. . . some creative and experimental writing undertaken as a followup to my first novel MIZZLY FITCH . . .
. . . . a somewhat whimsical story that again takes place on a small island off the coast of Nova Scotia . . .
The World Breaks in Half Here
Murray Andrew Pura
from the journals of Captain Obadiah Plum Blackstone, 1907, one
time skipper of the fishing schooner Lyyndae d Darling
The South Shore is this stretch of coast of southern Nova Scotia that
lies between Halifax in the east and Yarmouth in the west and, to my
mind, it could be argued it is something of an extension of the Boston
States, for the people straight down to the Carolinas have shared much of
the same employment, in particular the fishing and logging and being with
the ships and the sea. The language is quite a mix of words just as the
people of the Shore themselves are a mix of different races.
You have the Scots and Irish and Welsh and English with all their
vocabulary and modes of expression stirred into it, and also the Bible of
King James, and with that Bible you have Shakespeare and the Elizabethan
English. There is the German and Dutch immigration from a long time
back, and some of the French too, from the native country and down
from Gaspe and Quebec and, of course, there is also the Acadian blood
and that of those indigenous to the region, the Micmac.
Into this pot go the Americans. They come before the Revolution,
they come as Loyalists to the British Crown after the war, and more come
before and after the fight of 1812. There are families that can trace their
lines to South Carolina or Cape Cod or Gloucester or New York, take
your pick. Nor are all these people white of skin. Many an upstanding
family of the Shore are the children and grandchildren of freed or
runaway slaves. Sometimes these good folk were welcomed, sometimes
not, for the Shore has its share of bigots, but many put in roots just the
same and are a part of it all.
Now, taken all together, the people of the South Shore are a very
decent population, peculiar, it's true, but none without a wealth of
character and spunk. Some are quick to take offense, the touchy Dutch we
would say, while others just roll in and out with the tide. I myself am a
whitewashed Yankee, I was born down the way to Queens on the Shore
but we moved to Boston when I was thirteen, yet here I am back in Nova
Scotia and sailing a good vessel out of Chester Harbour with a fine house
on the hill. I found I could pick up the dialect I was born into within an
hour of my return. And indeed this is something I noticed in Boston, a
man might call on me and speak good King's English, but then he meets
another from the South Shore, and they know people and places, and
they can fall into the peculiar language of the Shore as if they were not
trained doctors and lawyers and professors. The same was true if I
happened to accompany a well bred young man back to Nova Scotia on
business. Among his own, back in his town, the Oxford English is thrown
to the gulls, and the spicey dialect fills his mouth like a strong drink. Oh, a
mess of herring we are here but it is one of the fine places of God's good
on the ferry
She’ll be a little rough now. There’s a bit of a breeze. A storm up
from Florida. Oh, she’s blowed out now, I think, just a noise and a touch
of wet. But there’ll be some pitchin’. Grab onto something if you gotta
How much longer will it take, do you think?
Missus Langille, I’ll not have you late by ten minutes.
And you’re back out in the morning?
I should think.
I need to bring Johnny back over for his rugby.
How is it with that now?
He’s playing well. Oh my, it’s rough. But Johnny, you know, never
rough enough to suit him.
Yes. Hold now.
This come up fast.
Well. The radio's been talking about it since Tuesday. The hurricane
last weekend. Just along under Tampa.
I couldn’t live there.
We been down. Pat has a place near St. Pete’s. We done some
golfing there last winter. I tell you. I could stand a bit more of it.
I’m not one for the heat.
Lot of sea breeze. Just like here. Hold now.
It’s a messy night.
Have you up to your house soon enough. Some tea. You’ll soon be
I have to meet with the ladies from the church a bit.
What’s that about?
Well, the funeral, you know. Fitch.
Oh. When’s that?
I thought they would of had it on the Saturday.
There’s the boy has to come over from Scotland.
Is that where he is?
At the university in St. Andrews. You know. One of Princess Diana’s
boys, he’s gone there.
Oh that. He’s there is he?
And the races all weekend. The Sea Festival, you know, and you got
the dory races too and I think, yes, about ten or eleven of the tall ships
I don’t know if the storm will put an end to the races.
Those boys won’t let a touch of wet stop ‘em. It’ll be dirty enough.
But some crews do better in that. Some boats will go like a kite. I thought
it was next weekend.
You’ll see the first boys go by right before lunch on the fifty footers.
Monday. Old Man Fitch.
I will. He did me no harm.
There’s some say they won’t come. That he brought bad luck to the
Some don’t know no tune but that one. He hurt no man. Kept that
light. Saved my uncle. By God. Why wouldn’t I be there? There’s many a
child wouldn’t of been born but he pulled their old man from the sea.
We expect a few. We’ll have the sandwiches to make.
Who’s doing the funeral?
The summer student. The one up from Acadia.
Well. What does he know?
He’s a fine boy. He talks well.
How many people has he buried before?
I don’t know. Fitch might be his first.
What’s he know about puttin' a body in the ground then?
Jack, he’ll read the words in the book. That’s all the old ones do.
Read the words in the book.
Young Boy Fitch might have something to say. He was handy with
the letters, wan’t he?
Oh, I guess. Took all the prizes for reading and writing. I said to the
girls he should of gone into law.
What is it he’s doing?
Poetry. You know. Stories. Books.
Poetry? You make a living at that?
Well. He’ll teach.
What kind of books? Stephen King? Louis L’Amour? John Grisham?
There’s money in that.
Ask him when he comes. He’ll be on your ferry. No other way of
Somebody might come for him in their own boat.
Oh, I don’t think. Nobody knows when he’s getting in. But they’re
laying Fitch out tomorrow in his front parlour.
Young Boy Fitch phoned Harvey Zwicker in Chester. Wants to do
some kind of wake. People coming and going the whole weekend.
The whole time?
Day and night. Whenever you want. No drinking. The church
people won’t hold up for the drinking. But he’ll have food, he says. I’ll be
bringing over a mess of scallops anyway. Carla is frying some haddock.
Who caught those?
Her boy. Hank. The tall one.
Where’d he get ‘em?
Just off shore.
I ain’t seen a good amount of haddock off the island in years.
Frieda has some early potatoes. Goldie is cooking a goose.
Hold now. Dick get that goose?
It been in the freezer, I hope.
Well, I guess.
Young Boy Fitch told all this to Harvey Zwicker?
Well. He and Harvey’s boy went to school together. And they
raced the boats. You remember that. The Sweet Willy. Aurora. Hardliner
II. Lazy Daze.
Oh, I remember Aurora. There was a race or two I made a good bit
of money on that boat. Helped get Mary and me down to St. Pete’s. Yes.
Those boys was good with the sails. If I remember it Young Boy Fitch
pitched into the dory rowing some good too.
The boat Old Man Fitch was working on. The one the nautical
museum in Dartmouth was paying him for. The boy helped him with it last
Oh my, that’s a pretty one. The Lyyndae d Darling. Last of the salt
bank schooners. The pair of them fixed it up right nice. There's a crew
supposed to be taking it out during the races.
Sunday it says in the paper. Young Boy Fitch read out the obituary
to Harvey over the phone for him to give to the editor and he mentions
I knowed a man fished off that boat. Made some good money. In
the 50’s yet. But the skipper couldn’t make a go of it in the end. Even with
a decent catch. Them big trawlers did him for. But look you, we got
pictures in the old family album of that boat. Daddy took some nice ones
of her in full sail. Well, she raced too, you know, once or twice.
The two Fitches were supposed to be in on the sail past, yes. It’s sad.
What? Handling the boat?
Taking it right past everyone. Horns going. The fire tugs spraying.
Oh my. A sight for his old eyes. Do you think they would let the boy take
the wheel just the same?
I think they should. Who’s the parade marshal for all that?
Hack’ll know the right thing to do. I’ll put a word in with him.
They said as they would never let it sail again after this. Too
valuable, you know. They might make a replica of it one day and sail that
at the festivals and regattas. Go down to the American ports with the
There’s some thinking. So Old Man Fitch in the parlour for three
days, is it?
That’s it. The boy said anyone could come by anytime to pay their
respects. Early. Late. It won’t bother him. He’ll be happy to see whoever
comes by. No need to bring anything. But people will, of course.
That gonna be in Friday’s paper?
It was in today’s paper.
Well. I haven’t had a look at it yet. I been workin'.
And Young Boy Fitch says he’ll tell a story every night.
What kind of story?
About fishing with his Daddy. Working the old light. I don’t know,
Jack. It says in the paper he’ll tell a different story every night when the
clock strikes twelve. He’s saying it will be okay to bring the kids.
Which nights? I could get the grandkids down for Saturday night.
Maybe Sunday night too seeing that Monday, it’s a long weekend, isn’t it?
He’ll tell one on Friday, another on Saturday, the last one on
Will he. What kind of a storyteller is he?
He’s good with the words. Did some nice children’s stories in church
last summer. And a ghost story at Bible camp. Captain Kidd’s treasure. A
lot of fun it was for the girls and boys.
The girls and boys. Well. Whenever I get out to church I look
around and it’s the grownups get more out of the children’s story than
anyone else. Here’s the lights coming up now. Oh, she’s blowing. Hold
now. I’m easing her round.
Frieda and Goldie were asking the other day why Young Boy Fitch
didn’t marry and settle down on the island. Fitch gave him a piece of land
right back at the reef.
Well. You need a girl to settle down. Excuse me everyone. We’ll be
tying up in a bit. Watch your step, please, and don’t leave anything
behind. Because if you do I’ll have to sell it or eat it. Young ladies, grab
ahold of someone’s hand. You can have mine if you act fast. No, there
was no girl I knew about.
Of course there was a girl, Jack. He’s six five and eyes on him like
the blue sky.
You remember Ivy’s girl?
Ivy Cove? You mean her girl? That little thing?
Jack. That little thing grew up. Where have you been around to all
She had a name, didn’t she?
Sea. Her middle name is Gray.
That’s it. I knew it was a kind of hippy name.
Oh my, Jack, Ivy and Bob are a long way from hippy. A hippy can't
make a pot roast like Ivy Cove.
Old Man Fitch should have named his boy Sky. Then we could have
Sea and Sky.
Well. They haven't seen one another in years.
Where has she been? Not on the island.
She has a job in Toronto.
I'm not sure. You can talk to her when she gets on the ferry too. Ivy
told me she's down for the weekend. She's crew on one of the American
Which boat is that? We're up snug to the wharf, ladies and
gentlemen. There's a good bit of wind out there so hold onto your hats.
Hold onto your pants while you're at it and get a grip on your zippers.
Have a good night now and welcome to East Tarragon Island. There's
some Americans keep a couple of pretty boats in Scotch Cove.
That would be it. Ivy mentioned that.
I know the boats. They can fly. Where did she learn to do that?
Well, not in Toronto, Jack. It must have been while you were golfing
These kids are always sneaking around behind your back. I'm off
then. Will I see you and Roger at the wake?
We'll both be up. I'll look forward to seeing Mary. You tell her I said
hi. You know, my purse is gone. I think somebody's walked off with it.
It's up there in the overhead rack. Let me give you a hand down the
Oh my, it's a messy night.
Blowing like a bull. Get ahold of my arm and watch where you put
your feet, Mel.
on the island
On a dirty day Daddy would say the world breaks in half here and
on the Friday morning I went to the reef back of the island and it was so.
Grey split apart and the white blood poured over the rocks and my boots.
The reef itself a hundred yard out and a fan of light where the waves hit.
The stones rattled up the beach at my feet with the breaking and the
stones rattled down the beach with the falling. When I was a boy I sat
and listened for hours while I read a story or wrote in my notebook. The
rattling up, a higher pitch to the sound just, the pause of the sea, then it
sucks in its breath and pulls in its own and there is the rattling down, a
lower pitch. Pebbles in a jar turned end on end but a slow movement of
the hands. A rainstick but the stones and the sea carry more weight and
it's not rain you hear but the breaking apart of rock and land till the sea
shall cover all again. The ascending and the descending. Unstoppable.
Matthew Arnold wrote about it, I told Daddy. Another of those poet
people, he says to me.
Yes. Saying the true things you know, all the stuff that's already in
you, back inside and back on the creases of your two hands.
Listen! you hear the grating roar
Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and
At their return, up the high strand,
Begin, and cease, and then again begin,
With tremulous cadence slow, and bring
The eternal note of sadness in.
Sophocles long ago
Heard it on the Aegean, and it brought
Into his mind the turbid ebb and flow
Of human misery; we
Find also in the sound a thought,
Hearing it by this distant northern sea.
So, boy. What's your thought?
It's the sound of things being made and remade. Strength. Energy.
Power. Steady and sure and unending. There is nothing stagnant in the
whole wide world, Daddy. The creating and recreating goes on and on.
No loss. The sea and the stones mean life to me.
What about you, Daddy? What is the sound to you?
at the house
I left him at the reef awhile and went back to the house for I was
expecting his body. Sure enough, Harvey Zwicker and another man had
come over in the hearse, bright yellow as a canary that one, and long as a
schooner. They drove up the dirt road from the dock and there was Jack
Selig, the ferry skipper, standing hands in pockets and feet braced on the
planks of the pier while the wind went at him. Greens and blacks and
greys and maybe a gull breaking free of the air and being white, no colour
on earth, sky or sea but the hearse. The way Harvey liked it. No dying,
he'd say to me and his Zeke, no dying and no dead and the good Lord a
better man than me. It's the family I'm working with, trying to help 'em
over the hump, the other one is long gone and past the weighted down
Didn't think I'd find you here. They said you hasn't been on the
Come over last night.
Jack never saw you.
He was talking. I was outside in the blow with my hood up.
Well. I'm right glad to see you. God bless you, boy. Your father's
doing fine. I know he's doing fine.
Thank you, Mister Zwicker.
But we got this here he left us, Lord bless 'im. You want to give us a
hand? This here's Gosh Mitton, my new assistant.
My condolences, Mister Fitch.
Thank you. Let me get the front end. We're heading into the
parlour. Off to the left through the French doors.
I hope you like the wood.
It's a good looking wood, Mister Zwicker.
Old wood off that beached schooner from Lord knows when.
No one knew about it up at Blue Rocks. But you knowed boards
was crammed up into them boulders.
Daddy showed me. Sarah's Delight. 36. He saved the whole crew.
A good wood then. And we worked it and got the boards we
needed. Wasn't a lot left, you know. But God got us enough, yes.
It's a fine job, Mister Zwicker. Daddy would of smiled some. On that
And you want the top off?
Brilla found the good suit in the closet. That's it, isn't it? The one you
mentioned to me over the phone?
It is. Thank you. He's looking fine. The tie is good. Never seen him
in that one.
Brilla found it in Chester.
Works well. No. He's looking fine. Thank you for all your help,
Mister Zwicker. There's a pot of coffee on the stove. I made it up fresh
this morning. And some scones. Why don't you and Gosh help yourself
and I'll be with you in a bit.
Thank you very much, Young Fitch. Gosh, let's have a bit of a sit
down. Shall we close the French doors for you then?
Yes, sir, thank you.
in the front parlour
You're looking well, Daddy. I was afraid there'd be too much
makeup and powder and what else they use. But there you are. Sleeping
it off. You were always on about my poets. And there you were reading
them once or twice on your own. A lot of the men and women in the
books, they know the sea like you do, the good ways and the cruel, they
ask God the questions too, I know you saw that in them, it's been on from
the time he made the great whales, the thinking and the asking out loud
and the love of the ebb and flow and the hate of the deep blue killing, you
found some kindred spirits there. And what's going on with you now?
Quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick's over. I don't care
what I believe about this here, soul and heaven and all angels, I'm missing
you, Daddy, I want you up and about and I want to work on the boat
and head out past Ironbound, want your voice and your grinning, want
your handshake, want your feet on the porch. This is a right hard thing,
Daddy. I don't know as I'll hold up with the weekend coming and going
and the people and the storytelling, but it's what you wanted, I'll get on
with it. But this, it's a deep wide cut in me and I hate this death. I'd as
soon be out in the boat talking to you as inside the four walls and under
the high roof.
in the kitchen
Brilla gave me a pot of chili for you. I've set it on the counter.
Thank you, Mister Zwicker.
Zeke'd be here but for the business trip to China and India. He'll be
gone more'n week.
I'll see him when he gets back. I'm around for a good bit.
Hello. Are you in? There you are, here give me a hug, I'm so sorry.
Thank you, Missus Langille.
I've got biscuits here and Roger'll be along with a crock of soup.
Mister Zwicker, how are you?
Well enough, Mel.
Still tall and looking fine, are you. How was the flight from Scotland?
There was a stopover in Iceland but it went quick enough.
Hello, boy. How are you?
We were sorry to hear about your Dad. Mel has fixed some chicken
soup. Should help you feed up a few.
Thank you, sir.
Harvey. How are things with you?
I'm well, Roger. I must be off, Young Fitch. I have a service
tomorrow at ten. I'll be back Monday morning. I hope your weekend
turns out as you want it. We'll all miss your father. The whole South
Shore'll be tellin' stories about him and his lighthouse for another hundred
Thank you for all your help, Mister Zwicker, and bringing Daddy
up. Thank you, Gosh.
No trouble, Mister Fitch.
Are you thinking of feeding the people in here?
Well, they can eat wherever they like, outside, inside, Missus
Langille, it doesn't matter to me, but I thought, yes, they could load up
their plates in here, keep all the food in one place.
Well, now. I'll plug the soup in and bring it up warm and what's that
here, chili, let me get it on the stove. What's it getting on to, Roger?
Eleven now. Here's Dave and Crystal at the door. Hello, Dave.
I've got a salad, Mel, and no harm in bringing a bag or two of rolls.
I'm sorry for the passing of your father, Young Fitch.
Thank you, Missus Chute.
God bless you, boy.
Thank you, sir.
Here, let's lay the salad and rolls out on the table, Crystal, and are
you using your good plates, Young Fitch?
There's paper ones on top of the fridge. I bought them in Halifax.
These here? With the sailing ships on them? The folks will like that.
Now. The spoons and the forks?
Do we have a minute to peek in on your Dad?
He's in the front parlour, Missus Chute.
Come along, David, next you know it will be all the island here and
no time to think.
Let's go with them, Roger, we can lay out the rest of this later.
in the garden
Out the back was always the garden and Daddy messing about in it.
The house started filling up so I stepped out and looked at the growing
things for a bit. Daddy had kept up with the weeding, the rows were
neat and trim. Carrots needed to be pulled, heads of lettuce cut away,
beans picked. The corn was making a good start. The rain was coming on
hammer and nails so I throws on my storm jacket with the hood. I never
was one to mind the rain. The silver of it was good on my thinking. I
broke off a sugar snap pod and popped it in my mouth.
Better'n sugar. I got all my teeth yet.
Not much good in the coffee a sugar snap, is it?
Drink your coffee black.
I do that.
The first time you ate a chive, why, it was enough to strike you
dead. By the time you was thirteen every vegetable was good.
Except tomatoes and cucumbers.
You're not up to that yet?
I ate some tomatoes in a salad last month.
It all grows some good, you. No better anywhere. Well, my Daddy
worked on it, didn't he, and his Daddy, Grandpa Isaac. It's a good
looking soil now. All that seaweed's helped out.
Bringing it up in the barrow and on to break my back.
Well now, that is a steep push, yes.
A candy bar for a morning of that.
Big bars they was though.
Right here, Missus Langille, just seeing what Daddy's garden is up to.
The first boats are coming past the island from Chester. I thought
you might want to take a look.
I might, right enough, thank you.
on the porch
The boat that's third and putting up their jibs'l. She's flying the three
The Cove girl is crewing. They'll have to set that sail right sharp. The
wind is getting at it.
She's coming on well, Mister Langille.
Some of the boats don't do good in a blow.
Sea'll be in there tight. She will. Worse days'n this we were in and
the rain putting out our eyes and the waves like stone walls. Tomorrow
will be a flat calm and that'll be harder for her.
Where'd you get that idea?
On the radio last night. She should be breaking up at three or four in
the morning. Of course, there could be a spanking breeze in from the land
when the water's warmed up.
D'you miss it now?
Well, that's years back, Mister Langille.
Your Dad was proud of that. The year you finished up your high
school and you had Zeke Zwicker with you on the boat that weekend and
Sea, I guess. She was twice most of the other boys.
Sweet Willy. You cut the blue water and the white was up and
blowing back and your Dad was beside me and busting out laughing you
were swallowing so much saltwater, we'll bilge pump 'im on shore, he
says, and when you get around the last buoy there and tear up the ocean
for home I seen his face and you couldn't of done more for him if you'd of
gone down and won the America's Cup and set it down in the middle of
the kitchen table.
in the front parlour
He's looking right natural.
He weared that suit the twice I seen him in it. There was the Bushen
Well. The boy, I guess. Young Jeffrey.
He weared it at the concert, you know. The Rankins. Looked right
smart. A different tie he had, but the same suit, I hardly ever seed him in
And the second time was at the church anniversary, the two
hundred year do. All evening was he set up nice.
It's good for him to be wearing it now. He looks fine.
There's lunch now in the kitchen, you come and help yourself.
Can we get a fire going in the other room? I'm feeling the chill.
Yes. She's coming all down, ain't she?
Oh now, I left the cherry pie in the truck. Bob.
I'll just get it.
at the woodshed
Daddy and I built the woodshed so there was a long overhang to
the roof, and high, so a body could come and chop the wood without
getting wet was it stormin'. It takes me awhile, a half hour, to get the
swing so, but once I'm into it, I can go all day. If God's given you a bit of
strength, Daddy'd say, you're well away, it's the rhythm cuts the wood.
So's I goes at her and the rain blows in under the overhang now and then
but it were fine, I got my swing, and I was laying them open, looking for
the cracks, getting away from the knots, splitting them clean open like
apples, finding the brown lines running down the white and splitting them
again. It's easy for your mind to be doing the one thing and your body
the other when the cutting is going well.
So I was into it, and the folks in the house eating up, and the heat
going in the front room next to the parlour, a body could smell the smoke
on the wind coming just out of the stovepipe on the roof. This is Robert
Frost kind of weather, I'm thinking, and all his poems, but no, I don't
believe he wrote one called Wood Chopping or The Woodshed or The
Woodcutter in the Rain. Maybe I should write it for him.
The rain now and the light
Gone but the house feeling the frost
So I took it on me to walk
Out to the woodshed where the tin roof
Hung out over the stump scarred
And cut by maul and axe
A dozen of them at least but this now
An old one and the hickory handle
A warm handshake and the slide down it
Of my grip like running down the smooth strong
Leg of a horse and then up and the
Blows coming, stiff and awkward at first
Like you're new at the game but then
The rhythm coming up and out from inside
Your head and the arms knowing the pattern
As a good horse the familiar road
And soon the wood is falling from the stump
Split in apple halves white and sweet
So the rain beating my measure on the roof
And my strokes coming sure and steady
Came one with the storm and my body
One with it all too and the white
Clapboard house and the smoke out
And up and gone in the cold pouring
There I stood and cut a long time
More wood than I could burn in
A night or even the day after
But staying because I was smooth
In pattern and rhythm
I could not hope to find again
Once I laid the maul aside and left
So I'm into this here and words are moving like the wind and rain
are moving down over the sky and the land and the shore and don't I
hear it? Oh my, she says, he's out in that slop, Bob now, you go lend him a
hand, won't you? John now, there's spare axes right by him, don't leave
him to all that work and him come all from Scotland last night and
grieving. So the boys come out, most in their suits and ties yet, soaked to
the skin in no time, but swinging the axes and mauls Daddy had set to the
side, each choosing a block out of the woodpile and going at her, the
thumping and the cracking coming right steady, my little patch of peace
gone, and there was the talking and the joking and maybe a cuss or two
under a breath when an axe blade hit a knot like a rock, but what they
done they done with a heart, so what was there to say but let it be and
swing with a right good will.
in the front room
Is there a bit more coffee?
We've a new pot just about but the old is here, thick and hard.
Good enough. Is it black and that is all that matters to me.
My Dad told the story of sitting up with Old Fitch when he still ran
the light and a hurricane pitching into the island and the rain a whip and
now Fitch gives him a mug of the brew that keeps him up in the dirty
weather. Well, he like to drop on the floor dead. Swallowing a big black
rock and all the gravel that come down the mountain with it would be a
treat compared to getting that coffee down your throat.
Well now, it must of worked wonders for Old Man Fitch because
Grandma Penny says she never knowed a storm he wasn't there and you
could see him up and about, no sleeping it off in the back, ready to head
out in the dory into them black walls of water.
Lord help us what a life.
A hard day's row but the light was what he wanted. They might as
well of cut his heart out and be done with it when they closed down the
light and put that computer one in or what.
I remember men and women blocked the light off to the Coast
Guard boys and the Mounties for a day or two. I was knee high to a
grasshopper and folks was afraid it would come to a fight.
I don't remember hearing about any of that.
Oh my. A couple of the boys what had had family saved by Fitch
were there with rifles. No way was they going to let the government shut
the light down. They had this sign: WHO WILL SAVE US?
There would of been shots, by God, but it was Old Fitch come
down from the house and calmed the boys, talked to the police and the
Coast Guard there. He got 'em all to come up for a chowder and a fish fry
and didn't they do it, the whole lot of them boys, what had been wanting
to kill each other a moment before.
There would've been a sight. Young Fitch must of been old enough
to remember that mob in his kitchen. So Young Fitch now, where's he got
in the kitchen
What's this here, boy?
I'm my best chowder cooking up here, Mister Langille. Just like
Daddy's in the story, I guess, he's the one taught me.
Can I help you out?
What's here going on now?
Young Fitch is making out that big canning kettle of chowder for
those as is staying to supper.
You'll be wanting a hand, boy. It's coming on five and coffee can
only take you so far on a night like this.
If you want to cut and chop, you're welcome, but no women.
They've been in here all day and they've done enough. If Daddy would
get up and walk in from the front parlour he'd say what I'm saying and
he'd get at the cooking and not a woman near the stove.
That'll be it. Men, in here, we got a mess of cooking up to do. And
not a woman of any kind allowed within a hundred foot. Do you not hear
Go on with you. I'll just start on the carrots.
Out. Out. I'll bang on this pot till you're gone. You take some tea in
the front room there with the others and stay put till we call you.
in the front room
Weren't that hard on Young Fitch, all the years and no mother.
Well, there's many a boy been raised with a mother and taken his
family down a road of shame.
It's not as if he had none of the mothering. Every woman on the
island doted on him.
Some day the mother herself will show up and see what a fine thing
his childhood was despite her running off and hiding away and watching
him grow a man a thousand miles off.
Now, what are you saying, they found her apron on the shore,
everyone says she'd drowned herself, even the police.
I had it from Martha Bushen and she had it from May Brown herself
who got the letters.
Rose Fitch been writing May all these years.
I swear. Twenty-five years. Just wanting news of her boy.
I can't believe it.
Martha seen the letters. You can ask her yourself when she comes
up to the wake. Said her and Tom'd be up tomorrow at supper.
It makes no sense to me. Why would a mother leave her child?
It was Old Fitch set her to it. He was a wild one them days, always
looking for another disaster around the corner, blaming all death and
darkness on God himself. Didn't want the boy. Was afraid he'd get to
loving him or what and as soon as he did God would strike the boy down
just to get at Fitch and break his heart.
That was Old Fitch's way, I guess, my mother said the same of him.
Oh my. So what was Rose's thinking?
Martha says May told her she was gambling that the part of Fitch
that had been dead and buried - you have to remember he lost his whole
family in that storm off Sable in 26 and he watched every one of them go
down - she was praying that dead part of him, all the good he tried to
stow, when it was just him that the boy had to count on, why, that he'd
care for the boy and be a good father to him as his own father had been
Is she still alive?
May thought she'd passed away a few years ago. The letters
stopped coming to her just before the boy left for Scotland.
But May is gone now.
So who has all these letters now?
I don't know that. Maybe she gave them to Martha. Maybe she
Or maybe they're in a trunk up in her attic. Her boy and his wife
have the old place now.
They do. I have no idea what they know about all this here. I don't
think May would've told them a thing.
Oh my. I don't know as I can wait to see Martha tomorrow night. I
feel like going up to her place right now and getting it all from her own
She's ashore. Something to do with the races and the Sea Festival.
Won't be back until four or five Saturday and then she'll come right up
here. Tom's over with her. But I'm wondering if she's even told him.
She's not talked much, I'll say that. I wouldn't be surprised if Tom
was as much in the dark as the rest of us.
So Rose has passed away now.
That was May's thinking. The letters stopped. Nothing in the last
few to explain it or say she was thinking of ending the writing back and
forth. Twenty-five years.
A heart attack then.
Or an accident. Who's to know?
Well, where were the letters coming from? Where did May mail her
own letters to?
I don't know. Martha would have that, I guess.
I don't know as I can believe all this. I come for Old Fitch and now
we're all going back a lifetime. Do you think he knew Rose was alive?
Well, if he did don't you think he would of brought her back?
Who knows about him? He was a strange one.
Rose would of known he'd changed. She could of come down here
by herself. He'd not bar the door to Rose.
How do you know that?
Grandmother knew them well. Old Fitch worshipped the ground
Rose walked on. Love enough to go around the island twice, she'd say.
He'd not bar the door to Rose.
So then if she sees he's the man she wanted to come back from the
dead why didn't she go to him?
I don't know.
Well, now, how can this all be true? It sounds like something from
the TV soaps. You've got my head spinning.
It's a lot to take in, I'm with you on that.
Well, I'm telling you, there's something to it, you see if there isn't,
you talk to Martha, this isn't some story I've cooked up.
Here now, we've chowder and biscuits for the ladies. Line up and
buy your ticket for the church supper.
You hear Dan. It's hot and it'll warm you up and down. Come on up
in here now and let us fill your bowl with one of God's great wonders.
in a corner of the kitchen
Now, Fitch, you've a good crew here and more coming tomorrow.
We all wish you well and we've warm thoughts of your Dad. But I'll come
on to you plain now. There's some as holds your Father to blame for
every murder, every suicide, every drowning, every storm that has come
on to the island the past 50 years. They say he hated God and cursed him
black every day of his life.
I know it.
I'm not talking to you on my own. I was asked to come on and be a
voice for everyone that wishes you well. It's only a few, a very few now,
that think ill of your Dad and don't want him in the cemetery. They say he
put half the people in it. You know, they blame the big Sable Island
disaster on him still and every stroke of bad fortune we've faced here
since. I'm telling you now as a lawyer they don't have a hope of blocking
your Dad's burial in the island cemetery but you'll hear talk of it over the
weekend and I don't want you to give any of the talk half a thought.
Thank you, Mister Joudrey.
There's more. Someone'll come to you and try and turn you against
your Dad. I don't know who it is. He'll try and get you to agree to a
cremation which he'll pay for and he'll try to convince you it's best for the
island not to put him in the soil here. He'll start off soft but if you don't
come around he'll go at you hard. You're not his son, he'll tell you. Your
mother slept with another man. After you were born he saw you didn't
look like him. So he kept an eye out and caught your mother and her lover
in bed and killed them both and sawed their bodies into pieces. You're
going to have to be ready for this, boy.
You can't tell me at all who it might be that comes calling?
No. He'll come up to pay his respects when no one else is about and
he'll start off easy. You won't even pick up on it until he starts on about
firing your Dad's bones and flesh. He'll use those words.
Mister Joudrey, how do you about all this here?
They came at me first. Wanted me to work on you. They knew I
was your Dad's legal counsel and was handling his will.
Is there more than one? Are they some kind of religious group?
Sound like it, don't they? Sacrifice your Dad's body to God. Burn it
on the altar and it will be a proper offering to the deity. All sins will be
forgiven and the island will be out from under the curse. I'm head deacon
at the Baptist church and I can tell you it isn't any of us. They're outsiders,
doing whatever they do on their own.
What are their names?
They phoned me. I've never seen a face or as much as a name on a
piece of paper. It's enough for you to know that the island is behind you,
the church too, and if you need any help a'tall, just shout. I'm telling you,
I'm not here to give you bad news, I'm here to say you're not on your
own between a rock and a hard place. You've got a world of friends here
and we'll see your Dad proudly buried as a man who saved our fathers
and grandfathers from the sea.
Is Young Fitch in here? There's the preacher at the door wanting to
pay his respects.
I'm just here. I'll come out to him.
at the front door
Mister Fitch. I'm the pastor at the Baptist church this summer. My
name's Slender Levy. I'm very sorry for your loss, sir.
Thank you. Should I be calling you Reverend?
Oh no. I'll not be ordained for years. Pastor is fine. Or Slender.
I suppose we'll need to be getting together to talk about the service
Yes. When would you like to do that, Mister Fitch? I can see how
busy you are tonight. Tomorrow might be a better time.
Oh, tomorrow will be worse, pastor. And Sunday even worse than
Friday or Saturday. How about the right now?
Are you sure? I can come back.
No, it's getting on and I have a story at midnight. Let's get into the
den and work out what Monday needs to look like.
in the den
The truth of it was I hadn't given a thought to the Monday service
and I hadn't been inside the den since I'd come in the night before. It had
always been my favourite room in the house, Daddy had read me the big
good boy books in there - Ivanhoe, The White Company, The Lord of the
Rings, Narnia, King Arthur, Tom Sawyer, Treasure Island, Mutiny on the
Bounty - and though sometimes I'd done my homework at the kitchen
table most of the time I was at Daddy's big oak desk, wood he swore was
300 years old, washed up from an English wreck from the 1600's. Oh,
being at the desk was like being at the wheel of a tall ship and the prow
moving me through big seas to the end of the world and the fresh
beginning of another. Well, that was the game until I was 11 or 12, rigging
up sail blankets, Daddy giving me a big old ship's wheel to turn, swords
and flintlock pistols and trunks full of silver and gold, old charts Daddy
had picked up at bookstores that you had to set with weights on the
corners or they'd roll up with a snap, the Union Jack, the Jolly Roger, and
there was a cannon that worked, the two of us blew out a window with it
and the room reeked of rotten eggs for two days. Of course, there were
friends with me in there too, eye patches on, earrings, fake teeth that
looked yellow and stained, the ringing of blunt iron on blunt iron, the
crack of cap guns. But no, best it was with just me and Daddy, together
against the hordes of the Spanish Main, a brass telescope we could see out
across to Big Tancook with and put towers of white sail upon the blue
water, finding lands the wide world still don't know about, Fingaroon,
Plooratteno, Senbazaar, Shingralee. A pipe he had and smoked it then
when we had plotted our course and were fair away from Tarragon, all
sails set. Shanties he taught me so we bawled them out and frighted the
gulls off our roof and the crows out from our corn. Slept in there too, on
the beach which was the floor, sometimes aboard and close to the Cape of
Good Hope or just under the Southern Cross and there on deck with the
coils of hemp and the great black anchor. Or castaways and making the
shelter of palm fronds and dining on coconut milk and ripe dates.
I guess I hadn't opened the door yet because if Daddy was still
going to be alive anywhere and laugh that he'd got me with a trick as old
as the books it would be in that room I'd find him rocking with his pipe
and his Dad's Bible and some sea yarn like Gipsy Moth Circles The World
or Pat O'Brian's Post Captain open on the 300 year old desk and a print of
Nelson at Trafalgar on the wall at his back. I wasn't ready for the final
sharp cut that the room would be empty and no boy running with black
gum boots up to his armpits and a big man roaring that by God wasn't he
Captain Kidd and by God wouldn't he have the boy's bones for
breakfast? So I opened the big wooden door with the brass porthole set
into it and with a rush came all the years and the smell of wood and books
and charts and pipe tobacco like vanilla fudge and the stink and burn of
gunpowder and the hot iron of cannons that have just been run out and
fired a full broadside in heavy seas stinging with salt and north winds. I
guess I did see a boy come running out and a big man thundering after
him with a knife in his teeth and then they were out the front door, acrost
the porch and down the dirt track to the shoreline slick with the green
weed and the black waves. I lost something I'd been able to hold onto
until then and I went to a wall of books and looked at their spines until I
could turn to Slender with what passed for a smile but I suppose he knew
what was happening and looked at the bookshelves himself to help me
Look at these books, Mister Fitch, your Dad must of been a scholar.
Why, I guess he was something of that. We roamed many a
bookstore in Halifax and right down along the eastern seaboard as far
south as the Carolinas. Are you a reader yourself? Or a man of one book?
I'm a lover of the Holy Bible, I'm not afraid to say that, Mister Fitch,
but reading that just gives me a taste for more of the good stuff. There's
Sea Fever on the wall. I memorized that in high school. The boys always
gave me a hard time on that. I must go down to the seas again, the lonely
sea and sky. Have you been out on the big boats, Mister Fitch?
How big are you talking?
The salt bank schooners. Or bigger.
I have. Daddy and I worked on making an old girl sea ready for the
museum there down by Dartmouth.
Is it the Lyyndae d Darling? The one they're bringing out to blue
water on Sunday?
You know about all this here. How come?
Oh, I'm a sea dog, Mister Fitch. Have you noticed there's those
Maritimers as sticks to the cities and the water they like comes from a tap
and empties into a tub? And the others who care only for fresh water and
the lakes and creeks and streams, they haven't looked out for an ocean
view for 20 year or more, d'you know them?
I'm not of their company. When I was 19 I did a square rigger to the
Canary Islands and down there along the African coast to the Cape of
Good Hope and then up and into the Indian Ocean. There was one
stretch the water fair sizzled with shark the way a net boils up with
herring does you bring it up full from. I saw lightning cut the black sky in
two. Waves like the blue Rockies. Sunsets that were an open door on God
and sunrise that took the heart out of my body. Mister Fitch, I didn't get
to meet your father but three times but we talked, longer each time, and
the last time was all about his love of the sea.
Did he say so? There's some would say he hated the sea for the
killing it goes about. He lost his own dad and brothers to it.
Yes, I heard about all that. But all he talked to me about was what
he called the big beauty and the big glory and the big long undimmable
shining. Oh, his words, so when he told me you were an English Phd
student at St. Andrews, I'm asking myself which came first, the poetry or
Daddy didn't care for it at first. I'd buy him books and he'd just set
them aside. And taunt me. Break, break, break, he'd say to me. One day
he saw that these poets were talking about the same thing he saw from
the boat or the rocks and that they knew about the dark grey iron of the
waves too, not just the blue-eyed smiling. He read at them and made a lot
of it his own.
Do you think he got to where he forgave the sea?
Oh, pastor, if I knew that. There's those who say he never forgave
Do they say. Mister Fitch, and do they tell whether he ever thought
God forgave him and that there's a great mercy comes up bigger and
grander than all the world's blue water?
Did you preach that to him then?
Only in the pulpit. He was there. Always and right at the back but
never running out at the end like some but staying to smile and shake my
hand. He had some grip, warm as it was.
We always treated a handshake as another opportunity to test our
Well. I think he went easy on me.
The big long undimmable shining?
Here. Take up a seat at the good boat Unconquered. Her Majesty's
A fine looking wooden ship.
Well, it's held together well in spite of all the sea battles, there's that
to it. We should get at that service.
Yes, sir. Have you put any thought into it?
Can you tell me what you have in mind?
What should be in my mind, pastor?
Well. Songs. Scripture. Do you want a message? A eulogy? How
much do you want at the church and how much would you like to take
place at the graveside?
Why, I been going over just all this for a few days.
What have you come up with?
How many of these have you done?
None. But I had a course on it last spring.
Last spring. You did.
Mister Fitch, I can do it up well for you. We'll walk it through
together and we'll be fine. I just need to know what it is you want to see
in the service.
Those in peril on the sea. How is it?
That's the Navy Hymn. Eternal Father, strong to save, whose arm
hath bound the restless wave, who bidd'st the mighty ocean deep its own
appointed limits keep, O hear us when we cry to thee for those in peril on
The people here love that hymn, Slender. We'll have that one.
And the other. Let the lower lights be burning.
Like this it goes. Brightly beams our Father's mercy from His
lighthouse evermore, but to us he gives the keeping of the lights along the
shore, let the lower lights be burning, send a gleam across the waves,
some poor lost and struggling seaman, you may rescue, you may save.
Well. That's Daddy. That's the days on the rock. Look you, I'll do
the eulogy. I just need you to talk about that mercy you're fond of.
What about a passage from the Holy Bible? Was there one particular
one your Dad looked to, Mister Fitch?
There was. Just a minute. This one I have in my head yet. His own
Dad put it upon him. Just a minute. But now thus saith the Lord that
created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not, for I
have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name, thou art mine. When
thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee, and through the
rivers, they shall not overflow thee, when thou walkest through the fire,
thou shalt not be burned, neither shall the flame kindle upon thee. For I
am the Lord thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour.
There it is.
Are you to do the reading of it, Mister Fitch?
There you are. Me and Crystal are heading out but we'll see you
Sunday at church.
Why, thank you for coming out, Mister Chute.
Crystal'll be dropping off a lasagna tomorrow. I guess that'll help
you out some.
There's a girl been asking for you.
Don't know her that well. The Cove girl I'd say it is. Should I send
her your way?
That would be all right. The pastor and I are just about done. Are
So the music we've got down, the Bible reading - are you doing
that? - the eulogy. Do you want a piper?
I need a cellist is what.
Mister Fitch. There's no one playing the cello on the island. That
would be a hard come by.
I don't know.
What are you wanting at the graveside? Something short?
Oh, for Daddy it would be the traditional.
That can be a long one, you know. It's this Church of England one,
And the sea shall give up her dead?
It's an old one.
More than two hundred years.
Lay out the whole line of it.
I can wear a robe. Instead of a suit.
Do the Baptists do that?
Daddy ever see you in a robe?
Maybe the one time. At a baptism.
Did he say anything?
I know he liked the baptism. Being in the sea and all. Never said
nothing to me about the robe.
So she'd come in and was standing right behind me and I had to
turn. Slender was on his feet.
Hi. I'm the student minister for the summer.
He put out his hand and she took it. I could tell he was surprised by
It's good to meet you.
I was just with Mister Fitch here.
I'll sit in the corner. You boys finish up.
Oh, I guess we're done, are we done, pastor?
Done up, yes, if something else comes to mind pick up the phone and
give me a call, Mister Fitch. But I'll be in and out of your house all
Will you? Then we'll set and talk if anything else comes to me.
I'll look into that. Yes.
G'night then. G'night, Sea.
Good night, pastor.
Slender was out and down the hall and she sitting by the great
wooden globe and already flipping through a book, her head down,
brushing back her hair once or twice until she took it in one hand and
twisted an elastic around it with the other, jeans, white cable knit sweater,
sandals, and her toenails a sky blue.
With an a.
I probably would of got it wrong a day ago. But every hour I'm
here I get back to the language a bit more.
What do the Scots think of your accent?
She still hadn't looked up. Her finger was tracing a line of type.
What accent is that?
The one you picked up on the ferry and that you'll likely drop off on
the ferry on your way back.
Is this something you're in the habit of doing yourself?
Or are you just off to lecturing me again on who I am and who I'm
Everyone else is afraid of you.
Your crew come close to not bringing the jib in neat.
I did that.
How could you know? Up on the porch were you?
So how'd you know who was hauling in on what?
Your hair come loose. Was all up in the air like fireworks.
Nothing I use ever keeps it down. I'm thinking of cutting it.
Oh, don't go to all that trouble.
All the cutting. So thick you'd need a pair of power shears. Then the
sweeping up. Bagging it. And then where to do with it all?
What are you suggesting?
Do you think I look like my father?
So now her head come up and her eyes sometimes grey, sometimes
blue, sometimes black, there, on me and not yet back to the book.
I'm sorry, Michael.
You had the best childhood. We all did.
