Saturday, 29 August 2015

4Q Interview with Gwen Martin of Yoho, New Brunswick


 
The Scribbler presents Part Five of the New Brunswick authors series with a 4Q Interview.
 
 
 
4Q is fortunate to have Gwen Martin as our featured artist this month as we celebrate New Brunswick Authors. Gwen is much more than a writer. At present she is also the Executive Director of the Writers’ Federation of New Brunswick. She lives in Yoho, New Brunswick (I didn’t know where it was either until I met Gwen). A lively and very positive lady, Gwen is a charm to be around. Watch for her link below.

 

4Q: Please tell us how your work as the Executive Director for WFNB came about and what you are up to.
 

GM: My relationship with WFNB has changed over the years. I’ve been a member since the mid-1980s. For several months in 2009–10, I served as a funding consultant, which involved writing three grant applications and getting to know the Federation’s inner workings. In June 2014 I became a WFNB director. When the then-executive director suddenly left in October 2014, the other directors asked me to become interim ED. What with one thing and another, I agreed to stay on until May 2016, by which time we will have hired and mentored a new ED. 

The answer to “what are you up to?” spans three timeframes. The daily work involves answering numerous member emails, encouraging members to renew, fielding organizational requests, book-keeping non-stop, updating the website with member bios and news – and, of course, producing our newsletter, InkSpot.  

The medium-range work includes organizing workshops and readings for the autumn, writing grant applications for 2015–16, planning ahead for the 2015–16 writing competition and mentorship program, fundraising (also nonstop)… and trying to boost membership through our regional rep program. We also are about to launch a new section of our website called TeensWrite…a place where we publish short stories by young New Brunswick writers. I’m really excited about that program.  

We have several long-term goals. Top of that list is our decision to launch the New Brunswick Book Awards, which will happen in 2016. We already have a committee dedicated to planning and fundraising for that long-awaited event.
 

4Q: What do you enjoy about writing and what have you recently accomplished as an author?

GM: The most profound thing about writing is that it can help you to receive ideas, analogies, images and linkages between real or imagined people and events. I believe that, on the deepest level, almost everything that ever happened or will happen is already out there in some non-tangible form.

Thus, when we enter the writing zone (or the zone of whatever is your passion … be it music, carpentry, car repair, pottery, painting, farming), we are simply tapping into that dimension and channeling the patterns or connections that already exist. By reflecting those patterns through our stories or art or plumbing or carpentry, we create beauty or a sense of meaning or both. It is all magic. 

This sounds bizarre, but in concrete terms, I know it happens. The best stories are ones that embody a narrative arc with utterly believable people and events. We are transported beyond ourselves, because the story is universal. Ironically, the things that move us the most are the things that cause us to leave ourselves behind as we unconsciously feel a sense of belonging to a larger pattern. That’s why good ol’ Uncle Shakespeare has lasted for hundreds of years. He could do ‘universal’ like no one before or since, except maybe John Steinbeck.  

I have accomplished nothing recently as an author (unless you count grant proposals!), because the ED position takes 60 hours a week.
 

4Q: Please share a childhood memory or anecdote.

GM: The story that comes immediately to mind is the time I decided, at age 11, to handle a canoe myself in a high wind. One summer we visited a cabin on a wide, strong river that flowed eastward for a quarter-mile before cascading over a dam. On this particular day, Dad told me not to go canoeing, because the wind was too strong. I headed out anyway. The wind caught the canoe bow and immediately torqued the boat broadside so I could not control its direction. At the same time, the river current carried me inexorably toward the dam. As I struggled to control the canoe, I saw Dad at the end of the dock, watching. He kept watching as I drifted downstream. I had to slowly inch my way forward in the canoe so I could paddle from the mid-section and gain some directional control. Finally, after what felt like hours, I reached land far along the shore, just before the dam. As I gingerly hauled the canoe back over cobbles and sunken logs, I saw Dad in the distance, still standing rigid on the dock. Only when I got within earshot did he turn and leave. He never said a word about it, and neither did I.
 

4Q: You will be leaving the position of ED next year. What will Gwen Martin be doing to fill her days in the future?

GM: Writing, hiking, playing my piano, and spending time with my nearest and dearest who have been sorely neglected since I became ED.

