Beginnings and Endings

Out of Sight 2

Stories and music performances have this in common: With a good beginning and a good ending – you can get away with rubbish in the middle.

Not true, of course. But a good beginning and ending certainly help disguise a few shortcomings in between.

With this in mind – i.e. the importance of beginnings and endings – I thought from time to time I’d share some of my favourites from my stories.

So here’s the end of Out of Sight (James Lorimer & Co. 2011). In the story, Brunswick Valley School soccer team’s fantastic goalkeeper, Flyin’ Brian (Flyin’ because of how he throws himself around his goal making amazing saves) is losing his eyesight to Lieber’s Disease. His friend and teammate, Linh-Mai, watches helplessly as he goes through stages of disbelief, rage, and despair. By the end of the story he can see very little. He’s just played his last game in goal, and Linh-Mai is watching anxiously as he trails after the rest of the team, who are setting off for end-of-season pizza. Mr. Price, Brian’s father, is watching, too.

     … Brian was on the other side of the schoolyard, walking slowly with his head down. As Linh-Mai looked back, she noticed Mr. Price close by in the shadows at the foot of the steps by the main door.
      He murmured, “Will he be all right? Does he need me to stay and look out for him?”
Linh-Mai, not knowing how to answer, not even sure whether he was talking to himself or to her, hovered uncertainly.
      Mr. Price seemed suddenly to become aware of her and muttered, “You’ll see he gets to the pizza place, will you? And see he gets home safely?”
      She stepped into the shadows beside him and whispered, “Yes,” as Brian approached.
      “You’ll take care of him, eh?”
      “Yes.” Another whisper.
      Mr. Price murmured, “I don’t want him to know I’m worrying about him. He doesn’t want that.” He loped up the steps, eased the door open, and slipped stealthily inside.
      Brian peered into the shadows where Linh-Mai waited. “Who’s that?”
      She moved into the light. “It’s me.”
      “What are you doing?”
      “Waiting for you. I thought we could walk to Pizza Café together.”
      “I don’t need looking after.”
      “I know.”
      “So why are you waiting?”
      “Because we’re friends. Come on. Let’s catch up with the others.” Linh-Mai jogged forward.
      Brian said, “Wait. I … I can’t see too much when it’s dark like this.”
      She held her hand toward him.
      He hesitated, took it, and they set off together.

Florenceville

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Early Friday morning driving north to New Brunswick’s potato country, en route stopping briefly to worship at the shrine, a.k.a. the factory, of Covered Bridge Chips, best potato chips in the world (not sure I could handle lobster flavoured chips, though), and passing

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through the longest covered bridge in the world (seems to have been a morning of superlatives) at bustling-on-a-Friday-morning Hartland, headlights on and wait because

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you don’t want to meet another vehicle half way through the bridge’s 1282 feet length and have to back up, and through immaculately ploughed and patterned fields awaiting potato

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planting, to the lovely little town of Florenceville, French Fry Capital of the World, strung out along the Saint John River, McCain Foods its heart and soul, to spend the day talking about writing, and reading passages from the books, and singing the Libby and Toby songs with Florenceville Middle School and Elementary School students, to whom I send renewed thanks for being such a welcoming, lively, interested, polite and enthusiastic audience, at the same time as I send thanks also to the teachers for their welcome and hospitality, and to McCain’s for sponsoring a fun, exciting, stimulating and memorable day. (That’s fun, exciting, stimulating and memorable for me; hope it was for the students, too.)

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Postcard from Marco Island Beach.

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Flesh, too much, from taut and toned to sag and flab, from scaly leather to scorched pink to sun-virginal white. Men in skimpy swimwear who should know better. Ditto women in bikinis. A man bobbing and weaving to photograph a tanned, flabby, thirty-five-going-on-forty-five woman in a black, gold-spangled bikini striking model poses quasi Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition (leaning forward hands on knees, then on tiptoe with arms stretched wide – look at me! – then absurdly and precariously on one leg) all the time with a fixed and desperate smile, comical and grotesque and ridiculous and so, so sad. The morning beach like a freshly groomed ski trail after being mysteriously dragged overnight. A seventy-something man, skin like polished rosewood, thatch of white hair, thick white sideburns, paunch and jowls, tripping along the waters edge in tiny red Speedos. Self-righteous strutting look-at-me beach walkers all jutting elbows and arms pumping at the carefully correct angle. A middle-aged man with beach cart and beach umbrella and beach mat and beach chair and carefully wrapped picnic sitting alone all afternoon. Snowy egrets, reddish egrets, sandpipers, turnstones picking along the waters edge disregarding people. Terns dipping and kamikaze-ing into inches of water. Pelicans cruising effortlessly. Sunsets like evensong.

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Postcard from Marco Island, Florida

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Canals and waterways, boats docked behind houses. Sunset Grill at the Apollo a black and white movie set (except for the sunsets). Squadrons of pelicans cruising in formation without a stir of wing. White egrets, poised, elegant, and ruthless. Scurrying sandpipers. Burrowing owls nesting on a street corner. Stunning sunsets across the Gulf watched in reverent silence from the beach. Gated communities, security guards at the gates. Faux Spanish neo-colonial architecture. Nearly as much Spanish as U.S.-English spoken. Blatant fecundity everywhere almost obscene after the slop end of a five month winter in New Brunswick with snow and ice still knee deep in the woods and in patches like cement beside the road and rivers at sleepless night flood level.

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