Canada’s Soul: Across Newfoundland

June 11, Ride One: Grand Falls to Clarenville (Manual pick-up)  Very friendly moose hunter, stories of the ‘screwdriver murders’; the difference between Newfoundlanders and Mainlanders is “a matter of trust”.

Ride Two: Clarenville to St. John’s (Small white pick-up): Stopped at Finney’s Pond to fish and could not get back up the hill. Ride Three: Hiked up the hill with Will and Bob and hitchhiked into town with a drunk driver. “Pass me a beer, yeah? You’re welcome to one too.”

Spent two nights at Will’s house where I was given their son’s bedroom; he had to sleep on the couch. Spent much of the time listening to Will talk of his search for the Sargasso Sea as he did crosswords and his wife, Helen, rolled cigarettes.

The Myth of Kerrivan’s Men

A small group led by Peter Kerrivan walked out of a settlement in Newfoundland some 200 years ago and vanished into the barrens. They were never heard from again, transforming them into myth. It’s an image I use near the end of my bad side.Newfoundlabrador2010 075The streetlights came in above the band, Kerrivan’s Men, the green and red light across the fishing nets and buoys, onto the pews in the back. Fitz returned with our drinks.

“Who’s Kerrivan?” I asked. 

“Kerrivan led a group of fellahs off with him into the barrens,” he explained. “This was some 200 years back. Didn’t like how he was being treated by the Royal Navy – the English always hated the Irish, yeah? – and up they went into the barrens, lived off the land. Called themselves the Masterless Men.”

“Never seen again,” Tommy added.Phone 192

“Charlie swears he’s in the line, his great great granddad the man himself.”

“Probably another great in there at that.”

“Maybe another one, yeah.”

“What do you mean they lived in the middle of nowhere?” I asked.

“Down there on the peninsula, in the rocks and bog, nothing but low trees and wind.”Newfoundlabrador2010 028“For how long?”

“No one knows,” Tommy replied. “Generations.”

“Maybe they died,” I replied.

“Some would say that. The English would. Not me. I think they waited to be forgotten and then came back in.”

“Yeah,” Fitz agreed. “That’s what they did.”

‘G’ Newfoundlander Words

A few ‘g’ words from the Newfoundlander dictionary:

Gallnippers (n): Mosquitoes.

Gatcher (n): One who swaggers.Businessman-Green-Forest-Environment-10003200045[1]Gommel (n): A simpleton.

Griny (n): Dirty

Gulching (v): Having sex outdoors. woodwalkwm

And so…The griny gatcher was more of a gommel as he swiped at the galnippers instead of gulching like he’d planned. cloud-of-mosquitos-

Ancient Ice: my bad side excerpt

I was cold and afraid. It was too big or I was. I leaned forward to get my sense back and banged my cast against the gunwale. IMG_3389The sound echoed back, low, like the closing of a door, and the white wall went out of focus and I blinked to make it clear and it was broken, the spires gone, what looked so small and distant, and dissolved like a monster into the water, splintering in a massive rush, dissolved like snow. Part of the other side slipped off too and another shelf, each part vanishing into the water. IMG_3391It spat back up in a lurch of bright blue and ice, rushing out of the darkness right at us. My head was empty, my hands balled tight. Ray ran in a short heavy stride to the cabin.

“Take that, b’ys.” Charlie slid the oars to Fitz and Tommy, and they dug them through the water, hardly moving the boat. Another section of the iceberg rose up out of the water, dripping, and collapsed. cropped-IMG_3380.jpgThe vibration of it came up through the water into the boat’s floorboards, a humming, hollow and deep, a pure force, and then a rising in the water, a vast dark thing, coming toward the boat. Ray couldn’t get the boat to start, and as much as everyone was doing, scrambling and pushing and turning, banging, no one spoke. IMG_3127The silence was louder as the wave rolled up to the bow, Apollo and I there, and pulled us up, higher, steadily to the top and back down again. The second wave was bigger. We couldn’t see what was left of the iceberg now, everything gone, and I was almost panicked, thinking it was too high and we would go under. We rose up, the stern coming up past us, shards of ice at the bottom of the next wave. I stepped back with it, thinking it was easy now, and lost my balance as the third wave came, almost as big, and my foot was sliding out and I was fine with that, and would have hit my head against the bench if Fitz hadn’t caught my arm and put me back on the bench. cropped-IMG_3221.jpg“That’s 10,000 years old,” he said. “It was snowing 10,000 years back and then it got all packed and floated down here. 10,000 years of history that is, before the Vikings, before the Romans, before the Greeks, the Egyptians, the Incas, the Mayans, everybody. People had just got out of the caves and begun the farming then.”