 

Thank you Gwen for sharing your thoughts.

You can discover more about Gwen here: http://wfnb.ca/member_profile/gwen-martin/





The continuing presentation of NB authors continues into September. Watch next week when Joseph Koot of Dorchester Cape is featured on the Scribbler.



 

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Guest Author Lockie Young.

Part four of an eight part series on authors from New Brunswick, Canada.

So pleased to have Lockard (Lockie) Young of Albert County, NB as a featured guest. I know you will enjoy this amusing tale that he is sharing with us this week. Lockie has appeared on the Scribbler many times. He is a published author  and a terrific story teller. His links are below.


Are You Sure   by Lockie Young


My day got really bad right after I said “you’re pretty sure?” Well, maybe if I start at the beginning.

It had been a really crappy week at work. I was convinced that bitch from accounting was trying to screw me over, again. For the second pay period in a row she ‘forgot’ to add my tips onto my paycheck. That meant that once again, come Monday morning, I was going to have to submit for a second check to be cut just for my special deposit. That’s what I called the extra money I made in tips, which I usually moved into my savings account. I’m two special deposits behind now, and I was counting on that extra cash for my haircut.

Doing a slow burn I watched as the paper envelope was being gobbled by the slot in the ATM. I withdrew twenty bucks that I couldn’t spare and that should have stayed the hell in there. It was impossible however, to leave it there, because tomorrow was haircut day. If I didn’t get a haircut at least once every four weeks, I would take on the look of an Einstein impersonator with steel wool locks.

I’m the type of person who thrives on order. I take pride in my appearance, and the fact that I have never been late for an appointment, but that is only because I plan everything. Like a game of chess in my head, I calculate for errors, for bad weather, for rush hour traffic. I try to make a plan for every scenario, but some things you just can’t plan for.

Saturday morning arrived after a very dull Friday evening de-stressing in front of the TV. The first day of the weekend poked its sunny head through my curtains, and I smiled at my great good fortune. It was a beautiful bright day after all. Perhaps I would walk to the barbershop today. I threw my legs over the edge of the bed, and planted my feet firmly to greet the new day. My right foot landed into something cold, soft, and slowly squishing between almost every toe. The unmistakeable odor of Toby, the family fertilizer factory on four legs greeted my day and encouraged my gorge to rise. I half ran half slid into the bathroom and dry heaved over the cold porcelain of the toilet. Nice I thought as I raised my head from the bowl and saw the brown swoosh style smear on the floor. Let’s just say my gorge rose several times more while getting myself and the entire hallway cleaned all the way back to the bedroom.

 
When the coffee maker overflowed hot grounds all over the cupboard, and then that mess pooled on the kitchen floor, I didn’t lose it like I thought I would. Even after the toast caught fire and I threw the toaster into the kitchen sink, I didn’t pick it back up and heave it through the glass patio door like I wanted to. No sir. Maybe there were forces at work to discourage me today, I reasoned, as I chuckled to myself.

“A pox on you, Karma!” I shouted to the air, with fist raised in mock defiance of the forces that be.

I’m thinking that’s when I really got the bad MoJo going.

I left the house, and didn’t even pick up the garbage can that I hit on the way out of the driveway. Garbage day was four days from now. Why was the garbage can down by the street?

I pondered this question on the drive to the barbershop. The walk was cancelled, courtesy of Toby, and no accidents happened on the way to the shop. I did have to pick up the pace a little bit though. The oddest thing; there wasn’t a free parking space within two blocks of the barber shop. I finally found a spot only to discover the meter didn’t work but when I was getting back into the driver’s seat the car in the space ahead of me pulled away.  I nudged ahead quickly and threw the gear shifter into park. I knew my luck was changing for the day, as I ran the rest of the way to my ten o’clock.

I was slightly out of breath when I skidded into the doorway at exactly nine fifty nine a.m. My record was still intact. I looked around and asked the skinny kid with the coke bottle glasses, “Where’s Walter?”

The young lad looked up from his comic book. “Uncle Walt had to go to a funeral. His best friend died, and so he asked me to take a few of his clients. You want a cut?”

This, this was not good. This skinny runt would need a box to stand on to reach the back of my neck.

