About the Author

Christy Ann Conlin

CHRISTY ANN CONLIN is the author of two acclaimed novels, Heave and The Memento. She is also the author of the short fiction collection Watermark, which was a finalist for the Danuta Gleed Literary Award and the Forest of Reading Evergreen Award. Heave was a national bestseller, a Globe and Mail Top 100 Book, and a finalist for the Amazon.ca First Novel Award, the Thomas H. Raddall Atlantic Fiction Award, and the Dartmouth Book Award. Her work has appeared in numerous literary journals including Best Canadian Stories, Brick, Geist, Room, and Numéro Cinq. Her short fiction has also been longlisted for the Commonwealth Short Story Prize and the American Short Fiction Prize. Her radio broadcast work includes co-creating and hosting CBC Fear Itself, a national summer radio series. Christy Ann studied theatre at the University of Ottawa and screenplay writing at the University of British Columbia. She was born and raised in seaside Nova Scotia, where she still resides.

Books by this Author



And I am.

Going so fast it seemed as though I was hovering above myself, watching as I went veil first into those massive oak doors in the foyer because no one makes a getaway in high heels. Just look what happened to Marilyn Monroe – naked, bloated, DOA. That’s what happens when you wear high heels. I put my hands out, just like they taught us in high school gym class, you know, when spotting someone on the trampoline: hold up hands, don’t push, let the person touch and then bounce back to middle. But only an idiot would wear high heels on a trampoline and there was no bouncing back to the middle as those shoes took me down on that hot June day, my sweaty hands flat on the cool oak door panels only long enough to feel the old wood on my palms and I was crashing straight through the doors that hadn’t been properly latched, yards of silk dress floating behind me like a flock of angels as those carved oak slabs were falling silently shut. Magic it was that pieces so large could move with no noise, wrought-iron hinges no doubt well-oiled by the latest sexton. I slipped through the crack and left the musty church behind, all those pews full of stunned guests, and then the sweet outdoors was in front of me but I was crashing backwards as the doors slammed shut, the stupid billowy dress jammed in the doors, and I was smashed back and up, three feet off the top step, hand pounding back into the hard wood, pain dull and distant, and then me, dangling there, garland of flowers down over my eye, battered bouquet of freesias and roses still in my right hand, its scent floating up on the hot summer air, enveloping me in the sweet and squashed miasma of my life.

My life seems to have been about crashing backwards. Ever since I finished high school, which really wasn’t very long ago, I’ve been on the run, so to speak. On the road. I mean, I bolt in the middle of things. Well, I finish some things and bolt. I took off to Europe and then landed in a rehab-sort-of-nuthouse (I wasn’t insane, believe me. I was just temporarily unable to communicate.) I started a degree – Classical Studies. I enjoyed the Greeks and Romans. I enjoyed the books, always looking to them as a getaway, a portal in time. Actually, I enjoyed the building the classes were in. The Classical Studies Department was located in a series of grey Victorian houses that ran along a quiet Halifax street with huge sweeping trees. I still don’t know the name of the trees.

I was pulling at my dress, the skirt wedged up there with the bodice, and the goddamn jeesly antique lace train that Aunt Galronia had insisted on attaching was pulled tight in the door, most of it still inside. I was pulling, wiggling, tugging, my sweaty skin squeaking against the wood, trying to demolish my vintage 1940s wedding dress, and just thinking about the dress made me so mad that I pulled even harder. “So much for antiques,” I hollered. Somewhere in Foster a lawn mower buzzed. A huge jerk and then ripping and buzzing were one roaring sound as the silk and lace tore and I fell to my knees, hands out in front, drooling libations on the indoor/outdoor green carpet covering the steps. And then I was up with the remains of the dress on me, and a bit of the train hanging off my butt with yards of it still inside the doors. I wondered if it was laid out along the aisle like a banquet tablecloth with all the guests on either side waiting for me to be served up and then I heard Grammie say in her clipped dry voice, You know that old saying, he who hesitates is not only lost but miles from the road out, so I launched off the steps, kicking one high heel over the railing, and sending the other soaring over the heads of the late-arriving guests, second cousins from Ecum Secum with lips going round, opening and shutting, not saying anything, me thinking how people mostly get that piscine look when they are horrified and then it was me smiling and panting, not knowing whether to say hello or goodbye or to cry or pose for a picture and then Grammie’s voice again, Now or never, Serrie.

