The Estuary




The Fishing Trip

I had stopped drinking hours earlier when my drunken friends stumbled through the darkness and found their tents. Zipped into sleeping bags, clothes rolled into makeshift pillows, they were oblivious to the rock and bony surface roots they slept on. I had dozed off, curled up in a folding chair beside the now fading embers. I woke stiff and chilled, hands jammed into my pockets. Loonsong hung somewhere between dream and daze. A barred owl was calling for her mate.

They were camped on a small island on Barney’s Lake.

I was soon wide awake, loosened up and shook off the cold. Moving slowly and carefully as though the hour were fragile, I stepped onto the smooth bedrock peninsula where we landed the canoes. The sky was a dense mass of stars, the Milky Way a light speckled ribbon from horizon to horizon. Not a breath disturbed the lake. The heavens were reflected in perfect detail. I turned the canoe over and with one knee on the stern, slid it gently into the starlit surface. Without picking up the paddle we drifted out and away from the campsite.

The middle of the night is a lucid time, reason sluggish, dream-shy and humble.

At first it appeared like a dark cloud moving in from the east but as it crossed the sky it didn’t shape-shift like cloud. Nor did it move with the steady push of the high altitude winds. Instead there was a recognizable rhythm to the movement that I realized was the thrust and glide of a boat being rowed. It was as though I were beneath the water looking up at the underside of an approaching dory. As it drew closer I could see the oars dipping, rippling the stars, disappearing, dipping again.

The rowing stopped and the boat glided until it was almost directly overhead. Something arced over the side and fell toward me. A small meteoric object with a thin wisp of light for a tail. It stopped mere feet from the canoe, hung for a moment then began to move up and down as though someone above were jigging. The thing was spoon shaped, lovely and almost discernible. It was sort of like a sparkly snow globe and something was turning inside. I was barely breathing, though my heart was pounding and trembling was beginning to rock the canoe.

At the far end of the lake a loon laughed. Near the campsite a barred owl called for her mate.

It moved closer, I could almost see what was inside. Almost. I reached slowly and it brushed my fingertips, did a half turn on its luminous thread then pulled up and just away. I put both hands on the gunwale and tried to steady the canoe. Then it dropped right in front of my face and I could see exactly what was inside. I snatched fast. It yanked away. I stood quickly. Grabbed and caught it!

An oar dipped and pushed the dory toward the tents below. Something arced over the side and fell. A small meteoric object with a thin wisp of light for a tail.


I wonder what would happen thought Willy standing in his pyjamas on the edge of the pier counting stars on the still surface of the sea looking up and down and up again. If I jumped would I swim or fly whispered as a giant codfish rising cracked the heavens and swallowed him whole.
Lillian MacIsaac sitting on the edge of her bed watching Willy out so late caught her reflection in the window. Long straight hair face in shadow glitter stars and planets on a purple nightgown. Willy the wharf and sea blurred beyond she shifted her view just as a giant cod rose and swallowed him whole.
Thomas MacIsaac took the stairs six at a time her scream shaking neighbours and dogs from quiet dreams to startled bark and shout great blue heron lifted off the surface cormorants razorbills and common eider he threw open the door burst into the room. Too late for she was gone.
Sketch was a mongrel shepherd collie and mountain dog. His black and carmel fur soft and heavy eyes brown and friendly. He looked from the wharf to the upstairs window. Silhouette and shadow scent of cod splash and scream and he began to bay.

Incident on Saunders Road

I buried a crow in the backyard this morning a single voice on a high branch heralding the rough ceremony to the flock. Always a trace superstitious conscious of all those mysterious connections I hope my disinterest economy of emotion and shallow hole are not mistaken for disrespect.
Neighbours gathered on the road houses in darkness and white silence one knew and was looking for evidence in the shrubs recalling a similar incident years ago shows me the long bar equivalent of a blown fuse on the power pole spots the black body in the tall grass. Earlier a boom disconcerting bang lights and a dozen small electric motors die amid a sudden cacophony of startled crow.
In an hour NS Power has life back to normal printer kicks on desk lamp ceiling lights refrigerator and fans. For an instant I am aware of the connection between my comfort and convenience and the death of another whose wings are folded forever sealed beneath a foot of earth. Monday morning here I come.