“Well, you see, Walt always does my hair. Are you even allowed to cut hair? I mean legally?” I asked him, and almost laughed out loud at the size of the poor guys eyes behind those glasses. How could he even see to cut friggin hair?

“Oh sure, I’m licensed and everything, see?” He pointed to a square of heavy paper propped up beside a tall glass jar containing blue fluid and several combs. I squinted at the document and stammered, “The date on that diploma was last month.”

“Highest marks in the cut exam.” He motioned to the chair as he held the green striped apron open. I looked at this stranger in the mirror with wide eyes and a half scared look on his face and wearing my clothes, and I almost left. I scrunched down in the barber’s chair, wondering if he was still going to be able to see the top of my head. He grabbed a spray can from the counter.

“A little lubrication,” He said as he sprayed the electric clippers. I swear he winked at me.

“Look just a little trim, okay.” I smiled nervously to geek boy’s reflection in the mirror.

“Whatever you say, you’re the boss.” He said, as he fired up the clippers. As soon as the razor hit the hair on the back of my head, it dug in like a snow blower digging into a four foot drift. The motor started to make a funny noise as the first of the pain registered. Junior yanked the shears away and a very large clump of hair the same color as mine slowly swirled to the floor.

“Oh my god, that must have been hairspray and not oil. I’m pretty sure I can fix that.” He said looking at the back of my head, with his own tilted at a strange angle.

A stranger using my voice said, “You’re pretty sure?”

I don’t remember much after that. I think my arraignment is next week.  

The End




Thanks again Lockie for entertaining us again with your witty stories. You can discover more about Mr. Young and his novels by visiting the links below.
The Legend Returns:
Ryan's Legend: http://morningrainpublishing.com/project/ryans-legend/ 
 
 
Watch next week when the Scribbler presents a 4Q Interview with Gwen Martin of Yoho, New Brunswick. Gwen is an accomplished author as well as the Executive Director of the Writer's Federation of New Brunswick. A very charming and talented lady. Don't miss it.

Monday, 17 August 2015

Guest Author Pierre Arsenault of Moncton, New Brunswick

Welcome to part three of the New Brunswick authors series for August and September.

As well as writing, Pierre Arsenault is also a freelance cartoonist. He resides in Moncton, NB. He is the author of two collections of short stories. The first - Dark Tales for a Dark Night was co-authored with Angella Jacob. His second is titled - Sleepless Nights.












Pierre is sharing one of his short stories this week. You never know what will greet you when you journey out in the middle of the night.


Garnett’s Gift
By Pierre C Arseneault
All rights reserved


 

Garnett sat alone in an empty room. Its only content being a low-backed soft stool which he now sat on and a weird oval table. The flat topped table had a mushroom like shape and stem-like leg in its center. The entire room looked like it was made of strange hard off-white plastic and yet it had some give to it when Garnett pushed his fingers into it. He had awakened in this room with no idea of how he had gotten here. Groggy at first, it took a while before he noticed there were no exits. No doors. The walls were seamless as was the stool and table. He couldn’t tell where they begun and the floor ended. It was as if the entire room was made of a seamless plastic. With no visible vents, he wondered how he was still breathing. Where was he? He remembered getting out of bed as quietly as possible, trying not to wake his wife. The dogs were barking and the cows were agitated. Something was wrong. Perhaps coyote but with their four dogs roaming the farm, they had never had any predators come close before. In the same blue chequered pyjama bottoms and white t-shirt he wore now, he had wandered out onto the porch in his slippers with his large halogen flashlight. Last year’s Christmas gift from the kids came in handy at times but he appreciated it a lot at that very moment. He remembers seeing some of the cows all huddled together against the fence. They were restless, milling about, pushing and shoving to get as close to the fence as possible. He couldn’t see the rest of the herd but he knew some were in the barn. He could hear them. The rest were most likely towards the opposite side of the enclosure. The hairs had stood up on the back of his neck and his arms. He could hear the dogs barking but couldn’t see them. He remembered calling the dogs but they never came. He remembered his sight becoming blurred and his head beginning to spin. The last thing he recalled was removing his glasses and struggling to focus as he saw the fast approaching ground as he passed out. Then darkness.

