Parts of the story I remember. Not the
most gruesome parts, but the ordinary stuff, the mundane. Ever find
yourself looking at a photograph and just focusing on the everyday
bits around the subject? The cups on the table, the glasses on the
bureau behind them, even the blanket on the couch, the wallpaper on
the walls? That's the way it was with me and this story.
He came back to the old place and
patched and plastered, painted and puttered around it. It looked an
awful mess from the outside but inside, if you got in and very few did, it
was cozy. He'd even matched his dishes, white with a blue stripe. The
old Enterprise stove was always glowing with the old black kettle on
You'd have to walk by the place when
you went berry picking and he'd wave if he was outside. Friendly
like. But he'd turn away right quick and you got the message he
wasn't open for the chit chat.
You couldn't get the reasons for coming home out of
him, though many tried. Why did he come back from all that money out
in Alberta? And his boys left there, three he had, along with the
wife, though Bernie had it she was Chinese.
What does it take to uproot yourself
and come rushing home to the falling down old place that his father
had died in twenty years before?
It was late Christmas Eve when they
noticed the flames shooting up over the trees. And they all drove
over and took the cover off the well and started passing buckets of
water over the meadow and dumping them on the house. The firetruck
came soon after and lashed the place with foam and flood but it was
all too late.
The heat was intense and they had to
wait for it all to cool down a bit and then they found him sitting on
the remains of a chair next to the old Enterprise. Like he was
When I was walking past there, and I
was told the story, I noticed all the broken rum bottles in what used
to be a flower garden. And then they told me he was deaf. From birth.
Like his sister Jenny. Genetic or something. Second cousin stuff.
And I saw something white and blue in
the grass and it was a dinner plate and I picked it up. Not a crack
or a mark on it.
And I took it home.
Labels: a short story based on fact, Newfoundland