I'm trying to bring it all back and hold it awhile. But it's been busy.
Like a kitchen party. Without the beer.
They're good people, Michael. Love you. Love your Dad.
Mum told me about the others. It's only two or three of them at it.
They haven't talked to me. Just Al Joudrey.
Being Daddy's lawyer.
They want money?
They want Daddy cremated. So he's not in the soil.
What do they think that will do?
Rid the island of the curse.
What curse? I come in from Toronto and this place is like heaven on
You know. It goes back to his days on the boats.
How did he raise you? Hard?
Gentle. Real gentle.
Don't I know it? I seen all your days on this island. Where was the
Well. We've had our murders. Our suicides. Boys been lost at sea in
the lobster season now.
You know how many get murdered in Toronto in a year? Or off
themselves? Or go out into traffic and don't come back but in a plastic
It's what they say.
And you're not his son now, is it? You believe that?
No. I don't want that.
Tell them there's a girl put on a seaweed wig for a dare a whole
afternoon. Tell them she grew up with you and raced the boats neck to
neck with you and took the skin off her hands. Tell them her eyes see
right through. Tell them she said it's in your eyes and in your height and
strength, and your voice has him and it's there right down along your
jaw. You're the father's son and the father is him we call Old Man Fitch.
She laid the book aside, stood up and went past me.
Look at this here.
I turned in my seat. She'd picked up a photograph in a brown
Here's your Dad. Here's you. I took this picture.
I know it.
Look at your faces. Look at the bones here. Look at your hair and
the slope of your foreheads. Look at your mouths and your chins.
Was his favourite picture of the two of us.
What would you do with my hair if I cut it?
Frame it. It's a work of art, isn't it?
I had the good fortune of seeing her eyes go from grey to a kind of
blue and green and the flecks of light.
It's always in the way, it is, Michael.
I see some loose there.
I got up. A burst of laughter came from the front of the house. She
let me pick the loose hair off her shoulder and show it to her. But her eyes
stayed to mine.
So it needs to be cut. Michael.
Or a better pair of hands to tie it with.
There's too many split ends.
What I see here is a lot of light on the water and it running down
through my fingers sweet. There's nothing that's not right with it.
Oh. So. What are your intentions?
This sounds like the old Castle and Dragon game we played in the
Well. And so it is.
Coming on midnight, Young Boy Fitch!
Where you got off to?
We's all up here waiting and we got to get to our beds!
FITCH! FITCH! FITCH!
A smile took up one side of her mouth.
A kitchen party.
Without the beer. What if they were drinkers? Think of that.
Good cheer seems to be enough for this crew. Tell the story well,
Michael Row The Boat Ashore. I'm a tough audience.
Young Boy Fitch, we're all set and waiting. How is it with you, Miss
I'm very good, thank you. Does this hair of mine trouble you, Mister
Why, not a'tall, not a'tall, you look lovely tonight, Miss Cove.
It seems to trouble Young Boy Fitch.
in the front room
When Daddy first bought the Lyyndae d Darling he and some of
you here did the basic repairing that was needed and then he sailed her
out and about the coast and down along New England. Now he took me
out the one time and a fog come in, a few of you boys was with us that
day, so we moved right careful, waiting on it to lift for a good breeze
stirred up, I remember being scared we were going to hit something in the
fog or run up on a reef and wreck ourselves and everybody drown.
Daddy had me by his side, I was 11 I believe, just back of the helm we
two, and he got on with a story to get my mind off of being wrecked and
sunk, so about laying trawl with his father in the 20's, you know how that
was, don't you, kids? There was the mothership, a salt bank schooner like
the Lyyndae d Darling or the Bluenose, say, or the Yankees' Gertrude L.
Thebaud, the dories gone out in different directions from the mothership
but always keeping her in sight, and they'd generally lay out their trawl in
a kind of zig zag pattern, long loop to the left, come about, long loop to
the right, come about, all the time moving farther and farther away, until
the trawl was all paid out and they sat and waited on the fish some. So my
Daddy is doing this here with his daddy, and my father not out of his
teens at the time, two men to a dory and it can still hold a ton of fish, and
doesn't a fog steal down on them? Best take up the trawl early and head
back to the vessel, says my Grandfather, and Daddy and him start rowing
and bringing up the line over the roller and knocking the cod off the
hooks to the bottom of the dory. As they're doing all this, they hear
another dory rowing just beside them, likely taking up their trawl as well.
Now it takes some time but the job is finally done. The mothership is
blowing her horn so the men know where to find her in the thick of fog,
you know, the tick of fog, the old boys would say, so Daddy and
Grandfather head over. But they can't find it. So they row to port. Still
can't find it. And all the time there's a steady rowing close by in the fog,
keeping pace, the oars creaking in their locks. They go to the blast of the
horn again and they hear the other rowing to the front of them and
they're sure they's going to hit so they slack off and there's just the quiet.
They start rowing ahead again and the other rowing is going right across
their path. So they stop. And the other rowing stops. Who's there?
Grandfather shouts. They hear only water dripping off their oars and the
other's. And a breathing. A rough coarse breathing. As if a body is having
trouble getting air down and into his lungs. Why, there's lights, says my
Daddy, let's head toward the lights. But they try and the lights never get
closer, just the pair, smokey in the grey mist. And the rowing beside them,
thunk, thunk, in the oar locks. The mothership blasts again. Grandfather,
he up and yells, The Fitches are over here, and he gets back the echo, The
Fitches are over here, and then a great rotten laugh that ends in a peal of
thunder, and the rowing, rowing, going on even when Daddy and
Grandfather are still. Behind, in front, around and around. So they go
port, it's like the other rower pushes them starboard, they go starboard,
it's like they're getting edged to port, they go at it to hit the other and be
done but they get to nothing, they call out, Who is it? And they get back,
Who is it? And the laughing and the ending in the clap of thunder. So the
lights come again, burning wicks they was like, Daddy says, and they go
for them again and they get no closer, just as before, the horn goes, they
head at her, the rowing across their front, they keep on, not caring if they
hit, why, they began to go at the rowing in any direction, wanting to
smack into something, anything, how long this went on, an hour or more,
but they was exhausted and the mothership's horn was getting some
distant, and Grandfather sets back on his oars and says, My Great Good
God Almighty, so the lights come back and are moving on them, burning
holes in the fog, there comes a head, the lights are eyes, and the man in
black oilskins, and rowing with his hands bitten off by sharks, you see the
mark of the jaw of teeth, and the dory full of eels and squid and their guts
all rotting out, the boat itself scraped of paint and oh, barnacles
multiplying to the gunwales and behind to it the dory dragging fifty foot
of weed and men clutching and tangled and drowning in the long
streamers of kelp, the rower's face white and pruned and pinched and
chewed on by fish, hooks to it, and festering, one cheek gashed open and
the worms at work, so the eyes getting bigger and bigger and the flames
all over Grandfather and Daddy, so my Grandfather shouts, My Great
Good God Almighty, and a sudden blowing, oh, blasting to heaven's end,
and the fog stripped, and the mothership far off to the east, and they two
close on to row into the massive great spar, the mainmast of a wreck with
a tip like a giant's spear, the swells lifting it up and thrusting it forward on
the surge like a battering ram, they get their wits about them and row off,
it rearing up over them and roaring on the surge like a demon's witch
whale with the teeth for tearing out a man's heart and guts whole. Across
the new blue they gone, rowing like madmen, the mothership spots them
and comes about and at them and in fifteen minutes the ordeal is done
and they're aboard and drinking hot coffee by the quart, so, you know,
I'm listening to this here aboard the Lyyndae d and I never noticed what
was happening in the real world, not fog nor reef nor shipwreck, but
listen you kids now, does you come to row in the fog around Tarragon or
Tancook or Ironbound, listen careful for the thumping of another's oars,
and the grattle of the trailing weed and the clutching handed men, the
growl of thunder in a laugh rotting from the bottom out, oh, watch close
for the two lights that are no more than the eyeballs of hell.
on the porch
We'll be by tomorrow at supper, Young Fitch. Wild story that one.
You'll be at the church on the Sunday?
Still blowin' nasty.
The gran'kids'll be with us in for the story the Saturday, why, the
few hours from now, look at the time, keep up another good un for them
Comin' on two.
God bless your night, boy. Watch for spirits, hey.
Wait, Mel, I'll bring the car around.
The trucks and cars took what light there was with them and it was
just the hard rain and the night black as dirt. There was some lights at the
end of the pier and then a storm lantern back up the track behind the
house. Someone was standing and holding it and the flame lighting up
their hand and they, they're watching me. Then the lantern's gone. On the
French coast the light gleams and is gone. The cliffs of England stand,
glimmering and vast. No sign of the clearing they forecast, I'm thinking,
and up a voice shouts from the black water and white breaking at the
shore below the house, that where Daddy's big boatshed is, padlocked
right tight, and the dock he built with pilings like for a fort, hemp coiled
and mounded on its planking. And the voice is up and through the storm.
It was my thirtieth year to heaven, woke to my hearing from
harbour and neighbour wood, and the mussel pooled and the heron
priested shore, the morning beckon, with water praying and call of seagull
and rook, and the knock of sailing boats on the net webbed wall.
And so it was Sea reciting Dylan Thomas and she down among the
water and the rock taking the rise and break of the black morning waves.
at the old dock
I'm not 30.
Are you impressed?
With your counting?
I have that whole poem memorized.
How did that start?
You're not the island's only poet. I took a lot of lit classes at McGill.
Published a few of my own in the school magazine.
Where are you?
You can see the white sweater, can't you? I'm still in it.
She was up past her knees in the roiling white but the tumbling and
pearling of the water over the rocks had soaked her jeans and half her
sweater. Her hair had come undone again and it was wet and tight to her
You'll ruin your cable knit.
Lay it flat and let it dry at room temperature.
And the saltwater in it.
Hand rinse. Cold water. This is a Scots sweater anyway, isn't it, and
they knit it for fishing the deep down salty sea.
The Aran Islands are Irish. But they both call the sweater their own.
That's the way of it. Are you intending to spend the night in the
You know a better place?
There's a fresh lot of wood in the stove.
Thanks. I'm with Mum and Da. I can't stay up late. I've another race
It's already two.
Third. We were. So it's points each day and we still have a good
When's the last?
When you heading back?
You don't waste time.
Puddles are my world now. And cement. Tall buildings and lots of
glass. The cars are back and forth and they light up the night. Are you
In my Dockers? It's saltwater.
You said so.
I was just on the rock and pebble and she about six feet out and she
fetched me a blow of water from her hand that got me in the face and
chest like a whitecap. I roared out but she did it again with both hands
and got my Dockers waist to foot.
Sea, you're the crazy woman, it's freezin' out here and we got a
storm and you think it's a hot day on the beach at Queensland.
Where's the big tough highlander? Where's the great man of a Scot?
So she hit me with the water again and this time I went in after her
and she wasn't expecting what I done, thinking I'd come running in but
no, I took a leap and dove in under her, and up and over she went, head
over tail and down into the surge and the slosh. She come up quick and
wrapped her arms around my waist and dropped back under the churn,
taking me with her. So when we broke clear I clamped one arm around
her and started walking through the bigger waves, towing her behind.
She couldn't get her footing and she couldn't get free so I kept this up
some little bit while she screamed and hollered and threatened. Finally she
just threw herself sideways and put all her weight and strength into it and
my balance was gone and I went with her under. When we got up this
time and cleared our eyes we saw we was under the dock and the black
water slapping and thudding against the thick pilings. She come at me and
we locked hands, lacing our fingers, and fought back and forth.
I think you been doing weights, Sea Gray.
Maybe I have.
Grew another inch? Put on a few pounds?
I'm five five and there's not an ounce of fat on me.
Still haven't told me what you do in Toronto.
It's too sad to talk about. I just want to be crazy now.
She twisted but was close to a piling and knocked her head a good
one and the barnacles took a strip of skin off the forehead. Blood started
I'm sorry, Sea.
Get away. You're not that good. I had you. I did it to myself.
I got a cloth.
You don't have a dry cloth.
It's not dry but I had it in the pocket.
The pocket of your Dockers?
Here. Quit fighting.
Give me the cloth.
No. I'm doing it.
I wiped her forehead. The blood started up again so I pressed
Well, I've got to apply pressure.
Let me do it.
I held the cloth in place and looked at the water on her skin. One
drop came out from under her hairline and started past her eye and
followed the curve of her cheek.
What are you looking at?
She took the cloth and stepped back from me. The waves didn't
come in under the dock much because Daddy had piled a good amount of
rock up to the front. There was a fair noise out and around us but under
the dock was just the clapping of the water and the wood. She had the
cloth to her forehead and was walking between the pilings and looking up
at the thick planks.
It's like a hideaway. A secret fort. No one would even know we're
There's no one up to know or care.
Why didn't we ever play under here?
Daddy wouldn't let us.
It's like being in the hold of a ship.
Or deep down in a tower. And the groundwater seeping up. Or a
Not a dungeon. Dungeons are awful places. This is a good place. Sea
and Michael's castle keep. Don't tell a soul.
Who would I tell?
Mel Langille. She'd like to know.
So Sea put back her head and laughed from her stomach. She came
towards me, still grinning at her joke, until she was an inch away. Her face
was tilted up at me and gleaming wet in the dark and the planking over us
kept creaking and the rain fell down in through the cracks. She took the
cloth from her head and water came onto her cut.
Make it better.
I kissed her on the lips.
You're supposed to kiss the cut.
I'm working my way up.
I kissed her on the lips again.
You're not moving very fast.
I take my time. Do a good job.
Do I have a long wait ahead of me?
You taste like salt.
I kissed her a third time on the lips.
I guess I'm not getting through to you, Michael.
The arms of her sweater had ridden up just below her elbows. Her
jeans were wet and glistening and the ocean slipped up and around her
knees and thighs. She pushed her hair back from her face with both
hands. The water drops on her skin were like sweat. Her eyes were on
me and black they were now but they took up whatever light they could
find in the air and there was a quiet shining. She put her arms around my
neck and I felt her skin slide smooth and warm over against my throat.
Her kiss when it came started slow and then built and built against my
mouth until it was everything and I wanted to take her down with me
and let the sea go over us. There was no stopping this one. Everything
she had went into it and I gave back all I could. I heard the dock talking
and the wind and the breaking apart of the seawater and far away there
was the cold sting of ocean against my legs and farther yet a foghorn off
the head of the island. For a moment she took back her kiss and touched
me with the tip of her tongue like a game and laughed with her
blackwater eyes and then she pulled me into her lips again and put all the
night and our childhood and the years on different sides of the earth into
what she gave. I leaned her up gently against a piling, slick it was with wet
but stripped clear of barnacle and weed, and braced my hands against it
and her in between I put all the force of me to her mouth and throat and
shoulder. Then I couldn't have her so far off and my arms brought her in
and I dropped back against the black piling myself and let it take our
weight so I could put all that was roaring up in me softly at her eyes and
the thick dark eyebrows over them and the freckles tucked up to the side
of her nose and the tight smooth of her chin and the strong bone beneath.
Sometime there were the fingers of her in the wet and tangle of my hair
and sometime there were the fingers of her on my back and sometime she
took my face in her hands and brushed her lips over my eyes. And there
was a time when we began all over again and no intention of stopping that
night or any night and the kisses building again and lasting longer and the
warm cutting through the bodies to the blood and no storm cold felt or
known though the wind still howled and the combers split in two and the
pilings took the wash and the foam that was white and the old planking
groaned and whistled.
You taste better than ice cream.
Even the cookie dough kind.
The one with the big chocolate chips? Even that?
I think so.
Is the woodstove offer still available?
Let's get up and I'll put on a couple of logs.
How are you feeling, Michael?
Me, I'm feeling over the top.
I pulled Sea back behind a piling and she began to giggle.
Our hideout is discovered by the wicked knight.
Mister Fitch. I don't know where you are out there but I have
something important to give you. I need to put it right in your hands.
Who is that?
Don't you know his voice?
He's up sitting on the porch steps. Perfect timing he has.
Michael. We were done spooning.
By the light of the silvery moon, I want to spoon, to my honey I'll
croon love's tune.
What's funny is seeing you so mad.
It's three in the morning and this guy shows up to pay his respects?
You said anytime day or night. I think you did.
Mister Fitch. I need to see you. I can't get to bed until I see you.
There. You've kept him up past his bedtime.
Okay. All right. Let's get this over with. You go in and warm up.
There's still some wood at the side of the stove.
Somehow I'd gotten ahold of her hand and for the first time in my
life she wasn't pulling it away and making some smart comment or pitching
a snowball or water balloon at me while she did it. But instead of being
able to get into the good feeling it gave me I had to creep out from under
the dock with her and slosh out of the chop and cut of the waves and
come up to my own father's house as if I was some kind of fugitive. The
person on the porch stood up and it was a boy, maybe 16 or 17.
on the porch
I am. This is Sea Gray.
Hello. I'll leave you to give your important message to Mister Fitch
and I'll just get dried off inside.
I'm sorry to come so late, Mister Fitch, I had to be sure there was no
one else here.
I'm not part of any of this. None of it. But they gave me a hundred
Who gave you a hundred bucks?
They want you to agree to your father's cremation. They'll come get
him tonight and by tomorrow afternoon I'll come back with an urn for
you. A nice one.
What's your name? You from the island?
Yes, sir, my family bought a house last fall.
Why'd they ask you?
I don't know. I was riding my bike t'other day and a man gave me a
hundred dollar bill and this envelope.
The envelope was blank but I could feel there was a sheet of paper
All right. Thank you. You done what they asked. Now go on.
Mister Fitch. You gonna do what they want?
Are you sure? I was supposed to make sure you understand it's
right important to them.
What's more important to me is that I bury my father. Now get on.
The kid pulled a lighter from his pocket and flicked it. It burned for
a bit, the flame jerking back and forth in the wind.
What's that for?
Just something I said I'd do, Mister Fitch.
Is it a signal or something?
Put it out.
You gotta do what they want, Mister Fitch. They're crazy drunk out
of their minds and they'll do you harm, I know it.
You got your money. Go on. I'll take care of myself. I don't want to
see your face again. Best you stay away on your side of the island.
He went down the steps and ran off into the dark and the rain. I
looked around and then went inside and locked the door. I glanced in at
Daddy and walked across to the fire room.
in the front room
Sea was standing with her back and her hands to the woodstove
and smiling at me. Her eyes were a milky sky blue and her hair was gold
and silver and stuck to her skin. The woodstove had a pane of glass and
the glass was bright orange. I come up to her and she never moved her
hands or her body but just let me kiss her. She was warm and smelled like
something healthy and drying. I caught a bit of mint from the hair curling
against her cheeks.
Yes, I'm great. What did the boy want?
To say he was sorry.
What's in the letter?
Well. That's something to come up here all in the dark and storm and
give that to you.
Come on. I'll share a bit of the fire.
Well. What about I make you a tea?
Okay. Then come back and I'll give you a square foot off to the side
Quite an invitation.
So I made the tea up with Daddy's old whistling kettle and brought
the pot out and a couple of mugs.
I thought the sweater had to be dried at room temperature?
Tonight this is the temperature of the room.
Your jeans will take forever.
I know it. This was never a house of women. There's nothing I can
change into kicking around here.
No. It was never a house of women.
I'm sorry, Michael. A stupid thing to say.
Daddy talked about her. She was younger than him. Lots of life. So
she left and he blamed himself. Never believed she went into the sea. Too
much life, he says, she'd never do that. She left and that's the way of it, he
says. Swears a friend saw a man rowing her away from the island.
I never heard that.
Swore to it. But I could never find a body'd back the story up. Most
people won't talk with me about the bad old days anyway, so who
I never saw a picture of her.
I saw it once or twice. Kept it up in a drawer in his bedroom.
Can I look at it?
Maybe another day. I haven't got up the nerve to go into his
bedroom yet. It's going to smell like him, just like the den, you know, the
tobacco and his after shave and the woodsmoke on his sweaters and
pants. We used to snuggle up in there was I a boy. All the bedroom
stories was in there. Unless we was camped out in the den on a desert
Well. The sea stories. Bible stories. Can't never forget how he did
the Jesus ones, the widow and the judge, the man who wants the bigger
barns. The prodigal son. Always the prodigal son.
I hope. One day again. It will be a good room for you.
Yeah. Thank you. He thought a lot of you. You know that.
I guess I do.
Why don't you marry that girl.
Back when we was 11 yet. Oh, the big joker, yes, the big clown. He
left you something in the will.
No, he didn't. I don't need anything.
Joudrey'll get around to it.
What is it?
Michael. You can't do that. Tell me that and then go sippin' your tea.
Can't say a word, Sea. This is a big legal thing, you know.
We were standing drinking our tea with our backs to the fire and
then my mug and all spilling she pushes me onto the couch and gets to
tickling at me which works if you gets me up under my arms which she
was trying but my arms I had locked to my sides.
You're a big legal thing. Tell me.
Nope. Before God I won't. And I'm not ticklish there.
Is it money? Gold? A ship? I don't want any of those things.
Not even the ship?
If it was a pretty boat. And your Dad really wanted me to have it.
Joudrey'll get around to it. But you're racing every day, aren't you?
You smell liked roasted grain. Like bread.
Do you like that, Michael?
So we went at her again, her spooning, our clothes wet and dry and
the room full of wood heat and the rain driving against the windows. Oh,
she tasted good, a woman tastes good, but Sea was everything good, her
face was right, her eyes, her body, her strength, her heart, her spirit, it
was all good and it all come into you everytime she put her lips to your
mouth. Earth, wind, water, fire, it was all of it in those first kisses, and I
was living the greatest fairy tale of my life.
It's getting on, Michael. God bless you, you're my sweet boy, but I
need at least the four hours sleep. The race is at eleven and I need to be
on board by nine. Will you walk me down to Mum and Da's?
I will. You put on my storm jacket and get the hood up.
What about you?
I'll put on Daddy's pea coat.
on the road
Out and into the rain and down along the gravel track and the
waves still cracking open onto the rocks and the white still flying off their
tops like cream and milk spilling out and over. And Sea's strong grip and
the feeling of not being right to the ground but in some kind of sleep.
What a good hand and it in your hand can feel like. The storm made it all
better because we was proof against it just by having what we'd made
that night and it were like four walls and a roof and all the shelter you'd
need from anything at all.
I heard singing rise and fall with the wind and the words only came
on in fits and gusts like gulls up and down with a storm, here and up and
take me back my western boat
fish off Cape St. Mary's
where hagdowns sail foghorns wail
my friends Browns and Cleary's
let me fish Cape St. Mary's
Why, there's bodies at Daddy's old light. Look there, you can see
flashlights or lanterns up.
The singing's coming from there. Da said as there was some wanted
to celebrate your father's wake proper and pull a cork or two. Said they'd
likely get up into the old light.
Why, they could of come on up to the house.
What, and pass a bottle around with all the old Baptists?
If they're up there for Daddy why, I got to go to them.
Of course you do. You see my house is right over here. Thanks for
walking me back.
But you come on up too, Sea.
Not this girl. Not this night. The wheel's kick and the wind's song
and the white sails shaking, it all comes early. When are you going to sail
I guess when I can get someone to crew with me.
Hey. I'll crew with you.
G'night, Michael. I'll be by tomorrow after the race.
Hand rinse. Cold water.
I leaned over and kissed the cut on her forehead. A smile come up
on her and I knew her eyes changed in the dark.
Good you finally found it.
I gone on to the light. It was locked most of the time but some days
it was open for the tourists. The door hadn't been forced so they must of
got ahold of a key. I climbed up the steps I'd climbed with my Daddy the
first ten years of my life.
at the light
Young Boy Fitch. You're welcome. Come and sit. Will you have a bit?
Go on and do what you do.
Well, now, you know it hurts too much not to drink or pray. And
none of us here is up on the praying.
I see you're honouring my father. You go on with it.
He's gone, Young Fitch.
He is that. I miss him right hard I can tell you boys that.
Gone he is and the days of the dory and the schooner with him.
There's no one else.
Was Risser. Been dead for three years, George Manthorne.
Last spring. And he was in the hospital for half a year before that.
Not a one now.
Young Fitch, isn't that boat going on the water then? The one you
was to skipper with your Da.
On the Sunday, yes, it's coming out.
Will you take the wheel?
That's the idea.
Can you do it? How is it with you?
Nights and mornings are the rough rows, boys. In the afternoon,
the clouds piled atop each other and the sea set down like a plate, I can do
her well enough, I guess.
You worked on it, y'see. Laid the fresh keel and new masts. You
need to take her right round the island once.
Good luck to the island. Good luck to its people. And the fish. Good
luck to them. And the lobster. God good luck to 'em all he will. I'm telling
you. But you got to go right round.
I'll give her a go.
That's the boy, no chip off the block but the block hisself.
But you'll need a crew.
We can crew.
Us all. We can.
I was a summer on the Bluenose II.
I don't know, boys. I think they's set my crew on me already.
Tell 'em they's a change of plans.
You got island boys.
Ay, island boys whose the fishing men still like the days and nights
of the Lyyndae d Darling. Any others on the boat is bad luck.
Bad luck, ay, you got to set it right, Young Boy Fitch, or bad luck to
the island and all its folks.
I'll see what I can do, but now. You'd have to be up at the dock in
Chester at two sharp.
Easily done, Young Fitch.
Stone cold sober.
As a preacher.
Well, if you're there, you're aboard. A minute later than two and it's
a crew of the city boys hauling the lines true.
Your Da. We're grieving the last doryman and we'll bring him no
Put it all aside now. Leave Sunday t'Sunday. Tis a wake and it's for
Old Man Fitch, Old Cale Fitch, not weekend plans.
What will they do with the boat after the sail, Young Fitch?
They'll dock her, boys, for a million years. No salt spray shall come
against her, not the wind, not the waves, not the great breaking seas.
My God good God.
She'll be dead.
No, Young Fitch, hear me out on this if nothing else this black night.
You can't take the heart out of her. It's like she's us, y'see, us and all our
I read it was to be an ambassador ship for us all just like the
Well, now, I guess that was an idea they had once and then the
insurance boys said no, you take her out of dry dock and we'll cover her
for nothing. She takes a hole and sinks you've lost her and not a penny
for the people of Nova Scotia. So this is her last show.
Lord help us and pity the land with those we has as govern us head
to foot. We've grief enough to keep the sun from rising. First your good
Da and now the boat.
Ah, it's all winding down, winding down to a world where there's
not to see worth seeing.
Can't you do something, Young Fitch? You know your father
worked on that boat on his hands and knees even was you not there.
I know it.
We seed him using the lights at night to finish the job on time.
Last summer he was skin and bone for that ship. You there beside
him, isn't that so?
So all of him in that girl as it is how can he have wanted it high and
dry till Jesus comes on all the clouds of heaven?
No, you have the way of it, boys, Daddy wanted that boat to sail.
Around the world she can go and tell the story of the fogs and reefs and
dories and men, yes, she's up to it, that was how he said it to me, he
wouldn't be smiling now for this here.
Young Fitch, how can he rest easy in the grave? We lay him down
on Monday this, how can he be at peace?
I don't know.
You've a clever way with the words. Go on shore and talk to them
people. Make your point.
Tell 'em it's not a fossil.
A ship with breath and lungs.
You can turn 'em around.
Enough, boys. Young Boy Fitch hears us and he hears the sea
moving all out around us and alive. He hears his father. He hears God.
We got to get back to our wake.
George, was your turn to tell of a boat Old Man Fitch saved.
The whole boat?
Well, now, just the people on it, I guess.
You're welcome to stay, Young Boy Fitch.
I'll head out, boys. Got to get back down to the house where
He ain't there. You know that, boy.
Come back sometime. We're staying til Tuesday.
What? Not going to your homes?
Got our blankets and pillows here. Some grub.
Our wives know. It's a wake, Young Fitch, not some one hour
service and flowers and gone home to the TV.
Saved lives, he did well for us, the weekend is his, it's hardly
Thank you, boys, thank you. I'll be up again.
on the road
So's I went back down to the house and the song rising up at my
back like the east wind coming up and over the island. Scrap Bushen's bass
I was sure of and Solly Chute's baritone.
take me back green cove
seas roll up their thunder
let me rest earth's cool breast
where stars shine out wonder
and seas roll up thunder
Along aways I saw the storm lantern again on a ridge and bright
enough to shine off the body's oilskins slick with rain. I looked to see if the
watcher would come down to meet me but whoever it was stayed up and
away, the lantern cutting patterns out of the rain. Then the light was
gone. I walked a bit more and thought I saw it again up ahead. But no,
this come bigger, and it was flame moving free, not boxed in. I come on
more and it was our house, the fire on the porch and rolling out the
windows of the front parlour. Daddy, I'm shouting, Daddy, and I'm
running through the rain and mud.
at the house
I gone through the flame on the porch and into the front parlour
and the carpet there ablaze and one wall and it starting into Daddy and
the coffin. So I scooped him into my arms, big as he was, and up the stairs
with him fast as I could. I kicked open his bedroom door and put him
down on the bed, neat and tidy and fresh made it was, Brilla Zwicker, I'm
thinking as I'm running back down, or Mel Langille or Cathy Mitton. I got
one corner of the carpet and hauled it out the front door and threw it
down into the road. Then I found the garden hose at the side of the
house and pulled her right into the parlour and sprayed down the walls
until they was black and shining and only the stink of smoke now. I done
the same with the porch and the wind blowing the rain up against the
house did the rest. I went back in to check the parlour and a blow to the
back of my head put me down and on my stomach and there were a few
kicks to the ribs and a boot cracked down into the small of my back and
stayed there, a body leaning all their weight into it.
Stay put, Young Fitch, and you'll come to no harm. Now hear me.
We all of us lost family on the Heather B Sarty. Myself, I'm not caring
whether or not your old man burns for what he done. It's not me what
believes in this God and heaven and hell and all like some of the t'others.
Never been a church boy. But I tell you. If there is a hell your old man's in
it. All the brothers and sisters I could of had. But just the one, just me,
because my Daddy drowned off of Sable a young man, I the first born
and the last. Your old man took the Heather B Sarty in. He said it a
hundred times, didn't he? He took her in close to get the cod feeding off
the sandy bottom. And so now when the wind come up they had no
chance a'tall. Drove 'em right onto the bar and they breaks in two and all
hands gone. Murder he done. All the praying and church going he went
after these last years don't change it. I got no mercy for him. I'm not the
So now you little snot you do what we want. No cemetery for him.
He don't deserve to rest there among the men he killed. He don't deserve
no peace a'tall. I'm not the hocus pocus boy. I'm not believing that there's
this curse on the island. It's a plain and simple. I don't like your old man.
He's a killer. It's justice I want. Let the gulls eat up his skin and spit out the
bones. Let the storm grind his guts into the rocks. I'm not caring whether
we burn the body or toss it out on the morning tide. But no 6x6 for him.
No tomb among the brave men. No honour for him.
Do what we want, boy. I swear to God. There's men'd bring the
house down around your ears and not lose half a sleep. You put 'im in the
ground and they'll with the spade and the fork when there's no man
about and dig him up and chop 'im to bits. Give up his body now and
they'll do it proper, fire your old man's bones and flesh, and at least
there'll be a bucket of ashes for you.
I heard his feet go down the porch steps but it hurt too much to
move around and try and get a look out the window. My head and sides
cut at me. When I did get up I leaned against the front door frame and
half the porch was scorched from the burning but no more. I saw that the
rain had stopped and all the cloud was heading out to sea and there was a
candle in the sky and it the morning star. Come out of the sea black and
the east and the cloudbank a square rigger like a story, the sails close-
reefed and her all wet and white and gleaming like the newborn. Across
my eyes she sails and then turns in for Chester and the main shore, the
swells still up and the spray at the prow a high and a jumping white fire
and I saw her go until there were no difference between her or the sea or
the land or the sky. So I went up to Daddy, taking my time on the stairs.
I straightened out his arms and his legs and settled his head on the
pillow. His eyes had opened up a bit so I closed them again with my right
hand and saw my fingers had been burnt. I took a blanket from his closet,
stacked up there three or four above the rack of his clothes a bunch of
them, and I lay down on the oak floor beside his bed and spread it over
me. His pipe I smelled and the woodsmoke on the sweaters in his closet
and there he were, and I, and we slept together and the sea around us
coming to blue but neither of us knowing it, and I dreamed I clutched a
flintlock pistol with three revolving barrels and that a shining great sword
lay just to his hand.
in the Old Fitch bedroom
Fitch. Fitch Boy. Young Fitch.
Oh, but there's blood at the back of his head.
Fitch. Who did all this here?
I didn't. See them they. Was back of me. One man. I think.
Here's the father on the bed. We thought they'd taken him.
What are you feeling, boy?
A hammer and chisel. Trying to take. The top of my head off.
Let's get 'im onto the bed here next to his father. Someone get ahold
of his head. Go now and easy.
Mel, have we got some of them painkillers in the car? For when my
tooth is acting up?
I'll get to a wet cloth and the bottle of Motrin.
Look here under the shirt. He been kicked right hard.
Did a proper job, didn't they? Oh, men they are, in the dark and in
at the back of him, holy lifting.
You saw nothing?
I was. Trying to put out the fire.
And it's fine, all that you done was fine, a bit of wood and paint and
she'll be like new, the parlour and the porch is all.
What about Daddy?
Fine, here and fine, still looking right smart in his good suit. The
coffin only took a bit of scorchin', we put it in the den, and how d'you feel
about us putting your father in there?
The den was his favourite room.
Bound to be more people up today and wantin' to see him. A good
many ain't working and once word gets around about this here, oh, they'll
be up in droves.
Lay him out there. It's a better place than the parlour.
We'll get Doctor Slauenwhite up, Young Fitch, you may need a stitch
or two. They hit you with a board looks like.
Here now. Swallow these. And here's the water.
Thank you, Missus Langille. I need to be getting up and seeing to
Oh, I guess not. You just set and wait until the pain medication's
taken hold. Now, the wake'll go on, don't fret about that, and when
you've got your strength up, it'll be time enough to come down and say
I was going to put on the coffee.
Which we can do well enough. Lie still and get your strength up.
Now we'll take your father down and it'll give you that much more room.
in the kitchen
Mel, now here's the haddock and scallops warming, all right?
How many is out there now?
Well. There's some in the back, some on the porch and in the front
room. There has to be a hundred.
We'll cut up some of these new potatoes. Crystal, can you and Lisa
take care of them and do us up a fry? I saw there was some more fish in
one of those pans with the lid.
Here we've got three of the hundred cup perks ready.
Lo, I've brought you girls some fried fish and a mess of chips and a
few bags of buns I had in my freezer.
Bless you, Dot, right there you can set it down. Who brought all
I couldn't tell you, must of had my back turned. Well, you look out
the window and we've the whole island to feed.
It's not one of us done the fire, I know it, I'm certain that crew isn't
likely islanders at all.
I've brought you a salad, I hope you can make some use of it.
Oh my. We could use the whole garden there if someone'd pull it up.
Thank you, Elizabeth.
Have they caught the ones set light to the house?
Oh, the police come over from Chester and nosed around some but
the boy never saw who done it.
Jessica made here a soup, a corn chowder and some fresh biscuit to
go with it. She went up to look in on Young Fitch.
Thank you, Arthur. I'll put it right here on the stove and we'll keep
it warm. I do like a corn chowder when the ears are just picked.
That's what she done, yes. Our first ones are filling in right nice. Has
the doctor been?
Not yet. Well, time we started serving some of this up. Arthur, can
you tell them it's ready? And would you mind saying the grace once
they're lined up?
That'd be fine. Now, let me just get around and let every one know.
I see there the race going by, the two masters.
And a day for it and the breeze turning the sea to shining. There's
the Cove girl will be on one of the Scotch Cove boats.
Have you found the salt, Jackie? Most of the shakers are run out.
There's half a box in this cupboard and another half box on top of
I've forgotten the plates. I hope Young Fitch bought more than a
There's a whole bunch yet under the table still in the shrinkwrap.
in the front room
By God, boys, by the holy old twist.
No need to bring in the profanity, Hack, we all feel it, we got to stay
calm and let the police do their work.
Why, the police are already back ashore, what are they going to do
does those thugs come back tonight?
Well, now, they only have so many constables.
So's we let 'em go all the way this night and just burn the whole
place down. Dyin' holy dyin'.
No, we got to stay calm.
You know the stories of how he saved the Crouse girls down along
the Blue Rocks? All of them? And their sons and daughters are eating
with us today, right here out on the porch I sees a pair. That man
deserves a proper funeral and his son deserves the right to a long life.
He should of got the Order of Canada.
Well, we got no fancy politicians here to bend Ottawa's ear, but we
got what we can give him. A place in the cemetery. A plaque in the church.
Good health to his son.
You know, there was things I never told. Humiliated I was. And not
a word from Old Man Fitch to undermine me. I had my boys in a new
dory and mucking about just off Eastern Head. Got the sail up. So a squall
come right into us, no warning, and took off that sail and I lost an oar,
and so only the one. We was gonna be breached and I was praying some,
I tell you, the boys under my arms and I trying to talk off their fear. We
were gone, I knowed it, sleet and hail and fog and wind, our bare arms, I
don't know what I was thinking for an April sea. It's up, I said nothing to
the boys, but it's up. Why, I never knowed where Old Man Fitch come
from but there's his dory and he brings it right up, I hand him the boys
and climb in, kind of fall in more like, and he ties a a painter to ours and
brings us all back. No one to see it, to see what he done and thank God.
And me not man enough to own to what happened and him risking his
neck. Why, my boys are out there in the front yard with their kids and
wives and I'm going to let 'em burn down Fitch's house and toss his body
in the sea? Without one prayer of the love of God for the soul of such as
Well. Well now, Sonny Demone.
I'll not, no, I'm here as I'm sitting, I'll not, and if I have to on my own
do what's so it's only fitting and I'm fine for it, I tell you.
So. Sonny. You'll do what you'll do and what is that, tell me?
in the backyard
What did the doctor say?
Mild concussion. Rest in bed. Didn't see the need for an x-ray but
does the boy get a lot of headaches he's to go acrost to Emerge.
Terrible. During his father's wake.
Well, that's what started it all. They don't want Old Fitch buried in
Now can't they forgive and forget. It was the Himmelmans off to
Lunenburg made the point a dozen times. Their great grandfather ran the
boat. If Fitch was at the wheel, and him just a boy then, why, it would of
been Himmelman telling him how far up to go. And it wasn't just the
Heather B in close. A whole mob of them. When the wind come boats
going down, oh my, there was a hundred men or more lost. Who was
steering all them other boats I'd like to know?
Oh, they don't want to hear all that. Makes too much sense even to
men with pinprick brains. They's made up their minds. He was the only
one to come home alive.
They make it sound like he come back in a power launch. They
picked him up out at sea and another day or more and he would of been
Grandma Demone has as they went out and done a ceremony and
laid wreaths in the water and Fitch was there pale as a gull and set one in
the waves too. And his mother with him.
At least he had his mother. Whose Young Fitch left to him now?
Well. There's Ivy's daughter. Do you think?
My Sea likes him, there's no doubt of that, but she's back to Toronto
on the Monday night and no stopping her. She does the slave work, you
know, with that ChildLiberty, getting these young girls out of the sex
trade overseas, it's terrible, her heart and soul's right into that, no more
holding her back than when she's racing and a bone in her teeth.
We saw her go acrost the point. Looked to be in first.
Well, so no mother, no wife, back to Scotland for him.
Martha Bushen, you know what. They say May was getting letters.
I shouldn't talk about it.
Did you see the letters?
I don't have a one of them to prove anything to any of you. May
kept them to herself and for all I know she burned every last one before
she died. Young Fitch's mother had stopped writing and May swore the
obituary come two or three months later, clipped from a newspaper.
Where did May send her letters?
You never wanted to go down there and find her for yourself?
Now, why would I go about doing that? It's none of my business.
Why, I can't believe it. I never heard tell of this.
And Young Fitch knows nothing?
Of course not.
This is myself talking but I think the boy has a right to know.
Oh, we can't just up and tell him a lot of fancy tales.
He has a right to know he had a mother that doted on him and
asked after him and likely prayed for him all the years he was growing up
and into a man.
It would do more harm than good.
Whose to say? It might do him a world of good. Is there any of you
here would want others to hold this all back if it was news of your
mother? Wouldn't you want the letters, to find out what she asked about,
what she thought of your grades or the skill you had with the boats?
But we don't have the letters to give him.
Why would May burn them?
Who's to know?
Maybe she put a match to them. Maybe they're locked in a
cupboard. It's her children we need to talk to.
Why, I was just serving them coffee.
We talk to them and we ask them to take a good look. Maybe they'll
let some of us help. We go over the old house bottom to top. If we find
the letters they belong to Young Fitch. What better time than during the
Oh my, that house is like a castle and all the nooks and crannies.
May was a packrat. The letters could be anywhere. If there ever was any.
The mystery'll not be solved leaning and talking over the white
picket fence. I'll just up and have a word and they can only say no.
They'll think you've gone and taken leave of your senses. A mother
for Young Fitch and she drowned a lifetime back.
at the wharf in Chester
How is it with you, Miss Cove?
Mister Selig there. Did you watch the race?
We made it in at second. It all come together well on the last leg.
Well. I want to congratulate you on that.
We have a good chance now of making a run at the trophy. The
boat that came in first yesterday was fifth today.
Miss Cove. I don't want to take the good shine off of this but there's
the news I need to be telling you about.
What news? Is it my father?
No, your father and mother, all's right with them. It's Young Fitch.
A few of those as has been making trouble for him and his father, you
know them I'm talking, they fired the house last night and burned up a
good bit of the front of it.
What about Michael? Is Michael all right?
Well. They caught him alone, you know, and they worked him over
pretty good. He's up at the house now and the doctor, Jim Slauenwhite,
he's been from East Chester.
Mister Selig. I have to get over there. Are you heading to the island
So we thought you'd want to see him and we held back the ferry an
in the Old Fitch bedroom
I read your father's Bible some and I prayed some. Easy enough for
me to say, I forgive what they done. But what about when they come
back and mean to do worse?
There's this run on hate or this run on the forgiving. You'll not have
them both at the same time. I would say my father had a lot of work in
forgiving me. But so I'm right glad he wanted to do that and not the
You were blood kin. A son to him.
Now, but my mother she had a harder time of it, and not only my
mother, but, you know, I had no love for the black heart of God, so I saw
him, none for the green-eyed devil of the sea. For a time after you was
born I thought of sealing off all the windows facing the water, just having
a wall and hanging pictures on it and shelves of crockery.
So you did not.
You loved the blue water, y'see. Loved the tide going in and out.
Did I dangle you over the water as it rushed back, pulling crabs and weed
and what with it, you would watch and not a sound and I could of held
your face to this for an afternoon and you content. Wading in it, running
in and out of the combers on the sand spit there, beachcombing, why, out
in a dory, a sailing vessel, it were all God's good light to you, like as you
heard the best things and saw what good made a world. You took me to
the sea all the lifetimes I did not have and the water covered us both up
and we come out from under and our heads into the air, taking in more
breath for another plunge, and the seawater dropping off us like little bits
of sun. I come to love what I could not love, y'see, and so I come in time
to see God in the good shining and the good waters. The sea, she's as
independent as you or I, boy, like our own free will she has and does. I
seen God come onto it all to bring life through the narrows, like the boat
threading the slim channel and the black rocks, to bring life out despite all
and everything that goes its own ways not caring about his. That much I
come to see with you gripping my hand. To love the God was the shaper
of the goodness and not he the one breaking the good down and making
the unholy night. It come much harder to love Mizzly Fitch, in the end, my
own self, yes, and forgive all I brought to pass with my heart like the fast
held blue rocks.