He awoke sitting in the strange chair, but still groggy, he fell out of it and quickly found himself on the cold floor. Dazed, he lay on the floor for a long time. Although in this room, time felt irrelevant. No window to see if it was day or night. Complete stillness at first. Until he regained his senses that was and then his mind began to take over. What is this place? Why was he here? His mind settled on the only logical thing he could think of. Aliens. He had seen that television show where they explored what they claimed was proof that aliens had visited Earth long ago. Although being a logical man, he never took it seriously but he always thought the theories were fascinating. But he wasn’t ready to meet one. This he thought as he got up and sat in the chair, leaning on the table with his head resting on his arms. This fact was still running through his mind as he heard a soft, subtle sound coming from before him. It was the first sound he had heard that was not of his creation in the hours he had been in this blank space. Confusion struck him until he saw a bulge forming in the floor across the table from where he sat. The bulge rose almost as tall as he before a seam appeared in it. When the bulge began opening, he could see a pale pink flesh-like bulge emerging from it. What he soon realized was the hairless head of the creature that was emerging before him. It took a moment before he realized he was no longer breathing as he had held his breath the entire time the man-like creature had emerged. It wasn’t green as he half expected but a pale pink. It wore no clothes and had a soft glow about it. Its slim face had very large oval eyes with large pitch-black pupils and silver irises. It looked to have a slim, long mouth and what looked like nostrils even though it had no nose. It had a thin body with thin neck, arms and legs. The bulge in the floor receded leaving this new creature sitting in its own seamless chair.

Was he dreaming he wondered? Had he watched too much Ancient Aliens that it now affected his sleep? Only for some reason he knew this was no dream. He could now feel a sudden presence in his mind. The alien being tilted his head slightly and seemed to smile softly as it gazed at Garnett.

[What is your name, man from the water star?]

He heard the alien speak but yet his mouth had not moved. He heard it but was it really with his ears? It felt more like he heard him with his mind.

Somehow he felt compelled to answer. “Garnett. Garnett McGraw. I’m not dreaming am I?”

[No-No you are not,] replied the alien using only his mind to communicate.

The voice had a soft and soothing feeling to it that he couldn’t understand.

“Why am I here? What do you want from me?” asked Garnett. He felt anger within him but yet he couldn’t raise his voice even when he tried.

[Your kind are dangerous, Garnett. Did you know that?]

“My kind?” asked Garnett, knowing full well what the strange being meant.

[Your kind fights each other for resources you should all be sharing. You all inhabit the same water based star,] said the alien. [Yet, you fight for things that belong to none of you.]

“Yes. Yes, I suppose some of us do,” replied Garnett.

[Some,] replied the alien. [You kill each other because you like different things.]

“I don’t understand what you want?” replied Garnett.

[My kind wants to destroy your kind,] replied the alien as his head tilted even more as it watched its prisoner with curiosity. As if he waited for a reaction.

“Why?” asked Garnett.

[My kind believes your kind to be a danger to all the others in what you would call the solar system.]

Garnett was a simple farmer but was no fool. He held degrees
in veterinary medicine and always had a fascination for politics until he had come to the conclusion that they were all corrupt. At least that was what he now believed after watching his fellow farmers struggle to stay in business. Not having to call in expensive vets to look after his dairy and beef cows saved his farm a lot of money and helped him stay in business. He was smart in many ways and knew the alien was right.

“You plan to invade us?”

[No need,] replied the alien creature as he straightened his head and squinted a little. [We can destroy your world from far away.]

“How?” asked Garnett.

[Your star cannot sustain life without water. We would simply take it all away.]

Garnett sat still for a moment looking down at his hands as they rung at each other. He fiddled with his wedding ring like he often did when deep in thought.

“Have you done this before?” Garnett asked while still looking down at the table. Something told him they had and they were not bluffing.

[Yes,] replied the alien as his eyes grew even wider. [Yes, we have had to destroy three stars before. But not before trying to save them.]

“I don’t understand,” replied Garnett. “Save them how?”

[We visit stars. We try and help the ones who live there. Teach them peace.]

“But yet you destroyed three?” asked Garnett.

[Yes. We had to. They had begun to venture out in the solar system with weapons of war.]

Garnett stood up and walked away from the table, staring at a blank wall as he spoke.

