Continue reading

The Opposite End of the Rainbow

rainbow

When she arrived at the end of the rainbow, she immediately pulled a shovel out of her backpack and started digging.

“Excuse me,” the sheep said. “I know this is going to be upsetting…” His voice was sympathetic and kindly. “But…”

She dug furiously. Her t-shirt was already stained with sweat.

“I should tell you right away that…”

She threw the shovel aside and crouched down to scoop out the earth with her hands.

“…this is Continue reading

Cat of Malice

Alice snatched Mr. Sporratt’s cat when he went inside his house to fetch the clippers to trim his prize rose bush.

She was surprised at herself.IMG_4631

She knew she hated Mr. Sporratt’s cat, the way it sat on the wall staring at her, flicking its tail from side to side. She felt in her bones it was a cat of pure malice.

But there had been no plan to snatch the cat, no premeditation.

The problem was, now that she had Mr. Sporratt’s cat, what was she to do with it?

And why was it not trying to escape? Why was it Continue reading