Why, these boys is all I been, that's it, it's all pent up in 'em yet, a
strong run of screaming black hate and every tearing reef, unheart, and
you got to give them mercy, God of mercy, all you can give.
We had this talk before a few year back. And you set it down in a
letter last Christmas as well. So I don't know as I'm a saint, Daddy. I don't
see these boys doing any forgiving or cutting me slack, only they got is
blood in their eye. Maybe I need to let her go but maybe I can't.
The ferry blew its horn, swung about, and come up to the dock. The
boys was still lashing her to and Sea was out and running the length of the
pier and onto the dirt track. Jack Selig leaped into his truck, the busted up
blue Ford, and rattled after her, finally getting her caught up and
somehow convincing her she'd get to the house quicker did she jump up
beside him. So he roared up and the people was on the lawn with the pie
and coffee backing out the way and Sea out the door and out of my sight,
here I'm at Daddy's window, and then the thundering up the stairs, like
to there was a body yelling, all hands on, and she the first up and a dozen
You're a mess, a crying mess.
Your hair is every which where again.
I'm not joking about this, Michael Fitch. You've fair ruined my day.
And we coming up second but look now at this.
I'm sorry, Sea. I expect I could of put up a scrap but I swear I never
saw him. I was at the fire in the parlour with the garden hose when I took
the hit to the back of my head.
Where's your father?
In the den now. Happy as a George's Bank handliner I would say.
Who taped up your ribs?
Ow. Slauenwhite. And the dressing back of the head. And my hand
here. That was a burn though.
Who was it? You must of known the voice of him.
What now, Michael?
I don't know.
Can I sit here at the edge of the bed? It won't bother you?
Of course it won't bother me. You think I'm out of bone china or
We come up second.
It's right good to hear that. I seen you take the lead and getting
ready to shake out the spinnaker.
You did not.
I swear. At the window here.
With what did you see all this?
Daddy's 10x50s are right on the sill.
And my hair was loose, I guess.
All over the Atlantic.
And you're the one to tie a proper knot in it.
An opportunity might come of it if you eat all your peas. So now,
Michael, so now, here's an envelope with your name on it.
Oh. That kid gave it to me last night.
And you never opened it?
When would I have done that? When the house was burning down
or when I was getting clubbed on the head?
Should I open it?
Sure, go ahead, read it out to me.
Mister Fitch. You must let nature take its course and turn Old Man
Fitch over to us. There is no point in you putting up a fight for the man
who killed your mother and murdered your real father, your mother's
lover. Michael, I'll not go on with this.
It's not you wrote it, is it? I need to hear what their thinking is, Sea.
Help me out now.
He did nothing for you in all the days of your life but lay the curse
on you as he laid it on everyone else. To keep yourself from harm you
must not put him in the cemetery. He has no right to be there. You must
also yourself stay away from the boats and especially the Lyyndae d
Darling. No Fitch has a right to take the wheel of the last salt bank
schooner. Give up Old Man Fitch, steer clear of the boats and you'll be
fine. This is the only letter we will send you. Friends of the Heather B
That was cheerful, old girl.
I can't believe anyone would write something like this to you.
Have you noticed how confused they are? They say he's not my
father and I'm not his son. Then they threaten me as if he really is my
father and I really am his son.
You really are his son.
So they're right to keep me off the Lyyndae d Darling then.
No. They're not right.
I mean according to the way they look at the world.
You'll still take the Lyyndae d out tomorrow, won't you?
For your father.
For my father, I will.
They are the strangest people. They scare me a bit.
Don't give them the pleasure. I can't believe they'll come again. The
police are into it now.
The police are a boat ride away.
The neighbours will keep an eye out.
While they're fast asleep, will they? No, Michael, you can't stay here
tonight. I'll talk to Mum. We've the spare room off Da's office.
Sea, you know I'll not leave here and it's my Daddy's wake so set
aside all that talk. All I can do is wait up and if I've every light blazing
they'll not come by.
So and if they do?
I'll talk to them. But Daddy they'll not have so I'll lock him in the
den. Oh, he'd say, this fuss over the body, I'm gone, let her go and let's
get on with the rest of our lives.
I'm putting him in the ground and there it's so, that's all, and no
more to talk over. Now, I want to go downstairs. I haven't been all day. I
want to see the people that have come by. Will you help me down?
But a thing now. When we were kids I used to lay my head in your
lap and we played some game.
Oh. And so it is Firefly. I'd trace a pattern over your face with my
fingertips and you'd have to guess what I was drawing. My fingers they
were the firefly.
I always liked it.
I think it would bring me a sea of peace if we would play that game
again for a few minutes.
Oh Michael. Lay your head here just. Now. What am I drawing?
I thought you were going to take the game seriously.
I'm very serious about this game.
So what am I drawing?
She moved her fingers in swirls, light as the air moving, I hardly felt
her skin on mine, one finger, three fingers, along my cheek and forehead
and chin and throat, up and down, I feeling it but sleeping too, then her
breath, on me and around just like the fingers, the one kiss I could not
answer because of my own dreaming, a backyard, others playing tag and
the run and the shout, but we in a corner and her fingers going round
and round and up and at ten or eleven the sweetest peace and no
thought of anything more but the light fingers and the air and the fireflies
glowing in the dark coming down and soft onto all of us.
Are you still wanting to go down?
Lie back then on your pillow here.
No, but I have to see the folk have come to pay their respects to
Daddy. You know that, Sea Gray.
I do know it.
So give me a hand here.
Down the steps we went, I leaning on her just enough to keep from
losing my balance, but once on the ground floor, I could stand free and I
had not felt so well the whole day.
in the front yard
Young Fitch here, what are you doing up?
I'm feeling much better, Mister Langille. This is a fine light, isn't it?
The ocean is the one big flame today. Thank you, everyone, for honouring
my father and I and coming out. Have you had enough to eat?
Why, it's a shame but we been feasting while you been lying up
there in pieces.
Well, one piece I am now, thank you, all of you, for bringing up all
the food. You couldn't be kinder. It's all of you have made the weekend.
You ease the grief, I'm telling you, with all your good cheer. Let me say
now that the wake will carry on as planned, I'll be at the helm of the
Lyyndae d Darling tomorrow, and I'm staying put in this house with
Daddy until we lay him to rest with a good will on the Monday.
So there was a bit of clapping and I just set myself down in a nice
white wooden chair on the front lawn and watched the sea and sky go by
and the good island people with their coffee and pie, a rhyme to that, you
see, and so the whole afternoon was a rhyme, a thousand in the water
flashing hand mirrors at us, so the look of it was, three of the tall ships, all
sails up and tight with the clear air, a thock and a thock from a body
rowing a yellow dory a hundred yard out and past the pier, the rumble of
an island car without a muffler and not tuned in 20 years, gulls in a great
white wheel over Eastern Head, some cloud heaped like a snow bank up
and north and far and at peace on the curve of the sea, I feeling the orbit
of the planet and the turn on its axis under my feet so settled I was, a man
saying one thing to me about Daddy, a woman saying another, watching
as I talked a round golden sun roll down the blue slant of the sky, the
scent of roast chicken and burgers on Daddy's old barbeque, out back
with the briquets and mesquite shavings, the colours of the air changing
and no one to notice until what scraps of cloud there was has soaked up
the red and gold and purple and put on the night show, and the sea come
to lilac and lavender.
And up the road come five men and I see in a bit it's the boys from
the lighthouse and all of them with a rifle or a shotgun over their
shoulder. I'm not telling a lie when at the same time there's a carload of the
church boys pulls up and they're all in camo or forest green and their
hunting rifles in their hands and the one with his face black and green.
The two groups looked at one another, right suspicious like, then Sam
Eisner up and says to me, pretty much standing at attention, and he the
leader of the boys holding their wake at the light, Mister Fitch, we heard
about what happened and they tell me you're not about to abandon the
house or move your father to another place.
Well, me and the boys is ready and willing to guard your house until
your father is safe and in the earth's cool breast, as the song of it goes,
with all due prayer and ceremony.
Sam, why, it's good of you but I don't think there's a need for it.
Oh, we think there is, sir, and if you don't mind we'd like to camp
out on your porch during the night and sleep it off at the light during the
Now Al Joudrey climbs out of the car with a semi-automatic shotgun
cradled in the one arm and pointing at the ground and he looking like he's
cammed up for the deer hunt or a small war in the South Pacific. Right
back of him comes Big Sonny Demone with a scoped 300 Win Mag and the
scarf over his head like a pirate and it the Nova Scotia flag.
Says Joudrey, No need for these gentlemen to carry the entire load.
The Baptist Church is ready to play its part in the fight to uphold justice
on the island. Young Fitch, some of us will take up positions in the back,
some in the front here, some by the woodshed, some in the vegetable
garden and the rose bushes.
Well, Mister Joudrey, all you boys have got to eat and drink.
We'll rotate in and out during the night for food and coffee. But we
insist that there be no bottles.
This to Sam Eisner. Sam looks Joudrey over - and Joudrey a tall man
with a bit of the garden rake to him - and says, You don't spend your
whole time in church. We don't spend our whole time drinking.
Joudrey looks back at him. They both nod. In a minute there's three
men in chairs on the front porch and another in a rocker and the others
heading out back. Two of the boys on the porch is Baptists and the other
two are down from the wake at the light. The sun is gone into the sea
now and the dark comes walking in off the water and strides out over the
island. Three, four, five stars is out and the rest take to spreading from
one end of the sky to the other as the notion strikes them. It's that fine
dark blue that's lit from inside with what's left of the day's sun.
Everybody has gone inside but a few come back out with Coke and
burgers for those as is guarding the house.
on the porch
Name's Solly Chute. This here's X Cross.
I know some of your folk, Solomon. I'm Christopher Stevens and
this is Willy Gow.
Why, Willy, I know some of your family ashore.
Them as runs the boat shop by Bridgewater.
You go in there, do you?
All the time. I keep patching up Fat Gull and she keeps bringing in
the mackerel and lobster.
How is it with that?
Oh, there's money in it but the lobster sea is a cold sea, you know,
so but it pays for the trip to the Keys come February.
So it would.
You guess those boys'll be back tonight?
I don't think. Not when they see that hunting season is open early.
What gets into their heads? Makes no sense to me, Chris Stevens.
Why, they got no kind of faith in anything and it's plain superstition,
that's all, plain superstition and no forgiving. Can't get along in God's
world that way.
No, nor any world.
Who's that on the road?
No headlights and a tall aerial bent in the middle.
She your sister, X?
Can't you help her get a new car?
Oh, she don't want one. I tried it. She likes her Lincoln Continental.
How's the engine in that?
Engine's good. Four hundred thousand and ticks like a Grandfather
Clock. That's miles, you know, and the seats are leather, no splits or cuts,
oh no, no getting that away from her, I spend my money on myself where
it's most appreciated and never wasted.
Who's that now?
One light on high beam. Sparks and all streaming out the rear like
she's been hit by flak. Squealin' in the power steering. Old Pop Demone.
And the car behind him is Hack Dorey's boy Wick.
Oh, Wick. There's a handful. Where do you get a name like Wick?
Off a storm lantern.
And you got that name, you know, I never figured it out.
Easy enough. X for Exodus.
I swear on a stack of Bibles.
Who gave you that?
Nana Cross. She was always one for the Good Book. My brother
Timmy? With the chimney sweep business in Peggy's Cove and
thereabouts? He's a middle name he goes by and so to everyone he's Lev.
So it's short for Leviathan. Timothy Leviathan Cross.
And my little brother at the university in Wolfville? Another L. Two
as a matter of fact. Leviticus Lazarus. Royal Leviticus Lazarus Apocalypse
Go on. And what does he go by?
Roy. Saves us all a lot of trouble. Of course on government forms,
well, there he's got his work cut out for him. I expect he'll change his name
one day but not while Nana Cross is still with us. And she has no intention
in the den
There's this thing about the grief. You got everybody around you
and the kitchen full of people and plates of chicken and it's gone
somewhere you can't feel but as a faraway stone rolled up against a wall
inside. You can laugh and talk and carry on and it's like nothing bad has
happened. Suddenly the stone rolls loose and slams up into your throat
and hard against your skull so your throat swells and your eyes burn and
right then the person is dead again and the good green grass is mud and
ruts, the sky overhead has lost colour, and hot food and the beautiful
woman's face they mean nothing, nothing at all. You don't want to sleep
and if you do sleep you don't want to get up. What do you have to look
forward to? What excited you before the death is dead too. I'm standing
at the reef and the mother of pearl of the waves takes on God's good
light and the silver and the diamonds and the gold is swirling around my
feet but all of it is harsh winter and the waves granite. Others see the
sparkle and the flash and try and cheer you up. But you been struck blind
and the good life is gone to you, what you see is grey patterns on grey
I wrote a sentence down in Scotland at the airport while I was
waiting for my flight - The walls go higher than the eye. So and that is
true. I can't see my way clear when the grief is on me, I can't see a way
out, and no matter how others try to rationalize, meaning well, Michael,
you'll feel better in the morning, time heals all wounds, you'll see him
again, well, I got no sense of freedom, no sense of breath, I feel chained
down and caught, there's a deaf jailer smoking a cigarette and his back to
me and he looking at a small square window and the glass in the window
dirty and streaked and what he's looking at it is a wall.
on the back steps
How is it with you tonight?
Not a good night.
You shouldn't feel you've got to do another story tonight if you're
not up for it.
Oh, I'll do the story. I see the kids there waiting. Another hour and
I'll do the story.
Look you, I don't want to add to your grief. But the museum called
me today and there's been a change of plans. They got someone else to
steer the boat.
I had nothing to do with it. Didn't even see it coming.
But I worked on the boat. Daddy and I worked on the boat.
I know it.
He sold the boat to them. Sold, why he practically gave it to them,
and he took no wages for the two years he did the restoration work.
Young Fitch, I argued with them up one side and down t'other. It
did no good. Someone's bent their arm and they won't move an inch. A
liability issue and the insurance coverage. I tried to shame 'em but I guess
there's some as got no shame in 'em.
So what is it, Mister Dorey? A body comes along with a big
donation for the museum and says he don't want Fitch on the boat and
The men who burned the house?
No telling. The museum'll have to disclose the funds they received, if
that's the way of it, but if the donor's anonymous you'll never get a name
or a face.
But it goes out tomorrow at four.
And all the tall ships with it?
Everything has been set down to a T and the forecast is fine. The
only change is the helmsman. I'm sorry, Young Fitch, God knows it makes
the stomach sick, and I told 'em I'm done with 'em once this Festival's
over, I'll not volunteer for their likes again. The craven worm crawling
slack bellied gull gutted pop eyed dogfish.
I don't know as I can stand here and watch it sail past Eastern Head
and some stranger setting her course. Hack, he'll be the last one to sail her
and then the vessel'll go into dry dock for the rest of its life. Some body
had nothing to do with the boat and never stepped her spars and he'll do,
take her to sea and fill her lungs and top off her sails for the last time? It
can't be endured, I don't know as I can bear it, she her last chance at
liberty and some thick mudded mainlander grabbing the wheel like its
some fat hogshead of cheap Dartmouth ale.
It goes in cruel, I know it, and there's no good way of getting it out.
I got enough funerals for the weekend and now this here another
Is it me you want to tell the others?
No. No, I'll do it, not just yet but I'll do it.
Sam Eisner and Scrap Bushen has it that you promised the boys
they'd be crewing.
Yeah, I told them that last night.
They won't understand.
Well, that's right good, Mister Dorey, because I'm not
understanding it either and Daddy now will go to his grave
understanding it even less, there's a bad grim Monday morning for me.
in the Young Fitch bedroom
Here you are.
I am so.
How are you feeling?
So you look like a squall beating up against the North Shore cliffs.
Sometimes his death sits on my chest like a rock.
I'm sorry, Michael. You get hardly any time to yourself. I'll see you
You know, Friday I'm chopping wood out back and I'm asking
myself if Robert Frost ever wrote a poem about it, you know, the
chopping, but I couldn't think of any so I thought my own one up and
later I put it down in my notebook, this here where I set down my poems.
So now we have this hardcover of Frost's poetry and it was sitting by my
lamp and two book markers in it, the one at The Wood-Pile, from North
of Boston, the other at The Ax-Helve, and it from New Hampshire. So we
have this, It was a cord of maple, cut and split and piled - and measured,
four by four by eight. And not another like it could I see. No runner
tracks in this year's snow looped near it. And it was older sure than this
year's cutting, or even last year's or the year's before. The wood was
gray - with an a by the way - and the bark warping off it and the pile
somewhat sunken. Clematis had wound strings round and round it like a
bundle. And so on. But nothing about the chopping of the wood. So the
other poem goes, This was a man, Baptiste, who stole one day behind me
on the snow in my own yard where I was working at the chopping block,
and cutting nothing not cut down already. He caught my ax expertly on
the rise, when all my strength put forth was in his favor, held it a moment
where it was, to calm me, then took it from me - and I let him take it.
Wouldn't you think Frost would have written more about cutting up
wood? A New Englander and a man who would've cut his share of cords
in a lifetime? But this is as close as I've seen him get and it's not that close
and the portions aren't that long.
In Montreal I come very homesick and I was phoning Mum every
night. I started writing all kinds of poems. I looked back on them later
and, do you know, there wasn't one about the sea. But when I came
home that first summer the first thing that made me happy was getting
into Chester and seeing ocean spreading out over the whole wide world.
Now why didn't I write about it? It's what I missed the most.
You never wrote a one?
Not the first year. That summer at home I did.
You must of memorized a few.
What makes you say that?
D'you want to hear one? Is that it?
The boat turns in a cove like a gull in the air
Or earth around a sun
The same ryhthms, the same grace
I see in the eyes of a face
Staring from the smooth water of a cup
Dipped in a sea that holds no human feature
Not a human heart but only the holy sea creature
Well. I'm impressed.
Are you? Do you like it?
It has a good flow. A good mystery to it. Anything else? You're
cheering me up.
Glad to help.
A white cloud rests on the sea's round bend
My hand on an infant's pale head
My dream on the cycle of a life
My prayer on the circle of the earth
I am astonished.
I swear. You must have a chapbook.
Can you not put one by my bed tonight?
I'll phone Mum to bring a copy to the house. What are you doing
And his ship Hurricane Jane?
It has sailed for Mahone Bay.
And Oak Island.
There you have it. You can tell the story.
Oh, I probably could, you wrapped my head around it for years. Do
you know I always thought his ship was called Hurricane Jane? Until I
saw a documentary on PBS.
Fiction cannot be limited by facts.
And blue pennyroyal is an herb, not a ship.
Our island is named after an herb. Did you ever wonder where that
wild patch came from on South Point?
Captain Kidd? The Latin name for blue pennyroyal is mentha
pulegium. It's a mint. In the old days they thought it should be hung up in
your room because the aroma was healthier to breathe than roses. Used it
to stuff hogs' puddings too, whatever those are, and I don't want to
know what they are, Michael Fitch. And old blue false pennyroyal isn't a
What about Run by the Ground or Lurk in the Ditch?
And those are other names for pennyroyal.
So you've been at your homework. Well, tonight I have a twist for
you. You won't be ready for this one.
Will I not?
It would not dawn on you in a hundred years.
You up and found a map of Oak Island on an old library shelf in
Scotland. You met a relative of Captain Kidd who has his diary and some
crudely drawn charts. You bought Oak Island and dug up the treasure
last summer when I wasn't here. There's a Sable Island pony feeding in the
meadow by West Mountain and it's moon white and it's for me.
Well now. An imagination you have.
Am I close?
Not so far off, no. We should head down. But here's the thing now.
Who marked the book of Frost's poems? I haven't seen that copy in ten
years. Daddy's coffee ring is still on the page with To The Thawing Wind
and I see my pencil note in the margin of The Kitchen Chimney. Is this
I swear not.
Captain Kidd then?
The stars tonight are thicksilver with mystery and I must from the
shelf pull down the old charts and log, from the cupboard bring the brass
sextant that elongates my blue eye, the compass that swears to true north,
from the chest all manner of flintlock and coat and feather, round about
me bind a belt of leather, go find at the wharf my one true light, a lantern
bright and high in the rigging, a prow restless at a knotted cable, sails lean
and skinned to the bone, honed, a great hunger over all planking and
caulking and canvas, chip of moon at the back of my brain, I must break
with land, have done, and take to sea limited only by the I that is me, no
wind or tide or hidden reef, no man living, no ship carved by hands, no
golden wind, no unwalked sand.
in the front room
One time my Daddy comes tramping into the house in his wet and
muddy wellies, something he never done, and dragged me into the den, I
guess I was fourteen, and caught up in The Silver Wicked Sword of
George Cross's Curse, you know, by Blenn, and he has these rolls of
paper and old books under his coat, so he lays them all out on the
desktop. He has been ransacking the island teacher's library, with her
permission of course, so he says, and she away to a conference in
Moncton, and he shuts the door to and closes the the windows and pulls
the blinds right tight, all of that, like we's in some story, and puts on only
the one small desk lamp, and outside the wind is picking up and now and
then the house shakes from a bellyfull of gusts. He unrolls a chart and
says, Look here, and he points to an island in Mahone Bay. So Oak Island,
Now, boy, here is this other map. What's that here?
Oak Island again.
So it says.
So compare the two. The one on this map and t'other.
Oh, compare as to shape, distance from shore, in relation to the
Why, they are not the same size or shape or anything.
Yet they are both called Oak Island.
I see that.
Look to the dates on the maps.
This older one is, so, it is 1666.
Not the original, I don't think, but a copy of the true.
The other is 1810. I don't get it.
D'you not? Plain and simple as a knot in a rope. This is the Oak
Island we know on the 1810 map. Here we have the the old Oak Island on
the 1666 map, the Oak Island we do not know, so named at the time of
the early European settlement, y'see, and at the time of Captain Kidd and
the jolly killers who sailed under the black flag, ah, but times have changed
and it has taken on a different moniker.
What we call Oak Island was not the island Kidd called Oak Island.
You mean it's not there anymore?
Oh, it's there, but it was renamed. Rum Island it is now. Look at the
1810 map. Look at Rum Island. Does it look familiar?
It is the same island as that they call Oak Island on the 1666 chart.
What are you telling me?
Nothing but that people been mucking about on an Oak Island that
never was an Oak Island to Captain William Kidd.
But there's shafts and traps and a dead man's hand.
So there is. And who dug all that, God himself knows. But here, this
Rum Island, this is the Oak Island of the black flag.
Daddy, you're pulling my legs out of their joints and twisting my
The next foggy day we take the tools we need and fetch Scurvy and
out to Pubnico, a day's trip, and ready to work all night till dawn. For we
would have to be clear of the island by first light or the locals would
Are there people on Rum Island?
Not a one. But who's to know who's watching from shore or what
fishermen may be about? Think on it, boy, the Crown Jewels of France,
the very so, and what would France not give as a reward to the great
heroes who brought them back? To make no mention of the gold.
Is there a treasure map as well then?
Say no word to another. To none of your schoolmates. Not a breath
to Sea Gray Cove. Deep in your young guts store it. When the fog comes,
and it will be by soon enough, Scurvy will take us to Old Oak Island, and
so into the trees we will go with lamps that cannot be seen from shore,
fork and spade and mattock we will carry, and God bless us on the Oak
Island treasure we'll lay our hands, the treasure hidden from human eye
for three hundred years now.
But do we have a treasure map?
From under a book he pulled an old drawing, a copy of a copy of a
copy, he said it, and this ancient as the Sphinx itself, so he tapped it with a
brass spyglass he had to hand, This is where William Kidd will talk to us,
oh, he will talk, burning as he is in hell, he will talk. Think of the chase. The
King's ships corner him, the Blue Pennyroyal, the Red Pennyroyal, HMS
Ferocious with four hundred and forty three cannon and four decks, five
maybe, who can say, and Old Blue False Pennyroyal beside, Kidd had no
time for shafts and beams and flooded chambers, the moon is fat, the
night bright, he has only minutes, maybe an hour, he lands a crew on the
Oak Island of the 17th century, a nothing of a place the Brits will never
search, he makes a quick excavation, in go the Crown Jewels, in go what
gold he has aboard Hurricane Jane, he covers the hole well, blows out the
crew's brains, maybe runs one or two through, makes his way back to
Jane on his own. Then they flee for the squadron is upon them. A blazing
gun battle, is it not so? One broadside from Ferocious will sink the coast of
Nova Scotia. Snap, crack, boom, d'you recall the thunderstorm the other
midnight, heaven afire and the rock of the cannonades and to making the
panes in our windows rottle and rattle and hum, oh, run out the guns,
Kidd, or the squid will dine on your liver and kidneys this night, so it
looks bad for the black flag until the captain of Old Blue False Pennyroyal
turns his cannon on Blue Pennyroyal and brings down her mainmast, for
his pockets are round with Kidd's French silver. So Old Blue swings his
guns onto Red Pennyroyal too and makes a dice of her rigging and
waterline. Yet, you have to wonder, does Captain Weasel not think HMS
Ferocious has guns? They run out a broadside of two hundred and
twenty two, ORAY! they shout, for that is how I read they did, and hell
grips Old Blue by the throat as three, four, five, six, seven tons of iron,
what would you make it to be, it come crying and howling and, oh, the
moaning groaning, and cleave the traitor twain, swift as a man undoes the
eight buttons of his pea coat in a shrieking hot room. Down goes Old Blue
and not a man to rise and make shore and spend his French silver. But
Hurricane Jane too is long gone, east and south to the Caribb, while
Ferocious must nurse her mates into Halifax. And a month, a year, Kidd is
again to Old Oak Island, and diamonds go back into the ground, maybe
he works on the camouflage a fair bit, deepens the hole, makes a pit of
poisoned stakes, sets up a nest of rattlers and black widows, who knows
for sure, fastens a curse by the blood of the brains he blows out again,
back and back to the island he comes and no one the wiser, until the day
the Brits get him and back to England and hung by the neck and purple
dead, but I swear he told a man, and did that man not go through
channels and quietly change the island's name from Oak to Rum, so the
secret would be his, and did another island not take the name Oak for the
trees that grew to it a long time ago, and did another not put a dagger
through that man's heart for he had the secret from him and so down and
down through the generations, the falling blood and the Crown Jewels
and the unnamed name of the island not a body looks at twice, so now to
us, keep it deep, boy, do not whisper in your sleep, do not even dream,
so a crow hear you and take flight to another that fattens it with corn and
lines its nest with silver spoons.
Oh so, the boy of me had those nights, half thrilled and half terrified
out of my skin, I tell you, I slept with my long thin filleting knife with the
black hockey tape on the grip. The sense of it I had was this man had
heard it from Kidd, then mentioned it to another who wound up killing
him, and then this man had the secret till another found out somehow and
sliced and diced him, and so this throat cutting and back stabbing and
brains blowing and dark of the night bloodletting gone on from
generation to generation right up to the present day, y'see, so who was
looking in our windows when the lights was done and we to bed and
dead to the world? I made sure as every door was locked the night after
Daddy was up the stairs, and I put chairs to the knobs front and back and
tacks under the windows, which Daddy got a couple I did not collect the
one morning, but so he took this in good spirit and boasted it give him the
proper pirate limp, and that it done right enough.
Well, it did not take long and we had our day, the old boys' tick of
fog, Scurvy took us out to Pubnico smart enough, the night a new moon,
black as tar, no trouble finding the island so there was a certain spit and a
jumble of boulders to it Daddy knew all about, and he cut the engine and
we rowed in from a hundred yard, no sound but I swear to you as I'm
standing, I heard the rowing of another and the thud, thud of the oars in
the locks, but Daddy said I was taking in too many movies on the
Saturday, so we beached her and headed into the trees, a good amount
of them there was, and then switched on our flashlights and made our
way through the mist and the damp cold, for it were October, I remember
Hallowe'en was up the week after.
Now the map supposed we come in from the southwest, not the
east, so we had to tramp all to the other side and start in again from
there, scratched we were, wet, muddied up, but now you will say, oh, go
on, Young Boy Fitch, but I tripped and put my hand through a rusty old
blade at the base of a tree, had to get a tetanus for it, and a fellow at
Dalhousie told us it was late 17th century configuration, he did, Professor
Gorett-Gorrett, Daddy's got it stuck away somewheres yet. So I had a
cloth around my hand for that. Look you, we puzzled over this and we
puzzled in and up the chimney pot, but we made our way to a clump of
oak, I swear, not short ones neither, there we found an old square bottle
in the light of the light, thick of glass, I say, and the old long saw blade
they used to stick into handles of wood and two men go at it, rusted to
crust, well, a hundred paces from there, four circles made wider and
wider, then to port, I can't remember what all, no, I'm not playing secrets
with you, it's more than ten year since, but we come to a digging place
and we went to her, pick and mattock first, then the shovels and spades.
It was, what, three in the morning, and the fog going, we had to get off
Old Oak Island by six, clunk, we hit an old axe head, smack, a lot of old
beer bottles and part of a deck of playing cards, then nothing, just dig and
dig, and we had to take a break at four, so I rooted around just with my
foot over by a bunch of thorn bushes, and here, you always got to be
thinking, how has everything changed in three hundred year, what's
fallen down, what's up and grown, so I hit something that crunches to my
boot, I shine down and I think it's bird bone or cat, though so how's a cat
here, and Daddy's come over and picks up a human finger bone with two
rings to it, both white gold, so we found out, and the one with seven
emeralds. Oh my, can you imagine? We went at it, tore up the wild rose
bush it was, did it with the pick and, thunk, yes, wood and rotten, ten
silver coins, I swear, French on them, a few loose pearls, a cup of gold,
though so beat to some, flints, right small and cut nice for use in a pistol.
Now the bottom was through of the chest and there was a mess of sand
and rock beneath, it were a half hour to six, we gave it one last go and
dug under, at ten to the hour Daddy says stop and kneels and fishes out
of the sand a half circle of yellow gold studded with sapphire and emerald
and ruby, oh, it's a part of a crown, he goes, and the boom boom boom of
shotguns and we jumps out of our bones, hunters just offshore to the
south of us, going after the sea duck, all we could do, shove what we
found in the garbage bag we brought along, throw dirt around to cover
the digging, and light out for Scurvy. We got lost once or twice in the
woods and I thought we'd never get off unseen for the sun was coming,
and the day clear as a window, then we find the boat and in and paddling
off, and going live with the outboard and giving her, them hunters still
banging away, oh, home, the treasure at our feet and our hearts
whacking, but true I'm telling you, Daddy has it all yet here in the house,
don't ask me where, he used to pull it out once a year on the night of
New Year's Day, and all polished up the rings and half crown, and we'd
drink from the cup, and he'd get out the treasure map and we'd make the
plans for going back but we never did, life gets past you, it's one thing or
another, we did try the once and there were people on the beach, a fire
roaring, their sailboat anchored, singing Me and Bobby McGee, so we
turned around and said, next week, but no, that night were the end of it,
and I guess Billy Kidd is laughing on the gallows yet, did you know the
stretchneck was a Scot, so but a lowland Scot for all of that.
on the porch
Are you off to bed then, Young Fitch?
I don't feel well about sleeping while you boys are here sitting all
hours in the dark.
Go on, it's a fine night, and we saw one of the tall ships just slip past
X is full of stories, y'see.
And Willy Gow is not? You can live on an island all your life and not
know a neighbour you would of been better off knowing for years.
Well, but your story kept us entertained, Young Fitch. We've a mind
to head out that way next weekend and a few shovels with us in the back
of the boat.
How d'you figure this Oak Island we got now, Young Boy Fitch? A
decoy or what?
Sol, I would say that was too much work to be a decoy. Think of
doing all that by hand three hundred year ago. Wasn't something any
man done in a week or a month or any count of men. I'm inclined to
believe we got more than one treasure.
Well, but sure this Old Oak Island, they wouldn't of made both so
hard to get at? How would you ever get it out to spend it else?
There are secret ways of getting in and out that we know nothing
about and the men that did long dead and murdered. Does someone
stumble on an entrance or meet up with a cheerful ghost we may see some
colour in Mahone Bay yet.
Mister Fitch, there is a lady at the back of the house wants to see
Why, thank you Mister Langille, and who is it?
Well, now, that I can't say as she is wrapped up head to foot and a
hood down over her face. But she asked to see you. Won't come no closer
than the garden plot.
So I gone around the side of the house and had I not been looking I
would not have seen the woman for her clothing was as dark as the hour.
She was just to the other side of the vegetable garden and the swing.
When I come onto her she backed up a little and then stood still.
Hello, Missus, have you come to pay your respects to my father?
And up behind her comes the light and the hand holding the lantern,
close as I ever seen it, and something flies across the half moon there was,
and all of this must of come into my face because the woman laughs and
it's the laugh Sea has, and she throws back her hood so her skin and hair
is gleaming white.
by the garden
The men are grinning back of me and Sea puts her arms around my
neck and smiling.
So it's not often anyone gets you but there I take a point. You look
like you seen a ghost.
But I turned to the men and I says, Anyone see the light there up
the trail to the reef?
They were at still having a grinning at putting one over and shook
their heads but one and that Dan Mitton.
You see it Mister Mitton?
What did you see?
I don't know. A storm lantern it but no face behind. A hand I seen
and an arm. Look, a body in oilskins it was, y'know, the old kind our
grandfathers wore, that's it.
Go on, Dan, now you're in on something with Young Boy Fitch just
so's he can get us back.
Ay, tryin' to spook us you are, hey?
You seen a shooting star, no more.
Leave it, Dan. Joke's a joke and it's over and Young Fitch survived.
Sea squeezed the back of my neck with her hand.
You're not going to play the sore loser, are you?
No, but there was a light up the path. I saw it last night.
Wouldn't it be someone walking their dog?
I don't think.
Fine. Then why don't you walk me back to the reef and we'll look
I don't mind walking back. But we'll not find anything.
Because you aren't sure you saw a body with a storm lantern
dressed in oilskins from 1926?
Because we'll not find anything. But I'm up to stretching my legs.
Boys, we'll head back to the reef for a bit.
Why, Young Boy Fitch, I don't believe that'd be safe.
Oh, Sam, I'm sure it will be. I'll see you boys in an hour or two.
Thank you again for guarding my father. It's very special what you are all
doing for my family this night.
Well, it's you we're guarding too, Young Fitch.
You keep your eyes about you.
on the trail
We headed down and at first she held my hand, then she didn't and
then she did again. The stars and half moon gave some light. The trail
goes through open field and into some bush and then there's a taste of
forest before you get to the flat rock and pebble. We moved quick
enough, not saying much at the beginning of it, but a bird come across our
path and Sea and I jumped up and laughed and so the words came.
It was just to loosen you up some, Michael.
Oh Sea, I'm not on about that. It was good. I had no idea who you
were. I kept thinking, Who is it I'm supposed to know, what is their
name? You looked taller.
These boots have the thick heels.
How is the walking with them?
Let's slow a bit.
Michael. There is something back there. There is. Now I'm spooked.
Why, there is something back there, Miss Cove. Two of the boys are
Sam Eisner for sure. I'm not a hun'red percent certain but I've a
thought the other is Al Joudrey.
The whole time we're back at the reef?
I would say.
Well, there'll be not much in it for you when we spot the moon on
D'you think I'm going to kiss and carry on and put up a show for
everyone on the entire island?
Two. I said two men, Sea Gray.
Oh, and they won't breathe a word to another soul, will they?
Their wives maybe.
Their wives maybe. The first thing that'll come out of their mouths
back at the house will be what they see at the reef.
So what are they going to see?
Nothing. You can be sure of it. Nothing but strangers on the shore.
A ring to that.
We spoke no more and she mad at me about it all until we come
through the last trees and onto the rock and pebbles and the rushing back
and forth of the stones.
at the reef
The great Atlantic swell was in a mood to cradle the island and rock
it with whispers and long low murmurings that spoke of Africa and the
Cape of Good Hope, of Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, Barbados and
Brazil. Warm was the breeze and a hint of sugar cane, molasses and rum
in it, and what hair Sea still had bound up in a twist come loose and
flowed back from her face lit with silver. All the hours from dusk the
lesser lights had emerged in the ocean that swept and spread over our
heads and so its twin below had turned over in her sleep and taken
around her smooth shoulder like a blanket the soft shine of the stars and
with her breath brought into her body the white gold of a small moon. So
the light moved toward us everytime the sea exhaled and so the gleaming
breath rolled over our feet. The stones came with the breath and left as
the twin took in more of her sister's silver air and all the spotted light of
her constellations, those markers that bobbed overhead and guided all
sky vessels to harbour and channel and berth. I felt I ought to lie down on
a flat sheet of rock, smooth already during the voyages of Odysseus and
Agamemnon, and let the sea breathe out its shining breath over all my
body and so also my eyes and mouth, leaving nothing untouched, no part
of me unblessed. And then I did this and the first small waves, no larger
than a slender woman's hands, ran up and over me and through my hair
and left for a moment that I might see the holy night, then came again to
soothe and cleanse and make new, my face and hands, with each sea,
turning, by measured degrees, to mother of pearl. So did Sea lie down
beside me and hold my left hand and so did the waters touch us both and
cover us and then release us that the waters above might cover us too in a
I said, The sea is his, and he made it, and his hands formed the dry
And Sea responded, Who coverest thyself with light as with a
garment, who stretchest out the heavens like a curtain, who layeth the
beams of his chambers in the waters, who maketh the clouds his chariot,
who walketh upon the wings of the wind.
The earth is full of thy riches, so is this great and wide sea, wherein
are things creeping innumerable, both small and great beasts.
There go the ships, there is that leviathan, whom thou hast made to
He maketh a path to shine after him, one would think the deep to be
They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great
waters, these see the works of the Lord, and his wonders in the deep.
They cry unto the Lord in their trouble, and he bringeth them out of
their distresses. He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof
Then are they glad because they be quiet, so he bringeth them unto
their desired haven.
And God created great whales, and every living creature that
moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind. And
God blessed them, saying, Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in
And God created the great whales, and each soul living, each that
crept, which plenteously the waters generated by their kinds. Milton.
Forthwith the sounds and seas, each creek and bay, with fry
innumerable swarm, and shoals of fish, that with their fins and shining
scales glide under the green wave, in sculls that oft bank the mid sea, part
single, or with mate, graze the sea weed their pasture, and through
groves of coral stray, or sporting with quick glance show to the sun their
wav'd coats dropt with gold.
Or in their pearly shells at ease attend moist nutriment, or under
rocks their food in jointed armour watch, on smooth the seal and blended
Part huge of bulk, wallowing unwieldy, enormous in their gait,
tempest the ocean, there Leviathan, hugest of living creatures, on the
deep stretch'd likea promontory sleeps, or swims and seems a moving
land, and at his gills draws in, and at his trunk spouts out a sea.
They say the sea is cold, but the sea contains the hottest blood of all,
and the wildest, the most urgent. D.H. Lawrence.
All the whales in the wider deeps, hot are they as they urge on and
on, and dive beneath the icebergs. The right whales, the sperm whales,
the hammerheads, the killers there they blow, hot wild white breath out
of the sea.
And over the bridge of the whale's strong phallus, linking the
wonder of whales the burning archangels under the sea keep passing,
back and forth, keep passing archangels of bliss from him to her, from her
to him, great Cherubim that wait on whales in mid-ocean, suspended in
the waves of the sea great heaven of whales in the waters, old hierarchies.
And enormous mother whales lie dreaming suckling their whale-
tender young and dreaming with strange whale eyes wide open in the
waters of the beginning and the end.
And all this happiness in the sea, in the salt where God is also love,
but without words.
There is a memory stays upon old ships, a weightless cargo in the
musty hold, of bright lagoons and prow-caressing lips, of stormy
midnights, and a tale untold. They have remembered islands in the dawn,
and windy capes that tried their slender spars, and torturous channels
where their keels have gone, and calm blue nights of stillness and the
stars. David Morton.
Ah, never think that ships forget a shore, or bitter seas, or winds
that made them wise. There is a dream upon them, evermore. And there
be some who say that sunk ships rise to seek familiar harbors in the night,
blowing in mists, their spectral sails like light.
They who possess the sea within their blood have blood that
courses with an endless motion, deep in its surging, like a tide at flood
from out of the ocean. Marguerite Janurin Adams.
They hold the blue spray-water in their veins that hints no crimson
torn from leaf or berry, neither the flame of sumach nor the stain of the
At length did cross an Albatross, thorough the fog it came, as if it
had been a Christian soul, we hailed it in God's name. Coleridge.
It ate the food it ne'er had eat, and round and round it flew. The ice
did split with a thunder-fit, the helmsman steered us through.
And a good south wind sprung up behind, the albatross did follow,
and every day, for food or play, acme to the mariners' hollo.
In mist or cloud, on mast or shroud, it perched for vespers nine,
whiles all the night, through fog-smoke white, glimmered the white moon-
I lay on the bowsprit, facing astern, with the water foaming into
spume under me, the masts with every sail white in the moonlight,
towering high above me. Eugene O'Neil.
I became drunk with the beauty and the singing rhythm of it, and
for a moment I lost myself - actually lost my life.
I was set free.
I dissolved in the sea, became white sails and flying spray, became
beauty and rhythm, became moonlight and the ship and the high dim-
I belonged, without past or future, within place and unity and a wild
joy, within something greater than my own life, or the life of man, to Life
To God, if you want to put it that way.
And the earth was without form, and void, and darkness was upon
the face of the deep.
And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.
And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters,
and let it divide the waters from the waters.
And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were
under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament,
and it was so.
And God called the firmament Heaven.
And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered
together unto one place, and let the dry land appear, and it was so.
And God called the dry land Earth, and the gathering together of
the waters called he Seas.
And God saw that it was good.
So we rose from the sea and held on to each other until the blood
warmed us and we stood under the moon.
I said, You remembered all the poems.
All of them.
And God saw that it was some good, you.
I wonder what time it is.
She put her lips against my mouth and gripped me with her arms so
that my ribs began to ache again.
I asked, What about the two?
Her lips, her ear, her throat I kissed, and the hollow between her
neck and shoulder like the hollow between two waves, and her hair too,
wet and salty, but like a fresh green clover too, and her hands and fingers
I put to my mouth also. She put her arms up under the back of my shirt
and sweater but they were not cold. Her eyes were dark as the spaces
between the stars.
I said quietly, Your slightest look easily will unclose me, though I
have closed myself as fingers, you open always petal by petal myself as
Spring opens (touching skilfully, mysteriously) her first rose.
She responded, It is e.e. cummings, and so, Nothing which we are to
perceive in this world equals the power of your intense fragility.
Whose texture compels me with the colour of its countries, rendering
death and forever with each breathing.
I do not know what it is about you that closes and opens.
Only something in me understands the voice of your eyes is deeper
than all roses. Nobody, not even the rain, has such small hands.
Michael, I want you to walk me along the shore, right around the
east end of the island.
That will take hours.
I have hours.
What about your race?
The race is late.
Church is early.
And it is already early.
around the east end of the island
So we made our way along the edge of the sea, sometimes in the
water, sometimes out of it and on rock or pebble or grass, our shoes off
and our socks left on a thorn bush for another day, our sweaters too we
lay flat on a boulder orange with lichen and left, so the night warmth and
morning air dried what we wore, and the rhythm of our blood helped,
and soon the dawn too, making a slit in the black and pouring light
through and a heat that dropped onto us from above where once stars
had been. But all this took time.
