Sunday, August 08, 2010

Skiver



skiver n (1) OED ~ sb1 chief dial (1664-1746)
(1) A skewer, esp a forked stick on which fish are impaled or strung through the gills in carrying;
(2)Knitting needle (1940 Dal Rev xv, 65
P 171-65 A skiver is a knitting needle with a knob on one end so that only the other end is free for knitting. Some women also stated that wooden needles were often made by local men.
(3) A thin person; a small child (1971 NOSEWORTHY 243).
(4) A pointed peg on which bait is impaled on a lobster trap.
(5) A prostitute


This time it was the grandchild that drew her back to Newfoundland. There was always something. Two years ago it was her daughter's miscarriage and subsequent depression. Five years ago it was her father's drunken plunge on his ATV over the cliff at the end of the property where the ragged old fence had fallen down; followed by the funeral of the old bastard five days later.

The village held her memory as if it were the host at Mass on Sundays. She saw the disgust head-lighting in their eyes behind the too hearty welcomes. That is if they chose to speak.

“Ah now Susanna,” they might say, “Great that you're back. You're lookin' best kind!”

She knew she wasn't. She avoided mirrors. But she'd peeped this morning as she dabbed on a bit of lipstick on her pale wrinkled lips. All those cigarettes. Kept her thin as a rake. But the price on her skin wasn't worth it. She'd pulled back from the mirror, putting on her glasses, allowing her critical eyes to pan her features. Creases everywhere now. Forehead, turkey-wattled neck, cheeks falling down on the job, teeth nicotine yellowed. Unbidden anorexic tears flowed from her sunken eyes magnified briefly by the lenses. Jesus.

Her daughter rapped impatiently on the door. Susanna had promised she would take Keefe for a walk in the fancy stroller. Down through the village of eyes. And give Lara a break for a few hours. Keefe was a colicky baby, and the only thing that settled him was the car or the stroller.

It was a hot day but she was chilled, even with her cardigan on. Before she left with the stroller Lara had lectured her about smoking and stopping for the vodka at Pete's GrocConGas. In times gone by, Susanna would have looked at her askance and told her to shut up. She couldn't even summon the energy anymore. She took it with eyes downcast, standing still, rolling the stroller, as if in impatience, back and forth on the deck.

She thought soldiers don't know about bravery. Not one bit. I'd rather face a platoon of enemies on a battlefield than what's ahead of me here.

There were far too many out mowing, gardening and hanging clothes on the line and walking their dogs. What a change from the old days when the ground was used for food and the dogs for herding cattle. Now Lara lived in a new house on the hill overlooking the old family ruins with her fellow out West making big money and spending most of it at home here in St. Kevin's on his turnarounds.

And she, Susanna, in Halifax with the oul fella, her foul mouthed mate of thirty years. Who never ceased to remind her or anyone within earshot of where he'd met her, while in defence she would yell: tell them how, you pervert, tell them how!

The new pastor was coming towards her. She'd heard of him. From Korea. Who else would he be?

He stopped and admired the sleeping Keefe and asked who she was.
“Susanna Farrell” she told him, “Mother of Lara Farrell.”
His eyes were kind but puzzled. She was sure Lara hadn't darkened a church doorway since her confirmation.
“It would be very nice,” he said, in remarkably unaccented English, ”If the little one was baptized.”
She couldn't stop herself.
“And why would that be, Father?”
“Oh now,” he said patiently, “God loves the little ones.”
“Oh, something like suffer the little ones to come unto me?”
“Yes, yes!” he beamed at her.
“Well Father, my suffering was of no concern to God or priest when I was a child.”
And shrugging her thin shoulders, she left him behind her on the road, his hurt smile reiterating ancient Father Lynch's in that old confession box.

“Your father's a good man, Susanna Brigid, a very good man. Slandering him is a mortal sin! Twenty Hail Marys! Now get out of here!”

She kept her eyes down. Father Korea – he never did tell her his name – would be hearing more about her history in the next short while. Of that she was sure.

