Read February Online

Authors: Lisa Moore

Tags: #Grief, #Widows, #Psychological Fiction, #Newfoundland and Labrador, #Pregnancy; Unwanted, #Single mothers, #Family Life, #General, #Literary, #Oil Well Drilling, #Family Relationships, #Fiction, #Domestic fiction, #Oil Well Drilling - Accidents

February (31 page)

BOOK: February
7.51Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

One end of the rig tips and it slides in easily. It is there and it is not there.

The Royal Commission said there was a fatal chain of events that could have been avoided but for the inadequate training of personnel, lack of manuals and technical information. And that is the true story. It is the company’s fault.

But there is also the obdurate wall of water, and because of it Helen will finally give up her careful recital of the fatal chain of events.

Cal is on the deck and he is almost gone. Please go, she thinks. Please go, let it be over.

Because his panic is in her skin, just as he has made love to her and just as she has had his four children, and just as she has watched him sleep and cooked his meals and made up a notion of what love might be and followed through with it.

She decided that love might look something like this: a sketch, a thing, a plan. She figured it out and then she brought it into being. Breathed life into it.

She and Cal had stayed up late and said, It must look like this. They agreed, and then they stuck it out.

If they were wrong, nobody ever said. Helen knew Cal’s moods and the two of them gossiped and made up stories and held each other and fought and were careful about what they said, even in anger. And his panic is inside her. The panic of facing death.

That must be part of what they decided: If Cal died out there on the rig, Helen would never forget him. That was the promise. She will never forget him.

. . . . .

An Eclipse on the Honeymoon, February 2009

a constant. The sun is not moving. It’s going to take fifteen minutes. Total.

Everybody murmurs the word
. Everyone agrees. This is on a street corner in Puerto Vallarta. One man in the group has a toothpick. They are all heading back to their condos after a few drinks in the cafés. A few margueritas. Senior citizens. They are Americans who own time-shares, or they are, some of them, from Quebec.

Not for another thirty years, one woman says. We have to see it now. We’ll be dead the next time.

Long gone, says the man with the toothpick. He lets the toothpick wag up and down.

Last chance, someone says. Everyone chuckles. The last chance was kind of a funny idea.

We’re casting a shadow, a man says.

That’s all, someone says. A shadow.

One man raises both his fists, and one fist slowly circles the other, and he nods to indicate where the sun is, off to the side a bit.

It’s the earth moving between the sun and the moon.

Or the moon between the earth and the sun, a woman says.

It’s going to be total, they all agree.

They have their arms crossed over their chests and their faces tilted skyward, and the taxis, trawling the streets, toot when the crowd absent-mindedly steps off the curb. Where the shadow has already crossed the surface of the moon there is a honey-dark glow.

Helen had married Barry in her own living room. John gave her away; Lulu wept like a fool. Gabrielle had flown in from Nova Scotia and arrived fifteen minutes before the ceremony. Cathy and her husband, Mark, and Claire. Timmy with the rings on a satin pillow. Helen had invited Patience and her mother. Patience was given a wicker basket full of rose petals that she was asked to scatter. The vast importance of Patience’s job caused her to stand rigid, staring at the floor for the whole ceremony. Then she flung big squashed lumps of petal, winding up first like a baseball player. Helen’s girls were happy for their mother, or they kept their opinions to themselves. It was a short ceremony.

As long as the love lasts, Helen and Barry said to each other. Cathy had written the vows. Gabrielle had designed the rings and they’d been forged by a local jeweller. Helen wore blue silk, just below the knee and unadorned because Lulu had said, Simple.

Afterwards John tried to tell Helen how to change a diaper. You’re doing it wrong, he snapped. Then he nudged her out of the way.

Listen here, my son, Helen said. Don’t tell me how to change a diaper.

Jane had a bag of frozen peas clutched to her left breast for the whole ceremony. She had a blocked duct. We’re both exhausted, Jane said.

The baby never sleeps, John said. They had both moved to St. John’s, taking two separate apartments, but John slept on Jane’s couch most nights to help with the early morning feedings.

John wanted them to watch the birth video.

Jesus, not now, Cathy said.

John set up his computer and they all gathered around, except Jane, who had fallen asleep in the guest room, and Barry, who didn’t want to look.

John slipped the
in the slot and the black screen turned blue and he hit play. There was a sudden burst of blurred green and a roar of static and the sound of ragged breath and John was saying, Okay, okay, this is it, this is it, now, now, and then he was yelling. And there was blue sky and cloud and a dipping and rising and his hands waving back and forth at the edges of the screen. He hit pause.

What the hell was that, Lulu said.

, John said. It was the zip ride he’d taken in Tasmania.

After the ceremony the whole family had fish and chips from Ches’s, and then Helen and Barry hurried to catch an evening plane.

Barry had said Mexico because he had never been and neither had Helen. They wanted a place that would be new to both of them.

They got a taxi from the airport in Mexico. The breeze through the window and honking traffic and pollution. The hotel was fine. Helen ripped the blanket down and the sheets were clean, and she and Barry made love and showered. Barry rubbed lotion on Helen’s back and her arms and the backs of her thighs, and she did the same for him. There was loud traffic on the street outside the hotel and it was very hot, and they found their way to the beach although it was already late in the afternoon.