It skipped like a stone on water

Just touch it. Poke it. Turn it over.
It’s just a piece of wood or stone or something like that.
I don’t think so.
Are you sure it moved?
I’m sure and you’re sure too but I know what you mean. I want to say I’m not sure but we both know. Does it scare you?
No. It’s just little. What’s it supposed to do attack us?
Then pick it up.
It skipped like a stone on water.
Yeah. I know.
They sat down one on either side of it facing the ocean which was calm as could be. Not wood stone or anything they might imagine observed their nervous sideways downward glances. Only moments before the walking talking laughing shoving handholding not holding teens had been startled by the impetuous thing’s decision to skip make a move hurl herself seven long clearly visible self-propelled skips to catch their attention. An unusual occurrence for all involved.
An older couple stepped off a distant boardwalk and headed in their direction the man several steps in front of the woman. His voice rising and falling one arm waving the other gesturing with conviction head shaking sandals slipping in the loose sand muttering cursing red faced raging at someone something somewhere. She said nothing. Oblivious. They were almost on top of the young pair before he noticed and stopped abruptly momentarily taken off guard and aback. Beach walkers are usually courteous exchange quick friendly smiles greetings carry on. Not so as he regarded these two with scorn. The girl in her ragged wooly sweater rubber boots on a dry day and long black bangs in her eyes. The boy was it a boy or thing with all the rings and rods piercing his skin like a heathen blue tattoo serpent wrapped around his scrawny arm. The not so gentleman quaked sputtered began to speak stopped mid sentence brushed the air as if to dismiss them then chased down the beach behind the receding woman his voice rising and falling.
The two teens looked at one another and rolled their eyes. She waved uttered peace out dad saluted and burst out laughing. They got up and brushed the sand off. He kissed her she wrapped an arm around his waist changed her mind gave him a shove bolted down the beach and he went tumbling after.
Hours passed interrupted only by the momentary spectacle of shifting hues pink purple red golden orange going going gone darkness settling in for the night. Sometime in the very early morning a sound sort of like crickets but more like birdsong broke the salt marsh silence filled the world for a moment and finally skipped home.

Ghost Bird

I was standing at the kitchen counter opening a tin of naturally smoked Kipper Snacks for myself and Charlene when we were startled by a loud, sharp rapping on the window. Rat-tat-tat. Rat-a-tat-tat. Rat-tat-tat. It was the kind of racket a sapsucker makes on a metal roof. Except this was thin glass inches from my nose. I could hear but see nothing. I looked at Charlene who returned the puzzled look, tilted her head, cocked an ear, summoned a growl, stood and began to bark. This at exactly the moment thin lines began spreading like a webbed fuse through the windowpane igniting an explosion of glass. Now Charlene was barking furiously. The panicked commotion of a large bird trapped indoors banging against walls and ceiling filled the room. But only sound. No bird. All at once the dog stopped. The flapping settled. Ghost bird. How is this possible? It’s high noon on a bright sunny day in an entirely unhaunted house in simple world far away from anything unusual. One flap. Two flap. Flap flap on the fridge. Muffled growl from good girl good girl its okay good girl. We look at one another wondering what the flap flutter flap is happening when the fridge motor kicks on and the room returns to mayhem.
I stop. Overcome. The great whir of being with a mild tremor and shutter shuts down. Charlene is rearing frantic now. Somewhere I know she is barking. Small jars cups saucers and dry starfish are flying off the ledge and shelves, framed pictures tilt on the walls one falls hits the floor more broken glass. Then I tilt slide crumble fold onto the tiles and know that it is over. Charlene lays down beside me head between her paws. I see the bird now. An ivory billed woodpecker. Extinct we think but refuse to believe. Putting faith in unconfirmed sightings and empty handed expeditions. She sits on the windowsill surveying the damage then returns from whence she came.