Our two bodyguards did their best to follow us unseen, we heard
the crack of breaking branches they trod underfoot, saw the birds shriek
up in alarm, heard a bit of cussing when they both fell into the cranberry
bog. We will have to do something nice for those two, said Sea, and
something nice for all the boys who have guarded your father through
the night. How about we cook them up a breakfast that is a wonder of
the world? That sounds right, I told her, we'll back at the house before
eight and time enough before church at eleven. Which I want to be at the
church early, at ten, she said, just to sit in the quiet and listen to God's
Five of the tall ships come up out of the north from Chester harbour
and all of them thunderheads of white sail in the soft morning air. White
and white and green and red and black was the colour they put on the
water, depending on the paint of their hull, and it seemed they was
having a race for the fun of it, and the sea break creaming up and back
and over their prows. The gulls followed like a swirl of snowflakes.
There is beauty, Michael, and no engine but the Godwind and no
sound but the talking water.
Well, there is plenty of beauty to go around this morning.
Freckles had started across her nose in all the sun and wind of the
racing and you could just spot them under the Spanish gold of the sea tan
working its way through her face and hands and streaking the strands of
her hair. She squinted up at me in the waxing sun.
Is it so?
Sea, you are as lovely as any ship silky white with sail and up and
alive in the morning colour.
Make up a poem for me then.
I've written lots of poems.
No. Right now. Here. Off the top of your head.
Oh, I can't do that.
Of course you can. Speak me a poem and I swear I'll give you a kiss.
That you've already done.
Not a kiss like this, Michael Row The Boat Ashore.
I sat down on a smooth rock and she stood behind me near a wild
rose bush. I was looking east out over and I could see Daddy's old light
and the new one further off shore in the zig zag of the waves, could see
the backs of the ships like marble pillars heading into the dawn with a land
breeze on them, took in all the blue shining above and below me, and
started to talk to a woman who had come this night out of the sea.
Where the waves come and schools of silver fish, now you come too
with the seashell of your skin and your hair trailing deep, up from rooms
of jade and indigo, up from laughter of sea horse and angel fish, all waters
of Pondicherry and Nicobar and Palawan in your sleep, your eyes born
far under any land in the realm of the Marianas, in fingers wind and moon
and tide, in blood hurricane, shallows and flat calm. What language do
you speak that I can speak? You are long curving oceans and the twice ten
thousand dialects of ship and net and rope and hands, all harbours and
ports and dusk warm women, rum dark men, every swirl, each colour,
white birds that rest on glass currents, while I am netted to land and
stone, soil under my nails, red rock under my feet, my skin all clothed and
buttoned and snared. I suppose I could ask, just ask, and make ship with
you to Tristan da Cunha, Tuvalu, Suwarrow, shed dust and cloth and
canvas, on foot traverse the Coral Sea and build a house in the Kiribati,
walls of turquoise and floors of crystal, a roof proof against any typhoon,
our carpet a full fathom deep for our feet, amethyst, emerald and pearl
the paint, striding tiger of Tonga to safeguard our porch, the long swells
of Samoa to spread as sheets for sleep, the Tasman Sea a truculent
neighbour, Fiji and Kandavu two fair-eyed friends. Only to make this
change you must do more than tempt and play with my eyes that see you,
must do more than your breath which shifts the tides and moorings of my
redwater blood, more than smiles that thunderclap at bright summer
noons, much more than fingers that bring the Drake Passage and the West
Wind Drift and a sailing that scorns all anchorage and anchor. I must have
a chamber in the heart of you and if I am given this I am your man and all
lands I forsake and every teeming city, and shall place around your throat
the white stars of night and at your wet shining head a loop of gold.
A strong soft hand came under my chin and tilted my head back. I
just had time to see the sea change in her eyes before her mouth sealed off
my breathing and her hair fell and blinded my eyes. It was not her lips
that kissed me but her soul, scarcely did it feel to me like the touch of flesh
and blood, and I swear she did not break off for ten minutes or more,
sometimes gentle, sometimes fierce, and once I thought, Oh, if I had a cold
and couldn't breathe through my nose now I'd be dead, but the rest of
the time I was caught up in the good warm of her spirit and the storm
surge that roared through the channels and just under her skin. When she
finally broke off and I tried to stand it was like I was full of scotch whisky,
whiskybae, my Gaelic friends would say, and staggered as if all the blood
had run from my head. We had our arms about each other and were
barefoot making our way along the North Shore now and the feeling of it
to me, why, I was the fellow walking on the water or walking on the light
on the water, and no head upon my neck, no wits about me, just drifting
round the bend in the island like an off shore breeze or the lazy slim gull
coasting on a nice smooth swoop of moving air.
Are you all right?
I think so.
You're so quiet. I didn't hurt you, did I?
Oh, I guess you hurt me all right and now I'm working to fix myself
before I lose it completely.
It was a lovely poem. I wish you'd write it down for me.
If I can remember it. You know, it's one of those you make up as
You're walking as if you're off balance.
I'll get my sea legs yet. Give me a bit.
I've never heard of half those places.
Someday they ought to be as familiar to you as Herring Cove Road.
Why do you say that?
I'll take you there in a wooden shoe like Wynken, Blynken and Nod.
Oh. So when will that be?
When I marry you.
Marry me. Is that the plan?
Well now, I wouldn't say as it was a plan. Just a good idea, I
Marry me and sail away with nets of silver and gold. No money, no
food, no boat, just sail away on a sea of dreams. The incurable romantic. Is
Well, it's as far as I've got by dawn today.
Okay, yes, marry me, you fool.
All night long their nets they threw to the stars in the twinkling
foam, then down from the skies came the wooden shoe, bringing the
fishermen home. 'Twas all so pretty a sail it seemed as if it could not be,
and some folks thought 'twas a dream they'd dreamed of sailing that
beautiful sea. You can make of the night what you wish, Michael.
A silver dream. Or the word made flesh.
Now you're getting way beyond my light-headed head.
Such stuff as dreams are made of. Or it can break into this world
and take on skin and bone and as much heart as possible.
Sea, I would take you up in my arms and off with you to every
good nation under God's blue heaven that has even a half decent port. I
would spread such a table before you as would stop your heart. I would
lay roses at your bedside each morning and blue pennyroyal at night. My
ways with you would be as earth, wind, fire and sea. Boredom you
would never know and I would fight for you all the days and in good
time banish the fears of the night. Oh, I've sat and chatted with your Dad.
I know about your work. I know about the heart of you that is up and
burning hot for a justice the courts of the world won't give. The slave
trader I would put to the sword and every chained child set free. You
don't need to be in Toronto to liberate a generation, Sea Gray Cove. Why,
how can you set a girl or a boy free when you're not free yourself? Not a
sea wind there in your city. No breath of God's air for your sweet lungs.
A scrap of sky no bigger'n my thumb and locked tight by high rises of
cement. The blue uncoloured by the smog. Not a salt bite in your nostrils
and no dolphins or the shoals of herring. People all right, and some good
things being done in the high rises and schools and churches. But for you,
Sea? Is it such a place for you? And you'll do your best work anchored to
an asphalt and it ungreen? Let me love you fair and from that I'll take you
and then you'll see clear for any slave. Roses and pennyroyal and fresh
picked lavender, I say, sky and the green white ocean and a leaping twist
and shine of a porpoise, tea and jam and wood fires and thick quilts, sun
and horizon to horizon and good movement in your head and heart and
in your feet, plenty on your plate, Sea, and the most of it right fine and a
man loving you a lot longer than any Atlantic summer or Annapolis Valley
So. So, Michael Fitch. And how will you do all this?
I have not put it to paper yet. But in my head there is an entire realm
given over to such schemes.
And it is the realm of Don Quixote?
If it were and would that be such a bad thing?
No, Michael Fitch, it would not.
in the bush
They're only a half mile from the house. Why don't they get on with
it? I'm starved, Al, I'm worn out, I smell like something out of a swamp,
and I need coffee and a bed.
I doubt they notice their stomachs or the time.
Why doesn't he just up and marry that girl and be done with all this
Well, Sam, I wouldn't be surprised they are Mister and Missus
before the year's out.
I ain't got a year to crawl around in these here thornbushes. Never
knowed the island was such a jungle.
You been all the time rumbling around Tarragon in your Caprice
I'm too busy to walk.
Well, they're on the move again.
Lord help us in all our temptations, they could walk a fair bit faster if
they weren't so tangled up in one another.
Young love, Sam.
Oh, I had my young loves too but I don't recall as being
shrinkwrapped into Ella's head.
on the road
Eggs, for sure, the coffee, the toast. Bacon. Sausage.
And I my granola every morning with half a grapefruit and a glass
of juice. What makes you think your Dad has all this in the fridge and
Always did. Even if he didn't eat it himself. For guests he kept it.
What did he like?
Well, coffee and oatmeal and then the bread and mopping up the
blackstrap molasses with it, oh, thick the molasses, so could you choke on
it even did you chew it for half an hour. He favoured this molasses bread
and which he made himself. Some good bread too but so much vitamin
and health in it I swear it killed a few house guests stone dead.
No but Aunt Helen passed away 72 hours after one breakfast and
Bernie White from up the Valley by Wolfville, why, he only lasted 48 hours
after a visit.
You don't even know what they ate.
Molasses. So I was told growing up.
Well, then we'd best leave it off the menu.
Some pancakes we can do also.
Are you sure there's syrup? Or just molasses?
No, there's some good syrup there, real maple syrup, pours like
Old cheddar. In a wheel and put the hair on your chest. Some bite
Anything sweet? For dessert like?
Sea, now who is it that has a dessert with their breakfast?
So I grew up with the habit. Mum and Da always gave us
Ice cream. Cake. Pie. Brownies. Fruit salad. Cinnamon rolls.
So here why didn't you grow up plump and round?
I am that.
Oh, sure. Lean as the ship's rigging and more curves than the
The way you talk like I'm a vessel you been looking over for some
time and the yacht broker ready to close a deal.
I have a good eye for these things.
Do you so?
Apple pan dowdy. I can fix that. Someone brought a big bag of
Cortlands to the wake and they been hardly touched. Tart enough yet.
They were picked too early. Here it's not September.
Is there enough time to bake that?
If I get right on it once we're in the door.
All this in your Dad's cupboards and fridge? The bacon and eggs
and maple syrup? You swear?
Growing up it was always so. And last summer and the one before
when we worked on the Lyyndae d.
And of that here's a fine good day to take the helm.
Sea, I didn't want to break the spell, this glorious night and morning,
but Hack Dorey has as the museum won't let me on the boat.
What do you mean?
Well, the reason they give is their insurance and what, Hack thinks
somebody's leaned on 'em, our friends with the matches, I would say.
This is crazy, Michael. Your father owned that boat, gave 'em that
For a dollar.
Why, it would be a scrub of barnacles and weed and worm and rot
and busted spars and planking but your father and you did years of work
to bring it up to fine.
Hack knows it. His hands are tied. I won't be on the boat today.
And I got to tell the lighthouse boys they won't get to crew.
Oh, this'll go well over with all the folk on the island, oh, I would like
to speak my mind to the CBC or a writer from the Chronicle-Herald.
I'll live with it.
That's it? Just let her go?
What do you want me to do, Sea? Ram and sink her with my yellow
Well, it can't be borne, you restoring it and all and a gift from your
family. You were both supposed to be on it. It used to sit at this here dock
when we were kids. Wasn't it our ship?
Didn't we run out the guns? Defend the vessel with cutlass and
pistol? Crack Kidd's ship in two with our fast broadsides?
All that we did.
Why, it can't be borne. You see how easy the boys take it, Michael.
You see if they're just up and willing to let it go. There's a time for fighting
back, Michael Murray Fitch.
Well, if you're all fired up about getting me to take on the pirates of
the Caribbean then you tell me now what weapons it is I'm to be using.
We don't own the Lyyndae d Darling anymore. We signed it away. It's
their's to do with as they wish, outside of making a ruin of her and
putting her at the bottom of the Newfoundland Basin.
It's not their's, it belongs to the people of Nova Scotia, so they said
in the proclamation, and I'm one of those people, you are, the boys inside
and all their wives and children and old Angus Walter's ghost.
He skippered the Bluenose.
Much I care whether he skippered a tuna boat or the Salt Water
Taffy. He was part of that era as was your Daddy and I'll use him in my
argument if I think it suits.
Is it law school next for you?
If that's the route I take around the marker buoys it's my own
business. What matters is who comes first across the line and gets the
I'll watch from the bleachers.
You'll not watch. Joined at the hip to me and you'll go wherever I go
and if I have to drag you along like a bum leg.
The tip of your nose is bright red.
Would you like one yourself?
And I am to marry you?
Getting cold feet now you are. Like the Toronto boys.
What Toronto boys?
All the young lads in the NGOs who thought they'd take me home
for dessert but found right quick they'd have to take me home for life if
they'd take me home at all.
And you had no takers?
In the end? No.
And why not I'm standing here wondering?
Because they found out I have a brain behind my pretty blue eyes
and a firestorm in my pretty little heart and the firestorm up and blazes
hot when injustice gets in my pretty freckled face.
And you'll still do the eggs?
Didn't I say so?
And how will you do them, my soft-hearted dove and fair child of
the blue seven seas?
I will scramble them right hard, Michael Fitch, and the coffee I will
serve black, thick and stinking hot or I will not serve it at all.
in the kitchen
Everything about the breakfast was loud and hot and that was Sea
as well, though she would not say a word to me. We had the four cast
iron pans of Daddy's on the stove, one with bacon frying, another taking
the pancake batter, another the sausage, the other a mound of yellow
eggs beat to pieces by Sea. The boys talking and eating and downing
coffee thick as tar while I ran back and forth from the cooking to the table
and Sea and me getting in each other's way more than once. George
Manthorne was there between Dan Mitton and Roger Langille, Scrap
Bushen and Solly Chute pulled up to the table with Willy Gow and Sonny
Demone, Exodus Cross and Christopher Stevens was to a corner of the
kitchen, Sam Eisner and Al Joudrey back up to the fridge and a mess of
others in the front room. A light there was, thick and rich, coming on to all
the windows and putting bars and squares to the floor.
So Slender come up, Young Fitch.
When was that?
Oh, I don't know, two, I think, and waited on you but then took to
Well, I'll see him at the church in a bit.
Had been all day to the Sea Festival and didn't know what'd
happened to you. Heard about it from someone when he got on back to
his house and so come right over.
Good of him. I'll thank him. Now Solly, more coffee?
A good some more. Got to stay awake and for the afternoon sail.
Why, I thought you'd want to catch up on your sleep.
Oh, too excited to sleep. I run up the mains'l on the Lyyndae d and
I'm King of the World.
Solly, all of you, here now, I've got to tell you this about the
Lyyndae d. The museum in Dartmouth says the insurance don't cover me
to helm the boat and they've got themselves another skipper and another
crew. So there's what Hack Dorey told me and it's nailed to the masthead
and done. I'm sorry, boys, but it's their boat now and that's the way of it.
The talking stopped in the kitchen and the boys looked up at me and
across at one another. A few nodded and chewed and X Cross held up
his mug for a refill. He says, Well, now, Young Fitch, your good father
told us that might happen.
Sea looked up from the bacon and it snapping and she with a man-
killing scowl, So what are you on and meaning by that, Exodus Aaron
I'm just saying as he told a good number of us some'd likely do what
they could to keep him and his son off of the boat.
So that's it then. You boys are up and not to do a thing about it.
Why, I wouldn't say that, Miss Cove. We was warned to expect it,
we're done expecting it, and now we goes on ahead with what we been
expecting to do.
And which is what?
X shrugged and bent his head to his eggs and toast and pancakes
and bacon. Al Joudrey squared to take Sea's gunsight glare.
Miss Cove, it's a breach of contract. They'll not get away with it.
They can't keep a Fitch off the boat if he's willing and able to sail.
Well, and if there's ever a she, she too.
Oh, there's a she all right. So you can get Michael on the boat this
I wouldn't say that, no, not this afternoon.
Then what good is all your legal up wind and down wind, Al
Joudrey? This is the Lyyndae d's last sail. The brokers won't let her out
again, will they? She's going into dry dock up Dartmouth next week.
Why, that's true, Miss Cove, but here there's no cause to get
yourself twisted up into the big knot you're working on.
Is there not?
Sea threw down the fork she was slaughtering the eggs with and
headed out the back door.
I'm going up to the church. You boys can cook up the rest of it if you
want. Eat till you choke on your fat. Drink coffee till your eyes pop out of
The door slammed and I was pretty sure we'd lose the pane of glass
was in it. The boys looked over at me and I looked over across at them.
The door jumped open and Sea stuck her head in, blue eyes scorching
heaven between us.
Well, are you coming or not?
Yes, right, g'morning, boys.
We'll see you up at the church at eleven, Young Fitch.
Ay, we'll all be there. Good luck to you both.
on the road
They're as bad as you.
D'you think so? That bad?
Joke, joke. Your Dad in his coffin.
And buried he will be with all love and honour due him.
Oh, all, is it? While some fat-headed mainlander piddles around
Chester harbour with the boat your father brought back from the dead?
I see Joudrey will do something.
So. A year from now he gets them in court, a lot of good that will do
this bright afternoon.
Well, think on it now, he could get the insurance policy reversed and
she'd be free to sail again.
Do you think he can do that?
Why, I don't know, it all depends how good his argument is, I
They'll sit there and stuff their faces and not do a thing. Neither will
you. And it's your father we're talking, not mine, or I'd take up arms. I
swear on the King James Bible.
Are you sure now you want to go into the church and your mood
Like what? God is used to my temper. He's seen the back of it a few
Look you, I can leave you be, you get yourself sorted out, I'll set
back and stay out of the way until things are right as rain again.
Oh shut up, Michael Fitch. Men can be such cowards, I swear to
in the kitchen
Says Sonny, Well, now, boys, eat her up but we got to talk. Exodus,
will you ask in them as is in the front room? Now so a good bunch of us
got to be up at the church. We need the blessing, we need the good
words. All of you are welcome whether you're regulars or not. But Old
Man Fitch now, well, he still has to be guarded, just a one of you, no more
I'm for it.
All right then, Roger. I'm thinking you ought to set yourself up in
the den with him.
So I will. Gun in my lap and the Good Book fair open beside it.
We'll be back right after the service. Then once lunch is done a few
of us need to get some sleep. Otherwise there'll be none up to the work
this last night.
at the church
On the outside it was just white clapboard and a peak with a steeple
and the stained glass windows that look like nothing special from the
wrong side. Then but when you are inside there is the golden oak strips
of flooring, the golden oak strips of ceiling, and so the walls, and the pews
the same, and the pulpit a great golden oak worked by my Daddy like the
figure on a ship prow and it an angel with sword extended and in the
other arm a book to its chest and its hair streaming back to where the
preacher would open his Bible. So from the name of the church, Archangel
By The Sea, and it the Church of England in another century but the
Baptist work had prospered and the Anglicans had sold them the
building. Some there was that named it Seaside Baptist, others East
Tarragon Baptist, or Island Baptist, and in our games it had been Seafoam
Cathedral of the Four Winds, where squires were knighted after a
sleepover of prayer and fasting, but outside there was still the one sign,
Archangel By The Sea, then Church of England painted over, and Baptist
Church in black and gold. So we called it Archangel or just the church.
All that wood making horizontal lines over and under and on both
sides made a body feel they were in the hull of a grand sailing vessel and
it making good time downsea to Cape Horn. The glass lit by sun showed
Bible stories and water, so the Red Sea opening, Jonah and the great
whale and it spouting out a sea, Peter on the waves, Jesus and the boat in
the storm, the boys pulling up the miracle catch of fish at the resurrection -
this always my favourite because who rendered the glass made it a scene
from the 20's and the men in black oils in a dory and hauling up the trawl
and in the distance there like a ghost ship the mother ship, the schooner,
and on the shore Jesus rugged and a massive beard, a cooking fire for the
fish and the bread on behind him and the beach looking for all the world
like our own sand spit just so to South Point. There we sat in a pew
midway to the front and Sea had her simmering for a bit and prayed, I
guess, the simmering to God until she took my hand which before she
would not touch and leaned her head to my shoulder and that she had
never done before in her life.
Who is that angel?
I don't think Daddy ever gave it a name.
Michael the Archangel.
He told me once. Do you not think the angel has a bit of you to it?
I don't look like that.
The strength and goodness is there. You just have to not be afraid
of what God made you.
And what did God make me that I am afraid of?
God made you to fight. For the good things and for the right that is
You think life is Castles and Dragons?
I do. And it is. And everyone knows it. The fairy tales are true,
Michael, the enchanted castles, the wicked kings and queens, the green-
scaled dragons, the princess and prince on their snow white steeds, all of
it is so but only a few can read life as it ought to be read, as it is going on
about them, few are reading between the lines of the suits and dresses
and cars and planes and computers and seeing the soaring flames and the
flashing swords and a beast rising fanged and unholy from up the
shadows and a woman and a man with naught but courage and a book of
wisdom and the white-hilted slim and silver blade between them.
Oh. So. This is your philosophy of life, is it?
It is mine and it is yours too if you will ever own up and confess it.
It might be I should change my thesis to one on Arthurian poetry.
Well and you would of started off with it and at the beginning if
your head and soul had been about you.
Cheeky you are for a holy church.
Not cheeky enough to yet pull up the sword out of your stone.
You had all these talks with my Daddy behind my back.
As like in front of your nose and you not listening.
This weekend he has been with me.
Well, the letters and the phone calls, anything he ever said to me,
anything we ever did together, so it's all of it there in my head and comes
out in new ways and old ways like he's standing up beside me.
Tell me some.
Oh, he's talking at me back at the reef about the sound the stones
make going back and forth with the seawash, in the garden he's on about
the growing things, upstairs it's, oh, upstairs he's on about the men with
the matches and how it would be better if I forgive them because he was
full of such revenge and against God and he needed those as would have
mercy on him. I can't yet to the bottom of that thinking get. But I'll bury
him and all hell stand in the way and their matches flaring in their fingers.
Mister Fitch. I tried to find you early this morning but they said
you'd gone back to the reef, you and Sea.
So it was we did that, pastor, and went to walking about Eastern
They told me you'd been beaten up.
A bit. I had a bandage on my head and another on my hand but
they both came off in the seawater.
Were you swimming?
Not that, but in the water enough I could of gone on with it and
headed out to Nantucket and back.
And how are you feeling this morning?
And you, Sea?
Well-trimmed. And you, pastor?
I'll get on about preparing for the service. Do you mind I dim all the
It's your church, pastor.
Oh no, never mine, Sea.
So he went about making it all dark like as we were in a ship's hold
far below decks.
Sea whispered, What do you think he's about?
I don't know.
I like it.
I hear there's some as left the church this summer because of his
And some as left the church because he stood true to your father
and said Archangel would be giving him a Christian funeral.
I know it.
You're not unpeculiar yourself.
Keep her calm, Sea Gray. I'm not against him and I don't care if he
dims all the lights on the island.
Fine. So here let me have the time to myself. I want to pray and
think on God some.
How do you yourself go about that?
I make pictures in my head and give them to him. That's all.
Pictures of what?
The children in the brothels. The slaves. Your pain. So it's all too
much for words, isn't it?
It's the losing of the greatest friend you ever had. It's the pain
cutting you up.
I'm handling it.
Michael, I've known you how many lifetimes? You keep yourself
busy with me and all the people come to the wake. No time to tend to the
breaking inside of you. I guess we all been too much with you, and myself,
I'm handling it, I'm telling you.
And how is it you pray, Michael? How is it with you and all angels?
I'm the poet, ain't I? It's words I got to use even if the rhyming don't
fit and the free verse don't run as free as I'd like. They call him Word,
don't they, so I'm part of all that, my words, my couplets, my metaphors,
it's what I've got, if it's not enough I can't reach heaven.
Speak them then.
I swear I'm locked up like a boat sunk in muck and forty fathom
down. Nothing's coming easy when I'm on my own these days.
So you're not on your own.
The grip of her hand was right hard, pretty close, I think, to as hard
as she could give it. A good hurt for me for I saw the face of her and she
giving me the strength she could and clear water too there was at her
North Atlantic eyes. Where's the man would not rest his head against her
and the hot burn on the skin of his face, the knife of pain cutting into the
chest and gut and up and down the arms? On holy ground and Sea with
all God ever gave her to hold broken walls together. I heard Slender Levy
walking about and the dimming going on and on until I fell to a sleep and
so Sea fell too. There were no dreams for me and it was only the indigo,
emerald and amethyst drifting up and down like I was in a sea dive and
no need for beath, a dive going on and on into the shades and hues and
tints of the world's saltwaters, warm and upon warm and no end to
colour or peace. So until the choir began to roar in our ears.
The church was right full and the choir twenty strong, women in
front, men in back, in new robes of white and gold, and only three
candles to light them, an organ thundering and a piano racing to keep up,
and a small light for each for the hands to see. I cranked my head around
right quick and it was Sea's parents to her side and Big Sonny Demone to
mine and right at the back was the five of the lighthouse crew - Solly
Chute, Scrap Bushen, George Manthorne, Sam Eisner, Exodus Cross - all
sitting up straight and stiff like masts. Sea was blinking the sleep out of her
eyes and staring right ahead, the one of her cheeks red and creased
where she'd been leaning against my shoulder. We stood up for A Mighty
Fortress Is Our God and then down for a prayer from Al Joudrey up
front in his Sunday best. It was dark, hard to read from the hymn books,
so they were picking songs that everyone would know by heart like
Amazing Grace and How Great Thou Art. Slender was nowhere to be
seen but after The Old Rugged Cross a door behind the pulpit opened
and he came out holding a storm lantern and it was lit and shining on his
face and so he placed it on the altar where they'd put the bread and the
brass cup for communion along with a big white pitcher. He had on a pea
coat with eight buttons and under a white cable knit with a good sized roll
to it at his neck. He stood at the altar and asked us to think about God
and how the sun looks on the sea and what that says about God and a
starry night too and he began to play some simple clear notes on a
wooden flute. And so it did seem to me to be diamonds on the water and
stars over the head and God all that light and the warm to it and the
mystery as well. So then out comes his guitar and he sings some songs
with that and suddenly his voice deep and each note played and ringing
to the wood and God not far anymore, not far at all. Up he picks the
lantern in his hand and takes the few steps back and high behind the
great archangel pulpit and puts the lantern at the top of it and spreads
open his Bible like he's spreading open a scroll. And the light bronze on
him and the black all around he says, Then Jonah prayed unto the Lord
his God out of the fish's belly, and said, I cried by reason of mine affliction
unto the Lord, and he heard me, out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou
heardest my voice. For thou hadst cast me into the deep, in the midst of
the seas, and the floods compassed me about, all thy billows and thy
waves passed over me. Then I said, I am cast out of thy sight, yet I will
look again toward thy holy temple. The waters compassed me about, even
to the soul, the depth closed me round about, the weeds were wrapped
about my head. I went down to the bottoms of the mountains, the earth
with her bars was up about me for ever, yet hast thou brought up my life
from corruption, O Lord my God. When my soul fainted within me I
remembered the Lord, and my prayer came in unto thee, into thine holy
temple. They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy. But I
will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving, I will pay that that I
have vowed. Salvation is of the Lord. And the Lord spake unto the fish,
and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land.
Not many years back I heard on the radio that a boy had fallen out
of the boat when his family was fishing in the lake and got in trouble and
his father gone in after him and they both drowned. They mentioned the
names and I realized they were neighbours to me in Lunenburg. I didn't
know them but to know them by sight. A couple of weeks after I was in
the grocery store and I saw the mother and the daughter and they had
both been in the boat and they were all the family that was left. They
walked close to one another and pushing the cart and the mother's eyes
were far and gone way back inside her, oh, as far back as a body can go,
and they were both dead and walking dead, the pain had taken
everything. I couldn't speak a word to them that would of meant a thing.
So I watched them push this cart and put food in it they didn't really want
to eat and it was an oar blade thudding to my chest.
Some days there's no difference between us and them two and I tell
you this, they would of understood Jonah's cry, they knew what it was to
be in the belly of hell. And there's been the times you do too, isn't it so,
why, we don't need to lose someone at sea, many is the week or month
you feel like jaws has opened up and you've been swallowed whole or
that the earth has come apart and you've been buried alive. There's the
day you walk dead too and eat nothing and drink nothing. There's all
kinds of reasons for it, sometimes we bring the bad times down on
ourselves, we do, but more often as not the bad just comes crashing down
upon us like the rogue wave and ten thousand pounds of cold sea. In the
end it doesn't matter how you fell out of the boat, whether you slipped or
were pushed or a comber swept you off your feet, you're there struggling
in the breakers and swells and you can't hardly get your breath. In a grim
moment you sink like a stone and there's no hope to your heart. You all
know as I'm saying.
What could I of done for that mother and daughter had I of known
them better? Brought them some food, as you all done for Michael Fitch,
yes, and good that is, for you don't hardly feel like putting the food in
your mouth never mind having to prepare it, oh, pray for them I could,
and you done that also for Michael Fitch, yes, just give them a post to lean
on, a body to cry into, all of it good, why, talk of life after dying, of
heaven, of the immortality of the soul, all of it good but God can do one
better and so that is the standing Jesus.
Jonah says he went to God when he was losing his life. He says
what he found in hell and what he found is salvation is of the Lord.
There's a lot of things I can do to help you out when hard times come and
there's a lot I can't do. God can do anything. So imagine I have Jesus
standing there with me in the grocery store. So he goes up and talks with
the mother and the daughter. Better words he'll have, a better way, and
he can do what I could never do and that is a raising of the dead. Oh,
better all around is it to look for God in the dark, when you're in the belly
of hell, better is it to take what light you have and find him that is the
maker of you and the one has taken on most of any the caring of you.
Better to find the one as can save you from the killing times than a
thousand others has only sympathy.
Jonah come to dry land and another life. He weren't perfect from
that day, no, not by any stretch, but living and breathing he was and
doing what he wasn't doing before, talking with God just like you and me
talk to each the other. So you come to see God is good and you call to him
like you call to another boat to give you a hand and you find your feet
again and you can stand and walk and not in a dead faint. Go to him, I'm
telling you, before you go to any other. We that want to help you are
limited. He is not.
You see this table here, all of you, this altar, and you're all welcome
to it. But this. It's a bloody table. The dead Jesus table. Why, I ought to
have a pile of spikes just here and the rusted end of a spear and a body
bag. So don't stop by unless it means something. Do that much just for me.
Don't play church here today, don't come up because there's your
neighbour looking. Come as Jonah come, so because in the dark you're
coming on to see that salvation is of the Lord and it's him you want to
I asked you last week to bring a mug or cup that is one you like, that
kind of reflects a bit who you are, to walk up here and let Jesus top it up,
so as it's to him filling your soul. And now we'll do that while the choir is
singing. Here now, the dark of the night when Jesus was betrayed by a
friend, stabbed and cut to in the back, he took a loaf of bread while he
was eating with those that thought a lot of him, and in two he tears it,
here as I'm doing, right in half and he says so it's his body and he's being
broke up to pieces, for them and you, that all our pieces can come to being
one whole. So he takes the cup he's been drinking from as well and says
to drink what they were drinking at the table one more time, because it's
not just the sweet hard wine now, so it's like to his own life and blood,
and he's going to let the life bleed out of him, and that it can bleed into all
of us and save us from the fear of the dark and the fear of the death.
Come so. And bear in mind that it's the standing Jesus you're coming
to this morning. He was on the cross that killed him. He come back from
that and alive. Believe it or not. It's the standing Jesus up here with me
this day and it's him has the good strong ways and the clear clean wind to
put in your spirit, so all the hard takes on meaning, all the bad at your
hand has the forgiving, so the whole life of you has a sun over the rim of
the sea, so you have on you and all around you the light. And living for all
the days and when there are no days, alive you are forever. Salvation is
of the Lord. Amen. Come your way to this good old table, this altar this.
Sonny handed me a coffee mug that was my Daddy's favourite and
the long chip down the side of it but he would not throw it away. And I
had bought it for him at the Father's Day when I was nine. Sea's Mom
gave her a small brown cup. So I'm no unflawed perfect clean man but I
heard Slender talk and I wanted a God closeness, a Jesus with me, no less
than that I needed to survive let alone run strong before the wind. Most
were going up, there was a fair line, and Slender giving a chunk of
pumpernickel bread to each, and pouring from the pitcher into whatever
they had, oh, white mugs and blue mugs and mugs with faces and those
with words on them, and cups of fine china and tinted glass, those that
was wedgewood I seen, and teacups with sailing vessels or apple
blossoms. It took a time and the choir singing Swing Low, Sweet Chariot
soft like. Willy Gow there was, and Dan Mitton and Chris Stephens, all in
their camo gear yet like Sonny, Joudrey with a fancy silver stein and
Dalhousie Law School engraved on it, Nana Cross with what seemed like
a doll's tea cup, Dave and Crystal Chute with a matching set, Jack and
Mary Selig, he with a travel mug of plastic and stainless steel he took with
him on the ferry runs, she with a World's Greatest Sea Legs that come
from a daughter in Vancouver, I think. Back I seen Solly Chute and X
Cross in the line, and Solly had a silver pocket flask, the kind you put
whiskey into, and was going to have Slender pour into that, and his eyes
far off, so and beside him Cross was going up with his hands cupped in
front of him and nothing more than that he wanted to drink out of and I
knew it would be so and Slender not missing a beat when the time came,
and a prayer each he had for all of us and the sign of the cross he made
on my head, his finger just touching. And so we are sitting down and the
choir is done and Slender is pronouncing the blessing over us and has just
said amen and the gunfire starts up outside the church door.
at the Fitch house
To hear the ladies tell it, three of them had gone up to the house just
as soon as they'd taken part in communion, and so there was Mel Langille,
Frieda Rhodenizer and Jackie Heisler and they getting a lunch set out for
those as would be coming up to the wake after church. Roger they found
asleep in the den and they let him be. Sandwiches they put out in platters
that had been kept in the fridge overnight and there were the five slow
cookers of chicken soup they'd set at low before the service. In the middle
of all this and them talking back and forth they heard a truck and they
heard it because it made no sound - the muffler was fine, the tail pipe
wasn't dragging, the engine was well-tuned and smooth. They looked out
and a white pickup had parked in front of the house and five or six men
were piling out. They didn't know a one of them. Mel went to wake up
Roger but he wouldn't flutter an eyelid. So she didn't know what to do
but take his rifle, a 308, which she had used deer hunting with him once or
twice. They got scared as they saw the men fan out for the house, front
and back, but Jackie says, Well, it's for God to decide Old Man Fitch's fate,
not such as them, and I'll bet not a holy man among them, and she took up
a pump shotgun was in a corner of the kitchen and Frieda found a 223
with a five shot clip in the front room. Nerves of steel they must of had
for Mel gone right out onto the porch with the 308 and the men stopped
dead on the lawn and while she's standing there and they eyeballing the
gun it's Jackie comes up the one side of the house with the shotgun and
Frieda is opening the window in my bedroom and poking out the barrel of
Says Mel, You boys need some help?
Now, look you, says the man closest to the porch, we're not here to
make war on women. Let us go about our business and there'll be no
What business brings you to the Fitch house? You come to pay your
That's it. We come to see Old Man Fitch. Say a few prayers.
Wait on a bit and his son'll be back from church and you can all tell
him how sorry you are.
Well, now. We've a tight schedule. Thought we'd pop by before we
headed acrost to the Sea Festival.
Says Jackie coming round the side of the house, You boys've missed
Says Mel, Won't be another for an hour or more. Sit down and
have a tea. You've plenty of time.
Mick, says a small redhead to the big man in front of Mel, there's
another at the window up there and she's got her barrel on us.
Ladies, says Mick, what you three need to do is calm down, so I
think you're up and taking us for somebodies else.
Calls Frieda from the bedroom window, Oh no, you're the weasels
burned up the porch and beat on Young Fitch.
You have a sit now, says Mel, and the men won't be long.
Says Jackie, Have a sit and we won't blow your fat keisters off.
at the church
Slender had just said, The peace of Christ be with you, and a lot of
others, and Sea beside me, had just said back, And also with you, when
there come this gunfire pop pop pop pop pop pop pop pop
and then a lot of sounds like big doors slamming whumpf whumpf
whumpf and Slender shouts, To the Fitch house in the name of God, and
he grabs the storm lantern and he wings himself out that door there just
behind the pulpit. Well, the whole church is a mass rush to the doors and
by the time Sea and I get out and clear there's Slender on his Harley
Fatboy streaking cross country for the harbour and the house. And a big
roar and George Manthorne's Cadillac, it without the muffler, tail pipe,
hubcaps, tail lights, headlights, or front windshield - but a good horn - it's
first on the dirt road and I see that Joudrey has jumped in with
Manthorne and Scrap Bushen. So and soon everyone is tearing off in their
cars and gun barrels poking out windows and the great heap of blue
smoke and stink. Sea and I get in with her Mom and Dad and we're at the
house in three minutes, eating dust all the way, and there's Mel wrapped
up with Roger, and Jackie with her Johnny, and Frieda with Good Man
Charlie, her second husband, the first having worn out and died four
at the Fitch house
Did they shoot at you?
No, we shot at them. Oh my, I can't believe I squeezed the trigger,
here I'm shaking like the sail luffing.
What were you doing up here all by yourselves?
Why, we come up before the rest of you to get lunch ready for after
the service. So there's the soup and sandwiches and Frieda has a pot of
beans and molasses and Jackie some sauerkraut and sausage and I was
going to get at corn on the cob.
You shot at them?
Well, not so much at them but at their truck when they went and
made a run for it. I saw a side mirror go and paint popping off the driver
Oh, I didn't want to hit anybody but they come for Old Man Fitch.
What kind of truck?
A white pickup.
A white pickup.
All right, boys, enough's enough of this, let's hunt her down.
So for the next two hours cars and trucks were scouring the island
for the white pickup. I stayed back and got some food into Sea and then
walked her down to the dock where her Mom and Dad had their Cape
Islander ready to take her over to Chester for the race. So I wished her
luck and shook her hand in front of her parents and said I meant to row
out and catch her boat up close when it come by in the lead. Back at the
house Slender was one of the last in, his face and pea coat and white
sweater spattered in muck and dust and a tree branch and leaves sticking
out the back of his jeans, wagging like a tail wherever he walked, until
Mary Selig up and told him. Manthorne and Bushen and Joudrey was
finally in close on to three and looking like they was ready to take scalps. I
hung around a bit to hear them talk and growl and then I made my way
down to Daddy's dock and the boathouse just below the house and the
yellow dory, a good big Banks dory made up in Lunenburg, snug there to
the pilings where Daddy had last left it and a blue tarp over to keep off
the weather. I got in and tied her loose and went to rowing out into the
channel between Chester and Tarragon and a light chop but not much and
a grand old feeling to the back and the two arms of me and the sun
scattering coins and coppers.
in the front yard
Well, they stuck the pickup in a barn, they had to of done.
Sure and they had no time to repaint it.
This has got my Dutch up, this now, what was they gonna do,
knock the women over the head so's they could nip off with Old Fitch?
The ladies seen their faces.
They'll come back in the dark next time and masked, I would say.
Here's the big boats. Now and what number is Bob's daughter's
Right there. In the lead too. 91. We should all go into Chester for the
Should we be calling the police?
Old Fitch'll be in the cemetery in another day and there's an end to
it. No need to bring the police over again.
Well. Shots were fired.
They were our shots.
Oh, somebody's beat us to it. That's the RCMP launch there going
wide round the racing vessels.
They'll take the ladies' statements and mess about the island looking
for what ain't there and so go back to Chester and write up their reports.
That'll be it.
The sauerkraut had a good bite.
Grandpa Heisler's recipe, you know, and that from his father, the
good old stuff, no plastic tubs either, we still got the oak casks the family
was using before the first war.
Hello there, Al. How is it then?
Boys, the constables will be here soon. Just lay aside your firearms,
would you, just lay them by and out of sight. No point in alarming our
gendarmes. Don't want 'em thinking the whole island is in revolt. Thank
in the dory
Sea's fifty footer come past with no more than a hundred yards
between us but they heading about on a port tack and away. The water
was white and hissing all along her crimson hull and I stood up in the dory
- what Daddy had named Pluck - and with my legs well braced lifted one
of my oars in salute. Sea was on the starboard side tying off a line and I
saw a hand come up and a smile like a stab of light. She had on sunglasses
and her hair loose and rolling and a white hoodie with the blue jeans and
so a picture of perfection, I thought. Eating up ocean just astern and a fair
bit closer to me was a black hull and every sail tight and it the War Of
Independence out of Boston. The big man at the helm in a blue T with a
circle of stars lifted a Greek fisherman's hat and I waved the oar. No
enemies among sailors but what a politician makes. Six other big boats
come past with the bone in their teeth but the race was between Sea and
the Boston skipper.
It can come hard rowing a big dory in a fresh breeze but not so if
your mind's made up and your back's into it. So I figured on two hours,
two and a half, across to Chester and went at her. I had done a bit of
sailing in Scotland with friends there who had the boats but most of my
time on the water I was rowing for the university squad on an Eight and I
often as not first oar so my hands were as chromed leather. The burn was
on the back of my left hand and so did not trouble my grip though it
ached enough when it wished. But the sun was good on me and the spray
I took in the face made it all the better. Daddy had rowed the dory last
and that was fine for it gave me a sense of him sitting where I sat and
bending to the oars. Some gulls followed me for a time and not a sound
A half hour out of Chester Harbour I see some tugs coming and
their hoses in full bloom and back of them all the tall ships heading out in
full press of sail. I tucked into the shore some, rough scrabble beaches not
far from me, and let the great parade go by. Horns were blasting on the
tugs and between the white towers of the clippers there was the beauty,
the Lyyndae d Darling, she all pearl in fresh sailcloth and the stained oak
of the hull gold and wet gleaming in the swell. Go then, I said, take the
saltwater one last time in your strong teeth and spit it out in a silver wake,
let me see the bowsprit plunging in the foam and bring her about to a tack
on the thin dime. Take God's good air into the lungs of your mains'l and
jib and tops'ls and jumbo, take all that you can, for tomorrow they'll reef
your sails and drop your masts and load you on a truck for to sit high and
dry till the end of time. Go and gather in the sky and the four winds and
the seven and seventy seas for the one hour they give you to live.
And all the sanding we done, putting in clean wood, scraping the
hull true, new rigging and bowsprit and fore mast, two whole summers I
worked on it with him and some of the boys lending a hand, and Lord
knows what all Daddy did on his own when I was back to St. Andrews.
They were by in twenty minutes and a hundred small craft trailing them
and the tugs ahead like silver fountains and the clippers fanning out to sea
like high white kites. I rested on my oars and let it all run through me like
a cold sea. In a bit I had what I needed to bring Pluck in and so the hurly
burly of the people crowding the wharf and the racing crews coming
ashore from their vessels and the selling of hotdogs and fried fish were
more than enough to render me nothing but a tall man in a yellow Banks
dory paddling along to what berth he could find and no master of a salt
bank schooner. So there was room at the dock built for Tarragons, right
behind the Coves' Cape Islander, and I tied Pluck up there and walked on
into the harbour front.
at the wharf in Chester
Larry. Haven't seen you since we crewed the Lazy Daze in high
school. Well, you're looking all right.
I'm up Yarmouth way now. Fishing out of there and a good business
I make of it. You're in school they say.
I heard about your Da. I'm sorry for that.
When's the funeral?
Tomorrow morning at nine.
Well, I hope to be there and to pay my respects.
What brings you ashore? The Festival?
Sea is in the races and I thought I'd look in on her.
A fifty footer out of Gloucester. 91. The red hull.
Oh, they done well until the last leg and something went on, the
boom near cut their helmsman in half.
No, they had the ambulance come a half hour ago.
I better get looking for her.
The crews are up at The Swordfish.
Thanks, Larry. I'll see you.