She'd taken up knitting for Chrissake. Knitting! She'd even taken on some sheep to give her the wool. A lot of work that. Busy work. She was making it pay for itself now with the addition of the dyeing equipment. And buyers coming all the way out to ooh and aah. She'd kept himself away from it all as she knew he'd ruin it with that mouth. Had to seriously threaten him with exposure to the authorities.

And it was all paying off now. Giving her extra but more than anything giving her respectability. Like the cardigan she wore today, made in her own wool by her own hands. Some were calling her an artisan. An artisan! Susanna the artisan!
But not here. Here that didn't count. Here was purgatory. She watched the Daleys getting out of their car at Pete's GrocConGas. Throwing a glance her way, nodding slightly, dismissively, not even feigning the slightest curiosity in the baby. Tainted baby. Her only grandchild.

She'd only booked to stay for the usual week. The week that seemed a year with her unvoiced question pounding away in her brain all the time she was here. Until she drowned it in her nightly vodka.

“Where the fuck were you when I was thirteen and pregnant with the dirty fifty dollars from my father in my pocket to get me to the docks of Halifax?”

18 comments:

  1. I'm finding that some of my best reading comes from my blog friends. Wow! This was wonderful. You are very very good with dialogue.

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  2. A story to tear at the heart strings.

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  3. Thank you Marcia. This woman and the judgement around her breaks my heart.
    XO
    WWW

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  4. GM:
    The lack of understanding and compassion is astonishing. We are all so terrified of another's pain.
    XO
    WWW

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  5. I hope she gets out of her miserable spot and gets set free. Her pain is deep and undeserved. She needs to rehabilitate herself and break with the past.

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  6. Nora:
    It is what she chooses. Our lives are a mix of pain and joy.

    "There is a crack in everything - it's how the light gets in.." - Leonard Cohen.

    XO
    WWW

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  7. So very powerful - an amazing tale. Thank you.

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  8. Thank you Jo - more in the truth stranger than fiction line....
    XO
    WWW

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  9. Great storytelling,
    Thanks for calling by my blog and your kind words.
    I have had a lovely time here and will be back.
    Avalon is one of my favourite words btw,

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  10. It's so easy to condemn other people instead of showing compassion and understanding. A very sad story.

    Skiver in the UK means someone who dodges hard work and sits around doing nothing. It sounds like the father was a skiver.

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  11. I was about to type what nick has just written about the word "skiver".

    I enjoyed the story, sad as it is. Your writing style mkes just about any tale a joy to read.

    If it's based on fact, then I hope the lady finds some modicum of peace soon. Compassion is hard to come by for some unfortunate fellow-travellers.

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  12. Cait:
    Avalon is also one of mine! I feel so fortunate to live here!
    Thank YOU!
    XO
    WWW

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  13. Nick:
    Oh he was, the story is actually worse than I wrote, the pieces of it were given to me by different people.
    Interesting word, skiver...
    XO
    WWW

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  14. T:
    I think the fact she has discovered a passion is her saviour.
    She and the old fellow are trapped in a hopeless dance.
    Her daughter is having a tough time of it too - her partner is abusing her.
    XO
    WWW

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  15. I think there's a TV series there! About time Newfoundland had one methinks.

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  16. Interesting that, despite all the modernisation and the tarted up houses and dogs, the old, unforgiving ways still hang around. Shades of Brinsley MacNamara's "Valley of the Squinting Windows," methinks. A sad story very well told, WWW.

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  17. Laura:
    I'm not too sure whether to include it in my short story collection, there is more Irish than Newfoundland in it.
    XO
    WWW

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  18. Tessa:
    I'm not happy with the way I've presented this as it is too "Irish" (and you'll know what I mean). Newfoundlanders are far more generous and I need to re-work it to reflect that. Susanna's hell is in herself and what is happening to her daughter and her beauty is in her re-creation of herself.
    XO
    WWW

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