I threw the bouquet up in the air and took three steps at a time because being in bare feet is being eight years old and eight-year-olds don’t worry about how many steps to take, not like a twenty-one-year-old woman in high heels and a princess dress who can only do various forms of teetering.

Flaps of dress fluttered as I ran down Main Street, pulling at the ripped bodice, shedding pieces of silk until there was the red bra that I had worn, the only vestige of the rogue I had thought I was. At least up until we were in front of the preacher. Actually it started when I saw Elizabeth’s head, the back of her head. I admired her wispy bits of hair and thought what a flattering style it was, wondered why it was done so daintily, with little daisies in it. And the hairdo got blurry and I wondered about that too, realizing the daisies were blurry because Elizabeth was right up there now, at the altar with my groom and the preacher and the best man who had been making bad jokes and smacking everyone on the back. And then it was all blurry.

And so I went. I walked up to the front, wondering if the guests could see my red bra, or at least the suggestion of the bra. It was lacy, really pretty, a push-up. But I didn’t think so. I was the only one who knew about it besides Elizabeth who had helped me dress. I focussed on the teeth. There were so many teeth. I assume this is because people were smiling. At weddings, people usually smile, right? Goddamn, it was like being surrounded by Mormons. I always think of Mormons as people with big white teeth. But no one was Mormon here. It was the Foster First United Church, in old-style Nova Scotia, where change is slow like winter and tradition as strong as the forty-five-foot tides of the Bay of Fundy.

Those white teeth became a haze of cotton and the music was squeaking. God, it was terrible, which surprised me – my brother is a concert violinist.

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We moved to the North Mountain the summer I was four and my mother was pregnant with my little sister, Morgaine. My father made the house himself and we lived in a tent pitched in a meadow surrounded by forest while he built it. My mother told me this. I remember the tent was green and there was a path through the meadow to the house. I loved this path, which cut through the tall grasses. In the meadow, purple vetch threaded up through the grass stems and touched my mother’s round belly. The grasses grew so high they were taller than me, but I could look up and see how they touched my mother’s breasts. I drew pictures on her stomach with icing coloured with beet and carrot juice. Then she’d let me lick it off. The acreage was mostly forest, except for the clearing around a large, rickety barn. They put a sandbox in the clearing where I played with my pail and shovel.

There was also a path through the woods. It was a twisting path my father had cut through the pines to the clifftop jutting out from the trees over the Bay of Fundy. He called the path “the labyrinth of life.” It snaked through the forest to the perilous brink of the cliff. The path was difficult and winding, with sharp turns where you had to slow down. My father said this was the main purpose of his pathway: everyone was forced to stop hurrying and consider their journey as it unfolded. People needed to be open to sudden turns and trust the way ahead. Being in the moment would take over and time would lose meaning. Before you knew it, you would arrive at your destination, and le voilà, enlightenment, or éclaircissement, as the French Acadians say, when you reached the bench of wisdom! Every age had an awakening, her father said, with those like him, who were called to be its prophets, ushering in the awakening. On a clear day you could stand at the edge of the cliff and see all the way down the bay toward Maine, which was four exhilarating hours away by boat as the crow flies or a long, boring two-day drive by car, as my father explained.

The bench at the edge of the crumbling cliff my father had made from driftwood, which the elements had cast to a silvery white. He encouraged us to sit on the bench and look for water nymphs. He insisted people had been spotting them in the bay for generations. They swam in with the tide, he proclaimed, as though he were a marine biologist with a peculiar specialization.

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