Staring at a tin box full of campfire, wind pulling grass across
the hills in swells long as your station wagon, stunted spruce
beaten by ice rain, even in September, even down the bay. You
finally see. This is Newfoundland. Got here by ferry, and you'll
leave that way, and in between it's Come-by-Chance and shoals
and bights and capes and clumps of houses called Paradise and
Dildo and Leading Tickles. Got your old boyfriend in shotgun and
you've chosen a rusted railroad line to bed down for the night,
just along-side the spot where rock meets salt. Not much in between.
How the broken-down dory builder, swimming eyes, a mouthful of
toothless cotton swabbing up blood, crawls into your backseat
after a drizzly morning on the side of the highway. Bit of a smell.
Accent as thick as a mouthful of marge, spread thick over a crusty
bun, a side of fried bologna, couple of hardboiled eggs and a
pile of cod tongues. Lucky if cod is even on the menu. These days
don't look like anyone's got them but nobody wants to talk about
it. They'll talk lobster, or paper mills, or their two years in
Sudbury, working the line, before the accident.
The way they left the rock the first time, through the harbour
all froze up, stuck three days in the ice and only tea and buns
on the boat. How they all seem to leave, and they all come back
-- old. A line of mesh hats and woolen plaid, reclined on the
ferry in front of the flick, cup of luke Irving coffee trembling
between some cracked fingers. The wife's constant pat pat on the
knee as she knits away, something for the grandkids down in Toronto.
These men. At quarter past seven, in line for the roast pork supper,
dark boiled peas, pools of gravy and a coffee, paid for with a
rusted handful of change.
And you get the odd grin, wild eyes and whiskey breath. The sweetest,
most polite beg for change you ever known. And that's it. That's
when you get it. The Newfs, strung up by the wind and the Capital
and those god-damned Portuguese, they'd rule the whole shop if
they could. They'd storm the hill with a filleting blade and a
club and a whistle, ready to tear up any confederation or contract
selling their cod stocks for a song. How they'd spit on the crowd,
say sorry, then leave.
Like you. Like how you want to push off too, let go of that heaviest
pebble in your pocket and sail off. How you'd rig up those whites
from Nipper's Harbour to Joe Batt's Arm. Labrador calling out,
abandoned, and you waving good-bye. How you'd pull up anchor at
Goose Bay, broad reach around the Grand Banks; politicians leaping
off starboard and the last of the Miq'ma, shaking their heads.
The wind'll be tough, and right in your face, and you'll have
to tack some zig-zag, and you'll have to sing. North, into the
mess of ice and lonely stone. But what else. You have to go it
alone. You gotta get right down to it and set things right.