Authors: Melissa Hardy
Text copyright Â© 2012 by Melissa Hardy
Published in Canada by Tundra Books, a division of Random House of Canada Limited, One Toronto Street, Suite 300, Toronto, Ontario
Published in the United States by Tundra Books of Northern New York, P.O. Box 1030, Plattsburgh, New York 12901
Library of Congress Control Number: 2011938775
All rights reserved. The use of any part of this publication reproduced, transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, or stored in a retrieval system, without the prior written consent of the publisher â or, in case of photocopying or other reprographic copying, a licence from the Canadian Copyright Licensing Agency â is an infringement of the copyright law.
The geomancer's compass / by Melissa Hardy.
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We acknowledge the financial support of the Government of Canada through the Canada Book Fund and that of the Government of Ontario through the Ontario Media Development Corporation's Ontario Book Initiative. We further acknowledge the support of the Canada Council for the Arts and the Ontario Arts Council for our publishing program.
For my brother and fellow voyageur in the realms of fantasy, Peter Hardy
“Nothing is exactly as it seems.
Nor is it otherwise.”
he first clue I got that there was something up with my family was just after I had been accepted at St. Izzy's in 2018. I had just turned thirteen, a dish served with all the trimmings â acne, braces, hair where before there had been none, and a big dollop of angst on the side. I remember it pretty clearly, despite the hormonal haze. There's my post-tweeny, pre-adolescent self, all five feet and one hundred pounds of it, supercharged on too much Guarana Fizz. I'm barreling down the big front hall in the house on Pender Street on track to scoring more to rocket boost me through some Extreme Calculus homework. That's when I overhear my A-Ma â that's Chinese for paternal grandmother â talking about my great-great-grandfather's funeral arrangements with my mother and aunt in the living room. He had choked to death on a moon cake two and a half weeks before. What
she said was this: “You do know he was born in the back room of a hand laundry in Moose Jaw, don't you?” Which was a shock. I'd never paid much attention to old family stuff. Trust me, it was like peering into a swamp â stinky with lots of strange creatures that you could barely make out, just swimming around â but I'd always thought the old man had been born in Vancouver, like the rest of us, not in the boonies somewhere.
“What year was that?” This from my Auntie Ev.
“The Year of the Sheep,” A-Ma replied.
Chinese people always talk about what year you were born in. It's like the zodiac, only with years instead of months. You don't say, “What's your sign?” You say, “What year are you?” For example, I was born in 2005, the Year of the Rooster, which is supposed to make me a workaholic who's not afraid to speak my mind, so there you go. Not that I believe that stuff.
“Wasn't that the same year the Canadian Pacific Railway was completed?” my mother asked.
A-Ma shook her head. “No, he was born the previous year.”
I poked my head in the door. “Wrong! The last spike was driven in November 1885.” Three heads swiveled in my direction.
“Miranda! I thought you had homework,” my mother said.
“My life is homework,” I told her. “That's how I know that the CPR was completed in 1885. We just finished our transportation module last week.”
“Do the math.” I crossed over to a Ming-style armchair and plopped myself down. “It's 2018. If the railroad was completed in 1885 and The Grandfather was born a year earlier, he'd have been a hundred and thirty-four years old when he died.”
We always referred to my great-great-grandfather, Liu Xiazong, a.k.a. Charlie Liu, as
Grandfather, with an emphasis on the “The.” This had served originally to distinguish him from my grandfather, Ye-Ye, and my great-grandfather, Jeng-Ye, both of whom he had survived by many years. He had been the patriarch, after all,
Patriarch, and Chinese people are all about the patriarch â Chinese Canadians too, especially first- and second-generation ones. And you had to hand it to the old guy. The first of his family born on Canadian soil, he had pretty much single-handedly amassed the family fortune and founded the Liu dynasty, such as that was. The Grandfather was, in short, a big cheese. And not just as far as his family went. The whole Chinese-Canadian community in Vancouver looked up to him. He'd practically run the Chinese Benevolent Association for decades.
“A hundred and thirty-four years old,” A-Ma repeated. She nodded. “That sounds right.”
“But that's impossible,” I said. “Nobody lives to be that old. Not with all the toxins and superbugs. Not with the ozone layer in shreds. Not with
.” (I have a tiny problem with germs; I don't trust them, and they are
“People in Georgia frequently live to be over one hundred,” Auntie Ev piped up from her wheelchair. Before her illness, she played second viola with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra; now her hands shook too much for her to hold a viola, much less play it. “The Republic of Georgia, that is, not the American state. It has to do with their diet. Apparently they eat a lot of yogurt.”
“C'mon, Auntie Ev,” I said. “Living to over a hundred and living to a hundred and thirty-four are very different â like unusual versus impossible.”
She deflated into glumness, tucked away there in her dark corner of the living room. She had eaten yogurt until it came out her ears, had tried everything, but nothing the slew of doctors and specialists and naturopaths and traditional Chinese medicine practitioners recommended had restored her body to her, or even slowed her rapid slide into paralysis. It was beyond depressing.
“I know it's unusual to live as long as The Grandfather,” A-Ma said, “but sometimes people whose life's work is incomplete find that they must live longer than others; that they need more time toÂ â¦Â to wrap things up.”