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She wakes before the sun comes up and hears the rain has stopped. Leaves the house alone. Lets Marvin out for a piss but leaves him sniffing at roots in the ruddy yard as she turns to walk the road she grew up on. Even this far into summer the pre-dawn air is sharp, but it’s nothing like the cold in Labrador when the lights go out and the moisture freezes your laundry to the floor.

The gulf is black, sullen – no gulls are screaming yet. No noisy hungry throats with leather tongues and gouging, razor bills. All things are asleep, just not her. She makes her way along the crest and down the curve of the hill, past broken houses and rotting posts and places she remembers going for birthday parties. Hotdogs and pop and homemade cake, and balloons drifting out the door. Sticky lips and tired eyes and knowing everything will always be this easy. Your parents say a thousand times you don’t want to grow up. But you don’t listen. Skipping home after the games and swinging from older arms and laughing at the world – and why not? Everything is here, everything you’ll ever want and nothing’s going to change that. Nothing’s going to change you. Promise.

Jess shivers and picks up the pace. Step after step. It doesn’t feel real being here, now, again. Like something from a dream. Like something from a story she’s started reading but never got around to finishing. That deadly déjà vu. And here, the house she’s only been to once. Keira. Fourth grade. Birthday on the third of May. She got up from the bed and the girls laughed and pointed at her bum. Not Millie, though. Her period, of course. Now of all times. And the stain on Keira’s bedspread that looked a hundred times larger than it was. She ran out, horrified.

The Porters still have that old goat fenced up in the backyard. Damned thing must be older than half the town. It outlived Kevin.

Al’s house sits on the corner before the cliff. Two-storey saltbox with a path to the water. The paint’s peeling off in places. She can see the lightning flash of a TV screen lighting one of the upper rooms. She stops to stare, but only for a second or two.

The scent on the air is painful. Green grass, dew-laden and chill. Salt and kelp and granite. Sun-cracked rope and well-worn wood. Sand and asphalt, wetted in rain. The electricity in the air from the recent storm. It’s everything it always was, but less or more, somehow.

She steps over the guard rail and leans back against it, the cold metal sending goosebumps running all across the backs of her arms. Fifty feet below, the swells roll in onto broken stone, singing swash and rush and throom the flowm. It sounds like the language of giants down there in the dark. She stares down but even when her eyes adjust there’s not much to see, all white wash and black rock and thrash and roth and doom.

Jess wonders what it would be like to die.

It’s not the first time she’s thought of that, of course. That’s always there, that certain end. You live your life and you push ahead but it’s always there, that morbid wonder. You think of it and you run from it and you pray for it and then one day that’s it. You’re gone. And who’s to say the whole world sticks around after you’re out?

She shakes her head. Ashley wouldn’t. She hopes not, at least. She really does.

After a while she gets to her feet, straddles the rail and walks back to the house. Creeps up the front steps with Marvin at her heels and glances at the little rusted bicycle leaned against the railing. The first time she rode it without training wheels she damn near rolled straight into the harbour. Her Dad had laughed at that, her Mom had scolded him. It’s still there and she can’t think why. Her and Ashley have been too tall to ride it for years. She leaves the curiosity on the porch.

Submitted: May 04, 2018

© Copyright 2021 keithdaniels. All rights reserved.


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