“my bad side” book jacket

I’m off to another writing conference this weekend and have put together a first draft for a book jacket blurb on my bad side:

Deirdre Sinclair comes home late one night to find her sister’s drunken boyfriend armed and her prized exotic cat bleeding at his feet. She decides to shoot and asks questions, then fleeing the city to Canada. Dazed and injured, she remembers her tiny legs dangling from a high chair, her infant sister, Crystal, pulling cereal off the counter and their mother dead on the floor, pills scattered about her head. serval and girlDeirdre’s journey with Apollo to the barren landscape of Newfoundland forces her to confront her fears and loneliness, bringing to mind her isolated childhood, her years at a boarding school and an aborted practice as a veterinarian before moving to New York in an attempt to reconnect with her sister. Immured in alcoholism, Crystal shuns her sister and keeps the world at bay with her boyfriend, Derek, a fire fighter who lost his company in 9/11, and who has developed a chronic obsession from working at the site. Deirdre makes a dramatic turn from working with abandoned animals to the escort industry and performance sex in her attempt to come to terms with her traumatic youth and a moment she cannot remember, a memory she cannot forget.

Truth in Fiction

While not everything is true in fiction – hence the word – writing is based on what I know. It’s a guessing game. The following is the first draft of a dialogue from The Ark:

“I ruined my knee when I was a kid, skiing in Vermont, torn acl, mcl, everything. I had arthritis after that. No cartilage, 15%, something like that. It was just bone on bone. I had to have a replacement.” Taken while hiking the length of New Zealand He cut the seal meat into strips, twirled one length around his thumb and chewed. “I sat on the edge of the plastic mattress in that green paper dress and the surgeon drew a pair of red x’s on the side of my knee. There was a nurse with a clipboard of forms and the anesthesiologist with more. Everyone was wearing those plastic shower caps.” He pulled a bit off. It looked like fur. “And then I decided I couldn’t do it. I wasn’t going to surrender. I wouldn’t sign. The surgeon stood in the doorway with his arms crossed. He explained everything to me like I was a child. But I wouldn’t do it. And so he left. Everyone did. No one came for a while after that.”

“You didn’t have the surgery?”

“No.” He thrust his hands back and forth in front of him, miming. “I did the elliptical instead.”

“What’s that?”

“The machine. I worked out every day and took cartilage pills.” He ate the rest of the meat. “It’s fine now. Still. No running though. I can only dream about that.”running beach

“You were afraid you’d die?”

“I don’t know about that. I don’t know. I remember the feeling as a kid, when I had the first surgery. I woke up cold. They had monitors attached to my chest. I wasn’t going to surrender just because they said I should.”

“I broke my hand. They put me out before I knew it.”

“You have to sign.”

“It was in Newfoundland.”

He tore off another strip. “It’s probably better like that.”

I did ruin my knee in my younger days and use the elliptical daily; however I’ve never backed out of a surgery, skied in Vermont nor eaten seal meat…as of yet.

Looking for The End

I’ve come to the end. My novel, My Bad Side is done. Ending is hard. I’ve worked toward this moment for over four years. I’ve read through some 40 books for research – on everything from zoos and fire fighters to sex work and Newfoundland. And I’ve written lots of words – over160,000 – some of them too often (suddenly, everything, turned) and edited those down through four drafts to 99,065. And here I am, not as exhilarated as I would have liked – when is it ever like that? It’s almost the opposite actually, like I don’t want to be at this point, finished, like it’s a death. I have the ending down to one of three final scenes: a walk with Apollo, a night of music or an ocean swim. I have vacillated between each. Each has something, some essence, but then I wonder if it is too much. Is it melodramatic or too damn trite? Then again, I can’t avoid the guts of moment – like The Beatles did in their final album Abbey Road, ending not with The End, but with the lousiest Beatles song ever recorded, Her Majesty’sIt’s been a struggle, all of these endings in the mix, and then wondering if there might be another. I’ve considered just throwing it all away and using the Debbie Does Dallas finale where all the characters gather naked and say in chorus, ‘If it feels good, do it!’ Something like that.  Or I could go with the ocean swim. It’s a tough call to make.

Laugh or Cry

The Onion has it right. It’s a mess of a world and we have to laugh at that. Crosby, Stills and Nash said it too. It’s not the way it should be, not at all, but we can still do okay.

The Newfies know all this. Life is more than tough. It’s bullshit and worse. All they had was the fish, and now not even that. And yet you won’t find them moaning about anything. Not at all. It’s in the words; there’s a dictionary of Newfoundland words – indispensable in my research for my novel – that spells it out. Look up maul mouth, chucklehead and angishore. There’s bogger too, and sulick and ree raw. They’re all in there, good words. The best.