“You destroyed them before they could destroy you.”

[Yes. They would have attacked all other stars with life, fearing what they don’t understand.]

“And now it’s our turn?” asked Garnett. “You’re going to destroy us too?”

[Your kind is on the verge of venturing out from your star. We can’t let you do that. You are too dangerous.]

Garnett turned to face the alien. “But if you destroy our world. Without trying to negotiate peace first, doesn’t that make you even worse than us?”

[As I said before, we have tried. We have sent ambassadors of peace to your star. They were all killed by your kind.]

Garnett slowly made his way to the table and sat down again.

“That’s a lie,” he said even though somehow he knew it wasn’t. “There would be evidence of such a thing happening and there isn’t.”

[Actually there is much evidence but your kind refuses to see it. Your kind always grows fearful, always killing what your kind cannot comprehend. We left you alone for thousands of your years, no longer interfering in your affairs only to watch you become worse with time.]

“It's human nature,” replied Garnett. “Maybe you should kill us all,” he said as he looked down at the table again while fiddling with his wedding ring again. “Just don’t kill my Emma. My Sadie and my Danny.”

The creature knew this man-creature spoke of his family. They always did. These water-star creatures who call themselves humans always begged to save the ones they loved. Not for the others of his star that they did not know. Not at first anyway. The creature saw nothing different or special in this one who called himself Garnett.

[The star will be destroyed and all who are on it,] replied the alien.

“Then bring me back before you do so I can say goodbye,” said Garnett as a tear ran down his face. He wiped it away as if ashamed to show weakness before this God-awful being. 

[We cannot bring you back just yet,] said the alien creature.

Garnett bowed down his head as a feeling of helplessness washed over him as he broke down. He sobbed as the creature watched in curiosity. Garnett looked up before he spoke. His voice filled with so much emotion that it cracked.

“You can’t destroy us now. Danny just got accepted to veterinary college and Sadie is starting high school.”

[Your kind is destined for destruction,] replied the alien. [Our task is to prevent you from destroying others in what you call the solar system.]

“Bring me back then,” replied Garnett. “I want to be destroyed with the rest of my kind.”

[Why?] asked the alien. [Why would you desire your own destruction?] The alien tilted his head to the side and had that squint of what Garnett could only guess was curiosity.

“I don’t belong here,” said a frustrated Garnett. For the first time he felt the ability to raise his voice in anger. “I want to die with my family.”

The alien said nothing as he watched the human lower his head and shed more tears. He waited a moment as Garnett composed himself somewhat.

[What if you could save your family? What if you could save your star?]

“How?” asked Garnett as tears flowed steadily.

The alien turned its attention away from Garnett for the first time and looked towards the blank wall to his right. Garnett looked at the blank wall with curiosity before realizing that the alien was most likely conversing with another one of his kind outside of this off-white plastic prison.

Before Garnett, a slit appeared in the table. From it, slowly emerging was what looked to Garnett like a small off-white shot glass filled to the brim with a dark blue powder. Once it was on the table, the slit vanished as if it had never been.

[Some of my kind believes that some of yours have begun a sort of revolution. That your kind could possibly know peace someday.]

“Is that why you brought me here?” asked Garnett. “What am I supposed to do?”

[We brought you here to offer you a chance to save your star. My kind wants to wait another year before deciding whether or not to destroy your star.]

“A year?” asked Garnett.

[One of our years.] The alien looked down at the glass on the table as if thinking for the first time since they had begun the conversation. [I believe that would be more than three hundred of your star years.]

Garnett wiped his tear-stained face with the sleeve of his t-shirt but said nothing.

[You need only drink the blue fluid to save your star.]

Garnett looked at the blue powder in the plastic glass. “What is it?”

[It is your sacrifice,] replied the alien in a soft tone. [Your demise will prove your kind can be unselfish. It is required so those on your star can live.]

Garnett reached for the glass but paused just before he touched it. “You’re telling me if I eat this powder shit that you won’t destroy earth?”

[If you make that sacrifice then we will spare your star from destruction, yes.]

“But this will kill me?”

[Yes!]

“How do I know you will not destroy us anyway?” Garnett picked up the glass and watched as the powder turned into a liquid before his very eyes. The cup was filled to the brim, yet when he tilted it slightly the liquid remained flush to the brim, not spilling an ounce.

