About the Author

Pauline Holdstock

Born in England, Pauline Holdstock came to Canada in 1974. Her first novel, The Blackbird's Song, was a finalist in the WH Smith/Books in Canada First Novel Award in 1987. Her 2004 novel Beyond Measure was nominated for the Giller Prize. Her writing has appeared in Exile, Event, Grain, NeWest Review, Malahat Review, Flare and Antigonish Review among others. She lives in Sidney on Vancouver Island.

Books by this Author
Burial Ground, The

Burial Ground, The

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Here I Am!

Chapter 1


I'm starting on Friday because it's the first day. (Thursday doesn't count. It wasn't a whole day.)

When I got up the sea was pink. Yes really. It looked like glass all smooth. Pink glass. I didn't know if you were allowed outside yet so I went in one of the big metal doors. They have a little foot sticking down for souls who are not strong enough to open them by themselves. Luck me! I passed a man on the stairs but he was the only person. I went you know where and there was nobody in there either. I waited for a long time with the door shut sort of like hiding but not. When I could hear other people walking about and talking it was all right to go outside again. It was bright blue then like it is supposed to be and the sun was shining. I wanted to see how far away England was. It had completely disappeared! Yesterday you could still see a lumpy grey line at the back where it was. Today it was only sea. I looked for France at the front but it was not there yet so I went to the rail on the side to do looking at the sky and making the edge go away. It was a good job they had a rail for that. MyDad would say it was something to hang on to.

Three ladies came and stood a little way away to do chatting. They were wearing P.E. shorts and plimsolls even though it was not school and white towels round their necks like boxers (but they weren't!). I sat down on a round iron thing to wait for them to go away. You call it a capstan because MyDad said. While they were talking one of the ladies tapped her friend on the arm and pointed at me. It was very rude. You could tell she didn’t know how to behave because when her friends looked everybody laughed. I didn’t know what to do so I did a sort of smile and looked up at the sky. I pretended I was bird watching. The sea is not really a very good place for that. It felt a bit lonely. Some doorbell music came on the loudspeaker and they all started walking again. One of them called out Come on! You’ll be late.

I didn’t know what she meant because I wasn’t going anywhere (except France) so I put my head down to pretend I was shy. Actually I am shy so that was easy haha.

When they had gone I stood up and carried on looking. The sea was so shiny and smooth I wanted to swim in it but there was nowhere to climb down even if you were brave. I looked. Anyway I can only do twelve strokes. So maybe not swim. Maybe walk. Like Jesus. Holding my arms out sideways. Look. Jesus walking. That would be good I thought if we started sinking. Especially if you didn’t have a life jacket — like me.

—What are you doing? (That was the same boy I saw on Thursday. He's a noying.)


—Can I play?


—Why not?

—You’re a noying.

—A what?

(See what I mean?)

When he had gone I carried on looking through the gap between the wire and the top rail. If you do that you can't see where the sea stops and the sky starts. If I stood on tiptoe I could make the top rail come down just enough so I couldn’t see the line where they joined up. If you do it right the sea and sky look like all the same thing. The only trouble was if people saw you doing it they asked you questions. The first man who came by did it.

—See any fish?

I shook my head but I felt silly. We were way too high up even downstairs to see a fish. You could see a whale but that wouldn’t count. It's a mammal.

We had a fish in a goldfish bowl at home when I was little. It jumped out and flopped down the back of the sideboard. I waited for it to come out until Blue Peter came on then I gave up. I ate my scrambled egg and put my jarmies on and went to bed. In that order. In the morning I told MyMum—that’s what I call her when she isn’t here—and she got it out with the egg flipper. It had fluff all over it like the stuff at the bottom of your coat pocket. And it wasn’t bendy any more. That was the funny thing. The not funny thing was when I said you could fry it. MyMum laughed and laughed. But I meant it. It wasn't a joke.

(By the way that's what I will have to call her all the time now. All the time. Forever and ever. By the way.)

When the man left I carried on looking but not for fish. I liked making the line disappear. I could have done it forever. And ever. To make it come back you had to breathe out just a little tiny bit of air so you were a bit shorter. Just a bit. Not even a quarter of a ninch probably and then it comes back. When you breathe in it disappears again because the rail comes down. It's not magic. It's because you’re taller when you breathe in so you can't see the join. It looks like all the same thing. You can’t tell if it’s air or water.

I did a nexperiment to see if it was better with my mouth open. It was like the sea and the sky were filling me up both at the same time. I was breathing blue in my mouth. Blue in. Blue out. Blue in. Blue out. Blue in. Blue in. Blue in. Blue in.

The man came back. I could see him out of the side of my eye.

—Still no fish?

Some questions are just stupid. You don’t even have to answer them. Probably. I blew out after he had gone.

I don’t like being with people when I am trying to enjoy something. It's too hard when people are talking to you all the time. And they always ask you things you don't want to talk about.

I went exploring instead. I wanted to see everything before we got to France. They let you go wherever you liked. Nearly. They had a special sign when you couldn’t go. It had a hand like a traffic policeman in a book but red. It's the sign for stop like on the door of the room where I went to bed. It is also the sign for Hallo but that's in other countries. We did countries with Miss Kenney. If I went through a red hand door by accident I decided to just say Hallo. That would surprise them.

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The Hunter and the Wild Girl

The Hunter and the Wild Girl

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Turning, The

Turning, The

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