Authors: Lesley Choyce
Copyright Â© 2002 Lesley Choyce
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system now known or to be invented, without permission in writing from the publisher.
National Library of Canada Cataloguing in Publication Data
Choyce, Lesley, 1951-
I. Title. II. Series.
PS8555.H668R43Â Â Â 2002Â Â Â C813'.6Â Â Â C2002-910694-X
PR9199.3.C497R43Â Â Â 2002
First published in the United States, 2002
Library of Congress Control Number:
: When Greg discovers a family of refugees in a life-boat off the rugged coast of Newfoundland, he risks everything to help them.
Orca Book Publishers gratefully acknowledges the support for its publishing programs provided by the following agencies: the Government of Canada through the Book Publishing Industry Development Program (BPIDP), the Canada Council for the Arts, and the British Columbia Arts Council.
Cover design: Christine Toller
Cover photography: MaxXimages
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For Norma and Sonny and Gordy
Our house was half on, half off the land. It was jammed into the side of a rocky hill and part of the house was standing on stilts, stuck out over the water. It was the weirdest house I'd ever seen. Alongside was parked the car. And on the roof rack was my thirteen-foot Laser sailboat.
I can usually get the little boat off the roof of the car by myself. But when I heard
the voice I was flat on the ground, pinned by my boat.
“Funny way to sail a boat,” he said, not offering to help. “Around here, a fella usually puts the boat in the water and then gets in. Don't think she'll work upside down like that on dry land.”
The guy must have been at least seventy years old. I don't think he'd shaved a day in his life. He had that foreign-sounding accent that all the people around here have.
“I nearly broke my back. How about a hand?” I hated it when adults tried to be cute. This guy thought he was funny.
“All you had to do was ask,” he said, sounding a little hurt. “Mainlanders do funny things. How was I to know that this wasn't your idea of a good time?”
He didn't say another word. He lifted the boat and helped me carry it down to the water of the cove. Then he sat down and watched as I got the rest of the gear, slipped in the centerboard, fitted the rudder and rigged the sail.
“Some toy,” he finally said.
“No toy,” I countered. “This is a precision machine. And you're looking at a sailing champion.” It's true, I had won races on Lake Ontario, lots of races. I was one of the best.
“But that's no boat for the North Atlantic. This here's an ocean, lad, not some inland lake.”
“Right,” I said, feeling the sting of his insult like a slap in the face. “Thanks for the advice.” This was my first big chance to get in the water and rip. All I had to do was get out of the cove and into the sea beyond. I could see from the whitecaps that there would be a good wind.
My mother and I had only been in Newfoundland for four days. It wasn't anything like Toronto at all. But that was why we had moved here.
It was the dream they both hadâmy mom and dadâback before my father died. We would sell everything, pack up and move to a little outport like this on the coast a million miles from anywhere.
Now we had made the big move, just the two of us. Deep Cove was home. But it wasn't like a dream come true at all. It was pretty weird. My mom was really upset about every little thing. I was still trying to hold things together. My trick was this: I didn't think about my father. Instead, I'd concentrate on sailing, on the races I'd won back in Ontario and what it felt like to keep pushing my little Laser to the absolute limit.
Today was the day I'd finally get my sailboat into the Atlantic. Today was the day I'd see just how far I could push.
Looking towards the cove entrance, I started to push off but I was snagged. I turned back around to see that the old guy had grabbed the back of the boat. He had a stern look on his face. I think I had left a bad impression. “Don't go out too far. I'm serious. I'll be out after I get some tea. That's my boat over there.” He pointed to an old beat-up fishing boat with a small cabin. “By the way, I'm Harold.”
Looks like a pile of junk, I almost said. “I'm Greg,” I said.
“A couple of boats of refugees came in down the shore. Dropped off by a big ship, left to float around in a little lifeboat not much bigger than your toy here, Greggie. Some folks say there might be more coming ashore. That's why I'm going out for a look later. You keep your eyes open too.”
“Sure,” I said, wanting to get under way. Refugees in lifeboats weren't my problem. “And don't worry about me, man,” I said, banging on the sleek fiberglass hull. “You wouldn't be able to catch up with me. I'll be flying.”
Trying not to smile, Harold gave me an icy stare. He picked up my floater jacket. “You forgot this,” he said.
I shoved it back to him. “I don't need it,” I said. “I push the limits but I never go down.”
“Where are you from anyway?” he asked as I pushed off.
“Toronto,” I answered, not turning around to look at him.
“Figures,” I heard him say as I picked up a quick little puff of air and tacked for the entrance of the cove.
