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Authors: James Heneghan

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BOOK: Flood
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james heneghan

Copyright © 2002 by James Heneghan
Published in the USA by Farrar, Straus & Giroux 2002
Third printing 2003

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in
a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, without
the prior written permission of the publisher or, in the case of
photocopying or other reprographic copying, a licence from CANCOPY
(Canadian Reprography Collective), Toronto, Ontario.

Groundwood Books / Douglas & McIntyre
720 Bathurst Street, Suite 500
Toronto, Ontario M5S 2R4

We acknowledge for their financial support of our publishing program
the Canada Council for the Arts, the Ontario Arts Council and the
Government of Canada through the Book Publishing Industry
Development Program (BPIDP)

National Library of Canada Cataloguing in Publication Data
Heneghan, James
ISBN 0-88899-466-4

PS8565.E581F46 2002 jC813'.54 C2001-903206-4
PR9199.3.H4496F46 2002

Designed by Barbara Grzeslo
Cover photograph: Darren Robb/Getty Images
Printed and bound in Canada

For Lucy,
mo grá

Sheehogue (Celtic: rhymes with rogue. Also Sidhe, shee, sheoque, shihog, shee-og) n
. 1 in Ireland, the faeries; the Little People. 2 the Irish faerie diaspora: faeries who left Ireland during the Great Famine and are now dispersed and scattered throughout the world.

—Hughie Hoolihan's Dictionary of Irish Folk Lore

the boy

IN THE SECOND AND THIRD WEEKS of September it rained almost every day.

The Sheehogue, fed up with the soggy North Vancouver Meadow, spent their days in the Muzak-filled mall practicing sundry small mischiefs. Giggling like wind chimes, they perched on the ledge of the automatic teller machine at the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce and caused people to forget their PIN numbers; they made the pampered lapdogs of elderly ladies neglect their hygiene etiquette in inconvenient places —elevators and richly carpeted fashion emporiums; they speeded up escalators, caused change to spill from purses, fur coats to leap at haughty customers, trays of chocolate pudding and soup to slide off restaurant tables, bursts of static to blast the ears of cell phone users.

Blame it on the weather, everyone said.

Then in the final week of September and the first week of October it rained nonstop every day. Things got
serious. The Sheehogue gave up their pranks; life was no longer funny.

The Fraser and the Pitt rivers boiled angrily between their dikes as sandbagging crews worked around the clock. In the North Vancouver mountains the rivers and creeks swelled and burst their banks. Mosquito Creek went on a rampage, destroying a bridge before thundering over high walls of boulders and attacking a row of fine homes along its eastern bank.

The first thing the slumbering Sheehogue knew was the deafening boom that tumbled them from their grassy bowers. This was followed by a flood of water and mud over the meadow that swept the Sheehogue rapidly along in nature's unexpected waterslide. They saw the homes of mortals tumbling into the creek. “Save their children!” the Old Ones ordered.

In one of the houses not yet tumbled a boy sat up in bed, rigid with terror in the darkness. A woman screamed as the house shook and furniture crashed and pictures fell from the walls. Foundation timbers splintered. The boy fell from the bed onto the floor, then crawled on his knees to the door. He pulled himself up, struggling for balance against the tilt of the dying house, and stumbled out onto the landing, where the woman and a man clung together swaying on the stair, eyes wild. The boy reached for the woman. Plaster and debris fell from the roof.

“Out!” yelled the man.

The house was sliding. Water swirled through the
tilted hallway. The dark shape of the dining-room table leaned through the shattered window. The mud slide pushed the house off its foundation toward the roaring floodwaters. The three people were separated and swept away in a new rush of water into the dark current. They called to each other, but their voices were lost in the thunder of the avalanche.

The woman and the man were hurled downstream to where the floodwaters had torn a narrow suspension bridge from its moorings. Steel cables lashed wildly about like whips, cleaving the churning waters. Battered by the cables and leaping debris, the broken bodies of the woman and the man were thrown up onto what was left of the bridge, where they hung for a moment before being swept away to the ocean.

The boy, gasping for air, was borne along in the current closer to the bank. The Sheehogue pushed and shoved and ferried his battered body into the waiting arms of an uprooted cedar tree, where it remained firmly wedged, upside down, until a rescue team found it many hours later, in the afternoon.