[Your choice is to die along with them or for them,] replied the alien. [There are no other choices.]

Garnett took a deep breath and hoisted the glass as if making a toast at a wedding. “My gift to mankind then. To my Sadie, Danny and Emma.”

Tears flowed as he placed the cup to his lips and drank the dark blue liquid in one gulp. He set the cup down and opened his mouth to speak but found he couldn’t. The whites of his eyes were the first to turn a dark blue while the rest of him followed. He looked at his hands as they turned a dark shade of blue. The creature reached across the table and placed a long pale pink finger in Garnett’s head as if his flesh was now semi liquid. Garnett felt his body become heavy. He no longer drew breath as he felt he had no need to.

The alien closed his eyes for the first time and Garnett saw in his mind now. He saw an older grey haired man walking amongst cows leading a young calf into a barn. The old man was his son Danny. He saw an older woman; her hair died an unnatural shade of brown, trying to mask the ever increasing wrinkles she bore as she stood before a classroom full of young impressionable children. The children watched in awe as she explained today’s lessons in grammar. Sadie, his daughter would become a teacher after all. He saw an old woman sitting in a rocker, knitting as she listened to the television. His wife Emma would outlive him and her second husband as well and become a grandmother to four beautiful children. He saw the milk cartons from his very own dairy cows with his picture on them asking if anyone has seen this man.

 

Garnett McGraw.

Missing since May 19th 2014.

Reward offered for information that will help find this man.

 

The last thing he saw in his mind was his young son pick up the dimly lit flashlight from the ground where he had dropped it when they took him.  



The End
 




Thank you Pierre for that clever story.

Watch next week as we continue with New Brunswick authors and Lockie Young returns to the Scribbler with one of his entertaining short stories.

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Guest author Chuck Bowie of Fredericton, New Brunswick.


The South Branch Scribbler presents it's second guest in the New Brunswick authors series for August and September.





Chuck Bowie graduated from the University of New Brunswick in Canada with a Bachelor Degree in Science. He lives on the East Coast of Canada, an hour North and East of Maine. Growing up as an air force brat, his writing is influenced by the study of human nature and how people behave, habits he picked up as his family moved nineteen times in his first twenty one years. Chuck loves food, wine, music and travel and all play a role in his work.
 His writing will often draw upon elements of these experiences to round out his characters and plotlines. Chuck is involved in the world of music, supporting local musicians, occasionally playing with them and always celebrating their successes. Because he enjoys venting as much as the next fellow, Chuck will at times share his thoughts with a brief essay, some of which can be found on his website. http://chuckbowie.ca
He is working through the fourth novel in the suspense-thriller series: Donovan: Thief For Hire. His newest is entitled Steal It All, and follows Three Wrongs and AMACAT. He is now writing the fourth, as-yet untitled.
Chuck is married, with two adult musician sons. He and his wife Lois live in Fredericton, New Brunswick.
 
Following is an excerpt from Amacat:
 