One minute, Michael. I need a spare for the dory races. My backup
dropped out and the fellow on with me now has a bad shoulder.
Well, I think he'll race today but there's no telling how he'll stand up
When is that?
Forty-five minutes to the gun.
I'm not free to do that today, Larry.
What about tomorrow?
I don't know.
It's well after the funeral. I want to put your name in as my spare.
I can't make you any promises this weekend. But put my name
down if it makes you happy.
I will. I'll give you a call if it looks like I'll be needing you.
I'm at my father's house.
And up and along the wharf I was, a bit of a run to my step, till I
come to The Swordfish, a restaurant at the top of the pier.
at the Swordfish
The restaurant was full inside and out and I was looking for Sea at a
table on one of the outside decks, but the only person I recognized, and
that by his shirt, was the Boston skipper, who now that I could see him
closer to had a ferocious beard. So then I popped my head in the door up
and down but all I saw were the crews eating and drinking and the
captains' chairs and the coils of hemp and the schooner paintings. I finally
found her back of the place at a picnic table with her Mom and Dad, a
Coke or Pepsi in front of her and sucking at the straw, her hair loose and
over her shoulders and she slumped at her seat like she had nothing with
to sit up straight.
Mister Cove. Missus Cove.
Young Fitch. How are you?
Well enough, Mister Cove. I watched the race. You were in the lead,
We didn't keep it, Michael. Thank you for rowing out to me just the
There was a freak gust took us by surprise. The boom snapped
around and took out Scott, our helmsman, broken ribs, broken arm,
broken collar bone, a fair mess he is, poor boy. He'd been standing up. I
took the helm but we lost too much to the Boston boat. I couldn't make
her up no matter how many tacks we tried. Came in third.
Scott is up at the hospital in Bridgewater. I'm to take the helm
tomorrow but I'm not up to it.
You'll do well.
I'll have to do more than well. Only way we can win now is we make
it in first and Boston third. That's a long shot, isn't it, Michael?
You thrive on the long shots.
Do I? Taking the helm is not where I shine. But no one else on the
boat has any experience there at all. Just a young American crew. Fine
enough with the rigging, they go like great guns, but at the wheel we've
Sea, you helmed when we raced plenty of times.
We won only the once when I helmed.
Not your fault. You remember the mains'l split on one race and we
lost the spinnaker two other times.
You think that has nothing to do with the helmsman?
You're big and tough and beautiful. You'll do fine.
I know a better body can do it.
Not better than you.
Do you not think? I intend to ask him anyway.
So. And who's the lucky man?
You win the prize, Michael. You get to sail alongside Big, Tough and
What are you talking? I have the funeral tomorrow.
At nine. The race is well after that.
No, I can't.
Why not? I'm asking you myself and I'll bend the knee if you like.
You can do the job and we've still time to sign you in for Monday.
I can't, Sea.
I've a full day.
They took the Lyyndae d Darling from you, didn't they? Take the
helm and show them how you can sail, show the Dartmouth boys, show
the men with matches, show Nova Scotia who you are, show the Yankees.
The way you go on, girl. It's just a little race.
For The North Atlantic Trophy.
Just a race.
And what the Old Bluenose done? All them years and the victories
and the whole of it just a race?
So her Mom and Dad had backed off and left us alone at the table
and the horns start going and I swear a cannon is firing and the Lyyndae
d Darling moves up the harbour to her berth at the government wharf
and the helmsman doing it fine, not using the engine, letting her ghost
right in under sail, and so then tied up snug and her days done and the
people clapping and cheering and that cannon again.
I said, He did well.
You can do better.
Her eyes were a cool blue ice like you see under a crust of snow a
bright winter day and down to the water. Funny how her eyes made me
think of so many things. I smiled and she seen that and her eyes went to a
They won't let me sign on, Sea Gray.
They will. But first you need to meet the owner and the crew.
So the man was just downing his pint of beer when we come up to
the table. Two crews there were and a lot of tables shoved up together.
There he got to his feet, curly grey hair and denim jeans and shirt, tight
and faded by sun and saltwater, sandals, coming no higher than my
shoulder, a good smile to him and a rough handshake.
Pete Blackstone. Sea has told me a good bit about you, Fitch. Your
father owned the Lyyndae d at one time, didn't he?
You should've been on that boat today.
There was some as thought otherwise.
My grandfather skippered the Lyyndae d for a few seasons on the
Banks. Just before the first war.
Loved the boat. But he took ill. How did your family come by it?
Well, the owner sold it off in 48 and she were a freighter in the
Carib for ten years. Somebody, a Goodwin from Yarmouth way, bought it
and sailed it back and did some fishing on her for a few years but Daddy
found the girl hauled up on a beach and rotting away. He got her
seaworthy again and I sailed on it when I was eleven or twelve.
You've helmed a few times.
Quite a few, yes.
Done a fifty footer?
Done a hundred and fifty footer.
Well, let's take her out and see how you do. These are my crews.
The one from Gem and the other from Fierce, the boat Sea skippers.
You never told me you skippered.
Other things came up.
Fitch, if the crew feel fine with you, and the boat likes your touch,
we'll get you signed up with the yacht club. Cut off's at seven thirty so
we'll go out for a couple of hours.
The breeze was softer than I like but Fierce moved well and all her
sails up. We tacked out to Tarragon and back and the crew had quick
hands. Sea acted like she wasn't looking but every now and then she'd
stand behind me and whisper something like, let's come about, or put her
before the wind, or starboard tack. Pete Blackstone sat up in the bow
smoking a Cuban cigar. We got the spinnaker up and down right smart
like and the bow bit clean into the little chop there was. We were heading
in and Blackstone was drifting from one crew member to another talking
and smoking and listening and his sunglasses onto his eyes yet. We
anchored her and rowed the tender in to the dock and Blackstone asks,
Can you be here by noon to take her out for another run?
And a lunch with the crew before the race?
It's your father's funeral tomorrow morning.
The wake is done, Mister Blackstone. Now I've a legacy to live out,
Come up to the yacht club and let's make it official.
on the Chester waterfront
The one fellow didn't want to sign me up and started quoting a
whole lot of rules and regulations. Blackstone blew smoke and said he
would talk to the president and when that gentleman turned up
Blackstone laid down the law in a matter of fact voice but an edge just
under it all.
I know the rules as well as you do, Ernie. How many years have I
been competing under the flag of the Royal Maritime Yacht Squadron?
Now, I'm not interested in making a fuss. But I'll bring the race down
around your ears if you don't go by the book.
Ernie and him eyed each other and Ernie nodded to the fellow
making the crew changes, Put Young Fitch down for 91, Fierce out of
So you're under my command, says Sea when we're on our own.
You want me to salute?
I don't have any orders.
Oh, but you do. Buy me supper and row me to Tarragon. Once
we're ashore take me on back to the orchard. After that, you're a free
There's yet the wake I have to attend to.
The people won't be going to their homes any time soon.
Ay, ay skipper. So where is it you'd like to eat?
I haven't been to Scuppers since forever.
at the Fitch house
All right, Al, here's how it looks to me. They're not islanders, none
of the ladies recognized them, and that means there's only one way they
could remain on Tarragon unseen. Somebody has them in their house. An
islander's helping them out. You don't like to hear it but that's the only
way they could hide the truck and themselves.
We can root them out, sergeant.
But I don't want you rooting them out. I'm not interested in coming
back here in the morning with a bunch of body bags. This is getting worse
every day. How many shots do you think were fired?
But we'll never know because we couldn't find any shell casings.
Don't be cute with me, Al. The women said three of the men had
baseball bats and another had a flare gun. It's not equal force to go after
them with shotguns and a 223.
Five men against three women. You call that equal force?
We took a look around the area and found two rifles in the
rosebush out front, a shotgun in the woodshed, a couple of 22s shoved
under the front porch and a scoped 338 when you lift the lid in the old
outhouse. And a 600 Nitro Express Double under the newspapers they've
got stacked there. Give me a break, will you? What am I going to find
next? A 460 Weatherby Mark V in the coffee tin? And you'll tell me it's for
shooting mice? This isn't Texas, Al, and Tarragon isn't the Alamo. Get
them to put the guns away. I'm leaving a constable here overnight and I
don't want him calling in about moonlight glinting off gun barrels. I mean
it, Al. You represent law and order around here.
That's a high calling. All right, the guns will be gone. But what do
you intend to do about the men who assaulted Young Fitch, tried to burn
down the house and attempted a B and E a few hours ago?
When we find them we'll charge them.
How are you going to find them?
The investigation is ongoing. The ladies heard them use a few
Meaning these boys are mainlanders and I'm going to start asking
A place I don't want to see you, by the way.
I have all kinds of cases this month down along the South Shore.
Yes. So you stick to the courtroom and we'll work the streets.
You Alberta boys drive a hard bargain.
I'm not sure how far these men are going to take things, Al. I'll be
over for the funeral. We'll keep an eye on it. The last thing I want on my
hands is a fatality.
What was the flare gun for?
They started that blaze Saturday morning with one. Probably fired
from the road.
at the house of May Brown
Have you had any luck?
Well, the kids brought out all the letters they know about. May tied
stacks of them up with different colours of ribbon. But there's not a one
that's to a Rose Fitch.
Who's checking the attic?
I don't know if it isn't Frieda and Jackie. They haven't come out in an
Dot and Lisa and 'Lizabeth are in the basement and Goldie and
Mary and Crystal are in the bedrooms. Do you want to help me some
with these cupboards?
It's like we're doing a house cleaning.
I just give the shelves a wipe before we put everything back. It's the
least we can do. Here we are turning these kids' house inside out.
Ivy found letters in a drawer in the kitchen.
Where was that?
Just under a couple of drawers of steak knives and soup ladles.
Who were they addressed to?
I didn't talk to Ivy myself. Carla said something about a body by the
name of Dana whoever.
Well, she liked to keep up with her correspondence, I'll give her that.
What d'you suppose she would of done with emails?
Oh my, I can't see that she ever wanted to get into that. We must of
found six or seven writing sets now, all fancy with thick paper and heavy
fountain pens and coloured ink and nibs and who knows what. She was a
going concern. No computer letters for her.
What if we don't find a thing, Mel?
Too soon to say. I can't believe May would of burned them, not a
woman like her kept her letters in neat stacks tied off with perfect bows.
What I think is she tucked them away some place special. We have to keep
at it and look under every oar and dory.
How were the police?
Oh, fine. The one of the boys is from Newfoundland. They know
what's up. Not a hard moment with them a'tall.
in the dory
We had a few good hours before us but I knew the sun would be
gone pretty quick after we had come onto Tarragon. I was the one
rowing at the first and she leaning back in the bow and her eyes closed
and the light good on her face which but I only saw the times I cranked
my head around to see how I was heading. But soon she was up and had
the other set of oars to her and we was at it together like a doubles
sculling team and the dory moving smooth through the butter-coloured
Why do you keep looking back at me?
So I'm looking at where we're going.
You are not.
And I have a pretty good tan now, don't you think? No more
Toronto city girl.
There's a lot that's pretty good.
Your arms and shoulders. I like the strength in them. Could watch
'em for hours.
Oh. And so what else could you do for hours?
I don't know. Listen to you talk. Watch you sleeping and all that
easy breathing. I like how you walk in bare feet. When you lean your
head back and so your hair full straight down and then you put a twist
around it. And a good kiss is better than a meal.
You sound like you're still hungry.
Not for fish and chips, m'dear.
So you did marry me where would you take me for a honeymoon?
I told you. We'd circumnavigate the globe.
On what kind of boat?
I haven't quite got it built yet.
Where's the work being done?
There's a shipyard in my head.
I guess there's a whole lot in your head.
So and there is.
Where would we live after the circumnavigation?
Tarragon. Chester. Halifax.
I'd want to keep at my work, Michael. Maybe take a law degree.
But it's not life or death that it's Toronto, is it?
Toronto makes it easier. But Halifax and Dartmouth would serve me
There you are. Quit splashing me with that starboard oar.
What about you?
I might have a bit of an in at Dalhousie or St. Mary's.
But you haven't finished your doctorate.
No. I'm a year from almost.
So we'd have to live in Scotland.
Which is not so bad, Sea Gray Cove. We could rent an apartment in
It's done. And you could run on West Sands Beach where they did
that scene from Chariots Of Fire, y'know, the whole Brit Olympic team
jogging at the edge of the water and they all in white. And you could hum
the song to yourself. Inspiring it would be.
So and it's James Bond's favourite town in Scotland and he comes
there often enough.
Who are you talking about? Pierce Bronsan?
No but he's Irish and Sean Connery was the first Bond and an
He does not come to St. Andrews. What a pitch you're making.
I'm telling you. He loves it. And on to hugging all the plump women.
Which I hope that excludes me though I wouldn't mind the odd hug.
So now who's splashing?
Di's boy, the prince, he's a St. Andrews lad.
Prince William. I knew that too.
But I know I could work out a plan where I'm there a month or two
my last year and I bring my professor over here for a week or so. Wales
And if you don't get a teaching post?
It's my understanding they're hard to come by.
I'm telling you, I have an in.
What kind of in?
I know someone.
Is it a woman?
It doesn't matter.
Oh, still secrets. You haven't married me yet.
But I'm your captain and you swore obedience on pain of death.
I'm exercising my free will as a citizen of a great democracy.
Oh no, you've no free will on a man o' war. You're the king's man
and you'll answer to the king's representative, which, in these waters and
aboard this ship, is me.
I say no.
What'll you do, Skipper? Keelhaul me? Flog me through the fleet?
Stretch you out so you're a ten foot man and that from a yardarm.
It's Cindy Hutt.
Cindy for Cinderella? Her?
Yes. Strawberries. Her.
I can't believe what I'm hearing from your mouth, Michael Fitch. So it
was bad enough you took her to the high school grad.
You wouldn't come.
You didn't ask me.
What? Giving me sly looks at the lockers and saying nothing about it
while you ate your lunch one table over?
I figure'd you'd know what I meant.
Oh my, the Sphinx up and walks the halls and I'm supposed to know
what the thousands of years of silence is all about?
So you dated Brian Baker.
I did not date Brian Baker. Since no one else cared to ask me to the
grad I went with him the one time. He wasn't half bad looking anyway.
And his family has plenty of money.
You're jealous after all these years? How do you think I felt about
Cinderella Glass Slipper? Oh Michael, be a sweet and fetch me some
punch. Oh Michael, be a sweet and fetch me some cake.
I noticed you up and got your own cake.
I was never the damsel helpless in the tower, was I?
Your own sword and shield you always had.
I didn't like the cake or the punch.
What did you like?
She works with human resources, with the staffing. That's all. I don't
have to sell my soul.
And you're married you think she'll still be interested in helping you?
What you don't know about women could top off the dry Atlantic
and a few other oceans besides.
This is all just filler. Marry me or not?
Will you marry me or not?
That's it? This is your knight in shining armour routine, is it? The
poetry you been burning the midnight oil on sure it will sweep me off my
I can do better.
You'll have to do better.
Look you. All around us are the great waters and they all linked one
to the other so for there's only the one sea. And we're in the one boat
here together, the wooden shoe, and we can row out into the moon
tonight if you like and cast our nets. Pure gold and glass the channel is
and far as west I can see. The sky too is something. But all of it's small
because you are so great. It's nothing to me, ocean, sun, stars at night, a
shoreline studded with green pine, all background it is and you are first,
you fill up my eyes, nothing else there is that overpowers you or
diminishes the beauty of the woman. The world's a whisper and you are
the language of air, of fire, of earth, of sea.
Stop rowing and look at me.
We'll lose headway.
Put your oars down, turn around and look at me.
So I done that and we knee to knee and the dory rocking in the bit
of swell there was and she took me in with her green fire eyes burning up
Say it, Michael.
Say it, Michael.
I love you, Sea. And here I pledge you my troth, my sword, my
shield, my helm, my honour, and for a thousand years and the full days of
another world, my heart, and all I bring you with my hands. My voice you
have, and all its words, my eyes have no other sight but for your
kingdom, my youth you have, my strength, my mind, all the colours of my
standards and the seawhite steeds on the long fields of green, my seed is
yours, and my sons and daughters, and nothing else shall be more but
God himself who fashioned the sweet turn of your lips and the fine fair
skin of your limbs.
And I pledge you my troth, Michael, and all my love and all my
years and my body on earth and in heaven, before Christ and all angels of
splendour, wings outspread and clustered as stars, no king I stoop to, nor
prince, nor power, for you are my man, and there shall be no other, save
my fair Jesus himself who gave you to me, and blessed our love since we
were child and child, and caused the good white flowers to grow
underfoot and the sweet plums to darken over our heads, and my sword
will guard your side so your sleep may be deep for I shall watch over
your lovely face and body and soul.
How we had written these out in the orchard when we played
Castles and Dragons at thirteen but never spoke them yet left them for
the other to find.
Sea smiled and leaned over to kiss me lightly like a small breath.
So but you have no ring, Michael.
I have had a ring in these jeans since the night I set foot on the
island and now that I think of it I have not had them off the entire time.
But washed by the sea.
And the ring too.
I brought from my pocket a shell with a perfect hole in its middle.
How did you make such a thing?
God made it.
It was God. And a northern sea. And perhaps another creature and
humble for I never did find out how this comes to be. But by the ruins of
a very old castle in St. Andrews there is a small spit of sand which I myself
call Castle Beach. I go to sit or to wade and there these shells come, rolling
into your hands with the wind and tide, so I found one I thought was
more true than all the rest and kept it for you thinking maybe we might
make a world again. But only as a game I brought it, Sea.
I say yes.
So white and smooth and sea wet - for I dipped it as a thought over
the side of the boat - I slipped it onto her ring finger and she asking, Do
you love me, Michael?
When have I not?
No queen in any of our histories had a finer ring. Did you ever
wonder what Joseph's Mary wore?
But no finer than this, sorry I am for saying it, but not too sorry, for
I feel like the queen of heaven and earth and sea this day. And fair you
are, Michael, I love you and the blue shining of your eyes and the strong
smile, the broad shoulders and all your manhood. So this will change all
my plans, you know.
Oh, to fly back to Toronto, date another NGO, redecorate the
house I share with two other gals. You would like them. But they'll have
to find their own princes for I have the ring of the seas on my hand. We
should marry this week. Just done and simply and away with us to the far
shores of the earth.
So there's your parents' boat.
They came by and giving us a bit of wake to contend with and Sea
waving her ring finger at her mother and so I see Missus Cove
understands when her mouth makes the o. They come around us in a
circle and blasting their horn and he the father grinning at me with the
thumbs up and Missus Cove laughing and blowing kisses at her daughter
and the wash makes the dory pitch and Sea falls with a thump. So we set
to and row her in, another half hour, and we're coming up to Daddy's
small dock and there's the people all over it and down to the shore,
cheering and whistling and clapping, a hundred or more, and what strikes
me, as we stand up on the dock and they're all of them pumping my hand
and hugging Sea by the armful, is half the men are wearing swords, and a
few of the women too, and most of the rest have tall staves, some
stripped clean of bark as bone, others dark and bristling with knots. Back
up to the house is an RCMP constable, hands hooked in his gunbelt,
watching it all and looking as out of place as a rooster among foxes.
at the old dock
Well done, Young Fitch.
You could sail the Carib and Carolinas all your life and not find
Thank you, boys.
I swear she's getting better looking every day she's here.
Some fine she, you, not back to Toronto you can't let her, Fitch.
No, ay, no.
I have no intention of lettting her go back to the Big Smoke. The
open air for her from now on, boys, saltwater, seawater, sun and the
There you go.
God bless you, boy.
When's the big day?
Oh, you'll have to ask her that. But I'm ready, ay , ready.
Your Da would be proud for so he thought well of her.
And he did and talked of her to many of us.
He had her picked for you, d'you know that?
Did he say so?
Many a time.
A fine daughter she'd make, he says, all around grand.
Those are good words for me, boys, good strong words. But now
you must answer me a question. Tell me, what's all this? Why all the
swords here? Why the staves?
Why, it's ceremonial, Young Boy Fitch, purely ceremonial.
It being the last night of the wake.
Swords and staves. An old island tradition.
Oh, very old, goes back. An honour guard like, it is.
Now look at my sword here, Young Fitch, see the engraving along
the blade, a rapier this and a gift from the King of England, no, I swear it's
so, great great granddaddy was a physician to the Crown and so this gift.
Why, you've honed it right sharp.
Sure, don't cut yourself, and what use is the blunt steel to me?
This here is a cutlass been in the family from the 18th century. A wall
hanger, not much more, but pretty when she's shined up so, careful of
your fingers, you.
You boys tell me these are your old dust traps but here there's not
one couldn't shear the head clean off a pig with a smart blow. What's up
Why, we take pride in these pieces.
It's we want them to show well and it your father's day so.
A dull blade would be a sign of disrespect.
Ay, battle ready they must be for a good man's burial.
Nothing false, you see, nothing that is a pretense, if a sword, a
sword it must be and not just in the looks.
And do you see this stave, Young Fitch? Some has made up just
today special for the funeral but look you now, how old is your thinking
to this length of wood?
Why, I couldn't guess at all.
Ninety year, ninety if a day, on the King James I say, from Ireland
and pure blackthorn, four knots or more to a foot, tough as iron, up and
down in the mountains of Mourne, my father's father's son, see the initials
You could walk a proper mile with that, Jack, why, you could crack a
proper head too.
Oh no, Young Fitch, none of that.
Oh no, ceremonial all these, for a fine day for a fine man.
But the funeral's not till nine in the tomorrow morning.
So but the wake is now concluding and from dusk to dawn it is the
Ay, the holy time.
So the honour guard.
For the hour has come.
And we stand ready to show our love for the man, m'dear.
He the one who saved we will stand for.
And no harm come to him.
Ay, and no harm come.
Are you up and in to the house then, Young Fitch?
There's a fine stew.
And a nice mess of mackerel we'd like to lay on you.
Good it sounds and I'll be inside in not a bit but I tell you what it is,
I'll just walk Sea there on back to the old orchard, we still have an hour of
light left, what do you think?
Oh, an hour.
A good hour.
So you'll join us but soon so?
We will. Just the hour I'll need and then I'm spooning the stew and
at the mackerel with a good will.
The stew's a right savoury meat.
Fine old recipe. You'll not want to put it by.
Robust in the way of it and a foot it'll add to your necker.
Why, a big head I will have then and the makings of a giant. Look
for us in the hour. The pot keep it some warm, will you?
All the best for you.
Good winds so.
Thank you all. Daddy and I've no finer friends.
on the path to the orchard
So what did the ladies have to say about it all?
Oh, thrilled, what do you think they would be?
And they liked the ring.
They loved the ring.
All of them loved that I put a shell on your finger.
You're not telling me true. I can't believe none of them had a big
sweat on you not wearing a diamond.
Some. They probably figure I'm not fit for gull's bait. Well, a
diamond I will get you soon enough.
I don't want a diamond, Michael, and I don't care. I love this Scottish
shell and I'll wear it and proud. The only thing I want more is a circle of
Like our stories.
And he placed on her hand the holy circle of white gold and at that
they were wed and the bells in the kingdom rang for forty days and forty
nights and the white capped eagles did cry with a savage joy and their
great wings were always spread.
at the orchard
So I walked my lady down and we come to the old orchard where'd
we'd played the games of chivalry and Arthur and Guinevere and the
high romance of armoured steeds and jewel-hilted blades longer than my
body and castles grey and dragons green and smoking with wings that
took out the sun. It used to be kept neat and tight as a good vessel but no
more. Run to grow as it wished and place its fruit in the hands of whoever
cared to stop. Straight rows still but limbs gnarly and greybacked and
twisting up and in and out of one another. So Cherubim Stevens had kept
her up well until his death at ninety-three and that five years ago and now
the apples dropped when they wanted once hot sun and stiff wind
worked them loose. Here, late summer and were a few already on the
ground and some ripe in the tops. A small cabin Cherubim had built which
he rented out to tourists and often used himself, playing there we were
for he let us with good heart, and painted in my mind was he on the
cabin's deck and sitting with the big black Bible which reading it made him
I remember Cherubim with his great Bible there. Never grim. Good
as the apples he put in the baskets, wasn't he, and sold them at the wharf
in Chester like they were a catch of fish.
And do you remember, Michael, that he told us a story about the
The mother and the cubs that were on the island for years and no
one dared take a rifle to them for they had Cherubim's blessing.
He was a nice man. He played once the great king for our game.
I see the orchard and I think of Robert Frost again and After Apple
Picking, My long two-pointed ladder's sticking through a tree toward
heaven still, and there over was your favourite hiding place.
You missed it everytime.
Until the last time.
Here's a decent apple. Bite?
Sure. No better on the mainland, look, sweet and tart at the same
time and snaps like a pistol shot. Which brings to mind the absence of guns
and the presence of staves. What do you make of the girls and boys with
their swords and sticks?
The RCMP made 'em salt away their rifles and shotguns so they
took up wood and steel.
For ceremonial purposes.
That's it. Da says, If a Sikh can wear a tirpan to Parliament I can
bloody well strap on my father's regimental sword for Old Fitch's wake.
So the constable has nothing to say about it.
Quite the crew.
How does it feel to be engaged to Guinevere?
I'm floating. But no Lancelot to this tale now.
Oh, you're Lancelot and Arthur and Galahad in the one.
That sounds like a lot to live up to.
I will. But no, I'm of a mind whenever I'm around split wood or rail
fencing or the autumn leaf fall or now so this orchard to wonder what
Frost would have set to paper. D'you mind if I talk the poet?
When did I mind such a thing? And Vermont is not so very far.
I went off and sat under one of the trees, found my small knife in
my jeans pocket, and took to slicing at an apple bough, a long thick one
that the last storm had likely brought down, and Sea up into the branches
of the tree with her, the blue sweater her Mom had put into her hands,
like slate, and I knew her eyes would follow the colour as she looked out
to the treetops and the sky come to copper plate with the low angle of the
An old man's bent
An old man's tenacious vigour
Cultivated by no human concern
Every direction a heaven for every branch
Twig, trunk and root
The orchard growing in high grass
Far back from stone roads or
Muddy track far from
Highway and cars and people with no time
For things that happen without them
And take centuries to do it.
One hundred years, the man told me
More than a hundred years
The fruit still comes
Some with scabs and wormholes
Some smooth and tight
Picked by winds these days
Gathered up by tall grasses
Eaten by bear and deer
And a few like me who with a pole
Bring down five or six
No two the same colour or size
I placed them in a bowl in the cabin.
And watched for black bears that night
For I had heard they were about
Smiling around apples fall breezes popped
To the ground and left for whoever was interested
Man, beast or wasp
I waited in small rain
The mountains had coaxed from travelling clouds
But my friends did not come
At least not while I was there
Under the turning and turning limbs
Under the old men bent
And moving carefully about their tasks
In grass to their knees and just as alone.
An orchard without barrels or baskets
With no regard for bruising or rot
Or human mouths or hunger
Great in a beauty no longer handmade
Unpainted, unsketched, scarcely seen
Even those who rent the cabin and stand
On the deck to look at the hills
And the weather
The few who wonder
Ask, How can it keep on
Making apples, sending down roots
How can it go on being an orchard
With no human to care for it
Harvest the crop
Saw its broken boughs
Cut back its wild growing?
I will tell you something about your Robert Frost poems.
Sometimes it is Frost, sometimes Sandburg, the rest of the time you.
So they all keep house in my head.
And you too?
What will you call it?
I don't know. An Orchard After Robert Frost maybe.
I like it.
Even if it's not about the sea?
I'm expanding my horizons. Pick me that small red one.
Way up there? With what?
That's the challenge.
How is it with you I feel like I'm in one of the Greek myths? To win
your love I must perform the seven labours of Hercules.
Twelve there were.
Slay the Nemean lion. Capture the horses of Diomedes. Gather the
golden apples of the Hesperides.
Create a poem from the top of your head. Sail a racing yacht across
a finish line. Kiss me among the tall breakers. Go without sleep two days
and a night. Bury your father with honour. Take the helm of the Lyyndae
d Darling. Place the red apple to my mouth.
You know, I think those are just a few of the many. You've been
making a Greek legend out of us since you were seven.
Oh, is that how it seems to you?
Me and everybody else has been watching. But this apple is right
Compared to what?
Helming two boats and winning on the both of them.
You can do it.
And can I?
You can. Then all you have to do is circumnavigate the globe.
No, I'll be aboard.
As what? Skipper? First mate? Wife? Lover?
All of the above, none of the above.
What's that supposed to mean?
Well, it's the multiple choice test, isn't it? You have to tick the right
With my HB I put a stroke through the all.
Good Man Michael.
Which I win?
The wedding for two.
It weren't hard to swing up into the tree but she shook it just as I
stretched out for the apple and it broke free so I had to lunge and I got it
in my hand just the same and bounced to the ground. Her eyes were
black and smiling and the sun going gave her face the crimson and the
violet both. I put the apple to her and she bit hard. And kissed me with
her mouth full yet so it was her and the sour and the sweet. Then I lay
her down gentle in the tall grass, made of emeralds and magic it was in
our old games, and kissed her face and hair and apple mouth - for she
kept away at it until there was just the core - and in the time of it she
nestled her head under my chin and curled her knees up there so and
slept and the sky from red to blacked blue and the stars lit by the hands.
Here and then I would my kiss to the top of her head and so she would
murmur in her sleep as if she had put her face into the orchard pond just
there and spoken with her lips to the water and softly. I could not wake
her though I spoke the name I wanted three times - Sea Gray Cove Fitch -
so it was up and in my two arms, and her no light as air woman, and
along back to the house, bright windowed and cheery, and I laid her on
this couch in the den and so by Daddy and her mother in the kitchen and
seeing this and her eyes changing colour and a good smile and warm to
in the kitchen
So there's an end to it.
Not at all. Not a soul has been over her study.
Why, I would of thought that would of been the first place you
Oh, it's a holy horror, papers and pens and books from here to
Not her doing.
No, her son, but there you are, we have to wade through it just the
Likely May has left none of Rose's letters behind.
How do we know she wasn't buried with them?
Did you see a lot of stamps and envelopes in her coffin, did you?
This is not some Oak Island mystery, m'girls, it just needs plain hard
work. Now tomorrow after the funeral we'll a few of us go to May's
house and finish the job. I'm certain there's something we can give Young
Sh, then, he's just in the den.
No, he's off to the porch and talking with the pastor about
tomorrow's service. They were on about a cellist when I served them
some tea a moment ago.
What would they need a cellist for?
You see, the keeper before Old Man Fitch, Charlie Zinck, he played
the cello up at the light and so he taught Old Fitch. My mother remembers
Where's Sea to?
Sleeping in the den. The Halifax Explosion couldn't stir up an eyelid.
Dead and with God.
I need another cup of the Prince of Wales.
Here the wake's at an end. I miss the time already.
An uncommon weekend it.
And soon on to twelve.
in the front room
A weekend like this maybe but the spent hurricane crawling her way
up the New England coast and the surf hitting at Eastern Head in a
mighty way though the sun still shining like brass. I was nine, I'm pretty
sure of that, Daddy was stowing this and that and getting ready for the
blow, said he expected a quiet Saturday and Sunday, people had plenty of
warning of what was coming, not like before the second war. Now I
remember playing chess with him the Friday night when the rain come and
how cozy it were, he and his tea and I with the hot milk and almond in it,
so he had made his own board, oh, huge, and the pieces were sailing
boats he'd carved, clippers and salt bank schooners and men o' war, so
Nelson's Victory was the king on the one side, Cutty Sark the queen, and
the Bluenose was a queen on the other end, I think, I'm sure he had HMS
Bounty a rook, some Yankee boats like Old Ironsides and the Gertrude L.
Thebaud and Flying Cloud there were, the yacht Courageous was a
paladin, so we played and at night I'm under my favourite quilt with the
nautical colours to it, the deep red, the white, the navy blue, and the
compass rose on my sheets and pillow, all fine, so we slept in the light, but
I woke to hollering and him up and gone, and the waves cracking like
they do at Peggy's Cove, oh, the spray shooting twenty foot, more, I see
him in the dory trying to get out to a day sailer, it's on the rocks and a
family of six if you can believe it, no, he never talked about this and it
were all over in ten minutes, all you ever heard was what he wanted you
to hear. Didn't the Mom and Dad panic and start pitching their kids out to
him and he still a good ways off, fifty yards, so they all of them ended up
in the boil, the youngest at five, then a seven year old and the twins at
nine, oh, Daddy rowing like a hundred to get to them, waves crashing
over Pluck, the kids had life jackets on and they were up for a bit, crying
and yelling, but you could see the water would pin them under or snap
their heads into the rocks, I never seen Daddy go like that, and he
hollering but not at the parents or the kids but at God, and some here
might think, the old God cursing come back on him, no, but I run out into
the storming and I heard him, Jesus God help me, Jesus God you got to
help, Jesus, Jesus, God, that's what it were, screaming prayers, and he got
to the boy with the blonde hair, the seven year old, and just hauled him
up and in with the one hand, so he looked around and I knowed he
couldn't spot the youngest, the pounders was higher than the boy's head,
but the girls, the twins, he seen them and went at them and by this time
the parents had jumped in and no life jackets to them, it were a mess, and
the howling of the wind. There was one thing I did, for I saw the little kid
plain, we had the bit of dock there to the bottom of the light and it went
out, what, twenty five foot? I tore down that and dove for the kid so he
was not far from me and getting swept into the big rock ashore, well, I
already was a swimmer, but not big, I was under and I was up, I was
under and I was up, and everything white and sizzling, so but I got his
jacket and the surf actually took us right in so I could lift the boy out,
wailing and shrieking him. Daddy had the twins and was after the parents
and I thought we'd lose the man for he'd be under for a long spell, twenty
or thirty second, then break clear and try and swim for the boat, what
happened, a big surge took him right into the dory but cracked his head a
good one and he was out, so Daddy had dragged the woman up and in
with the children and he got the man, dead weight, y'know, under the
arms and done the same. So he's looking and looking and standing and
looking for the kid and finally sees me waving my arms and rides the
swells back. I had no idea I was bleeding on the mouth and neck, Daddy
had the skin off his knuckles and one whole side of his face, so he hugged
me and was crying, he was, the whole family in shock and wrapped in
each other and no shutting down their wailing, who can blame them, they
should of all been dead, that's how I see it, all drowned and gone, I swear
I don't know how Daddy done it, but he never talked of it, it had scared
him some, too much, he did not like reliving the rescue, and he had no
desire to talk of what the parents done and making them look bad, for
look you, it had been much safer for all had they let him fight his way to
the boat. Any of you remember this you only saw the Coast Guard come
a day later and take the six to the mainland. Now a lot of people sent
cards to Daddy and thanking him but this family never did and maybe
because the parents had some guilt over how they acted, I don't know. So
a year later they shut the light down and that were the end of it all
on the porch
That's a bloody great sword you have to you, Joudrey.
So Sam you see the engraving here of a cannon on the blade? Oh
yes, it's Solingen, but the cannon so it is an artillery regiment my
Grandfather was part of, purely militia but he took it serious enough and
a lawyer as well. Never sharp before tonight.
No qualms of being a lawyer and sitting here armed?
None. Especially after the story tonight. No, Fitch will get a proper
funeral and so help me does those rogue and peasant knaves show their
faces around here again.
Now you are a particular peculiarity to me, Al. I am not overfond of
lawyers or of churchgoers and here you are both and I find myself
enjoying your company.
Oh, a man who will walk straight into the bog with you is likely a
friend for life, isn't it?
It makes no sense to me.
Look, Sam, you know there's weasels in every branch of work, it's
just politicians and lawyers can do you more damage, that's what gets
people up, they lose a divorce proceeding or a lawsuit or a child custody
case and the lawyer is the villain.
You all seem the hired assasins to me, the have gun, will travel crew,
like you have no principles to you but the money that's in it.
I was in Guatemala last year. Now I'll tell you how it is for lawyers
down there. They're the ones defending the poor and homeless, orphans,
why, fishermen with no power a'tall.
So like the Grisham and Street Lawyer thing, I guess I read that.
Those lawyers would make you proud to be human, Sam, nothing
like what you're used to, though there's those here who do the same
good. Now do they make a lot of money? Get power? Run the country?
Cut down, Sam, shot down in the streets and left to lie like a dead cat.
And nobody to do a thing. Every week.
And what were you doing down there?
Why, I may do a stint and help 'em out, oh, I'm no Perry Mason, but
good justice in Guatemala or Colombia or Haiti so it makes a difference to
everyone here too, it all links in together.
You think that?
So how'd you come to be so religious?
Why, it weren't something I grew up with, we weren't a
churchgoing family but the Christmas and Easter. If you're wondering
about the drinking we had the uncle on the mainland beat the living tar
out of his wife and kids, these my aunt and cousins, you see, and always
when the drink was on him, so I never wanted any, not through high
school or college or law school.
He's the abuser then.
Yes, but I saw no middleground and neither would of you, Sam
Eisner. And the faith, it come to me on my own, no one twisting the arm
or preaching hellfire, just me and God, so I had what you would call a
spiritual experience, look, you don't want to listen to all this here, Sam.
Keep talking, Al, so you haven't lost your congregation just yet.
in the den
So there it is, Daddy, the wake done and tomorrow another day.
I'm tired to the bone. Sick to death of telling stories. I can't bring you
back. The remembering makes it the harder, why does everyone say it
helps? I wish I could just step out to the pier now and sail away. Maybe
Cutty Sark would be waiting, or Bluenose, or Flying Cloud. On deck and
run up the sailcloth and away to Bora Bora. I wish I could do more for
you. I wish I could talk better. I wish I could stop death. I can't do much,
can I, so I'd just as soon leave and be somewhere nobody knew my name
There's a woman out here would like to speak with you.
Sea was not in the room and sleeping anymore so I thought, oh,
here we go again, flog the joke for all it's worth and try and cheer Michael
Well, Dan, perhaps you could tell Sea for me I'm not up for more of
the same tonight, honest to my God, I'm not.
So it's not Young Sea this time. She says she's Pete Blackstone's wife.
She says. An older woman, well, but not so old, you know. Wants
to pay her respects.
Why, all right, Dan, I'll not say no to that, will I?
So a woman in black come quietly in through the kitchen, dress,
boots, coat, hat, veil.
Missus Blackstone, thank you for coming by, I just met your
husband this afternoon.
Yes, he mentioned that. I'm sorry for your loss, Michael.
That's good of you. He is just here.
She stood by him a moment and looked down. A silence had walked
into the room with her and I said nothing more. But the tearing come
down her face and so this surprised me. Then she turned to me and lifted
the veil and I could see her face and the black mascara running wet under
I am not Missus Blackstone to you, Michael. I am your mother. I am
in the den
What are you saying, ma'am?
If your father ever kept a picture of me you will recognize my face
even if I am many years older.
Look, I'm not into this sort of thing right now, Missus Blackstone.
I made it look a suicide. So your father wouldn't come looking for
me. All I wanted him to do was raise you as his son. And he did that. I
missed the two of you every day of my life.
I looked good at the face. And my mind gave me the photograph
Daddy had in his bedroom to compare the two. A feeling come up from
my stomach on elbows and knees.
What are you doing here?
I denied myself my husband and son a lifetime. I'm not going to
deny myself Cale's parting.
You are not?
Believe what you like about me. I loved him.
You loved him?
How can you talk like this? You don't even know me. I never had a
You did have a mother. I thought about you and prayed over you
every day of my life.
You did? How come I never knew that?
I couldn't write you.
So what do you by when you're not my mother?
I am Peter's wife.
I am Dana Blackstone.
So you married him while you were my mother and my Daddy's
People assumed I was dead. There's a stone in the graveyard.
Oh, Rose, I know there's a stone in the graveyard. I been looking at
it since I was three years old.
I had no choice, Michael. I had to leave. For your sake.
Your father wouldn't have been a father to you otherwise.
Oh, he was a father to me, a right fine father, it's the mother I went
I'm here for you tonight. I don't want to have a quarrel.
What is it you want to do for me?
Talk to you. Cook you a meal. Stay the night. Stand with you at the
I'm having lots of meals cooked for me, Rose, I don't need anymore.
And it's your other husband you ought to be with tonight since this one's
Michael. I haven't talked to you in twenty years. I want to be with
you tonight so we can have each other, all right?
Oh, just like that, you walk in and you're the portrait of Whistler's
mother rocking in the front room?
No matter what you think of me I want to be here. I wouldn't have
come if I didn't love you.
Is that a for sure thing?
So I'll introduce you at the funeral service as my long lost mother
I don't think that would be a good idea.
So and what would be a good idea?
I'm a friend of the family. I'm Dana Blackstone. Peter and I will stand
Dana, Rose, look you, I got one of the biggest days of my life
tomorrow and I'm dead on my feet, why, I can't even think straight for all
the zigging and zagging of this weekend. Now you want me to deal with
a mother that never existed except in my Daddy's pain, yes, Missus, I saw
it in him whenever your name come up, so here you want me to fling open
the door and spread out the welcome mat and say, Let's be the best of
pals, let's be mother and son starting off with Daddy's funeral and going
from there, but we can't tell anyone.
This is all difficult. If I didn't care I wouldn't have walked here in the
dark and come through that back door. This is going to take time. But I,
we, there has to be a start, tonight, sometime, there has to be a beginning
Sometime is right but not this time. I can't deal with Rose Dana Fitch
Blackstone tonight. Not for a lot of nights. Maybe next week, maybe next
year. I guess you have a friend on the island.
Peter and I do. That's where he is.
They know who you are?
They know I'm Dana Blackstone.
You ought to go back there and be her. Don't stay here too long
and get mixed up.
I want to stay here.
You can't stay here. You can't stand with me at the funeral. You
can't come back after abandoning me and be my mother.
Why can't I, Michael? Why can't I make it right? Why can't you give
me that chance?
Because I'm not Saint Francis and I'm not Jesus on the cross and, let
me tell you this, I'm not your son. That man there, I'm his son, but that's all
the son I am to anybody. Say, Dan!
Could you make sure Missus Blackstone makes it home safely?
Why, I can do that.
Thank you, but it's a short walk, I won't need an escort.
It's no trouble, Missus Blackstone.
Oh no, I wouldn't want to be trouble. Good night, Michael.
G'night, Missus Blackstone. Have a good sound sleep this night,
I come to the back door but she were already around to the front
and Dan trotting after her. The boys were in the shadows. I saw one
cigarette tip. And far back, the light, the lantern, the black oil skinned arm.
I went looking for Sea. I found her on my bed upstairs and gone deep.
No, I would not wake her, not even on this night. I went to the other
room and stretched out on Daddy's bed. Some shine there was from the
moon in the window glass but a mist was rolling in from the Atlantic.
You done right, boy?
You sure you done right?
That's as good as I get tonight and I'm putting you to rest in the
Think on it.
Oh, I'm thinking, I'm twenty year thinking.
You can make it something else in the morning.
I don't think so.
on the island
I did not sleep long. There was no sun come up and I saw the mist
had stayed on. The gulls were talking. In my closet there was an old suit
in black and I put it on, a white shirt under and cold against my skin, a tie
of black and it all come together all right, me moving so not to wake Sea. I
made a coffee and stood in the den drinking it. The house was quiet, the
boys on the porch with no word but now and then the scrape of a boot,
the jingle of a sword sheath, the knock of wood on wood from a staff. I
put on the radio for the marine forecast as Daddy had done every day of
his life. Eastern Shore, the man said, wind at 2 knots, heavy fog, Big
Tancook, Little Tancook, Ironbound, wind at 1 knot, heavy fog, clearing
at noon and wind to 30 knots, Northumberland Strait, wind at 5 knots,
scattered cloud, clearing this afternoon and wind to 20 knots. So I turned
it off and looked out the back door at the grey hanging from the plum
trees and draped thick over garden, grass and field.
