About the Author

Eden Robinson

Eden Robinson is the internationally acclaimed author of Traplines, Monkey Beach, and Blood Sports. Traplines was the winner of the New York Times Notable Book of the Year and Britain's Winifred Holtby Memorial Prize. Monkey Beach was nominated for the Giller Prize, the 2000 Governor General's Award for Fiction, and was selected as the Globe and Mail's Editor's Choice. Robinson is a member of the Haisla and Heiltsuk First Nations.

Books by this Author
Blood Sports

Hi Mel,

If you’re not eighteen yet, I want you to put this letter down right now. Okay? There’s a whole bunch of shit you ­don’t need to deal with until you’re ready. Your mom (I call her Paulie, even though she hates it. Try it, and you’ll get her Popeye squint) and I talked it over. We agreed not to put the heavy on you because we’re trying not to fuck your head up too bad.

You probably ­won’t be Melody when you read this. I’m wondering what Paulie will change your name to. Paulie was stuck on Anastasia, after the princess, but I thought no one would be able to spell it and you’d get tagged with Stacy or Staz or anything but your real name. My top choice was Sarah, but Paulie thought that was going to bite you in the ass in school when you met up with the hundred other Sarahs in your class. We went through a whole bunch of baby-­name books, and ­couldn’t agree on a single name. Paulie’s picks were too fancy and she thought mine were dull. Her words in the operating room: “If you fucking stick my girl with Jennifer while I’m under, I will rip your nuts off.”

Paulie wanted an all-­natural birth at home. Her friends here are into hippie shit like giving birth in wading pools and eating the placenta. Besides, she hates hospitals, ­doesn’t think they’re clean enough and hated the thought of you in a germ-­factory. I’m not a big fan of hospitals myself, so we were all set to have you enter the world at home (no pool or placenta though). But things got hairy, and Ella, the midwife, called an ambulance. Paulie kept saying she’d spent enough of her life wasted and ­didn’t want any shit, but she ended up having every drug in the book. I’m sure when she’s mad she tells you what a pain you were to deliver.

Paulie exploded when they put the tent around her belly because she wanted to watch you coming, even if they were going to cut you out. Is your mom all ladylike now? Ha. I bet she is. You ­wouldn’t believe the things that came out of her mouth, but they put the tent up anyway and she asked me to videotape everything so she could watch it later. I saw the first incision and said, ­“Can’t do it, Paulie.”

The midwife ­wouldn’t videotape, but she said she’d describe everything to Paulie. Ella is this tiny fireball, a Filipina in her mid-­forties, and she had to hop to peek over. I went and found her a stool and then waited in the hallway because there was no way I could listen to that. I walked down to the vending machine and got a coffee. So I missed your grand entrance. But we have a tape of everything up to that point, even the ambulance ride. I’m sure Paulie’s made you watch it by now. I stapled Ella’s business card to the back of this page, so you can look her up if you want.

I could hear you crying. You were loud as an opera singer. I could hear you all the way down the hall. Sad fact: Your dad is a big old weenie. I got a head rush and had to sit down. When I finally got my rear in gear, the nurse and midwife were checking you out, cleaning you up and swaddling you in the corner. The surgeon was finishing up your mom. She was pretty wiped. We’d been awake for three days by then.

When Paulie asked Ella if she should nurse, Ella laid you on her and you latched just like that. No problemo. All the shit going down and you took it in stride. Your mom’s smile, all proud of you.

“Come around here, you’ve got to see this,” Paulie said. “It’s like she’s mainlining.”

The nurse beside her stiffened. We’d had to disclose about Paulie being in Narcotics Anonymous. I think we freaked some of the staff. The whole week we were in the hospital, they acted like we were going to break out the rigs and turn our room into a shooting gallery.

I never got the deal with newborns. You were bald but hairy, red and wrinkled like any other newborn, and I’m sorry, Mel, but man, that is not a good look on you. You were sucking at Paulina’s boob like there was no tomorrow, your eyes screwed tight in ecstasy.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Monkey Beach

Six crows sit in our greengage tree. Half-awake, I hear them speak to me in Haisla.
La'es, they say, La'es, la'es.
I push myself out of bed and go to the open window, but they launch themselves upward, cawing. Morning light slants over the mountains behind the reserve. A breeze coming down the channel makes my curtains flap limply. Ripples sparkle in the shallows as a seal bobs its dark head.
La'es — Go down to the bottom of the ocean. The word means something else, but I can't remember what. I had too much coffee last night after the Coast Guard called with the news about Jimmy. People pressed cups and cups of it into my hands. Must have fallen asleep fourish. On the nightstand, the clock-face has a badly painted Elvis caught in mid-gyrate. Jimmy found it at a garage sale and gave it to me last year for my birthday — that and a card that said, "Hap B-day, sis! How does it feel to be almost two decades old? Rock on, Grandma!" The Elvis clock says the time is seven-thirty, but it's always either an hour ahead or an hour behind. We always joke that it's on Indian time. I go to my dresser and pull out my first cigarette of the day, then return to the window and smoke. An orange cat pauses at the grassy shoreline, alert. It flicks its tail back and forth, then bounds up the beach and into a tangle of bushes near our neighbour's house. The crows are tiny black dots against a faded denim sky. In the distance, I hear a speedboat. For the last week, I have been dreaming about the ocean-lapping softly against the hull of a boat, hissing as it rolls gravel up a beach, ocean swells hammering the shore, lifting off the rocks in an ethereal spray before the waves make a grumbling retreat. Such a lovely day. Late summer. Warm. Look at the pretty, fluffy clouds. Weather reports are all favourable for the area where his seiner went missing. Jimmy's a good swimmer. Everyone says this like a mantra that will keep him safe. No one's as optimistic about his skipper, Josh, a hefty good-time guy who is very popular for his generosity at bars and parties. He is also heavily in debt and has had a bad fishing season. Earlier this summer two of his crew quit, bitterly complaining to their relatives that he didn't pay them all they were due. They came by last night to show their support. One of my cousins said they've been spreading rumours that Josh might have sunk his Queen of the North for the insurance and that Jimmy's inexperience on the water would make him a perfect scapegoat. They were whispering to other visitors last night, but Aunt Edith glared at them until they took the hint and left.

I stub out the cigarette and take the steps two at a time down to the kitchen. My father's at the table, smoking. His ashtray is overflowing. He glances at me, eyes bloodshot and red-rimmed.

Did you hear the crows earlier?" I say. When he doesn't answer, I find myself babbling. "They were talking to me. They said la'es. It's probably — "

"Clearly a sign, Lisa," my mother has come up behind me and grips my shoulders, "that you need Prozac." She steers me to a chair and pushes me down. Dad's old VHF is tuned to the emergency channel. Normally, we have the radio tuned to CFTK. He likes it loud, and the morning soft rock usually rackets through the house. As we sit in silence, I watch his cigarette burn down in the ashtray. Mom smoothes her hair. She keeps touching it. They both have that glazed, drawn look of people who haven't slept. I have this urge to turn on some music. If they had found the seiner, someone would phone us. "Pan, pan, pan," a woman's voice crackles over the VHF. "All stations, this is the Prince Rupert Coast Guard." She repeats everything three times, I don't know why. "We have an overdue vessel." She goes on to describe a gillnetter that should have been in Rupert four days ago. Mom and Dad tense expectantly even though this has nothing to do with Jimmy.

At any given moment, there are two thousand storms at sea.

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The Sasquatch at Home

The Sasquatch at Home

Traditional Protocols & Modern Storytelling
by Eden Robinson
introduction by Paula Simons
also available: Paperback
tagged : literary, essays
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