                                                Chapter One
                                         Prince Edward Island
 
A single track of sunshine elbowed its way through the crack in the curtains, creating a warming sundial effect on the pickled hardwood cottage floor. Peggyand John Whiteway awoke to their perfect Prince Edward Island morning. Johntried to offer up a ‘Good morning darling,’ but the ensuing crackle of his voicemade him pause and change the greeting to an accusation: ‘You got me drunk lastnight!’ He couldn’t muster the requisite indignity so the words became just…words. Instead, he peeked inside the coverlet and silently thanked his wife foragreeing to his ‘no pajamas’ rule while on vacation.
The shower was splendid. He loved a long, lingering shower—he was averaging two a day this week in an effort to keep the beach salt off. And theowners of the property, bless ‘em, had dropped off another wicker basket with acarafe of coffee, fresh croissants, and a map to a different island destination. They had done so every morning so far; he had casually mentioned it to a neighboringcottager and thus knew it was a perk the folks next door didn’t receive, whichmade the treat even sweeter. It was the best vacation John had ever had. There’s something special about the simple pleasures.
“Honey, don’t knock the simple pleasures,” he called out over the spray of steaming water.
In the background the cell phone was jacked up on the docking station. It was The Hold Steady, playing Barely Breathing. Her son Aaron had loaded up Peggy’s phone with songs before they left. A bit of a downer song, although he loved it, just not first thing in the morning.
“Hey!” he yelled. “Turn that crap off.”
In reply, she entered the bathroom and flushed the toilet, leaving without saying a word. He stepped to the far end of the shower to escape the rush of cold water, smiling as the song continued to amplify through the wall.
John ate the last almond paste croissant while Peggy showered. Afterward they tidied up the place. The cottage was located north of Charlottetown, in what he  called the artsy-beachy area. It was their second straight summer at Brackley Beach, the second of many, he hoped. The loft was fairly tidy so it took but a moment to pick up the pair of wine bottles and the pillows he and Peggy had reclined upon in front of the enormous floor-to-ceiling windows the evening before.
On the main floor the dishes were already in the sink—”I promise I’ll do them when we get back, Pegs.”—so they had merely to get set up for the day. He’d loaded the back pack; found that errant pair of sunglasses, argued good-naturedly about the need for four bottles of water and the relative merits of Vans runners versus sandals, and off they went to explore the beach. The giant red dunes in the nearby national park were their destination this morning.
They turned off the main highway about a mile before the national park gates. Peggy couldn’t pass the Owl’s Retreat art gallery without stopping, so she tugged at John’s shirt the moment she spied the shop sign. John parked the Prius and headed straight for the smaller door to the left of the main entrance. It led to the little cafĂ© on the side of the gallery and he grabbed his third coffee of the morning.
          While Peggy wandered off to the koi ponds and garden at the back of the gallery, John stood in front of the framed heron that had caught their eye earlier in the week. He debated whether the pleasure they would derive from looking at it long after their vacation would be worth the bother of lugging it onto the plane back to Minnesota. Peggy sauntered back and asked him if he wanted to buy it.
Then, as couples will, they discussed whether the convenience of buying it now (and worrying about it possibly getting stolen from their trunk later in the day) outweighed the bother of stopping by the gallery at the end of the day. It was, as Pegs noted, a good five minutes out of their way, since they were coming back from a different direction that evening. Ten minutes, actually, if you counted both ways, which she obviously did.
John could tell she didn’t really care what the decision was, but if he didn’t make a decision soon, the banter would degenerate into bickering, and he didn’t want to go there. So he pretended to care and told her he really wanted to buy it now. He was pleased when she said “Up to you, babes.” Problem solved. A bubble-wrapped minute later and the trundled parcel was safe in the trunk, sitting beside the back pack with the water, extra T-shirt sneakers, a couple of murder mysteries, towels, and a wrap for Peggy’s hips in case they ate at a fancier restaurant for lunch. Pegs was becoming a bit self-conscious about the extra couple of pounds she had put on this past year. John couldn’t see it but Pegs assured him they were right there, the bastards. She brought the wrap even on the hottest days. Just in case.
Inside the park they pulled over on the water side of the road, closest to the dunes that were the star of this recreation area. The weather was unfolding perfectly so they expected to meet people on the dunes or at least on the beach. Initially, however, they were alone.
“Score!” said Pegs.
John was glad they had worn sandals. The couple had mounted the thirty-foot rise of loose red dunes only to find a higher, more impressive set. They dropped into the swale between the two sandy ridges, and then rose back up to view the water through the lens of an amazing island morning. As a kid in the lackadaisical sixties he had been given a jar of liquid mercury no child today would be allowed near. The sensation of sinking his bare toes into the night-chilled sand that morning felt just like when he had stuck his bare finger into that cold, dense liquid.