Harvey Zwicker come at seven. I saw his yellow hearse inching up
from the ferry dock, strange it was in the fog and the grim, a ground sun
making its way along dirt track and shore to the house. I waited in the hall
and he come up through the front door with his assistant, Gosh Mitton.
So his voice as if muted by the thick of fog.
Mister Zwicker. Thank you for coming.
How was the wake then, Young Fitch?
All it could be.
This here is to burn off in a few hours.
Daddy is in the den.
I heard about the fire. Sorry I am of it.
It'll be over soon enough, Mister Zwicker, and an end to the hard
And how are you, boy?
Nailed and pinned. I'll hold up.
We made our way to the den. He looked down at the coffin and its
scars of black from the fire burn.
You've screwed the lid down then.
He was all right?
I put his father's Bible in with him. His brother's cross, Jonathan
Daniel's, from the lighthouse. A poem I penned for him. His wife's picture.
He's right as rain.
I thought we would get him over to the church while it was still
early and get everything set up fine.
All right. Let me get the right side.
A moment, Young Boy Fitch.
So and it was X Cross. All the boys from the porch and the back of
the house were crowded in behind him.
What is it, Exodus?
We would like the honour of bearing him to the hearse and walking
with him as you go.
Well. I can't say no to that. Thank you, boys.
They piled in, Solly Chute there was with him, and Big Sonny
Demone, Dan Mitton, Willy Gow, Roger Langille, Chris Stevens, Sam
Eisner and Al Joudrey, George Manthorne and Scrap Bushen and Good
Man Charlie, six to a side they shouldered it up and headed down the hall
and out the front door which Harvey held for them.
So and I come out onto the porch and the people were spread below
me in two straight rows, one to either side, and the boys bearing the
coffin up between them, the men and women and children in their Sunday
best, but the sword belts still buckled on, the staves in hand, waiting as it
was put in the back of the hearse and Harvey got in behind the wheel.
You coming with me, Young Fitch?
I'll walk behind, Mister Zwicker.
So I fetched my staff cut of the apple tree and got behind the yellow
hearse. The crew of pall bearers in their pea coats and sweaters and jeans
fell in behind me and so the people behind them and as Harvey moved the
hearse slowly forward we began the walk to the church. Gulls came over
the march but did not cry and silent as the silver air. It was a mile. My
eyes were a time on the back doors of the hearse, a time on the houses
and lawns and fences, a time on the sea which under the mist lay smooth
as a whale's back in the breaching. I could hear well the hundreds of feet
behind me and once I looked back and saw the long black line and the
sword hilts and the staves both white and dark and Sea I saw too, the
last, her hair still loose, pea coat and black sweater under, dark glasses,
carrying what but I could not see. Solly Chute came with his bronze
baritone and his voice held against the fog that tried to silence him. So
Scrap Bushen joined him and his bass from far under, then the men from
the church choir, and so it was for a verse or two and so those that knew
the words came in, up and down the singing, swelling and breaking and
dropping off, uncertain, then again in a surge of sea strength and
breaking on land and rock and reef.
Take me back to my Western boat
Let me fish off Cape St. Mary's
Where the hagdowns sail and the foghorns wail
With my friends the Browns and the Cleary's
Let me fish off Cape St. Mary's
Let me feel my dory lift
To the broad Atlantic combers
Where the tide rips swirl and the wild ducks whirl
Where Old Neptune calls the number
'Neath the broad Atlantic combers
Let me sail up Golden Bay
With my oilskins all a'streamin'
From the thunder squall when I hauled my trawl
And my old Cape Ann a'gleamin'
With my oil skins all a'streamin'
Take me back to that snug green cove
Where the seas roll up their thunder
There let me rest in the earth's cool breast
Where the stars shine out their wonder
And the seas roll up their thunder
So three pipers met us halfway and by the Selig's house and picket
fence. I did not know. I saw the great jagged figures. Johns Divine there
was, Moses Ruddock too, and Micah Strong Raven, at six nine towering
over the others. Their heads bare, shirts white and loose and laces to the
throat open, kilts freeman black and blood's red, as they said it, sporrans
and high rugged socks and the daggers to them, the dirks with red
stones. I had not seen them the weekend for they had been away to
marching with their pipe band and their wives and children gone along.
Good friends to my father and taught me to sail, they and the others,
when Daddy first made the Lyyndae d seaworthy. Their own had been
slaves and the one family came as loyalists out of the American Revolution,
the one after 1812, the other out of the Underground Railroad and to the
island from Ontario. They waited on the people's song and when it was
done they came on with their drones until there was no other sound in
heaven and earth and so turned to walk solid and in time before the
hearse. And they told me later it was Lachlan MacNeill Campbell of
Kintarberts Fancy they played. And the gulls did cry now against the
dark of the day and went yet ahead of us all and circled the sea as bits of
Come to the church and there was Slender standing before the open
door and in a robe white as a sea surge and the white stole over his
shoulders embroidered with great blue rolling waves. And to his sides
waiting on us, visitors to the island and in the bed and breakfasts, some
Americans with summer homes on Tarragon and they from Washington
and New York and Charleston, Pete Blackstone I saw and next to him,
wrapped in black, Dana Blackstone. And the RCMP as well, the sergeant
and three others including the one had overnighted with Joudrey, all in
their body armour and two with the shotguns they keep in the cruisers.
So they all of them parted as the hearse stopped and the boys drew the
coffin out the back and up the twelve steps. And Slender at the head now
and so the the three pipers and the boys bearing the wood and then I
myself and the people filling the church. In the aisles they stood for the
pews were soon solid with good folk from end to end and to the open
door and down the steps to the grass and gravel. And the pipes stopped.
I sat to the front. The boys on the sides to me. The staff I placed on
the floor under my feet. I looked once about and my mother was far to
the back and on the left under a window of Saint Paul a day and a night in
the open sea and an angel over him and its wings bright gold and open.
And light there was everywhere, candle upon candle, a hundred, two
hundred, no end to them, as if a sun had come in through the door and
rested itself, on the coffin they placed them, and at the foot and head.
Slender stood at the pulpit with its great archangel and a high candle to
his face too.
Jesus said, I am the light of the world. And Cale Fitch gave his life
over to that light. And it was light he put upon the water and saved so
many of your lives. Let us pray. God in heaven, for bright heaven there is,
Cale has come to you, come a free man and no slave to this world and the
religion it makes of everything but you. We do not give him to you. He is
already yours. We do not ask you to receive him. You have already taken
him in. What we do ask is that you help us to honour him and to honour
you. What we do ask is that in the midst of all life, good and bad, you
help us today to gather our thoughts, take new strength from your
strong heart, and believe.
Sea come through the people in the centre aisle and stood beside the
coffin. She had the cello with her that Daddy kept in his bedroom closet.
The one he had from the keeper before him. And the bow of it she held in
a hand. So she with her glasses off and her eyes dark from the crying she
looked to me and asked in the softest of ways, Will you play, Michael?
Will you play, Michael?
I came to my feet. Sea handed me the bow. I held it in both of my
hands a moment and then stretched out my hand for the cello which she
leaned towards me. Slender brought down a chair from behind the pulpit.
I sat and tuned the strings. I did not look up. I did not wish to see, for a
time, a human face. I drew the bow across and so played what Daddy
had taught me, that which followed the run of the sea, the lean white
glean of the moon after the storm ploughs up the deep, the combers and
the calm, the sky and its birds and cloud thin and full, purple, ivory and
bronze, the land line and the coming together of earth, air and wild water,
the rise and fall of days, winter, summer, sharp patterns of constellation,
the deer and the good dog and dolphin, so somewhere in this Micah
Strong Raven stood with me and played slow and fine in and through and
out between my notes and bowings, no thunder, just what was needed to
bring in a tying, the binding to the whole every man, woman, child
craved. So it was done and I laid the bow on the coffin wood and the
neck of the cello to the side of it also.
Exodus Cross got up with a Bible in his hands. I been asked to read,
he says, and the old words come from him, I have called thee by name,
thou art mine, when thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee,
and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee, when thou walkest
through the fire, thou shalt not be burned, neither shall the flame kindle
upon thee, for I am the Lord thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy
Saviour, it is Isaiah forty-three. And the choir came out through one of the
doors behind the pulpit, white and gold, and we stood to sing Let The
Lower Lights Be Burning, Solly Chute and Scrap Bushen coming through
warm, dark and pure, and a surprise to me, the richness in Big Sonny
Demone, and so Slender came to us again.
Let me say it just plain. Death is cruel. I'd of rather Cale Fitch was up
here talking to you this morning instead of me. Was there no illness, no
pain, no aging, no war, no wrong, so who wouldn't want to live forever?
But it's no dream that breaks like the soap bubble you make with the
child's wand. No fairy tale that ends when you close the book and tuck
the boy in and back to the real world. Oh, heaven is the real world, its
skies more true, its waters more sweet, its soils more rich, its peoples more
lively and crammed with the good joy than anything you have known this
that we call good enough. So let him be the free man then, hurt as you
must be if you love and it's this world you live in, let him go and be the
great child again and no death to bring his heart in two, no crying, the
evil, none, drownings, burnings, suicides, none of it, God Almighty life,
foaming over the top and running hard down the sides, you cannot hold
it all in. What you believe is what you will become. The chief end of man is
to love God and enjoy him forever.
Let me say it just plain. I had my talks with Mister Fitch. I know of
his living life here below. How he fought God so he saw God as the great
hell. The dying in his family and the dark cursing of the man. The lies and
scheming and oh, the agony put upon him. I will tell you what of it. The
larger part of his life he was Job, he was Jonah, he was Jeremiah and the
loved ones dead at his feet. Psalm 88 were his words, Lord, why castest
thou off my soul? Why hidest thou thy face from me? I am afflicted and
ready to die from my youth up, while I suffer thy terrors I am distracted.
Thy fierce wrath goes over me, thy terrors have cut me off. Lover and
friend hast thou put far from me, and mine acquaintance into darkness. So
but he was not left with his family dead, not left in the belly of hell, not left
with his world in burning ruins about him. Did not Job receive family and
good again? Did not Jonah come from the whale's belly to live the second
life? Did not the people of Jeremiah return to Jerusalem and put its stones
one back upon the other? So Cale Fitch received a son that blessed the
end of his days. So he came up from the pit of the hell and the fury and
the bitter cold. So he rebuilt his world, saved your lives, took his boy to
the sea and called it good. So it become Easter morning for him, and God
not dead a'tall, nor him, so Psalm 23 come to his words now, The Lord is
my shepherd, I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green
pastures, he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul, he
leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Yea, though I
walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for
thou art with me. Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest
a table before me in the presence of mine enemies, thou anointest my head
with oil, my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
The glory of God is man fully alive. So Cale Fitch lived the second life.
Slender stepped back. I got up and looked at them all, the good
faces of men and women and the girls and boys, I'd known the most of
them the best part of my life, some had made me mad in their time, some I
never had occasion to ask more than about weather and the catch, some I
found kind, some had lied to my face, but here were all with swords and
staves to protect my father and I.
All, I thank you all, those of you I know right well, those I know
only to say hello and how the day is off to, you kept my Daddy and my
own self from harm, the God of sea and sky bless to you your times.
Great were my hours with my father, whether he was reading to me or
playing a game or we were on the water or walking the dry land. My
boyhood was something out of a storybook. What hardness any of you
knew in him did you not watch it seep away? Did you not see the light
crease his face in proper lines? Did you not see the softness come and the
laughing white sea? It was easy for me to love him and bitter hard it is to
see him go no matter what I believe is beyond these days of skin and
breath. I've no doubt there is the world of spirit and angels, oh, no doubt
of it, but the waiting to be one with the all is long, too long, doesn't it
seem? But I thank God for Daddy's soul and the fathering he gave to me
and I say to him, With God the strong friend be all the unending before
you, all that ever is, the goodness take into you, the sea running clean and
true, go on and do not stop, this is what you were born to and what you
were meant to live out.
We are passing like ships in the night
You to your world and I to mine
I cannot board your vessel nor run up the sails
The stars to your course I cannot measure
I turn my wheel and land like clouds I see
The glass is falling and a storm to my front
My harbour is not easily found
The shrieking wind brings ill comfort
My charts are one year clear the next a disappointment
My landfalls may be sweet or hard
Once we brought the ships in together
Today and tomorrow there is just the one set of hands
Whispers of your going I hear
Talk in the street of your body and soul
Some speak with certainty of the life in you yet
They know those who have the stories from your own lips
I scrape the mud off my boots and leave them by the steps
Today I live in a house and cook my meals on a stove
Watch the news and listen to music
Sleep in the dark and open two eyes in the sun
But you are worlds away
Write me you cannot nor will you call
I knew you well once
Who you are now it is impossible to tell
Still the love is fierce and will not relinquish
And if I love so greatly there must be something to love
I think if I made preparations tonight
I could find you under the Southern Cross
Quiet is the wind on my face
I navigate a channel slender and calm
White gulls on my left and the albatross to my right
I am certain to grip your hand before dawn
I went back to my place. We rose to sing Eternal Father Strong
To Save. Why is it I had never heard Sea's voice come climbing up steady
and sure from the deep before, Most Holy Spirit, who didst brood upon
the chaos dark and rude and bid its angry tumult cease and give for wild
confusion peace? Then Slender prayed and Johns Divine and Moses
Ruddock and Micah Strong Raven shouldered the coffin, they and their
wives with them, Claire, Cheswick, and Aralina, and a few of the boys
carried the pipes for them, and Slender went first and I after, the staff I
left under the pew. A buoy off the North Shore groaned as I come down
the steps and as I followed the wood to the graveyard I could hear the
foghorn to Eastern Head. The cemetery was just behind the church, some
of the oldest stones, laced with grey lichen and chiselled by salt wind,
come right up to the back door. There came Sea's arm to mine and her
leaning to me. Some trees to where the grave was to be and I looked to
the dark mound of earth the Demone family had laid to the side for they
have the right of the digging. Too many people standing there for they
should all have been behind me. Children, women, men, but in the clothing
like Moses and Johns and Micah. So I learned the whole pipe band had
come out on the ferry instead of waiting in Chester where they were to
march at four. I knew none of them. They stood as the trees stood.
The husbands and wives placed the coffin down on the straps over
the open earth. Nearby was a small stone flat to the ground that read
ROSE FITCH. The people made the circle and Slender began the graveside
ceremony. He had everybody reading, it seemed to me. Al Joudrey, I am
the resurrection and the life, Mel Langille, I know that my Redeemer liveth
and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth, Willy Gow, We
brought nothing into this world and it is certain we can carry nothing out,
Moses Ruddock, Lord, let me know my end and the number of my days,
Molly Cross, the sister to Exodus, Now Christ is risen from the dead and
become the firstfruits of them that slept, for since by man came death, by
man came also the resurrection of the dead. All the words moving round
us in the thick mist that made all sharpness soft and all things, whether a
body standing, a gravestone, a poplar, half seen. My surprise as Sea
speaks up and all in her head, no book or scrap of paper in her hand like
the others, Man, that is born of woman, hath but a short time to live and
is full of misery, he cometh up and is cut down like a flower, he fleeth as it
were a shadow and never continueth in one stay, in the midst of life we
are in death. And when Sea is done all her words Slender bends to take
up a handful of soil and lets it fall to the coffin, and the noise of it is behind
his speaking, Forasmuch as it hath pleased Almighty God, in his wise
providence, to take out of this world the soul of our deceased brother,
we therefore commit his body to the ground, earth to earth, ashes to
ashes, dust to dust, looking for the general resurrection in the last day,
and the life of the world to come, through our Lord Jesus Christ, at
whose second coming in glorious majesty to judge the world, the earth
and the sea shall give up their dead, and the corruptible bodies of those
who sleep in him shall be changed and made like unto his own glorious
body, according to the mighty working whereby he is able to subdue all
things unto himself. And Jackie Heisler says, I heard a voice from heaven
saying unto me, Write, From henceforth blessed are the dead who die in
the Lord, even so saith the Spirit, for they rest from their labours. And
Slender, Lord, have mercy upon us, and the people, Christ, have mercy
upon us, and Slender again, Lord, have mercy upon us. And I seen three
or four who struck their chests with their fists, and then we all like a dark
rising sea, Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy
kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven, give us this
day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those
who trespass against us, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us
from evil, amen, and so a final prayer from Slender, Almighty God, with
whom do live the spirits of those who depart hence in the Lord, and with
whom the souls of the faithful, after they are delivered from the burden
of the flesh, are in joy and felicity, we give thee hearty thanks, and when
done he says, The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God,
and the fellowship of the Holy Ghost, be with us all evermore, amen.
I looked up. The children had been holding the pipes but now the
men and women, a hundred of them or more, took them in their hands
and filled the bags with air, and a great rustling in that place as if the trees
dropped all their leaves to the ground, and chanters to their mouths and
the drones swelling to a wall of sound the cloud cover could not deaden, I
took soil and from between my fingers it slipped, the pipes filled up sea
and sky and it seemed to me I breathed in the slow thunder as I turned to
walk past my mother and on to the church hall just there, so the Banks of
Lochiel they told me as I sat and the ladies fetched sandwiches without
crusts and coffee with cream and sugar and ginger cookies soft as dough,
the people talked, the children squirmed and ran out the hall doors, I
thanked all I could, the pipers I did not know, the men and women and
boys and girls I did, Missus Cove had brought a few of my things in a
gym bag so I changed in the washroom into jeans and a St. Andrews red
T and then went down with Sea and her parents and Pete Blackstone and
his wife to Pete's power boat that would take us to Chester in good time.
Pete steering and carefully through the fog, he wondering if the race
would be called or the thick burn off and my mother staring at the water
and she colourless as this day's sea and Missus Cove pointing out a family
of wild ducks which flew as a barge went chunk chunk chunk to port and
it with a crane fixed to her and some work with ship or house tomorrow it
would be up to I thought and a body rowing past in T shirt and jeans,
looking chilled, two of the tall ships riding at anchor and silent and the
sense that it was 1701 given to me, finally the harbour, with Lyyndae d
still tight to, and up the wharf to Solomon Gundy's Grill, the only place
Pete Blackstone took his meal before a race.
on the Chester waterfront
Sea says, You are somewhere else, Michael, as we go along the
weathered planking to the land.
I am with my father.
I'm sorry. It is a great stone for you to carry.
I cannot understand the strangers. Why all of those men and
women? Why did they come?
Perhaps Moses or Johns asked.
No. They didn't. The people crossed over on their own. It makes no
sense to me.
Is it a bad thing their crossing?
It's not bad. But I feel inside like this day. I can't see very far.
There's nothing I can get my hand onto that makes the strangers fit.
Well, let a good race clear up your mind.
And what am I doing racing on the day I've just said goodbye to my
He would tell you to run up the sails, Michael.
So he might. But I tell you, helming a fifty footer for the North
Atlantic Trophy is about the last thing I want to do right now.
This did not cheer her but I was feeling as grim as the day. I had no
hunger but I did take in a warm bowl of chowder that was piled over the
top with bits of halibut and scallop. Pete and his crew tried to get me
talking and show some enthusiasm for the race and I did my best but I
doubt it gave anyone backbone. And my mother there at Pete's side,
looking and not looking at me, and I still having no idea in the world who
she was or what I should say to her. A messenger come looking for each
boat's owner and captain for to get them to a meeting about
postponement and so Sea and Pete left and I there with Sea's Mom and
Dad and the crew and my mother asks, How is it with you today,
I'm feeling the weather, Missus Blackstone.
It was a beautiful service.
The pastor did a good job, yes. And to see the people there paying
him honour was good.
I thought your poem was very meaningful.
So did I, says Missus Cove.
And the cello and the pipe together, that was some good you, says
Mister Cove, that was right fine.
Will you go on with your studies at the university? asked my
I have some matters to attend to here, Missus Blackstone, but I do
intend to finish my degree.
I understand you have become engaged to Mister and Missus
So will you take her with you or finish your doctorate before you
come back and marry her?
I'm not sure of that, Missus Blackstone, it's not a good day for
working all that out, is it?
Of course not. I apologize for prying.
Excuse me, Mister and Missus Cove, Missus Blackstone, all the crew,
I'll see you down at the wharf.
So I got out the door and away from all that and away from Dana
Blackstone. I went down and the wharf was crammed with people come
for the final race and to one side the Lyyndae d taking on those that
wanted to walk the deck and snoop down below at ten bucks a head,
students and children five, so I thought, here's a way to get aboard and
no one to say no. I stood in the line and fished the student card and five
out of my wallet. Waiting and thinking on a mix of images from the funeral
service, the graveside, the whole weekend, Daddy and I laying down a
fresh deck on the Lyyndae d, the strength and great beauty of Sea's
young face, I went from one to the other and back without a moment
between. A breeze came against my cheek and a flag nearby began to
snap. I saw that the grey was coming apart above my head, like the
tearing in two of a handful of cotton batten, and every minute the wind
was picking up, coming in off the land. At the back of it all was a voice I
paid no attention to but my mind would have none of that and so kept the
voice close enough I had to listen, and not to the words, but the saying of
the words. So in line there it come to me and I turned and a big fellow
with a stomach like a keg and a face like raw beef is talking away in his
blue yachting blazer and grey trousers. A strong stand of flames scorched
my gut and I went to him without a thought on it so he looked at me and
put his hands in his pockets.
What is it? he fair growled.
Oh, I just come by to ask how things are with you.
I don't even know you, boy.
Well, there you are, you spend your time with your boot in a
body's back and they flat on their face and it's not the best way to come
to know and appreciate somebody.
Are you crazy? He turned to his companion, a scrawny and
runzelled man in a dirty brown windbreaker and laughed, The lad's
thinking I'm his worst enemy.
Not my worst, I wouldn't give you that much, but an enemy by
your own choice, there's true, a great stick in your hands and a body's
back to you, that's the colour of your life.
Get on with you, go on, or I'll fetch a constable.
I'll not lay you out you, oh, though well I could with what I got
brewing in me, no fear of that you great kutz, no, but what I will do, and
I will on the Fierce beat you down, I will take your trophy from you and
strip you of your glory, I will take you down and sail where you said I
could not sail and for the pride of my father do what you said I could not
do. Down to the waterline I will burn you, shatter your spars, drop
canvas and rigging about your ankles and put you adrift and alight.
You're done in, sir, done in and down, sir, and I will see to it personally.
Some of the crew was making their way from Solomon Gundy's and
I called, Get the others and out to the boat, here's the fair strong wind
and there will be a race today, thank God, a race today like not another
and get the rest, get Sea, and let us get on the boat and shake it down,
we take the blue water in our teeth in just above two hours time.
So the skippers and owners were coming out of the yacht club and
the fresh blue sky wind took the cap off one's head and the ferocious light
come so the eyes to them winced and there was the Boston skipper, the
man I had to beat and so to God would and clean and hard too and I
went up to him and stretched out my hand.
I helm the Fierce and I will whip you today, sir, down you will go
and nothing you can do about it, and but little it has to do with you, be
clear and sharp on that, I find you a fine man since your salute to me in my
dory the day back, a good seaman you, but strip you to the bone I must
for there are others I am fighting and I mean to fight them as they've
never known a fight, blood and guts and thunder and the cannon run out
black and true, no quarter, tough, clean, but no quarter, so you
understand there is no grudge between you or I, sir, for I admire you and
your vessel and crew.
I give him credit so he listened to all this and kept pulling on his cigar
and when I'm done takes my hand in a big grip and says, All the best, lad,
and one of us will drink from the silver cup this day.
There was Sea and I called, Come on, Good Woman Blue Eyes, cast
off the boat and let's to sea, I mean to show you such white and silver
foam today as has never come your way before, such wind and speed
and spirit as a woman such as yourself has only dreamed of, and they will
not catch us, there's not one will catch us, and you can drink to this day
until you stand before God Almighty.
Sea was staring, and the whole of Chester wharf with her, and then
laughed right out of her belly and throat and clamped the Greek
fisherman's cap onto her mess of hair of silver and gold and ran to grip
onto my hand and so we down to where the crew was scrambling and to
get ready to row into the bay. What has got into you now, she asked, if
it's not one mood it's another. Why, I said to her, I am in another mood
altogether, and that's true as God called the world good, for I am in the
mood to fight and so help me I will till my Daddy has bragging rights in
You the warrior now, is it?
I the warrior now and tomorrow and any day you favour.
You're one of the lightning struck, that's how it is.
Oh, there's plenty of lightning to go around, that's certain. But so
let's row, Skipper. The earth is sheeted in blue and we are losing time. I
mean to give the other boats a good dinging.
on the blue water
We were in luck right off for we had timed it fine, heading at the line
and getting some good air a split second before the gun. War of
Independence was in a luff for she had to draw back about ten seconds
before the start or she would of gone over early. There was strong wind
coming off the land so a lot of chop and sail snapping and water roar and
of course all the boat crews hollering. I wanted as much sail up as possible
for if you lose time in the first five minutes it can be hard to get back into it
but all the ships were clumped together and we couldn't go wild just yet. I
almost took a piece off of Gem we come so close. Sea was shouting in my
ear one thing and shouting at the crew another. Sails were going up and
down and the bow wave coming high as we made our way to open
water. I was about to tell Sea to give me canvas when the Boston skipper
tears up to port and swallows our wind. We dropped five or six knots
right off and our sails began to flap and War of Independence surged
past, we lost three minutes to him right there for we had to tack to get
out from under his wall of sailcloth. Then he done it to us again to
starboard when we started picking up some decent wind from the south,
cut off our air and we lost another couple of minutes.
He's a cheeky, Yankee, I says to Sea. We'll have to give him a proper
Not five or six minutes behind him we won't. Much more of this and
in another hour he'll be out of sight.
What do you want to do, skipper?
Tack. A dozen. Two dozen. As many as it takes. I want to pick up
every turn of breeze we can, north, west, east, I don't care. Everytime the
Boston Tea Party comes close, we tack. Everytime I feel fresh wind on my
face, we tack. Everytime you look at me, we tack.
Why, so it's nice to be sailing with you again, Mister Bligh.
Take it as it comes, Mister Christian.
We zigged and zagged our way up that water, in and out and
between the other boats, most of whom were sticking to a port tack, they
must of thought we'd pulled a cork or two, I don't believe we stayed in
one set longer than two or three minutes. I coaxed every last bit of muscle
out of Fierce, slashing across sun and saltwater, and ninety minutes into
the race there was Gem just ahead, and War of Independence, and
another out of Charleston called Long In The Tooth. And I thought Long
In The Tooth was going to take out the old Boston Cream Pie for she put
up her spinnaker and we still a couple of hours of racing left, not the thing
to do, but she thought she could overhaul the Boston skipper
handsomely, I guess, and once she had the lead pull in her orange and
black silk and not skip a beat. And she did take out Boston too for about
a minute or so and then the spinnaker tore in half and they fell aside. We
streaked past to starboard and I saw another sail had split on her and I
didn't spot her again the whole race. By then we were on Boston's back
and I didn't have eyes for much else.
Gem was in the lead at that point and the Boston skipper glued to
her wake, looking for the chance to come around and swallow her air. Sea
never stuck to a tack one way or the other, still weaving back and forth,
and I think this threw a lot of the boats off, they thought we weren't a
danger and the next thing they knew we were past them. There was
what, two hundred yards between War of Independence and Gem, when
we come blasting through between them and the Boston skipper popped
his cigar, I swear it came out of his mouth like a bullet, but we never
fouled her, she had plenty of seaway, it's just Sea Gray had us going to
port a moment before, then we came about and shot across Boston's bows
and I doubt if the skipper had even noticed we'd changed to the
starboard tack he was so busy creeping up on Gem. A few of their crew
yelled at us and our crew yelled right back, Yankees cussing out Yankees,
and once we seen they had it in mind to steal our air once again and come
up on our port, why, Sea hauled us about and we were heading to port
ahead of them, cutting Boston off, then tacking back to starboard and
taking on Gem. We cut her air, she dropped back, we came about, headed
to port, zagged once more and headed to starboard and burned around
the third buoy, the midway marker, threw up all the sailcloth we dared
and took a bone in our teeth for home.
We leaned so far to the left under that press of sail, and the wind
picking up, we had pretty much the whole crew to the starboard side to
keep us from going over, there was spray in my eyes and hair and I had
to keep both hands on that crazy wheel or it would of been spinning like a
chopper blade, so Sea had to mop the salt and sting off of my face for I
couldn't do it myself. Gem sunk her teeth into our flank, coming up on the
right, the landside, and she laying over almost as much as us. And the
Yanks proceeded to holler back and forth.
We ought to run out the cannon, I says to Sea.
Run out the cannon and blow Gem out of the water and if Boston
comes any closer we can do the same to him and win the race by the
widest margin the North Atlantic has ever seen. And if you can't give me
cannon give me more canvas.
You and your dream worlds.
Which you are part of.
Only in your dreams.
I played with the wheel and Sea played with the sails and foot by
foot we began to leave Gem to the wolves. Then Boston took her place
and a great blow hit our two boats and the water and wind was
screaming. I don't know why we didn't collide for the pair of us were
heeled well over and there was a moment there when Fierce wasn't
responding to my touch at all. White and blur and sail cracking and Sea
bellowing like the hairy ten foot man. Then War of Independence pulled
ahead to starboard and Sea shouted for us to come about on the port
tack. And we started our in and out and back and forth again, a scrap of
wind from the east, a zephyr from the south, a curl of air from the land,
Fierce latched onto it all but Boston gained more time on us, staying close
hauled on the port tack and extending her lead to about a hundred yards.
I need more sail.
Michael, we can't put up anymore. If we get another big gust we
could lose a spar.
We're going to lose the race. Give me more sail.
How much more?
Unreef them all. Every one of them.
You'll not be able to handle it.
I'll handle it. My father and I will handle it. Boston's got another fifty
yards on us. Unreef the sails. We need to catch more air.
They run them out all right and the wheel kicked and bucked and
bit but everytime we came about I kept her true. Oh, but it was a fight
and I shrieked to get the strength I needed, shrieked into the wind and
water, shrieked at the Boston skipper, shrieked at the fat man ashore who
said I could not sail my father's boat. My father's name too I hurled out,
and my mother's, and God I hollered to and St. Michael the Archangel
and all his army of fire. Waves broke over the bow and over the side and
the crew snapped on their lifelines and I guess Sea snapped on mine for I
never did it myself. I lost my feet once but she got me up again. Back and
forth, tack to port, tack to starboard, pitching into the swells, shock after
shock, in the hands, in the bones, Independence to our left, to our right,
to our left, and then we roared past her and had one minute on her, two,
four, five, seven. I scarcely heard the gun and Sea's arms pretty near
choked the life out of me.
at the wharf in Chester
Oh, some good I felt coming in off the saltwater, right wringing wet
and my throat raw from shouting, the sting of the back pounding still on
me and the taste of the salt in Sea's thick hair. So I thought of putting
Daddy's favourite drink in the cup, the ginger beer, and I saw Billy Beef
Face, the kutz, and a bunch of others of the Right Royal Maritime Yacht
Squadron in their high and mighty grey pants and blue blazers and brass
buttons and arguing to with Pete Blackstone on the wharf to twist the
devil's tail. With all the words and heat I had a hard time of it catching on
but once Sea and I stood listening for a minute it become plain and the
cold seas ran rough through my guts again.
It's crud, all crud, Pete is saying and his eyes firing off lights.
We got the call from the boat. Both your vessels went the wrong
way around the buoy and that's an end to it. They're out.
They went around that buoy all weekend the right way.
What a load you got on. Sea, which way did you go at the third
The same way we've gone everyday since Friday.
Not according to our judges and they were right there, the both of
them say the same thing.
The decision stands and I'm not going to argue with you anymore,
Mister Blackstone. Tell your people to nail down right from left and maybe
you'll have a better time of it next year.
Oh, they'll be nailing all right, I can tell you there'll be thundering
great nailing in a few minutes.
What did you say, Blackstone?
Now what's all this here about our boat taking the trophy? The
young lad on the Fierce beat us in by eight minutes.
The Boston skipper had come up and stood by Billy Beef Face, a
cigar lit in the middle of his beard.
Mister Kennedy, we've been explaining to Mister Blackstone, both
his boats, Fierce and Gem, they went the wrong way around the third
buoy. The rules are explicit. They're both disqualified and the next boat
takes the blue ribbon. That's you and the crew of the War Of
Independence. So I know it's a bit of a surprise and perhaps not the best
of circumstances but you have our congratulations on your win. The
North Atlantic Trophy is heading to Boston for the winter.
And you're saying what?
Fierce and Gem went the wrong way around.
The judges in the boat have both verified it.
I was right on Gem's tail. I followed her stem to stern. I didn't veer
off. I went the same way around the third buoy.
No, no, Mister Kennedy, the judges saw it all, you took the turn
Oh, I know I took it correctly, we been doing the same turn the
entire weekend, I went around the buoy exactly as Pete's boats did. I
guess you'll have to disqualify me too.
Mister Kennedy, in the heat of competition, a body misses a thing or
two, you can be sure you did the turn by the book.
I don't miss a thing in competition, sir, and I took the turn as the
Fierce and Gem took the turn. You're not going to hand me a lame duck
trophy to sail back to Boston with and six months of New England scorn.
We all glanced about and the others went back to their arguing, Pete
raging on about an appeal, but it was Larry Baker running up the wharf,
and he's saying, I need you, my buddy's out.
What race is it?
The last qualifier. Four of us and a quarter mile across the harbour
mouth. Winner is in the final.
I looked to Sea and with the cold blue fury in her eyes from the talk
at our backs. She chipped out the words with her strong white teeth, Go
take it all to them, Michael Murray Fitch of Sea and Sky.
in the dory
Larry and I rowed her out to the start and that was enough for me
to know we'd have our hands full. The other teams would of practiced
together dozens of times or more likely hundreds of times and here we
two were and no good rhythm to our strokes. We had a bit of time so we
went back and forth at the start while the others saved up their strength
but at least we got out of the rough some and a measure of silk to our
oaring. Larry had his back to me and could see nothing but our wake so I
would come in on his pulls. I had a thought of the time I was told I had to
run off against a kid from another school for the right to go to the
provincials. No time to warm up, I'd left my cleats at home and had to race
in my black leather shoes, so I run my guts out into the 50 knot wind and
gone right after behind the bleachers and puked. But I went to the
provincials. And so this was it again and when the gun went we started
out badly, our oars every which way, chopping and splashing and he
doing the one thing and I another but I locked in on his pulls and that got
us back into it. What give us the surge was I'm looking up to find Sea and
instead I get Billy Beef and he's laughing, I don't know yet was it our poor
start or something one of his bread dough cronies fried in fat says to him,
but the big black come up in me from what the Right Royals done to us
and I roared into them oars and fair tried to lift the bow. We stripped the
others clean and took the qualifier and had a half hour to the final.
It would be a mile across the bay, a bit more chop from the wind,
and we made our way slow to where the other boats were already set
and resting on their oars. Shook hands all around, was one crew from
New York, another from PEI, and then waited on the judges, them not
from the Royal Maritimes but a group down Lunenburg and square. Out
in the bay the tall ships were swaying at their anchors and Fierce and Gem
and War of Independence too and white tops all around them. I would
give something to my Daddy this day and if one were stolen from me I'd
find another God put in my way. The gun gone and we hauled into her
from the start, we'd already made up our minds there would be no pacing
her, just all or nothing. I had no thought of breaking at the oars or my
arms giving out. All the anger in my gut over the Fierce went into my back
and shoulders and Larry was at her like the madman. At halfway only the
Yanks were with us and three quarter way we had her if we could make
black smoke. We were closer to the wharf now and I could hear the
cheering and glanced once to see American and Canadian flags going and
people jammed and hollering. Larry began fading, his timing good but
only half strength, so I tried to make her up and put everything to the
bone to my strokes, deep, hard and up, but the Yanks gained, strong into
their finishing kick, I just had to grit and go, grit and go, and all my chest
and arm and raging into the last lengths, yelling Sea told me I was, Gaelic
she says, the oars big long shinings and straight to foam and wet silver,
and the horn and the judge in the megaphone, Baker and Fitch, East
Tarragon, and the Yanks no more than a boat length behind but we took
her and I laughed and dropped forward over the oar handles, I'm
swonked, I says, the scab on the back of my left hand open and blood all
to my T and my jeans and in the water at the bottom of the dory, and
Larry by Godding and good Godding, and the sun good too, the air in
my lungs good, the world good, God in his heaven, and Daddy oh,
smiling, his hands in his pockets and the tilt to his head and the whisper of
the smile at what his boy done.
at the wharf in Chester
They give the North Atlantic to the fourth boat in, for Kennedy
would have none of it, and them Newfoundlanders must of felt they had
the charmed life for they were up on the podium at the head of the pier,
not knowing any of the politics, but they had not been far back of
Independence on their Rant And Roar 4 and so why not, I give 'em a
good lusty cheer, though I had an ache when I saw them hoist the trophy
like it were the Stanley Cup, a great beautiful silver of the Bluenose, four
foot across and more than two high, seventy five pound, but our own
weren't no slouch, a big bronze, fifty pound and almost three foot long,
built like The Herring Net by Winslow Homer, the American painter, the
two in the dory hauling up the net and the oars at the back of the
fisherman in the bow set one over against the other like a cross. It was
sweet on the podium and looking down at Billy Beef, who had a face like
he'd swallowed five fat skunks, and we'd fetched a case of ginger beer
and emptied six bottles into the dory which Larry and I both took
swallows from and could I hear Sea with that tomboy whistle of hers
that'd make a body five mile off jump so when I tilted the bronze and had
to me Daddy's drink.
The pipe band come marching by and away uptown and stood to at
the cenotaph, that with the statue of the Scottish Candian soldier and the
sporran and kilt and the plaques of the war dead, which we went and
watched them, all these as had come to my father, there Johns Divine,
there Moses Ruddock, there Micah Strong Raven, the playing bold and
clean in the blue and sparkle and west wind, and when they were done I
thanked them each again, told Larry to take the trophy home for the year
after Missus Cove had her digital pictures, then drove in the Coves'
mainland car that they kept, like all the islanders, at the lot in Chester, and
to Scotch Cove for Pete Blackstone's party.
at the Blackstone summer home in Scotch Cove
Pete had his own crews there and he'd invited along War of
Independence and the Newfies so we had a full house. I guess winning
the dory race done something, for Pete was lively, but I think Kennedy
pulling back from the trophy put a lot in him too. They were in a corner
and already hooting, the Newfies in the kitchen singing, Sea with her crew
and carrying on, I took myself a Coke, Pete had bought them in the glass
bottles, and out to the patio and down the path to the dock. There were
the red and the blue buoys that marked his anchorages for Fierce and
Gem about a hundred yard out, a dark haired gal was snipping past in a
green kayak, we were at the west arm of the cove, down in the curve to
the north some kids with yellow and pink buckets were playing on a scrap
of beach and shouting about hermit crabs while their Dad was on his
hands and knees scooping out a castle, straight across the water was
Graves Island Park and a slew of pine trees and tents tucked under. I
sipped at the Coke and felt the warm wind still working at drying out my
T with the streak of blood over the St. Andrews.
So the last person I wanted to see, Dana Blackstone, trim in her
jeans and denim shirt and her silver grey hair pulled back.
Can I stand with you a bit, the house is too noisy for me.
Free country, Missus.
And am I free to tell you I'm proud? Is a mother free to tell her son
she's proud of him?
Long time coming, Missus Blackstone.
We've been through all that.
So that's fair enough, is it?
Call me all wrong then, Michael, but I love you and I loved your
How many years you and Pete had this home?
Did you come down every summer?
But you never thought to hop a boat over to Tarragon, no.
Your father would have recognized me.
You watched us both though, didn't you?
I saw you win your boat races. Saw your father on the Lyyndae d
Darling, watched him and you work it into shape.
Always one of the crowd were you?
I was. And a scarf over my head and sunglasses on my face.
All you had to do was talk to us.
Your father wouldn't have understood.
Good so I don't understand either.
He was a different man when you were born. He had a different
God. He was sure the Father Almighty would kill you and me both just to
get at him. He wouldn't have raised you. Wanted us both to move out
and leave him. I couldn't stay. He wouldn't let me. But I took a gamble
that with me out of the picture he would have to take the risk and try and
be your father. I knew it might not work. Thought he might pack you off
to an uncle or aunt. But he took to you when he had no other choice. He
made you a son and you made him a father. You saved him.
I'm no holy Jesus.
I don't care what words you put it into. You did it. God did it. The
primal and elemental forces of the universe did it. Cale Fitch being a father
changed everything. How he saw himself, his life, the sea, God, death,
Old Mizzly Fitch went out the window and somebody else showed up for
work. I had the letters from May Brown but I had the last ten summers to
see for myself.
So if you saw the great change wasn't that time to come by and
knock on the door?
And say what? I didn't kill myself? Here I am? Let's go back a
quarter century and pick up where we left off?
He knew you didn't die. He heard you were rowed off the island.
He kept your picture in his bedroom, what were you, twenty three?
Twenty five. The same age you are now. I loved him, Michael. But I
couldn't come back. I couldn't start again. How did I know he wouldn't
get worked up again about what God would do and lose it?
He wouldn't have.
How could I know?
By spending time with him.
And I married to someone else? With children from him tagging
along? How would that have worked?
I've got brothers?
Two. And three sisters.
You been busy.
Pete wanted a big family. He was an only son.
Where are they?
William and Mary. Yale. Roger Williams. One's a renegade and she's
the student in Texas at SMU.
Would I like them?
I believe you would.
Are we all going to hide from one another like you hid from me and
Anytime you want Pete and I will arrange a get together and lay the
whole thing out on the table.
How long has Pete known about me?
The past five years.
Is that why he let me helm the Fierce?
That was Sea's doing. He went along with it. But if the crew hadn't
liked you he would of said no.
You could of talked to us, Dana. Married with kids, you still could of
talked to us.
I thought it would have been too much for your father.
And maybe too much for you?
I don't know.
That's what it's about. You didn't raise your first born. You didn't
stay faithful to your husband. Now he's dead and you've come to make
amends. But you couldn't face him while he was alive. You couldn't say
you were sorry.
I did what I thought was right. You don't know what Old Mizzly
Fitch was like.
He's dead and he never knew you still loved him. Not one kind
word from you did he get in twenty five years.
I had gone far enough and I saw the tears come and I felt bad but
the words had forced their way out of me. I put the Coke bottle on a
stump and went and sat on a bench that faced the opening of the cove
and into the Atlantic.
Will you sit with me, Mom? I asked.
The eyeliner had run down her cheeks and she had no purse with
her, no kleenex, she was wiping with her hands and the crying still coming
but she sat at the far end of the bench from me.
You know, I took some divinity courses at St. Andrews, it isn't just
my research I've been working on to do with the poetry. In one of my
classes I read a lot of Dorothy Sayers, a mystery writer and a friend to
Jack Lewis, the one that wrote The Lion, the Witch and The Wardrobe,
but Sayers had some deep thinking to her and wrote some good essays
about God and the life. In one of them she's wondering what if Judas
hadn't hung himself? What would Jesus have said to him after the
crucifixion and resurrection? What words would he have used to restore
Judas just as he restored Peter after Peter betrayed him? And I wrote a
paper about this. I imagined that a lost scroll had been found by the Dead
Sea. And it said that the Eleven, and then Matthias who joined them later,
had agreed to leave Judas as a suicide at Judas' own request. But this
scroll, narrated by Judas to a friend, tells what happened. Oh, I don't now
recall all of it but it went something like this. Judas says, I went out to
hang myself. I grabbed a piece of rope that was lying in the street, I think
it had been used for a chariot harness. I went outside the city gates, tied
one end to a thick tree limb and the other to my neck and then leaped
from the limb. I choked and gagged and passed out and I thought I was
dead. But the rope was frayed and my body weight caused the strands to
come apart. I fell to the ground but I did not wake up for a long time.