As soon as I was past the final cliff of the headland, I felt the wind fill my sail and we keeled far over. I held hard onto the rope and leaned way out over the water. The speed was amazing. It was like we had just been injected with rocket fuel. I let out a howl and jumped up to stand on the edge of the sailboat and lean even further out over the water. It was all I could do to keep the centerboard and rudder in the water. Man, we were flying! I had so much salt spray in my eyes I could hardly see. But what the hell, it was a big ocean. I had lots of room to maneuver.
And then, through the tears from the wind and the salt spray, I saw something that really freaked me out. It was dead ahead. It was blue and white and was the size of a large building. It took a couple of seconds to register. I was staring at a freaking iceberg.
I came about hard and let the sail rattle a bit in the wind. “I love this place,” I said out loud. The morning sun made the blue ice look electric. I slid in so close that I was in the shadow of this monster. Looking back at
where I'd come from, I saw that I was already a long way from land.
But no way was I just going to sit there and gawk. I needed action and I needed speed. I pulled around so the wind tightened the sail with a hard slap. I slipped over to the other side of the boat, grabbed onto the rope and let the wind send me flying.
I could just barely keep us from going over, but I'd been around Lasers for a long time. I knew how to control things in any wind. My instincts were sharp as a razor.
But I guess the rest of my brain was fast asleep. What I should have realized was that where there are monster-size icebergs, there's bound to be baby icebergs as well.
And I learned that fact the second I heard a large
and went hurtling through the air, directly into the sail and over into the freezing cold water. I came up spouting seawater and shocked at the cold. The boat was on its side in the water. I had run into an ice cube the size of a Toyota. I swore at myself but wasted no time. I hopped on the
centerboard and jumped up and down until the boat came upright.
I was soaking wet and freezing when I crawled back in. A quick look at the sail told me I was in deep trouble. It had a long gash where I had been thrown into it. I took a quick look behind me and saw the coastline was far away.
You can't sink a Laser, but you sure can freeze your butt in one. I tried jury-rigging the sail, but it only ripped further. So I wrapped myself in it and watched the shoreline. I tossed in the swells, waiting for a miracle.
My fingers and toes were numb, and my head was throbbing by the time I saw a dark dot appear in the distance. After a few minutes, it was clear that it was a boat and it was Choyce
zigzagging in my direction.
I yelled and screamed until I was hoarse. When I could see it was truly a boat heading towards me, I let the ripped yellow-and-blue sail out to flap in the wind so I might be seen.
It seemed like a year went by, but finally the boat pulled alongside. It was Harold. He threw me a rope. I could barely grab on, my hands were so stiff with cold.
When the boats bumped, Harold reached over and helped me on board. “You dead or alive?” he asked. “I can't tell “cause you look like a ghost.”
“It was an accident,” I said, brushing off his question. “Could have happened to anyone. You could have told me about the ice.” I should have been grateful, but for some reason I was feeling humiliated.
“Get in the cabin. Warm up. Pour some tea.”
I didn't say another word. I ducked into the low little cabin. My toes began to thaw and my fingers began to move. Harold walked in just as I started to cry.
He took one look at me and acted like it
was no big deal that I was crying. “It's all salt water, boy. The sea, the stuff that flows in your veins, those tears. We're all full of salt water.”
I needed to explain why I was crying. It wasn't the fact that I'd screwed up and nearly died. It was something else. “My father died last year. Heart attack. He just died.” That was why I was crying. I missed him that much.
Harold seemed a little confused. Then he poured me a second hot cup of tea and put it in my hands. “I know exactly how you feel,” he said. “My old man died just last year, too.”
I looked up at him, puzzled. “How old was he?”
I thought that this was some kind of joke. My father had just turned forty. “It's not the same,” I insisted.
Harold took a big gulp of tea right from the pot and shook his head. “Nope. You're wrong. It is the same. I know exactly how you feel.” He got up and went back to steer us into Deep Cove.
Mom made me take a hot shower. “You want me to call a doctor?” she asked.
“No.” I felt more embarrassed than anything. Here I was supposed to be the man of the family and I end up giving my mother more to worry about.
She let out a sigh. “I guess nothing is quite turning out as planned. First your father. Then the move. Now this. Greg, what are we doing here? Maybe we shouldn't have gone through with it. This is all different. We were supposed to move down here with your father and live happily ever after.”
My mom was a dreamer. So was my old man. They had wanted to quit what they called “the rat race,” take the money they saved and live in a remote outport by the sea. Me? I just wanted to live anywhere there was water and wind.
“We're out of the rat race,” I consoled her. “You should have seen this iceberg,” I told her. “It was beautiful. I've never seen anything like it.”
“But you didn't have to run into it,” she
said and lit up into a smile that let me know everything was going to be okay.
Just then, the door burst open. Harold, over six feet tall and looking a bit like a deranged criminal, walked into the house. I thought my mom was going to scream.
“It's okay, Mom,” I said. “This is Harold.”
Harold just tilted his head. “Got a decent sewing machine?” he asked.