The sun had risen well past the top of the dunes on their left but still cast long shadows across the leeward side of the empty beach. A minute earlier the night chilled sand from the shaded part felt like a cool liquid. Now the sun-warmed sand felt like a different material altogether.
The beach stretched on and on in both directions. They could see a few families far off in the distance, but otherwise they were alone with two miles of beautiful red-sandy playground. He pointed to the families in the distance.
“Sorry, Baby-cakes; no nude sunbathing this morning.”
“Yeah, like that was going to happen.”
Once again John smiled as she patted him on the shoulder. It was a great day.
“Okay. Enough with the climbing. Let’s go down there and make sand castles and solve mysteries. Did you bring a good book?”
He took her hand and led her down the water side of the dunes, red sugar-sand feeling like a cool silk on his ankles where the sun hadn’t yet got to it, and they strode onto the best beach in Canada.
John stopped at the base of the dunes to study the marram grass that had been planted to reduce the erosion. Peggy took the backpack and went on ahead to pick a spot on the sand between the ever-shortening morning shadows and the water. He took the lens cap off his Nikon and bent down to take a few photos; this grass would be a beautiful border for his garden back in St. Paul. Surely the garden shops back home had a non-marine version of this.
He thought of that quote: ‘God gave us memory that we may have roses in December.’ “Or marine grass from Canada in Minnesota,” he muttered.
            Something made him look up, to where Peggy was standing. She had headed down to the water’s edge having dropped the backpack a few feet behind her. Something had caught her attention. A peevish thought entered his head, disturbing his unclouded mood: If we sit that close to the water this early in the day, it might be a little too breezy. Why doesn’t she just come back halfway up the beach? It would be warmer, offer softer sand and the dunes would keep us out of the breeze.
As if in reply, Pegs screamed. It began as a wail, but she obviously felt only her best effort would do under these circumstances and her voice went up a few decibels and a few notes. A half a mile downwind the little boy and girl turned their heads in one motion and stared up the beach, at his wife. John began to run.
* * * *
“Dammit, this is why I came to Canada, to get away from this shit.”
John refused the invitation to sit and paced the great room of his cottage, eyes glued to the floor.
“If I wanted murders and, and…mayhem, I’d have stayed home!”
His eyes finally rose up to meet the RCMP officer in charge of Queens County, Prince Edward Island.
“Because believe me when I tell ya, we got m-murders back home. I don’t need ‘em following me on vacation!”
John’s voice was rising, uneven and his face was blotchy and red.
“Shut up, honey.” Peggy had gotten control and was now unexpectedly calm.
“There’s not a lot we can do about…”
John stopped to glare, looking but not seeing. He raised the palm of a soft hand as if to halt any interruptions.
“…Because I expect to dig my god-damned toes in the sand and not dig up bodies with ‘em. Especially bodies that I recognize! What the hell is this? Detroit?
No, it’s supposed to be this gentle storybook place…”
At this point John ran out of steam. Peggy leaned forward without getting up and patted John on the back of his bare calf. After standing patiently for several minutes, acknowledging his witness’ need to vent away a little of his shock and, yes, fear, Inspector Ian MacIsaac stepped forward and took control of the discussion. He glanced at his notepad and began.
“Mister and Missus Whiteway, is it? I’m going to tell you my understanding of what transpired, and you can stop me if I make any errors in what took place, when it happened or your observations during the course of your morning. Now, I would ask you to jump in if anything, anything at all is different from your impression of what happened. John, I really appreciate your cooperation in this matter and I am truly, truly sorry for this, ah, interruption of your holiday.”
The Inspector took a deep breath. “Shall we begin?”
He pointed to a nearby teak chair into which John reluctantly sunk, and the Inspector followed suit by dropping his bulk into the mate of John’s chair. He started to speak but something out of the corner of his eye caught his attention. He looked over to John’s wife.
Peggy had raised a tentative finger as if she was pointing crookedly at the teak and wicker fan above them. She began, faltered then started again in a hesitant voice, all the while smoothing her shorts with the flat of her hands.
“I…I was wondering if we saw who, who we saw. Was it…?”
Inspector MacIsaac gave her a look as if to ask why it really mattered who the body had been before being murdered. But he merely offered that when the red beach sand was pushed away from the rest of the victim’s face and naked body, it did indeed look like the Hollywood actress Nadia Kriss, but that he couldn’t possibly confirm or speculate who in fact the woman was. He then leaned forward, rested an elbow on one knee and from his notes proceeded to tell the story of how Mister and Missus Whiteway from St. Paul, Minnesota walked straight into the shit on what up until that moment had been a perfect Prince Edward Island vacation day.
 
 
 

 
Thank you Chuck for sharing the beginning of what will be a marvelous tale. Buy Amacat here .
Next week in the series of New Brunswick Authors, you can meet Pierre Arseneault of Moncton.