When I did there were lots of Roman soldiers about so I hid in some
bushes the entire day. I was dying for a drink of water but I was afraid to
show myself, after all, hadn't I helped get Jesus arrested? What if they
were hunting all of us down? I spent the night in hiding for squads of
soldiers were still walking back and forth with torches. My tongue was
swollen and the rope burn around my neck blazed like a hot fire. I finally
passed out again and slept. I woke up when I heard my name. I was
afraid it was a Roman or one of the Temple police.
Who is it? What do you want?
What are you doing here, Judas?
I am resting.
I think one death is enough.
What are you talking about?
My death is enough. We don't need yours too, do we?
It was dark but I could see light in the east. I stared at the stranger's
I don't know you.
Let me help you to your feet.
The stranger got me up and handed me a skin fat with water. I
drank like a wild man. Then he helped me sit back against the very same
tree I had tried to hang myself on.
Would you like some bread?
After I had drunk again I began to feel hungry. So I took the bread
and ate a loaf while he sat beside me. Then he gave me some goat cheese.
After I had eaten he touched my throat and I flinched.
What happened to you here?
Let me put something on it.
And he cleaned the wound with wine and then soaked a cloth from
the waterskin, placed some herbs in it, and tied it around my neck so the
rope burn was covered. Then he got ready to leave.
I've left you another fresh waterskin and a loaf of bread.
I have no money to pay you.
No. You threw the silver away. A hard thing for a treasurer to do
but well done.
What do you know about that? Who are you?
I got to my feet again. He embraced me and kissed me on both
cheeks. I saw him then.
I must go to your brothers and to Mary. But remember that one
death is enough. My death is enough. We do need any others. Not for
any reason. The time for grief is past. Now is the time to dance. I have
risen, Judas. Everything has changed in the world this morning. Everyone
is saved. It would not have been possible without you.
Oh God, forgive me.
Forgiveness is what you started when you showed them where I
was, Judas. Now drink of it yourself. Live a another life from this
moment. Take your first breath. Open your new eyes.
I am not worthy.
You were dead. Now you are alive. You were lost. Now you are
found. Celebrate. Feast. Make music. Put my ring on your finger and my
robe on your body. Not many people ever open such a door as you have
opened. Out of darkness, light. Out of sin, goodness. Out of confusion,
God's great love for all. Thank you, Judas. Peace.
He was gone and I did not see him again. In time I met with the
others and they embraced me with mercy and compassion for, as Peter
said, they all ran, they all betrayed him, there was no one guiltless, not
one, yet none had been excluded from Christ's forgiveness. In my days I
was filled with the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and went about the
Mediterranean telling the worst sorts about God's love and forgiveness
and I was pleased to see many come alive. Not only did God give me the
ability to heal souls but to heal bodies as Jesus had done. For if you were
to look at my throat you would not see a thing, not even the trace of a
scar. They say he still has the wounds in his hands and feet. But I am
without blemish and without spot.
My mother looked at me. It sounds wonderful, Michael. But what
does it mean?
It means that I am no better than you and that you are much better
You left my father with me and it was his redemption. You opened
the door to light by going. So don't beat yourself up anymore and don't
let me do it to you. He found the great good and he passed it on to me. If
you'd stayed none of the beauty would have happened. He would have
raged on. You broke the darkness in two by leaving him alone with his
son. Now we all have something to celebrate. Welcome home.
I held her there and I kissed gently as I could the top of her head
and all the strands of her grey and silver hair.
at the Fitch house
Well and so did you have any luck today?
Here. Can you hold that? No, we come up dry.
Went through the study?
Two or three times.
And no hollow spots in the walls?
No and no trap doors under the rugs either.
I'm sorry, Mel, I know you had your heart set on it.
Well, I had my heart set on giving that good boy something that
might help him and he comes to have a family of his own. A child needs a
mother and I can't believe it wouldn't help him to know Rose'd been
watching over him all those years even if it was from a thousand miles
But maybe there was nothing to the story after all.
I don't believe that. Where's that broom got to? Who used it last?
on the Chester waterfront
That night I invited Mom and Pete back to the house on Tarragon.
Mister and Missus Cove had never come to the party at Scotch Cove and
taken an early ferry to Tarragon. So it was the four of us down to Pete's
boat by the wharf. The sun was setting by then but the Sea Festival was
still going strong. A live band was playing down by the water and a street
dance was spilling over onto the dock and the sea wall and people's lawns.
Sea laughed and swung me around to do a jig and Pete and Dana stood
back and watched. I tried to ignore the Lyyndae d, her masts down and
packed away somewheres or maybe already on the road to Dartmouth. A
big crane there was to the side and a flatbed semi had backed in down to
the water. But no work was going on. They'd likely load her at dawn.
Hey, you're not smiling, Michael Fitch, tired of me already?
It's the Lyyndae d there behind us.
Ignore it, Michael. You won your race.
Didn't win her though, did I?
You'll see. Joudrey will get her back for you. There's a smart mouth
on that man.
It's not right what they're doing to her. Daddy built her to sail.
D'you know once it was just the two of us and we handled her? Not
much weather but we did it.
How many would you need minimum?
You could do it with three or four. You could. But I'd as soon have
six or seven. That would be bare bones. But it'd be enough.
Keep that in mind for when you win your court case.
You're full of juice tonight.
I got reason to be.
There come a long slow piece after this and I started it with Sea but
half way told her I was going to ask Dana and that she ought to ask Pete
if she liked.
I thought you wanted to get as far away from Dana Blackstone as
you could and now you're asking her to the house and to do a slow dance
There's something I need to say about all that.
So say it.
Why, you're like Al Joudrey. Michael's father left you something in
the will but I can't tell you what it is, not yet.
I will tell you tonight.
I'll hold you to it.
So I took Mom in my arms and a thousand bodies all around us she
put her head on my shoulder and closed her eyes and I moved her in
small circles like ripples along the wood of the wharf. Bright lights there
were but over them the stars showing bit by bit and the wind gone so
only the warm August air and the lights of Tarragon I could see and
between us the masts of the tall ships and the rigging of two hundred
years before. The moon come too, three quarter, laying silver plate on the
sea, and a violin and a nylon string guitar and a young woman's rich voice,
and it one of those times you come half out of yourself and watch the
whole from a mile off. Going over in Pete's boat the light was full on Sea
and Dana and I sat back pretending to be somehwere else but just looking
at them talk and the way everything was on both their faces.
on the island
There's a big light there, says Pete.
It's the end of the dock.
Sure, I see that one, but this one is burning a lot more watts than the
The white one.
Yeah, that. It's like a star close to the water.
I've never seen them use that light before. Not even in the fog.
Well, I guess we'll figure it out soon enough.
So we come up and the light getting stronger and stronger until we
can see every splinter of wood in the dock planking. From a distance I
could see there were people on the pier and some vessels tied to but I
couldn't tell what was going on. A hundred yard out I saw that one of the
black shapes was the barge with the crane on it and the bright light was
on the barge. And what I thought was just somebody's big sailboat come
to a bed and breakfast turned out to be a full size schooner, at least a
hundred and fifty foot and two masts, the back one higher than the one
to the fore. A cut gone up my spine and I clambered out onto the bow to
get a better look.
Watch your step there, Michael, I'm bringing her in.
You see that schooner, Mister Blackstone?
I'm Pete to you. Of course I see it.
Do you see the lines of that boat? Do you recognize her?
I don't. And I can't read the name on her bow.
He had fair come up and I leaped onto the dock, turned Pete's
bowline twice around a cleat, and ran to the schooner snugged there.
Everything inside of me dropped down. I looked at it right hard and the
faces were all around me. What's this, boys, I says, I just left Chester a
half hour ago and she was tied up and her masts gone and the semi ready
to load her for Dartmouth.
Well, now, Young Fitch, they are welcome to do that.
You couldn't of got it over here. What's going on?
Why, we have just finished stepping the masts, for they were down,
You didn't bring it over here. And it doesn't have all that brass on it.
Now I'm telling you, you give it to me straight what's going on.
Just fitting out the boat for a sailing.
Brass or not, that's the Lyyndae d Darling, nothing else, and there
can't be two boats one and the same.
Oh, there can, but one would be the copy and one would be the
original, like to the Bluenose and the Bluenose II.
What are you telling me, Al Joudrey?
Step aboard. You tell me which boat this is.
I went on and a feeling come over me like a creeping mist for the
boat was old. I smelled it. New wood there was here and there, brass
fixtures fresh bought, paint that had been redone, but the girl was a
grand old lady and miles had gone under her keel. I went to the bow
right off and looked for the one thing set into the wood and glassed in
and no bigger than my thumbnail. The light was not strong there and I
went on my hands and knees. You would hardly notice it, right up to the
bowsprit Daddy had placed it, but so my fingers found the recess as small
as a penny. What the light bulbs didn't do, positioned more to midship
and aft, the three quarter moon done, show me the silver. I got up and
the people had followed me aboard, about two dozen there were, men
and women, now Sea there too in her Greek fisherman's cap but by her
face no clue at all to what was going down.
Well, Young Fitch? asks Joudrey.
Sea said I looked a ghost in the moonshine up by the sprit and no
smile to me and my eyes spectral like. That's the 1937 dime Daddy put in, I
says, the first time they put the Bluenose on the coin.
This is the Lyyndae d Darling.
It all come on top of me like a sea. Joudrey put an arm around my
shoulders and I see Roger Langille, X Cross, Micah Strong Raven in a
Kron T and ripped jeans, Sam Eisner, Slender Levy in his Acadia
University hoodie, Solly Chute, Willy Gow, Crystal Mitton, Molly Cross.
Others there were, in and out of the shadows, I heard Hack Dorey too,
cussing down below decks and working on who knew what. I was
standing on the boat that had been in Daddy's blood a half century and
that I had worked on with him for two years and here at the night of the
day of his funeral these folk were getting it ready for blue water.
Young Boy Fitch, says Raven, your father never trusted the
Lyyndae d to anyone else but us. He was certain once he gave it up to a
government agency no good would come of it. Cale Fitch wanted it to sail.
Not just be an exhibit under glass. How he put it, quoting your Dylan
Thomas, he wanted it to take on the tusked, ramshackling sea, the horses
of foam, the sea that hides his secret selves deep in its black bare bones.
But he still wanted to give the people of Nova Scotia a piece of it. We
worked on the replica with him the past three years. Not everyone on the
island knew about it. I'd say most only found out tonight, like Sea's
parents there. It was in Hack's boat house the whole time, the barn with
no windows, locked up tight, we working on it all seasons of the year,
why, the Stevens took it on like a full time job, especially that first year,
when they were laying out the hull. Your father copied everything, gave
the wood the aged look, put in fresh planking not so aged, did everything
to make the two boats look the same. Except for the dime. The true
Lyyndae d was always in your boat house and the masts unstepped. Now
he knew people would one day make the comparison between the two
boats and wonder which was which. So he made sure this one had the
newer look - brighter paint, the brass Lyyndae d never had, all the radio
and computer workings a modern sailing vessel uses, expensive engine.
This boat looks like the replica, the other across the water looks like the
original. But it's the other way around.
Says Joudrey, I'll make the necesary legal fuss about you and the
museum's Lyyndae d and breach of contract and all but in the end we'll
lose and their boat will stay in dry dock. That's fine for the jolly roving tar
will be at sea in the real d and no wrong done for your father did not
specify he was giving them the original Lyyndae d Darling, just the
schooner named the Lyyndae d Darling, and that is what they've got,
God bless 'em, for this is the boat of another name. How does Blue Eyed
Lyyndae strike your fancy?
Why, that was what Daddy always called her when we had her out
to sea. My blue eyed Lyyndae, he'd say, come on up there, my blue eyed
Lyyndae girl, lay over, my blue eyed Lyyndae fair, I swear he even made
up a song and hummed it to himself at the wheel.
Says X Cross, He said nothing about the song but he told us, Look
now, people will spot the resemblance between the museum piece and this
here, so we tell 'em it's the twin, which it is, and we give it enough of a
name so that people look to it as the replica and not the actual. A bit of a
game and a play of fog and mist but no harm done and I'm not thinking
God'll give your Dad too much of a go over it.
He said he would one day give her a hull of royal blue even though
the true hull had been a fine golden oak.
And X, So when the sun comes up you will see the look of her hull.
And he would fly three flags, the blue Canadian ensign, the flag of
New Scotland with St. Andrews Cross, though ours be blue and their's
white, and so the third flag the Canadian Royal Standard, which has the
symbols of England and Scotland and Ireland and France to her.
So Solly Chute, As the man says, when the sun comes up you will see
the look of her flags.
And Al Joudrey, We've spent the day stepping the masts and
working out the bugs with the radio, running the engine, laying in the
bedding, topping off the freshwater tank, putting in enough stores to
feed a dozen for three months if it comes to that.
You make it sound like I'm going somewhere.
Joudrey, So you are, Michael. A friend in the Coast Guard is
stationed at Sable this year. He contacted me on the Saturday to let me
know the last hurricane that come through, what was left of it, stirred up
the sands some. You know that now and again an old wreck will work its
way free of the sand bars' grip and poke its masts or bow above water,
yes. So it's happened but the boat as has broke free is of particular interest
to you, boy.
And why is that?
It is the Heather B Sarty. Your Daddy's family went down with that
boat in 26. All but him.
More cold broke over me. So you're thinking, I says, but I don't
Sam Eisner, You need to go there, boy, and you need to see it,
whisper a prayer, lay a wreath, for wasn't it your own Daddy called the
Banks fishing a war and those waters out there an Atlantic Flanders, go
and take a crew with you, and if you feel like taking it further, dropping
in to some Yankee ports, over to the Canaries, to Europe and the Med or
down along to the Africa coast, a good will ambassador from Nova Scotia
and Canada, do it. We'll be back of you. Matter to the fact, a few of us
will be going with you.
Joudrey, There'll be new storms come skipping up the eastern
seaboard in days or weeks for it's that the time of the year. If you want to
get out to Sable, see the Heather B, and not lose the one God-given
chance, and that a day and a half sail, you'll need to weigh up at dawn.
Molly Cross, Get a good sleep, Michael, rest aboard in your bunk
there, and then carry the stars with you at the sun.
These seas are coming at me big and fast. Who are my crew then?
The same as would take her on the Sunday if they'd let us. But for
George Manthorne who crushed a thumb and we were stepping the
I'm sorry, Young Fitch, by God I don't know where my head was, I
would not let you down but with my gimpy leg and a hand like a prize
pumpkin from New Ross I fear I'd be the devil's own to you.
I went to George and I took the right hand of him, for it was the left
in the thick bandages and blood, and I says, Good man, thank you for
what you've done for my family this day and all the days before. I will not
forget a greatness you did here. And he gave me the smile.
So the boys stood to. Scrap Bushen would sail, and lose his job in
Bridgewater to do it, Solly Chute, X Cross, Sam Eisner, and Big Sonny
Demone they said, but Sonny and his family was up guarding Daddy's
grave the night through, Willy Gow, Moses Ruddock, Micah Strong
Raven, enough to take her round the world did I have to. But Moses and
Micah and Sam had families to them, so I told them no, but their wives
were there to silence me, three months they would give them up, or more,
as a soldier's bride would, and what could I do? I looked to Sea then and
oh, there was a lot across her face, so I went to her and took that good
face in my big hands, and how fine, I thought, her freckes looked, and her
eyes gone to a deep jade green, and I says, Will you come with me?
But she could not say a thing before Al Joudrey was going, Well,
legally, you cannot sail without her consent, in any case.
I looked over to him. What are you talking about?
Why, the boat is her's. Your Daddy willed it to her.
What are you saying, you told me it was Pluck.
I never said it was Pluck. I just told you your father had willed the
boat to her.
What was I supposed to think?
You thought what you were supposed to think.
So who gets Pluck?
I looked down at Sea. So there you are, the skipper again.
If that's so I'm not a skipper to stand by and watch my fleet sail
There's enough bunks but only one with a door. The captain's cabin.
I was hoping to get it. But I freely give it up to a pretty face.
Oh, do you think so? I order you to join me in the cabin.
What are you talking?
I'm talking all your talking. Sail the seven seas, you said. Trinidad
and Tobago, you said. Circumnavigate the globe, you said.
You got your work in Toronto yet. Let's not take this on too fast.
Too fast, why, the whole weekend has been going at the speed of
the great clippers, I might as well stop fighting it and enjoy the ride, bigger
minds than mine have been mapping it all out.
The people been doing well for us.
I'm not talking about the people.
What do you want, Sea?
I want you, Michael the Great Warrior. I want your love, I want
your bed, I want your daughters and sons, do you want mine?
Then let's have done with it.
You sound like you want to get married tonight.
I am getting married tonight.
She took off her cap and shook her head so her hair was all loose
and over her shoulders and long down her back shining under the lights
and the moon. Will you say no?
I? I will not say no. But your mother and father might have
something to say to this.
Says Mister Cove, Sea is well able to make up her own mind about
these things. As for Ivy and I, we've talked the whole thing over a
number of times the past four days.
Says Missus Cove, You're a fine young man, Michael, and we'd
welcome you to the family as our own son. There's not man better for our
Sea, nor any other man strong enough for her, that's the truth of it.
The laughter went around the boat but Sea did not join in for she
had fixed her eyes on Slender. Are you up to doing a funeral and a
wedding in one day, pastor?
Have you not been listening?
I'm listening now.
At eleven. We are going to weigh anchor and sail about the island
from east to west. It will not take above three hours. You may marry us
then before God and all these witnesses.
Miss Cove, you don't have a marriage license.
I do. My mother picked one up from Margaret Bushen the Sunday
night for I had told her I might ask Michael for the ceremony inside of a
Oh, I have it in my purse here.
Missus Cove handed it to Slender who looked it over and smiled
and shrugged. You are a formidable woman, Sea Gray Cove.
That compliment I can well return, sir, for I have found you this
weekend a formidable man of God. Everything that has come your way
you have taken on and done brilliantly. I've no doubt you will handle my
marriage ceremony with the same depth and integrity. I have thought
several times what my housemates would think of our religious services
here. One is a Buddhist and the other Sikh. I am convinced they would
have liked all your words and all your ways very much.
Slender bowed. What else could he do? Sea was at talking as if we
were in the orchard and she the high queen of Camelot. How quick her
dialect could come and go as it suited her. Myself, unless I changed my
geography or was reciting a poem or the medieval vow, South Shore was
my language into every bone.
at the Fitch house
So from there it was the sea had a strong run on. Men and women
was at the boat and finishing the hanging of the sailcloth, and not a sword
buckled to the one, or staff resting near to hand, Sea vanished into the
dark with her mother and Slender, I wanted to speak with Dana and Pete
but they too had slipped into the dark on some errand, the boys, the
sailing crew and a few others, Good Man Charlie too, they led me up to
the house where Mel Langille served up a hot chowder, not at all
surprised by the news of the wedding, so she said, and then the stairs to
my room and shut the door, so they talked on about women and the
nights and days to come, and how fine looking my lady was, but a tongue
on her and a brain to match, so I was to tread careful some you, and
Joudrey caught Sam Eisner's eye and opened the closet to bring out a
cardboard box with the pattern of a thistle printed onto the lid.
What now? I asked.
A surprise for you, boy.
I don't know as I can take any more surprises this day. Plate, bowl
and mug are full.
This is again from your father. Will you say no?
Solly says, Your Dad went on about you being adopted into a clan
Well, I'd like to say it weren't a big thing, but a fat lie that.
Is there another woman involved so?
No, Sol, no such intrigue, sorry I am for you on that. Here I'm a
student at St. Andrews, my first year, and I'm doing some rowing and
sailing with the university, and to cut it down, one of my tormentors was
a Robert Bruce MacLeod, yes, so the Scots and their grand historical
names, I was certain the day would come when I'd have to pound his
head and bones into the Stone of Scone to have any peace, but that didn't
come before a storm in the North Sea, us and two others crewing the
same boat, the coach had lumped us together for this race against the lads
of Dundee, so we were dismasted, that's the short of it, and in the waves
and cold and to rob your breath and stop your heart, I'm telling you, the
rescue boat slow getting to us from the shore, their engine quit once, a
messy day and coming to worse, so this Robert Bruce could not stay up,
even though we had the hull to hang onto, but he could not keep his grip,
two, three times he lost hold and then another and did not come back to
the surface, so the other two had enough just to hold on for themselves
and I being a bit of a swimmer, you know, unusual for a fishing family of
the South Shore, yes, I gone in after him, that's all, but I had to hold his
head free of the chop till the rescue boat come alongside for his arms were
gone, frozen numb, and that were no easy task in the wind and I'll tell
you, I thought we neither of us might make it for I had no intention of
letting go of him, it was all or none, but into the boat they hauled him and
us and that was the day saved.
I stopped. A tiredness went into me like a comber. I says, It's been a
long day, boys.
Well, but you got to finish the story.
Could I get some black coffee, do you think?
I'll, says Willy Gow getting up from the floor where he was
squatting, but not another word until I'm back.
It was only a minute for Mel had two big perks going. I drank at it
and hoped the caff would hit me up in the half hour. So I went on with my
Well, after this, Robert kept his distance, didn't rag on me, didn't
smile at me either, just kept away. That was months. But in the spring he
asks me out to his place and on the drive over, he had one of these wee
UK cars, he thanks me and apologizes for the befores, says his parents
know the story and wanted to meet me. Well, it had been in the paper,
and the school had made mention of it and that I'd been first to Rob, so of
course they'd known, but Rob said in the car he'd been sure he was a
dead man, had no idea how I kept him up and myself as well, and he had
told his Mom and Dad the bottom line of it just recently, that he wouldn't
be alive except I kept a grip on him, and all the time they thinking I'd just
grabbed him and then handed him to the rescue crew. So, the short of it,
this is a great estate, I'm not putting the cork in your bottle, stone house,
green lawns, red flower gardens, you don't know, what is this, I'm
thinking as we drive in, Balmoral? But his parents couldn't have been nicer
and but they met me in their highland dress, yes, for we had come all the
way north to Inverness and west past Black Isle to Skye and Raasay, to
Lewis and Harris, all these islands being Clan MacLeod, a toll bridge to
Skye which made Rob punch the steering wheel, a ferry to Raasay, the
house rambled every point of the compass, had all the rugs and tapestries
Sea's imagination could of dreamed up in the orchard here, a coat of
armour and daggers on the wall in one room, and a great shield, you're
not believing this but so it was, and no snobbery, not a hint, Free
Presbyterian too but kind and rich with grace, I remember the sun slanting
through a stained glass window of Christ healing a leper, fresh flowers in
a vase in my room, red as cinnamon hearts, and my room, boys, my room,
oak door thick as Sonny Demone, four poster bed, painting of a highland
lake, loch, windows that opened onto a view of the mountains of Skye,
nothing like it here, boys, and sweet heather too there was below me
there, not blooming for it was but May, the only problem the length of the
bed for it was made to accomodate a five foot man but I'm not that, am I?
So I a foot and a half foot too long and how was I to rest for a cruel
footboard there was? But Rob's sister picked up on this, no, there's
nothing more to the story, Sol, she was engaged and I was attending her
wedding that fall at Dunvegan Castle on Skye where the Clan chief has his
throne, but she was handsome, tall and dark, Donna Royal MacLeod, oh,
you boys would lift your swords for her, she sized me up and said the
bed and I were not a match made in any man's green heaven, so they put
me in another room where the bed was ten foot long, I'm telling you, yes,
and another view of mountains and sea and sunsets. Look you, boys, I
could go on about the meals and the chess games with pieces six inch high,
the pair of Alaskan Malamutes, great roving dogs who loved the cool air
of the highlands and the mister walked them and a great staff in his hand,
Rob and I rowing a boat to the island of Rona just above Raasay and only
one man living on the island though you can rent a cottage and stay
yourself, the stories Rob's father had to me of Bonnie Prince Charlie, for
he hid on Raasay after Culloden, you know, the lost battle, two days,
enough for the English to come burning and breaking down houses in
revenge. But I got to cut back on all this. What come of it, why, Rob and I
and a friendship, and so the father and mother brought me into the clan,
like in the old they would gather families into the clan for protection, and
there was a small ceremony they wanted done up at Dunvegan, the great
MacLeod castle, two pipers, a speech, I don't know but I didn't meet the
Clan chief, I'm not remembering much except Donna hugging me and
smelling like I don't know what, chocolate and rum and raisins, well, now,
Sea wasn't in my life, was she, I was a free man, Sol, and had the good
God right to look on a woman, but all of this was done and written up in
a book, and there's a prize sporran back at my room in St. Andrews from
the occasion. I'm always at Raasay and Skye, Rob and I are thick, if I talk
with an accent sometimes, so now you know I come by it as an honest
man, and Old Scotland is ruby red in my veins. No, I can't tell you more,
I'm to be wed in an hour and I have no ring, has any one of you thought
hard on that?
Did thy wear kilts?
Of course they wore kilts, Rob sometimes with his T and hiking
boots, not every day like, but his Dad was all the time in one.
What colour was it?
Boys, I'm telling you I'm to be wed. There were about two dozen at
the ceremony at Dunvegan when they brought me in, friends and
neighbours and church folk, the Lewis were in the yellow, Skye in the
blue, and at Donna Royal's wedding there were other colours beside.
So then Sam opened the box with the thistle on top it full of red
plaid. This your father set up, he says, and writing between the mister,
Rob's Dad, and himself, and this the Macleod of Raasay, I guess you saw
it on Donna.
I'm not believing this. I feel as Daddy had my whole life mapped out.
We got to get you into this here right quick, you been going on with
your talk all night.
Strip, Young Fitch. Now your father had it you would marry a
Scottish girl or Sea Gray and the lady would want you dashing but not so
formal as to meet the Queen, no, strip, nothing under the kilt but the
shoes on your feet, then this they call a Jacobite shirt like Moses and Micah
wear, instead of the white shirt and bow tie and black jacket, and this
plaid fly has to drape down somehows.
Here, says Micah, I'll do that. Where's the broach to fasten it, now, a
MacLeod crest, Hold Fast, did your friend Rob tell you all this, or his
sister, we need his socks and boots and the skean dhu.
Says Moses, The skean dhu we'll put in the top of your right sock,
it's sharpened, all right, don't pull it out and cut a hand off with it, where's
the rest of the groom's tux?
X Cross, The sword's just here. Now this a great uncle was the
officer with the North Nova Scotia Highlanders in the First War and at
the gas attack at Ypres in 15, when t'others broke and the Canadians held,
all this I had from your father, and at Vimy too he wore it, or had it just
for the dress parade, I don't know, and then another uncle, a brother to
your Dad's mom, so with the North Nova Scotias in the Second, he had it
the same, at Juno, through Holland and into the Rhine, he wore it when
they liberated the Dutch towns, for the marching through, though I likes
to think he waved it over his head at Normandy, oh, I guess not, the
German bullets a thick of fog, your Dad tell you all this?
You ever see the sword?
There and snug to, a sabre, y'see, and pull it if you will.
I don't doubt for a minute but it's sharp to a carving knife.
And good you don't doubt, sir, draw it only under the greatest
How do I look, boys?
Why, I was a woman I'd marry you, m'dear.
Look, says Moses, the night's run off and I swore I'd get the
schooner off by eleven sharp. It's quarter to. Let's get him down to the
pier and cast the boat free.
I don't have a ring, boys, and who's to stand for me?
We'll all stand for you, Young Boy Fitch.
My life is passing before my eyes.
But a better night's sleep you've not had that you'll have tonight.
So down to the dock and off and I think a body counted and one
hundred and thirty three we put on the boat, boys and girls too and five
dogs, and I just back of the helmsman, Moses, and they used the engine
to get her clear, the sails flapping, then they cut the motor and the night
air took her, the moon took her, east toward the Atlantic, and only using
the jib and jumbo. But Sea was not aboard, not her parents or Slender, no
one was concerned and it had to be another of the games, I'm thinking, so
I acted like I was in the know and stood smiling with one hand, my right,
on the hilt of my sword, and tonight I was the only one so fitted out, the
blades and staves left behind to the island. I spotted my mother, a dozen
bodies between us, and she smiled back at me, and I could of used her
help, but what help could she give me, write my vows? And one rough
collie curled at my feet, I had known him for years, Christopher Stevens
had him, Saint he was and a good one, but he could not help me find ring
or vows and she'd wanted a circle of gold. I thought it might be Sea was
below decks but no one said a thing and we sailed and the laughing and
carrying on there was, oh, a high state of excitement, kids running and
parents keeping 'em from falling overboard, and then the fireworks
started across the way for to bring an end to the Sea Festival, up and
above with the three quarter moon, red, green, gold, purple and blue and
the thump thump reaching us from far away while sea stars spread over
our heads. So now the running and talking stopped and all had their
heads back to get a look. But Moses and the boys had eyes for the sails
and water and up at the bow was Scrap Bushen who called, There to
starboard, Moses, a couple of hundred yard, so. And a small fire there to
the dark waves, a lantern held in a hand, and they dropped quick the
jumbo and the boat slowed and a dory there was alongside us and Solly
took their line and Willy Gow brought a steel ladder which hooked to the
schooner's side and dropped down a good number of feet and I looked
and in the lantern it was her and she began to climb, her father behind
Fair was the dress to her, light the hue and the silk, the sleeves long
and a long white scarf at her throat that trailed behind her in the breeze,
white gold to her ears and necklace, for it shone just different than silver,
the dress flowing blue and white about her as waves that kept rising and
falling, so she came onto the deck and everyone stopped looking at the
fireworks and looked at her. Her hair was plaited seven times in thick
tresses, they formed a crown and loops of them dropped gold and silver
to her neck and up, and twisted around her head was a garland of small
blue roses, so her smile had the great strength in it.
Who is she that looketh forth as the morning, fair as the moon, clear
as the sun?
Hello, Michael Murray Fitch.
I bowed. M'lady, I said, God has brought together stars and sea
and made woman.
I thought it was out of your rib.
Legend. I have the truth of it.
Slender come up behind Sea's parents in his white robe with the blue
waves on the stole, as he stood by my Daddy's coffin the morning, but
the night and moon and sea made it all different, and behind him come a
big man with black hair down his back and the lantern.
Do you remember me, boy?
So you took lobster with my father. Red Mountain Mackenzie. I
have not seen you in years.
No. But I promised your father when we took the winter seas
together one of us would be there when you wed.
You were not at the funeral.
I do not go to those. He is not there so I sat by the sea and I
thought about where he was. I had my own ceremony. I will stand for
He was MicMac but his name, an old family name, spoke of the Scot
in him. He put the lantern down and came to my right. I am not sure if I
had an inch on him or not. We were standing just back of the main spar
and the people came around us in the circle. Solly walked the bowline of
the dory to the stern and tied it there and Scrap pulled the ladder aboard
and the boys and some of the wives got up the jumbo again and so the jib
topsail too and then the foresail and fore gaff topsail. Around Eastern
Head we were to go, so to the south of the island and past the reef, then
up and around West Mountain. Still there were balls of fire over the boat
and snow that fell in colours and turned and glittered and melted away
and soundless for we had come too far. Slender read from Corinthians
that charity beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things,
endureth all things, charity never faileth. And from the Song of Solomon,
Set me as a seal upon thine heart, as a seal upon thine arm, for love is
strong as death, jealousy is cruel as the grave, the coals thereof are coals
of fire which hath a most vehement flame, many waters cannot quench
love, neither can the floods drown it. And from Genesis, Therefore shall a
man leave his father and his mother and shall cleave unto his wife and
they shall be one flesh. Then he asked, Who shall stand for Michael? And
Red Mountain Mackenzie said, I stand, and the boys said, And we with
him, and he asked, Who will stand for Sea Gray?And Dana Blackstone
said, I stand, and the women said, And we with her. So we moved past
the light at Eastern Head, Daddy's old one on the hill, the new down
among the shoals, and a bit of it came across Sea's face but so she would
not blink. And she kept her eyes on me, in my red and my black and my
sword, and she began to speak. And it was the men and women of Skye,
of Uist, of the Hebrides, the Christwalkers of the highlands and the
islands, they before Rome in the years of Columba, they she took her
Power of raven be thine, power of eagle be thine, power of the
Fiann, power of storm be thine, power of moon be thine, power of sun,
power of sea be thine, power of land be thine, power of heaven,
goodness of sea be thine, goodness of heaven, each day be joyous to
thee, honour and compassion, lover of each face be thine, thy Saviour's
And she looked to see what I would remember, not the games now,
but the poets we had looked at together, books from the woman who
taught us on the island in the nine years before our last three in Chester,
she with all the stacked shelves and loose papers and paperback upon
hardback upon stapled sheets, she who had showed us these forgotten
syllables that she prayed them herself.
I said, The love of the Mary Mother be thine, the love of Brigit of
flocks be thine, the love of Michael victorius be thine, with their arm each
hour surrounding thee, the great bounty of sea be thine, the great bounty
of earth be thine, the great bounty of heaven be thine, thy life be hale and
fruitful, the mild grace of the Father be thine, the loving grace of the Son
be thine, the loving grace of the Spirit be thine, laving thee with the
And she, Thine be the might of river, thine be the might of ocean,
the might of victory on field, thine be the might of fire, thine be the might
of levin, the might of a strong rock, thine be the might of element, thine be
the might of fountain, the might of the love on high.
And I, The beauty of God is in thy face, the Son of God is protecting
thee from the wicked ones of the world, the King of the stars is before
thee, the beauty of Mary of the deep love, a tongue mannerly, mild,
modest, fair hair between thy two eyebrows, since it is Mary and Jesus
her son who set this pleasantness in thy face, may the taste of mild honey
be upon thee and upon every word thou speakest, to simple and to noble,
to men and to tender women, from this day that we have here till the day
of the ending of thy life, in reliance on the beloved and the powers
eternal, in reliance on the God of life and the shielding of his Son.
She, The form of God is behind thee, the form of Christ is before
thee, the stream of Spirit is through thee, to succour and aid thee, the
bloom of God is upon thee, the bloom of Christ is upon thee, the bloom of
Spirit is upon thee, to bathe thee and make thee fair, grace is upwards
over thee, grace of graces without gainsaying, grace of Father and of
Lord, excellence of men, excellence of women, excellence of lover,
excellence of sons and daughters be thine, excellence of corn, excellence of
drink, excellence of music, excellence of guiding, excellence of sea and land
be thine, grace of the love of the skies be thine, grace of the love of the
stars be thine, grace of the love of the moon be thine, grace of the love of
the sun be thine, grace of the love and the crown of heaven be thine.
I, Thou art the star of each night, thou art the brightness of each
morn, thou art the tidings of each guest, thou shalt travel a rough ground
and thou shalt not redden thy foot, thou shalt journey upward and come
down again, thou shalt journey over ocean and and come again hither, no
peril shall befall thee on knoll nor on bank, in hollow nor in meadow, on
mount nor in glen, the shield of Michael is over thee, king of the bright
angels, to shield thee and to guard thee from thy summit to thy sole, host
shall not make, false one shall not make, fairy shall not make, world shall
not make sling nor catapult, spear nor shaft, axe nor javelin, hook nor
sword, that shall affect thee, that shall afflict thee, that shall wound thee,
that shall overpower thee, no smith shall make, no craftsmen shall make,
no mason shall make, no wright shall make gear nor tool, weapon nor
device, tackle nor instrument, frame nor invention of copper nor stone, of
brass nor iron, of wood nor bronze, of gold nor silver, that shall check
thee, that shall enclose thee, that shall rend thee, that shall bridle thee,
thither nor hither, earth nor land, here nor yonder, down nor up, above
nor below, sea nor shore, in the sky aloft, in the deep beneath, thou nut
of my heart, thou face of my sun, thou harp of my music, thou crown of
my sense, thou art the love of the God of Life, thou art the love of tender
Christ, thou art the love of Spirit Holy, thou art the love of each living
We came by the reef now and I could hear the swells opening upon
her and what light we had aboard was what the moon gave and the
lantern Red Mountain Mackenzie had set on the deck. But the fuel in it
was gone then and only the sky silver on us all. I took up Sea's hands and
brought her close to me. Look, I whispered, I don't have a ring at all. I got
the slow Sea smile, Never mind, I have them. The one hand she kept
closed in mine she opened and two rings, one small, and she said, Your
father's and your mother's. And we are still whispering and I, Dana
Blackstone gave you her's. She, And your father left his in an envelope
with Al Joudrey.
So you know about Dana Blackstone. That is why she stood for
No one else knows but my mother and father. Dana gave the ring to
me hours ago. They went back to Scotch Cove for it. Your father's I had
from early this morning at the funeral.
Look, would this not be bad luck to put these rings on our hands,
the first marriage failed.
No, but life and faith are about restoring what's lost, holy luck to us,
Michael, for that is what God has always done.
So I won't have any secrets to talk to you about tonight.
So I don't want to talk.
Says Slender, Are we ready to continue?
You will have to think of something to end it, Michael.
Well, I have brought us this far.
Let us bring all the games of the orchard to an end. Sea, will you
take the circle of gold, will you take me under your roof, close by your
fire, will you walk the green hills with me and the line between sea and
rock and sky?
So I will, Michael, with right good pleasure.
My mother's ring, small as a waterdrop, it stopped at Sea's second
knuckle and would not move from there. She smiled and whispered
something about finding Oak Island treasure to fatten the ring. Then she
held my father's in the moon.
Michael, am I welcome?
And the castle's porticullis is up and the door to every room
And how spacious are the grounds?
They run to the ends of the earth.
Where is the fountain?
At the centre.
Where is the lady?
She has not come.
And if I come?
You are that lady.
And the lord of the castle?
Is the man who stands here.
And who is the lady to that man?
She who places upon his hand the eye of gold.
And the lady who comes and the lady who places the eye of gold,
are they one?
They are one.
And the lord and the lady, are they one?
They are one.
On earth as it is in heaven, she said, and the ring went smoothly
over my skin and came to rest.
It has found a home, Michael.
Slender says, You are man and you are wife, you are one flesh, and
what God has brought together no one must break apart, this day we
have Mister and Missus Michael Murray and Sea Gray Cove Fitch.
I did not kiss her long. The people were cheering and clapping. Red
Mountain Mackenzie came and hugged me so that my back cracked. Hey,
that was good, all that Christ stuff and the ravens, he laughed, how come
nobody told me about that? And my mother kissed my cheeks, Thank
you, my son, for this good day and this good night. And they came
around Sea and I, all of them, and the sails were the moon on the water,
and we rounded the western end of the island and I could see the lights
of the houses and the lights on the dock and across the way the lights of
Chester and over my head the lights of God.
on the island
Someone was playing a fiddle as Sea and I walked, hands tight, up
the pier and along the dirt road to the church and the cemetery.
Who is that? I asked.
The Deons and D'Entremonts are back from visiting family in
They'll play all night.
We won't get any sleep.
I paid them to play, you see.
Aren't you supposed to be back at work tomorrow morning? What
I phoned Cheryl while Mum was doing my hair. Cheryl's my
supervisor. I'm taking some time off.
How much time?
Let's just see. I can do some stuff from away.
How is the ring holding up?
Snug on the second knuckle.
You might put it on a gold chain and let it look good on your throat.
You're standing bright some fine tonight.
Daddy would be proud of the Cove girl.
And when he shall die, cut him up into little stars.
And he shall make the face of heaven so fine.
That all will be in love with night.
And pay no heed to the garish sun.
Cars and trucks were rumbling past as people were heading home
and everyone of them honked their horn at least twice. We kept waving
and walking and our heads down in the glare of lights. So we come to
Archangel and the lantern sitting between Pop Demone and Big Sonny at
the turning of the fresh earth. A sword, two swords there were on the
blanket they sat to, a couple of staves and something that looked like a
club from the Stone Age, and underneath the blanket I saw the snout of a
stainless steel shotgun barrel just poking out. And a headstone to the
grave there was that had not been there before. The two of them got to
their feet to hug us and I got another back cracking for the evening.
Congratulations, Mister and Missus. You both look grand, the
highland warrior and the princess.
Thank you, Pop.
Thank you for the kind words.
We saw you sail past and we gave you our blessing.
Thanks, Sonny. And now who put this stone up?
Why Harvey Zwicker brought it with him and when you'd gone to
do the racing a few of us set it to.
I took the lantern and held it to the headstone. At the top in small
words there was the words of Housman, Home Is The Sailor, Home From
The Sea, and then a coat of arms etched in the marble and painted green
and yellow, and the word Esperance above it and the name Fitch below it,
and then Daddy's name and dates, and then a verse from the Bible, Until
the day breaks and the morning star rises in our hearts. So the work was
This was a pretty penny, Pop.
Well, no one twisted no one's arm, it were a free will offering made
a week ago and Harvey rode herd on the boys in Halifax to get it's done
right and get it's done on time. Now, boy, you are the wordsmith, can
you give me the whole of the poem, for I know there would be more of it.
Why, Pop, it goes like, Home is the sailor, home from sea, her far-
borne canvas furled the ship pours shining on the quay the plunder of the
world, home is the hunter from the hill, fast in the boundless snare all flesh
lies taken at his will and every fowl of the air, 'tis evening on the moorland
free, the starlit wave is still, home is the sailor from the sea, the hunter
from the hill.
Fine, why, that's fine. And the Latin? For I hates to ask anyone else.
Esperance means hope. So it must be the family motto and I did not
Your father was a good man to us, Young Boy Fitch, a stone is the
least we can do for your family. And you, Missus Fitch, don't you look
better than the moon and all the stars.
Oh, thank you, Pop.
It's been quiet here but you never know, Sonny and I will stay until
dawn. And then Sonny's away with you, is he?
He is. Look now, Sonny, Pop, I'd as soon you get some sleep, it's on
to two and it's not likely anyone will come to dig up the grave.
Oh, you don't know that, Young Boy Fitch, for it's certain they are
still on the island, oh yes, some traitor giving 'em room and board, but
we'll settle it one day to our satisfaction, the Judas will not forever be the
island's secret, no, it will come out and then we'll see.
Go easy on them, Pop.
Oh, easy does it.
I would just as soon you turn in so Sonny's a live one at six.
No, this is our duty, Young Fitch, we've kept the cemetery for over
eighty year, tonight's not the night to be getting my beauty sleep. Y'know,
once there was in the 30's a fellow put swastikas on the Levy graves for it
a Jewish name, y'know, and this on account of Hitler and those Olympic
Games of his, and the Nazis, well, y'know him and the Jews how it goes,
but Levy were a family come from France and some from Germany
anyway, how can you figure this, these fellows painted swastikas on the
headstones and toppled one, my Grandafather had a fit, choking blue
herring and over the top, Grandafather, oh, he found the rascals and
would of strung 'em up was it one of those Westerns he favoured, but
instead he made 'em scrub the stones clean and set 'em back up, all this
with his side by side at their backs, three of the desecrators there were,
then he set them down in Archangel and preached two hour on God's
Chosen People being the Jews and Jesus being a Jew and Peter being a
Jew and on like this. Then he turned 'em over to the Mounties but this
was the thing a lot don't know, we think Canada's oh so clean, I tell you,
there were all kinds of meetings of Nazi types on the mainland and to
Montreal and Quebec and Toronto, thousands, oh yes, and the judge just
fined 'em a dollar each and let 'em go, oh why, Grandafather was like to
walk on water just to get over to Chester and beat seven kinds of pork
out of that slab sided your honour, but he was a travelling judge and so
he did the right thing for him by travelling quick, a disgrace, but those
three steered clear of Grandafather when they were back here and I
don't know as he didn't have it in mind to mete out what punishment he
thought fit, make a work gang out of them or what, but I tell you, when
war with Germany started and they was rounding up some of these
goosesteppin' brown shirted dogfish those three hightailed it for the
states and their families with them, no, I won't say the names, but I guess
in 41 they had to hightail it from America too, here, I've gone on long
enough and this your wedding night, you have better things to do than
watch an old pollock open and close his mouth, off with you, this is our
honour, we'll be just all right, go on, and we'll see you off with Sonny in
So it is, Pop, thank you for what you're doing, this is a big thing to
me, I have this thank you card here, will you take it?