I’m going to get in, Barry said.

Go for a dip, Helen said. I’ll watch. The ocean was green except near the shore, where the stirred sand made it the colour of milky tea. Farther out, the water was like nickel and full of glitter. Afterwards they ate at a sidewalk café and someone said about the eclipse. Someone said, Look.

We’ll be gone the next time this happens, everyone on the sidewalk agrees. The women are wearing white capri pants and embroidered blouses and turquoise and silver jewellery they’d bought at the beach in the afternoon. The men are in shorts—plaid or navy—that come to their knees, and they wear loafers.

There are also buff gay men, tattooed and shiny-skulled and vaguely injured looking, and close to their chests they carry lapdogs with studded collars or bows. Or they are healthy young gay businessmen in crisply ironed shirts, cargo shorts, and gronky sandals. And there are children playing marbles on the sidewalk.

A tanned and elderly woman with a bleached ponytail smokes, and the end of the cigarette lights up orange.

It is boring to stand and watch the moon. A dull event full of majesty. There is a statuesque woman followed by her husband, and he holds the hand of a boy with Down syndrome who looks to be their son. On the corner there is a jewellery store lit up like a fish tank, and the girl behind the counter is reading the paper.

It’s been going on, a man drawls, forty minutes.

I don’t think total, someone says. Then, finally, the moon is gone. Blotted out. Everybody claps. They clap spontaneously. A short, self-conscious burst.

Totally gone, someone says.

But it’s coming back, Barry says. He is standing behind Helen and she leans back and he draws her into him.

It’s coming back.

afternoon Barry had walked out into the water until he was floating. He bobbed up and down and a wave crashed over his shoulders. Here and there people were floating near him, and they all looked like silhouettes. The ocean was a deep navy now, and blasted all over with light. Each wave capped in silver. It was like hammered metal, sparkle-pocked.

Helen suddenly felt a shadow fall over her, and with it a chill. It was a definite shadow and it covered her towel; it was directly overhead, and the chill was uncanny, and she thought of Cal. Four men were strolling together and they had halted in front of her, all at once, and they each raised a hand over their eyes and looked at the sky just above her head. She heard a shrill whistle and it was a parasailer, a man in a harness with a parachute, coming in for a landing, and he was hovering directly over her. A group of Mexican men was running towards him, and they mimed and yelled for him to tug the rope, and the guy did and he dropped towards the ground ten feet from where Helen sat, and the Mexicans caught the man in their upraised arms and lowered him to the beach and folded the parachute as it deflated. And Helen looked out over the ocean and she could not see Barry.

She could not see him.

She looked at the spot where he had been and he was not there.

Then the wave withdrew with a roar, and there he was. He stood and he was dark against the sun except for a gleam down his arm and in his hair, and he flicked his head and the drops flew out like a handful of silver, and he dipped under the water again and waded against its pull towards shore and came back up the beach to her.


Steve Crocker, as always, for everything. Thank you to Eva Crocker and Theo Crocker and Emily Pickard for the same.

Lynn Henry at Anansi is an infinitely wise and generous editor. I am deeply, deeply grateful for having had the opportunity to work with her on this novel, for her insight and encouragement and utter brilliance.

Thank you to Sarah McLachlan for her friendship and commitment to publishing. Thank you to Matt Williams and Julie Wilson, also at Anansi. Thank you to Ingrid Paulson for her cover design.

Thank you to my agent, Anne McDermid, for her enthusiasm and hard work and charisma.

Nan Love and Claire Wilkshire and Lynn Moore aided and abetted, cajoled and affirmed. I borrowed their eagle eyes. Special thanks.

This book had some early readers and advisers and friends to whom I offer a great big giant thank you: Bill Coultas, Dede Crane, Eva Crocker, Rosemary Crocker, Steve Crocker, Libby Creelman, Ramona Dearing, Susan Dodd, Barbara Doran, Jack Eastwood, Mark Ferguson, Jessica Grant, Mike Heffernan, Holly Hogan, Mary Lewis, Dr. John Lewis, Nan Love, Elizabeth Moore, Christine Pountney, Lawrence Mathews, Sarah MacLachlan, Beth Ryan, Bob Wakem, Claire Wilkshire, Michael Winter. I’m indebted to these people.

I would like to acknowledge the
Royal Commission on the Ocean Ranger Disaster
written by the Honorable T. Alex Hickman, O.C., Q.C. The collection of oral stories by Douglas House,
Who Cares Now: The Tragedy of the Ocean Ranger
, was a valuable resource. Mike Heffernan’s
Rig: The Story of the Ocean Ranger
is a very important and moving account of the disaster for which I am grateful. Sociologist Susan Dodd, who is also writing about the
Ocean Ranger
, was extremely helpful. I respectfully thank the writers of all these works.

I would also like to acknowledge the brave men who died on the
Ocean Ranger
and the brave families of those men.

Table of Contents

Title Page

Copyright Page


Early Morning


A New Day


The New Year


BOOK: February
7.51Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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