He waited in Discharges, slumped in a green vinyl chair, head back, staring out the window at the foggy street. He was a small boy, thin and pale, with yellow bruises on his cheekbones and temples and around his eyes. Dark brown hair — almost black — flopped untidily over his forehead and eyebrows. His eyes, too, were a dark brown that in certain
lights appeared black. He wore clothing provided by the hospital volunteers: blue jeans, white T-shirt, dark blue sweater, white socks, sneakers. A thin black nylon jacket hung over the back of his chair. He moved stiffly in the hard chair from the bruising on his arms, shoulders, and legs.

It was Friday. The clock in the nurses' station said it was twenty minutes after eight. He had been waiting more than an hour since his seven o'clock breakfast. The elderly night nurse had gone off duty. The day nurse was young. “I'll call the hotel,” she offered helpfully. She found the number in the directory, dialed, and waited.

The boy stared out the window at the fog.

The nurse spoke into the mouthpiece, listened, and then put the telephone down. “Your aunt left an hour ago. She's probably delayed by the fog.” She smiled sympathetically at the boy.

The boy said nothing.

The nurse brought him apple juice and a limp ham sandwich and some comics. He ignored the sandwich and comics but sipped the juice, holding the glass tightly and staring at the bilious green walls and at the top of the nurse's head bent over the desk behind the office window.

At nine o'clock, when the boy was almost asleep in his chair, a smell of fog and mothballs jolted him awake as a woman swept into the waiting room. She wore a gray overcoat that came to her ankles; tall and slim, she carried herself erect, with shoulders squared. A few strands of gray showed in her thick, severely cut black hair. She marched
straight up to the boy. “You must be Andrew,” she said briskly.

The boy stared into her dark, penetrating eyes.

“Well?” said the woman.

“Andy,” whispered the boy.

“I'm your Aunt Mona, your mother's sister. I've come to take you home.”

Andy said nothing.

She stood, inspecting him. “You're a Costello right enough,” she said at last, “like me. You don't take after your father. Thank goodness,” she added. She spoke in a nasal accent with a flat “ye” for you, and “muther” for mother, and had a grim, humorless face; the way she said “father” made it sound like a curse. And she still hadn't said how sorry and sad she was that Andy's mother was gone, the way the priest and the nurses had. Instead, she appeared rigid and tight, with her pale pinched face, as if she were keeping something frightful in, afraid it might burst out. She turned away from him and rapped impatiently on the window with something hard — a coin or a key. The nurse hurried to the counter.

“I am Mona Hogan. I'm here for my nephew.”

The nurse pushed a paper across the counter for her to sign. Mona Hogan peered shortsightedly at the paper, snapped open her purse, took out a glasses case, put on her glasses, and read impatiently.

Andy stared out the window once more; the thick fog outside mirrored the way he felt. Except for the nightmares, he couldn't remember much about his first week in
the hospital. But by the second week he was lucid, and Father Coughlan from All Saints' told him that his mother and stepfather were dead, drowned, God rest their eternal souls, and that his aunt was coming to take him back to Halifax with her, and was there anything he could do?

Andy could not believe his mother was dead. Clay maybe, but not his mother. How could she be dead? She had always been there for him. But the priest seemed to believe, so Andy asked him, “Can you bring my mother back?”

The priest shook his head sadly.

“Can you stop my aunt taking me to Halifax?”

Again the priest shook his head.

“Then there isn't anything you can do.”

At night, when everyone else was asleep, he thought about his mother and wanted to cry but couldn't because he didn't want to believe that she was dead and if he cried that would be the same as believing it.

He now watched his aunt sign the paper with a quick scrawl, whisk off her glasses, return them to their case, close the case with a snap, drop the case into her purse, and snap the clasp closed. Snap-snap.

The nurse handed Aunt Mona a copy of the paper. Then she flashed Andy another sympathetic smile. “Goodbye, Andy. Take care of yourself.”

Andy picked up his jacket and followed his aunt along the corridor. He had no bag, no belongings.

Outside he merged with the fog; he felt hollow and light, as though his interior geography consisted only of thin ribs arching about empty spaces. He was in the world
again, out of the hospital, moving jerkily in a different medium from the one he'd left, like a swimmer emerging from the sea.

When they were both seated in the back of the taxi, Aunt Mona leaned forward and snapped “Air Canada!” at the driver.

The mothball smell off his aunt's gray coat penetrated the enclosed space of the taxi. Andy sat still, hands clenched together in his lap, remembering his mother, comparing her to this starchy woman who seemed so cold and so much older. His aunt's flat nasal accent was undoubtedly Irish, for his mother's family was Irish, he knew that, all born in Ireland except for his mother, who was born in Halifax.

BOOK: Flood
8.35Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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