House of Anansi Press Inc

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Excerpt

Wish you were here. But don’t worry because I’ll be visiting soon. When the boat can’t come to the sea, the sea will come to the shore.

Isabella. She is coming. The handwriting is unforgettable. Like a birthmark.

Her postcard balances on my fingertips.

It is a vintage card, with pale colours, two girls in a wooden boat. Rowing on the Annapolis River at High Tide. Nova Scotia. It’s not far from where my father grew up, from his childhood town he took me to that one summer. The girls are wearing white dresses. The girl in the stern has the oars and she is facing away from the camera, looking at the girl in the bow. That girl is facing the camera, not her captain in the stern. She is serious, as though she sees something on shore. Children have boated and canoed and sailed on that river for generations. The Indigenous people thirteen thousand years before Champlain came in 1605, before the settlers arrived. It is an old part of the new world, a world built on a society which existed long before.

There’s a moment, a slack tide, where my breath stops, and my mind is empty, where everything stops. Then the beating of my heart, a rush in my ears as though it’s a dream. Sound is simultaneously amplified and muffled. The moment turns. Sweat creeps over my skin, tiny waves undulating down from my hairline, along my spine. It’s just a postcard. Hardly anyone sends real mail anymore. Greetings don’t come on paper. It’s an extra effort to pick up a pen. To write in cursive. Who would make that effort?

Isabella will arrive without warning, I’m sure of that. During visiting hours. She will arrive smelling of pine trees and sea winds. That’s how it will unfold. She will come into this institution as a force of nature, a piece of the world no one can control, and then she’ll leave, only her smell left behind. The scent of summer innocence, lost and found, and lost again. Isabella always liked the smell of the woods. The smell of snow and sun. The scent rising up as summer rain fell on a dirt road. Rain on hot pavement. There is no smell like the earth, the ground, releasing heat into damp air. I like sweet smells. The vanilla heliotrope Isabella’s Granny grew in her summer garden.

It’s been twenty years since I’ve seen Isabella. Since the day at the lake.

Time is running out. There is never enough time. It was my earliest worry.

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Excerpt

The coffin was awkward to carry; the weight threw off the pallbearers’ balance, and their closeness to each other caused them to walk in a short, shuffle step. Jonathan was surprised by the weight; it seemed heavy, at first, but a few steps later, he wondered if maybe it was actually lighter than it should be. The wood was, after all, quite dense. But by the end she had been so thin, something he then tried not to think about. He decided that he had no basis for comparison. There was no reason to think the coffin was either heavy or light; experientially, it was exactly the weight all coffins he had ever handled weighed.

Jonathan tried to counterbalance by throwing one arm out to the side, but then thought having one arm flapping maybe looked disrespectful. Instead, he put it across his body and used it to help with the weight. The others struggled too. The natural burial field was riddled with little holes and clods of dirt. He wondered again why they hadn’t lifted it up on their shoulders. He was sure that’s what they should have done, but it was too late to do anything about it.

Then they were coming up on the hole in the ground. There were wide, canvas straps across it, the straps wrapped around a metal frame so the coffin could rest over the grave. The pallbearers walked on either side and stopped. A pallbearer opposite Jonathan shifted his grip, the coffin rocked and when it stopped, something inside kept moving for a moment. Jonathan tried not to think about that while they lowered the coffin into place.

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Foresight

Foresight

The Lost Decades of Uncle Chow Tung
edition:eBook
also available: Paperback
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