If there's money to it I'll throw it away.
I would not insult you, Pop. There's not a penny. Just a card, a poem
I wrote, and my thanks, will you take it?
I will. Thank ye.
Good night, Sonny, see you at the settin' of the sails.
Ay, ay, Michael.
We went back down the track and I looked up and saw a strong
light back in the bushes. There, again, I said to Sea, always someone
walking and holding a lantern.
So someone's heading home.
They're standing still.
Oh, and they are.
First I thought it was the men with matches. Then I thought it was
Slender. Then when Dana showed up I thought it had been her all along
but she said no. Tonight I thought and it's been Red Mountain Mackenzie.
Well, so it is him watching over you.
No, he was working on the boat with the others and we'll find him
The lantern stayed true in the hand and did not vanish until we
come onto the harbour. Bagpipes were blaring and two fiiddles screaming
and a guitar thrashing under the dock light, Moses and Micah on the
pipes, Pierre Deon and Voila D'Entremont the violins, Mackenzie with his
twelve string Martin, it was good, no one there to dance so Sea and I did
a swing on the planking. But no sooner had we done this then they shut
What's up, boys?
Michael, we made a promise, hey, says D'Entremont, and so away
this goes for it is your wedding night and at dawn you are off to the
Oh, so I like the music, says Sea.
Well, maybe when you are back from the wonders of the Orient,
we'll see we can't put something together, oh hey, yes, Mackenzie.
I'm up for it. But tonight, Michael, my good friend's son, is not the
The five of them walked off the dock and gone.
Are you sure the boat is empty, Michael?
I don't know. Could be Hack Dorey is watching a DVD down
below. Maybe a few others with him.
Well, take a look.
No, you first.
Holy smoke, we're just going to sleep together, we can do that now,
you know, even God says it's okay.
Shut up, Michael.
So I went below decks first and checked all the bunks, opened the
door of the captain's cabin, there were just a few popcans half full and
some candy bar wrappers and three cigarettes crushed up in an ashtray.
The coast is clear.
No, I'm not sure, maybe Hack is under our bed with a tape recorder
and a digital camera.
Oh, shut up, eh? And she laughs and we are down the steps and
she gives me the long kiss and then into the captain's cabin.
What's all this? she asks. All these parcels?
Well, I didn't put them here.
Laura Secord chocolates and mandarins and Evian spring water? Do
they have my favourite?
See? These that are green and square, the frosted mints, oh, there's
nothing better, quick, put one in your mouth and then kiss me, see how
good you taste? And what's this now?
Who knows? It's wrapped up.
Look, Mum's got me a pair of pajamas in blue silk and here, another
pair in blue flannel with sea gulls, aren't they sweet?
And what's this?
Sea, there has to be about fifty presents, why, there's no place to lie
down or sit to take off my boots. Can't we look at these all tomorrow
when we're underway?
Anxious are you? To make a tent under the covers and play the
Dan'l Boone game?
Oh, I don't want to play no Daniel Boone game with you.
Don't be grumpy. Look, who gave us this? It's the same as your kilt,
it's a blanket.
And more tartan. What's this?
The blue of the MacLeods, there with a bit of green, a scarf. It'll go
with your eyes either way.
Who's it from? What's this say?
MicMac. I don't know what it says.
I can't believe how good everybody is being to us.
Neither can I.
Oh ho, look at this black underwear, oh, Michael, do you want me
to wear this tonight?
Who gave you that outfit?
I don't know, one of the fishermen.
One of the fishermen, a pig over my knee, why, Mel Langille, I can't
And you think all she cares about are hymn books and chicken
Look, it's two thirty, let's just put her all aside and get down to it or
the next thing you know X Cross will be hollering, Raise the mains'l, I'm
telling you, Missus Gray Cove Fitch, they'll be here early.
This is the Cove Coat of Arms on the one side of the plaque and the
Fitch on the other. There's a paper here says the Cove name is Anglo
Saxon and comes from Suffolk and a very fertile region, very green,
North and South Cove there was and in the Domesday Book of 1086, isn't
Oh, it's something.
Now who would of had that just sitting around? You can't just go to
a store in Halifax and find such a thing on the shelf.
Here's one of those knives you put in your sock.
A skean dhu.
And a blue stone in the hilt, and a whole kilt outfit with it, Michael,
see, it must be expensive, all the blues and greens, isn't this the most
fantastic wedding night?
Oh, you can't beat it, I don't think anybody else had such a wedding
night in the history of the world, you'd have to go right back to Jacob and
And a digital camera with a zoom, I can take pictures of everything
that happens on our honeymoon.
Well, you won't need much memory on the camera for what's
happened so far.
Oh, Michael, here, take some oranges and water and go topside, I
won't be half an hour and then I'll make you the happiest man alive, go on,
take a dip in the harbour and cool off and come back at three, I'll be your
Cleopatra in Mel Langille's teddy.
That sounds scarey.
You don't have to be scared of me. I won't hurt you. Here. Eat this.
Come back at three.
She was opening a box with spatulas and serving spoons in it when I
left. I sat on the deck and peeled a mandarin, Christmas oranges we
always called them, and the moon was low in the west, a warm wind was
stirring the rigging, it were fine, but I had the sinking feeling about it all,
for when Sea and I played and it was late, why, she had all these grand
schemes and to do, and she'd send me away so's she could get our castle
ready or something, and I was to count first to 1415, then add on twenty
five, then top off my count with ten, the reason being The Battle of
Agincourt took place on October 25th, 1415, and it, Henry V, was one of
her favourite Shakespeare plays, but by the time I'd done my counting
and come back to the castle or fort or hideout, she was always rolled up in
a blanket and fast asleep. But I played it honest, I drank my Evian and ate
the three oranges, she didn't give me one of the chocolates, swung my
sword around a bit and almost sliced one of the ropes held the boom in
place, stared at the lights of Chester and watched a satellite move high
over the night sky like a slow UFO, oh, I took the time to go up to the
house and throw some clothes and things in a seabag, then I went down
the stairs of the boat at three and a bit and the door to the captain's cabin
was shut, shut and locked, so I tapped light like, you know, Baby, it's me,
but I got no response, so I knocked louder, and what I got this time was,
Honey, careful, sleep. And that was it. Breaking the door down occurred
to me but I didn't think I'd get much of what I wanted using that
approach so I found a bunk, unbuckled my sword, took off my boots,
unfastened the tartan over my shoulder and used it for a blanket and lay
down flat and was gone the minute I shut my eyes, my skean dhu still
sticking out of my sock. The dream was pretty good though and better
than nothing. Of course, just when things were getting interesting and Sea
was kissing me on the ear, a bagpipe shot off and cracked the dawn.
Scotland the Brave it was so I threw on my RAASAY red hoodie and a
pair of jeans and come up top and the crew were there with their bags
and sea chests and their family with them on the pier. My watch said five
Good morning, Young Fitch and how's the lucky man?
Oh, couldn't be luckier, how are all of you?
Nelson's blood and saltwater ready.
Well, come aboard, I'll wake Sea and we'll get this show on the road.
But Sea wouldn't get up, at least, she wouldn't answer even when I
drummed on the door except to offer the sound of a mouth in a pillow. So
the boys come aboard and stowed their gear and the boots thudded on
the deck and Johns Divine changed tunes and Voila and Pierre were back
with their Stradivariuses in hand. Dark but navy blue east of us and we
would sail into a clean dawn. Sam Eisner got the engine going and the
rottle and rattle of that brought Sea out of the cabin in jeans and a white
T, that which her mother had packed in a gym bag with hair brushes and
kleenex and what, the golden hair wavy from the plaiting, loose now over
her back and shoulders and looking wild and good, I thought, a smile at
me and a shrug and a hug, and up to see her Mom and Dad, Joudrey on
deck to shake my hand, and the Sarty was still out of the sand for he'd
just spoken with his friend and it was toward the west end of Sable, gulls
started talking, and there were maybe twenty people on the dock, I went
over to them and so I thanked them again, especially the wives of the
three, Look, I says, I feel bad about this here, but Cheswick Ruddock, so
her husband called her Chez, shushed me and said as Moses and Micah
had planned out their sabbatical leaves together, the one from Acadia and
the other from Mount Saint Vincent, this was the best kind of way to kick
the year off. And Aralina hugs me and says, Michael, you can't have them
for a lifetime but you can have them for now, and her little boy smiles
when I pick him up, Da will be bringing back proper plunder. Slender was
at me for my signature on a sheaf of wedding documents for he already
had Sea's, Red Mountain Mackenzie's and Dana Blackstone's. I did not see
my mother in the mob and I did not see Pete though I had a kiss and a
handshake from the one Cove and the other. But Molly Cross showed up
with her gear and Voila and Pierre, not married either of them,
lobstermen, why, they up and says they'd like to see the world, or Boston
at least, and on board with their kit and who was I to say no, we had the
bunks and I wasn't the skipper, though I gave a bit of thought to where
we'd bed down Molly, so as to that X Cross would turn a man into bait
for looking at his sister twice.
At ten to six we cast off our lines, Moses at the helm, and we all up
on deck waving back to those on the pier, Slender in his pea coat making
the sign of the cross and speaking a blessing we could not hear above the
pipes and the shouting. We had Pluck and Hack Dorey's Firefly aboard
for our lifeboats. At our stern hung a great blue ensign and to either side
and a shave smaller were the Canadian Royal Standard and the flag of
New Scotland. In the sun outcoming from the dark was the long strong
hull of a rich royal blue that made the boat shine like a long rolling sea and
her extra length, she had three metres on the Bluenose, made her look
sleek and crouched and to strike, so we unleashed her. The morning
breeze picked us up once we turned off the engine and from the west so
it took us toward the dawn cut. We'd thought our waving was done so
we left the harbour and Divine's piping behind but no, folk popped up all
along the North Shore so we went at it whenever we spotted a body
raising their hand to us on beach or cliff. Once we rounded Eastern Head
and took a bearing south and east the sun broke free of the earth and
coppered the hull and sails and hammer pitted the waves. I just caught a
burn from Daddy's old light and I swore there was a body up there but
the rest said it was a bit of sunrise. Now to port was Big Tancook and
ahead was Ironbound and the wind coming up so quick we were soon
past the islands and the few fishing boats painted yellow and red and
green and so out to the loose jointed sea. We all gave a cheer, to the roof
went the big mainsail, and the Lyyndae d Darling began to run so the
pent up life in her was busting through. Shine and iced cups of froth and
sky high streamers of white cloud and snowflake gulls with ten thousand
acres to spin in, I'm sucking all this into my lungs and eyes, and Big Sonny
Demone shouts, What's coming?
Back of us sail after sail lit to the sun as fires floating up and over the
rim and blue. In well under an hour the square riggers were on either side
of us and their crews saluting and running up the sparkling signal flags
and we grinning like fresh freed men, the bowsprit beginning to buck and
plunge and toss its silver hair back, I wanted the salt spray all over me and
tore off my hoodie and T just when the news chopper come over right
low and filming the tall ships. Scrap Bushen was at the radio and yelled up
that the chopper was making contact.
Are you the replica of the Lyyndae d Darling?
We are, says Scrap, one and the same.
We have a press release about you.
A law firm. Joudrey, Nickerson and McNabb.
Sounds about right.
Where are you from?
From out of the past.
East Tarragon Island.
What is your name?
Blue Eyed Lyyndae.
Who is the owner?
Sea Gray Cove Fitch.
Is that C as in cookie?
That's Sea as in seven seas that run high.
Like the ocean?
Who is the skipper?
Looks like a woman to me.
Which one is she?
Long blonde hair. White T and blue jeans. Sunglasses. Greek
Where is she standing?
X, where is Sea at?
Right to the helmsman.
She is the woman standing by the man at the wheel.
Gotcha. Who is the woman with the long brown hair working on the
Where are you headed?
Sable Island. Once we're past her we'll tour some American ports on
behalf of the good people of New Scotland. Are we going into the Yankee
That is what the Bluenose II does, Blue Eyed Lyyndae.
Well, it's a big world.
What is your first port of call?
What is our first port of call, Michael?
Well, if that tropical storm in the Caribb brews up into a hurricane
and slips north toward us we either go into Boston or Gloucester or
Providence or we head straight across the Atlantic and out of harm's way.
I repeat, what is your first port of call?
Boston. Gloucester. Providence.
Are you expected?
Are we expected?
Sure, why not?
We are expected.
How many aboard?
Twelve crew and two newlyweds.
The skipper and the first mate got married last night. This is their
How was the wedding night?
How was your wedding night, Michael?
Oh, there's been no wedding night like my wedding night in the
history of the human race.
It was awesome.
Good luck to you, Blue Eyed Lyyndae.
Thank you for that. Play safe.
The chopper peeled off over the high marble columns moving south
and east and west. There was jabber on the radio as they spoke up other
ships. Then they turned back and it was just now the wind and the cut
and crack of the water and the snap of the sailcloth. By midday the square
riggers had fanned out over the Atlantic and left us alone. All sails set,
Skipper wanted, and Blue Eye leaned over and stretched her neck out like
a thoroughbred. Right smart we slipped between sky and deep. The day
gave us a wicked good sea.
Have you a poem for me, husband?
A love poem?
You have to put this day in a poem, this high flying day of it.
I worked on some nice lines on my wedding night.
Good I am to have given you the free time.
Oh, very good. So, I have the paper here, let me start with that and
then see what I can come up with.
See to the main gaff tops'l, will you, Molly?
Through where my hands have come, the waters and and all its blue
winds, up through my bones and skin, along the waterways of my blood,
finding in one long shelled shore a place where no tide is corrupted, nor
ceases to lift on its back the sea star and sand dollar, hermit crab and black
backed gull, nor turns away from the singing storm, nor ends the restless
pacing between high gunmetal swell and pebbled stone strand, I cup in
one hand, my love, and offer to you such as the saltwater realm
relinquishes, neatly held within fingers, thumb and palm, what is
unbordered, unbound, unbridled, and I ask you not to be fooled.
Those around us clapped and Solly Chute says, Before the weekend
I had no use for God or poetry and here I'm thinking that's lovely,
Michael, but, I tell you, I'm still not knowing what it is you're trying to say.
The fisherman stays'l is not true, Pierre, calls Sea, and then smiles at
Solly, Oh, it's like learning another language or a fellow training you to a
different tackle and trade, you get onto it in time. He's telling me the sea is
beautiful but wild and that same raw beauty and danger is in his blood
and so in the love he has for me.
Were you not at the wedding, Solomon? Love is strong as death,
jealousy is cruel as the grave, a most vehement flame, many waters cannot
quench love, neither can the floods drown it.
Sounds right dark and serious.
No Valentine's card and the marshmallow chocolates, no.
Sam Eisner shouts, Sails up from the north!
Three boats come on at our back but still far. Christopher Stevens
spelled Moses on the wheel and we broke out egg salad sandwiches. Sea
got us to reduce sail so the boats could catch up. She soon enough picked
out the red hull of Fierce and the gold hull of Gem so we figured on the
other being War Of Independence, the all of them likely heading home to
Massachusetts. About ninety minutes brought them alongside but the
radio went live a half hour before that.
Asks Pete, D'you know about the hurricane?
Says Scrap, I thought it were a tropical storm.
It's been upgraded and it'll be making landfall in the Florida Keys.
Why don't you follow us into Gloucester?
What do you say, Michael?
Landfall in the Keys is still a long way from us. There's the Heather
B Sarty at Sable.
Negative. We're heading on to Sable. We keep sailing at this clip and
we'll be there before noon tomorrow.
Boston. Gloucester. Providence. Canary Islands. Mars. Venus. We
don't know yet.
Well, you'd receive a warm welcome in America.
Thanks. We'll be in touch.
Our four boats stuck together the rest of the day though they had
their work cut out for them so Sea reduced the sail area a bit more to help
them out. Mom stayed right in the open where she and I could see each
other and we called back and forth a few times from Fierce to Blue Eye.
But it was noisy. The blown spume, the flung spray, the seagulls crying
kind of afternoon. Sea sent me down below to rummage among the
wedding presents for there had been some flags from Pete and Dana. I
found them under a stack of cookbooks - Some Good You, Traditional
South Shore Recipes, there was, and another called I'd Like To Hang A
Nice Mess Of Mackerel On You, From Sea To Pot, and a dozen more
besides. We had come about and were on a tack to starboard and they
were as well and it was easy enough to shout back and forth.
Missus Blackstone, I calls down, why these flags for us?
The dark green one with the sailing ship is Gloucester's. The
colourful one is Maryland, Peter's home state, the black and gold part is
the crest of the Calvert family, who founded Maryland, and the red and
white is the crest of the Crossland family. The third flag is Rhode Island,
with the thirteen stars for the Thirteen Colonies, Peter and I met in
Providence and he has some of his work there, and a cottage by the sea,
but do you see the motto, Michael?
I opened up the white and gold flag, some pretty it was, and under
a gold anchor was a blue banner with the word HOPE across it.
It's the state motto, Mom shouted. These flags fly on Fierce and
Gem whenever we take to blue water. You see we have only the one
green Gloucester flag left that we have next to our American flag. We
would be proud if you'd raise them, Michael.
Do you want them up? Sea asked me.
I guess I do.
Then go ahead, my husband.
I run them high on a halyard back of the mainsail but I seen someone
had made sure a Canadian red ensign ruled for there it rolled at the peak
of the main topmast. We're getting to be a rainbow, I thought, when over
the radio come Kennedy on the Independence.
Quite the celebration you're having over there on Blue Eyed
We are, says Scrap.
Would you do me the honour of flying one if I fire it over?
Won't say no.
In a moment it was the race again and Kennedy tacking over to kiss
our hull and steal our wind so the white water sizzling and snapping
between our two boats but this time we had the advantage of size and
sail. We watched him take a flag with a circle of stars from the stern of
Independence and fold it neatly into a tube. His helmsman came over hard
and I thought there'd be a collision but the lad knew what he was doing
and there was Kennedy and his beard and cigar and he tossed the tube
high so it landed on our deck with a thump and Molly grabbed it up right
quick. Kennedy gave me a salute and then they were coming about and
heeling over to port away from us. We opened the tube and Eisner says,
That's a Betsy Ross, the flag of the Revolution, y'see, thirteen stars in a
circle and the white and red striping.
Sea, I says, we been getting a lot but not giving out too much.
What do you want to do?
Give Kennedy the Royal Standard and Mom and Pete the blue
So we done that, playing monkey jack with the boats and X pitching
Kennedy's tube back to him and finding a box to flip down to Mom on the
Fierce. Them two boats run up the flags immediately and I redone our
stern, putting the Nova Scotia flag in the middle and Betsy Ross off to the
right, and above are streaming Gloucester and Rhode Island and
Maryland, while the Yanks are flying the Royal Standard and the
Canadian ensign, quite the show, but Willy Gow is going on about Gem so
we rolled our Nova Scotian and radioed Gem to get close, fired her over
in a cookie tin Big Sonny Demone was careful to empty first, and we all
gone to bed happy. Some kind of armada we were, the big schooner and
the three smaller yachts, zig and zag so to the south, white sail and good
colour at stern, topmast, and halyards, too bad the news chopper weren't
around to take some pictures, though as to that Sea was whaling away
with her digital camera and a good thing it wasn't 35 mm for all the shots
she was taking. You'll thank me, she kept saying, one day you'll be glad
for this I'm doing, and away she'd keep going like it was the inauguration
of the Queen.
But at six it ended. They had to bear south by southwest and we
needed to put up all sail again and bear a good many points to the east.
We said our goodbyes on radio and by the time honoured practice of
hollering at one another. Kennedy stood at attention and saluted, go
figure the man, and our whole blessed crew come to and returned the
salute, me and Sea watching, even Scrap come up on deck. Pete told me
later Kennedy's Dad had been saved by a Canadian buddy in the Second
War, both in this American Canadian unit called the First Special Service
Force, a red arrowhead to their shoulder, so the buddy had taken a bullet
to the head, that's how some things run down through the years and
generations, their sails gold and gone to starboard and I missed them
quick, they far from Sable's sands and shoals where we were heading,
double time, for the wind backed to the north and Blue Eye had fire to
her. Mom and the three boats was west to the setting and I saw her ten
minutes in the stern sheets of the Fierce.
Now what happened after this, the lower the sun got, the closer we
made it to Sable, something rose in me and spread dirty wings. My heart
started to grind away in my chest and it was like I had no breath. I went
to the port rail and leaned on it but where there was no other about. The
water was taking on a peculiar blue that made me think of a rifle and what
a rifle did and it got darker in me yet, bright as a gun, I says, the sea,
barrel and breech, smooth trigger and long lever, the wave in the grain of
the wood, handsome and sweet crafted, shark sleek and charming
resting, up and iron sighted, a killing polished blue.
Sounds some lethal, says Sea.
They all died. Every one. Their skulls are in that sand. Maybe in the
I know it.
Daddy took the schooner in close as the cod was feeding off the
sand and they needed the catch, they needed the money to feed their
A good number of boats went in close for the catch.
His brothers died here. Except the one blew his brains out back at
Tarragon over the girl. My grandfather's getting chucked around in that
mess of sand and water.
I'm sorry, Michael. Maybe this wasn't the best of ideas. We can go
about and take her in to Boston and Cape Cod.
You know I got to do it, God Almighty knows I got to do it.
What? Look at an old wreck and tear your heart out?
I got to bury my father.
You buried your father.
I got to bury my father with his family.
He's on the island and he's honoured there and his mother's with
him and that's enough.
What are you talking, he's below?
I was going to row him out in Pluck last night, at least around to
South Point and the reef and slip him into the water close as I could get to
Sable. But when this whole thing came up with the Lyyndae d Darling and
the Heather B rising from the sand and us heading out, why, I brought
him aboard when everyone was gone and you asleep.
You did not.
I sewed him into an old canvas sail from the boathouse. And do you
remember those cannon balls? The ones he found and cleaned up? From
the British man o' war?
So I put those to his feet as they used to do. From Slender I have in
my pocket what they said at sea in Nelson's time. Good words, Sea, he'll
like them, and this grave is more to his liking than the other.
You have him with us.
In the one locker that was empty. In his suit and tie yet and looking
You put your father in a locker.
He is laying out calm and flat.
What about the funeral service then? What was in the coffin?
But it was heavy. They lifted it.
Nothing but rocks.
This is wrong, Michael Fitch, a wrong, you deceived all those good
No, they honoured him, it was their memorial, and it was right.
But the Demones out there all night guarding the grave.
I gave to Pop the card. Once he read it he and Sonny waited
another hour and then packed up and got some sleep.
How do you know he even opened it?
So Big Sonny told me before we left the harbour.
Does the crew know?
The island knows. Pop was to start spreading the word after we
were out and gone.
What about our crew?
So it's time. Where is everyone?
X and Molly got up a chicken stew. They're all at that, eating it
down below or on deck.
You ever feel like sky and sea are pressing in and to trap you and
there's nothing but a deeper dark? It's my place. I'll talk to them.
So I went to the wheel where Chris was still steering south and east
and the sun just gone so the gleaming to starboard and one planet taking
the last of the light like a star, and I brought them together and I told it
simple. I had made up my mind to bury my father at sea on the Sunday
night. Part because I feared the men that held the grudge would dig him
up and desecrate his body. Part because he was a man of the sea and the
silver fish and not of the rock and the gnawing worm. Part because all his
family but his Mom were laid under the rolling green. I was sorry if this
upset anyone. I didn't have it in me to talk about all this on the Monday
and everyone set on a church funeral. Could I get everyone on a boat and
get them out to Sable? So I let it sit just and to my mind the funeral was a
fine thing and a fine memorial to my father. But now it was the twelve of
them were his pallbearers. We were his church and his priests and Sable
was his graveyard. We were taking him back to his brothers and father
I got to bury my father. If this is not something you want, all right,
and you can slip to the side when we get to the wreck, peace to you, I'm
saying it. If I got to do it myself so that is what I must do for Daddy
belongs to the sea. I need your good will. If you cannot give it at least
give me your prayer. How long do you think, Scrap?
We're still moving well. The morning.
I've nothing more to say. You've been good to the Fitch house. Do
what you will. When I've placed him gentle in the sea we can go on, we
can turn around and head home, it doesn't matter to me, whatever you
like, I'm fine with it.
And dark now and I went back to port and behind the main mast
and leaned on my rail and looked at the white cutting back from the bow.
A bit of light is all I wanted then. How was it that every murder on the
island came to mind? How that every suicide squatted on my shoulder?
Every accident and a man dead? Every drowning and a child gone? I
looked up, three stars there were over my head, no more, enough to calm
me, enough to give me a heading. The murdered, lay them down sweet,
the men swept from their boats, lay them down, the mothers and the sons
that never come, lay them down sweet, the daughters that lose their mind
and there is no moon, lay them down. And I remembered a shanty Daddy
had made up which he sang when we were on the Lyyndae d, Oh, I been
around for so long, sing it down, boys, sing it down, boys, my flat
pockets clean of money, sing it down, boys, down, oh, I 've sailed this sea
all my life, sing it down, boys, sing it down, boys, from the waters I
pluck a good life, sing it down, boys, down, oh, if I counted dawns on
my hand, sing it down, boys, sing it down, boys, I'd need the
hands of a hundred pipe bands, sing it down, boys, down, oh, the gull
and the tern know my ways, sing it down, boys, sing it down, boys - But
it's nonsense music, I'd tell him, and I was ten. Oh, never nonsense if it
does you good, he says, and he'd go on making up every kind of verse
imaginable and busting out with all the brass of a big bell. So the moon
come in the east, just the paring off full, fat and yellow at the sea, silver
when it met the stars, five, twelve, thirty nine of them now, and I rested
my heart, and breathed the colour into myself. My watch was eleven ten.
Sea had left me to myself and the others as well. There'd be no wedding
night this day again, for the mood on me, and the anger on Sea for I had
not told her, and there was no sleep in me beside, a shiver had started,
and I thought how it is I could get my pea coat from the cabin. I walked to
the helm and Moses was back and eyes dead to the south. The only other
on the deck fore or aft was Scrap Bushen and he tucked away to the bow
with a bottle of rum.
How is it?
I been thinking about carrying a coffin of rocks.
So I come to the door of the house and everyone is lined up waiting.
What would you of had me to do? Go home now, all of you, thanks for
coming round but I've made up my mind to bury him at sea.
They would of come with us. Every boat on the island.
The kids? All the people with work on the Tuesday? Your pipe
Enough. Enough would of come.
All right. Spin it the million of ways the all of you want. I could of
done this, I could of done that, but look you, I done what I done, not out
of no respect for the people but because I wanted none left out that
wanted to give honour, I wanted none left behind that had something to
give him. No matter how you say it they couldn't all of them up and sail to
I know it.
And when I first thought it, there was no Lyyndae d Darling, no
Blue Eyed Lyyndae fair, it would just be me and the dory, dark of the
night, y'see, my father and myself, and no one to know where I laid him,
no one to drag his body up.
You think they would try and do that? You think they're that crazy
to want your Dad's body to burn?
It's the way my thinking was Sunday night.
All right, boy, I know it's been the devil's own weekend and you
must be all over the map inside of yourself. If the others stay below or the
others don't stay below, let me lay him down with you, let me carry him to
the one side and you to the other.
Thank you, Moses.
And I think it's good to lay him to the waves, I do that, I just
wanted the others with us too.
They laid him down on Monday, Moses, and they laid him down
with good heart, and they were all there, there's nothing more you can
add to it. You never carried rocks, you carried a man's soul.
It was Sea and putting the pea coat to my shoulders.
We are just riding on the moon, aren't we?
And doing fifteen to eighteen knots.
She's kicking up her heels. It's been a long time.
Are you coming to bed?
I'm not. I'm taking the wheel from Moses in a few minutes.
What are you going to do? Take her in like your father ?
Is it going to make all the difference in the world?
That I don't know.
You can't go at unwinding what he done.
What is it I'm at doing I can't tell you, Sea, I'm just taking it a minute
at a time, and this is what's right for me now, I swear.
And do you want my company?
I do. God knows I do, woman in the moon.
So I should put Molly in our cabin.
I'll be back.
Are you for taking the helm then, Young Fitch?
Yes, Moses, it's on twelve and this is my eight.
Four would be enough. Let me talk to Micah.
No. My hands have to be here when we raise her.
Well, I'll see you get some hot coffee then.
Thank you for that.
How do you like your cup?
Black and wonderful.
Done and done.
So Scrap had belched and left the bow and gone below and for five
hours there was no one else on earth. Pressing, pressing she was and
going hard and lean at the sea and the bow wave pouring back, white on
white, moon on moon, we might be sailing into Ursa Major or the Pleiades
or Aquarius there was so much light coming into me and all around, the
sails, the deck, the whitecaps, a shooting star quick there, moonsilver,
moonwater, moonlady looking good to me, the white gold world of a
lunar day when all else sleeps, even the great whales, even the sleek killers
of the deeps, and at its zenith the night sun lays a road down any fool can
find and take his vessel to the end of all things, and go over, and find the
kind of holy magic that gives a body to live longer than the oldest star.
Whither, O splendid ship, thy white sails crowding, leaning across
the bosom of the urgent West, that fearest nor sea rising, nor sky
clouding, whither away, fair rover, and what thy quest? And yet, O
splendid ship, unhail'd and nameless, I know not if, aiming a fancy, I
rightly divine that thou hast a purpose joyful, a courage blameless, thy
port assured in a happier land than mine. But for all I have given thee,
beauty enough is thine, as thou, aslant with trim tackle and shrouding,
from the proud nostril curve of a prow's line in the offing scatterest foam,
thy white sails crowding.
Robert Graves, I said.
Robert Bridges. Here's your coffee, my husband. We are running
with the moon like a wolf over the white snow of night.
I thought me sailing to Aquarius and the nights taking me over to
another light more fair than the dawn of man.
Fitch. D'you know the names of the stars of Aquarius?
There is Sadalmelik, lucky star of the king. And Sadalsuud, luck of
lucks. And Sadalachbia, lucky star of the tents. And others. But those are
the best names.
Which one is for us?
Luck of lucks.
Do you believe that?
But you are sailing us to a graveyard.
I know it. Bones there are there. But not the men themselves.
And where are they?
The uncles I have not known walk among the stars and wear the
jewelled sandals of God.
Your mood has swung.
The moon has come. Now look. A patch of clouds. Right through
them goes the gleaming round ship and free.
I am glad to stand with you this night, my husband.
Victor Hugo wrote that in certain places, at certain hours, gazing at
the sea is dangerous, it is what looking at a woman sometimes is.
Oh, so and is this that certain place and hour?
There is no difference between one Sea and the other.
I took some of her fine hair in one hand. Oh, I'm a lucky man, I says,
a blessed man, a dancing man, and look at the gold I've found, no spade I
needed, no map, no pirates' curse to bedevil me, here it was to my hand
the whole of my life.
Am I a surprise to you?
You are a wonder to me.
They will not leave you. They love you. And, I think, they see
themselves as destined to be the ones, somehow, you know, the few souls
meant to be here alongside you, this is how things have fallen out because
of the men with matches, and the Lyyndae d Darling, and our marriage,
and the Heather B Sarty lifting herself up out of the muck, things no one
body could control, they feel you've been swept up into a running sea,
and nothing you could do but go with it, and so they themselves as well,
they mean to run with it, and no hard feeling and no complaint.
Why, fine, that's fine, better than good, so I don't know if this is the
centre of the universe or a boat in the North Atlantic but I guess it is the
proper place for the fourteen of us.
Look to port, helmsman. D'you see that? And a pod of bottlenose
dolphins giving you the race.
Ho, if I had more sail I would pipe all hands to and run up the cloth
and then we'd see. But how well they move. They must wonder at us,
making breakneck speed, but not for safe haven or secure anchorage,
they see us soon bearing down upon the shoals, which they have no use
for, and the sands that have killed so many of our kind, oh, they must
wonder at us and plunge deep, far and away from the schemes we
scheme that kill us and our children. Here, take the wheel a bit.
I thought the helm was your domain tonight.
So it is but we are joined at the hip. Take it and move us down the
wind and God grant us a dram of holy luck. How good the light is
tonight, Sea, good upon your face and strong, better for these hours and
the long waters I go to than a robin egg sky and the garish sun.
at the graveyard
Have you not got down to it yet, boys?
I struck on something a moment ago.
That cloud bank won't stay over the moon forever. Here, let me
take a turn.
Be my guest, Mick, I swear they put him full fathom five.
Look you, the dirt has hardly packed down, what's the problem, it
turns like flour.
I don't see what the hurry is. There's no lights and not a body
about, why, it's not three in the morning.
You don't know who's about and who isn't, d'you think they're
gonna march around like the blessed Black Watch on parade? One of them
crazy ladies could have a scope to us right now and just waiting on
moonlight to get off a clean shot.
Thanks for cheering us up, Mick, always was you a good one for
putting the high spirits in a man.
There, see now, there it is, pry under and get up an end and we can
haul her out.
She won't come.
Pry her, we're losing the cloud.
Here she comes, a couple of you get your hands under.
Oh my, we got weight here, he must of been a heavy fat bugger.
He were lean but he had size to 'im. Push her up, you boys get a
grip there and push her clear.
Here's the moon.
I could read the Globe by this.
Will you quit jabbering and get him into the back of the pickup?
By God, he weighs a ton.
Get the gate up and pile in. Don't switch on the headlights, you fool,
it's bad enough we got to turn over the engine. Head straight on for the
Aren't we going to open the coffin?
What for? To look at his smug dead face? I don't want to see a thing
until he's burnt to ashes.
We going to take care of the old boy tonight?
Oh, we are, justice tonight for him, well, God's already done what
he done, we'll the body deal with as it's only right, the flint hearted killer.
Into the manure pile back of the barn, some gasoline, and a filthy rag
touched with fire.
Hey there, watch the cat now.
What do you care for a skinny white cat?
The sun come quick behind bars of yellow and purple and I could
feel the heat right off. I shrugged off my pea. Scrap put his head up from
Radar shows two hours, give or take.
Thank you, Scrap. You get any sleep?
A thundering good one. But always one eye on the screen.
Sea was still asleep on the deck with her pea over her and her elbow
for a pillow. Micah come up, no fancy clothes or tartans, just a jeans and
sweater, bringing a big coffee to me.
How are you, boy?
You had the wheel all night?
Sea spelled me between one and three. I'm right as rum.
I'm getting up some breakfast for the crew. D'you want any?
I don't, thank you, Mister Raven, I'll have lunch but nothing before.
Sea half opened an eye. Why are you being so noisy?
I'm not hungry, I just want to sleep, I never get a chance to sleep.
Raven's back down, and there's no one on deck but Molly up by the
bowsprit with a book and taking in the rising and the colour.
I love you but I have to have some sleep.
Is the moon in your dreams?
But she was gone and the moon gone and the magic gone and I
back to the snick snick of halyards and the mast creak and hull talk and
the bow cut and sail flap and the snap behind me and above of five flags
and to all sides the streaming dawn shining sea and the waves turning in
and under, the white to that and a royal blue to all else, some pretty, yes,
but everything in sharp chiselled lines and hard the day, unbending,
ungiving, and a different world. I burned my mouth on the coffee and
time breezed over my shoulder. Once I saw a freighter and another time a
big white cruise liner like a cloud to the west. Two black backed gulls sat
up on the fore mast and gossiped and I looked for the dolphins but did
not see them again. The skies and waters pressed in on me again and I
kept repeating to myself a Japanese haiku I had memorized when I was
fifteen, Dewdrop, let me wash in your brief sweet waters, these dark
hands of life.
So one by one by two they come up and stood on deck and the sun
made them gold. Sol held a big wreath they had made of spruce boughs
and cranberry branches from the island and the whole held together by a
cross of wood, spare pieces from Daddy's boathouse. Scrap started
fussing about the western edge of Sable so we took down a good bit of
sail and started glassing the waters and the wind had dropped beside.
When the Lyyndae d slowed the change in speed woke Sea and made her
sit up and peer around as if the all of us were intruders. Then she
vanished below and did not come back until Voila, who had scrambled up
the main mast, yells, There she is, I see waves breaking, a good sight, a
great wonder, so I tacked her west of that and we ran south to her,
looking for the spars of a wreck. An hour and more went this way, and
we tacked back and forth at the west end of Sable, edging closer and
closer, looking for the salt bank schooner and seeing everything else but,
the great dunes of Sable, the brown horses walking on the beach, grey
seals and harbour seals and a thousand turning birds, there was even the
black funnel of an old steamship that cut the swells in half, but we could
not find the Heather B.
How many ships, Michael?
I've no idea. I think the first one we know about was in 1538, but
that doesn't mean there weren't others before it, and up to now some say
as many as five hundred ships.
I can't believe it. That would be thousands of lives.
So it is thousands of lives. But they had a rescue station for a time
and they saved some.
Do you think the horses are from the wrecks?
A Hancock, uncle to the John, y'know, his name on America's
Declaration of Independence, he had to do with getting livestock on the
island, but no, mostly it was an Andrew LeMercier was the steam behind
it and the horses, almost three hundred year they been here, d'you see
their long tails and manes, and those in that bunch are looking at us, or
Oh, they're looking at me, I'm trying to talk to them in my head, but
no white ones do I see.
No white ones will you see.
They are Acadian horses, did you know?
How's that, Deon?
Hancock and LeMercier are no better than pirates. The British
threw out my people from Nova Scotia and gave away the cattle and pigs
and horses and oxen and that is where Hancock got his herd, when
England made the Exile, cheap, off the backs of refugees, so they thought
they would graze them here and breed them and make a profit. It's right
that it didn't work for them and that these tough Acadian horses are still
here and LeMercier and Hancock are gone.
Daddy thought a lot of Pubnico and the folk. I always said he
should of had a cottage there for the days he was island worn. One of the
footlockers has the signal flags and I'm pretty sure there's a small Acadian
he had tucked away. We're a regular United Nations here aboard, Deon,
so why don't you break that one out?
Go ahead, Daddy couldn't be happier.
Molly Cross pointed to starboard and we were running west. A
spar and cross trees were out of the waves and a good bit of hull, most of
it black, but some to the bow scraped by sands, so Scrap gave us that we
could go in another hundred yards before he'd start screaming and we
come about and drew in to Sable, I turning the wheel careful and sure and
soon I could read for myself the letters H A TH R B S A R and all
sea and sky went over me and I heard sounds from far to the water I
could not distinguish but they tap tapped on all the thinking in my mind. I
gave the wheel to Moses. Micah and I went below where Scrap was glued
to the radar and I took the key from my pocket and went forward and
opened the long locker to the deck. Micah took the one end with the
cannonballs and I the head and so first to the deck. We laid him down to
starboard and amidships. Willy and Chris and X gone up and took in more
sail. Sea and Pierre and Voila and Sonny went below and found a long
plank, probably eight by four, I think Daddy used it for cleaning a catch,
all white scrubbed and strong, and Micah and I lifted him and put him
gently to that when they brought it to us. Now we were on a tack east
and the port side was to the Sarty so we had to wait and we would come
about and head back to the west. In a minute Moses bawled out the
words and the crew went at the sails and we were back toward the
wreck and the bones of my family. Scrap come up but Moses stayed at the
helm. Solly bent and readjusted the canvas head and then did not rise but
went to his knees. In the moment I was the only one standing and they a
circle kneeling to his sides. All else went on as it would, the wind, the surf
breaking and swirling the sand, the horses licking at the salt water, gulls
dropping shellfish onto the rocks, sea ducks whirring past the spars, the
sun moving to the other side of the earth, Sadalmelik and Sadalsuud and
Sadalachbia, unseen, but shining as they had been given to shine, so I
pulled the folded paper from my pocket.
You are here for all, whether families he saved that live in Shelburne
and Pubnico and Lunenburg or on Tarragon itself, or for families he knew
just to give the small smile. Our friends will ask you about this day, and
you will tell them how it was, that his spirit was away and gone with his
father and brothers and, yes, his mother, and his body we gave to the sea
he did no longer hate or fear. Tell those that ask you how ordinary the
day was, of the gulls and seals, of the great blue swells and bronze sun,
tell them of the light and the good rich sounds of life above our topmasts
and under our keel and all about to our eyes and ears, tell them how the
hour filled us and how we lost nothing.
Thank you, Daddy, for the weekend, it come out just fine, it come
out better than you wanted, maybe, and we bring you back to your
father. So we commit your body to the deep, looking for the general
Resurrection in the last day, and the life of the world to come, through
our Lord Jesus Christ, at whose second coming in glorious majesty to
judge the world, the sea shall give up her dead, and the corruptible bodies
of those who sleep in him shall be changed, and made like unto his
glorious body, according to the mighty working whereby he is able to
subdue all things unto himself. Amen.
They stood and lifted the board and Daddy with it and I dropped
my paper and held the head high while the board slanted down and
down to X and Big Sonny Demone at the foot and so Daddy fell to the
sea, just by the hull of the Sarty and the sands that held it, a break of
white and gone, the wreath from Solly's hand floating and turning about
in the circle, and our ship on to the west. I stayed a bit and looked. Then I
tried to shake hands but no one would do that. There was only the
hugging and strong arms gripped my back, Molly and Sea even more
fierce, so I walked back to Moses, Scrap went below, Solly went forward
to work on the jibsail.
Thank you, Moses.
My honour, Young Fitch. What will our heading be now?
Ask the skipper.
Sea come up and had her Greek cap back on her wild blowing hair.
Your call, Michael, your call on this day.
My call, is it. What's happening with the storm?
Made landfall as a Category Four this morning just south of Miami,
says Sam Eisner.
Then we'd best get out of his way.
I stared up at the blue and breathed in and out a few times, right
slow, then took a look back at Sea who had the face of not knowing what
was going on with me, but I just had the small smile.
How about we look in on Pete and Dana Blackstone? And that
Kennedy man? Let's head in to Gloucester. Take her south by southwest,
My good pleasure, Mister Fitch.
And d'you mind, all you good good people, if I went to my cabin for
an hour and took my wife with me? We have yet to see the wedding
Take two hours if you must, Young Fitch. We'll not let Blue Eye sink.
And when the wedding bells are over come up on deck and we'll lay
a nice mess of mackerel on you. We'll set before you the marriage supper,
so you never had time for either wedding night or wedding feast, and
both will, I promise, be the great wonder of the seven seas.
So I'm lying with Sea, she tracing patterns on my face with her
fingers, and I hear water rushing past the hull, a shout or two and the
hum of lines pulled tight and cleated off, boot and barefoot, sailcloth
cracking, and I see the wake between us and Sable strung out further and
further until it does not exist and the sea is complete, as if we had not
been, nor my father, nor his father and brothers before him, and my
young wife is whispering things, this and that, like ocean soft among small
rocks, All the rivers run into the sea yet the sea is not full, unto the place
from whence the rivers come, thither they return again.